Today is FLY UP DAY at Cecil Floyd - one of the most exciting days of the year. This is the day our students get their first glimpse from the classroom of next year's teacher! This is the day the teacher (That's me.) gets to meet his 2017/8 class for the first time. I have anxiously anticipated this first chance to "teach" my 29th class in 28 years.
Welcome aboard to the latest batch of Hoggatteers! While this list could change, right now this will be our 2016/7 class:
Today, we acknowledge the birthday of another famous Missourian - Dr. John Sappington.
"If it falls your lot to sweep streets,
sweep them like Michelangelo painted pictures,
like Shakespeare wrote poetry,
like Beethoven composed music."
(Anonymous, paraphrased by Martin Luther King Jr.)
Teacher friends, the sooner you start counting down to the end of the school year, the longer it will seem to take.
Sometimes we make things harder for ourselves, resulting in our own frustration, than we should. And it's really not that hard to figure things out.
We find ourselves in the lame-duck days of our year - those last weeks when mandating tests are complete and the last day of school is still ahead of us. Now is the time to experiment with your dream lessons and test new methods. Now is the time to step out of the comfort zone a bit more than usual. But it is not the time to relax your expectations and stop teaching.
As much as you anticipate the end of another year, please don't make it public. Not only will you make this period seem longer for yourself, but you will send the wrong message to your students. It may be a perceived message, but it is a message, nevertheless.
I have a dream that one day I will come to class and people will surprise me with the news that it is the last day of school. I don't want to see it coming.
I would rather my students leave me with a different message:
When we analyze even the most innocent of our actions and habits, we may find that we do more harm than good. That's why we need to analyze what we do. That's how we develop more sophisticated philosophies, and it's how we can answer more fully when challenged. It is important that we consider adult behaviors in our school, and not only student behaviors.
Leave the countdowns for the Christmas calendar - not the end of the school year. Even then, don't start more than 10 days ahead of the event. If you start too early, you're just fertilizing anxiety and distracting your students.
Technology has just made another step forward in our classroom with the installation of our new Flexcat system from Lightspeed Technologies. This is more than a public address system
While Flexcat does allow the teacher's voice to be distributed more evenly in the classroom, it will also allow me to address targeted locations within the room, as well. If only one group needs to hear my comments, there is no longer a reason to interrupt the entire class to make myself heard. With a simple push of a button, my voice can be heard over a speaker in one group, while the speakers located elsewhere remain muted.
Likewise, I can now listen in on the conversation of a group from across the room. No longer do I have to be physically located with the group to help it - or to know that the group is working well and I just need to butt out. Yes, like any other technology or tool, this one could be used punitively and become a detriment to classroom management, but used effectively, the Flexcat system is a total collaborative tool. Now I can be present with one group while standing with another. And if I need to break in with a suggestion or motivation, I can.
An honest teacher realizes that conversations change when students know they are being monitored. Flexcat is not designed to be Big Brother, and the teacher is not designed to be a spy on his students. Instead, it is a tool to sustain the conversations on the right track for longer. Less distraction and side-talk makes for more engagement time for my students, thus advancing their achievement in many subjects.
The manufacturer claims Flexcat also provides the chance to engage shy and soft-spoken students. With the remote control, I can now allow a student to address the class from his/her table without putting him/her on the spot. Other groups can have the benefit of listening in on a group that is making good progress. I don't always have to worry about my teacher voice being heard in the nooks and crannies, but to hear other students is important as we foster collaboration and student-driven learning.
As we go forward, I hope Flexcat makes me a better educator. I hope it helps build more positive relationships with students. And with creative use, Flexcat might be used in my classroom in ways the manufacturer has never imagined.
In education, the phrase "think outside the box" has been used far too often; we have become immune to the term. But it is also true that far too often, we try to fit kids into a one-size-fits-all mold, and in doing so, we prevent them from showing the world their unlimited potential. Think about it this way: if you keep shoving things into a box, eventually the whole box breaks. And that is what we are doing to many of society's most innovative minds.
Once again, we read the phrases think outside the box and one-size-fits-all, two collections of words that are constantly at odds. Once again, we read about creativity involving our students, about how we stifle it when we as teachers try to use a formula to instruct them.
