#metc16 Sharing My Voice

Wow, my brain is on overload after the METC conference in St. Charles, MO.  I’ve been inspired by George Couros @gcouros & Rafranz Davis @rafranzdavis to share my voice not just my creations.

I set up this blog a few years ago to share content and tech ideas from my classroom (and I fail at keeping up with that sometimes). I was encourage by Sean Nash @nashworld, our technology coordinator at the time, to share what I was doing in my classroom.  I will always be grateful to Sean for that push.  I love helping other utilize tech to enhance the learning of students.

What I have been neglecting is my voice that focuses on learning.  I share this voice on Twitter through edchats like #DitchBook with @jmattmiller, #SBLchat and #MOedchat. I share my voice in person with anyone who doesn’t run from me (and sometimes my “passion” is a little too strong and they do run).  I don’t share this voice about my passion for learning here.  I plan to change that! Everything I do is to help students LEARN.  I use technology to engage students, meet them where they’re at, and to enhance (change, reinvent…) content learning.  I use standards based grading to empower students to take learning into their own hands and to show them that learning is ongoing and happens at different times for different people.  I am passionate about grades reflecting learning and not compliance or busy tasks.

I still plan to share technology ideas – please use them – it’s our duty as teachers to share our ideas so others can benefit.  But, I also plan to share my thoughts and ideas about teaching and learning.  At least on the blog I won’t know if you’re running away 🙂

Thanks George and Rafranz for challenging me!  #geekyfangirlmoment

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Teach them to Learn

My focus for this school year will not be on testing, or homework, or even data teams, it will be on LEARNING.

Teach a student to

I’ve been reading Ditch that Textbook and Teach Like a Pirate this summer, as well as learning from my PLN on Twitter, Voxer and EdCamps.  All of these have reinforced the decision I made at the end of school last year to DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY! I will continue with Standards Based Grading but I like the phrase Standards Based Learning better. I will also be providing videos like a flipped classroom would so I can focus on projects and individualized learning in the classroom.  I won’t be assigning homework every night, but I will provide outside practice for those who need it. I want students to learn in the way that best suits them.  I don’t know how this will work but I’m excited to give it a try.  The most important change will be directing the focus on learning and not on a grade.  I want to eliminate the question, “What can I do to raise my grade?”  I want them to ask, “What can I do to learn?”  I can’t wait to have a classroom with students in control of their learning and a desire to be there.  I hope my inner Pirate comes out!

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Dinner with the Real World

Last week my husband and I had dinner with friends.  One of them is an engineer and supervisor for an engineering firm, the other owns his own business.  During dinner, the conversation turned to education and was very enlightening.  After discussing with both of them how they felt we were turning out ill prepared students, I asked the question, “What do you want from an employee?”  The engineer, who does the hiring at his company, quickly answered, “I don’t want the most intelligent person.  They usually do only as I ask, no more or less, and expect a raise because they’ve completed another year of service.  I hire people who are willing to work hard, do what they see needs to be done, and take an initiative to make things better.”  Wow, that’s not at all what we prepare students for.  We give them a scripted set of instructions, tell them exactly what they need to do, they do it and then expect an A because they completed the task. Sometimes extra credit is given if the student didn’t manage to achieve that A with the original script.  I’m not pointing fingers, I have fit that description at times too. We try to provide opportunities for students to take the reign, but when we saddle the task with a strict rubric we’ve taken a lot of their thought process away. The business owner was even more frustrated, sometimes turning beat red while discussing with us.  He just wants people to show up on time, complete their job on deadline, not expect multiple chances to get something right because that costs him money, and to understand how to use basic math skills including understanding how money works.  His comment threw up a red flag immediately.  Isn’t a lot of our discussion recently about the “real world” allowing adults to turn things in late and having multiple opportunities to get things right? Isn’t it a school of thought that students should understand why something works and not just memorize?  He disagrees, “Please have them memorize addition and multiplication facts. Please make sure they can count change.”

Their request to the education field, PLEASE STOP.  Please stop allowing students to pass through our doors without:  learning to be responsible, completing assignments on time, working hard, showing up, and being responsible.  Please stop considering basic skills as unnecessary because we have technology. Please stop taking away the sting of failure because then they don’t learn from it.

