5 Ridiculously Common Fears Teachers Have on the First Day of School

5 Ridiculously Common Fears Teachers Have on the First Day of School

We’ve all been there.  Sad summer is coming to an end yet excited to start a new school year. Inevitably, the “back to school nightmare” emerges sometime between mid-July and the end of August. Usually this nightmare includes forgetting important items, not being able to make it to school on time, and there is always an embarrassing article of clothing that happens to be missing.

The “back to school nightmare” forces you to stare into the near future. Another year brings another chance to work magic in your classroom and learn from your students.

Students, it’s true! Teachers are just as nervous on the first day as you.  It doesn’t matter if it’s their first year teaching or their 25th year.

5 fears wp

  1. You won’t have enough.

    Enough what, you ask? Enough copies, enough calculators, books, and mostly you’ll worry if you have enough  energy.  Apologies, the worry about not having enough will continue….until the end of the school year.

  2. Oh the bladder…

    You will have to be trained again. No more free peeing.  You will be back on your old schedule in no time (morning, between second and third block, and after lunch). Until then, be weary of extra fluid….

  3. The alarm clock won’t go off.

    You get stuck in traffic. Your car breaks down. For whatever reason, you don’t make it to work.  GASSSSSSPPPPP.

  4. Not being able to eat lunch with your people.

    Sometimes your lunch is changed. It’s horrible. There is nothing worse than being the only one in your crew that has a different lunch time.  BOOOOO HISSSSS to being the last to hear all the weekend updates.

  5. None of the students will sit down.

    Ok, wait, that’s my “back to school nightmare.” Every. Single. Year.  Students would be milling around, unruly, and thank GOODNESS I’d realize that it was just a my “back to school nightmare.” If your some kind of dream analyst, I guess you’d say classroom management was always at the forefront of my mind.

So, what did I miss?  What is your ridiculous back to school fear? Do you have a “back to school nightmare?”  Please share!

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The Magic Recipe for Teaching Perspective in All Subjects

The Magic Recipe for Teaching Perspective in All Subjects

On the first day of school in my history classroom, I always conducted a mini lesson to teach students perspective.  I LOVE this lesson for several reasons- it sets a fantastic tone for the start of the year, you get a quick writing sample from students, and it provides you with valuable insight into your students’ personalities.

So, what is the magic recipe for teaching perspective?

The element of surprise!

After introducing myself and discussing some of the awesome places and time periods we would be studying, I asked students to take out a piece of paper. Once everyone had a piece of paper out and you get students’ attention, start (safely) throwing things around the room.

Yep, like a crazy person. In fact the crazier the better, and I always go for a dramatic exit with a few “door slams.” The one caveat here is you have to remember the order in which you complete your crazy rant.

After you are finished, ask students to write down what they just saw in as much detail as possible.  They can write in bullet points or full sentences.  Encourage your class that there is no “right or wrong answers.” I always added that they wouldn’t hurt my feelings in their responses.

What happens as a result is usually hilarious.  The kids laugh, you laugh, and they learn how different everyone’s perspective is….

Once students have about 5 minutes to write down what they witnessed, ask for volunteers to read their account and hand pick other students to illustrate how different everyone’s perspective is although they were in the same room, witnessing the event at the same time. Ultimately, you should be looking for the student who has the most accurate account.

Trust me, students will all have written something different.

Observe…..

The different perspectives, although students were in the same room.

Was everyone’s perspective right, although different?

How would students’ accounts of my crazy actions been different if they had been in one of my classes before?

This simple perspective activity transformed my classroom on the very first day.  It set the tone for learning, thinking outside of the box, and led to lots of laughs.

Give it a try! I double dare you : )

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An Open Letter to All Moms Who’ve Lost Their Mom

An Open Letter to All Moms Who’ve Lost Their Mom

To those who have also lost their mother….

My strong and sassy mother left this earth three weeks after my first baby was born. And, oh, how I miss her. Every. Single. Day.

mom and no

I have two simple words for all the moms out there living without their mom…

She knows.

