Only Perfect People Need Reply

tumbleweed wrangler

 

Please remember that very few of us have it completely together.

 
We’re all bobbing along a spectrum of togetherness and only a handful of us are at the far end of zipped up. Some of us are at the floating-in-space end. Most of us are traveling somewhere in between (depending on the day, the hour, the minute) like  tumbleweeds rolling through the countryside in want of a place to rest.
 
Some people are skilled at making it seem like they are cool as can be all of the time, but in reality, most people have no idea what they are doing and we’re just hoping no one else notices.
 

 

Remember this because I know there are people out there who feel bad when they see how lovely other people’s lives appear to be.

 

Remember that if you are a person wondering why other people have more pristine lives than you that you are probably doing okay and if you’re not, other people will help you, if you ask.

 

Remember that if you want to portray a perfect life, it might actually hurt someone who is observing.

 

Be real, if you can.

If you see someone looking all perfect, most likely, they are just really good at filters–literal and metaphorical filters.

Correct me if I’m wrong, perfect people.

In Which Mrs M Shrugs Off a Lack of Respect and Teaches Anyway


Fortunately (for me) I don’t need President Donald Trump or Governor Pete Ricketts to tell me that what happens in my classroom or school is important or special.

I know it is.

Luckily, I work in a school where (overall) parents, admins, colleagues, and, most importantly, students value what we do and where we encourage each other to do what we do.

But it is problematic when people in powerful positions show a disregard for public education. Political leaders set the tone and influence attitudes of their constituents. That’s what makes Trump’s lack of regard for these teachers and their families a problem.

However, I’m not going to let his flippant attitude toward the top people in my field stop me from doing what I do, and I can’t imagine it stopping any of my colleagues from doing what they do. Not every teacher works in a school like mine and not every student attends a school like ours. I’m not saying “my school is the best” because I don’t know what “the best” is; I’m just acknowledging my fortune (and privilege) to be where I am.

Via social media, one of my former students* asked me why I was upset about what Trump said. I’m not, but I am surprised at his lack of substantive remarks and overall attitude toward public education though, and I do see that as a problem. (Actions speak louder than “remarks”.) As for Ricketts, his office just produced a press release that disparaged our profession (in my opinion) (even though it was more directed toward the teacher’s union).

My point in writing this is that I’m not going to whine and cry because Trump didn’t rise to the level of decorum that previous presidents did for teachers of the year, but I am noting it. We do what we do for the students we serve, not for any potential honors it might win us.

This is just another example of how self-centered Trump and the people he surrounds himself are. He’s not alone though. I think it takes a certain level of self-centeredness to enter politics (as a generalization–there are, of course, exceptions). Everyone will have a different view and have different reasons to be offended … or not.

If one was to read the “remarks” without knowing what the general atmosphere was like (according to teachers and family members who were there) what Trump did/didn’t do doesn’t sound SO bad.  In fact, overall, it might even sound “nice” or just “awkward” (and it’s not just Trump–it’s the people he’s surrounding himself as well making decisions to keep the teachers’ families in a less-than-comfortable atmosphere); it’s just when you match up this downgraded event (in comparison to previous years’ events) with other actions taken (think dept of ed, for example) that I have to make a choice between getting all sad and whiny and potentially allowing it to affect my teaching, OR to disregard it, pull up my britches, and teach.

I AM worried about the teachers on the edge of giving up though because I know many are and we need good people to stay in the profession.

I AM worried about young people who are on the verge of choosing a career who might hesitate to enter teaching in this climate–because we need good people to replace those who are leaving.

But this worry sure as hell won’t stop ME from teaching. I reject Trump’s and Rickett’s attitude toward my colleagues across the nation and toward me, and if you need me, I’ll be preparing to finish out this school year on a high note, despite how Trump or Ricketts feel about public education.

The main thing that gets in my way as a teacher IS politics, so I will continue to challenge the system in my own quiet way and teach and reach kids in the best way I know how.

I choose to forge ahead!

 

*One of the BEST things about social media is that I get to continue to engage with former students. This student and I do not align 100% politically, but we had a civil conversation about this topic.

