This summer I came across an article about homework, "Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let's ban elementary homework."
This is a subject near and dear to my heart, because I have watched year after year students frustrated, stressed, and worried about homework, and most of them not over the age of 11. Seriously, students 5-11 worried about the amount of homework, crying and stressed at home due to additional school work, and parents calling in a panic because their child is doing fine in school BUT not on their homework. The article discusses how education is placing a wedge between students and the love of learning. Homework does NOT help students love school, it does NOT help our students "study better," nor does it have an impact on student's academic success. Yes, I once gave homework, and encouraged evening reading, but knowing what I know now, I could never go back to giving homework.
Last year, I was encouraged to watch a movie called, "A Race To Nowhere." It was one of the most eye opening movies about the stress we (parents & educators) are placing on today's students. There were many tearful moments when I saw myself in this video as a parent and a teacher. I had a long discussion with my thirteen year old son about this movie, and asked him to watch it also. We then openly discussed his opinions and views, and how I could help make things better. Being a teenager is already one of the most stressful times, hormones and finding your identity. I could no longer see myself in the roll of homework enforcer. I encourage all teachers and parents to watch this video that you can find on Netflix.
So now what?
Throughout my years in education, one of the most consistent pieces of information I have come across that put students over the edge is: HOMEWORK!
Yes, homework, the redundant process of showing the skills you have already mastered, or the time to do your work because there was no time in class.
If, in fact, homework is the one of the major sources of stress, and research has shown that homework is not beneficial to elementary age students, then WHY ARE WE GIVING IT?
I challenge you to do what is best for students and their success in school. This year, make a difference and tell your students you are NOT giving homework. Watch their faces, listen to the sighs of relief and the cheers of excitement. Doing what is best for students, sometimes is realizing we have to change.
The challenge: #nohomework
What will you do this year? How will you take a stand for students?
As many are mourning the end of summer, I have to secretly admit, I am anxiously waiting for that first day of school. At least a week before the start of every school year, I begin losing sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and my mind won't shut off.
I love the beginning of the school year!
It's a time to reorganize the room, plan new and innovative lessons, collaborate with colleagues, and get a new group of students that I call, "my kids!" They aren't just my students, they are "my kids." I get to learn about their summer, their family, their sports, their passions, and so much more. I look forward to this every year. As students enter the building with such excitement, and anticipation, I too am filled with such emotions.
As I gear up for the new school, here are my goals and aspirations:
I love this video about Moon Shot thinking, and share it with my students!
This list could go on and on, but this school year, we are going to do things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. We are going to shoot for the moon, and reach for the stars, because before I even know them, I know they are out of this world!
Welcome back students!
Your crazily excited teacher!
As an educator, there is one thing that is consistent in what all educators have to do - professional development. The number one complaint about professional development is most of the time it is a one size fits all, sit and get style. Today, educators are seeking out differentiated professional development that is personalized to meet their needs. I have attended many conferences, workshops, PD throughout my years of teaching and have found the "palooza" of professional development, iPadpalooza.
iPadpalooza is a learning festival that takes place at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. This event is NOT just any ordinary PD, it's a learning festival that brings educators together to learn, connect, and celebrate. I have had the opportunity to hear from keynote speakers like Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra, Guy Kawasaki, and this year Austin Kleon. All of this is put together by Carl Hooker, Director of Innovation & Digital Learning in the Eanes Independent School District. He is the founder of this learning extravaganza, and brings a unique perspective to learning. Here is what the week of iPadpalooza looks like:
Pre-palooza & iLead Academy:
Tuesday was the beginning of the conference which held pre-palooza sessions that included makerspace, robotics, coding, drones, and more.
While the iLead Academy was an event to grow classroom, campus, and district leaders. This Academy was lead by George Couros, author of Innovator's Mindset. I was fortunate enough to attend this Academy and walked away with many ideas to take back to my campus.
THE THREE DAY EVENT:
This year the main event began with a slow jam recognizing the sponsors of the event performed by Carl Hooker, Felix Jacomino, and Judy Jacomino.
Here are just a few things you can experience in the three days of iPadpalooza!
If you love challenges & competition, then the appmazing race is for you. Once you have signed up with a team of 3 or 4 other racers, then the race begins with a list of many challenges that have to be completed and submitted. There are many selfies, pictures of others, silly team building moment, photobombs, created designs, costumes, and more!
iPadpalooza Youth Film Festival:
My students have participated the last two years in this film festival. If students move on to the semi-finals then their film is shown on the big screen at Alamo Drafthouse. The students love making videos and there are so many learning opportunities in creating and filming movies. This year our district had 7 films move on to the semi-finals, and Congrats to Walter Bristol, from Rooster Springs Elementary, Dripping Springs ISD, who won the Film Festival with his film: Abductor
Pick your own session:
Here is one of the best parts of iPadpalooza, you can pick your own session to attend. What do you want to learn? What will help you grow? There are so many choices that you shouldn't walk away empty handed or feel you have wasted your time.
