Monday, February 14, 2011

Goal #8 - Rethink Student Behavior and Classroom Management

“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
by Dr. Haim Ginott


    Option A
During at least one class period have your students discuss how they deal with stress and have them reflect on positive ways to react to the stresses that surround them. During this time, listen as the students tell you the stress they deal with at home, from their peers, and just in general.
    Option B
Reflect on your classroom rules and the punishments outlined for breaking them. Do these consequences really correct the behavior? If not, think of ways to change the consequences so that the student understands how to correct the behavior. Have students help you come up with consequences. Listen to what they think.
    Option C
When the student that usually breaks a rule does, handle the situation differently. Talk to the student and figure out why this student reacts negatively to the situation. Try helping this student deal with the root of the problem.

Long-term- Make it a goal to get students to reflect on the rules, come up with the class rules, and think about appropriate consequences. Also, get students to develop ways to handle situations they know will arise. For example, have students think about when they are tempted to cheat, pick on another student, or participate in other negative behavior. What are ways they can reflect on the action in order to make better choices about their behavior. What are ways they can try to relieve their own stress before making decisions based on emotions or hormones?


Maximize student potential with daily positive attitude!
We just had a teacher workshop with a fantastic speaker - Charlie Applestein talked to us about "No Such Thing as a Bad Kid" and how to manage number one (the teacher).  Some of my notes:
  • Make sure to RESPOND rather than REACT
  • Leave your baggage at the door
  • Body language can make or break communication (are you towering over student?)
  • Remember please and thank you!  Simple but teachers need to use this too!
Charlie advocates a strength-based approach which is all about ATTITUDE and ACTIONS.  In 20 years, your students will not remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel.

My plan is to have some chats with my middle school students about stress.  Specifically, how the online world and stress come together in their lives.  There are online rules both spoken and un-spoken, for example.  Bullying issues can even play into this type of discussion.  How do they feel about their online presence and what rules do they feel are necessary for living life online?  This could get quite interesting!

Perhaps we can come up with a student based AUP for online life!

Goal #7 - Play and Have Fun!

“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.”
by Phyllis Diller


Short-term- Observe a child not in school play for at least 5 minutes. Notice how the child learns before the influence of school. Find a way to incorporate play, fun, and movement into a lesson this week. Ditch the worksheet! Also, reflect on how to integrate play that supports learning.

Long-term- Think about limiting the amount of textbook work and worksheets used in class. Using less paper is environmentally friendly as well as offers the opportunities for students to move around and have fun with the learning. Try integrating fun and play into one lesson a week regularly.


Play is our brain's favorite way of learning.

Diane Ackerman
With a title like this, how can Goal #7 not make you smile!

I love to let the students play and explore with technology.  Once I can get them past some of the structure they are so used to, we see the creativity and innovation come out.  But it doesn't happen immediately and this is sad.

It seems that students get so stuck in what they believe is expected of them, that they are not willing to take risks.  I don't mean the "jump off a bridge" risk, rather the "wonder if I can make all the images bounce" risk.  Does that make sense?

My students were creating presentation slideshows for a large project.  I emphasized over and over again that they should not use a lot of text in the slides, that the slides should be very visual (like motivational posters) and the words come from the speaker.  It took soooo long to get them to let go of their bullet lists, definitions, etc.  They are programmed to think that the audience needs to "see" their intelligence through text, the more the better.  Finally, they let go and the majority of slideshows were fantastic - very visual, little text.  However, I did make a concession to lessen the stress.  I let the students put their words in a handout or brochure that they could give to the audience.  They really seem to need that tangible and viewable proof of their intellect.

That is with middle school students.  The younger ones are not stuck in that structure yet and I see them try new things and explore in a different approach.  Do we lose the ability to play in our work as we get older?  Is it squeezed out of us as we are all set on the same learning track?

I hope to be that teacher, the one that helps break that pattern and allows students to explore, to play, to learn through failure as well as success.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

MUST it be a typed paper?

Must it be a typed paper, assigned as homework, and passed in for assessment?  All the time?  How incredibly stifling.

Let's give students unique options to express themselves and their learning.  Here is an example from an 8th grade Social Studies class in which students used ZooBurst to create "pop up" books of their research.  Using text and visuals, they express their learning.  For the next project, maybe add some audio!

What creative options do YOU give to students?



Monday, February 7, 2011

Goal #6 - Invite Them In

“There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.”
by Joseph Barber Lightfoot


Short-term- Brainstorm ways to invite a teacher, parent, or administrator to see the learning taking place in your classroom. You can do this by publishing your students’ work online on a wiki, blog, or school website. You can Ustream a lesson. You can create a video with the kids and have a movie night where you invite the staff and parents to watch the class videos while eating snacks!

