Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tomorrow is the day! Freshman scholar orientation begins tomorrow morning! 

Throughout the past five weeks I have already grown so much; I am so much more comfortable in my own skin in the classroom than I was when I accepted my job. Seeing how much I have grown has made me even more eager for school to start! 

I am SO excited to meet the class of 2021. I am thrilled to meet the scholars that will make up my advisory, the Michigan advisory, and build relationships with them. More to come on this after I've experienced a few days as an official teacher, but in the meantime, here are some pictures to hold you over. :) 

Me wearing my "tapron" (teacher apron) which will house dry erase markers, pencils, my phone, bathroom passes, and other teacher-like items. FYI this was hand-made by a colleague of mine who let us pick out our fabric and sewed them for us. Amazing!

My classroom! 

I am seriously not sure if I'll be able to fall asleep tonight. I am so blessed!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Wonderful World of...PD?

I've officially been living in New Orleans for 4 days now and have been attending professional development for my new job for 3 days, so I thought it would be a good time to update everyone on my life: my apartment and my new job.

First thing's first: my apartment. The apartment is relatively nice, but there are a few drawbacks. I realized after signing a lease and moving in that I don't have a dishwasher, for example. This really isn't that big of a deal, but a dishwasher was something I had gotten used to. I don't have central air but I have 2 window units so my apartment can be quite chilly if I want it to be. I haven't actually done any unpacking yet--partly because I have NO furniture down here--but I think it's going to be a nice place. My landlords are very nice people and have helped me settle in. They actually have a pet rooster in the backyard which is pretty cool. I can't hear it from my bedroom but I can hear it cock-a-doodle doo-ing from my bathroom every morning while I get ready.

As for my job, I don't think I could've found a better place if I had all the time in the world! Today was day 3 of a 5-week professional development session before school begins. Usually I dislike PD. Most teachers, whether they are novices or veterans, tend to think PD is useless (in general). This is SO different. I think there are several factors that contribute to this, but it is such a relief to know that I will enjoy myself for the next few weeks. Who would've thought that professional development from 8am until 5pm would be enjoyable?? My boss is knowledgeable and incredibly attune to the thoughts and feelings of myself and the rest of the team. The returning team members have welcomed us all with open arms and have made me feel comfortable. Even though I have "homework" each night, I am genuinely happy about doing it. All of the PD we have done has been directly related to what we will be doing in the school year, meaning it is ALL useful. One of the most exciting things for me personally is the high caliber of people I am surrounded by each day when I go to my PD. Everyone is warm, welcoming, and encouraging. When I explained to a few people that I am living alone and don't know anyone (or anything) in the city I was invited to dinner by several of them. People offered to take me to restaurants, bars, and pools. When she heard that I did not have a current registration for my car one of my colleagues offered to drive me to and from school each day until I was able to get it taken care of.

ALSO, at the school there are college references everywhere, including the walkways that take scholars from building to building. Check out this awesome piece of artwork--GO BLUE!

Living alone is tough, but the people I am working with and for have gone above and beyond in making it easier for me. I'm nervous for the school year, but am confident in the decision I made to come down here.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Starting a New Chapter...

Wow! It has been forever since I last blogged...I actually forgot I had this! Now that I am embarking on a new journey and starting a new chapter in my life I have decided to take blogging up again.

What journey, you ask?

New Orleans. In less than a week I will be moving to the wonderfully hot, humid city of New Orleans to begin my teaching career. I accepted the job less than a week ago and am already packing up my life to move 1,054 miles away. Goodbye Great Lakes, Red Wings, Michigan Wolverines, Blimpie Burger, and everything Pure Michigan. Bring on the Mardi Gras, Drew Brees, cajun food, and culture shock!

I'm feeling a mix of emotions, but I am so eager to move forward and grow as an individual and an educator.

Cheers to starting a new chapter!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Today I watched a webinar about a new free resource for teachers called No Red Ink. It was so interesting! Normally I think anything having to do with grammar is extremely boring, but I can really see this working in classrooms.

