Monday, August 11, 2014

My Back To School Advice For New and Veteran Teachers #NTChat #EdChat

It is that time of year again and it is crazy to think that some educators are already back to school and some are very close. There is always a bit of craziness that takes over as teachers get ready for the start of the school year. During this time of preparation, some very important things can be forgotten. I want to take a few moments and remind everyone in the education world to do a few things this school year that will make the school year a little bit better.

Reflect:

This is a big one for me and one of the most often forgotten parts of teaching during the school year. It easily forgotten because it takes up time and educators are constantly under a time crunch. Time needs to be carved out each day or every other day to reflect on what has happened in the classroom and with the lessons created. The only way to truly grow in the profession is to honestly reflect on what happens each day. Don't just point out the things that do not work, look for the things that were awesome. Keep these reflections written down somewhere. They can be in a single Google Doc that is for personal use or it could be on a blog for the world to see. If writing is not a great medium, try a video blog and save all of the reflections in a private YouTube channel. Reflections allow all educators to take the time to truly review their work and make the changes necessary to be better.

Me Time:

Always budget for "Me Time". All educators are busy with their job, extracurriculars, family, and many other commitments, but there needs to be time set aside just for you. This time could be an hour or two over the weekend, 30 minutes alone with your coffee before school starts, or 90 minutes gaming at the end of the night. No matter what it is, this time is important for any person in a high stress job because it allows them clear their head. This time will make a better educator in the long run and a better person when hanging out with friends and family.

Listen:

Sometimes, the first few days of the school year are so busy, we forget to listen to our students. We hear them, but sometimes we are not listening. The first few days are crucial for the teacher/student relationship. These students need to decide if they are are going to trust their teacher for the whole year. They need to know if you are the person they can go to if they are stressed. If the students see a crazed person that is just going through the motions playing catch up, they will not be invested in the class or their teacher. Slow down and give the student the most important thing a teacher can give most kids, your time. One of my favorite practices is something I call "The First Five". The first five minutes of every class (give or take a minute here and there) is where I go around the room and engage students in conversation about all things not class related. I get to know them and their lives and just listen to them go on about what is important to them. These few minutes create a lasting relationship in class and it lets the students know that I care about them beyond their classroom abilities. It is never a bad thing to just sit and listen to your students.

Ask for help:

Whether you are a veteran teacher or a new teacher, there is a fear of asking questions. The idea that you might not know the answer to something or that you might need help is scary because people might think you are not a good teacher or administrator. Asking for help is something all of us have to do from time to time and it is nothing to be ashamed of doing. Asking for help is something that should be done more often and modeled for students whenever possible. We are living in a world where collaboration is vital an getting feedback from others is so easy. We need to be comfortable in not knowing everything and asking for help when we need it. The more people ask for help, the more others will do the same and we can all start to work as a community on solving similar problems. We are all in this together, so let's starting asking for help and helping those who need it.

These are four things that teachers can work on as they start the school year. In my experience, these four things can really make a positive impact on how the school year will turn out. Feel free to leave any other advice in the comments that you think can help all of us start the school year in the right direction.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Classroom Cribs

This is a guest post from Erin Klein for Classroom Cribs. It is awesome.

As we look towards the 2014-2015 school year, one question continually jumps out to me as an educator: How do our learning spaces impact our students?

