Technology

Making Student Learning Ap-Pear-ent

One of my favorite tech tools in the last year has to be Pear Deck! I had heard about this tool at a bunch of EdTechTeam summits and participated in the Demo Slams–finally I bugged Nick about it and got a personal demo between sessions. I quickly went from “oh this is cool” to “hold on, I gotta update my Monday lesson to include Pear Deck!”

Pear Deck is an “AND” not an “OR” for me. It seamlessly integrates into what I’m already doing in my classroom, rather than something extra to implement. We are 1:1 iPad, and my kids had no problem joining into a session. After using Pear Deck a couple times, I asked my students what they thought. Overwhelmingly, they liked it!

Sample student responses to “Do you feel that having these slides in front of you today helped in you class?”

For my students in the back, they were able to see what I had projected. And, it made it easier for them to take Cornell Notes. Assignment instructions were right in front of them, eliminating excuses for not knowing what to do.

And Then the Add-on was Released

The Google Slides Add-on was a total game changer. My only initial frustration with Pear Deck was editing my slides after I had imported them into Pear Deck–I always make mistakes (sorry 1st period). This was 100% fixed with the new add-on!

Interactive question, asking students about gender stereotypes. Across the board, their answers for math were surprising! Led to a great discussion.

Bigger bonus: our IT department pushed out the add-on to all teachers this week! That’s huge! I’m hoping it’ll up the usage district-wide, and provide more opportunities for engagement. Some of our high school teachers are huge Pear Deck fans, and my fingers are crossed that (1) more will get on board, which means (2) more effective & engaging use of 1:1 laptops in high school. For a teacher looking for a way to begin to integrate technology, Pear Deck is an excellent starting point.

 

A Few Reasons Why I Love Pear Deck:

  • I project from a laptop, but can have the presenter dashboard on my iPad. This frees me up to walk around the room, while checking in on student responses. It’s easier to interact when I’m not tied to the front of the room. Teaching feels more conversational when it can happen anywhere in our room.
  • Seeing student responses in real time on the presenter dashboard (premium version — 100% worth it!) makes it’s easy to address misconceptions or student questions. I can also check for understanding by adding in questions on the fly.
  • It gives every student a voice, especially the introverts. Reading their responses followed by simple eye contact makes them feel valued and heard, without them saying a word! I get so many returned smiles when I read a response and give a silent thumbs up from across the room.
  • The premade interactive Slide templates make it ridiculously easy to up student engagement!
  • Student-paced mode is a life saver when I unexpectedly have to be out. I got called in for Jury Duty last week, and had to quickly adapt my Wednesday plans to work for a sub on Thursday (block schedule). With student-paced mode, my kids were able to login and complete the lesson. I went in later to check their responses.

The Biggest Reason I Love Pear Deck

And of course, a highlight of my ISTE 2017 experience was meeting this dancing Pear at the Pear Deck booth!

The people. The people who work for Pear Deck are the kindest individuals, both those I’ve hung out with in person and those I’ve met on the Twitters. Knowing they’re approachable, willing to answer questions, receive feedback, and hear how I’m using Pear Deck in my classroom makes me want to use it and spread the word. The personal touch is the huge difference!

Thank you, Pear Deck, for being awesome humans who care about our students and teachers!

What are your favorite tips and tricks with Pear Deck?

Reflections

It Takes a Village to Raise a Student Teacher

“It takes a village to raise a student teacher!”

That became my motto last semester, as I navigated myself through my first time as a Guide Teacher*.

I had such a phenomenal experience as an apprentice teacher (the year before student teaching) and as a student teacher, I always knew I wanted to give back and be a Guide Teacher someday. And that someday happened last August, when my principal walked into my room and asked if I’d like a student teacher.

It’s not easy to invite a stranger into your classroom, share the space, share the kids, and give them room to make mistakes. For me, it was so worth it!

Getting Mentally Prepared

I’ll admit, I was super nervous to host a student teacher. How do you even teach someone to teach?!

A Classroom of One, by Doug Robertson

Thankfully, my good friend Doug Robertson was just finishing up his latest book, A Classroom of One! (Stop what you’re doing, and go buy yourself a copy on Amazon. No matter your experience level & role in education, this book is for you! And, I promise he’s not paying me to say this.) This was a life saver, it gave me a starting place, and some tips for building this teaching partnership.

The first thing I did was go out and buy a pretty notebook for Amy. As Doug advised, I wrote her a letter to start the notebook and our journey together. Letter writing is my jam, so it felt natural. And, I have to admit, I think this really impacted Amy. She talked about the letter multiple times, and even showed it to her mom–a retired Kindergarten teacher! It also helped me welcome her into our classroom, and set the foundation for our work together.

Before the first day, I called my Guide Teacher from when I student taught. Once a mentor, always a mentor! He gave me some great advice and questions to ask Amy on her first day.

