Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's your Star?

My family is Christmas crazy. As my wife and I put our Christmas decorations up this weekend I got to thinking about the stars on top of the tree. The Christmas tree topper is the part of the tree that is in a position of prominence, and many times gets noticed first. It automatically attracts your attention. In our house we have one star, an angel, a cross, a light-up moose head, Luke Skywalker, a name ornament, Drew Brees, a Veggies Tales ornament as tree toppers and one tree has nothing on top. (Yes, we have that many trees.)

Having lots of time to think while putting up all those trees, I got to thinking about my “teacher star.” What is the one thing I work hardest at and gets noticed first?  What is my attention grabber? What should it be? There are so many options. I do not believe there is one right answer. I want to explore some options and would love to hear from you what your star is.

Is it about me and becoming the best teacher I can? By working hard at becoming the best teacher I can be the students I serve get help in many areas. I network, I learn new techniques, and I attain more tricks in my bag. The ultimate goal of all of these is to help more students. One student may thrive in doing a project on Glogster, while another may still need the comfort of “the poster.” The more I know as a teacher the more opportunities for growth I can provide for my students. Becoming a better teacher involves so much growth in so many areas, that it can’t help but benefit the students.

Maybe I should focus on being the best lesson planner and have that be my star. Students need opportunities to thrive, but they also need to be engaged when it is learning time. If I have one presentation style I am probably not providing learning opportunities for more than half of the class. Teachers who vary lesson presentation, let students teach sometimes, bring in experts, and present in a wide variety of ways, help their students so much more and prepare them for the eclectic nature of LIFE.

Assessment! That’s it. I should become the best teacher at using assessment to help students. I will use every test, every assignment as a tool for personal growth for each student. They will reflect, they will re-learn, they will grow!

Is it classroom climate? Maybe I'll strive to be the teacher who is know for having the best run classroom.  Students who are happy learn better, I’ve heard that before. If I become the master of classroom management won’t that allow for all my students to learn at their own pace and in their own way?

So finally I think maybe my star should be I want to ‘produce’ the best students I can. This seemed like the obvious answer at first, but then when I tried to wrap my thoughts around what exactly it means, it was too big a concept. By helping students become the best they can be, I need to be incorporating the strategies listed above and so many more.

So in the end, I think of it this way – what do I want students to say about me when they are gone? (Having moved on to the next grade level or next stage of their life) “He helped me learn.” “He challenged me.” “He believed in me.” “He taught me to think to think for myself.” Those are the kind of statements I want on my “star.” (On a 5 point star I get one more too!)
What do you want your star to be? Comments welcome, appreciated and used to help me with my star.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


JUST THE FACTS - in the last two months or so many facts have been running around in my head.  Today I let them loose. 

The fact that all principals don’t require teachers to be on twitter surprises me. The list of reasons is endless:

• Amount of resources available

• Teachers helping teachers

• Teachers connecting classrooms around the world

• Teachers encouraging other teachers to be better

• Bringing the world into the class

• Showing the students how small the world can be

• Showing the students that there are other ways of doing things beside the one they have grown up with all their lives.

• FREE Professional development

Since joining Twitter in June of 2010 (BIG thanks to @kevcreutz) I have completely transformed my teaching. I never used to reflect. Reading other teacher’s reflections opens my mind to so many ideas to think about. I have never tried so many new things in my classroom. I have never been so challenged to make the learning experience each student has every day the best one possible. I have never viewed teaching as a gift more than I do now. (great quote from @gret)

The fact that I still use worksheets bums me out. I have a personal goal to do an entire unit paperless in SOMETHING this year. Difficulties are time in developing that unit, getting the lab time every time I have that class and parent reservation about not having “tangible” work during a unit. I will overcome them. I would love feedback/comments on how other teachers are doing making this work. Mobile devices, understanding staff, awesome students are factors that will help me make that happen.

The fact that I still have to fill out a professional development hours sheet puzzles me. After attending two online courses in the last 2 weeks that were far above any workshop I have attended in a while I got to thinking about this. Who do I need to talk to get ‘credit’ for attending these workshops? I get a feeling of what it must be like to be a student and having to do every assignment for a grade. After I attended those online presentations by @shellterrell and @davedodgson I walked away with ideas that were both thought provoking for long term change and applicable the next time I set foot in a classroom. (Shout out to both of them for great presentations!) These were done on my time, did not pull me out of the classroom and were great. (They did distract me from grading papers ) But now I will have to get a sub and find workshops that the state will count toward my professional development and prove to them that I am growing as a teacher.

The fact that the biggest project I am going to do with my 8th graders this will have no grade associated with it really makes me smile. Since October they have taken over 1400 pictures for this project, took an oath of secrecy, logged a ton of hours in the computer lab and done a great job! They are excited about “Project X” and they cannot wait to unveil it and NEVER have they asked “is this for a grade.” One small step of no grading, one giant leap toward educational change. PS – unveiling will happen December 1st! Only 13 short days away!

The fact that I have to now grade the science tests the 8th graders took while I wrote this bums me out too.

Thanks for reading - comments welcomed and appreciated!