Long-term- In what ways can you be more transparent? How can you make your instruction transparent to others at least once a week? Do you currently publish students’ work online or have your lesson plans available for the parents to see what is happening in the classroom?


Today, my 7th graders had big presentations that they have been preparing for over a period of weeks.  They were presenting in front of their competitors (it was a challenge to win) and a "Board of Investors" who would determine the winners.  The Board was comprised of volunteer staff members from throughout the school.  We had, for one session, a 2nd grade teacher, the librarian, a 5th grade teacher, and a 3rd grade teacher sitting on the Board (an administrator stopped by to watch, but not participate).  The 8th graders get their turn tomorrow!

It's great to have staff members see the students in an environment they don't usually get to view.  Students knew that this presentation was "official" with this authentic audience and took it very seriously.  A win-win situation.

I have published some work from my 6th graders - they had a lot of fun with Jenuine Tech's holiday card project!  We participate in projects such as the 6 word memoir.  Students create their own websites (6th graders use Weebly and 7th/8th graders use Google Sites) to keep reflections, projects, and their own creative interests.

It is so important that students get the chance to share and view learning.  I do not have an environment in which we can post student pictures online at will, so videos and the like are not an option right now.  We could do, however, some audio (and every student has an avatar or two ready to go!).  My 6th graders are enjoying adding Vocaroo audio to their websites for a project on Egypt.

One of my goals is to do some projects with Skype, such as the Around the World with 80 Schools project.  That is one way to invite fellow students in!

And... as much as possible... my door to the Media Lab is OPEN!  This invites anyone passing by to take a peek and see what we are up to!

Goal #5 - Reflect, Step Back, Act

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
by Peter F. Drucker


Short-term- Reflect on your best and worst lesson this week or last semester then share this reflection. Want to go the extra mile? Read comments on the blog and respond to some of the questions and struggles of others in our community!

Long-term- Try recording a lesson live and having a colleague evaluate it. Also, develop a routine to take one day to reflect on your communication with your colleagues, students’ parents, or administrators!


One of the worst things I have found is when I take material from other sources (rubrics, tables, etc.) and do not personalize them enough.  In the middle of an activity, I realize that the students are confused and the material isn't working the way I want it to.  This is completely my fault as I try to save time or try to "wing it" too much.

It's much better for me to take the extra time and really think through the activity and modify materials for my needs.  Even when this means starting from scratch, which is honestly what I do the majority of the time!  I just never seem to find activities and materials for what I want to accomplish in my media lab!  One of my own personal goals is to publish some of my lessons and activities online.

The best activities have been ones in which the students are given some free rein to be creative and expressive in their learning.  Giving them the freedom to have control over the technology is empowering, shows that I trust them, and can get them exploring further than they would otherwise.

We draw monsters in PowerPoint, create tables of data from the roller coaster database, take apart computers to see the "guts", manipulate pictures of ourselves with gimp for art projects, etc.  If I can get all the senses involved, the kids have a better chance of taking in the information!

I invite staff into the media lab and encourage them to sit in a class at any time.  I tend to chat and introduce the activity at the beginning of class, then let the students go to the computers to work.  It is very much a "guide on the side" style.  However, I would like to get more feedback on how this is working.  There is always room for improvement.

Immediately, I would like to implement more opportunities for students to evaluate me.  Their voices need to be heard and they need to have outlets for their opinions.

It might be interesting to utilize the resource OhLife as a means of reflection.  The free service will email you a reminder to add an entry to your "diary" which you accomplish by writing and sending a reply to that email.  It's very simple and could be scheduled for a convenient time.  Maybe I will try using this to write quick reflections on what happened in the lab that day.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Goal #4 - Leave it Behind

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ”
by Plato


Option A: Make a list of ways you can leave your stress behind and not carry it with you into the classroom. To take this a step further, try one of these stress relievers today and share the experience with us.
Option B: Take a class period and have your students develop their own stress relief plans. The idea is that when they begin to misbehave in the classroom they are able to have time to implement their plan before they are punished.

Long-term- Develop a stress-relief routine that will ensure that even during the most stressful times of the year (i.e. testing time, grading time) you won’t be in a bad mood in the classroom. How can we begin to show our students how to develop stress routines for themselves? Spend a class having students work in pairs or groups to share their stress-relief plans. To go further, when the students are stressed and act up then remind them of their plans and allow them the time to try this out instead of just punishing the student.

