The grind has started. New shoes are scuffed, knees in students’ jeans are starting to fade a bit, and the five extra minutes of sleep is worth more than the latte at the local coffee shop. Welcome to the REALITY WEEKS.
TIME… the beginning of the school year began after weeks of anticipation, Pinterest and preparation for your honeymoon, er…classroom. Now it seems that time is a commodity that is more valuable than you ever dreamed.
MONEY…you may not have the first paycheck of the year yet–if you have, it may have depleted quickly as you purchased personal and professional items that were long overdue.
You have gone from an outsider to an insider, and the view may be markedly different than you had anticipated.
So just like a relationship gone stale, it is important to know and understand ways to keep a vital, vibrant, engaging classroom on track:
Keep the classroom alive. Look around. Have you changed the seating arrangement yet? Have you moved your desk? Can you see your desk? If parent conferences were tonight, would the room look inviting and tidy? In this Scholastic Article on organizing physical space, Linda Shalaway discusses ways to keep your classroom student-centered grades K-12.
Get a reading of your instructional practices. Better yet, give them a survey to discover what’s going well and what could be improved. Robert Marzano has some excellent surveys to enhance your reflective practice. There is even a primary grade survey with smiles and frowns that could be read to students to gain information on how they perceive school is going.
Stop and Smell the Roses. The season is changing. Is it cool enough to go outside and read in a shady spot? Can you open a window in the morning? What are some successes and achievements thus far? CELEBRATE! Any milestone can become a fun celebration.
Bring in a Guest Speaker. Educator Michael Adamshas 8 reasons bringing in a guest speaker is a good idea. Adams suggests that guest speakers provide student benefits–such as hearing a new voice, to teacher benefits–such as learning from the guest speaker and enhancing future lessons. Remember, guest speakers don’t physically have to be present, you can Skype, Face-time, or Zoom them right in! Many parents would love to visit and participate in a way that can be helpful.
Take a risk. Try something you have never tried. Perhaps there is an app, an idea for a lesson to try, or something simple as getting under desks/tables rather than sitting at them. Switch things up! Perhaps you could swap teachers for a teacher trade for 15 minutes of calendar time, lesson introduction, or other creative endeavor?
Keep in mind that none of these tips can be helpful if you are exhausted and grumpy. As a new teacher you are laying the foundation for future years of teaching. What seems like an endless cycle of planning/teaching/grading will be much less intense in future years. Files and folders may only need a little tweaking next year! Take good care of YOU. Restock the treat drawer (or make a list of what treats to buy when that paycheck finally comes in), download a guilty pleasure on Netflix and watch 10 minutes while you eat lunch. Better yet, take a quick walk outside, inhale deeply, and reset for a minute. Need more ideas? Please consider checking out our EdCat Chats created by professors and partners in the College of Education. You’ll find some additional helpful hints for enhancing YOUR professional practice. Another great resource is the Before the Bell news letter put out by the College of Ed. Thank you for all you are doing for students!
I was recently asked to do some professional development for a school district. The assistant superintendent asked me to include some ideas for Layering Curriculum. With those teachers in mind, I am going to put some links here that I think will be useful to EdCats as well.
Kathy Nunelyis a secondary teacher that coined the phrase “layered curriculum” in the context of classroom learning and has a significant amount of resources on her website.
Her out-of-the-box thinking allows students to choose assignments from a teacher-created menu they can get excited about!
You may want to check out her hot topics section to get some ideas to refresh your teaching.
Taking the menu idea to a whole ‘nother level is Rick Wormeli. When you click on that link you will go to some resources put together by the Kentucky Dept. of Ed. Lots of menu ideas there.
Do you use menus? Do you have some ideas to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to post them here for EdCats!
It’s interesting to hear some teachers complain about state testing taking up instructional time but they are willing to show movies and play games during the last two weeks of school. Don’t be that teacher!
Here are some ideas for keeping things going until the last bell:
Set some short-term academic goals and encourage students to finish strong!
Learn something new with your students. Modeling an interest in life-long learning can be motivating.
Short term project based or theme based learning can be a great way to combine two classes or grade levels for a portion of the day.
The busier your students are, the less time they have to misbehave. This can be a good time to put students in charge of some of the tasks they have seen you model all year: what are some of your tasks that students could take over?
Use Skype to cross barriers. Is there a project that you could do with a classroom across the city, across the state or across the world? Technology allows teacher-to-teacher planning to exchange ideas on teaching the same content.
Turn students into videographers. Short movies can be great performance-based assessments.
Incorporate music and art into the day if you haven’t been.
Writing with a purpose can be fun. Letters to the senior center, a retired teacher, or next year’s grade level (giving them tips for the next grade) can be a great new tradition!
Keep a daily joy journal on a poster, on a bulletin board, in dry erase marker on the desk or on the door!
Hold focus groups for feedback on how to do things with your students next year. You won’t believe the great ideas that students have.
ENJOY. There are still so many memories to make! Your students will take your cue and learn to find joy in each of the “lasts” for this year.
