Monday, December 1, 2014

Blog Post #5 - Part B

My PLN has not grown too much since I first created it. I have kept in contact with my personal teaching friends, started following other teachers and teacher assisting sites on twitter and youtube, and continued to use my Pinterest page to draw inspiration. I have also found many teachers blogs through our C4T assignments that I am continuing to follow. A piece that I cannot wait to add to my PLN as a teacher is one that I discovered while working on Blog Post #13 called Schoology. Using this service, I will be able to glean knowledge from teachers all over the country who also use it. We can compare lesson plans, talk about classroom improvements, and even ask for help. I think it will be a great asset to my classroom, and best of all - it's free!

C4T #4 - Shireen Dadmehr

My fourth C4T is on the blog of Shireen Dadmehr. Her blog is called Math Teacher Mambo, and I commented on a post titled Fraction Remix.... Mrs. Dadmehr is a high school math teacher from Texas. In her Fraction Remix post, she recounts a time when a student in her precalculus class couldn't remember the rules for dividing fractions. Fractions seem to scare everyone! Instead of quickly telling the student to "flip and multiply" or "drop, change, and flip," she decided to review fractions with her entire class and explain to them why the "flip and multiply" method works. To me, this was genius. Kids are always looking for the quick answer, but it is so much more beneficial to teach them "why" in order for them to gain a true understanding of the concepts. I know that I am a little strange because I'm passionate about math, but this is the type of understanding that I want to give to my students. I think that students could benefit from having a true understanding of the basics as they move on to more complicated concepts in high school. As an elementary teacher, I hope that I can truly prepare my students for their futures in math, and maybe I can help to mold some more crazy people who love math like I do.

dividing fractions
dividing fractions
Mrs. Dadmehr's notes from her review lesson.
Next, I commented on Mrs. Dadmehr's post titled Hello (mid) November. In this post, she talks about some changes she has made to her classroom to help improve the experience for her students. One of the things I really liked was she was noticing her students were struggling with a specific concept, so she arranged mandatory meeting times. She then posted the available time slots and allowed students to sign up for a convenient time. In these sessions, she was able to pick the brains of her students to find out what was causing their problem. Now, Mrs. Dadmehr is a high school math teacher, so I have had to somewhat alter this thinking to make it work in an elementary classroom. I think it would be  most beneficial in the areas of math and reading. However, I can't imagine posting a sign up sheet for kindergarteners to choose a convenient time to meet. My solution was to maybe pull them out of centers or recess for just a few minutes to go over areas they are struggling in. Another alternative is to get the parents involved and see if they can bring them to school a little early for extra help. 

Finally, I commented on a post titled Sine Graphs and This is PBL at its finest. Even though I love math, I can honestly say that Calculus kicked my butt. If only I had a teacher like Mrs. Dadmehr to show me real world applications for what I was learning. Students were to pick any city in the world and, for homework, research and return with weather data for a 12 month period in their chosen city. They used to enter and save their weather data. Next, they had to draw a generic sine graph, and the teacher walked them through finding an equation to satisfy made-up data. Individually, they were to input their own data pertaining to their city and then find an equation to satisfy it. In this way they were working backwards to demonstrate competency.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blog Post #14 - Teaching Can Be a Profession

For this blog post, we were asked to read an article by Joel Klein titled Teaching Our Children Can Be a Profession. In this article, Mr. Klein points out several factors holding teachers back from reaching their fullest potential as professionals. He also sites previous teachers union leader, Albert Shanker and some of his thoughts. The following is a brief synopsis of each issue and his proposed solution.

Lack of Education

In my opinion, this is true of the teaching profession today. Many people opt to pursue a career in elementary education because it is "an easy degree." While the course work may not be extremely challenging (especially for someone who excelled in school or who spends a lot of time around children), it is certainly a job to be taken seriously. Klein specifically points out the lack of knowledge in the areas of teaching math and reading. These are areas in which students most frequently struggle, and the problem is that, most likely, the teacher also struggled during his or her early education. This is why Klein suggests that we recruit our educators from the top third of graduates ensuring that each one has a firm grasp of the subject matter at hand. This sounds ideal until you think about it. I can remember as a student I always found it easier to help or be helped by my peers - someone who struggled and then figured it out. Many times, those people have a better way of explaining concepts. They can speak more on your level and break things down more easily. I think Klein hit the nail on the head in the beginning by saying we need to focus more on HOW to teach these hard-to-grasp concepts to our students.

