Monday, July 27, 2015

The done and not done

Keeping track of who did and who did not write an essay can become quite a chore. I created this board in the back of the classroom. Each student was given a magnetic strip with their name on it.
Once their assignment was complete their name would go from the not done side to the done side.

They were sort of funny when they were able to move their name from one side to another. It was a sense of accomplishment for them.

This was a helpful tool for students to stay accountable for what they still need to accomplish. They were given an essay or project to complete within a months time and this board was a huge help in keeping count on who did and who did not complete various assignments. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

The social tango.

Social media plays a key role in today's society. It's the new form of communication. By now everything has been given a hashtag. Even my dog has one. #ruethedachshund And yet utter the thought of social media in front of teachers bank stare and shudders will surely happen. This not so new form of communication is uncharted territory for educators. We are warned of the dangers that such socializing online might bring on our career. Staff meeting are held outlining social media policies that teachers must abide by for their private lives.



Although we are aware of how tricky social media is we still embrace it in our teacherish way.  We have students edit celebrity Tweets, create Facebook accounts for literary characters and post an Instagram wall in our classroom. Social media is a breeze when it comes to decorations but actually using this resource in the classroom becomes a different challenge.





Social media can be used in one of two ways: communication and instruction.
Communication
Students are constantly using their phones to connect with others around them. So why are we avoiding this popular way of communicating? There is no denying the impact educators play in their students lives. We may be the only adult that cares for them or even takes time to ask how they are doing. Building positive relationships with our students is part of the job descriptions. Students are extremely aware when they are liked or disliked by their teachers. When we have positive relationships with out students we are able to get more out of them. There is a level of trust and respect when positive communication is involved. Social media could be used to enhance positive relationships with our students. An Instagram account can be created to highlight classroom happenings. You could assign a student for each class to take over the account and have them capture what they are learning that day. A classroom Facebook group account can be used to keep communication going not only with students but parents as well. I am not saying this form of communication should be constant but it's another avenue to explore when communication is discussed.
Instruction
A cell phone is always within in reach when students are awake and even asleep it's never far from them. I'm pretty sure they might stop breathing if they are without it. If this device is always by their side than why not use it for our advantage. Set up a Twitter account and have students lead a discussion about a book they are reading in class. Teachers can send SnapChats to their students reminding them of various assignments or assessments that are coming.

The education world must find its place in the buzzing Social Media world before we get left behind. I think it would be foolish of us to be scared away from all the red tape and dangers that this new way of interacting with others offers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ESE Friendly

Towards the end of the year I was in an IEP meeting. We were discussing a student's success in all of their classes when someone said, "The reason why their grade is so poor is because that teacher is not ESE friendly." That statement made me pause and ponder such an idea.
ESE friendly. 
I should add this to my resume as it appears to be a desired characteristic trait in today's classroom.
 I cannot deny this need to find ESE friendly teachers as I have too considered whose class to place an ESE student in. Honestly, it's a struggle to find teachers that will accept ESE students for who they are and will become an advocate in order to help them experience success in the classroom. 

All teachers should be ESE friendly especially since more and more ESE students will flood the general education classroom. There is no denying the power an ESE friendly teacher can be on campus. They will become a beacon for ESE students.  A place of refuge. Where a student's disability will not be a problem, but a hurdle to jump over. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

First Class ticket

Send me to the principals office 
I heard this phrase one too many times over the past year. This phrase can change to:
Just write me a referral
Can you just send me to ISR/ISS

Students are actually asking to get punished. When I was in school this was the last item on my to-do list; in fact I made it a habit to avoid trouble at all cost. 

Sadly, things have changed. Going to the principals office or being sent out of class is not a real punishment. In some cases it's a mini vacation a way for them to escape a struggle.

I have had students ask me to actually write them a referral so they could be sent out of the classroom. The look on my face must be priceless each time this demand is made. I ignore the requests and carry on. One student even threatened to throw a globe across the room. He was doing this as a courtesy for me you see. This way I would have something to write on the referral.
Pre-threat: student asked for a referral to be written for him
Post-threat: student threw a globe across the room so he could be sent out of the classroom
Thankfully, after a day passed this student realized his blunder and wrote an apology note.

