TGIF! (one day late)

Day 5 (oops)- Post a picture of your classroom…describe what you see and what you don’t see that you’d like to.
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My classroom is new to me this year and I absolutely love it! It beats my small concrete box from the past two years in every way. I finally have a place for everything and can already feel the ease of the organization I worked so hard on in my set up. Creating many different “student work spaces” was a must-do for me. I have three different areas of floor space in the room, as well as many tables so students can choose at different times of the day where they can focus and get their work done the best.

Day 6: What does a good mentor “do”?
Good mentors listen to your questions, triumphs, and failures. They find the answers to questions they aren’t quite sure about and they celebrate the triumphs and failures right there with you. Just like a good leader, good mentors teach by example. Never once did my wonderful mentor say something to me like, “you need to do it this way.” She gave me the confidence to try what I thought might work, and then try something again when it didn’t quite work out how I planned. I still learn a lot from her to this day just by watching her with her students.

My mentor also became a good friend, cheerleader, and confidant. Even though her year of mentoring me is well over, she still checks in with me to see how I’m doing and will always shoot me a text if she senses something isn’t quite right. Through her actions, she shows me that she genuinely cares about me personally and professionally.

Mentors are such important people in the world of teaching. Sometimes you get lucky and end up with an amazing “assigned” mentor, just like I did.

Observations!?

Day 3: Discuss one observation area you’d like to improve on for your teacher eval

UGH. I see that word and I immediately begin to feel anxious. It has taken me a little longer to get motivated to write today…partially because of the topic and partially because this first week is KILLER.

I’d like to improve my data collection/evidence portion of my teacher evaluation this year. It’s the thing I enjoy the least because, while it is so helpful to have good data, it’s also so difficult to remember to continuously collect it. I get so caught up in the here and now of lessons and students that I forget to write down the important things I’m hearing and seeing. Luckily, I’ve got a pretty young brain that remembers some things after the fact, but documentation is so necessary these days, so I must get better at it.

If anyone has resources and/or tips they use to keep themselves organized when it comes to data and documentation, please send them my way!

Integration of Technology

Teach Thought’s prompt for today is: Write about a piece of tech you’d like to try this year and why…you might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.

None of the above is what has been whizzing through my mind this evening as I decompressed from our first day of school. Luckily, this prompt is something that is on my mind a lot, so I do have some ideas to share- as fried as my brain is right now.

Last school year, my kiddos were my guinea pigs in blogging. I used kidblog.org to set up a class and individual blogs within our class. I think I learned just as much as the students did through this experience. The biggest thing I am doing differently this year is teaching students to take pictures of their work to post to their blogs. That is what I’d like to try. Writing on the blogs was great and we learned a lot through that last year, but it was very time consuming. I believe blogging is important and I love the idea of the students having an outlet to share their ideas with the world, but I’d like to tailor it this year and make it quicker and simpler.

I hope that by allowing students to take pictures of their work or something they deem important in their world, I will be giving the students who struggle in written communication better access to this activity. Their blogs will also be easier to access by parents and family members who do not speak English, which is a large part of our school community.

This will not begin for a little while, since today was the first day. Before we learn about blogging, we need to learn how to work and learn in a community. That’s what we’re spending our first few weeks on. I think we will start blogging in November. If you’re interested in learning more about the blogging process I went through last year, you can read my posts from October and November. You can also sign in as a guest on our class blog if you’re interested in exploring.

Go to: http://www.kidblog.org/msorwigsclass then, click “login” at the top right, choose guest from the drop down menu and type in the password 12345. Enjoy!

Reflective Teaching

As the school year begins on Tuesday, I will be participating in Teach Thought’s Reflective Teaching 30-Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers. So, look for my posts in response to the challenge’s prompts and questions all throughout September! Here is the link to the challenge if you are interested:

In other news, this week was teacher week at my school. Lots of professional development, a little time to work in the classroom, and lots of new formats and documents to fill out. Also- lots of new teachers! One of our new first year teachers is across the hall from me this year. I have been teaching for three years and know I have so much left to learn, but I feel like a seasoned vet when I talk to her.

I was lucky enough to move my classroom this year and I could now do a running back handspring (if I was able to do something like that) right down the middle of my new room. It is huge! With such a large room came an overload of materials, which I was so glad to sort through and share with the newbie across the hall. It felt great to be the one with all of the “stuff”. I made many trips to her classroom with the same question. “Do you have ______? Do you want them?” Each time she was so quick to graciously accept the things I didn’t want or need. I felt like Santa Claus.

This week has been full of ups and downs, but the fact that I was able to save this new teacher some money and put a smile on her face multiple times was absolutely a highlight that outshines the “downs”.

Tomorrow is our Open House. Students will finally be in the school to meet their new teacher and see their new classroom. I am so happy about this! Our hallways and classrooms will finally be complete with sun-tinged, smiling faces and tiny chatter.

Day 1: My Goals

My three goals for this school year are:

1. Foster a genuine love of learning within each of my students
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2. Participate in Professional Development within my school district and beyond

3. Create trusting relationships with my students and colleagues & have FUN!

That’s all for today…tomorrow is the first day of school and I know it’ll be exhausting, but I’ll be back with another post after all of the excitement of the day!

Here I go again.

I have to say that one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever learned was that I am (surprisingly) not perfect.  I learned this in elementary school, after time and time again, I came up short of my own extremely high expectations. As a child, I was so hard on myself.  For what reason I don’t think I can really explain or even understand now.  As an adult, I’ve come to understand (and graciously accept) the beauty of flaws in human nature.  The learning moments- the TEACHING moments- are the moments when something doesn’t go quite right; something doesn’t go as planned.

Recently, in my personal life, something didn’t quite go as planned.  I won’t go into the details, because, truthfully, they don’t matter.  What matters is what I choose to do now. I stopped writing on this for awhile- partially because of the busy tail-end of the school year, and partially because I just didn’t have words that seemed important enough to share. Summer and time have rejuvenated me and I think I’m ready to begin again! I have made mistakes, I have learned from them, and now it’s time to share some of my knowledge and summer plans with you (whoever you are).

A small group of teachers, administrators, and specialists from my elementary school are attending a week long professional development on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at Harvard in July. I just happen to be one of the lucky teachers who will be in attendance! I say lucky because I really do feel that way. UDL is something I’ve learned a little about before during my undergrad at Penn State, but I do believe that my practice could be amped up with a little more information, discussion, and development. This is going to be a pretty rigorous week of learning…in fact, we have assignments to complete before we even get there! The book I’m reading now is called Effective Inclusive Schools: Designing Successful Schoolwide Programs by Thomas Hehir with Lauren Katzman.

Pre-reading for Harvard's UDL Workshop

So far, I have really enjoyed reading about the three schools these authors followed throughout their research. It is so easy to think of a list of excuses why “my school could never be like that,” but, in many ways, the school I work at is already a lot like these schools. We have a very large Hispanic population. We have a very large free/reduced lunch population. We have children arriving from various countries at various times throughout the year who have never been in school, let alone have any knowledge of our language. Yet, it is our job to find ways to help them be the best learners they can be. In no way is this easy, but I believe it is possible because I know other schools have excelled in teaching learners of all races, religions, abilities, and interests. I am excited to share the things I learn at this workshop here with you! I will be there from July 7-11 and plan to have a few nights where I can debrief my learning here.

As for the rest of my summer day, I plan to continue scrubbing the kitchen floor, walk up the street to see a movie, and (of course) read a little bit more about these great schools! I’d love to hear any thoughts or knowledge you all have about UDL or similar approaches to reaching all learners.