This year I made the decision to move from the school I have been at for 8 years and move to a new state with my family to start anew. I know this is common story and teachers have to relocate for many reasons like pay, family, and spouse job relocations. There are many that are more fluid and okay with starting over and changing locations. I am not one of those people. I tend to dig in plant roots and desperately don't want to move on. I think in some ways I saw it as giving up. I know this isn't really true but I had invested so much in my school that I had a hard time seeing it was time to move on until I was forced to see it.
I left my first teaching position to move in with my now husband. He lived in a different part of our state and had a good job, so it made sense. It was my first teaching job and while I loved it there I wasn't super invested yet. Once I moved my husband and I started building our life and I got a job at the local high school. It was a hard school. The students had difficult lives and there was/is a cultural feeling in the town that the school was both a friend and an enemy. Many students/families did not value education and had no desire to see beyond their town. I thrived at this school despite those hardships and found a teaching family. I found people that encouraged me and helped me grow as a person and a teacher. Along with that my husband and I started our family and had our 2 kids and many of my students watched my kids grow up. I became a leader in our school with technology and was a driving force in creating our advisory program. I really thought I would retire from this school district.
The past three years signaled a change that led to my decision to leave this district that was part of my home. Things were getting harder with the students and over those three years I lost 5 students to suicide. There was so much trauma and not enough support in the school and the community. There were upper administration issues and a loss of support jobs within the school that were needed. My responsibilities were piling up and while I knew that I was appreciated, it didn't lighten my load any. Basically I was on my way to an emotional break down. I had invested so much into the school and wasn't getting the support I needed. My teaching was suffering, my school relationships were suffering, my relationship with my family were suffering, and my body was suffering.
I still fought the realization that something needed to change. I thought I could fix it in the classroom and at home. I fought it for a year and half. Finally I had a moment of clarity. One was brought to me by my physical trainer who told me that my health issues were all emotional and that I was just emotionally overwhelmed. The minute she said it, I basically cried. She was right! I was bringing home so much of my students' trauma that it was becoming mine. It was hindering everything in my life. The problem was I didn't know what to do about it. I still wasn't sure that I wanted to leave.
The decision to leave was really came down to my husband also looking for a change of scenery and the fact that I couldn't figure out a way to break away from my responsibilities. I tried removing some of them and that helped but the biggest one was one that I honestly would not be able to shake unless I left. My husband basically convinced me that we needed a fresh start. I agreed but it still took me a year to really accept it was my last year this school.
After I made the decision I felt guilty. I felt like I was giving up on my students and my school. My school family was sad but said they understood. That made it hard as well. We moved at the end of last school year and have settled in our new area. I realized over this summer how much truth there was to my emotional trouble. I finally relaxed this summer. I felt all my stress and anxiety disappear. To be fair I still feel anxious about my new teaching position and I want to make it amazing, but the serious stress and anxiety that I was used to feeling starting in early July wasn't there this summer. Things have been better with my family and kids which is amazing for me.
The truth is I still feel guilt at leaving. It is hard to care about something so much and then make a decision to walk away. I also can't deny how relieved I feel to not go back to my old school and the responsibilities and trauma. This was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but one that I think will lead me to living a better life. I miss my former students and my friends at the school that I would see everyday. Could I have stayed and found a different way to handle my emotional stability? Maybe, but the opportunity presented itself and I took it. I have realized though that my emotional stability is more important and that to be a teacher that will make difference I have to take my emotional stability more seriously.
I know this is not your typical post, but I wanted to tell you my story so if anyone else out there is or was struggling like I was, know that you are not alone. Don't let it get so bad that you become bitter and hate what you used to love. If you need to leave, it is O.K. If you need help that is O.K. Please just take care of yourself. Take time to make sure you are O.K. so you can be there for the students that need you. I lost that for awhile, but I am back and looking forward to making a difference again.
Whether you are one-to-one, have select computer lab time, or even limited access to technology, learning a few Google apps can be really helpful for amping up some lessons or even organizing your own teaching resources. Lucky for us, Google has its own training available for educators similar to the Apple training we blogged about last week! So what are the big differences and which one makes more sense for you to try to accomplish this summer?
