From Definitive to Confident in the Classroom

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Last year I went to DisneyWorld.  I could not believe the long lines for rides.  While some of the lines were definitely not worth the wait (Haunted Mansion I’m looking at you), other rides (Splash Mountain) were definitely worth the wait.  This wild ride of teaching has been more than worth the wait and has exceeded my lofty expectations.

When I first started teaching, I felt like I wanted to make everything definitive.  I think this was a mind hack on my part to convince myself I was doing the right thing.

For instance, I would make these definitive statements like, “Group work is the only way to go.”  “Technology in the classroom is vital.”  “He must do these 100 sentences to learn his lesson.”  It is quite comical looking back on it.  It is also quite sad, because what did I know at that young age?  I was trying to fit every one of my students, every one of my lessons, and, yes, every one of my decisions in this nice, little black and white box.  

We all know life doesn’t work that way, and a student and their background is so much more complex.

Now if this was just a me problem, that would be one thing.  Unfortunately, I see this same mistake being repeated over and over again in education today.  Social media is not helping out.  In the rush to put out a great sound bite in a tweet, facebook post, or blog entry we often box our opinions into a corner as the only definitive approach to education.

We see this often with the latest and greatest “flavor of the day” in the education world.  Definitive statements begin to flow.  “Maker spaces are the only way for students to feel empowered.”  “There is no better way to learn than in a PLC!”  “Identifying a fixed mindset is a game changer.”  

I’m pretty sure I can see the collective eye roll of all of my readers.

In our race to a definitive statement, we minimize the actual importance of the given topic we are reflecting on.  

Ultimately, I came to the realization that my confidence was the thing that needed the most boosting without the use of a definitive statement.

Thankfully, I can now definitely say, there is always room to grow.  That is the funny thing about growth.  For when we grow, so does our confidence.

What My 88-Year-Old Grandma Taught Me about Teaching (and Life)

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Teaching is not rocket science, nor is pretty much anything else in life.  I read a book years ago where the authors explained some of the most complicated ideas, inventions, and concepts using only the the 500 most common words in the English language.  It was fascinating to see something like nuclear thermodynamics explained in such common, ordinary language.   

So there I was, sitting at a kitchen table, talking to my 88 year-old grandma about life.  I was soaking it all in as we have so few opportunities to catch up in person.  We were talking about history (of course) specifically World War II era and the Great Depression.  We were talking about how folks can have a positive mindset even through unfathomable circumstances.  Then she shared something so profound and so simple that I had to make a note of it.

“Today may be awful, but tomorrow could be wonderful.”

While I’m sure my grandma had her share of awful days, you would never know it.  She is always positive and always encouraging.  

Obviously this quote is a wonderful quote about life, but so much of teaching is simply about life.  Teaching is partly, if not mainly, about building character and grit and toughness and patience and empathy in these students that God has blessed us with in our classroom.  Clearly we have much content to convey as well, but the content of our character is just as important as learning the date of the invasion of Normandy.

You would be lying to yourself (and others) if you said your year of teaching was perfect.  Who are we fooling!  There were so many moments where I wished I could have a mulligan.  There were so many days where I was left wondering if I taught that lesson effectively.  

Teaching is all about having awful days.

But teaching is also about conveying the idea that tomorrow can be wonderful.  

We mess up.  We forgive.  We make a mistake.  We learn.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

My Dad asked if we could pick up some lunch for my grandma.  She enthusiastically exclaimed, can we get McDonalds!  You would’ve thought she was about to mention a pancake breakfast (our favorite), at her favorite restaurant, as she spoke with such happiness.  No, it was simply, “I would love a frappe!”  Even when we have an awful day, something so simple as a frappe can bring such a smile. 

It is good for us to remember and remind our students that even on our most awful of days, we have something so wonderful waiting for us… heaven. 

Bring Your History and Science to Life!

In. this video, I analyze the benefits of learning content in-depth vs. surface learning.  Enjoy!  Feel free to share any thoughts in the comments below.

Journaling: A How-to Guide for Teachers

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To kick off 2016, we talked about the importance of reflection as a teacher.  So often we can get bogged down in the day to day rigor of just being a teacher.  Think about what goes into your day after you finish teaching.  Grading papers, preparing for the next lessons, organizing and cleaning the classroom, congregational duties, and other teaching duties just to name a few.  We can quickly become overwhelmed.  Unfortunately, taking the time to reflect can often get pushed to the side.

Now what if I told you that you could do your job of reflection in just five, short minutes every day?  Would you be more likely to make that a habit and set it into your daily routine?

Thankfully, this is possible.  A small, simple journal is all you need.  Now those of us who were graduates of Martin Luther College perhaps remember, with horror, those special, little things known as reflection journals during student teaching.  Let me be clear, that is not what I’m talking about when I refer to journaling.

We need something doable.  Something that we can look forward to each day and make a routine in our daily schedule as a teacher.  Our goal shouldn’t be a two-page written essay in a notebook.  If that excites you, more power to you.  However, for the rest of us, a short bulleted list does the trick with the same effect.

Continue reading “Journaling: A How-to Guide for Teachers”

25 Professional Growth Conferences for 2016

Came across this great list of conferences in an edchat on Twitter.  Great resource if you are looking to attend a national professional development conference but don’t know where to begin.

I will be attending at least two of these.  In February I will be attending the TCEA Conference.  I also hope to attend the iNACOL conference in October.

I have copied the conferences upcoming for January into this post.

You can find the complete list at 25 PD Conferences for 2016

Keep Growing!

 

JANUARY

FETC-2016-Logo

Jan. 12-15
Orlando, FL

Find us at Booth 2117! FETC provides educators and administrators the opportunity to explore the integration of technology across the curriculum through hands-on exposure to the latest hardware, software and successful strategies.

NJECC_Logo2

Jan. 13
Montclair, NJ

The NJECC annual conference promotes and supports the integration of technology in K-12 education as it applies to student learning, professional development, leadership and instructional planning.

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Jan. 28-29
Atlantic City, NJ

Find us in the exhibit hall! The 21st annual Techspo exhibition and training conference for school leaders, sponsored by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

educon

Jan. 29-31
Philadelphia, PA

EduCon is an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas—from the very practical to the big dreams.

ISTE_EdTechTeam_logo

Jan. 30-31
Oxon Hill, MD

Stop by our table! This two-day high-intensity event from EdTechTeam focuses on deploying, integrating, and using Google Apps for Education (and other Google tools) to promote student learning in K-12 and higher education.