A new beginning

In my 15th year of teaching, I am faced with the continual dilemma of my professional career. What does it take to be an effective educator? This year I am going to be evaluated on my effectiveness. How will this be measured? How do you value a teacher’s worth or work with students? Test scores? Behavior in the classroom? Homework? Grades?

I have been struggling with this new evaluation system. As a teacher, I know all I can do is be here for the students. Daily I am my authentic self. Students know that I am giving my best effort every day to teach them about French language and culture. It is difficult. As connected as I am to adolescents, it has become more and more challenging to teach them without feeling the need to be entertaining. Students have their devices and their continual connection to entertainment. It is difficult to compete with Snapchat, Instagram and other apps the students find instant humor or joy. This year I have decided to be diligent with helping the students to turn off their phone when it is appropriate.

I will be exploring the book, “Sit-down vs. Drive through”  to re-energize my classroom and my spirit! Let’s do this 2014!

A teacher and a mother

A teacher and a mother

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the deer or the cow

On my commute home from work, I drive past both a herd of cows and a herd of  roaming deer. One afternoon, a deer approached the cows eating their nightly dinner. I wondered how their lives are similar to humans or even more distinct students and their teachers. A cow lives its  life in general comfort. They can graze and socialize with fellow cows while living a rather content life. They face a destiny of death to feed humans. A deer, on the other hand, lives its life on the edge of danger but total and complete freedom.  The deer might have hungry days and cold nights but can roam prairies, forests and hills with the random nuances of people including buildings, roads and unfortunatly cars. The destiny of a deer is similar but not as predictable. They may be shot by hunters, hit by cars, die because of starvatioon and disease or just die.

Looking at myself as a teacher, am I living the content safe life or the free and careless life? I strive to make lessons interesting for my students. I try to be as real as possible for them…while enjoying my job. Honestly, I’m not sure the answer. My own perception is my reality. I perceive myself as a deer. :)

Looking at my students, do they strive to live the life of the cow or the deer. Do they like the comforts of worksheets and multiple-choice tests? They may succeed and have a GPA of a 4.0 with what worth?? Or do my students live the life of deer? Do they question authority? Do they strive for independence in their  learning?

I know as a student I was definilty a cow….now I hope to find balence between these two animal beings in my teaching and in my life.

Are you a good audience member?

Today we had a speaker on the implementation of Google Apps into our school. Although I have learned most of the information presented prior to the meeting, it was great to have all of the faculty and staff on the same page with Google Apps.

From my perspective, it is also challenging to present to a group of adults who have differing backgrounds or experience. How do people cater presentations to effectively meet this dynamic? How to you present basics while challenging advanced learners? There is a paralell to the classroom. Many times, we have students with differing levels with differing amounts of comfort in the classroom. The main difference between the two groups is the age. When presenting to adults, it seems (to me) adults are a more challenging audience. Adults are more hesitant, less patient, and easily offended or annoyed.  Case in point…today I personally was a little bored with the presentation. At the same time, another one of my coworkers was upset at the speed of the information being delivered. Adults must learn to learn as children. In the presentation, I looked for opportunities to learn. Instead of complaining in my head about the waste of time, I reflected on how students feel in the classroom. How do I feel while I’m presenting to adults? It is stressful! To my peers who were stressed about the pace of the material….How can you learn the information in your own time? How can you ask questions when you are struggling in a workshop? Do you feel any empathy for students who sometimes to understand your class content?

All and all, I still prefer presenting to adolescents. They are so much fun.

Technology Workshop at SCSD

In the past, I have sat back and attending different technology workshops. I would listen to the presenter…throw in my ideas…and just enjoy the ride.

This year, the ride is different. I’m sitting at the teacher’s desk. I’m the “expert.” HA! I am just a teacher sharing some fun tools. But…it’s different. What I’ve learned from twitter is the importance of teachers stepping up as educational leaders. We do not need a person to come in and teach us a tool….we need to share with each other.

There was a little giggling and heckling about my references to twitter. Doesn’t bother me.  Okay…maybe a little. I hope one day they will find the educational resources that I have found through my twitter PLN.

A flipped conference

Last weekend, I had the chance to attend EdCampChicago….an un-conference. No fee…free breakfast and  lunch….really amazing sessions. What is the catch? The conference was held in Chicago at a beautiful high school. In order to attend the Edcamp, I had to miss my son’s t-ball game. As a mom but also as  a teacher, I felt it would help me professionally and personally to attend EdCampChicago.

When I arrived with my  colleague (also my distant cousin), we were trying to get the idea of how this type of conference works.

“Hey, can someone help carry in the breakfast?”  “Could you help with the nametags?” People were logging into their internet devices…smartphones, ipods, ipads, laptops. Awesome. This conference really is different.

The intro was done by Steve Dembo @teach42. He was so excited….so positive and just overall very blunt but clear about the day’s expectations. If you don’t have a good experience today…it is your fault. I love it.  He explained the format and the introduction of the day’s soon to be created schedule.

At first, I was very intimidated by the others in the room. What do I have to share? Offer? Ugh.

The day continued…I attended a group on moving towards 1:1 schools, QR codes in the classroom, BYO device, and a royal smack down of apps for the classroom. Each session had different learning possibilities. It was refreshing to be with a group of people who share the same passion…have an understanding of 21st century literacy…the whole idea of educational reform.

My mind spins with ideas and sharing tips. Thanks to this edcamp, I came home with the idea of having your own edcamp in your school. I presented the idea to my administration yesterday. For my own personal growth, it was so amazing to meet face to face (tête à tête) Josh @stumpteacher, Pernille @4GrTeach, Shawn @ShawnMcCuster, hilarious @Jena_Sherry and Chad @imcguy and Heather @irishteach…just to name a few of the superstars. I believe Pernille got it right when she tweeted…”It feels like I’m at the prom.”

I am looking forward to an #edcamp Wisconsin! Go Bucky!

The Happiness Project

Before my “Spring break,” I picked up this fabulous book entitled, The Happiness Project written by Gretchen Rubin. The catcher for me was the subtitle: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. After reading the subtitle, this seemed like the perfect book for me.

While you are reading the book, it really feels as if she is talking to you about how things are going.  Happiness is a choice? Happiness is a way of thinking? I found her book to be fascinating and an interesting look at life. Why do we chose to be unhappy? Reactions? Empathy? Attention?

As draw near the end of the book, I find myself slowing down. I am anticipating the end of the book….I want the happiness I feel while I read this book to continue. Perhaps this is defeating the purpose…and I am hindering my own happiness.

Thank you Gretchen for writing this book.

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