The beauty of becoming a Google certified educator is that you can use Google resources no matter what type of device you are using. I just switched from a mac school to a chromebook school...I used Google apps before and I will continue to use them now! It is a great transferrable skill. Unlike the process for becoming an Apple certified teacher, becoming a Google certified educator does cost some money. Taking an Apple assessment simply required the click of a button. Taking a Google certification assessment requires you to register and pay a fee before an assessment is made available to you (within 24 hours).
Another big difference between the two distinguishments is the leveled certification Google offers. There is basically one track to becoming an Apple teacher...take the assessments and pass. The end. There is much less time commitment, especially since so much of Apple is built to be intuitive and the multiple choice assessments are easy to take and re-take. If your goal is to get that Google certified educator badge for your resume, you have to pass the level 1 or 2 certification assessment. While a lot of the Google apps are pretty intuitive, you are expected to know some specifics before attempting the $10 or $25 matching, multiple choice, and performance event based assessment. What I like about this is that there is a lot of work to becoming a Google certified educator, it really is an accomplishment to get through all of the work. I really like that they leveled their certifications to distinguish between the different skill levels needed to be a level 1 or level 2 Google certified educator.
Once you have become a level 2 educator, you do have the ability to become a trainer or innovator.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE DECIDING IF PUTTING THE TIME INTO GOOGLE TRAINING IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO:How often do you use or want to use Google apps?
If you never use Google apps and are just stepping into using them, there are a lot of training videos available on the Google educator site that have nothing to do with getting certification. It’s ok to dip your feet in and get a little bit of free training before diving into the full certification process! If you are ready to fully utilize Google and would like to integrate it into your curriculum next year, it might be a good time to dive right into the certification training!
How much time do you have to devote to pd this summer?
There is an ETA for each “chapter” of material so you have a good estimate of the time involved!
What prior knowledge do you have about Google apps?
If you have a lot of familiarity with Google apps, you may be able to take the certification quizzes without going through the whole training process. Google provides some sample exam questions so you know what to expect as well as an easy to read outline of what each chapter in the training entails. If you have no prior knowledge of Google apps, maybe you want to start at the free training/fundamental videos or level 1. Look through some of the material and it should be pretty easy to tell where you land!
I am in the process of level 2 training right now and I really like the layout of their training! I will give some updates as I learn and I’m excited to develop lessons where technology enriches the experience! Who else is up for some Google training this summer? Click here to get started!
A really good PD option for a teacher that works in 1:1 schools or district is being a teacher expert in your type of device or program. Apple and Google both have options for teachers to become certified in their products.
In this post we will go through the steps to becoming an Apple Teachers and what kind of resources you can use for professional development through Apple.
The first step is go to the Apple Education site. There you will find articles, tips, resources, and other teacher stories to learn new things about using Apple products in the classroom. On this page there is also a link to a resource called Apple Teacher. You will need an apple id to sign in.
Then once you are in there are more options of resources. The best place to start is the section on becoming an apple teacher. This is a professional development program where you go at your own pace and take quizzes over different apple programs. There is an iPad path or a Mac path. When you pass the quiz you get a badge for each section.
After you choose your path, you will see the different programs that you can work on. When you select one, it brings to your resources to help you learn the program if you need to brush up on it. When you are ready you can take the quiz over the program. If you get at least 4 out of 5 questions correct, you will receive your badge. They keep track of the badges you have earned on your profile page.
Once you have made it through all of the programs, you will receive an Apple Teacher icon that you can use on your credentials. They also make available more resources and additional badges you can earn for different programs.
Becoming an Apple Teacher is a good way to learn the programs for the system you are using. It is free and a way to take charge of your technology learning, especially since many districts do not offer system specific program training. Once you go through this process Apple has many more steps you can take to gain even more knowledge of Apple products and how to use them in the classroom.
Are you wanting to organize a professional development day for a group of teachers? Summer Institute or Edcamp may be for you!
What is the difference between an Edcamp and Summer Institute?
A summer institute is a more formal professional development opportunity with scheduled speakers, sessions, and presentations. The presenters can be your fellow teachers and staff or outside presenters that you bring in. A summer institute lasts usually around a week to two weeks. It is a great way to get professional development in a small time frame and learn from peers and experts in their fields.
An edcamp is typically described as “unconferences”. They are typically one day in length and are created by the participants when they show up that day. It is not meant to be a presentation but a discussion about topics that teachers are interested in. The Edcamp organization describes them as “free, organic, participant-driven, un-conferences that empower educators to maximize professional learning experiences and peer networks.” They have a bunch of resources on their site if you would like to find an edcamp near you or organize one. Below is a video that gives an overview of what an edcamp is.
