Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Peek into Learning

 For all the grumbling about distance learning (and there is a lot of grumbling!), there are also some perks!  I have a love-hate relationship with classroom bulletin boards. They are such a pain to put up, then you have to change them frequently and other than during Open House, no one actually looks at them! Anyone else?

Here's the beauty of distance learning! I was trying to figure out how to display all the great work my students have been doing. In come digital bulletin boards! I post them on our class website, as well as in Schoology (our secure Learning Management System). 

The beauty is that they are easily customizable; you can change the background, adjust the size of student work, write fancy titles or include the standards.
Now, all families have access to our bulletin boards and parents can see not only their child's work but the quality of work (or if their child is missing work!) These bulletin boards have been terrific conversation starters. I tell my kids to show their parents their work on the digital bulletin boards; they have something concrete to look at while they share. 
The bulletin boards are Google slides presentations so although photos may look rather small here, when posted in your LMS, there is a full screen or enlarge icon so the bulletin board fills their screen & they can click through the slides. For longer writing pieces, I screenshot the cover page for the bulletin board then insert a link to the full story/essay.  Working parents have been so appreciative of the chance to see what their child is learning and for the teacher, it's the perfect way to keep track of what you've been teaching during distance learning!

And the best news of all? I want to save you time so I'm giving you these digital bulletin board templates! Click HERE to download the file and directions!  I hope they are helpful! 

Click on the buttons below for more useful ideas!

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

What's Saving My Life Right Now

Hey, friends! Okay, I know this title: "What's Saving my Life Right Now" sounds a bit dramatic, but. . . I feel like I've been living in a hole for the last 5 weeks and only keeping my head above water because of what I'm about to share!

All I can say is thank goodness for like-minded, brilliant, creative friends! Knowing how time-consuming regular teaching is, not to mention remote teaching, one of my teaching besties, Claudia & I have committed to walking every morning BEFORE school! We are still in quarantine here in California, so we each walk in our own neighborhoods while chatting on the phone. Not only has she been an amazing support system for school-related issues, but we also are both caring for elderly parents and are a listening ear. We hold each other accountable for getting out of bed and moving every day. Teacher self-care is SO important during these stressful times! Here are some glimpses of my walks. Appreciate the little things!

For organization, my friend, Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 is SO good at learning then teaching about technology. You need to follow her on Instagram; her stories have tons of tips for building a Google Site, navigating Schoology, and shortcuts to make your life easier! She has been SUCH a timesaver and inspiration!
I couldn't have prepared for distance learning without my friend Susie at The Panicked Teacher ! Not only is she an amazing teacher, but she creates THE cutest and useful materials! She created all those buttons on my class website above plus the virtual bulletin boards below! Check out her TpT store HERE. I was wondering how to simulate bulletin boards and displaying student work while we are virtual. These bulletin boards and library have been perfect, as parents have easy access to them, whereas they might not have stopped into our classroom to see them in "normal" times.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Getting the Most out of Distance Learning

 It's hard to believe the new school year is just around the corner! Anxiety and emotions are running high with all the unknowns: In-person? Masks optional? Virtual? Hybrid? When my district announced 100% distance learning to begin the year, I breathed a sigh of relief that I could finally start to plan. Starting the school year virtually will be different than crisis mode distance learning last spring. By March, we knew our individual students well and although teaching remotely was not ideal,  we knew what our kids needed and how to interact with them. Deep breath. . . 

