How much better?

I identified that I wanted to become better at crafting purposeful learning experiences for my students. And I just wanted to be better.

This past year, moving from the ninety minute block to the barely fifty-six minute block established the perfect environment for purpose to take the lead. Losing thirty-four minutes every day does not leave room for fillers, busy work and aimless activities.

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FreshGrade: A monstrous, powerful beast

One of my beliefs in FreshGrade's potential was connecting parents to the classroom using technology. This was a huge undertaking this year and by fourth quarter, I had found a ton of gaps in the way I had rolled out this tool.

I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted FreshGrade to be the one-stop-shop for my students, their families and myself. I wanted it all, and FreshGrade was the app that was going to deliver.

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Blog Challenge: Revisiting September

Since school ended last week, there has been a rush of emotions flowing in and out of me over the weekend. Joy. Sadness. Excitement. Disappointment. Adventure. (Yeah, not really an emotion) Pride.

Part of it is because it's summer and we all love summer. Part of it was because I had completed another year. Part of it is probably related to the fact that next year I will only be returning as a part-time teacher, possibly leading up to two sections of math.

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Day 22: PLN

What's a PLN? A PLN in an acronym for Personal Learning Network and I've had one since my very first year teaching.

Over the past few years, it's been an amazing source of support, encouragement, resources and ideas. My first connection to a PLN was through Twitter, surprisingly. I had signed up for the Twitter while I was still in college, but never really found a use for it.

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Day 20: Digital Trail

How do I curate student work? Man, that is a task that I am still trying to navigate effectively. I think this year working with students who have used 1:1 iPads last year, we may utilize the FreshGrade student version to identify and showcase their own work.

I do believe leveraging technology is crucial for my students. Digital portfolios and collections provide the opportunity for written work in addition to video capture, photo graphs and audio recordings.

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Day 19: Reflection

Day 19: Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.

Reflection is an amazing thing. I've been reminded of its power over the past few weeks through participation in this blog challenge. Granted, it's not always easy to keep up and I am definitely behind by almost eight days, but with each question that I write about, let alone contemplate, my mind is pushed to turn back upon itself and consider.

Consider what I did, what I am doing and above all else -- why? Consider the possibilities of opportunity. Consider the outcome of change. Consider the strength of sharing. Consider the best against the better.

Students can (&should) reflect on their learning, but they're not always taught how. I must admit that I've quickly created self-assessment sheets for students while I am out of the building and they have a substitute, yet I rarely take the time to teach them the purpose or the process of meaningful reflection. 

So many times at the end of a long-term project have I thrown together a stack of thought-provoking questions, with the great expectation that students will come to grand revelations about their learning processes, only to find empty and generic responses.

How easy and autonomous for a thirteen year old to check a few boxes and circle a bunch of numbers, yet completely miss an opportunity for growth? How many times have I done this myself? 

I have made many attempts at what I thought was authentic reflection for students, but I can't say many have been successful. If I am going to provide students an opportunity to reflect, I need to teach, and probably show, them exactly how it can be done. 

That's a start.

Day 18: A Teacher is

Day 18: Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…”

Writing is probably one of my weakest areas (along with basic political, geographical and scientific facts) so it's no wonder why I've put off Day 18's topic for so long

A teacher is a trainer.
A teacher is a guide.
A teacher is a light.
A teacher is a performer.
A teacher is a coach.
A teacher is a director.
A teacher is a compass.
A teacher is a leader.
A teacher is an artist.
A teacher is a conductor.

A teacher is a person.

Day 17: $

Day 17: What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

Most challenging issue in education today...

Dolla, dolla bill y'all.

I honestly don't know enough about all of the issues to pick the most challenging, but the one that's frustrated me in the past has been funding and dollars.

But it's not all about the money. It's about what happens when there is none. I've seen my share of classrooms that are packed with kids. Students as young as five, sitting in rooms that have no air circulation while the building heats up to over ninety-degrees. Teachers stretched thin across their roster, hoping to have meaningful interactions with each of their +150 students every day. Kids trying to make the best of trying to focus and learn in rooms that were designed for young people of the past.

Yeah. I don't know much about the politics, but it always seems to come back to money.

(I couldn't find a way to incorporate "I Need a Dollar" by Aloe Blacc, so here it is for your listening pleasure.)