To start off, the moderator talked about all the obstacles that teachers encounter when trying to grade papers--teachers see so many grammar mistakes that they feel they must correct that they are not able to address higher order thinking in their students' papers. I really hadn't thought about this before...but it is true. He also mentioned how time consuming it is to correct student grammar, and the fact that it proves to be rather ineffective (because kids see their paper marked up but do not have a chance to practice their grammar skills). Even though I have not graded very many papers in my lifetime (being relatively young and a preservice teacher) I can imagine that it gets very frustrating seeing students making the same mistakes over and over again. This website, No Red Ink, is a space where teachers can send students to practice grammar. Students can go online to practice their grammar and their results will be visible to both them and their teacher. When students make mistakes they have chances to fix those mistakes and/or watch a tutorial that will explain the error they made. Teachers can also use the site to create grammar quizzes. Interestingly enough the site gives student the opportunity to choose interests and the sentences that students see with be about those interests. This is a cool way to keep students engaged.

While the idea is very interesting, I could still see many students abusing it. I could see them clicking through the questions knowingly getting answers wrong so that they could sit through the tutorial and not have to think about the work. I could see students getting off task because the sentences (about their Facebook friends or interests) are silly. I could see students trying so hard to "win" or get through the questions quickly that they do not learn the underlying grammar principles. Of course, these kinds of issues are present in all forms of instruction.

Before, I would have said that this is more relevant to ELA teachers, but I definitely see myself using something like this in my history classes. As we have been told over and over again throughout the summer, teaching literacy is the responsibility of all teachers in all content areas. In my history classes I do want to be able to focus more on cultivating student intellect and helping my students perfect their critical thinking skills rather than correct grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. I am really excited about the opportunity to use new, free, innovative resources like No Red Ink!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Guest Speakers

Having Mac alum talk to us today about their schools and their experiences with technology was an interesting experience. It's so different hearing about people's actual experiences with technology in context as opposed to listening to professors lecture about it. When we sit in class and hear lectures it's so easy to brush them off. Hearing people talk about it is so...real. I feel like I learned so much about teaching with technology in the hour and a half with guest speakers--I didn't think I would be this interested.

One of the speakers was a history teacher, so it was interesting to hear her perspectives on technology. She said that in contrast to many of her colleagues, she lets students use their cell phones during class to look things up. Interestingly enough, she said that doing so takes some pressure off of her--she doesn't need to know everything because students aren't relying on getting all the information/questions answered by her. I really liked this reference because this is something I'm nervous about. With technology I will feel more comfortable admitting that I don't know something. Plus, my students will gain a sense of agency when they can look up facts and teach things to ME.

This speaker also mentioned that she likes to incorporate technology into her lessons in the form of research. She mentioned how she demonstrated the shortcomings of wikipedia by editing a page (with something she made up) and using it in class. I love this idea! After doing this she said she showed students how easy it was to edit pages in wikipedia. I think this would really drive the point home. I have always thought of teaching students to distinguish between reliable and non-reliable sources as a straightforward, boring (albeit necessary) requirement as a history teacher, but today's discussion displayed to me that I can make these traditionally boring things innovative and engaging.

I also really liked how she discussed the way that history education needs to change. I agree with her that the standard lecture, exam, paper format is not conducive to higher order thinking or high leverage practice. On a similar note, I enjoyed hearing this speaker discuss the value she places (or doesn't place) on the learning of dates. During our discussion she said that she wanted to help her students learn the chronology involved in history, rather than forcing rote memorization of dates. I couldn't agree with this more. Someone in our class questioned this, but I definitely side with the guest speaker. History is not about memorizing a list of dates. History is about learning about cause and effect, consequences of actions, and making connections between history and current events. I think in terms of history, students should learn about developing critical thinking skills, rather than rote memorization. What good is remembering a date if you don't know the implications of that date or what it means in context?

Basically....I really liked this teacher's philosophy on teaching history and on incorporating technology into her curriculum. Today was empowering :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Edubloggers: Yes. Please.

Today I had the pleasure of reading Speaking of History, a middle school history teacher's blog about history, education, and technology. It was really insightful. The post I read was actually a podcast (there was a short introduction and then a link to a podcast) about the possibility of "watching" the State of the Union address via Twitter. What an interesting idea!