SAVE THE DATE:
I can't say enough about the benefits of this event and the learning that it provides. If you have never attended iPadpalooza, then mark your calendars for next year's event: June 5th-8th.
Thank you, Carl Hooker for your amazing vision to begin such an amazing event! Until next year!
Classroom design is one of those 21st century ideas that seems to be considered last when thinking about making necessary changes to meet the needs of our 21st century students. However, I believe this is one of the first steps we need to take to bridge "what we use to do" with "what we are doing today." When talking about the skills that our students need, these soft skills of collaboration, critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, and time management, we have to look at classroom environment to help encourage these opportunities. When I think of today's classroom, my first vision is Starbucks. Not just because I love their Caramel Frappuccinos, but because of the environment that Starbucks has created. Starbucks has given thought to the design of the door handle when you enter, the flow, lighting and visual cues, seating options, and more. It might be why this coffee shop has become a multi-billion dollar company. It's not enough to have just good coffee. My first thought when thinking about changing the layout of my classroom, is always Starbucks. How do I create this type of environment that provides my students with the best opportunity to learn and become activite and engaged learners? I know, you might be saying, BUT what about the money, where will I get the funds or materials to create this awesome environment for our students. I too know the constraints of funds of a school district, but here are some great resources to help you redesign your classroom:
Connecting teachers in high-need communities with donors who want to help.
My favorite place to go and view pictures of what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. A place for inspiration, and building your own.
Online Garage Sales
People are selling furniture all the time on Facebook garage sales, and sometimes you can find some items for FREE! (Teacher's favorite cost: FREE!)
Yes, this is work, but worth every penny. This year, I wrote a grant called "A Grand Invention." I had asked for $1000 to help students build and create their own classroom furniture. So next year, students will be helping build furniture in their own classroom.
If you want to redesign your classroom, then don't let anything stop you! If you have great ideas of how to redesign on a budget, then please share. How did you get your inspiration? Where did you get the funds to redesign your classroom? Let's reach out and connect on building better classrooms.
I will continue to use Starbucks as my inspiration for the redesign of my classroom! I hope to have students walk into my class and say, this is awesome. While, I hope to have teachers, parents, and administration walk in and see amazing things happening. Not because they are silent, sitting in rows of desks, but because students are engaged and active in their learning. So while I drink my Caramel Frap, I will dream of the redesign I will create for my classroom next year. Thank you Starbucks, not only for the amazing coffee drinks, but for the classroom inspiration.
For the past year, I have tossed around the idea of blogging. As a lifelong learner, I love to learn and grow through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, google searches, book studies and more. I had mixed emotions about blogging, and I even had the blogging fears.
After seeing this picture one day, I realized that I need to get out of my comfort zone because I want to be where the magic happens! Learning and growth take place in that magic area. I have also realized that you can not grow if you aren't changing. Though the word "change" is a nerve rattling word, I have decided to exchange the word "change" with the word "grow." Maybe then "change/growth" won't be so scary.
Everyday as a teacher, I remind my students that if they want to make something happen then they have to do something about it. Therefore, I have to not just talk the talk, I have to walk the walk. I want my students to be risk-takers, therefore I have to take risks. I share with my students my failures and successes, and the lessons I learn from them.
So as I embark on this blogging journey, I encourage you to leave those blogging fears behind. I challenge you to write your first blog and share it with others. Get out of your comfort zone, and get to where the magic happens!
As we wind down another school year, I have had time to reflect on the year I have experienced with my students, colleagues, parents, family, and friends. I have had a very successful year learning along side of my students, and wanted to share my top 10 things I have learned this year.
#10 - I do NOT need a worksheet for my students to learn
I did not have to run one single worksheet this year, to have a successful year. We have heard of paperless Fridays, paperless Earth Day, etc... But I went the whole year without making a single worksheet copy for my students. I know some will argue that my classroom environment is set up different since I am teaching gifted and talented students in a pull out program. However, I was still successful in student's learning, teaching, and keeping kids engaged, without a single worksheet. Students do not learn better by completing worksheets. My favorite quote in my classroom is, "You never want to get on a plane where the pilot learned to fly from worksheets."
#9 - I do NOT need assigned seats to keep students focused and engaged.
I have an open seating arrangement in my classroom. Our "one rule" (see #4 below) allows for students to make choices of where they sit in the classroom. Students are allowed to sit and move to a desired, preferred location to work. Ownership is key.