Ease of Becoming a Teacher

Klein also points out that our society has made it too easy to become a teacher. This has positive and negative effects. Right now, anyone who has obtained a bachelor's degree is eligible to teach. It's that easy. How many times have you heard someone say something like, "I don't know what I'll do when I retire. Maybe I'll just teach." or "I can always use my history/art/English degree to teach if nothing else."? Why is this profession constantly viewed as an escape route or backup plan? I'll tell you why. The degree is not incredibly challenging. The perks (nights, weekends, holidays, and summers) are enticing. If you can just stick it out for ten years, you are virtually invincible. And finally, retirement comes much earlier. You only have to give 25 years of service, regardless of age, in order to retire with the state of Alabama. The main things pushing people away from education is working with children and the pay. It's tough to find a solution because many highly-qualified people will choose another profession looking for more money. However, finding the money to increase teacher pay is a whole new problem.

Seniority-based Reward System

I touched on this in the previous section. Once teachers have become vested, meaning they have contributed ten years of service, they are almost untouchable. They can do the bare minimum and receive no lasting consequences. It is virtually impossible to fire a vested teacher. Klein suggests a performance-based reward system rather than a seniority-based one. Shanker goes a step further.  "He proposed that teachers establish their own board to police the profession, establishing standards and providing mechanisms for removing incompetent teachers. Teachers would also be subjected to merit-based career ladders and would be
promoted based on specialty exams." I think this is an excellent idea. Teachers should be rewarded or reprimanded, hired or fired based on one thing only: how they perform their job. I'm not saying a teacher with failing students should be fired. There are other ways to evaluate job performance. Parent, student, and even coworker surveys would be a start. Principals could even look at how well students perform in the next grade to evaluate their preparedness.

In conclusion, if we as teachers want to be regarded as true professionals, we need to act like professionals, taking pride in all we do. As Klein said, excellence should be our guide. In achieving school admission, in our personal coursework, and in the way we run our classrooms, there should always be one common thread: excellence. The change has to start with us.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

C4K Summary - November

My first C4K this month was fun! Mikayla wrote about her Halloween plans for this year. She is a fifth grade student in Oakville, Ontario Canada. She plans to go trick-or-treating with her friend, Marina. While they are collecting candy, they also plan to ask for donations of canned goods. She had written in orange and black text for Halloween, which I thought was a very creative idea. Since I commented the day after Halloween, I told her that I hoped she had a fun time, and I asked her how many cans she was able to collect.


My next C4K for November was on the blog of an 8th grade student in Iowa named Anna. She did a project where she had to create her own print. She chose to begin with a picture of a model. Printmaking is tricky because you have to carve out the negative space instead of drawing a picture. She essentially created a stamp. Her finished product looks great, but I was most impressed with her attitude. She cut herself twice while carving out her print, but she concluded that in the end it was worth it to see her final product. She felt a sense of pride in having completed her piece and having completed it well. This is something that I hope to find with all of the projects I assign as a teacher. Successfully completing a project should make students feel good about themselves. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Project #12B - Greater Than, Less Than, Equal

For Project 12B, Group 8 decided to do a lesson on greater than, less than, and equal geared towards kindergarteners.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blog Post #13 - What Did I Leave Out?

For this post, Dr. Strange asked us to write a blog post concerning our own field of study. I am an Elementary Education major, so I will be teaching many subjects. For this reason, my post is concerning technology and the rush for schools to go 1:1. 

The Assignment
Many schools are rushing to be the first (or the best) to go 1:1. This means that they will provide one laptop or iPad for each student in their school. Read Why Schools Must Move Beyond One-to-One Computing, and write a response to this article. If you are lucky enough to work in a school that has gone 1:1, how would you ensure that the technology your school provides is utilized effectively and not simply as a replacement for pencil and paper?

My Blog Post
This is a great article about a side of this discussion that I never really thought about. Every school wants to be on top of the technology game, but what does that really mean? Almost every classroom in Mobile has a SMARTboard, and now the race is to have iPads in the hands of every student. Who will do it first? And does that make one school better than another academically? Maybe. Teachers, administrators, and even parents need to consider what these devices are being used for. There is great potential for learning when each child has his or her own device, but they shouldn't be, as Alan November calls them, "$1,000 pencils."

If I am fortunate enough to work in a 1:1 school, I would love to implement a learning management system called Schoology in my classroom. I may use it anyways as an online supplement for home use. Schoology works as a central hub for the classroom. Using this tool, I could post assignments, grades, quizzes, and media such as audio or video. Everything is available for students, parents and even other teachers to see. This would be another piece of my Personal Learning Network as well as a beginning for the networks of my young students. Through Schoology, I can also give individual feedback to my students and track their success to see what works and what doesn't. I also like that it integrates Google Docs, Turn It In, and other sites so that everything is in one place. This will make it easier for me as a teacher and more organized for my students who will be using all of these resources. Finally, I love that schoology has iOS and Android apps available for both phones and tablets. This way, students can see their classwork from home. It will especially be useful when students miss a day of school. Below are some short videos about the uses for Schoology.