As the school year comes to a close, students, parents, teachers and admins often reflect upon the school year. Fond memories of special events or milestones usually top the list but often a kind of special word from a teacher stands out and will stay with a student for a great length of time. I carry cards and letters from students that I have received over the years whenever I go speak as a reminder that if I can make a difference for one person then the time spent preparing and delivering the message are times well spent.
My memorable event was just after student teaching. My university professor assigned to my cohort impressed upon me that whenever I turn work in to a professor or principal as teacher, to make it the best quality I can be as it is a direct reflection of yourself. I was only 20 but that statement has stayed with me for over 25 years and truly impacted the way I teach, write, produce, create and interact with others. When I forget, something quickly reminds me and I am brought back in time to that original conversation.
As summer approaches, reflect upon the school year or school years past and share a memorable, touching or important thing that a teacher ever shared or impressed upon you. What is the one memorable thing that sticks in your memory and you fondly recall it whenever times get tough during the school year? I would love to gather stories for another blog post and share our special moments in time.
With the close of the school year and end of student teaching for pre-service teachers, there are several things I would like to share with those who are just starting out with a teaching job in the fall. This could be pre-service teachers who student taught in the fall or spring, returning back to the classroom after a number of years has passed, or going through an alternative certification program. Much of what I would like to share you won’t experience until you are in your own classroom whether you are teaching face to face or online. This blog post is a long read but an important one.
1. Know the difficult times will come and pass. There will be days you want to pull your hair our, scream or quit teaching altogether. Especially your first year and this point isn’t driven home until you are on your own in your classroom by yourself. You may have colleagues that are supportive but they will experience this as well at some point too. It is just part of teaching and inclusive of most any job. The tough times will come but they won’t stay. The more positive you are, the less often tough times will come and the duration will be shorter. Stay strong and focused. The difficult times will most likely come from unwanted student behavior or overly/uninvolved parents but it could also stem from colleagues and administrators. The first year is the toughest yet most exciting in my opinion.
2. Create a support network of colleagues on campus and off campus. You will want to vent and you don’t want your frustrations spread all over your school. Being frustrated and venting is normal; just be careful who you talk to when you do so. Don’t let it be a drain on your family or colleagues. Find other outlets for your frustrations and remember #1, the frustrating times will pass. Especially if you have a support network that can encourage you and lift you up instead of letting you stay down and frustrated. Be sure to involve parents if your frustration is a discipline issue. They can be your saving grace.
3. Involve parents as often as possible, especially if you are experiencing discipline issues. When I first started teaching, a parent interrupted me to discipline her son on the first day of my first teaching job. A few weeks later, she beat her son in class with her belt terrifying my second grade students and myself. She was well over six feet tall and over 200 lbs while I was just 21, under 100 lbs and dwarfed by her physically. Thereafter, whenever she would come on campus, and sometimes she would sneak on campus, she would cause such panic for my student and myself that it was difficult to teach. I would have to stop for a bit to calm my students, ask her to return to the office, and calm myself down so I could breathe without hyperventilating. My students and I never forgot her but it was important that she was involved in the education of her son however difficult she was. This is where your colleagues can come in to play and support you, give you advice and help manage the situation so that you are not on an island or treading water just to exist.
Whether you teach online or face to face, parental involvement at any level is important to the success of the student. My situation was rare and parents can’t come on campus as easily now; especially if you are teaching online. Don’t stress but try to remain calm and keep your students calm when parental issues that are negative arise in or out of the classroom. Model how to properly interact with the student as many parents are frustrated, embarrassed and not sure how to handle situations involving their own child. Your patience and empathy can be just what is needed to form a team of support and help for the student.
4. Make connections and find a teaching coach for yourself. If will be more beneficial if you find a coach on campus to help you navigate the things you will experience as a first year teacher. If you can’t find a coach on campus, find one online or one of your friends that teaches the same content, grade level and in the same school district as you do. Your more experienced teacher friends may be great coaches but it won’t be as helpful as if the person is located on your campus. Many districts assign a mentor to new teachers as they know there will be trying times as a first year teacher. You won’t know exactly what to teach and when sometimes, as not all districts or campuses have a detailed scope and sequence of what you are to teach. If you teach online, try to find a mentor that also teaches online for the same educational institution. A great mentor’s guidance, support and nurturing can make a huge difference in your first year of teaching.
