Washing the Windows

I’ll be spending some time ‘spring cleaning’ the blog for visitation by all those aforementioned demographic groups. Rather like a window washer, it takes courage and trust to create the transparency needed to showcase beautiful things.

[Day 6 of the #30goals challenge with Shelley Terrell @shellterrell and Lisa Dabbs @teachingwthsoul.]

Acrophobes Need Not Apply
Creative Commons License photo credit: ret0dd

Since unplugging Edmodo, I’m returning to my classroom blog to share resources, links, and lessons with students.  Today’s #30goals challenge was a good reminder that I can build upon that platform to increase transparency across the board- students, teachers, parents, administrators…. anyone can easily reference what is happening in the Computer Lab.  Currently, it is a glorified bookmarking site, with weekly posts of new sites to review.  I’d like to change that by posting ideas, videos, and weekly lesson plans. This challenge was very timely! I’ll be spending some time ‘spring cleaning’ the blog for visitation by all those aforementioned demographic groups because I sincerely do want to invite them into a welcoming space that has something special in store just for them. Rather like a window washer, it takes courage and trust to create the transparency needed to showcase beautiful things.

Posting weekly plans offers a number of benefits:

  1. I can plan ahead.  Using WordPress’s schedule post feature, I can keep drafts of upcoming lesson plans and post them at a future date.
  2. I can use these posts to create a lesson plan book to turn it at the end of the year.  There is an amazing WordPress plug-in called “Anthologize” which allows you to take posts and pages and create a book from them.
  3. I will have substitue plans pre-written and posted.  There will be some procedural things I do not include, but those are already covered in my sub-binder.
  4. I can still interact with students via the comments feature on each post…. but I see them first and approve them.
  5. I will be more effectively on the same page with all classes.  Sometimes, due to assemblies or field trips or holidays, one class gets further ahead than another.  This will help us stay more ‘together’. I know my music teacher plans two lessons a week, and the classes that miss just move on with the rest.  It’s a little different with the computer classes.
  6. I can easily share with others what I’m doing. I plan to cross-post to this blog so I can share ideas and also keep a record for myself and future employers.

You’ll find my weekly post template draft below.  What would you add or remove? Anything you’d change? I primarily want it to be a resource for the students, so I’ve tried to place things in a logical order that also entices them to come check out new things later. I strategically placed the parent info at the bottom, so that they can skim through the lessons and ideas before reaching the bottom. I may create a table to put the website and video of the week side-by-side, leaving the lessons the ‘main thing’.  I know my kinder kids get confused quickly if there’s too much to sift through. Also, I’m in the market for a cross-posting plugin that will auto-post this one from my classroom blog to this one, so I can share what I’m doing without copy/pasting.  Beyond that, I’m looking for an ’email me’ button where students can email me quickly from the blog page, and also would let them send me files straight from the blog…. hmmmm….. something to ponder.

Any ideas for me as I’m ‘cleaning-up’ the classroom blog for transparent sharing?

Website of the Week

(linked image here)

Video of the Week

(fun video or tutorial here)

Lessons of the Week

Notes from Mrs. C

(video of me here)

(links here)

(student showcase piece- link to blog post or their work here)

Kindergarten

(audio or video here)

(linked image here)

1st

(audio here)

(image here)

(text here)

2nd

(audio here)

(image here)

(text here)

3rd

(audio here)

(image here)

(text here)

4th

(audio here)

(image here)

(text here)

5th

(audio here)

(image here)

(text here)

Parent Tip of the Week

(text here)

(link here)

(tip here)

Teacher Tip of the Week

(text here)

(link here)

(tip here)

Tallying the Results…. and Making Changes

Well, the bulk of my students have completed the survey I sent them.  When I talked to them, I said that I wanted to learn to be a better teacher, and asked them if they would help me.  They did a wonderful job of giving really helpful feedback.  Yes, I did have a number of “let us play games more often” and “don’t make me take X(whatever the mandated test de jour is… that I have no control over)”.  However, those were directly related to the age and maturity of the student.  (Read: 3rd graders might not be ready for this kind of survey…. but some did great, so I hate to limit it based on grade level. )  I also got a significant number of “don’t know”s, a bit of flattery, and some out and out silliness.  In the midst of all that, I gained some real insight into how students feel about my teaching methods.

Here are the Top 10 things my students taught me:

  1. I talk too quietly.  I had NO IDEA this was an issue.  Honestly.  I do believe that yelling at children is demeaning and disrepectful, but I obviously take that too much to heart.  I had at least a dozen mentions on this topic.  It’s something I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to change.  After I mentioned it to a para, she confirmed it and said I was very ‘soft-spoken’.  ((My husband and children might take issue with that…. guess I’m not so quiet at home, huh?))
  2. I allow them to talk over me at times. This is more of an issue with my older students, and partially because of how we’re working on projects.  I allow it, and I need to quit that.  It’s a poor form of classroom management, and that was already on my mind after reading  this recent post by Michael Linsin via Sam Rangel (@samrangelSITC ) of Success in the Classroom.
  3. I make them feel bad by having them sit on the floor. They HATE this.  I knew it wasn’t a huge fan favorite, but I didn’t think it was a huge issue. As part of my classroom management strategy, I’ve been meeting with the whole class on the floor at the beginning of the period.  This gives me time to give them instructions without competing with the screen, keyboard and mouse for their attention… and cuts out the discipline issues that arise.  I just need to rethink, and find better ways to instruct them from their seats.  Lock the screen, share my screen, something.
  4. I give warnings.  Apparently, other teachers don’t do this.  I try to take into account the context of the situation and the particular child- just like I do in parenting.  However, this seems to cause some angst in other students who think I should be more “strict”.  I’m going to have to think this one through, as I would like to be fair…. but sometimes that means that different people get different things at different times.  It does not mean everything is equitable.  Given the commenters, some of it is just a ‘goodie-two-shoes’ reaction, but there were enough responses to this effect that I need to reassess my methods.
  5. I should allow them to earn free time. They were very fair with their requests for more free time, and most wanted me to re-instate my point system from last year that allowed them to earn free day (generally once every 2-3 months). I stopped because it was a headache to track, and I thought they would be happy with me ‘giving’ them one every quarter.  Obviously, my little overachievers believe they should earn that time- whether that’s due to an erroneous belief that it’ll happen more often that way or just a shining example of those character pillars, I don’t know.
  6. I need to let them move seats.  I know this has become an issue, as I seated them by alphabetic order at the beginning of the year.  They get tired of this, and need new scenery.  I get that.  I’m just not sure how that works with their individual accounts being created on a single machine…. they’d have to recreate all their preferences, dock, and background each time we moved…. which wastes a whole class period.  I need to stop seeing that as a waste.
  7. I need to find ways to explain more and less, simultaneously. Sounds tricky, but thanks to my 1-to-1 situation, totally doable.  I just need to scale each lesson, add video tutorial links, record screencasts, or add audio recordings of instructions (brilliant idea from a chat I had with Pernille “Not a Loser” Ripp ( @4thgrdteach )- not sure why I hadn’t thought of that before- I have students use Vocaroo to easily record audio…. thank God for collaborative moments like that one!). Which leads me to #8….
  8. I have a beautiful bell curve in my classes. That’s comforting.  I have a group of students at one end that want more, feel like the pace is too slow, and want me to explain less.  I also have a group on the other end who feel lost, need more instruction, and are drowning in assignments.  In the middle…. the teeming masses.  My challenge is- how do I effectively use the technology at our fingertips to differentiate without sub-splitting into a million little groups.  I’m beginning to wonder if I need to take their Literacy groups (high, middle, low), and give assignments accordingly rather than grouping them by homeroom.  That should take care of the reading comprehension, speed, and challenge levels.  I’d love feedback or ideas on that one…. leave me a comment!
  9. I have students with some amazing interests. I asked them what they would like to learn about…. and I am really floored by the responses.  These are some cool kids.  I need to adapt some of what I am doing so they can pursue those passions and interests.  The big one?  They want to know how to take a computer apart and put parts together. How cool is that?  Totally appropriate, and I’ll be talking with our technologist about finding some computers we can safely dissect and reassemble….. I’m sure there are some kind of safety gear the kids will need to wear- goggles?
  10. I am doing ok. These kids have had many different teachers over the years, so comparisons are appropriate.  I heard overwhelmingly that students feel like I am a patient, kind person who is teaching them new and interesting things. That word patient came up very often, and just like the ‘quiet voice’ thing, totally surprised me.  I very frequently feel impatient with them when they don’t listen or read what I’ve written to them in an assignment.  Obviously, I’m not conveying that (thankfully!)- some of my more challenging students were ones who said I was patient.  Wow.

Computer Lab Changes (Effective Immediately)

  • Mrs. C will SPEAK UP!
  • No more sitting on the floor.
  • Wait for kids to listen before talking.

As for the rest, I need to think on them and find some solutions.  Thankfully, I have a few weeks to let those thoughts bounce around in my head.  I’m hoping things will begin to sort themselves out…. and if not, I know some amazing teachers who are willing to help me sort it out!

Students as Stakeholders

I just sent out a message to my 3rd-5th grade students using a Google form, asking for their input.  I titled the form “Help Mrs. C Teach!”.  One thing I gathered from listening to a recent podcast is the value of involving students in determining how to use technology.  Students are stakeholders.  It’s all about them.  Today’s students have been exposed to technology from very early ages, and they view things differently.  I’m trusting that my students will use this opportunity to have a voice in a respectful and appropriate manner.  I’ve asked them to answer the following questions:

  • What do you like about the way I teach?
  • What do you wish I would do differently?
  • I feel like our work in Computer Lab is: Too easy, Too hard, Just fine, or (Insert Answer Here).
  • If you were the Computer Lab teacher, what is one thing you would do?
  • If you were the Computer Lab teacher, what is one thing you would STOP doing?
  • What computer things are you interested in learning about?
  • Would you like to teach a mini-lesson in Computer Lab?

In my naivete, I’m making some assumptions.  I’m assuming that these boys and girls have good ideas to share.  I’m assuming that they know some things about how they learn that I don’t know.  I’m assuming that they are going to give me more than “play more games” ((Of course, this is where I should be using more of the gaming mentality…. but I’m still learning to incorporate that.)) and “no more tests” ((I’m in total agreement with them there!  I spend 40% of our technology hours testing using various means.  Sad days.)). We’ll see…