Day 16: Telepathy

Day 16: If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

It would be incredibly cool to be a telepath so that I could psychically train and teach all my students. A little more Matrix than Professor X.

But I guess a realistic super power, or at least as realistic as they come, would be the ability to find a way to spend time with every student, every day. At least for a moment. I think that would have great impacts on their success.

So often the minutes of each period mysteriously vanish and now with shortened classes this year, I need to be even more strategic with my time. If I divided up my entire class period between all of my students, I could spend 1:40 with each of them. But that's not the best way to spend my time either.

If we are wishing for super powers, managing our time in class together would be at the top of my list. That and flying.

Day 15: Risk

Day 15: Name three strengths you have as an educator.

I'm not a fan of stating the things (I think) I am good at. I'd much rather wait for someone to tell me what I'm good at.

This school year has been different from most. For some reason, I just can't seem to get myself out of the gate and up and running. Because of that, I've been pretty stressed, somewhat impatient and fairly unorganized, so it's kind of tough to attempt to identify my areas of strength.

Earlier this week, my admin had said some things about me (truly awesome and humbling things!) which changed a lot of the perspective I had been having these past few weeks. It might just be enough to get me out of this rut.

Anyway, three things I am good at as an educator. These will be short.

  1. Connecting with Students.
  2. Connecting with Teachers.
  3. Taking risks.

Day 14: TENSE

Day 14: What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?

I remember being in AP English in high school. I hated hate writing and nothing was more frustrating than spending 3-5 days (we had a block schedule, too), pouring over an analytical essay about the social and political themes in some book that I probably didn't even understand because there were no spark notes for it, and finally turning it in to be reviewed by the teacher, only to get it back with a few words at the top. TENSE. REDO.

I was fifteen. WTF is TENSE? And was I supposed to fix this paper?

Feedback is not a check mark. It isn't 34/40. It's not even an A-. Feedback is what you give a student so they know what to do next. It's specific and descriptive with a focus on process and strategy, not necessarily the result or outcome. Feedback is timely and ultimately all for the purpose of supporting students and pushing them just a little bit more.

How am I doing at giving feedback? Well to reflect on the past four weeks (FOUR WEEKS?!) I have to say that I am not in the same place as I was at the end of last year. I've done the verbal feedback quite often, but I really enjoy providing students with written feedback, and that's only happened once so far. I probably provide feedback daily through questioning, but I really would like to increase my written responses.

I know it's powerful and that students need it. I just need to put it on my daily to do list.

Day 13: @DJ_NeckTie is on the Twitter

Day 13: Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

Being so lucky to be part of a 1:1 iPad school, I would think my edtech tools would have changed from when I didn't teach at a 1:1 iPad school. They're actually all the same.

The Twitter.

I found this bad boy way back during my first year of teaching. It was the best PD I had ever had and I was connected to so many educators and resources -- I didn't have time to sift through them all. Today, I'm not as Twitter-savvy as I used to be, but this year I am using it more than I have in the past and I can't believe that I have neglected it for so long. It is ripe with teachers sharing their successes and struggles, their lessons and philosophies, their classrooms and their students and so much more. If you are not on the Twitter, I highly suggest you get an account, or give me permission to create one for you. (@DJ_NeckTie)

Google Apps for Education.

I was so happy when my district moved to GAFE a few years ago. I had used the regular Google Apps my first few years teaching, and it streamlined almost everything I needed to do. There was a time where Evernote was competing for some of my cloud-based word processing and file organization, but now with the updated versions of Drive, Docs and Sheets (not to mention the newly released Google Classroom), I am quite pleased that I stuck it out with Google. Everything I need is in one place, or can be linked to one place, and the search feature has saved my butt so many times. If you are still creating things in Word or Excel and want to share it with a bunch of other people, you probably should just start it in Google Drive. Saves me some serious copy-paste conversion time.


True, so this tool was definitely not on my list before the 1:1 iPad revolution, but it's been so great to have. I've used it tons when I taught science and social studies. It was great for sketching flow charts, taking notes, labeling models and drafting posters. Then I found out that my math students loved showing their calculations in the paper app too. Worked as a quick and easy whiteboard for fluency practice. Plus, everyone's handwriting just looks 10x more beautiful in the Paper53 app.

Other things that are probably running in the background on my devices: EvernoteNotability & FreshGrade.

Day 12: Moveable Walls

Day 12: How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?

In five years, my first class of 4th graders that I taught will be starting their junior years of college and my current 8th graders will have just finished high school and possibly just beginning their university experiences.

When that day rolls around, I would like myself to still be making an impact in student's lives. That may or may not be in the classroom setting, but I can't really imagine it otherwise.

Our classroom would be awesome, and our students would love going there, especially outside of class time. It will be designed that way, with students in mind, and I will have incorporated the physical space of the room into our learning. There will be flat screens displaying photo & video streams of student creations as well as information on our class' progress towards mastery of standards. There will be multiple study areas and locations in the room to support individual and collaborative learning, along with the fancy moveable wall from my friend's dream classroom.

Everything in our class would assessed through standards and rubrics and students will know exactly where they stand. I will no longer be giving out A's, B's or C's. We would tackle big problems and projects that incorporate a variety of content skills and knowledge so students have real-life applications of maths, reading and writing, instead of applying these things in isolation.

