Author Archives: DaretoChem

The Moments That Make Us (part 2)

My student teaching experience taught me more about what not to do in the classroom than best practices. I was split between 2 teachers: one of which was the department chair and the other was a person who openly told his classes that he didn’t believe in public education so he home schooled all 5 of his children. The department chair (Mrs. V) only taught 3 classes–AP Chemistry and 2 sections of remedial Chemistry. I was not allowed to teach AP so I was given the remedial Chemistry. All of the students were in the lowest level math class the school offered; one student was taking the class for the 3rd time; one student was a convict who I had to sign a paper for at the end of every class to show he came to school or he went to jail (side not: he went to jail); another was a talented graffiti artist. It was a very eclectic group and each class was only about 10 kids. The other 2 sections that I taught (for Mr. C) were sophomore Honors Chemistry. Each class had 26 kids, but the classroom was only big enough to hold 24 desks. The entire class literally hoped every day that at least 2 students were absent because the last 2 kids in the door had to stand. My schedule flip-flopped between these 4 sections so that I was jumping back and forth between 2 rooms and 2 very different levels of abilities during the time I was in the school.

Since Mrs. V only taught AP Chemistry, and it was the first period of the day, once I took over the rest of the day was free for her to do whatever she wanted. Most days I have no idea what she was doing because other than the 2 observations she made of my teaching during the semester, she was never in the room. I remember once she went to get her oil changed, another she fetched her dry cleaning, and a third she remarked how nice it was to go out to lunch with her husband on a weekday.

Mr. C rode his bike to school so he never left the building. However, he wasn’t much help either. They gave me a desk to work at in the chemical stockroom that was in between the 2 classrooms in which I taught. One day I had forgotten my photocopying on my desk and when I went into the stockroom, I found Mr. C asleep on my papers. I just went back into the class and told the students I must have forgotten them in my dorm room. I mentioned this to him after school that day and he apologized for getting in the way of my teaching and would never use my desk again. The following week I found him asleep on the lab bench in the stockroom. He commented how uncomfortable it was so from then on he brought a pillow from home.

The point in my career where I needed guidance and resources the most and I was left to figure out everything on my own. So, that’s what I did. I tested out ideas, tried new activities, gave extra credit to students who were willing to stay after school with me to test out labs, and wrote tests from scratch. The school had a set of Vernier equipment (digital lab probes) that were still in the shrink wrapping. I pulled those out, read the manual, and tried them in my class. When I told my cooperating teachers what I was doing, they told me I should just stick to the simple stuff. But I was having fun and the students really appreciated the effort I was putting in.

Whenever I tell people about my experience, I say that the only thing I learned was to never rely on other people to help you. Now that I am writing this I don’t think that’s the lesson I truly took from it. By having no one to tell me otherwise, it gave me the freedom and the confidence to experiment in the classroom. I lived for 5 months completely outside my comfort zone and I am all that much stronger because of it.

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MiddSouth Innovates #10

I can’t believe it is Spring! Well, the calendar says it is Spring, but we just got 12″ of snow so I am not sure anyone bothered to send Mother Nature a reminder. Speaking of sending people reminders, Issue #10 of the MiddSouth Innovates is here and we are focusing on Remind. Did you like that transition?

Remind is a fantastic messaging app that allows you to keep your class up to date on everything that is happening at a moment’s notice. But, you can do so much more than just send out reminders. We talk about building relationships with parents, Back-to-School Night, sub-plans, and more. We also take a moment to talk about Spider Web Discussions–a spin on the Socratic Method from Alexis Wiggins. She wrote a book titled The Best Class You Never Taught where she explains how Spider Web Discussions gets the students actively involved in a class discussion and moves the teacher to outside observer. As always, I hope you enjoy!

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MiddSouth Innovates #9

Apparently I forgot to post about Issue #9 of the MiddSouth Innovates so here it is, just a few weeks late.

It is research paper season in our building so our tech integration section focuses on how a pair of teachers are using tech tools (Google Forms, Choice Eliminator, Piktochart) to change how the research paper process looks for the students. Teachers are also getting frustrated with how the students are using their cell phones during the day so we discuss various ways personal devices can be used in the classroom other than to watch videos and play games.

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The Moments That Make Us (part 1)

I have been training for a half-marathon in April and as my runs get longer and longer I get a lot of time for introspection. As teaching is life, most of my thoughts turn to the various moments over my life that have made me the educator that I am. Today’s post is titled: You Should Have Just Made A Poster.