When you’re holding your new baby…

She knows.

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When you graduate (again)…

She knows. 

When you sound just like her…..

She knows. (And she thinks it’s hilarious).

When your heart aches…

She knows.

When you are shopping like a boss….

She knows (besides, she’s the one who taught you how).

When you eat cake for breakfast….

She knows (she taught you that, too).

When you lay on the beach…

She knows (her toes are also in the sand).

When you kids make you so proud you want to burst…

She knows.

When you burn the biscuits …

She knows. (Shit happens).

When you tell your daughters “Mimi Stories”…

She knows.

When you visit her mom and stay the day.

nannyshouse

She knows (and she’s smiling).

When you spend every Mother’s Day with her best friend, whose mom also knows…

She knows.

When you realize motherhood is no joke…

 She knows (and she told you so).

When you wish you could have just one more day with her…

She knows.

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So, smile and enjoy the memories…after all, she always was a know it all!xoxocat

5 Tech Tools all Admin Should Use with Their Faculty this Year

5 Tech Tools all Admin Should Use with Their Faculty this Year

Are you a K-12 administrator? Do you expect teachers to utilize technology with their students?  First ask yourself, are you taking the same types of risks with your faculty?

Here’s the truth: school administrators cannot expect teachers to take risks if they don’t take risk themselves.

No, I’m not talking about wearing a bold pant suit to a school board meeting; I’m talking about incorporating technology in their faculty meetings.

One way to take productive risks includes utilizing technology with your faculty.  While modeling a skill teachers should use with their students by incorporating technology as a tool to positively interact with all members of their school family:

  1. Remind– I don’t think you should continuously intrude on the personal lives of the teachers in your building but I do think you should continuously try to build a sense of community.
  2. Socrative– or any form of instant polling. Socrative just happens to be my favorite. Use this at your next faculty meeting to determine what professional development is needed, get feedback instantly, or simply model the tool for teachers to use in their own classroom.
  3. Today’s Meet– back channeling at a faculty meeting could open your eyes to all stakeholders perspectives, not just the one’s with the loudest voice. It also will give you a transcript of a meeting and allow you to reflect on whether or not the message you were trying to convey and even the morale of your faculty.
  4. Pinterest– create boards to share with faculty of resources separated by grade, subject, interests, motivational quotes, etc.  Want an awesome Ed tech board?  Check out my TechnoEducation Geek Board.  It’ll make your geeky heart happy…!
  5. Paper.li– curate relevant Internet finds for your faculty and colleagues. Much of the work is done for you, leading to a generated e-paper of current events and topics related to education.

I highly recommend Steven Anderson’s The Tech Savvy Administrator. It includes great suggestions for administrators to harness the power of technology with their faculty.

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Administrators, did I miss anything? How do you incorporate technology in your school day and beyond?

A Letter to Longwood

A Letter to Longwood

Dear Longwood,

You are one hell of a college, in a wonderful small town.

lwc

In the past, when I would tell people I lived in Farmville for 7 years, they immediately thought I was joking and referenced the Facebook game, Farmville, not the quaint Central Virginia town where I learned SO much about life.

My sophomore year (2000-2001) brought “the great fire” that destroyed the Rotunda. I lived in South Tabb (with my still BFF, Katie) and distinctly remember giving the fire alarm the middle finger that night. “South Tabb” was connected to “French” and filled with freshmen, who liked to pull the fire alarm. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

I left my room without my eyeglasses or car keys. I didn’t return to my dorm room until several weeks after the fire and ended up bypassing my final exams, having a car key cut just to drive home half blind.

lwc fire 2001

The beautiful and historic Rotunda burned to the ground.

Now, when I hear a fire alarm, I grab the essentials and hope for the best. Because where there is smoke, there is fire.

No, it did not take me 7 years to get my Bachelor of Arts in History from Longwood, I actually graduated in 3 1/2 years (December 2002). I cut it short and returned home to spend time with my mom, who was receiving her first round of chemotherapy. During that time, I got my teaching license from Old Dominion University.