How will I be pro-active about stress this week?

  • Clean out those drawers (yes "those" drawers) in my desk... c'mon you have them too!
  • Bring back plants into the Media Lab (a great way to soften the edges of the tech world)
  • Identify more ways to delegate work to students (they can learn to upgrade FlashPlayer!)
  • Be sure to chat a bit with students when class begins instead of jumping right into the work
  • Add the latest student pictures to the walls
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify

I found some articles with lists that may give some further ideas:

50 Quick Ways to Reduce School Stress

11 Ways I Reduce Stress in My Academic Courses

10 Ways to Reduce a Teachers' Classroom Stress

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Goal #3 - What do you believe about learning?

“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught,as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ”
by John Lubbock


Short-term-Make a bullet list of what you believe regarding how you and others learn. In this reflection, think about how being part of online professional development has redefined the way you learn.

Long-term- In what ways will you ensure that your belief of how your students learn is reflected in your classroom?


I do not wish to make a list of how we learn that is obvious.  We are familiar with Multiple Intelligences, Bloom's Taxonomy, etc.  Regardless of our learning styles, I believe that some things are shared commonalities when it comes to learning.  This is my quick list... bet you can think of things to add to it!

We learn by

Getting our hands dirty
Indulging our curiousities
Failing, falling, and getting back up again
Asking questions - endless questions
Putting away the ego and jumping into the fray
Being open to other perspectives, views, and ideas
Feeling safe enough to open eyes, ears, and minds to possibilities

The online development opportunities are phenomenal and I have taken advantage of many!  My Masters degree in Technology in Education was conferred through a program conducted completely online at Lesley University.  Additionally, I completed an Advanced Professional Certificate (APC) in Online Teaching through the same format at Lesley.  My Twitter PLN is strong and I try to participate often, including the #edchat discussions.  I have attended online conferences, presentations, demonstrations, book clubs, training, and even a children's summer camp!

Obviously, there is a monetary savings when I can attend a conference without leaving my house.  There is a global audience to tap into that would never happen this easily without the online component.  For me, however, is the simple fact that I really stink at small talk and I find it awkward to become part of a live group when at a physical conference.  I tend to stay in the shadows and listen (OK, OK... I lurk).  The online world allows me to open up more and be a part of the conversation.  I have time to think about an answer or response before I type it - much longer than what happens in regular conversation.  This is a bonus for me.

Freedom of Choice
I have my students hands-on doing projects for the majority of their time with me.  I let them explore, be creative, see me fail (and recover), and find how the technology works best for each one individually.  We talk about what works, what doesn't, and the bumps in the process.

I get them online to get their feet wet in an online class environment so they can be comfortable choosing that option in the future.  I show them how educators conduct webinars and bring them in to add their own opinions.  I am passionate about opening up the world to students, giving them options, and helping them find what works best for their own learning styles.


Photo by:   Krzysztof Poltorak

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Extension - #2 Re-Evaluate Value

After some reflection on Goal #2 and my belief in letting students take more control of their learning, I asked out on Twitter:

How often do you let students assess/evaluate YOU?
And what's the best method to do so?

Some great responses that further the discussion!  Thanks to my great PLN for adding to the conversation.

@MisterEason is ready to empower students with anonymous forms for feedback knowing that there is the possibility for some harsh answers.  And we should be prepared for that.  But perhaps we can work on building trust and communication with our students.  That goes a long way.

I like the idea of regular assessment from the students so that they get used to it and feel that they are part of the learning process.  @TziPittinsky does just that and modifies tests, preparation, etc. depending on his survey results that are on every test.

@ileducprof has students assess teaching and content in the middle and end of a trimester.  I would love to delve further into the idea of "formal" vs. "informal" teacher assessment and how the questions might differ for each.

Seeing that forms/surveys seem to be a popular method to elicit student assessment responses, my next query is this:

If you put together a survey for students to assess you,
what would your most effective question be?

Some interesting questions that have me thinking about what my own question would be.

Here is a mix of trust/communication between student and teacher (@ateachingheart), the extension of learning beyond the classroom (@pamfb7557), and the inclusion of students in the planning/teaching process (@8rinaldi).  All very important components of a successful learning experience.  Our questions can be as diverse as our own teaching styles and belief systems about what is most important in a learning environment.

This is fascinating, don't you think?  What would YOUR most important question be to elicit student assessment on your teaching methods, delivery of content, the content itself, how you assess, etc.?  How can student input help us to refine all of this so we are the most effective at doing our job?