Both options are great ways to learn new things over the summer that can give new life to your teaching practice or offer you an outlet to share your experience with other teachers. You get a chance to learn and network with other teachers which is always a good thing in our business.
PLANNING OUT YOUR SUMMER INSTITUTE
If you are in the Joplin area, no need to organize your own edcamp, sign up for the August 4th Edcamp at Joplin High School here!
The last day of school has just passed, the kids are gone, your room is cleaned, and your grades have all been finalized. This is when all teachers rejoice and all we can think of is sleeping. The last thing you are probably thinking about is PD.
We all know it is a myth that teachers have the summers off. Many of us teach summer school, attend conferences, work on curriculum, and some even work other jobs.
When it comes to how you spend your summer and how you recharge your batteries for the next school year, every teacher is different (Take our quiz to see what you may need to recharge!). It is definitely important for us to take time to recharge and take a defined break from teaching so that we can come back the next year ready and willing to teach.
Summer is a good time to reflect on the previous school year and work on becoming a better teacher for the next year. During the summer, we are free from the stress of having to plan lessons and manage the day-to-day of teaching and focus on making ourselves better.
We came across this article from Edutopia about developing a growth mindset in teachers. It is a good article that discusses the value of growth mindset in teachers and ways to incorporate those concepts into your teaching practice. We always talk about this being a good quality and skill for students, but it is equally important for teachers to be focused on growth and a willingness to learn and improve.
There are a lot of opportunities in the summer ranging from conferences, panels, college classes and webinars if you don’t want to travel.
Where do you find quality PD?
If you are looking for something more involved you can look for local districts to host Edcamps or summer institutes. Don't know what those are? Don't worry! Next week we will be walking you through the steps of planning and implementing an EdCamp or Summer Institute at your school building or district. EdCamps and Summer Institutes are a great way to open up communication about what is happening in other classrooms and learn some new ideas from your peers!
Don't have time to set up a Summer Institute or EdCamp? You can find professional development in a lot of different places now. There are small PD bites and articles all over Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. Many colleges also will offer specialized courses and programs for K12 teachers. The Department of Education in your state will also have professional development that you can turn to as well. We have found that sometimes the best pd is finding a group of teachers that are willing to try new things share opportunities and stories with each other. This summer our blog will also focus on PD to help you recharge and reflect over the summer.
Can't wait for these dates? Here are some websites that offer online PD in the form of courses, conferences, and webinars.
ASCD - Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development - Webinar Archive
PBS Learning Media - Webinar Link
Do you know of some good places to find quality professional development? Please leave your ideas and comments below.
By Genevieve Laucher, 6th grade teacher in San Jose, CA
Summer: that time of year to recharge, a time that teachers look forward to as much as (if not more than) their students do. However, as a brand new teacher who just started teaching full-time midway through the year this February, I felt that I hadn’t quite earned my break yet and wanted to keep my momentum going for a bit longer. I decided to teach summer school; specifically, Speech & Debate and Creative Writing for incoming sixth through eighth graders. Although a part of me envied my teacher friends who were taking trips and sleeping in, teaching summer school turned out to be a very enjoyable learning experience.
Having never taught these subjects before, I set out to do my research on the internet. There are so many resources out there that can be helpful for new teachers, but the challenge was sifting through and making my own tweaks to fit the needs of my eleven to thirteen-year-old audience. Finding lesson plans is great, but every group of students is different, and our lessons should reflect that. Throughout the planning process, I kept in mind that it was summer—my students wanted to have fun in their learning and so did I!
In my Creative Writing class, one of our favorite lessons was having my students create a “Fictional Facebook” for a character they were working on. They drew out a “profile picture” of their character, listed his or her hobbies, interests, birthday, relationship status, and more, and even wrote “status update” posts from the character and posts from the character’s friends and family members. As we know, students are on social media younger and younger, so why not take note of this interest and use it as an educational activity? My students were fully engaged, laughing and being creative as they developed fictional personas. At the end of the activity, they better understood the importance of character development and were excited to write their characters into a story.