The Start of Our Journey

On our first day together, Amy observed my 1st period class and I had her take notes. I introduced Ms. Ellevold to my class and explained she would be hanging out, observing, getting to know them, and helping out–and, I made sure Amy walked around and interacted on that first day!

Amy’s first full block period!

In our first debrief, Amy asked a lot of great questions that made me reflect on my own teaching, the decisions I made, and how I view our class. In turn, I asked her questions about why she wants to be a teacher.

I found my superpower teacher senses also applied to having Amy in my “Classroom of One”. On her 2nd day in my classroom, she met her class (we’re on block schedule). I introduced her, then asked her to do the warm-up. I had given her about 5 minutes notice that she would go over the warm-up with the kids; she looked (and sounded) nervous, but I also knew the sooner she interacted with her class, the quicker the transition from me to her would happen. It was fun to get to write my observations in her notebook. As Doug suggested in Classroom of One, I created 3 columns: likes, suggestions, other.

The kids and many adults are convinced we’re sisters or twins. It took a lot of convincing to explain we didn’t know each other before August! 

We agreed that the next time she saw her class, she would do the warm-up and notes with them, then I would do the final activity. As it turned out, she was on a roll with her class, and they were loving her–so I didn’t stop her, I gave her the “keep going!” eyes, and she taught the whole block period!

She took on more and more responsibilities, including grading, attendance, and discipline. I didn’t have a set timeline for when all this would happen, but instead went by her cues for when she was ready. I also started stepping out for a couple minutes at a time, gradually increasing the time and distance away from our classroom.

As the semester went on, we got into this rhythm of one of us teaching, the other observing, and a big debrief after the lesson. Amy attended our PLC meetings, went with me for supervision, attended trainings, and asked a lot of questions!

By the end of the semester, I left her completely alone for the last 2 weeks. While this is not a requirement for her program, I saw it as her next step in growth. I can’t help myself from giving the “teacher look” to a chatty student or being available to answer a question. She needed to teach without me in the room! So, I parked myself in other classrooms or the library to work, and only popped in if I forgot something essential.

It Takes a Village

During our semester together, I encouraged Amy to observe as many teachers as she could. I made her a list, including the whole science department and multiple math, English, history, and AVID teachers.

Amy (student teacher), me (me), and Derrick (my guide teacher) at a district PD day! 

I also went to observe the other 2 student teachers from her cohort, took detailed notes, and debriefed with them after. This experience helped me realize that each of us have different strengths as a teacher, and also as a guide teacher. I was able to provide a lot of feedback on classroom management and student engagement. (Don’t worry, the other 2 Guide Teachers have excellent management too! I just seem to have a particularly good eye for it, and a knack for teaching it with student teachers. They’re both better at teaching discussion and questioning strategies.)

I also invited the science department, administrators, and other teacher friends to come observe Amy as frequently as possible. They would leave her written or verbal comments at the end. Not only is this healthy for her to have multiple eyes watching her teach, but also it builds comfortability with having people walk in at any point during a lesson.

I Became a Better Teacher!

One of the best part of having a student teacher is having someone constantly observing me teach. There were multiple times the lesson didn’t go as I planned, and I’d turn to Amy mid-lesson and ask for feedback. We’d come up with a plan to change the lesson on the spot or for the next class.

Having a student teacher is a significant time investment. I know some teachers take on a student teacher, then immediately leave the room to get more coffee and chat with a friend. I was constantly observing, and our post-lesson debriefs + planning were often 1-2 hours–thankfully my prep and technology resource period directly followed both the class she observed and the class she taught. Effectively, I lost my prep periods for the first few months. However, this was a time-investment well spent. As I stepped out more and more, I got the opportunity to pop into other classrooms to observe and collaborate!

Amy, me, and Heidi (another student teacher) at the staff v student soccer game

What’s Next?

I will gladly take on another student teacher in the future! Even though I didn’t get one placed with me this semester, there are 2 with other teachers, and I look forward to supporting them however I can.

I’m also planning on recording myself teach more frequently this semester. I won a fancy Swivl at ISTE 2017, which was used a ton last semester to record Amy and another student teacher. I know it takes time investment (and a lot of vulnerability!) to record and watch the video playback, but I know it’s worth it for me.

While writing this post, I can’t stop smiling! Amy, you were a pleasure and a joy to work with! Thank you for an incredible first Guide Teacher experience, and for building so many classroom memories with me. You’ve made me a stronger teacher!

*Note: I use Guide Teacher throughout this post. Some people/programs call them Master Teachers, Cooperating Teachers, etc.

Reflections

#OneWord 2018 – Joy

My word for 2018 is JOY.

Overall in life, I’ve been trying to be better balanced between my personal and professional life, take more time for myself and the people I love, and be more present each day. It hasn’t been an easy journey, and it’s far from over yet.

