Archive for March, 2015

What Other Profession?

Posted: March 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

I got to doing some thinking about my profession. I love teaching! I love working with students and seeing their faces light up when they understand. But when I think about other professions. . . .

What other profession needs a replacement to be gone?

Think about it. When a teacher is absent due to sickness or professional development (to become a better teacher) they need to have a replacement. If a meeting is called at the district office that the teacher needs to attend, you need a replacement in the classroom. We call them substitutes. How important are other jobs if a teacher needs someone else to step in while they attend to other business? I can’t think of any. If the person is in a meeting or gone, then their office is just empty for the time.

What other profession is evaluated on what the employee teaches?

As a teacher, I am responsible for helping students learn. Both in giving them information to remember and to help them become lifelong learners. Then after I help them learn and retain information, they take a test to show others that I taught them. What other profession has that? When they train someone they can go back and reteach something they had trouble with, but if the person continues to mess up, then they fire the person. If the person can’t remember, they no longer have a job. If the people that I teach can’t remember, then I’m out of a job. . . . .

What other profession is in control 25-30 people at a time?

Teachers have 25-30 students in their room at a time. Depending on the age of the students, the teacher either has the same students for 7 hours a day or they have 25-30 students and change each hour during the day (resulting in 130-150 students throughout the day). It can be crazy trying to keep everyone getting along, learning, on task, not fighting, not running, an organized classroom, keeping track of who is in the bathroom, in the library, in the office, getting a drink . . . . .

What other profession gets 25 minute lunches?

Now I know you’re going to fight me on this and say that most contracts say that teachers are to have 35-40 minutes of lunch. How many know that many times the teacher has to take the students to lunch and bring them back during that time? During this short lunch, you have copies to make, getting the next lesson ready, sharing the microwave with 7 other teachers also on lunch, using the ¬†. . . . . oh wait. . . .

What other profession has to make deals with others to use the restroom?

Think about it. Remember that 25-30 people in the classroom? Yea, when teachers need to use the restroom, they can’t just go. They can either hold it or find another teacher to cover for them. (Wait, are we back on the first idea?) We beg other teachers to keep an eye on our class so that we can use the restroom. During that time the teacher covering for us also has a class, so now they have 50-60 students to keep their eyes on in two different rooms most often across the hall from one another. Have you ever tried cutting yourself in half?

Again, I’m not complaining. I love my job! I love teaching and working with students. I love coming up with creative ideas to help students learn.

However, I’m tired of getting stepped on and told that I’m worthless by our legislation. Do they know everything that we go through everyday? When was the last time they had to not use the bathroom for 3 hours (yea, testing season is coming up).

I’d like to see someone in legislation come and teach for me for a week. I’ll even write the lesson plans AND grade for you. I dare you to take on the daily routines of a teacher for one week. I bet you can’t handle it.

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Teaching Standards

Posted: March 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

Are the standards what is important? What is the purpose of teaching standards?

Well, I can say that as a math instructor, to have a national standard that we go by helps with the order of instruction in the classroom.

When I have students move into my school from other states, I have conversations with the student about what they have been learning. However, a lot of the time it’s a guessing game because they don’t understand the terminology that I am using to have a full conversation.

However, I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about my 7th grade year of Science.

Now, this is going back to the mid-90s (I think before Science standards were really pushed in Kansas).

I had the lone 7th grade Science teacher, Mr. Don Fast. His room was full of live and taxidermy animals. This guy LOVED science, especially birds.

Why do I mention this? Well, every 7th graders who went through McPherson schools had to learn the birds of Kansas. He had a list of over 100 birds that we learned how they looked, their sounds, and many other aspects. He worked with us and gave us time to learn these birds.

Then came the big tests. Yes, tests. We had 3 different tests to identify the birds. He would pull out his slide projector and turn off the lights. Showing us one bird at a time, we had to name the bird. (I think we had a word bank of the birds, but I can’t quite remember.) If you didn’t do as well as you wanted, there were even retakes so that you could get a higher score.

What was the purpose of this though? Who wants to learn about the birds of Kansas?

Well, for starters, those who scores a 70% or higher on the three tests got to attend a day at Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend. This was a day to go and observe the birds. It was an awesome day that students were able to get out of school and go on a field trip.

That was the incentive for the students to learn the birds.

Why did it matter though?

Well, for some students I’m sure it struck an interest to get outside and learn the birds. For me, now as an adult, I can spot different birds, even here in Oklahoma as they migrate through.

We even had a unit where we learned the fish that could be found in Kansas. I faired better on this test because I grew up camping and fishing with my dad.

Now I believe that due to the new Science Standards, this does happen anymore. Kids are being forced to learn the same thing everywhere. There are some things that I feel every kid should know about, but a kid in Kansas doesn’t care too much about oceanography because they haven’t experienced the ocean (I didn’t until I was a senior in high school and that was even for only 20 minutes).

So are teaching standards good? What will these look like in the future if schools start to follow Finland who is getting away from teaching by subjects and going toward topic teaching?

What are your thoughts? Are there any units that you remember as a student that you now wonder if they still do?

Why Do Edcamps?

Posted: March 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

IMG_2924 2Yesterday was EdcampOKC at South Moore High School in Moore, OK. Once again it was a great day of visiting and learning. Now I could tell you about my sessions and what I learned, but really, that’s not the only reason why I attend Edcamps.

