Education

Abundance in Education – One Tablet Per Child

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the next few posts, I am going to summarize the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“One Tablet Per Child” (177-179) talks about the importance of students having access to technology and the internet, especially in higher poverty areas where students are less likely to get a good education. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an organization that attempts to get a laptop, chomebook, or tablet in the hands of every student. The program has been very successful dropping truancy to zero, which means that students are feeling that what they are doing in school actually matters.

They quote a book called “The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – And What We Can Do About It,” by Tony Wagner. It talks about how half of the students that drop out of high school do so because they don’t feel like what they are learning is relevant, not because they didn’t have the ability to finish. I’m with them. I came close to dropping out because I felt like high school was a waste of my time. Luckily my parents would not let me and I had a lot of support to stay in school.

Having technology and teaching students to use it to learn whatever they need to learn is a transferable skill that applies to today’s world.  Maybe I should work harder to have more technology in the classroom. We have access to chromebook carts and ipad carts as well as the computer room. But it’s all first come first serve. I’m also not sure how to utilize it in a way that would make content more meaningful. Just more computerized. How do you use technology in the classroom to make the content more meaningful?

Do you agree that providing a laptop, chromebook, or tablet for every child would benefit their education? Why or why not?

Education

Abundance in Education – The Hole-in-the-Wall

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the next few posts, I am going to summarize the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“The Hole-in-the-Wall” (174-177) talks about a man who was concerned about students in areas that were higher poverty and where good teachers didn’t want to go. He mainly carried out his experiments in India, but his methods can be applied all over the world. One thing he did was have a computer station (theift-proof) out where children could get to it. Children that have never seen a computer or browsed the internet before. Children that didn’t even speak English. They played with the computer and even taught each other how to click on things and get on the internet and look things up.

In one of these towns, he challenged a group of students to learn biotechnology in English. These children were using a device they have never seen before to learn a subject they have never heard of in a language they didn’t speak. They did it. With two months of unsupervised study, this group of kids was able to get a 30 percent score on a test about the subject in English. Over the next two months they had an older girl act as a “tutor” even though she didn’t know any biotechnology. She just encouraged them and asked them questions to further their own learning. Their scores rose to 50 percent.

After doing more experiments to refine his method, he determined that schools could install computer stations – one computer for 4 students to collaborate on – give students specific questions to look into (ie “Was WWII good or bad?”) and offer Skype with older ladies who would encourage the students. When students were tested on what they learned, the average score was 76 percent. Even better, because they figured everything out on their own, the information was retained. When the students were tested again two months later on the same material, even though they had moved on to learn new material, their scores were about the same as the first time.

I love this. It uses the natural curiosity of children to get them to learn without a teacher. They have someone asking questions or giving them specific topic and someone occasionally encouraging them along the way, and they are able to educate themselves. I really like how this concept can be used with any group of students, no matter the location or the language. Of course, I don’t love the idea of not having a teacher, but the point of this method is to use it in places where there are no teachers, or there aren’t many teachers. I think, though, it could still be beneficial in the classroom. Many teachers give a group of students specific research topics with questions for them to answer and have them figure out how to find the answers online. I know I have done this. Have you? What are your thoughts and observations on this concept? Do you think this could be an effective method to bring education to students who don’t have access to good schools or teachers?

Health

Keto Mini Cheesecake

I have been doing Keto for a little over a month now and I finally figured out a good recipe for mini cheesecakes. This recipe is a combination/modification of my friend Jacob Philips’ recipe and this one I found online. I highly recommend swerve for the sweetener. I used the powdered version and it measures just like sugar.

Makes 12

Need bowl, mixer, muffin tin, and cupcake paper.

Crust:

¾ C Almond Flour

3 Tbsp Melted Butter

½ tsp Vanilla Extract

½ Tbsp Cinnamon

½ tsp Sugar Equivalent

 

Cheesecake:

2 – 8 oz Blocks of Cream Cheese

½ C (or to taste) Sugar Equivalent

1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract

1 Egg

⅓ C Heavy Whipping Cream

Pull out blocks of cream cheese to soften (preferably 20-30 minutes prior to use).