For the Speech & Debate class, one of our most successful debate activities was a simple one: the Four Corners Debate. I made signs that read Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree and put one in each corner of the room. I then wrote a statement on the whiteboard and students moved to the corner that best matched their opinion. There, they talked with other students in their same corner and put together an argument to persuade the students in other corners of their position. Each corner got a turn to share their reasoning and finally students could switch corners if hearing other arguments had changed their mind. Some interesting topics included “Schools should require students to wear uniforms,” and “Homework is beneficial for students.” I had an opinionated group of students, so they were excited to share their thoughts. This activity encouraged them to take sharing a step further and explain not just what their views are, but why they disagree or agree with the given issues. The ability to reason and persuade others will help them throughout middle school, high school, and beyond! One of the more controversial topics, given the 2017 trends that teachers love to hate, was “Fidget spinners help kids focus.” Surprisingly, this issue was evenly divided! What this means for the future of fidget spinners in the classroom, we will have to wait and see in the fall…
Overall, teaching summer school gave me more insights and experience with lesson planning, something I’m getting used to as I begin my teaching career. Throughout the regular school year, my goal is to provide variety in my lessons and keep them engaging. The first step is to know our students and plan activities that will best fit their learning needs while also appealing to their interests. Something else that I always want to keep in mind is that learning can and should be fun—both for the students and the teacher!
This summer our goal is to talk about professional development and how to grow our practice over the summer break. We will post resources and ideas we have about growing as teachers. To get us started try this quiz to see what you need over this summer!
Among vocabulary technology, Quizlet reigns king and chances are you have at least heard of it if you use technology in the classroom. Starting off as a purely electronic flashcard design, Quizlet has made some amazing updates that help to gamify learning and put more ownership in the students hands.
A free website, Quizlet harnesses the power of students and teachers a like creating public sets of vocabulary. Once terms and definitions have been entered, users have options on how to learn them and practice.
All of these features are really great for your students to practice vocabulary. I love the freedom it gives each student in choosing which feature helps them the most.
One of my favorite things about Quizlet is that once you teach your students how to use it, they can make their own vocabulary sets to use! Teaching them how to use Quizlet can become a great tool they use in their future classes.
My FAVORITE thing about Quizlet is their full class game! If you are a Quizlet user but you have not played Quizlet Live, you need to!
Quizlet Live displays a website and code for students to enter the game and is best used hooked up to a projector. You need at least 6 students in order to play Live.
Once your students have signed into the game, Quizlet will divide them into teams of 2-3 by assigning each group an animal. This animal will be displayed on your students laptop or iPad so they can easily identify what group they are in and find their other members. This game works best when students can move to sit next to their teammates.
Once all of the teams are ready, start the game. On the projector you will see a display that looks like a voting poll. It will keep track of how many vocabulary questions each group gets correct as a race to 15. If a team gets 3 questions incorrect, their points disappear and they start back at the beginning. It creates some intensity and motivation for the students. On the student screens, a single term or definition will pop up for each team member. The trick is that each team member has a bank of terms or definitions but none overlap. When they first see the question, they typically scan their own bank then look to their teammates to see if they have the answer. This leads to a lot of discussion and/or debate about making sure they pick the correct term...they don't want to start back at the beginning!
A fast paced game that lasts only a few minutes, Quizlet Live is a great opener for the day or end to the class after some vocabulary work. Try it out if you haven't! It is sure to be the most fun you've had practicing your vocab!
A few weeks ago I wrote about how much I loved attending the Illinois Education and Technology Conference and focused the blog on the first amazing keynote, Joe Sanfellipo. He spoke about leadership and culture in your school which is really important for the building as a whole. The second day of the conference was all about Alice Keeler for me. She was 100% about putting tools into the hands of teachers so we can serve students better.
Who is Alice Keeler?
You can find out a lot about Alice Keeler by going to her website (alicekeeler.com). What she shared with us at the conference was that she is a mom and was teaching math and needed Google apps to do more for her. She started coding within Google apps and sending them to her friend who works at Google. Some of what she codes becomes an extension Google offers. Others she lists on her website for easy access regardless of becoming an official extension or not. These extensions exist to help save time or be more efficient or effective in teaching or organizing information. Also, I think she may like sheets even more than me...I didn't know that was possible!