Would love input... what are your thoughts?

Goal #2 - Re-Evaluate Value

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count;everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
by Albert Einstein


Short-term- Change the way you assess one assignment or project and try to assess in a way that doesn’t add a numerical value but has the student seek value in the progress made, the learning achieved, or the work put into it. For the teachers on holiday, like in Argentina, just reflect on how you will change the assessment process of a project. Alternatively, think about a way to help students re-evaluate how they value themselves. Is it only through a number?

Long-term- In what ways can we help our students re-evaluate the way they value themselves? What changes to assessment can we make to have students reflect more on the learning journey instead of being programmed to place value only on the score?

Recently, I read this article about homework and student suggestions on how to make it meaningful.  Worth the read.  All assessment should be meaningful, whether homework, a test, etc.

How do we make assessment meaningful?
For me, I give hands-on projects almost exclusively for my classes.  I want students to explore the technology tools available to them and try using them in unique ways.  My 6th graders create their own websites through Weebly and are allowed to be very creative.  Right now I have paired up with the Language Arts teacher and the kids are presenting a research project on Egypt through their websites.  Even though they do class projects on their websites, they are allowed to create extra pages for their own personal use and expression.

I believe it is important to give students the opportunity to showcase their work for others to see (we share our websites).  In addition to my comments on their work, they can view the work of their peers.

At the end of each activity, my homework for them is to write a quick reflection and put it on their Reflections page on their website.  This gives them the opportunity to revisit and extend the learning.  It also gives them access to me and informally "assessing" how I did with the activity. 

Much of this is my way of giving students some measure of control over their own learning (I have a long way to go, but I'm trying!).  I even have 8th graders create quizzes through Forms in Google Docs for the entire Upper School - what an eye-opener for them this activity is!  They must create the quiz, make the form, collect the data (students sign in with numbers to protect their privacy), and grade them.  Being the teacher is more difficult than they originally thought it to be!  And I learn a lot along the way about their perceptions of teachers and quizzes too!

So I need to give them more control, structured control, over their own learning.  This includes the assessment piece and I definitely need to give students more opportunities to assess me.

Reflection is important for ALL learners!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Goal #1 - Be A Beam

Be A Beam

Being a beam can mean you are part of a support system.

“You cannot force commitment, what you can do…You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model. Your primary influence is the environment you create.”

by Peter Senge, suggested by John Evans (@joevans)


Short-term- Offer a student or other educator you see struggling support. It could be a colleague who is stressed or a student struggling with another subject. Who in your life needs your support?

Long-term- In what ways can we help students learn to support each other throughout the learning process? How can we build a supportive community with the colleagues in our school? How do we get away from the “us” versus “them” mentality?


I interpret being a "beam" in two different ways. One way is presented in the 30 Goals Challenge where we are tasked to be part of the great support system every human needs.

Today I did this in a small, but hopefully significant, way.  I spend a lot of time on the internet and have a knack for finding interesting and quirky sites, resources, and ideas.  Inevitably, many of these links go out to the staff at my school, my PLN, and anyone else within reach.  I think that it is important to listen to those around me and know what they are interested in so that I can target my offerings to them specifically.  After all, who wants a batch of links thrown at them that are not meaningful?

This time, the social studies teacher got the link to Voki for Education and some ideas on how we could use this in her class.  She currently is using ZooBurst with grade 8 as they work with grade 3 on a collaborative project (a teacher very receptive to new ideas on how students can express themselves and their ideas creatively). 

The "support beam" part of this comes with my personal commentary on the links and the open offer to help my colleagues implement, learn, and explore anything I throw their way.  The follow-up is important.  Time gets away from us, we can be self-conscious, etc.  Having a positive interaction with a supportive person that is helpful and willing to jump in with you can get the ball rolling!  I am willing to stumble and fail right alongside my colleagues while we learn how to get the best out of something.

Being a beam can also mean you bring inspiration and light.
The second interpretation of "beam" for me is a beam of light.  To be inspiration. I am passionate about letting students express themselves creatively and taking control of their learning.  Any resources or tools that I can find to help with this process, I bring to the staff.

Beyond that, I use these ideas in my own classroom, model them, and bring the results (good and not so good) back to my colleagues.  But I am upbeat and positive and ready to explore.  This brings a beam of curiousity into the mix and gets us thinking in new and innovative ways!

Both beams are strong.  The support beam bears weight and helps carry the load whereas the beam of light is a bringer of inspiration and wonder.  I hope to have components of each in myself!