Revolution, independence, the founding of our nation — this was my favorite era to teach. I have more creative, exciting lessons for this period than for any other, no matter the course or content.
Fascinated by the often fortuitous folly of the Founding Fathers, I made it a point to show my students that this nation was created by a group of brilliant but imperfect men — and women.
As a new teacher, I’ve struggled in my classroom this last year. I’ve had lessons that don’t go as planned, students that I can’t seem to reach, and days where no matter how much I prepare, it doesn’t seem to be enough. I had this idea that I needed to be the “perfect” teacher. But let’s face it, there is not enough time to always be perfect, and perfect is boring.
As a sixth grade reading teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to keep my students motivated. As a veteran teacher, I’m always trying to think of ways to stay current in my practice. This year, as a Teaching Channel Laureate, I decided that I’d experiment with blogging myself, then give my students the opportunity to become bloggers.
Earlier this year, I worked with my students to ask questions using Blooms Taxonomy in order to have deep discussions about text. My next goal was to have my students get those deep discussions into written form, without feeling as though they had to write a “paper.” Blogging seemed to be one possibility. Blogs represented a venue for my students’ writing, a way to solicit responses, and a move into a modern form of communication.
First, though, I had to learn more about blogging. Once I did, I brought my new-found knowledge into the classroom.
Editor’s Note: Summer is a time for relaxing, rejuvenating, and inspiring you to try something new in the coming year. We hope our Teams podcasts do just that.
Planning and facilitating professional development is a humbling experience, especially if you invite and listen to feedback. So when teachers say that professional development is disconnected from the reality of the classroom, you have to listen. And let’s face it, professional development is just plain challenging for all those involved.
This year, when our high school math PLC was mid-year and knee-deep in curriculum alignment, the teachers I coach shared with me that their alignment PD, although good work, felt disconnected from what was really happening in the classroom instructionally. They wanted to focus on how to teach the new curriculum, not just how to design benchmarks. Challenge #1. Unfortunately, because the district was extremely short on subs this year, a traditional studio model, our district’s PD strand for studying instruction, was not an option for PD around instruction. Challenge #2.
As a science teacher, the idea of self-organizing organisms makes a lot of sense to me. In nature, we see organisms working together as communities to ensure survival of the group. Wolves and orcas hunt in packs. Honeybees and ants are notorious collaborators. Dolphins and humpback whales hunt in coordinated attacks on their prey.
In education, though, this idea of self-organization among groups is novel. I was introduced to the notion when I watched the TED talk by researcher Sugata Mitra about his “Hole in The Wall” experiment. The experiment involved installing computers with access to the Internet into a wall near a slum in India. When children approached the computer and asked, “What is this?” Sugata replied, “I don’t know. Maybe you can figure it out,” and left the children to form their own answers.
There’s an urban legend in education that says new teachers will begin their careers as “roamers,” or traveling teachers, in overcrowded high schools. I suppose I was an anomaly. I had my own, beautiful classroom for my first year of teaching, but the glory was short lived. I became a “roamer” in my second year. Traveling to five different classrooms — one for each passing period — isn’t exactly thrilling. Needless to say, I was very disappointed to be displaced.
Was I really going to let this little setback ruin my year? Of course not!
Rather than looking at my new situation as a problem, I used this experience as an opportunity to try something brand new; something completely outside the box. I would redefine classroom. I would build a mobile app — a “mobile classroom” to fill the void.
Editor’s Note: This blog is the third post by Jennifer in the Upcycling Series about heading back to the classroom after time as an instructional coach. Join us in following her journey.
In the arena of education, I’ve learned to pay attention to how I grasp and assimilate new concepts. I pride myself on the idea that I’m a natural at applying insights to my own teaching practice. And there it is… my irrepressible ego. That’s my ego infiltrating and creeping up at the beginning of my blog. Always on alert. Always convinced that “I got this.” Always self preserving with an insatiable appetite.
Teaching is an art. And as part of mastering that art, we put in much effort to improve our instruction and meet the needs of our students. Fortunately, with technology we’re now able to explore exciting new possibilities when it comes to enhancing and expanding instruction.
Technology at its best promotes innovation and allows us to add to our already-long library of strategies for differentiation. Technology — used well — allows us to be more creative, adding more colors to our instructional paint palette. Part of the issue, though, is knowing what to use, how to use it, and for what purpose.
Summer. A time to breathe a little more deeply. A time to let your shoulders relax. A time to wear your jammies til noon! And often, a time to do some professional learning. Why not wear your jammies and do a little learning at the same time? This summer you can do just that in Tch Video Lounge.
This year, Teaching Channel opened the doors to Tch Video Lounge, a place where you can watch, learn, and talk about Teaching Channel content together with colleagues from around the world. These lounge videos are layered with prompts to focus your thinking so that you not only learn from watching the video, you also learn by sharing your noticings, reflections, and wonders with other educators. And best of all, you can jump into the conversation at any time, from anywhere.
After the horrific events in Orlando, there are few words that come to mind that can alleviate our collective suffering and grief. We can only express our support, solidarity, and love for all those affected by Sunday’s events.
Though we don’t have words to adequately express our shock and grief, we can still take action: through collaborative efforts like the #PulseOrlandoSyllabus, through our educational efforts generally, and by giving our young people — this school year and next — the opportunity to voice their own thoughts, concerns, and reactions in the aftermath of such a tragedy. Teaching Channel has partnered with other organizations in an effort called Letters To the Next President, which provides a space where young people can exercise their right to speak out about the issues that matter to them, such as gun violence, immigration, and intolerance.