One of my 8th graders, who tends to shut down when they are overwhelmed, asked me to email the principal in order for them to get out of class. Mind you this was during a group project.
I lost it.
I asked her if I could be sent to the principal's office and she replied with a no. I proceeded with, "Then why can students ask to be sent out and adults can't? I received a blank stare. By now I had an audience of listeners. "Do you know the adult translation of 'can I be sent to the principal's office is?' Jail, there is no adult principal's office. I can be fired from my job, I can become a burden to society because I do not want to take any responsibilities for myself. That is what happens when adults get sent to the principal's office. So do you still want to go or are you going to finish your work?"
No response, but work was quickly resumed and I was never asked that question again. 

This trend of requesting punishment concerns me. It concerns me that they want a quick escape from any challenging situation. That they are avoiding something that is outside of their comfort zone. And that they lack the skills to properly communicate what is truly bothering them. I am not sure there is a cure to this growing trend other than honest conversations.

{For those wondering}
ISR: in suspension room
ISS: in school suspension 

Friday, July 17, 2015

There Their They're

I have an irrational fear when it comes to homophones. I have mistaken your vs. you're a few too many times I care to admit. Scanning texts and email for these pesky mistake could become a hobby for me. Thankfully, I am not the only one guilty of writing the wrong homophone. I know this because I have edited my fair share of essays riddled with homophone blunders.

 Prior to our state writing test I wanted to address this ever so easy mistake to fix through comic strips. A list of homophones were on the board for them to pick from in order to create their comic strips. They had to write one sentence for each word within the homophone (were, where & we're). Each student picked three sets of homophones and created a comic strip for each set. I have to say this little activity seemed to have opened their eyes to the wonderful world of homophones.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Those test scores

Test scores are funny. Especially state tests. You work all year for these tests and then once you are done taking them you have to wait months on end to find out your score. This was the first year I administered the FAIR test which is taken several times throughout the year. Unlike state tests the results are automatic which seems to motivate students to out perform their last test scores. 

On the last FAIR test a student did so well that he wanted to document a job well done so he could show others. I enjoyed watching his excitement towards his test results. I rarely see this type of reaction with tests; mostly because I do not hand out high stakes test scores. 

 I believe when students are automatically given their scores there is a deeper meaning to tests. When there is a prolonged waiting period when receiving test scores the test is long forgotten once they arrive in the mail. 

If tests are taken online shouldn't the results be automatic? Just wondering. 
The fact of the matter is a test score will not define your fate.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Seriousness

This past year I had a pottery reading from a mimic poem that they wrote. A mimic poem is when students are influence by a previously written poem. The goal is to match the rhythm and general tone of the selected poem.  We were using Julio Noboa Palanco's Identity poem. This poem focuses on a positive and negative image from beginning to end. Students had to pick their own positive and negative image to incorporate into their poem. They also had to provide an illustration for their poem. For their final grade they were required to present their poem to the class. I was impressed by how professional they took this poetry reading. Some of the poems were serious and others were humorous in nature. And to top it all off they were respectful when their peers were reading. Snaps all around.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Multitasking


The day that Apple rolled out the new emoji keyboard created quiet a buzz in the classroom. ��So much so that we may have downloaded the new keyboard while we worked on writing stories. Some teachers might have flipped out with allowing this activity to occur, but lets face it you can either allow them to download the new improvement or they will do it behind your back. Plus you can teach them how to multitask. There is no need to stare at the screen while it downloads, it will not make it go faster. So while you wait let us get to finishing your stories. I may have downloaded the new emojis while they did too. Why not?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cell phone meeting

This past year was the year the cell phone invaded the classroom. I have never had so much cell phone activity than this past year. One thing is for sure is that students are absolutely horrible when it comes to hiding their phones. 
Umm hello, your face is glowing.
 I tried to give them tips and pointers as to how to better conceal their phones, but they still were lousy at hiding cell phone activity.
 Someone needs to teach these kids cell phone manners. 
A majority of the time I just ignored them "trying" to not be seen using their phone. I picked my battles with cell phones. One such battle is when a parent is texting their child during school. I understand if it's an emergency, but you should probably call the office and not text your child when they are in class. Is this too much to ask for?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Surviving tests