After my short stint at home- once I received my social studies teaching license and when my mom seemed to be in remission, I returned to Prince Edward County for my first year teaching. I was 22. I taught 11th grade US History. Most of my students were 17….”trial by fire” doesn’t seem to adequately describe my first year.

My two best friends were still enrolled at Longwood. During my first year teaching, I found myself in this weird world where I pretended I was still in college…..but all the while I was also getting a swift education about being an adult and the teaching profession…..

Soon after my first year teaching, I decided it was time to move home to Chesapeake.

Yes, my mom was still sick but that’s a story for another time.

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My last 11 years have been spent teaching, learning, getting hitched to my “sweet boy” and having 2 beautiful girls.

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There were many reasons I moved back home. Longwood, It wasn’t you, it was me….

But I never got a chance to thank you.

Thank you for teaching me about the best profession on earth, teaching.

Thank you for introducing me to my best friends, Katie and Kristen.

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Thank you for preparing me to be a rockstar in life. (Slightly) Kidding….

Thank you for my favorite professors, Dr. David Coles and Dr. Larissa Smith (now Ferguson). Longwood is lucky enough still to have them in the History Department.

Thank you for showing me that you can burn down a building but not halt the traditions that permeate the core of the awesome institution that is Longwood.

 

xoxocat

P.S. I’m so proud of you for hosting the (only) Vice Presidential Debate.

Are you a fellow Longwood alumni, how would you like to thank Longwood??

 

 

 

25 Pieces of Advice for New Teachers I Wish Someone Would’ve Told Me

25 Pieces of Advice for New Teachers I Wish Someone Would’ve Told Me

So, you are starting your teaching career?  Welcome to the most demanding and difficult, yet rewarding job in the world!  What’s that great line in A League of Their Own?  Oh, yeah!

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Exactly the same as in the education world.  Gosh, it’s hard.  But in the same token, it’s great.

After being in education for the past `12 years, here are my 25 key pieces of advice for new teachers. I wish someone would have shared these with me.

  1. Know the division and school policies. Not knowing is not an excuse. Make sure to read the employee handbook and follow the rules.
  2. Document everything. Even if it seems insignificant at the time, make notes every time you speak to a parent. Be careful what you put in school email as everything can be FOI’d (Freedom of Information Act). Keep your personal opinions about a student to yourself.
  3. Ask for help. One thing about teachers, they like to help others. That’s why they joined the profession. Never struggle alone…ask your colleagues for help.
  4. Never reinvent the wheel. Search Pinterest or reach out to your fellow teachers. Either way, spend your time wisely.
  5. Create a support network. It doesn’t have to be within your school.  Check out Twitter to find like-minded educators.  Finding your “tribe” can be sanity saving.
  6. Dress for success. I’m not referring to wearing a suit daily but you should remain professional and and comfortable.  I understand the desire to wear cute shoes but your feet will thank you if you invest in well made, supportive footwear.
  7. Build relationships with key support staff. The secretary, library, and custodian are all individuals that you will need throughout the school year. Be nice to them. Always.
  8. Give yourself a break. It DOES get easier.
  9. Never underestimate the power of parental involvement. Contact students’ parents early and often. For every negative phone call or email you send, send a positive one.
  10. Have fun and use humor. Students can tell if you enjoy your job and it will assist in helping them learn.
  11. Invest in a great planner. I highly recommend Erin Condren’s teacher planner. It is glorious.
  12. Create systems that work for you for grading papers, taking attendance, paperwork, etc.
  13. Engage students. Engagement=learning. Students who are having fun learning are also less likely to be discipline problems.
  14. Understand copyright laws and follow them.Model good practice for your students. Never plagiarize and make sure to have references for your materials (if applicable).
  15. Always have a little stash of papers to grade. (at doctor’s appointments, staff meetings, etc,)  so you aren’t grading papers on the weekend.
  16. Take time to self reflect. It will help you to grow personally and professionally.  Teachers should take time to adapt, change, and refine- it’s an integral part of honing your craft.
  17. Stay away from negative people. It’s contagious.
  18. Don’t listen to what other teachers say about students. Form your own opinions.
  19. Be mindful of your social media presence. Teachers are held to a higher standard and perception is everything.
  20. Test all technology on the school network. You can have the most amazing lesson in the world but if a website is blocked on your school network, you will be wasting everyone’s time.
  21. Have high expectations for your students. They will rise to the occasion.
  22. Be consistent in everything- procedures, discipline, and the message you send to your students.
  23. Write thank you notes. If someone helps you out, writing a quick thank you note goes a long way!
  24. Celebrate even the smallest victories. Preferably with chocolate.
  25. Never stop learning. Likely you got into the teacher profession because you love learning.  Make sure to keep the curiosity alive.