I picked JOY as my 2018 word because it represents something I’ve found that’s missing from some parts of my day. There are tons of happy moments, smiles, and things I enjoy doing; however, I notice myself frequently just going through the motions.

Joy is an attitude, not a feeling.

I love teaching, I love my kids, I love what I get to do every day. Some days, I find myself trudging along, planning lessons and grading, and trying to get from Monday to Friday–I forget to stop for a moment and enjoy the ride.

I’ve spent the better part of the last year allowing others and situations to dictate how I feel. I get frustrated or hurt because of what people have done to me, said about me, or done around me. It’s not up to them to dictate how I feel about situations, or about myself.

I am bringing back my own joy!

One way I’m going to seek out joy each day is by keeping a gratitude journal. Each night, I’ll write down at least one good thing that happened that day in my Passion Planner monthly calendar. This will help me reflect back on all the great things happening, rather than get stuck in the teeny tiny annoyances.

Another way I’m going to bring my joy into my daily life is by making sure I am keeping my life in a better balance. This balance includes work and home, as well as my physical, mental/emotional, and social health. (Yay health triangle, for all my health teacher friends!) I’m going to be intentional about scheduling time for all of these! Part of my personal weekly reflection will look at how I have taken care of all of these areas.

I’m looking forward to whatever 2018 brings, and most of all, keeping an attitude of joy!

Books

What I read in 2017

2017 was a good year for books. I finished a total of 55 books! Here’s the breakdown: 26 audiobooks, 29 books (8 books, 21 ebooks). The two major categories I read this year were YA (21) and Nonfiction (20). Surprisingly, I only read 3 edu-books this year.

This year I kept a bit more data than I have in the past. Previously, I just listed the books I read. Now, I’m keeping track of completion date, number of pages or hours (although I usually listen to audiobooks on 2x speed, which I take into account in my data), format, and genre. My favorite part of all this data is the graphs I create to go along with it. I like the visual trends for genre and books completed each month. Click here to make a copy of my book tracking spreadsheet for your own use.

Here are some of my favorite books I read this year: (they’re in chronological order

1. Heartless (Marissa Meyer)

I love love love the Lunar Chronicles, and Heartless was just as awesome. This one is based on Alice in Wonderland, which brought in some of my childhood magic. I’m a bit sad it’s not part of a series, because I’ve loved everything she’s written!

2. Caraval (Stephanie Garber)

For my Breakout EDU fans, this book will be a hit! It has the magic of a full-scale Breakout EDU game, as the main character is trying to find her sister before Caraval is over.

3. My Not So Perfect Life (Sophie Kinsella)

I keep coming back to this book all year, thinking about how we portray ourselves online versus the reality around us. The reality is all too real!

4. Yes, And (Kelly Leonard & Tom Yorton)

This was recommended by my dear friend Jess Loucks, and her keynote is based on improv. This isn’t an improv how-to book, but rather the ideas behind improv and how they can make us better creators and collaborators.

5. The Inexplicable Logic of my Life (Benjamin Alire Sáenz)

This story is fantastic, complex, and heartwarming. It addresses the real issues around us, including life, love, and loss. He also wrote Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I read in 2015 — bonus for my Hamilton Nerds, the Aristotle & Dante audiobook is read by Lin-Manuel Miranda!!

6. Fueled by Coffee and Love (Mari Venturino)

I can’t blog about 2017 books without talking about this, I’m still so proud of myself for pulling together Fueled by Coffee and Love. It’s a collection of teacher stories written by teachers all around the world! Please pick up a copy for yourself and a teacher you adore–all proceeds go to classrooms!

7. The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

This book hit the world by storm when it was published in February 2017. I finally got a copy over summer, and binge read the entire thing in just a few days! It’s heartbreaking and eye-opening at the same time. It really framed police violence and BLM in a way that is accessible to a wider population. I highly recommend this book!

8. Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly)

I listened to the audiobook, then watched the movie (*gasp* I watched a movie!). So good! I’ve always been a huge space fan, and in middle school I wanted to be an aerospace engineer; however, why am I just now hearing about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson et al now?! They were left out of history, and I didn’t even know to look for them.

9. Classroom of One (Doug Robertson)

Another gem by my friend Doug Robertson. One of the three edu-books I read this year, and it was by far the best! It prepared me for my first guide teacher experience, and helped me become a stronger and more reflective teacher overall. I highly recommend this to anyone in education!

10. Turtles All the Way Down (John Green)

This is my second favorite John Green book (first favorite is Will Grayson, Will Grayson). This new one definitely didn’t disappoint. I appreciate how much it dove into anxiety and how it affects Aza’s life–but, it’s not forced or overdone.

I’d love some recommendations on books you think I’d like. Please leave me a comment below!