Thursday, October 20, 2022

Portfolios and Family Conferences #EdChat

One of the things that I have done to focus more on student work than on grades is the implementation of a portfolio system. This is a not a new idea I came up with, but something that has been done in many places and I wanted to share how I do it and why it is wonderfully helpful when it comes to conferences. 


One of the things that I do is leverage Adobe Express for most of my student projects. When a student creates something physical or digital, I have them create something in Express to showcase the work. Sometimes it is an advertisement for the item they have created or a feature image that highlights parts of their work. I do this because I want student to have experience creating with digital tools on a regular basis. Here are some examples of student work after they designed and made their own clocks. 

Pokemon Clock

Dancer Clock

Once students have created their digital artifact, they share them to Seesaw. Seesaw is a wonderful tool that allows students to showcase their work in an organized fashion under the specific assignment. I just have to click on the clock assignment and I can see all the clock ads the students have submitted. I can also click on the student and see all of their submissions for all of the assignments. This is why it is so helpful for conferences. 

Family Conferences 

Family conference time can be stressful for teachers. Trying to remember all of the work the student has done since the start of the year can be tough. A portfolio allows the teacher and the family to see artifacts of student learning and can help refresh the teacher's memory. A digital portfolio, that families can access all year round, are helpful when sitting down for conferences. I love being able to pull up a specific project and share it with the parents if they have not seen it. Showcasing the physical and digital work gives the family a better understanding of what has been happening in class. If there are some blanks in the portfolio, those will be noticeable and that can help the conversations as well. 

Saving other things in Seesaw for the portfolio is possible as well! Math teachers will often have students record themselves solving problems as they explain the steps to get the correct answer. ELA teachers have student post their writing and, over time, families can see their growth from the start of the year. Portfolios are ultimately about showcasing growth over time. Family Conferences are about checking in with families to share how students are doing. Having a portfolio that has all of the work completed up to that point in one spot saves the teacher time and energy. 

Whether you use a folder or a digital tool like Seesaw, I highly recommend using a portfolio system for organizing student work to make conference seasons much easier and more informative for everyone. 

Let me know if you have other tips for conferences. 


Monday, October 10, 2022

The Shame Of Being Neurodiverse #MentalHealth

One of the things that tends to get lost in the shuffle when talking about neurodiversity is the feelings that can go along with it. One feeling in particular is the feeling of shame. 

As a neurodiverse person, I feel an incredible amount of shame when I don't get things done the way neurotypical people expect them to be done. I feel shame when I can't find the think I have been tasked to look for right away. That shame turns into anxiety over time and it makes for a very tough few moments. 

The shame comes from the fact that we understand how this task would be simple for a neurotypical person. The shame comes from knowing that others are watching and possibly judging. The shame hits even harder when someone comments about why it is taking so long or why it couldn't be done in a different, "more normal", way. 

How we deal with students who are neurodiverse can impact their love of learning. We don't want to connect the feeling of shame with learning. Being in Middle School, I will often find myself asking a student that has done something impulsive, "What were you thinking?"

It seems like a simple questions, but it is all about tone. The teacher tone that says, "What you did was wrong, bad, or weird and you should know better than to do that. What is wrong with you?"

As a neurodiverse person, you'd think I would be better at addressing students who are neurodiverse as well, but I make mistakes. I've been conditioned to react to certain behaviors and I need to continue to work on tone and interactions with students who show their neurodiversity in ways that do not look like ones I'm am accustomed to seeing. 

It is hard to go through a day feeling shame because my brain refuses to fit in with the rest of the brains around me. I will continue to ask for grace from those that know me and advocate for students who do not need to feel shame at school because they don't fully understand their own neurodiversity. 

Hugs and High Fives, 


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Neurodiversity and Exhaustion #EdChat #Neurodivergent

One of the things that people do not understand about Neurodivergent people is how tiring it can be to be neurodivergent. 

You see, hiding how neurodivergent you are on a day to day basis is tiring. It is easier to just hide the differences than it is to constantly explain to people why you are acting or responding a certain way. Constantly wearing a mask that shows everyone that everything is wonderful is taxing. It's really tough for the loved ones at home. 

At the end of a day of hiding neurodivergent tendencies, all filters are spent. All of the energy keeping it together has been spent and people at home get the husk of what remains. 

As adults, we are conditioned to keep "a stiff upper lip" or "fake it until you make it" approach to living life. That is easier said than done. For children who have not learned some, if any, coping techniques, the end of the day can be a minefield for parents. 

No easy solution can be found to solve all of the anxiety and exhaustion that being neurodivergent can bring.  The only thing neurodivergent people can do is ask others to be understanding and, for teachers specifically, think about the burden your neurodivergent students are carrying as they try to navigate childhood while trying to hide their neurodivergence from their peers. 

Lead with kindness. 


Monday, September 26, 2022

Can You Ever Just Be Whelmed? #MentalHealth #EdChat

That amazing idea is a direct quote from the amazing movie, "10 Things I Hate About You". The reason I have this quote bouncing around my head is because I have been thinking about the state of education for me and for thousands of other teachers around the world. To answer Chastity Church's question, yes, you can be whelmed

I feel like many teachers, myself included, are in this state of being. We are not overwhelmed with stuff going on, but we are not underwhelmed either. It is almost like we are waiting for that one last thing to push us from whelmed to overwhelmed. In terms of mental health, this can also be an exhausting place to live in your head. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is a type of anxiety that many people live with on a daily basis. It is weird though. You'd think that just being whelmed would be awesome. You are not dealing with too much or too little at the moment. It sounds good, but I think teachers have been conditioned to expect the worst. 

I teach in a pretty awesome situation. I know my sense of being whelmed pales in comparison to other educators whose sense of being whelmed is teetering closer to over than under. All I can think about are the different ways that I can avoid falling over the edge to overwhelmed. I wish there were easy answers. I wish that we didn't have to have active shooter drills as part of our new normal. Writing about these things can be very helpful for me and I appreciate everyone that listens and shares their thoughts with me. 

For all of the educators out there, I hope you have the pieces in place to help you find the balance you need in life to avoid becoming overwhelmed at work and underwhelmed by the support that is offered to you.