I've always found self-reflection valuable. Maybe it is just my anxiety mixed with a growth mindset, but I am constantly reflecting. Even as I write this, I am constantly reflecting on whatever it is that I am experiencing. Whether it's a conversation, a lesson, or a piece of data, you can be sure that I have already pondered it for a while. I have grown a great deal this year, and as I look back on this year the word that keeps coming to mind is "boundaries".
At first, I was under the impression that setting boundaries would make you appear unprofessional, unappreciative, and lazy. The combination of toxic positivity and society's pressure to always go the extra mile and do whatever it takes is a recipe for burnout. During my first few years teaching, I always begged the admin to let me into my classroom before our first official day so I could start planning. If they needed a tutor I was there. If there needed to be a representative for something, I was there. I felt as if I had to do it all. I'm grateful for every opportunity I've had in my career to learn and grow. To learn and grow professionally, I have learned that I must make time for myself. Not doing so compromises your well-being and the work you do. We live in a fast-paced society. It is difficult to slow down when everything is instantaneous.
How have I used boundaries this year? You don't have to say "yes" to everything, you can say "no". It can feel difficult at first. I didn't want to feel like I was missing out on something or that I wasn't "pulling my weight". However, it helped me become more present. During Thanksgiving break I took my email off my phone. If you know me this is surprising. As of January it's still deleted from my phone. Although it is on my other devices, which I check regularly, I found myself with more time as a result of doing so. I switched from checking my email every hour to once a night. Creating a boundary in the workplace doesn't mean you won't give your maximum effort. Rather it's about protecting yourself in order to perform well.
Growing up in the Midwest, we often heard the term "Midwest Nice". It is common practice to avoid stepping on anyone's toes and to keep the peace at all times. As a person who never wants to feel like an inconvenience, learning to be assertive is extremely difficult. It didn't take me long to see and understand the difference between "assertive" and "aggressive". Creating a boundary can feel intimidating and it's critical to remember there's nothing wrong with being assertive.
As I go forward into 2023 I am pleased with how much I’ve grown in my 7 years of teaching. Each year I am reminded of how blessed I am to be able to work a job I truly loveIt is my hope that in 2023 I will be able to continue to learn, listen, grow, and take time for myself.
I'm so excited to share my recent article published by Edutopia. Click the link to view how using classroom pets is a great tool to build empathy in the classroom and responsibility for students.
For the past few years, we have seen an increase in augmented reality/virtual reality in education. I love being able to use a variety of technology tools to enhance student learning and I’m so excited to share about ARpedia. I recently attended ISTE in New Orleans, and while walking around the exhibit hall I came across a booth for ARpedia. There are a lot of great programs on the market that introduce AR into classrooms, but something about this one caught my attention and I was instantly hooked.
I immediately thought of how I could use this program in my lessons after sitting down at the booth and going through the tutorial. While I have used similar platforms, this one really intrigued me with its focus on content and literacy in upper elementary grades. When students are reading the books there are built-in features to incorporate augmented reality by using “markers” and creating drawings that come to life. The program is perfect for teachers who are new to using augmented reality, yet it also has a variety of features that experienced teachers will find interesting. In addition, below you will find links to the platform and my video introducing it and its many benefits.
Pros of ARpedia:
-variety in books that are geared toward upper elementary
-lessons are cross-curricular with many science-related books
-easy to connect with most tablets and devices
-Questions are built into the lessons throughout the books
TikTok Video Intro
In preparation for the new school year, teachers are starting to plan and prepare their classrooms for another great year. For many educators that means purchasing supplies, decorations, and furniture. I believe a classroom should be inviting and a place where students feel comfortable and at ease. If every inch of the classroom is covered in something it can feel overwhelming and a bit obnoxious. I’m not saying have your classroom be bare and look like a hospital room. However, I think you have to find some middle ground for setting up your classroom. Students enjoy looking around the room. A bare room is going to feel cold, sad, and bland. A vibrant and over the top classroom is going to seem overwhelming, cluttered, and anxiety producing. Again I’m not saying it has to be extreme, but there is moderation that can be inviting, creative and inclusive to students.
While we’re on the topic of overstimulating, let’s discuss the neon/highlighter color paper. I think this paper is great for sending messages you want parents to see, and used in moderation. I think the neon paper is getting to be a bit overwhelming. My vision is -7 and after I stare at neon paper for a while I become frustrated and sometimes get headaches. I’m not saying this paper should never be used, but I think it needs to be used less. There are alternatives that can be used that stand out and are not overstimulating. Colored paper like pastels and lighter shades are able to stand out, are aesthetically pleasing and not as overwhelming. This may not seem like a big issue but as teachers we constantly have to be reflective on our practice.