How to Twitter Chat

Twitter website screenshotCreative Commons License Spencer E Holtaway via Compfight

*This was originally posted on Aug. 13, 2013. Updates were made on April 26, 2016 and February 7, 2017.

If you’re getting ready to participate in a Twitter chat for the first time, this little post may be helpful to you.

I’ll be using #nebedchat (Nebraska Education Chat) as an example because it’s a chat I’m involved in either as a moderator or more frequently, as a participant.

1. The first thing to remember is always use the chat’s hashtag in all of the tweets you send in response to the chat. In this case, the hashtag is #nebedchat. Make sure that you leave enough space in your tweet for that hashtag because it counts against your 140 character.

2.  When you use a hashtag like #nebedchat, it creates a backchannel. A backchannel is just a place where ALL of the tweets that include the hashtag show up. You’ll notice a variety of tweets below. I captured this series of tweets whilst in the #nebedchat backchannel. Notice that all of the tweets include the #nebedchat hashtag.

NOTE: Click on the images in this entry to get a larger, clearer view of the screen captures I posted.

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3. Make sure you are in the LIVE backchannel (This shows everything that was tweeted.), rather than the TOP TWEETS tab, which will only show you the tweets that get “favorited” a lot.

Some people use an app like TweetDeck to keep an eye on multiple hashtags, but when I am participating in a chat, here is what I do. I use Firefox, if I’m using my Macbook Air, and Safari, if I’m using my iPad, so that I can open multiple tabs simultaneously. I like to keep the backchannel for the chat AND my Twitter interactions tab open at the same time. That way I can see EVERY tweet posted in the backchannel as well as all tweets directed specifically to me.

 

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(Any time someone posts something with my Twitter handle -@morgetron- it shows up in my interactions feed.) I toggle between these two tabs throughout the chat.

4. When you first arrive to a chat, it is usual practice to introduce yourself briefly–usually your name and occupation will do, but sometimes a moderator will ask for additional information.

In the tweet below, #nebedchat moderator, Chris (@chrisstogdill) asked everyone to introduce him/herself by tweeting his/her name, the school where he/she works or is associated with, his/her current position in said school and he briefly explained the preferred format for that night’s chat.

 

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Many time there will be someone else designated as chat greeter too, so don’t be surprised if after you introduce yourself, someone other than the moderator welcomes you to the chat (though sometimes the moderator does double as a greeter as well). During busy chats, this practice is sometimes dropped, but #nebedchat-ters are notoriously friendly and odds are someone will pipe in with a warm welcome.

5. During a chat, the moderator typically uses a specific format which he/she generally will explain at the beginning of the chat (but not always). The most common format is this: The moderator poses a question, using the Q1, Q2, Q3 format. Like this:

Chris was the moderator and posed Question #2, by indicating Q2.

 

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6. Then, when you answer a particular question, you use the corresponding A1, A2, A3, etc.

Cynthia (@cynthiastogdill) responded to Chris’s Q2 by indicating A2 (Answer 2).

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I like Lenessa’s (@lenessakeehn) explanation for this practice as well:

 

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6. During a chat you can respond to the questions posed by the moderator OR you can respond to what other people are saying. For example, you will notice that Laura (@mandery) responded to one of Chris’s questions. Then TJ Meyer (@tjmeyer12) responded to Laura’s tweet and included Kid President’s handle, (@iamkidpresident) since Laura mentioned him in her tweet. Laura tweeted back at TJ and then Daisy (@DaisyDyerDuerr) responded to Laura, TJ, and Kid President.

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7. If you’re responding to what someone else says, you can just click on the REPLY link in the tweet to which you’re responding which should automatically format your tweet with that person’s (or like in Daisy’s case, people’s Twitter handles). You should still include the chat’s hashtag in your response though so that others involved in the chat can read your responses. Below, I included a screen capture of what it looks like when I clicked on the “reply” function on Daisy’s tweet. It automatically formatted my tweet to include Daisy’s, Laura’s, TJ’s, and Kid President’s Twitter handles. If I wanted to just reply to Daisy, I would remove the others’ names.

