Thursday, December 31, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Years ago, our daily announcements at my school ended with the statement: "Make it a great day or not - the choice is yours!"
In 2021, my goal is to chose JOY and to use that as a guiding principle throughout the year.
This year, I commit to finding joy in the following:
- New Challenges - I have truly enjoyed learning more about Desmos and EdTech during 2020 and I want to continue challenging myself to learn more
- My Students - Yesterday, I saw a quote that said something about "The best part of my job is the kids. The worst part of my job is everything else" - that rings true for me in a lot of ways!
- Connections and Relationships - I honestly couldn't have made it through 2020 without the relationships I've fostered over the years and I want to focus even more on those connections
- Me Time - I struggle with this one... I have a tendency to put others (especially my students) ahead of everything else. I want to release that pressure and be okay with putting myself above others for just a bit of me time each day
- In Failure - Another toughie... yesterday's post lamented the kids that have slipped between the cracks, but Pam reminded me later in text about the kids that I have connected with, the kids that know they are loved and cared for. I've not reached every child, but honestly, in the best of years, I don't reach every child. I can only do so much. (please keep reminding me and yourself about this one!)
Monday, December 28, 2020
Saturday, December 26, 2020
Thursday, December 24, 2020
- Fresh air - While we aren't allowed to congregate at work for lunch, there's a small group of us that have brought our lawn chairs (and now fuzzy blankets) to sit outside for lunch to get a chance to have fresh air while maskless and social distancing. While this 30 minutes goes WAY too quickly, it's one of my favorite parts of the day
- Friends - I can't imagine doing this without my friends, both in-person and online. While I know it can easily devolve into a gripe session, there's something about having true empathy for what you are going through that others can't understand
- Calming Activities - Honestly, I'm bad about this... I really love teaching and I'm passionate about it. So for me, I find calmness in things like podcasts in the car (Forensic Tales is my current favorite), binge reading novels (Kindle Umlimited was a great purchase for me), and things like the YouTube video of the crackling fire and instrumental music.
- Exercise - This one is one I've fallen down on recently... With the pandemic, I haven't moved as much and it's a struggle. I was never one to sit at my desk and I was always up and moving, but since March, my movement has been limited. :(
- Consistency - This deserves a post all its own, but one of the stressful things about this year has been the lack of consistency. We started out in distance learning, came back in-person, had tons of kids in and out on quarantine, then spent most of November back in distance learning, then back in person for December, so from day to day, you really didn't know how many kids might be in person, at home, ill, etc. I decided early on to do the equivalent of distance learning, even while we were in person for the equity for the students at home. Having only one lesson method really helped my sanity (other than the assessments, but that's another issue).
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Monday, December 21, 2020
Sunday, December 20, 2020
Saturday, December 19, 2020
Winter Break has finally arrived! I don't know about you, but this year's break couldn't come fast enough! 2020 has been a unique and very challenging year, but I also have learned a ton and grown professionally, so I definitely want to take some time to reflect on those moments and hopefully get back into a blogging habit!
Over the years, @pamjwilson and I have often hosted a "Yule Blog" challenge to help us with blogging over the break, so I was extremely grateful when Pam was willing to do this again! This year's prompts will be a bit more serious than previous years simply due to how different this year has been for all of us!Your challenge... if you choose to accept it... is to blog 12 times over your Winter Break. There are prompts listed below, but don't feel like you have to blog in this order or even use the prompts at all! You'll also notice that there are more than 12 prompts - that's in case you want to combine some or if you don't like one or more of them! But again, the prompts are only there as a suggestion when you don't know what else to blog about! :)
Please share your post with us in the comments or via Twitter using the hashtag #MTBoSYuleBlog - we can't wait to read your reflections on 2020!!
Saturday, September 26, 2020
I really had high hopes for blogging this year...It was my goal to blog at least weekly - to reflect on what works and what doesn't. And yeah, that hasn't happened.
We started our year with Distance Learning - the kids were at home, we were in our classrooms and meeting synchronously via Google Meet 1-2 times a week, with the rest of the lessons in an asynchronous format. Then, on Day 7 of Distance Learning, our district announced that we would be going back to in person learning the following week. We've now been in-person for 2 weeks and honestly, I'm exhausted.
But I still want to address my original goal of reflection, of celebrating what's working, of figuring out how to make the things that aren't working more sustainable. I do want to put a disclaimer that this is only my personal experience and does not in any way, shape, or form represent anyone other than myself.
I can't even imagine trying to tackle this year without Desmos. I know some of my students are probably getting tired of my love for Desmos, but I'm so appreciative of the ability to upload videos, do self-checking activities, provide feedback, have the equivalent of "chats" with my students, monitor their work in real time, and really see their thinking. I love that my students working from home are still able to get an equitable experience and that when I do a short recap at the end of the hour, I actually can use student work (Love the snapshot tool) to share quality thinking.