I woke up early to head down to Moore yesterday. By early, I mean leaving a little later than I do normally for work. After some discussions that happened on Friday evening, I knew that when I arrived that I would not be able to check in because I didn’t register. However, at Edcamps, that’s not a problem. You can register right there at the door!

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Photo credit Krissy Venosdale @venspired

Once I arrived, I enjoy watching the session boards fill up! It’s exciting to see all the great things that are happening in education and that people want to share it as well as people wanting to learn about it. For the first time in many times, I did not attend the Twitter101 session.

My first session was one that I was facilitating. I called it “Passions: An Education Story”. I wanted to hear how other teachers use their passions to engage students as well as finding out the passions of the students in class. I was so excited to meet so many great Twitter minds who came in. Jody Maxey, Claudia Swisher, and Rick Cobb are all great people who I enjoy listening to and I had the chance to finally meet in person! They came in and gave some great advice. Of course, there were other great minds as well who I have known and even more who I meet for the first time.

I really enjoy the conversations that happen at Edcamps. In fact, during the second session, that’s what I did. I sat down with Tiffany Bostic and Amy Presley on the stairs and just talked about some education ideas. Just sitting with those two can just blow your minds and it’s wonderful to hear their thoughts. Of course, you have to be careful because someIMG_2927times Amy can blow up the internet at work.

I guess what I’m getting at is that conferences are a great way to learn, but really, it’s a big chance to get to know other educators. Once I meet them in person and hear their voice, I can hear their voice each time in their writing in the blogs and on Twitter. It also gives me a chance to continue the great conversations that I have one Twitter and to build relationships.

When I hear someone having difficulty with a lesson or need a new idea on engaging students, I have my PLN (personal learning network) who I can turn to and ask. In fact, many times I know the exact person to turn to.

I want to thank everyone for yet another awesome day of learning and getting to know each other! I can’t wait until our next family reunion . . . I mean Edcamp to reconnect. (psst, I’m thinking about an idea for us to meet up in Stillwater soon)

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Much Needed Calendar Changes

Posted: March 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

The current school calendar is based off of old beliefs and ideas. . . . So what is my solution? I’m glad you asked.

So the past few years we have seen how many students are affected by snow and how they are not in school. I know that we cannot change weather patterns, but maybe we need to adjust the schedule some.

I know that schools had summers off because it was very hot and schools were not air-conditioned, well, now most are.

We also see a trend of how students lose so much information over the long summer break. Which is why we see so many schools really promoting summer school.

Also, many schools have students who are absent for long periods of time during the school year because that is the “off time” for parents and they travel out of the country in order to visit family. Summer time is the time that these parents have a chance to make more money, so traveling during the school year makes sense.

All of these things factor in to why schools are failing in the government’s eyes. How can we change this?

There is no perfect answer to all of these things, but maybe this could be a helpful change.

We start the school year on August 1. Yes, I know that scares some people and they don’t get the summer off, but keep reading. Parent-Teacher-Student conferences will happen around Labor Day. That gives us the chance to get to know the students a little before setting up goals. Yes, PTS conferences is setting goals, not talking about failing students.

In October, we would be reaching the end of the first 9 week period. So on the calendar, there are 2 weeks off. Now during the first week, students who were struggling or missed school could come in and make up missing work or time. Teachers could volunteer (with pay) to help catch students up. Students who are doing well and have a grasp of the school year would get the 2 weeks off. Teachers also would have the time off from students to start structuring the next 9 week period and also have some down/family time.

Around the middle of October, we start the second 9 week period. We would have a week off for Thanksgiving because so many people travel and need that time. We also would have 3 weeks off at Christmas. Again, there are so many who travel and it would also help teachers have down time and begin to plan for the spring.

Now, if you do the math, you know that we would have 2 weeks left of the the second quarter in January. That’s ok. We don’t need semester tests, so it would be a time to revisit topics from before the long break and help students have a good grasp before ending the semester.

Around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we would begin the 3rd 9 week period. Around President’s Day we have PTS Conferences again. This is a chance to revisit the goals set back in September and see how the student is progressing. It’s also a chance to set goals for the spring semester.

Around the end of March/beginning of April, we have our spring break. Just like we had in October, the students have 2 weeks off. The first week being a chance for students to catch up. Since there would be students absent during the winter due to traveling, this gives them a chance to catch up and not just be behind.

After the 2 week off period we start the 4th nine weeks. During this time, students would be showing what they have learned. It would be a chance to also get outside for learning. (Yes, you can have lessons outside!) Since the weather is much nicer during this time, many classes could be showing how their subjects can be seen outside.

This would lead us going into June to end the school year. However, since most buildings now have air-conditioning, you can have school go a little longer. If needed, you can shorten the school day and release around 1, so that students can go home and not be in a hot building.

The school year would end around the middle/end of June. Is that a bad thing? No, because we had breaks during the school year. This is leading a little toward a year round school year, but that’s ok. We need to help students know that learning happens all the time and not just inside the school walls.

Why do I see this not happening though? It would effect sports schedules. Now that is a whole other conversation that I don’t wish to talk about right now . . . other than maybe sports should not be associated with schools, but then I’d be stepping on toes.

What do you think? Is there a simple solution to our school schedule? What do you see that would help with students attending class and also retaining information?