#8 - I do NOT need to tell my students everything I want them to learn
Actually, quite the opposite. I mean how many times as a teacher do we say, "how many times did I say" or "didn't you hear me?" If I want students to learn something, I pose a question, and let the students research it, discuss it, debate it, and then tell me what they have learned. I also participate in this discussion to give my opinion, thoughts, and research. But I am always open to allowing students to disagree with me, because of course I am not always right. (PS please don't tell my husband)
#7 - Memorization of facts for the sake of memorizing is NOT helpful to our future leaders
If I can not tell my students why it is important and relative to their lives, then I do not teach it. I strive to explain the importance of skills, once I put it into real life scenarios then I watch my students understand and learn with complexity. My nephew recently had to memorize all the Presidents in order. Looking at this task, I can not remember a time, that I had to tell someone all the Presidents in order to be a successful adult. We have to stop and ask, if the purpose is not to grow, learn, and be able to take the information into the real world, then why do we do it. If students can find the answers to the questions we ask on the internet, maybe we are asking the wrong questions. I want to ask students: why, what do you think, explain your opinion, how did you get to your answer, and more!
#6 - Twitter has created some create connections, PLN, PD, and learning opportunities
Twitter has changed my focus in the classroom. I am surrounded by passionate, risk-taking, innovative life changers everyday by the people I follow on Twitter. I follow those that inspire me and motivate me to be the best teacher I can be. I have experienced a #mindshift about social media, and how it is impacting the field of education. My #PLN (Personal Learning Network) is amazing and I would not be the teacher I am today without them.
#5 - I will NOT curb my enthusiasm to what I think is best for students
Those that know me would describe me as a passionate, strong, technology proficient teacher that loves to have fun. In my journey I have realized that if I have strong convictions of doing what is right for students, I should no longer sit back and be afraid to share these amazing discoveries. I will continue to speak up, share, encourage, motivate, and inspire other teachers to continue on their learning journey as a teacher.
#4 - ONE Rule - You can do anything you want, as long as it doesn't cause a problem for someone else,
When my colleague began using only one rule in the classroom, I wanted to give it a try. So I dove in, head first. I told the students at the beginning of the year, we only have one rule. I tell the students they can do anything they want, as long as it doesn't cause a problem for someone else. The students who have never heard this rule, look amazed and confused. We discuss what this means, and then talk about how to let someone know when they are causing a problem for them. It's a great moment during the year, when you hear students telling others, "that's a problem for me." There are still times when adult intervention is needed, but it sure allows students to learn to handle problems in effective ways.
#3 - Student's Voice / Student's Choice
I begin every school year discussing with the students and how this is their classroom, and I want them to take ownership. I explain, that what we do this school year will depend on their passions, wonders, and questions. The most amazing thing happens when you give students a voice and choice. They become engaged and begin working hard, not because they have to, but because they want to and they are interested. At the end of every year, we do TIGER Talks (mini TED talks). The students prepare a talk, with slides, and memorize a 2-4 minute talk to give to other students and parents. They are amazing, and every year they bring me to tears. The moment you give them an opportunity to speak their mind and give them a voice, they share amazing facts and ideas. I would encourage anyone to do (Insert your title) Talks, your students will amaze you.
#2 - I do NOT believe in homework
I have been on a mission this year to share my passion against homework. I have personally been in a place where I was a big believer, but now after reflecting on homework's purpose, watching "Race to Nowhere," and reading statistics, I am NOT for it. In todays world, our kids do not have time to just "be kids." I want my students to have the opportunity to just "be kids." When research tells us that we are doing more harm then good by putting the additional stress and expectation on our students, then we need to STOP! We can no longer just say, that's what we have always done. Giving students homework does not make them better at doing homework. It does not make them become responsible students. Homework many times is just extra, busy work. I would encourage all teachers and parents to watch the movie "Race to Nowhere," and the new video soon coming out "Beyond Measure." The discussions in the movie are real, and impactful. I ask if you do one thing different next year, it's give NO homework.
#1 - Students do NOT just work hard on assignments/projects for grades
One of my favorite discoveries in my classroom is how hard my students work on projects, assignments, research, creating, etc...with nothing in return. I do not give grades, I do not give rubric scores, I do not give out trophies and medals. I do give praise and affirmation of the student's work and ideas. I do give students an opportunity to have voice and choice. I allow students to explore their passions. Students do NOT just work hard for grades and extrinsic items, but in fact will go over and beyond if given the opportunity to be part of the learn experience.
It's been another successful year, not only for my students, but for me as an educator. I hope to continue to grow as a teacher, and be the best risk-taking, innovative, inspiring teacher I can be.
In a recent Twitter post from my friend and colleague Lesa Haney, she referenced the infamous quote, "Think Outside the Box!" Here's what she posted:
This post got me thinking about how I too have encouraged my students to "Think Outside the Box." Though after careful reflection, I know if I tell my students to think outside the box, then that implies there is a box.
Wait a minute!
What box? Whose box is it? Who created it? Why is it there?
(screeching brakes sound)
I no longer want my students to think outside the "box" I want them to know there is NO box. Our instant world of information has allowed us to dream big, go for things that were once thought to be unattainable. So the next time you want to inspire your kids, don't just tell them to think outside the box, tell them there is NO box!