While I miss regular teaching, I do see the benefit of the video lessons, especially for students to pause and rewind. I don't have to worry about them asking to go back or really monitoring where they are in writing their notes. I also like the opportunity for the one-on-one written feedback since so many of my formative assessment techniques are non-verbal or discussion related. While it takes a lot of time, students can have a really personalized experience if they choose to take advantage of it.
I'm also really proud of my students overall. Even though in-person learning doesn't look the same as it did pre-March 13, they've done a pretty good job with keeping a positive attitude and wearing their masks correctly. I've had to talk to a few of them about keeping it over their nose, but in general, it's been okay.
Yesterday we had a pre-planned Distance Learning day and it was so nice to have that time to check with in colleagues about pacing, to check in students about how they are doing, and to feel like I could stop to catch my breath for a minute. It's the little pleasures in life, but to be able to feel comfortable taking a drink of water during the day really brought me more joy than it should have! A few weeks ago, I sent a suggestion to my principal about a weekly Distance Learning day for secondary students, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that might happen!
One major concern I have is just about the sustainability of this model. I'm exhausted from the constant juggle and the mental toll of just trying to think through all of the outcomes. I currently have over 10% of my roster learning from home, plus the normal absences, and I am struggling to keep up. Monitoring the daily work, giving feedback, grading, planning lessons that are equitable whether you are in person or not, trying to keep track of students, cleaning multiple times a day, juggling the emails from students learning from home, trying to vocally project through a mask... it's just a lot to deal with on top of our normal job responsibilities
The stress and anxiety of teaching is a lot in a normal year, but add in a pandemic and it's overwhelming. I'm not one to visit the doctor often, but since school has started, I've had to visit the doctor multiple times due to major muscle spasms and for anxiety. I've never been on to be on daily medication until this year. I've never cried coming to work. I've never had to come home and strip in the laundry room in case I have something on my clothes that could literally kill my spouse if I were to bring it home. I've never worried that I can't see my family for the holidays because I don't know what I might have been exposed to and could be spreading.
What I miss...
Saturday, September 5, 2020
But in the midst of chaos, joy comes from the little things...
|Source: Google Images|
Being content, whatever the circumstances, is a struggle for me. I love teaching. I am very passionate about figuring out the best way to reach my students. And it's so very hard for me to do that while teaching in a pandemic. The traditional definition of Best Practices isn't as important as just getting by each and every day. I see this struggle in my students as they try to navigate the technology challenges. I see it in my colleagues as they learn new methods of teaching and learning, of trying to be flexible and pivot on a dime. I see it in my admin team as they try to balance the decision making for 15,000 people and knowing that any decision they make will be met with resistance. I see the struggle in myself as I try to make meaningful connections with my students, as I try to grapple with decisions made without my input but affect my daily life, as I try to create a safe and healthy work environment, as I try to hold myself together each day and not let the anxiety win.
But it's hard. I worry. I analyze the data and it's not saying good things.
So I struggle to find that contentment and peace. And maybe you are there too. Maybe you are struggling along with me. That's okay - we can struggle together.
But what is important is not to get stuck there.
I don't often bring my personal faith into my blog, but the verse above really speaks to me right now. Paul was imprisoned when he wrote those words. I can't imagine jail at that time was a very cushy place to be and yet Paul writes of finding contentment, no matter the circumstances. Whether in need or in plenty, whether hungry or well-fed, he was able to be at peace.
This year is going to have a very unique set of challenges for teachers, for students, for families, but we need to find ways to be at peace, to be content in our circumstances.
Maybe that contentment comes from the little sparks of joy - finding a good pen to write with, going out for some fresh air, making connections with people in non-traditional ways.
Every day, seek out that "One Good Thing" - that thing that sparks joy in your soul and brings you a hint of peace and hold on to it with every fiber of your being. Collect those little moments in a journal or a tweet. Celebrate those little victories. Because if we focus on all the challenges and the chaos, we'll never find the joy and contentment that can happen in this "new normal"
Friday, September 4, 2020
Since March, Desmos has been my #1 go-to for Distance Learning lessons and still connecting with my students.
We've been in Distance Learning this year for 2 weeks (we are pivoting back to in-person next week, but that's a whole 'nother story), and I could not have made it through these two weeks without Desmos at my side.
This year is a year like no other and I had already committed to blogging more regularly about my learnings, but then today, even more amazing Desmos things started happening!
My Current Favorite Desmos Hack:
The first screen of the Desmos AB asks students to select their class hour, then I can use the summary screen to mark attendance sorted by hour. Last year, I had them enter their name as "4 Name" so I could sort by name on the Dashboard, but I really like this MC question better overall.
One reason why I love it is that I can give feedback to all 3 classes during the same activity without switching between dashboards. I was so excited to share this hack with you, but then I got home tonight, ready to blog and went to my Desmos to take some screen shots when I noticed it didn't look right...