It is my Junior year in HS and I am taking US History II. We are learning about WWI and my group has been assigned the task of explaining the events that started the war, specifically the assassination of Archduke Fernidand. Being a non-traditionalist, I convince my group members that we should film a news broadcast that include a breaking news segment about the assassination. We decide to include other things that are going on at the time including a sports report, other news that occurred that day, and even a commercial for Hershey’s chocolate (with sound effects!). Now, this might not sound impressive for 2018, but this was 1995. No one had video editing equipment. We used my family’s video recorder (that was so large it sat on your shoulder) and had to film everything in order because there was no way to edit clips together. In our main segment, we cut “live” to the back streets of Sarajevo (area behind an elementary school) where the locals (members of my HS fencing team) were chasing down the assassin (played by the team captain because he looked the oldest). For the commercials, my parents did the voice overs and sound effects off camera while my group sat at the “news desk” (my kitchen table).

It was raw, but it covered everything the teacher asked. We explained the details based on our research, discussed other noteworthy news of the time, and referenced information from class. When the day came to present to the class, I had to hunt down one of the 3 TVs that were on a cart that had a working VCR machine because the teacher had no clue where they were in the school. We show the broadcast to the class and we got a “C.” The only comment we received was “You should have just done a poster.” I was devastated. Mostly because I was one of those kids who never got less than an A, but also because I was being punished for being creative.

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 8 so when moments like this happened to me I was quick to file them into my “things I will never do to my students” folder in my brain. I never almost never squash my students’ desires to be creative. Usually, I criticize them for not being more creative and setting the bar higher for themselves. Maybe my video didn’t cover the material well, or maybe it was a little too unpolished, but I didn’t get that as my feedback. The teacher had set his expectations for the project so low that, when a group exceeded them, he didn’t know what to do.

As educators, we need to set our expectations high for our students and let them rise to the challenge. Some will, some won’t. No matter what, we are showing them that we expect more and they should expect more from themselves. And those that do will be that much better because of it.

MiddSouth Innovates #8

February 22nd is National Digital Learning Day. While the event focuses on the integration of technology into learning, the piece from the site that resonates with me the most is “It emphasizes high-quality instruction…“. As I say often, learning needs to be the focus. After discussing this with our Media Specialist, we both agreed that we wanted to turn the Media Center into a collaborative learning environment for groups of classes to work on innovative projects. The Media Center should not be just for research, but a place where any class, or groups of classes, can come to work on an activity. Since in Middletown we “live digital learning every day” (thank you to my edtech colleague for that quote) we were looking for a little more. Luckily, we have plenty of teachers itching to try something new this year and be a little more innovative.

In this issue, we highlight the work of 3 Biology teachers who developed a collaborative jigsaw activity based around various evolutionary scientists. It involved going paperless, Google Docs, Google Classroom, Google Expeditions, and Flipgrid. Students from different classes and different levels came to the Media Center to participate and it was a great change of pace for everyone. As one teacher said, she has been in the school 13 years and it was the first time she ever brought a class to the library. Now she is looking to see how she can do this type of activity every marking period!

I hope you enjoy MiddSouth Innovates Issue #8!MiddSouth Innovates 8

 

MiddSouth Innovates #7

I had such a great time making Issue #7 of MiddSouth Innovates! I love getting the chance to sit down with passionate educators to talk about learning activities in their classroom. These world-class educators were so excited to talk about their students and their classrooms.

In our tech-related classroom highlight, I talked with a Journalism I class about LucidPress and how it helped them publish their class newspaper. In our non-tech related activity, I talk with an Art teacher about how she is using Perspective art with an Autistic class. Included at the bottom is a feedback form. If you are reading my MiddSouth Innovates, I would greatly appreciate you filling out the form so I can improve. Enjoy!

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MiddSouth Innovates #6

Another Monday, another issue of MiddSouth Innovates.

In this issue, we look at some of the classes that are using Google Expeditions to take students around the world to look at both the past and the present. We discuss storytelling and how it relates to giving good presentations. And we highlight some of the amazing work that’s being done in the Media Center.

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My favorite part about writing each issue is getting to work with amazing educators and students, and helping them find awesome technology to enhance learning. I hope you enjoy all of the work the #middsouthnation is doing.