As a new English teacher I remember getting into my classroom for the first time. I set up the space like classrooms I had seen before; I got my lesson plans in order; packed the filing cabinets with resources; started to make copies of overhead slides; put together an area for reading and stacked the shelves with books I had picked up in college or from my parents house.
Then the students arrived, and all my plans went out the window. I realized very quickly that the type of teaching I had been exposed to and grew up with, and the type of teaching taught at many undergraduate programs…was quickly becoming a past practice. That’s not to say many of the pedagogical and instructional strategies I learned don’t stick with me today (the good ones always will) but these students were different learners than I was…and at the time I was only 22 years old.
Flash forward nine years and the classrooms look very different in my same school district. In the two years since my district began a technology initiative our classrooms have evolved once more. Throughout this process I have tried my best to stay on top of where education is headed and what are the emerging “next” practices. Yet, one area that needs to be improved and is often overlooked is our learning space designs.
How We Design Our Classroom Matters
Brain-based learning theory has been around for a long time, and it has been used to improve the classroom experience in many schools around the world. However, I was shocked how hard it was to find great resources on re-designing learning spaces when I started down the path of re-designing my own school’s learning environment.
Luckily, there are a number of creative and inventive teachers and leaders who have designed their spaces with purpose. In order to share our own work with learning spaces, and the awesome work of others in education, we’ve started a new website: ClassroomCribs.com.
Classroom Cribs is our hub for “brain friendly learning spaces”. Our mission at Classroom Cribs is to enhance pedagogy and the learning experience with brain-based classroom designs that students will love. And that is the main point. We can (and should) create better learning environments for our students. Spaces that are centered around research and what works.
We recently launched ClassroomCribs.com and would love for you to visit and join over 1000 educators who are learning more about learning spaces from our newsletter. And to kick things off, we are starting the first ever “Classroom Cribs Challenge” on August 14th.
The Classroom Cribs Challenge
Remember MTV Cribs? We thought, what if that same concept of Cribs...met the classroom! From August 14th to September 14th we’ll be running a challenge that anyone can join. Here’s the details:
1. Rethink your learning space with the student in mind. What changes will enhance the learning experience?
2. Redesign your learning space and show us how you did it: Take pictures and video.
3. Create a 3-min "Cribs" video showing off your new learning space. Include a 250 word (or less) rationale for “why” you made the changes.
4. Submit your video, rationale, and bio to have a chance to be featured on our site and win great prizes!
How to Get Started
Come visit ClassroomCribs.com today and join our newsletter. We’ll keep you updated with new articles, videos, and more free design resources sent straight to your inbox. Then when August 14th rolls around, we’d love to see your learning space transformation as part of the Classroom Cribs challenge!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Am A Google Certified Teacher! Now What? #GCTMTV #GCT


I'm so pumped to be a Google Certified Teacher! A crazy weekend full of awesome people sharing awesome ideas. Hanging out with these great people at Mountain View was simply an amazing experience. I was exposed to some new and different tools that could really impact the way I run my classroom and I gained some experience with an Android device, which is something I needed to do. It was a great weekend, but I had a question on the way home.



The big question for me is, "Now what?"

Am I supposed to run out and change the world right away? Am I the "go to" guy when it comes to all things Google? Am I supposed to know Everything about Google? I had a moment of anxiety after it was all over, but I had my new friends to fall back on for support and it all clicked.


Like all great things I figured out, it was reflection that showed me the answer. While I did learn some amazing new things at GTA, there was more to it than just new things. For me, it was all about the connections. I am not part of a community of passionate and likeminded educators that came together based on their love for Google. That is just how we were connected. Many of us had so much more in common than the tools we use to educate. I met some people that I now consider good friends. These are people that picked me up when I was down and supported me when I was lost. All of that happened over the course of an intense weekend. We worked on mini projects, had meals, and +Dominique Dynes even ran 3 miles with me in the morning. If that is not the trait of a good friend, I'm not sure what is. 

+Dominique Dynes +David Saunders and In and Out Burger

I quickly felt comfortable around these educators. I know I can be a huge nerd, but sometimes it is tough for me to jump into a new situation where I really don't know others very well. It didn't take long for me to let my inner nerd become my outer nerd. Here are just a few examples.


Minute to Win It competition completed in 6 seconds
I have teamed up with some amazing educators to work on our Action Plan (Stay tuned for info on that soon) and I couldn't be more excited. GTA is more than just becoming a Google Certified Teacher. It's about the connections you make with the people in your cohort and all of the previous and future GCTs. This community is going to be another tool for me to use when I'm looking at doing things differently and trying to give my students the best educational experience possible.