 

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Veteran teachers, what would you add to the list?  What is some advice that you wish someone would have told you when you were just starting out as a teacher?

Wishing all my fellow educators a wonderful 2016-2017 school year!!!

Top 16 Tech Tools to Try in 2016

Top 16 Tech Tools to Try in 2016

Last year about this time, I wrote about Top 25 Tech Tools to try in 2015. These are still great options for 2016 but I wanted to highlight several more that you can use this upcoming school year.  The same tech tools criteria applies…

Tech Tools Should

Edtech continues to evolve and grow, with new players entering the ring all the time. It can be overwhelming to keep up with, particularly when so many of the tools happen to accomplish the same end goal.

Which ones are the best for the K-12 setting? What tools are likely to be available on your school network?

Don’t fear! I made a list!

This list highlights new tech tools to try in 2016 (not on last year’s list). Don’t be surprised if they make your classroom super fantastic….

classflowThis site for the classroom is jam packed full of useful features including an instant whiteboard, chat/collaboration capabilities, badges, free lessons, delivers assignments and assessments with ease, and data/analytics to track student progress.  Plus, it easily connects to your Dropbox, Google Drive, or One Drive account. The interactive help with videos is extremely useful for getting started. Oh! AND they just released the “Alien Race Game” to help gamify your assessments.

bunce eduBuncee is such a cool little tool for illustrating knowledge! Students of all ages have the capability of dragging and dropping lots of cool media (videos, pictures, etc) to create interactive displays of any subject.  I also had the privilege of being a guest blogger writing about Digital Citizenship and working with them was an absolute pleasure!thinglinkThinglink take a static picture and makes it come to life using radio buttons, which can include text, links, and videos. Share your Thinglink with your class across any device.

easelly

Easel.ly is a free way to create infographics either using templates or you can create your own. The free version comes with 60 free images and 10 different fonts. Have you ever created an infographic? It definitely takes some critical thinking skills!

gonoodleIf you haven’t checked out Go Noodle yet….stop what you are doing and head right over! It is an amazing collection of fun, free, and interactive videos to get your students up moving!  The categories range from “dancing” to “calming” and are excellent brain breaks to use throughout the school year.formativeFormative provides real time formal assessments. What really makes this tool stand out from the crowd is that allows participants to draw (perfect for solving math problems).

PlickersHorizontalLogo.Blue.300x69Plickers or “paper clickers” enables teachers to scan students’ paper cards with their device, gaining real time results to assess student knowledge. The best part?  You only need one device and the paper cards received by

kidblogKidblog has been around awhile but in 2016, it’s time to get your students blogging! You will enjoy all the features of a blog without worrying about student privacy. From a safety standpoint, this is the best option. Plus, it is an easy platform to introduce your students to blogging and get them writing in any class.

mysteryskypeMystery Skype is a critical thinking exercise in which your class and another anywhere in the world. Students can only ask “yes” or “no” questions to guess where in the world the other class is located. It’s great fun! Paul Solarz has the best page on Mystery Skype and was so generous to answer my (many) questions I had via Twitter.gtourbuilderGoogle Tour Builder is something you can use in any class, at any grade level. Since Google has been photographing the world, amazing “tours” can be taken of almost any city in the world or around your own neighborhood. Imagine the possibilities for teaching history, learning about a new culture in a foreign language class, and more!