5. Focus on one day at a time. Plan for a week or two ahead but focus on each day as they come. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Because you are new, you may not realize the time commitments and constraints projects may take so be cautious of this your first year. Be sure to write lesson plans, even if they are not majorly detailed, to help you keep track of pacing and what worked or didn’t work for your second year of teaching. Reviewing and comparing lesson plans is a great way of reflecting of time periods and learning activities that may cause frustration or you to struggle delivering the content to your students the following school year.
6. Include technology for yourself and with your students. Use technology for productivity, especially gradebook and lesson plan software. There is an app called Zip Grade that allows you to create an answer document and answer key and take a picture of the student’s answer document and have it graded for you. This is great if you use multiple choice assessments a great deal. Fill in the blank, essay or demonstration answers will obviously needed to be grade individually but apps like Zip Grade or using scantrons can save time on informal assessments.
Teach students how to interact online and create a positive digital footprint. Instead of writing a research paper, have students create a video that portrays the content found in the research. I used to have first graders using PowerPoint and inserting clip art where appropriate on their own. Technology can take your learning activities to the next level and reach the creation level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. When students are creating, they are learning and that is your goal throughout each school year. The creation process takes into account a great deal more skills that fit the higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy than paper/pencil activities. Learn to use web tools and attend webinars like from Classroom 2.0 LIVE or the Discovery Educator Network to learn to integrate technology efficiently and effectively in your curriculum.
In my book, “Kid Detectives Classroom Gamification Learning Activities: Mystery Adventure Quests“, I share ways to integrate technology in small, manageable ways as well as advanced ideas for those that are more adept and experienced at integrating and using technology. Not every skill can be taught with technology but they are very few and far between.
7. Be prepared for extensive test preparation of state assessments. Be sure to have students practice online tests in preparation of formal state assessments; especially if you teach online. Students need to use technology and online assessments will often score and analyze the date for you. Work with colleagues or have a colleague review your offline assessments when time permitting so that you are assessing what is important in your content area and grade level. You don’t want to focus on items that are not tested and briefly cover items that are paramount to student success. I am not saying that you have to only teach what is on the test but you must focus on test targets. Focusing on what will be tested will pay dividends when it comes testing time. Preparing for testing is a necessary evil of teaching nowadays and it comes with the territory when teaching. If you are teaching at a challenging level where students are motivated, interested and engaged in the learning process, test prep will be less of a focus as what you are teaching is above the performance level on the test and those skills will naturally be acquired by your students.
Please know that although there are negative aspects you will experience as a firstyear teacher, there are so many rewards and paychecks of the heart that make it all worthwhile. When you believe in your students and care about them and their successful academic performance, they will make the job easier and work for you to no end. The negatives are highly outweighed by the positives of teaching and making a difference in the lives of your students.
Thank you for reading this lengthy blog post. I have been thinking about it for several weeks and decided now was the optimal time to post it. I may repost it in August as a reminder as the tips I shared are ones that I wish someone had shared with me when I was first teaching. My first year sure would have been different and less stressful. I had no idea what I was g
etting myself into and wish I had had access to a mentor or coach to guide me through my difficult times as I learned how to establish myself as the teacher of record with my first year of students. Thank you for reading and be sure to share with colleagues. The advice applies to teachers of any level of experience but is primarily geared towards first year teachers but not limited to those beginning to embark upon their educational career.
When I presented on mobile devices, specifically cell phones, in the classroom, I was often asked about two group texting apps, Cel.ly and Remind. Along with a name change, Remind, formerly Remind HQ and Remind 101, now has an added feature. You can chat one on one with one of the members in the group(s) in the app.
Group texting apps let you send messages to a group of a people. Several services do not allow those the receivers to respond back to the messenger but Remind just started that feature. I learned of this feature addition late last week and was reminded (no pun intended) again of it during a webinar today.
This is great if you need a response back from someone, or all members of your group. Most teachers have a Remind group for their homeroom or each class period if they teach more than one class. They may also have one for parents, grade level/team colleagues or an entire faculty. Group texting apps are so helpful when sending out reminders of all kinds regardless of the audience and size of the group.