Alice at IETC
I attended two breakout sessions as well as her keynote lunch. Her first breakout, Google Apps Coding for Noobs, was a great introduction to coding. A lot of people get intimidated when they hear the word "coding" because they picture someone sitting in a dark basement surrounded by computer screens wheeling back and forth between them and speaking words no one ever really uses...or maybe that's just me! I went anyways and I was pleasantly surprised! Alice reiterated that most of coding is looking for patterns and then knowing which things to copy and paste. The link below takes you to the presentation she used for the session and walks you through how to:
- Create a Google sheet that has a separate tab for each student with one click of a button
- Send an email
- Copy a Google Doc
- Do something a lot of times with one click
-And more that we didn't actually get to within the breakout
Google Apps Coding for Noobs Presentation by Alice Keeler
No, I would not need to write a code in order to send an email or copy a Google doc BUT learning the code behind it was helpful in order to complete the other codes.
NO, THAT'S TOO OVERWHELMING! I CAN'T CODE!
THAT'S OK! THE SECOND PART WAS WAAAAAY EASIER!
The second breakout was about the add-ons that she has already created so that all you have to do is copy and paste! At alicekeeler.com/scripts there is a list of add-on codes that Alice has already created, posted for easy access, AND written a blog about how to use.
***Because they are created by her and not an official extension of Google, you will be prompted to give access to your GSuite apps each time you copy Alice's code. Just do it.***
I already thought she was pretty legit but this breakout and exploring her website more just put it over the top! There are so many to choose from. I highly suggest taking an hour or two one day and just playing with these.
This may seem overwhelming but please try one before you decide it's too much! You may decide you really like them!
My Favorite Alice Codes
Not sure which ones to check out first? Here are my favorites!
Testing season is upon us for some or has just passed for others. It is always a time of stress and anxiety for the subjects that are tested. Even those of us that are not tested feel some of the strain. I am not one of those teachers that has to directly deal with testing and am usually at war with myself about my feelings on testing. I am relieved that I do not have the testing stress that other teachers have, but at the same time I feel like my subject has been slighted and diminished to a subject that is not as important.
I teach social studies in Missouri at the secondary level and have never experienced what it is like to be a tested subject. In Missouri the only thing that is tested in my content is government which is taken by seniors at my school. There really isn't much pressure on me as teacher except to do some things that support government so that when students get to government, they will hopefully have some foundation.
When I taught middle school there was even less pressure on me as my only experience dealing with testing was an encouragement to support English teachers by having activities that included reading and writing. Honestly I would do that anyway because I think it a good practice and skill for any person and especially as a social scientist.
Many of my co-workers have told me that I should feel lucky that I don't have to worry about the stress of jumping through the testing hoops. Honestly I am happy that I don't have to worry about it. I don't agree with testing and I don't really feel that the tests that have been created really tell us if they are learning, but it is what we use so we have to deal with it. However, even though I’m not an advocate for state testing I have always been bothered by the fact that they don't test social studies because of the message it sends to schools, parents, students, and communities. It sends the message that social science and social studies is not as important as the other subjects.
In my career I have had the conversation with students and parents about why it matters for them to take history classes when they aren't tested. I recognize that this is a subject that I love dearly and am probably biased when it comes to its level of importance in every single person's daily life, but I have come to realize in our current society that we have lost what it means to be a citizen... I don't mean the legal requirements of being a citizen but the knowledge required to participate in our society and understand the significance and meaning behind it. Dealing with the big issues of our day are all relevant and many are connected to the social sciences. The lack of testing just reinforces the sense that this subject isn't as important as its counterparts.
I realize that I am probably overreacting and to be honest I do enjoy the freedom that is allowed to me as teacher that doesn't have to teach a very specific curriculum for the test. I have the freedom to evaluate my standards and create learning experiences wrapped around needs that I see in my different classes. I also realize that I am not alone in teaching a subject that seems to be undervalued or that as teacher we all recognize that the learning experience is more important than the test, but we are all stuck in this give and take of balancing learning and testing. I am not even sure that I would want social studies to be more heavily tested because I don't like testing, but I am frustrated as a teacher that wants her subject to be valued and understood. I think that is really what it boils down to. I want all of us in education to be taken seriously and valued like we should be.
I guess my message in this post is this: teachers that are not tested are both envious and relieved at the prospect of not being tested. We love the freedom but wish to be taken more seriously. My hope for the future of education is that we come together as an education community and show our country and community how important all our subjects are and how they work together to create a citizen that can participate in our society.