Pre-heat oven to 350. Place 12 cupcake papers in the muffin tin cups.

Mix all crust ingredients in a bowl until it resembles a dough. Scoop a little into each muffin cup – try to get an even amount in each. Use spoon or fingers to flatten out the crust. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes.

Place one block of cream cheese and ¼ c sugar equivalent in bowl and blend with mixer. Scrape down sides, add second block of cream cheese and blend. Scrape down sides, add ¼ c of sugar equivalent and vanilla and blend. Add egg and blend. Add heavy whipping cream and blend just until well-mixed and stop.

Use an ice cream scoop and evenly spoon batter into each muffin tin cup. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. The batter will rise some and when it’s done it should have browned a little and be cracking.

Set in fridge for 24 hours or let cool on counter for 10 minutes then place in freezer for several hours. Take out and let thaw for 15 minutes before eating.

 

Poetry

Beach Beauty

Crashing waves bringing in squeals of delight.

Fire in the sky.

The bright blue calm of twilight.

Moonlight reflected on the water.

Contrast of white sand and blue sky.

Beach beauty has nothing to compare.

Though mountains are pretty in their own right,

the sandy hills of oat-covered dunes

with rabbits scurrying through and wind brushing the grass

is unique to the wild consistency of the beach.

The wind never stops here, the waves always crash.

Storms roll in and out keeping everything cool and hydrated.

Sand as white as snow, but hot enough to burn.

It never leaves your feet.

Pink skin and happy faces – peace can be found here.

Peace in the crashing waves.

Peace in the constant breeze.

Peace in accepting sand will forever be on the floor and furniture.

Peace in being.

Peace

in Beach Beauty.   

Education

My Ideal Class

I had my ideal class the other day, and it was glorious. Of course I’ve had ideas of an ideal class in my head, but to see and recognize it in person has given me a very specific image of what it is – and I love it. I am writing it here, not to show off, but to remember this. This is what I will  keep in mind as my end goal when I am working on my badass classroom management plan and my kickass lesson plan over the summer so I can have this on a regular basis the follojwing school year. I don’t feel like I had much to do with this one, so I am going to describe the class, and then I’ll describe all the factors I believe were involved.

The lesson was on balancing equations, and it was an independent activity with the option to work together when stuck on a problem. I have not taught this to them yet, so the packet included all the information they needed plus practice problems.

The first 5-10 minutes of class involved me getting the students to get and stay on task – that part was obviously not ideal. However, once everyone got cracking, it was. The first 15-20 minutes of them working, I was going around answering questions and working problems with the students to get them started or unstuck on one of the first few problems; then there were no more questions. Once everyone had gotten going, they kept going. If a student got stuck, they asked someone in their group and the group would start working on it as a team. One group even went to the board to work out problems because they worked better that way. I had no involvement in the last 20-25 minutes of class other than to give permission for students to use the bathroom. Everyone was on task, the talking level remained at a good volume, we had music playing, and students worked with each other when getting stuck instead of calling me over. One group asked me which problem was the hardest, and when I told them which one I was not able to do, they took the challenge. They started working it out on the board. The bell rang and they didn’t slow down. Some students stopped by to lend a quick hand before going on to class. The tardy bell for the next class rang, and they were still engrossed. They finally figured it out and I gave them late passes for their next class. It was beautiful.

This was a pre-ap class, so these are students who ask questions beyond the scope of the lesson and are thirsty for knowledge. This was also something they had done before in 8th grade (they are mostly 10th graders now). Once they had a refresher, many of them remembered how to do it and ran with it. I did have to yell at them about the noise level about 5 minutes into class. Towards the middle of class, when the noise level was a good volume, I pointed out that the current volume level was perfect and exactly what I expected when working together like this. These factors, combined with the independent lesson (that came from the other chemistry teacher) allowed for me to see what an ideal class for me looks like and what I would like to strive for when planning the next year.