Students or potential members text a number and phrase to join the group keeping all phone numbers hidden from all parties. This protects your phone number and prevents parents or students from calling you for petty things or all hours of the night.
To use the new feature, click the chat icon and then select who you would like to send the message to and it will go to only that person. They can respond first and you respond back and again, all phone numbers are kept private unless you share then with one another so you can know who you are communicating with by name. Go to http://www.remind.com to find out more information about the features of this great group texting service.
With the close of the school, I recall needing to prepare certificates for all kinds of student achievements and accomplishments students made during the school year. Recently, one of my grad students needed a certificate for completing the course I facilitate. The system that awards hours can generate a certificate but I checked into online certificate makers in the event I needed to make one for him.
I first looked at 123certficates.com. There you can change the border, font, add in the name of the student, etc. and then print for free when finished. I decided to find more resources and post them below in the event that other educators may also need an online certificate maker.
In the past, we used to try to give every student one in grade level awards ceremonies when I taught elementary school as well as one to every faculty member when I was part of the admin team as a Campus Instructional Technologist (CIT). If you find yourself in need of an online certificate maker, check out the following resources. Make sure there is no charge before printing.
123 Certificates – http://www.123certificates.com
Certificate Magic – http://www.certificatemagic.com
CertificateMaker – http://www.crayola.com
Certificate Fun – http://www.certificatefun.com
Certificate Creator – http://www.certificatecreator.com
Quick Certificates – http://www.senteacher.org/worksheet/3/CertificateMaker.html
Certificate Street – http://www.certificatestreet.com
Dye Tub – http://www.dyetub.com
Printable Certificate Maker – http://www.printablecertificatemaker.com
Billy Bear 4 Kids – http://www.billybear4kids.com/show/awards/Online/AwardMaker.html
A recent trend has been hosting sessions of modified versions of the ABC TV show, “Shark Tank” in the classroom. I am a huge fan of the TV show and have written blog posts and shared in presentations about holding “Shark Tank” sessions in the classroom. I love sharing the innovative spirit and creativity utilized in developing prototypes and bringing an idea to fruition. If you haven’t seen the show, there are five sharks who hear proposals of inventions or services and decide if they are going to make an offer to fund the idea presented to the team of sharks. ABC offers the show and you can view past episodes on the ABC website.
I was presenting at the San Antonio DENapalooza event on May 2nd and a teacher shared how they held a modified version of the “Shark Tank” TV show. The students created a prototype and were asked how and why they designed their invention. Inventions were funded and not funded based on the answers and issues surrounding the student created prototypes.
The teacher shared not all were funded and some were given deals and had to decide which offer was best. Was $100 at 30% equity better than a $500 with a $10 royalty, etc.? Students really had to think and calculate to find the best ‘deal’ for their invention or go back to the drawing board to fix issues that prevented it from being initially funded the first time the item was presented to the ‘sharks’ of the campus “Shark Tank”.
One of her students came up with the idea of pants that kept a person cool or warm. The idea was not ‘funded’ by the sharks as the student was asked how the temperature would be measured and controlled and did not have an answer for how the process would work. The student was informed that a person could be burned or experience frostbite if the temperature could not be accurately controlled. Great idea but there was not a thoroughly complete path for the ‘prototype’.
This idea sounds so exciting to me! So innovative and great math and content area concepts in presented in real world settings!
Recently I was reading Vicki Davis’ (@coolcatteacher) Facebook post and she mentioned that she was hosting a version of “Shark Tank” at her school. Students created innovative apps to present to the sharks of her campus’ “Shark Tank”. The link to the proposals and Shark Tank proposals can be found here. I don’t know the outcome but you know the students learned much more than how to create an app. There are so many real world college and career readiness skills students experience in these types of learning activities. Students are interested and highly motivated and engaged to participate when they are challenged and presented with fun activities like “Shark Tank”. And who knows? Maybe the students will become rich off their app invention or create a separate item and go on the actual “Shark Tank” TV show.
Vicki shared the above image of some of the apps her students created and how to download the apps to preview and review each innovation. I just love when kids are in #makered classrooms and are part of #makerspace environments and work with teachers who support this teaching strategy!