My dinner with the real world has challenged some of my views.  I do believe in mastery learning, I do believe that not all students learn at the same time. The real world told me that it costs them money if it takes a person multiple times to learn something. They don’t want to employ that person.  I also believe that students must learn to meet deadlines, must learn to work hard and not expect things to be handed to them, and must take ownership of their actions and stop blaming others.  The real world agrees with me on that.  So where does that leave us in our quest to educate young people, not just academically but for the “real world”?

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Summer Learning

I love learning from and with other educators.  It’s almost a condition that I need to seek help for.  I was the student who loved college, loved my online learning opportunities for my master’s classes, love conferences, love good PD with our district… I love to learn and improve.  This summer, my learning opportunities have been greatly increased.  It started with the return of #SJSDEdWeek, WOW so much learning with my fellow colleagues.  I left motivated and inspired and grew my PLN from within my own district!  Next came ISTE.  I didn’t get to attend ISTE, but I did join the #notatiste15 google plus group and Voxer chat. Both Google+ communities and Voxer were new experiences for me.  I have a few books to consume this summer, one of them is Ditch That Textbook by @jmattmiller which has a Twitter chat and Voxer group at #DitchBook.  I, just tonight, joined the #HackLearning Voxer group.  @LauraGilchrist4 created a monster when she added me to the #notatiste15 group. I have become a Voxer junkie, but I love discussing ideas with people inside that medium.  It’s July, usually the month I put away my computer and all thoughts of school.  This summer I can’t shut my brain off thinking of all the ways I can make learning more relevant to students and help them become learners, not just doers.  I can’t wait to share with my students, colleagues, and you as I get to practice some of what I’m learning.

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Another Year Over



This school year has been a roller coaster.  I feel better about this year than others, but I don’t feel like it was my best year as an educator.

I welcomed two new people to my Algebra I team.  It’s difficult to keep teachers in Algebra I with soooo much pressure placed on us to do well with testing and pass students.  About 1/3 of our students take Algebra 1 as an 8th grader.  Their MAP scores are very high.  Our 9th graders taking Algebra I do not include those students, so our scores are never as good.  I wish I could make “the powers that be” understand that. My two new people were a GREAT addition and I loved

i started the year with interactive notebooking.  I loved the idea, encouraged by blogs like Math=Love and Rockstar Math Teacher.  Things didn’t go smoothly!  Students complained, parents complained, other staff complained (well, it is a lot of copies)… By Christmas I was frustrated.  I still liked the idea of notebooking, so I started changing everything to note sheets.  I took a page from the sketchnote movement and made all of my pages VERY graphic.  Students (and parents) seemed to like this better.  Who knew that gluing in math class was considered a waste of time to parents?

We have a higher number of students who do not seem to find success in Algebra.  Many of them have not been successful for many years. Our school re-introduced Core Support this year, a 40 minute time built into the day for extensive help in core content areas.  This was very successful, although small scale.

Failing students was a huge discussion for us this year.  Many factors played into this, some out of our control [attendance].  By 4th quarter, we had discussed many ideas to increase the motivation and learning for these students, flipped classrooms, standards based grading, no homework grades, you name it and we had discussed it as an option.

We decided to pilot standards based grading 4th quarter while reviewing for the EOC.  We wanted our standards to spiral and evidence of mastery to occur at the end of the quarter.   I LOVED IT!  For the first time in a long time I felt I had a good handle on what students knew.  Students were also more excited about their learning when they knew they would have to opportunity to fix mistakes by the next assessment.  They also liked charting their progress with the standards. I had fewer A’s than normal for the quarter, but I also had fewer F’s; letter grades aside, I KNOW I had a larger increase in knowledge.  I also feel like their grades more closely reflected their knowledge.

Planning for next year –

I will, according to a phone call last night, be welcoming another new member to my team (we just can’t keep Algebra I teachers!) We plan to use a modified flipped classroom design so we can spend more time in the classroom on engaging activities and remediation.  We DEFINITELY plan to use standards based grading for the entire year.  My summer reading includes Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller. I’m hoping for tons of inspiration so that when next year ends I can say, “this has been my best year so far.”

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