From recent trips to various craft stores I noticed over the past few years a distinct font used in classrooms and decorations. Letters are overextended and disproportional. Oftentimes I’m squinting trying to depict and read what it says. I understand teachers want fun things and sometimes cute objects for their classroom. I just can’t help but wonder if I’m struggling depicting these letters, then how will students try to read it? This style of font is often used for products on TPT and if used in class I can’t help but think it's going to be challenging for students to read. I’m not saying teachers should only use Times New Roman, or write perfectly for their anchor charts. Again, I think there is some middle ground that can be found. There are fonts that are easy to read and still creative. I think as teachers we have to ask ourselves certain questions when preparing our lessons and classroom. I hope these questions help us reflect on our practice to have a great year that is inclusive for all students.
Questions to ask yourself:
-How will this product enhance my lesson?
-Is this for my students or for myself?
-Can students tell what this says without difficulty?
-Will students feel comfortable or overwhelmed?
-Is this inclusive to all students in my class?
I am so excited to have my first Edutopia article published! Click the link to view my article on how utilizing bulletin boards can be a great tool to promote social-emotional learning.
This week I had the honor to meet Jane Elliott, a fellow UNI alumna most known for her “Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes'' exercise educating her students about racial prejudice. Following the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. she conducted the exercise in her third grade classroom where students with blue or green eyes were treated less than those with brown eyes. The footage of people young and old participating in the exercise is incredibly eye opening. It is astounding to see the clips of the exercise where adults and children find out what empathy is and how discrimination feels. The books and resources she has on her website are essential for everyone, not just educators.
For several years I have followed Jane’s work on promoting anti racism, educating and being a diversity trainer. Her messages are always inspiring, informative, and I always learn something new from them. The bluntness of her approach forces learners to take a hard look at themselves and their thinking. By exposing ignorance and systemic racism around the world, she can open people's eyes and hearts to the injustices they witness.
This experience is something I will never forget as an educator. Watching her advocate for anti-racism education and equity in education was an incredibly validating experience. I asked her to reflect about her experience being a public school teacher, her thoughts on the current state of libraries being told to ban books, along with other current issues in education. Below I will share resources she recommends everyone read along with a few clips from the interview. The experience of talking with her cannot be described in words. Her advocacy and ongoing education are an inspiration to everyone. Despite the scary legislative situation in education in the country at the moment, I am hopeful that we won't allow ignorance to win.
See below for more.
Books Jane Recommended:
Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization by Anthony T. Browder
When At Times the Mob Is Swayed by Burt Neuborne
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
It Could Happen Here by Jonathan Greenblatt
As educators, we constantly hear about differentiation. Delivering lessons that can reach and challenge all students can be difficult, time-consuming, and vital. We've seen learning gaps grow as a result of the pandemic, making differentiation more crucial. Throughout this post I will be introducing a strategy that has helped save time with math lessons and has allowed me to be able to target all learners in small group instruction.
If you have seen any of my posts on social media, you will know that my students are huge fans of Boddle Learning. The free digital platform allows students to combine rigorous math questions targeted to the standards with gamification. In addition to engaging students in higher order thinking, the data and reports can be easily interpreted.
Analyzing the Data
As an interventionist, analyzing data is my driving force. The results of the assignment can be seen simultaneously as students work on the questions within the platform. The image below is an example of how a progress report looks. When I view the data, I can see that students 3 and 5 performed the lowest, and students 1, 4, and 9 performed the highest. It also appears that skills 3.3C and 3.3A will need to be retaught.
After analyzing the data, my first small group would be students 3 and 5. I can do this by providing a few scaffolding questions below grade level then incorporating on grade level questions. My next small group would be students 1, 4, and 9. I would provide enrichment by adding a few above grade level questions on the similar skill while also giving on grade level questions. For the remaining students, I would continue this pattern and provide support based on the number of questions missed and by skill.
The next image is an example of what the assignment creator looks like. If I am teaching a skill that requires more memorization, like math facts, I can adjust the number of questions to focus more on math fluency. In the case of a more rigorous skill, such as multi-step problems, I would provide fewer questions to reinforce effort.
While the needs of students vary, the need for differentiation in lessons is non-negotiable. Having the ability to differentiate instruction and provide engaging acceleration opportunities can be challenging when your teacher to-do list is constantly growing. It is a pleasure to use a program that is reliable, intuitive, and can easily be adapted to different classrooms.
April is quickly approaching and with that comes my school's favorite celebration, the Month of the Military Child. There are more than 1.2 million kids around the world that have a parent that is active duty in the military. Growing up as a military child can be incredibly difficult. When my dad was deployed I had to rely on my teachers and friends within the community for support. I had crippling anxiety not knowing what to expect, or what was going on. With frequent moves, new schools, new friends, uncertainty, and oftentimes anxiety, being a military child is both a blessing and a challenge. With these challenges we want to celebrate the hardships many of these kids face, because they serve too.
Created in 1986 the first Month of the Military Child was established by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Since then it has become a time to celebrate these kids and their experiences. The selected color representing the Month of the Military Child is purple to represent all service branches. Below you will find strategies and ways to help celebrate these kids.
Ways to support Military Kids