I say this is my goal next year and not this year because this is my first year teaching, and I already experienced major burn-out last semester from trying to do too much too soon. I will not be making that mistake again. My goal this semester is to work on my classroom management skills, which are majorly lacking; learn from my mistakes so I don’t repeat them; figure out things I want to do and don’t want to do for next year; and just try to do my best with what I have. As much as I want to plan my own lessons, I don’t have the time to reinvent the wheel. I can find or make things to add in here and there, but I’m not going to try and do my own unique lesson plan right now. Anyway, I diverge.

Tell me what your ideal classroom looks like. Have you ever seen it, or something close to it? What helped you get there?

Education

Task Focused Students

It was pointed out after an observation that the majority of my students seem to be task-focused rather than learning-focused. This means that most of them just want to get the task at hand completed so they can move on. I don’t know if this is because completing tasks makes them feel more productive and gives them a sense of accomplishment, or if they just want to finish so they can watch videos and/or check notifications on their phones. I should not have let students have phones in class. Regardless, I have to figure out a way to get them learning-focused. Which means I have to find a way to make their grade based on their learning, and not their task-completion. Several of the teachers at my school have been moving towards this, so I have a network I can talk to, but I also need to figure out what will work for me and my classes.

The main thing these teachers seem to do is grade students based on whether they can verbally answer questions based on things they have been working on in class. If a student completes a worksheet correctly, but can’t answer any direct questions about the material that was on that worksheet, then we can know that the student wasn’t focused on the learning aspect, but on the task at hand. And possibly that student copied off someone else or looked it up online as students do.

But how to incorporate this into my class where task-oriented has already been heavily established. That, I’m not 100% sure. I can’t even get students to raise their hands when I ask a question like how many think it’s this answer vs that answer. I suppose the best time to start implementing something like this would be after the Thanksgiving break since that’s just a few days away. Which means I have 1 week to figure out at least one thing I’m going to implement in order to begin transitioning my class from task-oriented to learning-focused.

One way could be to make daily or weekly grades a thing. I could have a list of names and a check-mark system. Anytime they answer one of my verbal questions correctly, they get a check. And anytime they volunteer to try and answer something, as long as it’s somewhat on the right track, they get a check. And they need a certain number of checks a week for a passing grade, more for a B, and more for an A. That might be too big a thing to start with, though. That might be something good to implement after Christmas break, but maybe I could do a smaller-scale version after the Thanksgiving break, like require them to only answer one question correctly a week for an A. Or maybe one for a C, two for a B, and three for an A. That would certainly make them have to pay attention enough to parrot back answers to me. Which is a start.

I watched a biology teacher give a verbal quiz where she showed a student a state of cell division through a microscope and they had to tell her what state it was in. If they couldn’t, they got a 50, and if they could, they got a 100.

Whatever I do, I have to do something. My test scores are getting worse and worse and it’s because the students aren’t learning, no matter how much practice I give them.

Do you recall taking a class where the set up made you be more focused on learning than on just completing the assignments? What made it that way? If you’re a teacher, have you ever implemented something to try and make the class more learning-focused? Did it work? Why or why not? If you’re not a teacher, but have a suggestion, I would love to read it. Perspectives from teachers, students (past or present), parents, and concerned community members are always useful and appreciated!

Education

Setting Expectations

As a new teacher, setting expectations is the thing I find most difficult, and the thing in which I’m most lacking. It’s hard to set expectations from day one when you have no idea what to expect. I had been told several times that I needed to set expectations and the students would live up to them, whether they were high or low, and to be careful to not set low expectations. So part of it is you’re not supposed to “know what to expect” because you’re supposed to set the expectations for the students to live up to. But that’s difficult to do when you don’t know what expectations are needed. I didn’t know what kind of cell phone expectations I should have and enforce or that I needed to expect students to write in full sentences. I did expect students to write in full sentences, since I teach high school, but it never crossed my mind as an expectation that needed to be expressed or modeled in any way. Knowing expectations and setting expectations are two different things as well. I expected after the first month of enforcing the dress code I wouldn’t need to enforce it anymore. Students automatically took of their hats upon walking into the building and everyone had the holes on their pants patched. However, as time went on, I started noticing students wearing hats in class and me not catching them because I wasn’t expecting to have to enforce the expectation to not wear hats indoors. Kids are tricky like that, following rules so well at first that you stop looking to reinforce them because it had become unnecessary. It’s like they know when you stop looking for a policy to be followed and that’s the instant they stop following it. I guess it’s important to come to school every day with the same expectations and expecting to have to reinforce those expectations.