fieldtripzoom

I am recommending Field Trip Zoom because in my years of teaching high school I was only able to take one class of students on a field trip. It was epic.  My students learned SO much at the Chrysler Museum about world history.  They have art from Egypt, Greece, Rome, Japan, the Americas, and more.  Field Trip Zoom enables teachers to take students on an interactive experience without leaving their classroom (all you need is a camera, microphone, speakers, and a quick software download). They have a catalog of programs, most are around $60 and you pay for the yearly subscription. Certainly cheaper and more time efficient than leaving the building.

quill

Last year, I recommended NoRedInk, which is still a great option.  But consider Quill as  another excellent ELA website that enables students to proofread passages, learn grammatical concepts, and an interactive activity that pairs students together to write a story based on a list of words.

wordtamer

I first learned of this delightful site by following Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog, which is my absolute favorite ed tech blog out there! You can use Word Tamer to help your students learn about literary devices as they interact with a carnival. It’s fun!

grammarflip

Ok, promise this is my last “ELA pick” but really teaching writing is important in all subjects (so I don’t feel so bad about introducing various ELA tools). Grammar Flip, in the spirit of the “Flipped Classroom” is a series of videos and practice activities that students can access at home or school for reinforcement.

tenmarksTen Marks is a free math site created by Amazon, which allows students to practice math skills with scaffolded lessons, videos, and embedded hints. The free version only allows you to utilize content from one grade level and doesn’t have the same reporting capabilities as the premium accounts but it’s a good option for extra practice.

thehistoryprjThe History Project allows you to organize memories in an interactive timeline.  Users have the ability to link images, audio, video, and text documents on their timeline.I wish I had this as a high school history teacher, it would make a great end of the year review.

 

3 Tips for Students Taking Online Classes

3 Tips for Students Taking Online Classes

By the time 2017 rolls around, I’ll have dedicated 10 years to online learning and teaching.   Wowza. Prior to running my school division’s online program for middle and high school students, I was an online teacher myself.  I taught US Government to seniors, many of whom were taking a full course load plus an online class in order to graduate on time.

During the past (almost) ten years, I’ve learned a TON about how to help students be successful in online courses…even those who would be better suited for a face to face class.

Much of their success depends on the support they receive at home.  Parental involvement is key for student success in online courses.  No, I’m not talking about doing their work for them (who wants to do that anyway?)….I mean teaching and modeling the tools that will help kids be successful while taking online courses.

But what are some what students can succeed, even without their parents?

  1. Plan a week at a time. As soon as new content is opened up, students should look at both their social calendars and each assignment to make a plan for the week.  By looking at each assignment, you can get a better idea of how much time you will need. Also, if you have questions, you can ask immediately and NOT the due date. You have to give teachers the courtesy to get back to you within 24 hours, particularly on a weekend.  As a student myself, I stayed up late doing work. It was my most productive time.  But guess what?  Most teachers are sleeping in the wee hours of the morning and will have to get back to you later in the day.
  2. Ask for help as soon as you need it.  Sounds simple, right? One of the biggest barriers for success in an online course is students not asking for help as soon as they get stuck. The reasons range from “that’s probably  a dumb question” to the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind.” In a traditional classroom, you get immediate responses from your teacher. Even if you don’t ask a question, your classmates will….and it’s an old habit that is hard to break!
  3. Put the time in. I say this because online learning is transparent. Your teacher can tell how long you spend on each topic and whether or not you even viewed the content before taking the unit test  and/or quiz. Furthermore, you should be spending just as much time in an online course as you would if you physically went to class.

Here’s the thing….if you wait until the last minute, ignore your online course (and teacher that is trying to help you) then you can expect to struggle. Don’t make excuses….figure it out!

Parents and kiddos….let me know if you need advice with online classes…!

 

 

Teaching Digital Citizenship Using Pokemon GO!

Teaching Digital Citizenship Using Pokemon GO!

