Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for the ‘Elementary Education Blog’ Category

Building Relationships with Students That Last Forever!

A colleague ran into a former student of mine. He was in my class 10 years ago. She shared how he felt about our school, but she added, “His favorite teacher was Mrs.Mims because  I knew she cared about me.”

“She cared about me.”

Let it sink in.

We need to understand, and remember, that we are dealing with children.

Many of our children come to school with issues adults couldn’t fathom, much less handle. When they walk in that door, many need a respite, a safe place, from wherever, or whatever, they came from.

They don’t need to hear that they are late, again. They don’t need to hear that they have been absent for X many days.Why tell them how much work they need to make up before saying, “Good morning, glad you are back?” It’s the little things.

And I,am by no means perfect. There are those kids throughout the year that no matter how hard I tried….it didn’t matter to them, and it made our relationship, difficult.

With my students, there is no question that they are loved. They know that I care. They know I will “fuss” when it is needed. I will hold them to high standards. I will listen to them. I will have fun and be serious. I won’t tolerate “mess.” I give and expect respect.

Is it easy? No, not always. I have had instances where I had  to bite my tongue so I don’t say something I have no business saying to someone else’s child. They will take you there.

But I keep working on it. I have become better at building the relationships in my classroom over the years.

Because 20 years later, they will remember that I cared.

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The “Bad Kid” Label Sticks: Let’s Remove It!

bad kid poster

Sometimes, ok many times, she could be loud.
She rolled her eyes and twirled her neck. Often.

Her behavior was everyone else’s fault, never hers.

But as the school year progressed, she changed.
She evolved.
Was she perfect? By, no means.
Did I require perfection from her?

No, why should I?

But I observed waaaaay less yelling, bullying, eye rolling and neck twirling.

Way less.

In my End-of-the-Year card! 🙂

I never yelled at her.

I  talked to her, not “at” her.

I listened to her.

I would allow her to lead.

Let her use her voice for good.

I resisted the power struggle.

Had to, because sometimes she would take me there.:)

And we grew together throughout the school year.

We grew to understand each other.

She knew I “didn’t play”, but I loved her anyway.

She knew to grab that Ipad, set the timer for 5 minutes, and go to the buddy classroom because needed a timeout. 🙂

I learned there was a girl who needed to know she was more than a loud, bullying, eye-rolling, neck twirling child.

We built a relationship.

As the school year ended, I chose her to be the mayor at JA Biztown.

She was amazing!

Everything ran smoothly, she gave her speech to the “citizens.”

I was so proud. What a leader!

But here’s the thing with the “bad” kid.

Some educators don’t want to let go of the label that has followed that student for years.

“I can’t believe out of all the kids in your room, you chose her to be the mayor!”

Really?

I have this pesky habit of believing in the “bad” kid, just as I believe in all my kids.

I believe in giving kids a fresh start, and not believing the hype that follows them.

I believe educators should stop chasing down the previous teachers to get the “scoop” on a child and then continue to treat that child the same way they were the previous year.

Thre’s no magic wand to change a child.

And sometimes, what is tried, fails.

This year, give the “bad” kid a chance to be viewed as good, or at least as worthy as everyone else.

 

“Everybody’s It!” – Building Relationships With Play!

I can’t join in because of my knees, but I watch.

I stand on the sidewalk, outside our back door, and watch them engage in our Morning Meeting activity, “Everybody’s It.”

When the weather warms up, we head outside for our Morning Meeting activity every day that we can.

I am fortunate, I open our back door, and they hit the blacktop.

I do not remember where I found “Everybody’s It”. I didn’t make it up, but I love this game and what it does for my kids.

It’s exactly what it says, everybody’s it. Anyone can tag you, and you’re frozen. But, anyone can “unfreeze” you.

I set my timer and let them loose, and I watch.

They have evolved since the beginning of the year.

Everyone used to be out for themselves.

Now, they find a way to double back and unfreeze another student.

They call out the names of students that are frozen, knowing that they can’t get to them, but hoping someone else will.

They unfreeze, not only their friends, but any of their peers who are frozen.

They run like crazy, no one thinking they are too cool to play.

They have fun, and don’t take themselves so seriously.

I think one day before school ends, I’m going to put on my sneakers, and join in. With my knees I’ll be easy to catch, but with the relationships I’ve built with them. I know I won’t be frozen long!:)

“The Marble Run Challenge!”- STEMazing!

Sometimes you get tired of the “new” thing in education.

Well, I was tired of  hearing, reading, and/or discussing “STEM”or “STEAM”, whichever you prefer.
I really didn’t understand what the big deal was until we participated in Jen Wagner’s “Marble Run Challenge.”

Now don’t get me wrong, my kids code, we integrate tech, etc, but I had never done a STEM project.

The concept was simple. The kids had to design a structure for a marble to run through. We started out with time limits, but realized, due to our limited time, we would just concentrate on seeing how long it took the marble to make it through the structure.

Notice the use of the word “we”. This was a project that was guided by the students.

I wish I could teach like this all year. Talk about engagement! Every day, and I literally mean every day, they  BEGGED to work on their structures.

They worked on it during Quiet Time, so essentially it wasn’t Quiet Time anymore, but who cares? They worked on it during… whenever I could sneak some time in.

