Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking Responsibility

responsibilityIn Encouraging Ownership from Ideas and Thoughts, Dean Shareski  shares,

“After every course I teach I receive an evaluation from my students. Typically 80% or higher provide with highly positive feedback. 10% are indifferent and 10% are less than satisfied. Most of the dissatisfaction revolves around lack of structure and timelines. This is partly my personal flaws and partly student preference and partly a communication failure. I take these evaluations seriously and don’t dismiss these critiques but really do try to improve.”

This really hit home to me because I’ve only been teaching on the university level for the past 7 years and the evaluations from the students still really hit home with me. In fact, I was just sharing this with my husband that I wish all of the evaluations would come back positive but every year there are 1 or 2 (out of 6-9 students) who are not happy with my class. I know I need to learn not to take it personally but I can’t seem to get past that.

I guess my biggest problem is that they seem to just complain but they don’t make any suggestions for what would make it better. I want my class to be a great class for everyone who takes it so that they get great value for the money they are investing. Hopefully they will learn great teaching strategies to make their classes more successful.

Unfortunately since this is a graduate class, there are certain requirements necessary for them to meet in order to pass the class. I go over the syllabus and I even put all of this on a wiki so that it is easy for them to access on their phones. Meeting deadlines, writing accurate reports, and punctuality are part of their grade in addition to the formal observations I do. Yet, they don’t seem to put the same effort into their paperwork as they do their observations and are always surprised when their grade is not as high as they expected.

. I’m told that I’m too nitpicky by expecting their reports to be written without spelling or grammatical errors even though these reports go home to the parents. Everyone was given the rubrics I use to evaluate the lesson plans and the classroom observation but when I don’t give credit for something not seen, it is obvious that they haven’t looked through the rubric ahead of time.

I take these evaluations seriously and each year I try to improve them so that the class is better each year and I think I have done that. I know that I won’t be perfect in anyone’s eyes because that is impossible but I’m such a perfectionist. But I resent that the students give negative feedback to me when it is their lack of taking responsibility which causes the problem.

I had a great principal that reminded us not to come to him with just complaints. If I have a problem, I needed to offer a possible solution. If I didn’t have one, I needed to discuss this with my colleagues and try to come up with one. He might not use the solution but it encouraged dialogue and problem solving.

I wish the evaluations would add questions like:

Did you have a problem in the class? Did you discuss it with the professor? Did you suggest a way to solve the problem?

The answers to this might have more impact and validate negative feedback better.

I also think that as professionals, we should not be giving anonymous evaluations since the evaluations are sent to professors after the grades are already turned in. I think if we are going to say something positive or negative about someone, we should be willing to stand behind it and give our names.

But this is just my opinion. What is yours? Please share.

Image: 'Worry less. Smile more. Accept criticism. Take+responsibility.+Be+quiet+and+listen.+Love+life.+Embrace+change.'
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Opening myself up

openingupIn Taking a Risk from Sioux's Page, Sioux asked,

“Was there a time when you shared with an audience/family member/friend and the results were encouraging?”

According to my husband, I share too much of everything with everybody! I try to be an open book because I want everyone to like me as I am, flaws and all. Of course I don’t open up right off the bat and have to get to know you before I tell personal stuff.

I try to share with my students that I don’t find a lot of things easy to learn as it may appear. I love to read and can learn anything I want to by reading but applying my learning always scares me. It is basically the fear of the unknown. Yet, the more I do, the easier it becomes, not because the actual task is easier but the fear of failure is not as scary. I am still learning that failure is not such a terrible thing. What is the worst that can happen? I might waste materials and time but no one and nothing has been hurt. I also learn what caused my failure and I can either decide to try again but in a different way or I can decide that I need to do something different. Either way, I have gained knowledge from this experience so all is not lost.

Many times my students like to listen to my personal stories of adventures in learning (or failures in learning as the case may be). Maybe it makes me more like them rather than up on a pedestal. They see that I “survived” from my many failures and that gives them hope.

A lot of my students have already faced so many failures by the time that they are in my class that they have given up hope. They feel as if they shouldn’t even bother trying because they will just fail again. It is my job to turn a possible failure into a reasonable success so we discuss “the worst thing” that could happen and then talk about what happens even if “the worst thing” happens. When we reason things out, they suddenly see that it is worth taking a risk and trying. In my class, nothing is really a failure and everything we do is a success as long as we try.