In conjunction through Donors Choose.org, Stephen Colbert donated $800,000 to fund classroom project and wish lists for 800 teachers in South Carolina. According to the Education Dive article,
The television personality, who said in a video announcement that he is a product of South Carolina schools, partnered with The Morgridge Family Foundation’s Share Fair Nation and ScanSource to fund the gift.
Greenville Online reports that over 800 teachers in the state will benefit from the gift, which covers every existing public school request from the state on the site, and they will get everything from trampolines to professional development opportunities.
This is an awesome gift and one that is going to have immediate and direct impacts on hundreds of classrooms. DonorChoose was a smart choice for Colbert, as his gift will go directly to the educators and students who will benefit from it. Some of the gifts were already hand-delivered by the crowdfunding site and ScanSource.
Stephen Colbert has donated to Donors Choose between in a challenge with Jimmy Fallon of the Tonight Show. Donors Choose funds projects for teachers and helps supply materials and classroom items so teachers don’t have to spend their own money when campus budgets and district funds are already allocated or not available.
There are several sites that educators go to for funding sources for classroom projects. Shoot me an email or leave a comment and I can list several resources for grants and classroom wish list sites.
Thanks Stephen Colbert and all who help educators fund classroom projects!
Today was the DENapalooza in San Antonio sponsored by Discovery Education. We had a fantastic learning from one another and sharing our favorite tools. I will be sharing some of those tools and ideas here and in my second book that I am editing and finishing up. Today I spoke at one of the breakout sessions to a great crowd and was so excited! I even got to share about my book, “Kid Detectives: Classroom Gamification Learning Activities and Mystery Adventure Quests” and the @DiscoveryEd resources that were included in the book. I went to Amazon and it is already sold out (thank you buyers) but please feel free to place an order as the publisher will replenish the stock very quickly! You guys are awesome and thank you to everyone who shared notes on our collaborative document during the session and joined in the conversation during my presentation – you guys rock!
Click here to open this binder in a new window.
DENapalooza is coming to town this Saturday, May 2nd from 9am – 2:30pm at Region XX. DENapalooza is a sharing of strategies of using Discovery Education services in the classroom as well as a host of technology and curriculum based tips and tricks. The Discovery Educator Network (DEN) is sponsoring the event and several presenters from Discovery Education and the DEN community, including myself, will be presenting this Saturday. Breakfast treats and lunch will be provided and the event is free to attend.
My session description is as follows:
Maker Ed/ Maker Space- Maker Ed/ Maker Space-Are you doing enough to reach your students? What if there was a way to give your students the enthusiasm about learning by allowing them to produce something tangible while using the conceptual learning tools we teach everyday? This is where “MakerED”/ “MakerSpaces” comes in.
If you have been looking for a way to jazz up your curriculum or increase the rigor and relevance of your learning activities, join me as I share what this philosophy entails and easy ways to implement this philosophy and revolutionize your teaching using digital tools and Discovery Education resources. Introducing “MakerEd” projects to your students will thrill your students and engage them in the learning process with learning activities that are meaningful and interesting to students.
You don’t have to be a technology expert to rejuvenate and excite your students – you just have to believe they can succeed, so don’t miss out on this great opportunity to see how it’s done. Presented by Kim Caise.
Join us this Saturday and to find out more details about the other breakout sessions click here: http://denapalooza.weebly.com/san-antonio-tx.html.
Many educators know and are constantly challenged to introduce new and innovative ways to reach their students and foster enthusiasm for the learning process. As an alternative to the textbook and current events model, global projects provide a unique approach to the educational process by introducing students to cultures and classrooms around the world.
If you have been looking for a way to enrich your curriculum or increase the rigor and relevance of your learning activities, join me Thursday, April 30, 2015, at 7pm EST/6pm CST as we talk about what this strategy entails and easy ways to introduce participation in global projects to re-energize your teaching.
Join the webinar at the following links:
Can you spare about 5 minutes to fill out a survey? At the end of March, I started hosting webinars again but this time I am venturing out on my own. I need your support and attendance and invite everyone to join me when I host them! Right now it is once a month but that may increase to every two weeks or include pre-recorded sessions depending on my teaching and speaking schedule. I am also finishing my second book so I want to make sure that the webinars I conduct are of great interest to the educational audience out there. I created a survey and would for you to take a few minutes to complete the survey embedded below. There are only a few questions so it should not take too long to complete.