You know what? More learning went on in those moments…

The conversations.

The research.

The dedication.

The team names. Hilarious!:)

The collaboration.

Designing.

Troubleshooting.

Getting their own supplies(I was supposed to get the supplies, but they got tired of waiting for me.)

Calling, texting, using Google chat to talk to each other at home.

Resolving problems among themselves.(And calling out the slackers.)

Parents sending in supplies for their kids.

The willingness to try over and over and over.

We had a competition at the end, what they had all worked so hard for. Parents were invited. Some of the marbles went all the way through, some didn’t. But that was okay. They talked about the whys of their design. Ran the marble through their structure.(Or not). They had 3 chances and they could make adjustments. Loved hearing the conversations as they discussed what they could do differently to make it work.

Team Valor won! We all won. An amazing project that made a STEM believer out of me!

Student Voice = Student Passion: TED Talks Part 2

I could have assigned the Natural Disaster Research report

It would have been soooo much easier.

It’s already written. We’ve used it before.

It has a rubric, complete with strict guidelines on what must be included in order to get the best grade.

But I couldn’t do it.

 

After getting my feet wet with TED talks last year, I couldn’t do it.

Last year, I allowed my more “capable” students to create a TED talk presentation.

This year, I included all of them. Out of 28 students, only one did not complete it.

One. (Yeah, he completed his over the weekend!)

And they had a ball!

Not only did they complete their presentations, but they also got a chance to present to their peers, the principal, our reading coach, and their parents.

Here were my guidelines:

Choose a topic you are passionate about or interested in.

Write a speech, not a research report.

2  minutes or more.

Research must be included to support what you are sharing.

Create a slideshow that correlates with your speech. It may include video and/or images.(No random images or video) OR a title page.

Write the speech and post script on Telemprompter. (Teleprompter Pro is better because it has unlimited scripts)

Cite the sources.

Practice your speech out loud. They videotaped themselves with our Swivl when they practiced.

Although the students chose their topic, there was a teacher component. You have to break them out of the research report mode. The “just the facts” mode. Or the “What do you want me to say?” mode. One on one conferences are a must or this is not going to work.

They were amazing! They were awesome!

As I sat, and listened to their presentations, I was in awe.

An example of awesomeness; the adults learned about an app that would freeze their child’s phone screen during the “Too Much Screen Time” presentation. Immediately the adults in the room began writing down the name of the app!  Needless to say, her peers weren’t too happy with her.:)

They did this.

They worked and worked, and the product was stupendous.

Things I would do differently:

28 presentations in one day is too much. I ended up dividing the days.

Make sure all the scripts are on the same Ipad.

Practice public speaking all year.(One of my students was so nervous, he kept one hand on his head throughout his entire presentation. I don’t think he was even aware of it!:))

Use the stage. More authentic feel.

I didn’t grade them.I felt that placing a grade on this would diminish  their work. However, what they learned during this project, can now be applied to the Performance Task they have to complete, which will be graded.

Looking forward to the passions a new year brings!

Ability Does NOT = Zip Code!

FLL Robotics Competition

I have worked in schools that have been defined by a number of labels. High poverty, large percentage of free and reduced lunch, low income, those types of labels.

When those labels are used, although they shouldn’t, they tend to define a school, their students, and the parents.

Generalizations are made.

Well, you know, because the school is  high poverty, the free and reduced lunch percentage is high, and there are many low income families

 

Those generalizations lead to beliefs.

Beliefs that lead to an excessive amount of reading and math instruction.

More intervention.

More worksheets.

More computers, just so we make sure these kids don’t miss out on all the adaptive programs that are available to them.

But many of them do miss out.

They miss out on STEAM programs, global collaboration, plays,  passion projects, student ownership, being allowed to think!

This year, thanks to a friend of mine and her connections, (Shout out to Michelle!),I was able to obtain a grant for a LEGO Robotics kit. With the Robotics kit came the responsibility of getting a group of  kids ready to compete in a FIRST LEGO League Robotics competition. I never doubted they could do it.

These kids.

I looked at the LEGO kit when it arrived, and wanted to cry.

They looked at the LEGO kit and began to build.

They built Mission models, a robot, and programmed it.(Shout out to Home Depot for building and donating their practice table)

They studied their Core Values and completed their Animal Allies research project. (Shout out to Jillian from +Sharks4Kids!).

Our, the other coach and I, faith never wavered. We believed in them.

These kids from this “high poverty, large percentage of free and reduced lunch, low income” school went to the competition and did their thing.

They went, worked as a team, behaved respectfully, and showed what they are capable of.

They got points on the board for getting their robot to complete 3 missions! (Shout out to to Mr.Bill from Caravel Academy!)

They won the award for the Research category. YES!

I’m  still grinning.:)

Let’s give our kids, no matter where they attend school, a chance to be exposed. A chance to experience all that life has to offer. Give them a chance to shine!

Zip code. Does not.  = ability.

My Students Have Taken Over The Easel!

An easel sits in the right hand corner of our room.
It’s always been there.
Sometimes I use it, most of the time I don’t.
I started to notice something a few days ago.
My students have taken over the easel.

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