I was a visitor in a building yesterday and on a huge screen in the cafeteria there was a countdown to summer. I’m not a fan.
The students were chatting and I decided to ask them about it.
“So you guys, I see there’s a countdown to summer break up there. How do you feel about the countdown to summer?”
The first student confirmed my assumption.
It gives me anxiety. I have so much to get done before the break.
A second student chimed in as she looked back and forth to the students next to her,
“I’m dreading summer. I’m going to miss you guys so much!”
So why the countdowns? I suppose it encourages students that freedom is coming, as if school is a sentence to be endured. It might be that a teacher wants a visual reminder that his/her freedom from the students is coming; however, neither message seems very positive. Here’s why I wish countdowns would go away for the sake of students:
For some students, breaks from school mean physically moving to another house. Students may have challenging summer scenarios such as moving to another parent/guardian’s home for summer custody arrangements.
For some students, summer means food insecurity. We may joke about cafeteria food but it’s available and nutritious. Summer breakfast or lunch programs can fill a gap but they may not be close to students’ homes or convenient for consistent attendance.
For some students, summer means lack of supervision. Students may not be supervised while parents work and they may even find themselves in charge of younger siblings.
Although teachers may find countdowns motivating, the countdown mentality may actually do more harm than good:
Teachers may be giving the signal that they can’t wait to be away from their students. Instead of beginning the day with enthusiasm, teachers may be sending the message that school is a “sentence” in which to be endured.
Teachers may be reinforcing a message that the time left is insignificant and that there isn’t much time for more learning to take place.
Teachers might be sending the message that the time to come is more important than what is happening today.
No matter how educators feel about countdowns, summer break is coming. Perhaps being mindful of how our students perceive the impending break from school can help us help them to navigate what awaits them. We owe it to ourselves and our students to take advantage of every opportunity to build skills for all aspects of their lives, including the summer months ahead.
School is never out for the professional.One of the great joys of being a lifelong learner is visiting schools and having the opportunity to get ideas to pass on to our students. Last week I had the privilege of visiting Junction City Middle School. They are utilizing a “short cycle” formative assessment strategy within a framework for teaching by Steve Ventura at Advanced Collaborative Solutions. Any talk of assessments can guarantee a few groans in our test-crazy school climate, but Mr. Ventura’s work is geared toward low-risk, short cycle formatives, that encourage a culture of errors-as-process in a 4 step formula of continuous improvement. His website even touts the adage:
What would your students be willing to accomplish if they knew they could not fail?
Teachers work in teams as they approach a new unit. Each student’s strengths and challenges are kept in mind. Here are some photos of the charts this team used to move their students (a lot of them) forward:
Not only was this fun to see, but one of our own EdCats was part of this team and their presentation! Please consider sending is what YOUR building is doing as an innovative practice in schools!
One would not think such a large district (28,000 students) could move so quickly but innovation abounds among a progressive administration known as LEAD 512.
Here are a few highlights of current initiatives in SMSD:
Ed Tech instructor, Cyndi Danner-Kuhn works with Instructional Coaches, teachers, and buildings on more and new ways to infuse curriculum with technology. SMSD has one-to-one technology and a tech explosion is taking place in classrooms
Dr. Socorro Herrera and some of her staff members at the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy (CIMA) are providing professional development for seven elementary schools in SMSD. See some of the excitement right here on a link to their FB page.
Using SWIVL technology, our Professional Development School allows for distance supervision of K-State student teachers in SMSD. Our students from the Kansas City Area love the opportunity to live at home while they student teach! Our college is becoming nationally known for our pioneering work with SWIVL technology.
There are some exciting new initiatives coming for Fall 2016, stay tuned and find out more reasons we are proud of this innovative collaboration!
This semester, the Office of Innovation and Collaboration has bridged a partnership between Ft. Riley’s Bravo Battery and USD #383 to recognize teachers who have served our country. Bravo Battery Captain Steven Maxwell, Soldiers, Dean Mercer, and COE students have enjoyed surprising veterans and their students.
As these heroes and “she-roes” share their military career highlights with their students, we have been touched by their stories and their students’ reactions to these important contributions to the freedom we enjoy. We hope you enjoy seeing some of the salutes!
What an exciting time to be a part of the College of Education at Kansas State. We talk a lot about Family at Kansas State University. We talk it and we walk it. So welcome to a little family reunion right here on this blog.
Who are EdCats? College of Education students and alumni of the College of Education. Not sure if you are? Here’s a little quiz:
The word Catalyst makes you smile.
Bluemont Hall isn’t just a building, it’s a memory that includes all 5 senses.
When people mention K-State in a conversation, you’re pretty sure they think they know…but they don’t know your K-State.
We want to keep your College of Education experience going. We want to continue to provide opportunities for growth and collaboration after you graduate. We want to see your classrooms, exchange your great innovations and ideas. We’re even planning to get together at a Tailgate next fall. (It doesn’t get more FAMILY than that, does it.) Join us!