I know I want to improve all aspects of my teaching: connecting with students, planning great lessons, facilitating effective instruction for all, providing a place for students to grow. But above all else, I want to love my job even more than I did when I first taught those 4th graders back in 2008.

Day 11: Hall Pass

Day 11: What is your favorite part of the school day and why?

It doesn't always happen, but I try really hard to meet my students in the hallway outside of my door & not in my classroom. I love the energy and madness that is a middle school locker hall.

Passing period. It's one of my favorite parts of the day. I get to see the students that are in my next class, but I also get to see all the other students who I don't have the privilege to teach.  It's an unstructured time for the kids and it's pretty apparent from all the laughing, pushing, talking and playing.

Connecting with students outside of the classroom is pretty high up on my list and being available in the hallway gives me lots of opportunities for that. If I'm holed up in my room while everyone else is in the hall, how could I possibly begin to build relationships that are not math-centric?

This is why I love passing time. Students who have already had you that morning, sharing a quick moment from their day. Students who have you later that day who say hi or share how their day is going. And then the best part: students who I've taught before, but don't have in any classes this year, that stop by just to talk stories.

Other great parts of the day. When the choir sings an entire song filled with passion and emotion. And an honorable mention: when other teachers come to share with me exciting things they found and are planning to incorporate into their classes.

Day 10: Pick up a Hitchhiker

Day 10: Share five random facts about yourself. Share four things from your bucket list. Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator. Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator. Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

Day 10 in the Reflective Teacher Blog Challenge is an easy one!

Share five random facts about yourself.

  1. I love string cheese.
  2. I hate chocolate.
  3. Reading books are difficult for me.
  4. Driving in the sun makes me fall asleep.
  5. My phone is yellow.

Share four things from your bucket list.

  1. Ride a train.
  2. Pet a lion.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Write a song that thousands of people will sing.
  5. Pick up a hitch hiker.

Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.

  1. Get violin lessons.
  2. Pass my music test.
  3. Save money.

Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.

  1. Students who can't pronounce my name.
  2. On our first test of the year, one of the funniest students I have answered with this for one of the questions. 

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

  1. I like quiet.

Day 9: Change

Day 9: Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

Initially I set out to dig deep through my teaching past and uncover a special gem of a triumph, hopefully one that was not publicly known, and retell the story of my greatest achievement.

I looked back on my years as an elementary school teacher and thought about all the kids I had, sorting through the memories, searching for a long lost success. My brain wandered over to data gains that I made with those students in 4th & 5th grade. There was a time when I was very proud of that feat, but already three years later, it doesn't bring me as much accomplishment than it did back then.

Yesterday I reminded a student that I had back in elementary school, who I have again this year as an 8th grader, of the time he accidentally laid down on a cactus plant during an outdoor exploration field trip experiential activity. His shorts were covered with the thorns and we got left behind as we I carefully plucked each individual prickly spine out from his clothes.

Maybe my biggest accomplishment is something I did for a student or a connection I made with a family? What is my biggest accomplishment?

I think my biggest accomplishment is making the jump from elementary to middle school.

As excited as I was for the older students and focused content area that I would be teaching, I was nervous. I had found great success teaching elementary students and I was in a great place in my building. I was on track to be a math intervention specialist for primary students. My team was awesome (I miss them). My grade-level teammate was an amazing guy who lived his life with such great integrity. And I was taller than all most of my students. I was comfortable.

Was I going to find anything close to that in middle school?

I'm glad that I made the switch. It put me in a new environment that tested my skills, perspective and passion for teaching. In elementary school, I was teaching math, reading, writing, handwriting, science, spelling and social studies. I thought that I would end up teaching one subject in middle school. I middle school, I've taught sixth grade math, sixth grade science, sixth grade social studies, sixth, seventh and eighth grade choir and now eighth grade math.

I am definitely not comfortable yet, but that's a good thing. I remember my first year teaching, never wanting to be complacent. Never wanting to be teaching the same thing every year for the rest of my life. I did not want to be the teacher who taught second grade for fifteen years, as amazing and fantastic as they would be. I just wanted to be a good teacher.

Day 8: Empty

Day 8: What's in your desk drawer and what can you infer from those contents?

I'm really proud to say that I no longer have a teacher desk! I have a small table up front for the doc camera and my laptop, but other than that, I don't have my own desk in the room.

I have cabinets, closets and some shelves which I'm slowly figuring out how to organize so that I have easy access to the stuff that I need, but I've gained a significant amount of space in my room.

When I taught elementary school, I got rid of my desk and it was the best thing. It forced me to spend more time with my students, sitting with them at their tables since I didn't have my own desk. It got me into the habit of constantly roaming the room and engaging with my class.

Granted, sometimes I misplace things or don't know where I've put them, but I lost stuff all the time even when I had a desk.

But when I did have a desk, I always had gum.

#ReflectiveTeacher Link Party

I've been enjoying te@ch thought's 30-Day Blog challenge. I've been encouraged to reflect and look back on my practice and it's only been two weeks of school.

But what's been even more amazing has been seeing others' reflections on the same prompts that I've been assessing. I've even been able to get a bunch of others in my building/district to play along. They've got some incredible insight and perspective, so I hope you check them out.

Mrs. Perricone
Ms. Morrison
Mrs. Robinson
Ms. Urfer