Back To Class!

Well, it’s been a year since “Teacher, teacher!” has been up and running. A lot has happened in that year. I moved and changed jobs! I went back to the classroom, 4th grade more specifically. I decided to take a break from posting and focus on teaching (it has been 16 years since I was in the classroom as a teacher)! backtoclassIt was a successful year and I am eager to get back at it; both school and posting.

 

I hope you will find my posts both informative and helpful. Feel free to use any of the information or ideas you find here. I will be posting helpful hints, lessons I’ve learned, successes and failures, recipes, and humorous stories.

Stay tuned!

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All Aboard the Technology Train

If you are age 35 or younger, you can stop reading this post now:  This post is written for us “old fogies,” especially those of us who have come to use computers late in life.  

If you’ve been teaching for 20 years or more, you may be surprised how tech savvy your students and their parents really are.  Most parents with elementary age kids were born in the mid-80s or later, and have spent most of their lives with access to laptops, the Internet, and digital tools.  They aren’t intimidated by it, and in some cases, they expect you to use technology to reach them.

If you’ve been resistant to get on board the “technology train,” rest assured, you can learn.  I am half a century old (!) and have learned to embrace technology out of necessity, and then out of appreciation.  After I got over the initial hump, I began to learn that most technology is relatively easy to use, once you start.  Just getting going is half the battle.  Use YouTube as a resource.  There are fantastic tutorials online there (and in other places) to show you how to get up to speed quickly.  A peer or friend can show you too, but I’d recommend the “hands on” approach.  You’ll learn more quickly and completely if you’re the one making the mistakes and being forced to figure things out.  If you get stuck, simply Google your question, and an answer is probably a click or two away.  

Once you’ve mastered the basics, technology is a great way to involve parents.  Using email is certainly an essential mechanism, and it has the most privacy controls, but social media has a wealth of potential too.  computee.JPG Create a class Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter account (or whatever the latest social media fad is by the time you read this post.)  Students can even get involved in creating or sharing content (as long as you monitor their activity.)  If you think videos could be fun and effective, consider setting up a class YouTube or Vimeo channel.  Please note: for any social media projects or online activities, it’s important to get parents to grant permission or sign a general release.

These ideas also create a unique opportunity for parental involvement and volunteering.  A busy professional may not have time to volunteer in the classroom during the day, but putting in a few hours during their off time to update your Facebook page or add pictures to your class blog is a wonderful way to get them to participate.

Once you’ve established your communication outlet(s), you can use them for these and other ideas:

  • Send updates to parents about class activities, special announcements and upcoming lessons.
  • Research and suggest apps for parents to download for students to use.
  • Send an article or link to parenting tips on blogs and online publications.
  • Record lessons or special activities and upload to your video channel; send links out for parents who aren’t able to attend.
  • Set up a Shutterfly, Flickr, Google Drive or Instagram account share pictures.
  • Learn to create QR Codes to make it easy to share links and connections.

To make it easy on less-savvy parents, you can always print out copies of the information and send it home with the kids or through traditional means.  

Living in a learning environment

Teachers must live in a learning environment to create a learning environment for their students. As a teacher, you can never stop learning; the rules of the game are constantly changing. Students, information, technology, family structures, the way we communicate,  and the way we measure success are all in flux.

Even if your curriculum does not change from year to year; your students will, and you must too.

  • You need to be able to adapt the strategies you use for each unique group of learners and their needs. Evaluate your teaching methods; find time to reflect on recently taught lessons and review their effectiveness. Grade yourself, not just your students.
  • Technology is always changing. To be able to equip Owl sitting on books.students to learn from and with technology, you must be proficient in your knowledge and usage of the latest in technical gear, software, and web & multimedia standards.  Having an appreciation for social media and your students’ favorite games and apps is important too.
  • Family dynamics change and you must be sensitive when children face challenges at home.  Marital strife, a new baby, job changes, new living arrangements, and illness will impact each child uniquely. Blended families and divorce can also present an intense juggling act for the teacher.  Working to appropriately include both parents of a split family takes effort and sensitivity.
  • Paper and pencil assessments have their place in the classroom, but it’s more vital to teach students to be problem solvers and critical thinkers.  A child that can regurgitate facts will ace a trivia quiz, but they will struggle to apply that data to the real world. Promoting inquiry and project-based assessments better prepares students for the long term.
  • Pick the brains of your grade-level colleagues on how they are approaching similar material.  Work together to adapt lessons and improve on each other’s work.  Ask a teacher, friend or trusted parent to give feedback on your teaching materials, unit ideas, and methodology.
  • Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.  Video tape yourself presenting lessons so you (or a third party) can critique it later.  In this age of iPads and smartphones it’s easy to do; there’s no excuse for not seeing yourself in action.  Ask the students themselves for feedback — you can create a simple survey using emoticons (smiley face, bored face, frowny face) about your delivery or the content of your instruction. Or simply ask open-ended questions, encouraging the kids to point out things that might have been confusing or times when you lost their interest.  Most children will be brutally honest when asked, which is what you want.

In every school there is a wealth of information. Learn from each other and find ways to improve and hone your teaching skills.

Here are a few sites to help get the learning juices flowing:

http://edtechreview.in/news/1037-7-tricks-to-improve-your-teaching-skills

http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/teaching/teachingskills.html

http://www.educationalleadership-digital.com/educationalleadership/201306/?pm=2&u1=friend&pg=41#pg41