 

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8. The main thing about Twitter chats is this–> You’ll be sharing in learning by communicating with people from all over. (You’ll notice that many people who participate in #nebedchat are educators from Nebraska, but others will be from elsewhere. For example, Daisy is from Arkansas. We have people joining us from all over the U.S. and from other countries as well.) View it as a friendly conversation–like people gathering at a coffee shop to discuss common topic of interest. It’s really low-pressure and you will be able to both give and receive helpful information.

9. If you are new to Twitter or new to Twitter chats or just a nervous lurker with a desire to break free from lurker status into active Tweep, #nebedchat is an excellent place to start. I would argue it is one of the friendliest chats out there. As long as you are there in the spirit of learning, everyone will deliver a warm welcome to you.

Are you still unsure about this? It’s okay to try things of which you are unsure. If you are really nervous though, tweet me (@morgetron) or send me an email and I will answer any questions you have: morgetron@gmail.com.

 

 

My friend@THLibrariZen and I will be moderating #nebedchat (Nebraska Education Chat) on Wed. February 8, 2017 at 9 PM CST. Rather than a topic, we will have a theme, and all of our questions are inspired by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. We hope you can pop in.

Student Reflection … YES … but how?

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

~ John Dewey

Nice View . . .

Creative Commons License David Robert Bliwas via Compfight

We added an unconference-style element to our in-service today with breakout sessions, lead by various staff members. I facilitated a breakout discussion on Reflection’s Role in Learning. I chose this as a topic of discussion, not because I’m an expert in it, but because I want to get better at eliciting reflection in my students. I recognize the importance of reflection in my own learning process, so naturally, I want teach my students how to use this tool. In fact, my goal is to embed it so effectively into my classroom process that it becomes an automatic response for my students.

However, achieving buy-in with students can be a challenge. Reflection can be viewed as busywork by some, as Erin Konecky, pointed out today during one of the sessions, so teaching students the WHY behind reflection is important. As the blog post “Scaffolding Student Reflection” by my Twitter friend, Rusual Alrubail reminds us, “relevance=motivation.” (However, how to gain buy-in exactly is a mystery at this point!) Erin also pointed out that students reflect all the time–it’s not necessarily a conscious act though. It more often takes the shape of a fleeting thought rather than a formal response. Moreover, these momentary reflective thoughts are not always as deep as is necessary for the full benefit of reflection. And, some students are more adept at reflection than others. So, like in all classroom processes, we must teach what we want to see.

Throughout the course of two breakout sessions, a few things became apparent:

A. We reached consensus that reflection is an important part of learning.

B. We found that we all ask students to reflect in different ways–on a wide spectrum of depth and formality. None of us have perfected it, but we’re all seeking to improve it.

C. We can’t assume that students will come to us knowing HOW to reflect. We must teach them how to reflect or formalize their existing reflection process.

D. Reflection can take different forms and offering students choices in demonstrating reflection can be beneficial for teacher and student. It can also be a very personal process, so finding ways for students to share reflection comfortably will also need to be a priority.

E. Personal growth in students is sometimes overlooked because “the system” is so focused on number grades. Reflection may be a way to honor personal growth and give a better overall picture of a whole student rather than distilling him or her to a number in the grade book.

In the first breakout, we used a variation of the “Save the Last Word For Me” discussion technique to examine Rusul’s post (linked above). We delved into the WHY student reflection is important and WHY we should be incorporating student reflection into our classroom practices and assessment. The article also gave us an opportunity to discuss what role personal growth should play in defining success for students.

In the second session, I approached the discussion a little differently. We started with the above-linked article, and then spent some time writing responses to the following questions in a padlet that I’ve embedded below. After that we used the same discussion technique as we did in the first session, but compacted the time a bit.

Made with Padlet
We had limited time today to answer the question, HOW do we use student reflection in a way that is useful to teacher and student? But it was a start!
Here are some additional questions for you to ponder in your reflection about reflection:
  • We know reflection is an important component of the learning experience. How can we convince students of reflection’s importance? 
  • How are you already using student reflection in your practice?
  • What are your concerns about using reflection in your classroom?
  • Have you seen anyone else use it successfully?
  • What were your takeaways from our brief discussion today?

Little Things

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Often it’s the little things that make life in our classrooms easier.