This begins my 34th year of teaching. I did not yet own a personal computer in 1987, let alone have a computer in the classroom!  Times have changed, yet effective teaching practices have not. Just like many of you, I've spent much of my summer watching videos, webinars, listening to podcasts and reading about distance learning and teaching. I stopped in my tracks when educator and author, John Spencer explained, "The synchronous, interactive nature (of live virtual meetings) makes it a challenge when students have unreliable internet or challenging schedules. It also tends to breakdown in effectiveness as groups grow larger. For this reason, virtual learning is not a great method for direct instruction or for processing new information." Wait! I had to replay that several times. (I was listening to his podcast) I had assumed that my live Zoom meetings were the time to introduce content to my students because it would be me teaching to them, just like in the classroom! However, unlike in the 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Teach Like Yourself, Part 5

I can't believe it's the last week of our summer book study! Although this book is short, I love how it is set up to make the reader stop to reflect then take action.
Chapter 7 was all about teaching bravely. Goldberg references one of my favorite authors, BrenĂ© Brown. Her work is all about being vulnerable and knowing yourself. As teachers, we need to be courageous and make those connections with our students and colleagues. "True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance." (Brown, 2017)
If we don't teach like ourselves, we often feel like imposters and our students know it! When our instructional decisions don't match our students, they can feel the disconnect. With the influence of social media, it is too easy to fall prey to "I'm not good enough." Although I am in awe of some of these teachers & their gorgeous classrooms on Instagram, I have to keep reminding myself to stay true to myself. I don't have to be like anyone else! Listen HERE or click the image below to We Teach So Hard's episode on Lies We Tell Ourselves: You're an Imposter!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Teach Like Yourself, Part 4

What emotions come to mind when you hear "Teacher PD"? Joy is probably not one of them. We've all sat in a teacher professional development where the presenter is droning on and on. There are always certain required District PDs each year: blood-borne pathogens, chemical safety, child abuse, suicide prevention, epi-pen training. . . the list goes on. I understand the required trainings but just as research has shown that children learn best when they have choice and interest in the topic, so do teachers!
Chapter 5 of of Teach Like Yourself focuses on how to drive your own professional growth. What a concept! My first few years of teaching were so HARD, yet so exciting. I was brand new, just graduated with my BA, and given an emergency teaching credential. (This means my school district was desperate for teachers so they gave an emergency credential to anyone who had their bachelor's degree, with the agreement that we would take night classes to get our credential.) Never having taken an education class(!), I had NO IDEA what I was doing. Thank goodness for my very patient grade level partner & veteran teacher extraordinaire, Elizabeth. She took me under her wing and shared professional journals with me, took me to conferences and workshops. I was thirsty to learn; I couldn't get enough PD! Forward to 30+ years and now I groan when I hear about our weekly PDs. What changed? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Teach Like Yourself, Part 3

Having balanced and healthy relationships are key to teaching like yourself. According to Abraham Maslow's hierarchy, belonging and connection is a basic human need. 
Even in our school environments, we need to feel that we belong to the larger school community. It's not enough to have solid lesson plans and high test scores. 
Several years ago I facilitated a book study on The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out.  Chapter 3 was also all about belonging and creating relationships. You can read more specifics about relationship building HERE. To connect with teaching colleagues, as well as with students and families, focus on being trustworthy and showing them you care. If any of you are Hamilton fans, you'll remember the advice Aaron Burr gave Hamilton, "Talk less, smile more."  (Okay, how many of you did not read that but sang it?) Research has shown that to make connections, learn to really listen: talk less, listen more.  Listen with the intent to understand, NOT to prove your point.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Teach Like Yourself, Part 2

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to
Click HERE or on the image (book cover) below to order your own copy to join in this book study!
Chapters 2 & 3 are packed full of information! As teachers, we always hear about backward planning. Unless we have a focus, we cannot truly be effective teachers. Goldberg states, "...we must first get super clear on the why of our work, on our core beliefs, before we create plans for what and how we will teach." (p. 24) Simon Sinek's (2009) research  says the most effective leaders start with the WHY before moving into HOW and WHAT.
We've all probably had people try to force us to do something. This is called irritation and may be successful in the short term, but it is does not have lasting effects. (Think getting your kids to make their bed or pick up dirty laundry off the bathroom floor. Unless they understand the reason for these habits and have buy-in, it is only temporary) In order to get our students moving in productive ways, we need to know them well. We want to teach our kids metacognition: what do they value, believe, and think? When we know what our students believe and desire, then we understand the ways we need to teach and the choices we offer to reach our students.