The more I open up with my students about how even I have a hard time learning, the more encouraged they are with trying. We also talk about individual strengths and weaknesses. All of the weaknesses seem magnified in a school setting because that seems what educators focus on. Suddenly they learn that they do have some strengths that other people may not have (including me).

Do you open up to others? What have been the results? Please share.

Image: 'Decisions, decisions...'
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Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Learning Place 2014 Week 3

Week 3 went smoothly and I think we are all getting in a rhythm that is working. The beginning of the week was rainy which kind of threw everyone for a loop. Some of the children were lethargic and I have to admit that the rain made me feel the same way. Our meltdown boy made it to the last 10 minutes of the day and the teacher walked him to the car.

Again, I saw some great lessons such as:

DSC_0038· Writing letters in shaving cream to practice letters and sounds.

· Jumping on the number line on the floor in order to add numbers.

· Learning to identify fact and opinion and practicing in learning centers.

· Learning how to ask questions about our reading.

· Older children learned to identify idioms and similes in their reading book.

· Older children learned about variables in an algebraic equation.

I have to say that I think the teacher’s blogs have been fantastic! I love reading their thoughts about the week and how their lessons go. Some reflections have been so insightful and thought provoking. I hope they continue to blog after the program ends because I would like to keep up with them and how their school year is going.

If you get a chance, please check out the teacher’s blogs and leave a comment for them.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, July 25, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 7/25/14

tools2Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Made from History – great resource for history teachers! Topics include WWI, WWII, Civil War, and Referenced Blogs (L:G; SA:T)

Antarctic Food Web Game – “This interactive game adapted from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences challenges players to build a food web, a complex model that shows how various food chains in an ecosystem are connected. Players must position the names of producers and consumers in the correct places in a diagram. The completed diagram reveals how energy flows through an Antarctic ecosystem and the relationships between predators and prey.” (L:M,H; SA:S)

Baby Names – “Using US census data this map looks at how names have grown and waned in popularity in different states since the early 1900s.” (L:G; SA:A)

Visits - With visits you can browse your location histories and explore your trips and travels. Our unique map timeline visualization shows the places you have visited and how long you have stayed there. Add photos from Flickr to your visits and share your journey with your family and friends! (L:G; SA:A)

Smarty Pins – A fun geography trivia game (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Photos A Day Projects

cameraIn B-Roll, Photo Collages, and Writing and Math Prompts from Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne shares about his Math Photo a Day project. He says,

“The project asks students to take photographs of things representing various topics and concepts in elementary school level mathematics.”

I thought this was such a great idea and can be used for any grade level and any subject. With the abundance of digital cameras and smart phones out there, most students would be able to do this as a homework assignment. If doing this daily is too hard, you can make it a weekly topic. If you don’t want to come up with the topics, have your students submit suggestions for topics. They say more heads are better than one and I bet that they would come up with suggestions that you never thought of.

I think this would also be great to reinforce social skills to those students who have trouble with this. It would make them more aware of their surroundings as well as looking for examples of the skill they learned. Finding their own examples would be more reinforcing then just showing them pictures that they don’t have any connections to. By focusing on others demonstrating a certain social skill, they have an example for a model.

For younger children, this would be a great way to work on vocabulary lessons, word sounds, syllables, and other decoding skills. They could also be the start of writing prompts. It is much easier to write about something you are interested in than a picture that the teacher plops in front of you.

For social studies, this would be a great way to look for comparisons in history. What things in today’s world would you not find in the 1950s? What things are still being used from the past? What things have the same concept as the past but have been modernized?

For science, look for examples of certain concepts. Have students take photos of levers and pullies. Take pictures of certain chemical elements or reactions. Pictures of different types of weather would also be fun.

As Richard Byrne said, this would be a great activity to involve parents in also. It would be such a fun activity that could be adapted to any level of student and I think they really would enjoy it.

What other suggestions would you have for a Photo A Day activity? Please share.

Image: 'Photomic (Help! I'm stuck in the 60s)'
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