And once again, we must take sides.
Friends, nothing anyone has ever said or written has ever convinced me that I should place students on a conveyor belt and put them together on an assembly line. Advocates of such a system are looking for simplicity, but they miss the mark by a million miles. They search and search for some post-modern methodology that will work every time with every learner, but they come far from their target, resulting instead in frustrated and burned out parties on every side.
Contrary to popular thinking, kids are human beings...and humans just aren't wired that way. We were created as individuals, and we all function differently. We are not part of a collective. We are neither Borg nor Na'vi. Kids, too.
Anyone who places kids into a one-size-fits-all system probably doesn't realize what s/he's asking for. If such a system were to work as planned, what would be the result? One product reproduced by the dozens, the hundreds, the millions? Since when do we wish for humanity to be programmed like robots and mass produced in public school systems around the world? We must, instead, yearn for and work toward continued individuality and empowerment for our students.
Author and teacher Kim Bearden doesn't get that philosophical with her chapter about creativity, but she clearly gets it right with the words she chooses. Her book, Crash Course, does a fine job of demonstrating the humanity of her students and the lessons she learns from them every day. In fact, she is passionate about fostering the individual strengths for each student in her classroom. Daily.
That doesn't mean my students are going without leadership and guidance. They do not get to slide around in the school just doing whatever they want to do. They may be empowered, but they must be empowered under the boundaries of society and in the interest of order.
I could not guide them properly if I, myself, were to have my creativity squelched. If what we say is true about cookie-cutter kids, raised by one-size-fits-all teachers, then the same must be true when administrators and legislators force one-size-fits-all methods on their teachers. Creativity is definitely one of the keys we use to unlock the "unlimited potential" in every student and educator.
Miss Fitzgerald has been a part of our class for the second semester of our school year. As a teacher-candidate from Missouri Southern State University, Fitzgerald has come a long way toward developing her own teacher personality. She participated in parent conferences. She planned meaningful, engaging lessons. She conducted disciplinary business. She attended faculty meetings. She contributed to faculty luncheons. She communicated with parents. Most importantly, she has interacted with the students in our classroom in a big way, connecting with each student as an individual and establishing relationships with them. She did all of this while fulfilling the requirements of her degree with the university and with Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
I know the students will miss her as she goes on her way, but at the same time, we hope she has learned as much from us. The purpose of the teacher-candidate (student-teacher) program is to provide a clinical experience in which the student practices her profession with real students under the supervision of a cooperating teacher. Miss Fitzgerald has given her best efforts to lead our class while simultaneously following the leads of the people around her - other teachers and administrators with similar goals. I am certain that every part of our experience together probably wasn't what she anticipated, but I hope the less desirable parts were few, short, and far between.
Miss Fitzgerald graduates from MSSU, this Saturday, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors. Tomorrow (Thursday) will be her last official day in our classroom.
Here's something for you to do after school! We coach 15 fourth and fifth graders every year, who later attend two math contests. Find out more, and hear how we do it (complete with sample questions), and ask questions in this one hour session.
Preview the handout for this session below:
How does the ClassDojo app and website easily fit in with your classroom management, PBIS, and the Core Behaviors? In this presentation by a ClassDojo mentor, you will be introduced to the the program and how to utilize it more effectively for your class.
I will present this one-hour session during Joplin Schools' Summer Institute, but due to the online nature, there will be no handouts for this presentation.
Our latest bulletin board in the hallway sports a message for us all: never be satisfied with your effort or your recovery. Always do a little bit more than what is expected. Do A Little Extra.
The letters on this board came from a recent, generous teacher give-away event
sponsored by JoAnn's in Northpark Mall.
The presentation is organized and prepared. We'll look at some photos and videos from RCA. We'll also apply lessons from a visit to RCA to our own Core Behaviors in Joplin Schools.
The KOAM-TV news report titled Manners Matter will receive the state media award from the Missouri State Teachers Association. Earlier in the school year, I nominated the two-part report for the award. We were proud to be a part of this positive portrayal of our school and our district.
Read more about the Manners Matter report.
The presentation is organized and prepared, complete with outline, slides, and handouts. In fact, feel free to peruse the handout ahead of time:
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