Monday, July 13, 2015

Preparing for a new school year...

It seems that every summer I spend a lot of time shopping various Dollar Tree stores and other places looking for classroom decorations and other ideas.  This summer isn't much different other than the late start I've had.  I'm also spending some time reflecting on last school year and analyzing the good and the bad points.  This has led me to think more of strategies and ideas for "growing" my students instead of wondering which decorating technique I want to use.  One thing I want to improve is being able to keep parents in the know.  I have on average over 100 students.  Calling every parent on a weekly basis is not what I want to do!  Alternatives to that will include class texts and keeping my classroom web page up to date!  So with this new focus of mine I want to ask for some advice.  As a parent what would you want to see on your child's teacher's web page?

The ongoing list -
1.   Contact info
2.  Class schedule
3.  Learning goals
4.  Resources for study
5.  Classroom pics
6.  Assignments

What other suggestions do you have?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Competitions

Just a peak of our holiday competitions....

1.  We were given the challenge to decorate a box to house the food/cans for our school's food drive.  We definitely got creative on this one.  The oven doors open to be the collection bin for the cans.

2.  Our competition for Toys for Tots toy drive was to decorate our classroom door to represent the holiday season.  We chose "Santa's Christmas Castle" as our door theme.  Our door only received an honorable mention but we came in second to another fabulous door!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Proud to be a Public School Teacher!

Today started out as most of my summer days do.  I woke up, grabbed my phone to check email, and then perused various social media sites (because heaven forbid if I miss out on something that may have occurred during the wee hours of the night).  As I scrolled through Facebook I noticed a graphic one of my friends shared.  The content of the graphic compared "traditional schooling" to "unschooling."  It bothered me.  Teachers are constantly under attack and I am tired of it.  Teachers need to be supported instead of being put down.  We work hard to educate the future.  What we do is done with love and compassion.  If no one else will stand up for us, then I guess we have to do it ourselves. So here is my opinion, like it or not.

The graphic....

My POV...
  1. Learning by subjects - In today's "traditional classroom" teachers teach across the curriculum daily.  We tie in as many subjects as possible into our specialized areas of teaching.  Believe it or not, this science teacher loves to incorporate history lessons while teaching science.  Any possible way we can link what we are teaching to other classes our students are taking is a major plus!  That makes the curriculum relative to the student's understanding!  Making cross-curricular connections is something every "traditional" teacher does.  
  2. Knowledge is given by teacher to student - I facilitate the learning in my classroom. I do not give my students knowledge.  I encourage them to learn by providing them with the tools they need to grow their knowledge.  STEM science is huge right now. Inquiry based learning is not an option, it is a necessity.  Nothing is more exciting to a teacher than being able to witness those "a-ha moments" a student has when they put the pieces together themselves!  
  3. Goals set by teacher - Yes, some goals are set by teachers.  But not all of them.  When I have a lesson to teach there is a definite goal I'd like to see my students reach.  Is there something wrong with that?  Some things should be taught in a logical manner.  A math teacher would never teach the concept of division without first making sure the student can count.  Call me close-minded but I see nothing wrong with being in charge of setting curriculum-based goals. Does the learning process end once a goal is reached?  No!  My students are encouraged to learn more about what interests them.  Their education shouldn't end with a chapter test!  I don't personally know of any teacher who would tell their student they must stop learning now that the curricular goal has been reached.  
  4. Specific curriculum and textbooks - Specific curriculum. yes.  Textbooks, no.  In reference to #3, there is nothing wrong with having a set curriculum.  Aside from earning a college degree in education, I read a lot of research-based books on the learning process.  From what I'm seeing, there is a logical progression to what is being taught in each grade level.  First graders are not quite ready to balance chemical equations.  But they do have the ability to understand the basics of the law of conservation of mass.  Would that same first grader be able to read and comprehend Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" just because that's what they want to learn that day?  Think about it!  Even homeschooling and unschooling parents have to start at the beginning and work towards a higher goal.  As for textbooks, my students do not use them.  As a matter of fact science textbooks at my school are over ten years old and do not match the curriculum I teach.  I use a variety of other resources for my students.  I've never believed in learning science from a textbook.  You learn science by doing science.  
  5. Specific time set for learning to occur - This is the most disturbing part of the graphic.  Why does the learning process have to end at 3:15?  If parents don't think their child is getting enough throughout the school day why don't they extend the learning once the child comes home?  Why is it solely the teacher's responsibility to educate someone else's child?  Let us start the process and give the child all we can along with encouragement to continue to learn.  Parents should take over the reins of enrichment learning.  If a child is studying dolphins in their science class, it sure would be lovely if parents would take that child to an aquarium, maybe purchase a book on the topic and read with the child at home. Parents need to work with us, not against us!  