I really do not like tests. I did not like taking tests when I was in school. I do not like proctoring tests. I do not like grading tests. In fact, I hardly give traditional tests in my classroom. A little piece of me dies whenever standardized state test season rolls around. Two months of on again off again testing is not much fun and drains every ounce of energy from everyone on campus. It's the worst. After a three hour tests students are spent and have no desire to accomplish anything academic. For the math test we actually pulled out I SPY books in order to unwind and relax our brain. 
I really do not think people outside of education realize how dreadful these tests are. Has anyone watched a plant actually grow for hours upon hours? Well this is similar to watching students take multiple tests. Pure entertainment I tell ya. John Oliver did a brilliant job explaining the joy of standardized testing. It's all too true and I encourage you to watch his clip

Friday, July 3, 2015

My corner

I tend to be a little OCD by nature. Everything has a place. My classroom is neat and orderly. I find that when you have ESE students in your classroom it helps to have a place for everything. Now this being said things do get messy. Papers may not be in a neat pile all the time. A bin of markers may look a mess. But for the most part everything has a place in the classroom.

 Thankfully my students appreciate my neatness. Although some do find it amusing. I have this corner on my desk that is student free. No student is allowed to touch any aspect of this corner. I realize this may be a bit odd. But in order to stay healthy I prefer not to use the same supplies the students use. Oddly enough students gravitate towards this corner and ask to use such and such colored marker. My response is always no. They have hundreds upon hundreds of crayons, colored pencils, markers, glue sticks and scissors at their disposal. All I have is this little bin on the corner of my desk. 
{YES}
I do enlist students to clean everything  that students may have touched at the end of the year in order to prepare the supplies for the upcoming year. It only makes sense

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Overflowing decor



Classroom decor took a back seat this past school year. Documenting the classroom decor barely happened. These few pictures are all that I have for what the classroom looked like and I am okay with that. The attention that is put on how a classroom looks is a tad bit much...it's a classroom people. Desk, chairs, books, people, not much has changed unless you factor in technology. 

As you can see in the picture I do not keep my lights on, but light my classroom with lamps placed around the room. Lights make a major difference. Lower lights create a calm and welcoming environment. 



If I am going to focus on one aspect of classroom decor I will focus on organization and words of advice. Since I spend so much time in my classroom I want it to feel like home. The words of encouragement are a nice reminder for students as well as myself to be kind and take risks. The bulletin boards were covered using a geographical dictionary pages and that's it. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The unbelievable

Students often question why I take pictures of what happens in the classroom and my response is because no one will believe these types of things happen in a classroom. Therefore I need to gather evidence to prove that such shenanigans occur in today's classroom. Case in point. A student did not have a normal size pencil so he decided to pull out this jumbo pencil and complete his work with. Might I add that this pencil required him to use a pair of scissors to sharpen. You see these are the things that people outside of school will not believe.  Here I am teaching a normal lesson about the Dust Bowl and what do I see from the corner of my eye but an enormous pencil being used. For those that are wondering the student did proceed to use this larger than life pencil to complete this assignment even though he was offered multiple normal size pencils. In fact, he continued to use this jumbo pencil for the next few weeks. I do not blame him, this pencil will most likely see him through high school. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

A year in review

Year six is in the books. This year was a nice change from the first five years of teaching. I taught two 8th grade English classes filled with a mix of gen. ed. and ESE students. I was given the opportunity to co-teach 7th grade English this year which was a wonderful experience. Co-teaching is a lot like parenting. Instead of two parents you have two teachers in the classroom. Students are interesting when they are trying to figure out this way of teaching. They often ask who is the actual teacher. For some odd reason they find it strange that there needs to be two teachers instead of one. We never really told them the real reason for why there must be two teachers. One is for the general education students and the other one is for the special education students. A couple students take having two teachers as an advantage. For example, if I say you cannot use the restroom they will wait two minutes (or two seconds) to ask Ms. C if they can use the restroom. Both of our responses are the same. This scenario is depicted in the picture. I just told a student no for getting a drink and then once I turn around he decides to ask Ms. C for a drink...the response was also no. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pass the papers


My least favorite classroom chore is passing back student papers. It's time consuming and half the contents get thrown in the trash once they reach the owner's hands. I devised a system that is working quite well, much to my delight. It's simple and quick. 
Here is the breakdown to painless paper pass out
1. assign each student a number
2. collect student's graded work in a bin (not pictured)
3. when a student is done early have them sort through graded papers 
4. student uses chart that goes with the numbers
5. student files paper in bin
6. presto student's work are neatly filed for them to look at