Sometimes I struggle with whether or not to bring EVERY pop culture tidbit into the classroom.  I mean….don’t students secretly think it’s a hoax to trick them into learning….?

Then I kick myself because what really makes an engaging teacher is the ability to connect classroom learning and life beyond the school walls. Why should it be so different “inside” school? Plus, what’s the harm in staying young at heart by playing games?

Enter Pokemon GO!

I’m a huge fan of teaching life lessons alongside of “school subjects.”  It’s like the double whammy of instructional glory. That is exactly why you should use Pokemon GO to teach digital citizenship.

According to ITSE, there are 9 Essential Elements of Digital Citizenship. Parents and teachers alike should look for meaningful ways to discuss with children (the sooner the better) how to protect themselves and their personal information online.

Want some conversation starters to discuss digital citizenship within the lens of Pokemon GO?

Here are 5 questions to ask your kids (your biological kids and the kids you share the school year with) who are playing Pokemon GO!

Pokemon Digital Citizenship

What is your favorite Pokemon you’ve caught? Do you remember where you captured it?

Get them talking! Have them do some additional research using the Internet on their favorite Pokemon and report back to you.  It’s never too early to hone digital research skills.

How do you think Pokemon GO works?

Talk about location tracking and geo-spacial mapping….and the importance of maps and privacy issues surrounding being tracked.

What are some precautions you should take when playing Pokemon GO?

Hopefully, their responses will come up with pedestrian safety (i.e.paying attention to where you walk) and something related to “stranger danger.” You can even squeeze in a conversation about wearing sunscreen.

Can you explain to me how to play Pokemon GO?

Being able to explain complicated processes is a skill that will serve children well in their future. It shows they understand how to describe a digital  process using their own words.

How many eggs have you hatched?

This will give you an idea of how much exercise they’ve had in search of new Pokemon.

BONUS: reiterate the rules for making in app purchases.  Part of being a digital citizen is understanding digital commerce. I don’t know about you but I won’t be doing any Pokemon shopping and my kid won’t be either.  There’s no need to purchase any Poke Coins….get your walk on and reap the rewards of walking to the nearest Poke-stop!

Below are some of my favorite educational resources featuring Pokemon GO:

ITSE’s 14 ways to Bring Pokemon to School 

Discovery Education

National Geographic

EdTech: Focus on K-12

Everything Teacher’s Need to Know about Pokemon Go

So, you don’t want to use Pokemon GO to teach digital citizenship? OK! You should still teach digital citizenship. To make it easier, check out one of my all time favorite websites, Common Sense Media, who has a fantastic unit on Digital citizenship…for free!

In full disclosure,  I’m on level 13 with about 5,000XP points away from level 14. My husband is about 10,000 ahead of me….although I’m not sure how since I have a Poke-stop at my work. By the way, visiting that Poke-stop has helped me to reach my goal of 10,000 steps a day (on most days). SCORE!

So, what ways are you planning on incorporating Pokemon GO into your school day? I’d love to hear about it!

Four Ways to Integrate Tech for Your ENTIRE Class with Just ONE Device

Four Ways to Integrate Tech for Your ENTIRE Class with Just ONE Device

Equity in the classroom is imperative. Teachers today realize that integrating technology must be equitable.  And rightfully so.  However, the idea that you can’t use technology in your class unless everyone has their own device is a crutch.  There, I said it.  We really need to move past “laptop carts are never available during testing windows” or “not all of my students have their own device to use” (and other excuses) as a reason for not bringing more technology into our classrooms.

The field of educational technology is full of tools that teachers can use with just one device, making it possible and equitable to integrate tech tools in your class. No, it’s not just using tech for the sake of using tech- all of these tools have the power to significantly impact your instruction.

So, what are these miraculous tools that only require one piece of technology, even in a class with 30 students? How in can they be effective? Why should you try them? Well, read on to find out more about Class Dojo, Plickers, Seesaw, and Zipgrade. Continue reading… Four Ways to Integrate Tech for Your ENTIRE Class with Just ONE Device

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