GOLF PENCILS. One of the biggest roadblocks to getting down to business is the old “I don’t have a writing utensil” problem. Instead of getting all uptight and letting it derail a portion of a class period, I keep lots of golf pencils on hand. It removes the hassle. “I need a pencil” + “Okay here” is a lot less stressful than “Goll dangit kid! Can’t you just be responsible? I guess you’ll have to go to your locker or borrow from a friend or give me your shoe so I get it back!” (Who really wants a high school student’s shoe? I mean … really.)

CARPET SQUARES. I listen to lectures better when I am a doodling. Some people like to have something in their hands to play with to help them focus. Other people are tappers. While doodling and fidgeting are usually not distracting to others, tapping can be, so I keep carpet squares on hand. The students can drum them with their hands or a pen or pencil and it pretty much muffles the sound altogether. My tappers and the people around them can all be happy at once.

WHISPER PHONES. Reading aloud is helpful to some students. It’s one more kinesthetic layer to their learning. Obviously, if you have a room full of students trying to read, some prefer quiet though. Reading aloud isn’t quiet, unless you whisper into a whisper phone (which can easily be made with two PVC elbows). You hold it like a phone and whisper it into one end and the sound travels to your ear through the “C” without broadcasting to the room. I can have a room full of silent readers with a handful of students quietly reading to themselves out loud. This works well too for students who are checking their own writing for errors in a quiet room and need to listen for errors (because we often catch errors with our ears that our eyeballs miss).

DRUM. Reading your own writing aloud in front of peers is for some reason less scary when you have a drum accompaniment. Weird, but true. Also, if you teach English, the drum is vital for any reading of “The Telltale Heart.”

None of these ideas are mine. I’ve learned of them from other educators over the years, and like a chef using someone else’s recipe, I’ve tweaked them to make them work in my classroom.

reason 5,495 why it is an honor to be a high school English teacher

We are finishing out the year with To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the test questions asks the students to identify the three most important events/issues in the book (which is FULL of important events and issues) and justify why they are the MOST important of all. One of the reasons I love this book is that I learn something new every time I read it and by reading the students’ responses, I am learning new things again, after reading this story again for the (literal) twentieth time. Students are so insightful and can zero in on the smallest scene that I’ve been glazing over for years and give it new meaning. One of the biggest takeaways from this book (no matter how many times I read it) is that people get caught up in looking at things their way and forget that everyone brings a unique set of experiences that shape the way they see the world and subsequently affect the way they behave. It’s the human way. Sometimes, we have to make a conscious effort to be empathetic to others. Atticus says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Teaching allows me to see things from these brilliant young people’s points of view. What a unique career perk. This is just one of many reasons why I am happy to be a teacher.

Loquacious

03 Jonathan Zawada, Big Mouth Zine

Creative Commons License Will via Compfight

One time I heard one of my third grade teachers telling one of my classmates that he was loquacious. (This was the same teacher who threw her giant textbook as hard as she could on the ground in response to her frustration with this same student, so I tended to pay attention to all of their interactions. It was one of the juiciest teacher-student relationships I had ever witnessed.) I didn’t know what loquacious meant, and I was certain it was something horrible so I looked it up. As it turns out, it means “talkative.” Not so horrible, and I remember thinking, “Well, I am NOT loquacious (in school).” I think of that teacher and that classmate every time I happen upon that word, which up until very recently was not a frequent occurrence. However, all of that changed this semester, when the word loquacious showed up as a vocabulary word for my 10th graders. I guess this is one example of why you SHOULD use big words with your own children (and students). Most students don’t want to be left in the dust, so if they don’t understand what a word means, they will ask you, or even the quiet ones (like me) will find out meaning on their own. Even if they don’t immediately, at least they will have a layer of context to work with the next time they hear the word used again.

when breathing isn’t part of the curriculum


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On Tuesday, a bunch of students were gone for track and drama day during my 6th hour class, so the remaining students proposed that we go outside.

“Is it nice out?” I asked.

“70 degrees,” several said in unison. In unison.

“But I was going to give you time to read today,” I said (half-heartedly trying to build a case for staying put).

“We will read at home,” one spokesperson stated, with authority.


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We went outside. We ran around in the grass. We made funny faces and played with a magical substance. We admired the color of blue in the sky and the puffiness of the clouds. In other words, we made the right decision.