The teacher talked about how he did not have time to watch the SOTU, so he looked at tweets about it. He discussed how he could see people's reactions, both good and bad, to the President's speech. He raised the question of whether using Twitter as a lens through which to view the SOTU was either anti-social, more social, or just a different form of social... If I was going to answer, I'd say that it's somewhere between more social and a different form. Social networking sites like Twitter offer us a chance to speak with people we would not normally speak to, to see several different perspectives, and take in information in a relatively short amount of time. Can you imagine reading 30 articles or opinion pieces on the SOTU? No, you can't...because that would take a lot of time (which we don't have in grad school). This is what is so amazing about Twitter! People can only type 140 characters or less.

Listening to Mr. Langhorst discuss his personal use of Twitter for the SOTU made me think--can we use this in our classrooms? I know that a lot of schools block sites like Twitter and Facebook, but there are definitely ways around this. For example, I would probably type "State of the Union" in my search box and see what came up. If they were applicable, I could take a screen shot. This screen shot could be displayed during class and I could ask students to engage in a discussion. There are several different ways to take an activity like this, which I think is the beauty of it, really.

The other thing Mr. Langhorst brought up with the value of Twitter as a means of collaboration. Specifically, he talked about how the day that Osama Bin Laden was killed. He went on Twitter and saw teachers talking about how they were going to present this/discuss it with their students. Whether he used ideas from other teachers or not, I do not know. However, this says a lot about the uses of social networking sites. They are fun, but they can be for more than that.

Maybe it was because this blog related to my content area so much, or maybe because I liked his writing style and use of pictures and technology within his blog...but I really liked reading. I definitely see the benefits in reading Edubloggers.

*A note to any other history or social studies majors--Speaking of History has some really awesome pictures of Monticello with Jefferson quotes on it that are really cool. I think he has put them up for people to use/share. He also has made some pretty amazing inventions to spice up a classroom. Pretty cool!

Friday, July 27, 2012

"Organizing" My Online Life...

So today we learned about all these different online tools we could use either in our classrooms or in our personal lives in general.

So far I've been really impressed with the tools we've learned about...but this week I don't really feel that way. I'd say the tool I had to research, Diigo, was the most useful thing I heard about. With Diigo I can share resources (or borrow ideas) from other educators. I can share things with my students that are relevant to what we're doing (if they're over 13 years old, that is) and I can get them to share things with me. I can highlight and make notes on things I read online and can open bookmarks (and things I've highlighted or sticky-noted online) from other computers. Pretty cool! I'm already part of a "History Teachers" group and it has so many ideas. I'm so excited to have my own classroom--I'm going to read all these things people are sharing!

Dropbox is cool, but I'd rather e-mail stuff to myself/share things with my friends through e-mail and google docs than have to create a new account. I have way too many usernames and passwords to keep everything straight...and I'm not really sure how Dropbox will be useful in a classroom. My group tried to think about this but we really didn't come up with anything of substance. Evernote was cute--I like the icon and color scheme--but it was much too complicated for me. I could just use Diigo to share things with my colleagues and students (or friends and family in my personal life). Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'd rather write down notes on paper...or in Microsoft word. Skype is useful for my persona life, but I don't think there are many uses in school. Someone in my group mentioned that we could use it for guest speakers. I thought this was interesting. She said that she had a teacher who would invite authors to speak to her class after they finished books (through Skype or something like it). That would be awesome! If I had connections with prominent historians or people who were alive during big historical events I could have them talk to my class without them having to be there. Interesting. But other than that, Skype doesn't seem very useful. The other problem is that we can't assume our students have access to computers or the internet (so they might not be able to use this stuff outside of school). If anyone has any ideas about how we can use these resources in our classrooms I would love to hear them. I need some examples!

I don't want to use all these different resources all at once...I think I have a good handle on technology, but I can't keep track of everything. All the stuff we did today in our groups was just overwhelming. Too much information in too little time for me to really commit to memory. I don't remember my password to Aviary, and that was only 2 weeks ago. I don't even remember the username I created for Evernote, and that was a couple hours ago. I feel like I took a step backward...I guess I think it's just easier to do what I'm doing right now. It seems to be working pretty well. Now I know about all these online tools that people may be using in my school, and that's enough for me.

Basically, Diigo is cool...everyting else? Meh.