Monday, August 8, 2011

Gearing Up...

It is hard to believe my first year of teaching is about to start. 

My classroom is set up...

and I can't wait to get going.

I've started my class website, generated a few weeks of lesson plans (although I'm sure they will change as I get to know my students), and brushed up on my own knowledge of American lit.

Here we go!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

An Update and A Useful Tool

Graduate school is going well. I am busy finishing my last summer class on culturally responsive teaching and preparing for teaching this fall. It's hard to believe that in one short month I will meet my students! I am both excited and nervous. While I would never wish my summer away, part of me can't wait to get started teaching.

I also wanted to share a something cool I learned about today via google+. It's a flash referencing tool, and it's accessible here. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure

I watched this while getting ready for class this morning. In this video J.K. Rowling shares her thoughts on the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination with Harvard grads. In my opinion, this video is 20 minutes well spent. Check it out below!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduate School and First Year Prep

It's time for new beginnings. 
I started graduate school about a week ago, and met with teachers to discuss next school year recently as well. I am working toward a masters in secondary education with an English concentration, and will be teaching American literature to Juniors. 

I am beyond excited for this next chapter. I have a lot of work ahead of me and am looking forward to many opportunities to learn and grow. The teachers I will be working with are incredibly helpful already, and I couldn't be more grateful for that. 

Hopefully my classroom never gets quite this out of hand, but as teachers we've all been in situations that felt very chaotic. It's great to know I will be working with talented, enthusiastic teachers as I get my bearings in the classroom. I've been excitedly reading and planning for the past several days, and hope my enthusiasm continues because I have tons to do! If you have any advice for a new teacher (especially in terms of planning, time management that first year, etc.) I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Choosing Tech Tools

Thanks to EdCampOmaha (see previous post), I am new to twitter. It is an incredible resource for professional learning, and I cannot believe how many new tools I have already discovered through talented teachers' tweets. As I spend time thinking of ways to use these tools in my own classroom I want to work efficiently, focusing on what will most impact student learning.


This article from The Tempered Radical offers suggestions I really like. Instead of focusing on tools, we should consider outcomes first. Decide which broad skills we believe students need, and then choose tools that help them develop those skills. This makes sense to me, and I'm curious what you think.

At this point, I prioritize technology most when it engages students in a learning community larger than the one we share in our classroom. I believe in infusing technology in my classes to prepare students to contribute to the global discussions that will guide our future. I want my students to see themselves as integral parts of our class, of course, but also as equally important voices in a much larger discussion. While we contribute to a class wiki shared within the school, we learn even more if we skype with other classes studying the same topic, or with experts on the material. It is great to create visual representations of what we learn to help ourselves, but it is exponentially better to share those and help others.

Sometimes the extra bells and whistles many tech tools offer help keep students' attention, but do they really expand learning? I'll be the first to admit I've had success creating game show reviews, and there is certainly a place for those things in the classroom. However, our time is limited and I don't want my primary focus when integrating technology to be on bright, shiny tools that do little more than encourage memorization.

Considering outcomes before choosing tech tools should help eliminate this issue. However, different learners will connect with different tools, and their outcomes will then vary in part because of the tool used. There are so many great tools out there, and so many reasons for using different types...

 What's your advice? How do you decide which tools to learn more about, and which to include in your classes? I am eager to use more of these incredible tools in my lessons, and would love any tips on how you choose the best ones.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

EdCamp Omaha

I attended my first "unconference" yesterday.

If you're unfamiliar with edcamps, this article from edutopia gives a great synopsis of what they're all about. 

"Something shifts when a group of motivated people get in the same room and direct their own experience: They share what’s working and what isn’t. They support each other. It’s both inspirational and incredibly practical. Anyone can ask for help and support – whether you’re looking for ideas for teaching the Civil War to middle schoolers, or resources to help make the case for allowing social media in the classroom." 

I admit, I was a little apprehensive going into this. As a new teacher, I was afraid I wouldn't have much to contribute. Fortunately, that wasn't the case at all. I joined twitter the night before edcamp, and cannot believe what an incredible tool it is for professional networking. I'm hooked already! Everyone in attendance was welcoming and witty, and I felt comfortable from the start. 

We broke into several sessions to discuss issues of interest to us, and I found myself offering insight from my (brief) experiences much more often than I would have imagined. I learned a great deal, especially about integrating technology into my lessons, and cannot wait to have my own classroom so I can start putting these excellent tools to use! If you're interested, I took notes on some of the sessions I attended. Our discussion on PLNs is viewable here, and our thoughts related to Sir Ken Robinson's argument for increasing creativity in the classroom is available here. Some fantastic teachers shared a list of their favorite tech tools here. There is a ton more information from edcampomaha on twitter and on the event's wiki.

I met some phenomenal new teachers who are currently in the graduate program I would LOVE to be a part of. We had lunch together and they gladly shared their experiences in the program with me. The only problem is that now I want to get going with it right away! This semester has been a true test of my patience. Subbing has its benefits, no doubt, but I am eager for my own classroom, my own students, and my own lessons.

If you attended edcampomaha, please share your thoughts on the day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Love This

When I student taught last semester, seniors were given 40 minutes a week to read a book of their own choosing. 

They loved it. 

I loved seeing them love to read. 

It was the only time they were truly, peacefully quiet. The anxious hush that hovers over classes during tests is nowhere near as nice. Neither is the despondent, daydreaming quietude that enters a classroom full of teenagers who have been forced to spend too long on an arduous task. This was different. This was...perfect. 

Gary Anderson wrote about his experience with something similar here

This leaves me curious. Do you make time for "SSR" in your classes? Why or why not? How are students' reactions? What about other teachers? Is it worthwhile?