No regrets. This simple deviation from the schedule is something they were still celebrating on Wednesday. Most of the kids read the assigned reading too. Even if we had stayed inside, some of the students would’ve read the assignment and some of them wouldn’t have read it.

Tuesday was a good reminder that I need to build in more time to breathe, to soak in sunshine, to move, to be silly for the sake of it. It doesn’t necessarily connect to our curriculum. Building this time in will help improve relationships with students AND add to our overall health as individuals.


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Email: Courtesy Vs. Efficiency. Please, help me with my feelings.

Buenas noticias - email marketing

Creative Commons License RaHuL Rodriguez via Compfight

Dear Reader,

I am interested in hearing from people who use email in all sorts of capacities–business, education, social, other stuff that I can’t think of right now …

When a student sends me an email like this …

“Why did I get a 93 on my book review?”

(No opening, no closing, just a question demanding answers moments after posting a grade online … I don’t even want to talk about online grading or grades in general … that is a completely different conversation … )

… do you think it would be good to teach that student (or maybe a mini-lesson in class because it’s not just one student who does this. It’s probably about half and half) about greetings and closings for written correspondence?

OR

Am I just projecting my need for the niceties of written communication on my students?

If the student had written,

“Dear Mrs. M, I noticed that I scored a 93% on my book review. I was wondering if we could talk about how I earned that grade. Thank you, Your Student.”

Then I had responded with,

“Hello My Student,

Let’s talk about this in class after break.

Take care,

Mrs. M.”

And then the student responded with “Sounds good,” (sans greeting/closing) I wouldn’t bristle because at that point, it would be more of a conversation rather than a formal exchange … But the demanding email with no courtesies bothers me.

Do I need to get with the times, or is it still expected that when you’re reaching out to someone in the digital realm that you are writing a “letter” so to speak? Or is courtesy giving way to efficiency?

I realize that if this student was sending an email to a friend, it would be more acceptable to just come out with a question like this … but most likely this student wouldn’t email a friend. This student would text a friend, and the email this student sent was very texty in nature.

Tone is a problem in all written correspondence. As a Facebook friend pointed out, a student who sends an email like the one I opened this post with probably meant no harm. This student was probably sincerely trying to figure out how this grade came to be, but without the greeting and closing, the tone could easily be misinterpreted.

On the other hand, if a colleague sent me a question in the middle of the day like “Do you want to go to lunch?” or “The meeting started. Are you coming?” this wouldn’t bother me. Why?

HELP ME WITH MY FEELINGS, friend.

Sincerely,

Jodie M.

Nate’s Blankie, a Photo Essay (Oh! And we made State!)

Today, one of our speech team members had to leave district speech early because of a previous obligation, but he made finals, so he left in a rush and accidentally abandoned his childhood Bob the Builder blanket on the speech van. The two remaining teammates and I, having nothing better to do with our copious free time between finals and awards, naturally, decided that a photo essay, featuring said blanket was in order. We chose the hashtag #NatesBlankie and we went to town on Instagram.

Congrats to Nate and Christy for making State. I couldn’t be more proud of you two! You are both so hard on yourselves, but that’s part of what makes you good at what you do. I also want to say congrats to the entire #vikespeech team! I am so proud of you. As a first-year coach, I could not have asked for a better group to lead me! Love you all! Special shout out to Grace who put in more hours than any other member–in prep, in reworking, in reflection. You are laying the foundation for your future speech career!

And now on to the aforementioned photo essay:


#NatesBlankie #HurryUpAndWait #vikespeech #WeHaveTooMuchTimeOnOurHands


Speech meet? What speech meet? Raymond who? Central what?

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Good thing we had Nate’s Blankie so we could go camping while we waited.


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I even had time to sneak in a nap.


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Super Dani


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We weren’t sure if Nate finaled, since there doesn’t appear to be a record of Entertainment finals … very mysterious …


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This was a close call. Don’t worry, Nate: Bob the Builder is safe.


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All hail the queen.


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#NatesBlankie made our final moments so much cozier.


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Congrats to Nate B who is going to State Speech in Entertainment!


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Congrats to Christy C who is going to State Speech for Informative speaking!


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