I'm very lucky to be part of the Google Certified Teacher Community and I can't wait to engage in tons of educational wackiness with them in the near future. Thanks for everything +Google for Education for making these connections possible.

#GTAMTV14

Monday, July 28, 2014

More Learning Spaces Thoughts #NerdySpaces @Bretford

I've been thinking more about my #NerdySpaces I want to create in my classroom and I've been doing some cruising around the Internet and ideas have been been piling up, so I thought I would share them here. I stopped by Bretford this weekend and these are some of things that I found.

Note: These might not be the exact items I try and purchase, they just are giving me ideas for what I would like as a concept.

Desk/Table Top Areas

Bretford Explore 4-Leg Activity Table

I love the idea behind this table because it allows the desks to be moved into groups to create larger tables, but can be used as solo desks for students who want/need to work alone. This would fit nicely with the idea of 20 Time so my students can be in groups most of the week, but can break off into solo spots to work on their project. I'm really looking for something that allows easy mobility. This desk would fit what I was looking for in my room.


Explore 4-Leg Teaming Table

This is one of those "dream big" items. I love the idea of having a few of these around the room so students can work together and present their work to their group easily. I think a a couple of groups could be set up at each table to present their work to the others and get feedback. Using Google Docs or SMART Amp in these groups would be a great way to create a more collaborative environment for the students. I also the love chairs on wheels. That's next. 


Chairs on wheels make perfect sense when you pair them with tables on wheels. The students can easily move around the room and form big groups or small groups. Tables can quickly be moved aside for other projects that require more room. These can be stacked as well, so they can be moved out of the way. They have armless versions as well, but I like resting my arms on chairs, why wouldn't I want students to?

These are just a few of the ideas that have come across my mind as I have been checking out various vendors and the different options they offer. I love the looking at these items for inspiration. They are allowing me to think about my teaching as a whole in a new light. Instead of looking at what it is in my room right now and planning lessons around that space, I'm planning with an empty room in mind and the room will be created by what the lessons will need. That is how it should be. 

I'll keep surfing the web looking for inspiration for my room and I will try and find other items out there that might make my room best for teaching and learning. 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Let's Experiment #edchat

Parenting is full of awesome new adventures every single day. My son is three and has decided that every answer I give has the complete and total possibility of being wrong. "Maybe it is" is his response when I tell him something g is not the way he thinks it is or something is not possible. He constantly questions and suggests that my answer might not be correct. For some, this could be maddening, but I've learned to turn it into something fun for us.

I taught Leo the word Experiment. Sometimes I tell him we will do an experiment to see which one if us is correct. Yesterday at the park had a perfect example. Here was the exchange,

Leo: Daddy, to down the slide with me.
Dad: I'm too big for the slide. I will get stuck.
Leo: Maybe you won't. Do a 'speriment. 
Dad: OK, let's see. (Fearfully goes down the slide, but thankfully does not get stuck.)
Leo: I told you! You didn't get stuck! (Gleefully runs around enjoying his moment of rightness.)

I look at this moments and the other moments where he tried out ideas of his own and learned the answer and it makes me excited. Even when his idea did not work out, he sometimes still questioned my answer and tried to think of other alternatives. Other times he accepted the new knowledge and moved to the next shiny object that got his attention. This is what learning is all about. Where has this yearning for knowledge and understanding gone in our students and our teachers?

For teachers, how often do we choose not to try something new because others have said it will not work? How often have we told students not to do something because we thought it might not work? 

20 Time has allowed my students to try things and fail. I saw it first hand and it was glorious. What about teachers though? How often are they willing to experiment and try new things? How will they learn if they never try and fail? 

I encourage all teachers out there to try and experiment this new school year. Take the ideas you have always wanted to try and the ideas others have said would fail and experiment. Make the attempt and do not be out off by failure. Learn from each experiment and grow as a teacher. Each failure will only bring you closer to a huge success later.