New Desmos Feature:
OMG - Desmos now has classes!!! Of course, now I have my kids trained after 2 weeks, so I'm going to have to figure out how to best use this, but I am excited to explore it!
One feature that I'm hopeful this has when I explore it is a better co-teacher management system as I do team-teach and depending on which one of us created the activity, the dashboard access is clunky. I'm hopeful that this will allow us both access to the files for our shared class without a ton of emails back and forth sharing links to activities
One thing about new features in Desmos is that they are often not advertised, so when you find them, it's like this fun hidden treasure!
Earlier this week, I was giving feedback to a Desmos activity (which I absolutely LOVE the Desmos Feedback feature), and I just happened to notice that little arrow... hmm, what does this do??
OMG - I can edit / delete now?!?!?
Game changer!!! I can't tell you how often I would make a typo or hit enter too soon - this is a HUGE thing for me! :)
My Favorite Question this week:
My students were supposed to try this AP Free Response problem, then I asked them to check themselves against the sample student responses on AP Central and to reflect on their answers. The number of students who mentioned things about being specific, using good vocabulary, etc was just an absolute highlight of my week.
So major thanks to Eli, the Desmos team, all Desmos fellows, and the absolute love and care that each of you put into making Desmos better every day.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Tuesday - Even hours are synchronous / Odd hours are asynchronous
Sunday, August 23, 2020
School starts tomorrow, y'all!!
But it's going to be so weird. I don't have a pretty new outfit, I won't be helping lost kiddos find their classroom, I won't have tired feet at the end of the day.
But I'm really excited to finally get the first day over!
That sounds weird, I know... But this whole year has been weird.
For weeks (months?), I've fretted about the first day. I've changed my lesson plans so many times. For the first time in probably 10 years, I'm not doing my standard killer nurse lesson for day 1. My lesson plans have been written on scrap pieces of paper and sticky notes. I've copied and pasted more Desmos screens than I can keep up with. I've fought and wrestled with "analysis paralysis" more than I care to admit.
But it's done.
Tomorrow, ready or not, those kiddos will show up in my Google Meet and we'll tackle this thing together!
Our schedule is a mix of synchronous (live) sessions via G-Meet and asynchronous (on your own) lessons. It really took me quite a while to wrap my head around what this would look like and I'm still not sure I have it completely figured out, but either way, we're going live tomorrow and praying the wi-fi holds up 😁
In the midst of all of today's chaos with figuring out my lessons, I decided I didn't like how the previous lesson planner was working out, so I created a new one. I already like it much better than the first version!
Here's the revised version of the Junior Planner:
- The lesson plans are all on the right side and not split over the middle "spine"
- Plenty of room for my current scribbles / sticky-notes on the left side.
- Still allows me to do an appointment scheduler for an "at a glance" look at my week.
- I currently don't have room for an Advisory area, but the Sat/Sun could be subbed in for Advisory if needed.
- Overall cleaner feel.
Saturday, August 22, 2020
With Distance Learning, one thing I learned early one was the usefulness
of splitting my screen. A lot of people like to have dual
monitors, but I don't like hunting down my mouse, nor do I like the
physical footprint of having two monitors on my desk. |
But Dualless to the rescue!
We use Google Meet for our classes, which has a really annoying issue of not being able to see what you are presenting plus being able to see your students. So if I'm doing a live Desmos or presenting a slideshow, I have to flip back and forth on the tabs. By using Dualless, I can pull those into two separate Chrome windows, click on the Dualless link on my browser toolbar and choose the split ratio I want to use.
|Another great extension I found this summer was the Video Speed Controller. This allows me to speed up or slow down any video on YouTube, EdPuzzle, etc. I've found it so useful, especially right now during our busy season and the 1.5 speed is about perfect for me!|
|Inserting emojis into my messages, Desmos activities, and blog posts are so much easier now that I've installed the Emoji keyboard!
This little extension pops down a menu that I can search, then when I click on an emoji, it automatically copies the emoji so I can paste it into my activity or email. I'm really excited to use this extension in my Desmos activities as I plan to use emoji cues for note-taking, etc!
|Last spring, I found myself needing to annotate a website or a Desmos activity for a screencast, so Page Marker came in handy multiple times. This extension isn't very fancy, but it gets the job done! I can choose the color, the pen size and write as much as I want before clearing the screen or closing the extension. When using it over a Desmos activity or slide show, you do have to switch to the arrow to navigate to the next slide, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty user friendly.|
|In this season of making a lot of videos, I certainly can't leave off the Loom extension! With a school email account, teachers are eligible for the free version of Loom Pro. In the past, I've used Screencastify and Loom is very similar in terms of its ease of use. I also like that Loom has some good editing features, plus a way for students to provide feedback via comments and/or emojis, and embeds easily into Canvas! :)|