It is perfectly okay for any parent to make the decision to homeschool their child.  I believe you should always do what is best for your kid.  You're the parent and have the right to make that decision.  I respect that.  But please don't post graphics that belittle what I do.  I would never do that to any of my friends who have decided to homeschool their children.  Homeschooling does work for some and I have an amazing friend who can prove that point.  She works so hard to research topics and create lessons.  Her teaching and leading of the learning process is never ending and I admire that.  She inspires me.  I also know she is aware of how hard I work and she would never belittle me for choosing to be a "traditional" teacher.  Not everything a traditional teacher or a homeschool teacher does is ever perfect.  Life is a learning experience and we all learn something everyday.  Please stop the comparisons that make others believe educators of all kinds are against each other.  We have enough battles to face as it is.

*I apologize for any grammatical errors I may have made.  It was early and I was frustrated.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Classroom Technology Usage Sign

In preparation of BYOD/BYOT this school year I decided to put a spin on a usage sign. I decided to make the sign in colors which suit my classroom decor.  Although it printed a little darker than I anticipated, I was still pleased with the final product,

I made indicators in the shapes of arrows and pointers.  As the lesson progresses I will move the indicator to specified section.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

QR Code Enhanced Word Wall

Our county has finally adopted a BYOD policy!  With that good news, I plan to put that technology to use.  My first project will be to enhance my BAV word wall with QR codes that will direct students to a web page for further information.  I hope this works!

More to come soon!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ARC Customizable Notebook System by Staples

I've spent many years attempting to create my version of the perfect plan book. It is much more difficult than I ever anticipated.  Three-ring binders just don't work well for me.  I usually end up damaging the rings and losing papers.  It gets to the point that I just quit using it.  There has been a recent trend on TPT and TN of teachers creating their own teacher binder/planner/notebook pages.  I have looked at so many of them and most do not suit the needs of a middle school science teacher.  I'm sure other middle school science teachers have the same concerns.  So I was thrilled to learn of the ARC System made by Staples.  The notebooks are held together by a set of plastic discs instead of the typical three rings, or spiral binding.  Now this isn't the only system that utilizes discs.  Martha Stewart has her own line as well as other brands/stores.  There just happens to be a Staples store in my hometown.  With this system, I feel like I can completely customize my very own notebook.  I have already started putting my notebook/planner together and I am pleased with what I've started.  Will there be changes?  Yes!  The beauty of this system is that changes are allowed and are simple to do.  This will definitely be a year-long project for me as I am constantly finding new material to add.  I've created some pages myself while other resources have come from the amazing teacher authors from TPT and TB.  Take a look at some of the pictures I have of the hole-puncher and notebook.

The "System" begins with the hole puncher...
Cost:  $44

The Notebook... 
This notebook costs around $10.  There are several styles and sizes from which to choose and those prices will vary.  

These are the pages that come in the ARC notebook.  Refill packs are available or you can create your own.  Just use the hole-puncher and place the pages around the discs.  

This is an example of how you can set up calendar pages.  I downloaded these for free from Marshall In The Middle on TPT.

Password Pages - I know it isn't safe to write down your passwords.  But when you are forced to change your passwords every 60 days or so, and you can't reuse the password it becomes a task attempting to remember them all.  

These are pages I created for note-taking during content areas meetings.  At my school we have official content meeting once per week.  

Weekly planning pages - I like to use these to have a quick glance at my week.  Planning three weeks in advance becomes easier this way.  

Parent Contact Logs - Just a quick log for documenting all those contacts.  

NC Essential Standards for 8th Grade Science - A great way to have all your standards in one area.  

File Folders - ARC does have dividers available to purchase.  I decided to punch holes in some cute file folders I purchased for $1 at Wal-Mart.  

This is it for now.  I'll update the blog as I add more.  I have soooo many ideas and can't wait to put it all together.