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MiddSouth Innovates #13

The penultimate issue of MiddSouth Innovates. Side Note: I learned the word penultimate from the Lemony Snicket books when I was 31 and use it as often as I can.

I want to give a little background on this post. I was initially tapped to present with some colleagues about book talks at one of our end of the year PD sessions. The other people I was presenting with were all Edtechs, but they were former English teachers who had all done book talks in their classrooms. Being a Science teacher, I had no real understanding of what the objective of the book talk was. So, I started asking the English teachers in my building about how they use them and what purpose they served. Almost all of the teachers used it in the first week of class to help both themselves and their classmates get to know each other. Basically it was an informal way to measure the “soft skills” such as presentation and public speaking abilities.

As the teachers were describing their methods they often mentioned how they wanted a way for the students to dive a little deeper into the book to discuss things like plot and character development, or connections to other novels. That’s when I remembered hearing about Edcafes from Katrina Kennett. So I decided to give the teachers some food for thought at the end of the year about helping to make discussions about every novel, not just summer reading, more meaningful and more student-centered.

Oh, and we also talk about making podcasts for lessons. Enjoy!

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MiddSouth Innovates #12

Sorry for such a delay in posting about the MiddSouth Innovates. The last 2 months of school was crazy and it just slipped my mind. I have the summaries for the last 3 issues going out on consecutive days for you to peruse. Hope you enjoy and have a great final days/weeks of your summer!

I love this issue because it really focuses on something that is important to me: getting kids to do more in the classroom. We talk about shifting from a flipped classroom (teacher and video centered model) to a flipped learning model (more activities, less teacher talk) as well as active learning strategies for teachers who are not ready to try a flipped model. There are even ideas for more effective lectures!

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MiddSouth Innovates #11

While many are lamenting the end of Spring Break, I am excited because that means another issue of the MiddSouth Innovates is ready for your viewing enjoyment!!

This issue is more of a ‘Did You Know?’ type of thing. I was having a conversation with several teachers right before break and I figured this might be something useful to discuss at the start of MP4. In this issue, we talk about Google Extensions like Tab Scissors/Glue, Keyboard shortcuts for desktops and Chromebooks, Brain-based learning strategies like brain breaks and guided-inquiry, and E-waste recycling programs. As always, feedback is appreciated and I hope you enjoy!MiddSouth Innovates 11

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.

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.