Setting and enforcing these have been extremely difficult and certainly my weakest area. Part of it is me not knowing what my expectations are, or at least not having a clear, specific idea or list of them. Part of it is not being 100% sure myself what a final product should look like because I’m not the one who came up with the assignment and haven’t done it myself. I’m working on that. I’m trying to take time to either do the assignment myself or look at good examples from the other chem teacher so I know what good work should look like.

Another problem is that I feel like this unit is lost already because I failed so miserably with teaching it that I just want to get it over with already and move on to hopefully do better on the next unit. The test is two days away and the students are less than prepared. Some of them will be fine despite my “help.” but I expect a high fail rate on this test. Which is part of the problem since students meet your expectations whether high or low. I can’t help being a realist on this, though. I just need a break. Good thing we get three days off for Thanksgiving! Wish it was a week, but I’ll take my three days plus the weekend and be grateful.

Okay, so to fix this.

First, I need to define specific expectations I have of my students, whether or not I think they’re realistic. I have to treat them as if they are. I need these expectaions to be as detailed as possible for myself so I am able to correct student behavior accordingly. Once I have my list, I can think of ways to express my expectations and the consequences of not meeting said expectations. I need to this for day-by-day expectations and for assignment-specific expectations. Good thing I’m organized and like making lists! Hopefully, this will help me get better and laying out specific expectations for my students, and once they experience or witness the consequences a few times, they will start working to meet these expectations. It will certainly be an uphill battle since I have been letting some things go for some time now, but if I jump in after this break, maybe they won’t notice as much. They’ll eventually get used to it and forget that it was ever any different. Afterall, they can’t even remember what we took notes on yesterday 😛

I would love some feedback on setting expectations in the classroom. What expectations do you have for your students and how do you express those expectations? How do you express expectations of an assignment in order to get something that actually looks nice as well as being accurate in the end? What advice would you give a first year teacher on setting expectations?

Education, Personal

Silly Ambitions to be a “Perfect” Teacher My First Year

(This is being posted about 5 days after written because internet was out at the time and I was too overwhelmed to remember to post this later.)

I think I’m taking on too much. Actually, I know I’ve taken on too much. I just wanted so badly to be…perfect. I’ve been told, in one form or another, what makes a great teacher, and I just expected to be able to do it all my first year, armed with all this knowledge and training. That was my mistake. Everyone else made a collaborative mistake of giving me tons of training, resources, information, and advice with no time to actually process it all and come up with a plan. Small bits of time were given in between barrages of information, yes, but that’s not enough for me. I like to take it all in at once, let it soak and simmer, and then sit down and make a plan. But I didn’t have that opportunity, so I dove in expecting to be able to do it all. And I can’t. I have to admit that to myself (but not my students, of course).

What I need to do is pick out limited bits that I know I can do while also creating my own lesson plans, (although thanks to an awesome teacher who has given me hers from the past ten years, modified over time, I don’t have to start from scratch – just tweak it to make it my own) learning all the administrative stuff, getting training on the evaluation system, and also working with someone in the alternative certification department to do everything I need to for my internship year.

First, I need to let go of the idea of homework. I didn’t want to do it in the very beginning anyway. It wasn’t until I read up a little bit on the matter that I decided it would be a good idea to use it as part of my differentiated instruction. But I need to throw that out the window. It’s just too much for me in my first year. The problem is, I already told the student that homework was part of their grade. I’ll just tell them that after a department meeting, we came to the consensus to throw out homework this year, and anything they don’t finish in class can be homework. I doubt they’ll mind, although I did assure that I would use homework to help fill in any information gaps. I can tell them I’ll find a way to incorporate that into class time.

Next, I need to find a way to do simplified differentiated instruction in the classroom. Since all classes elected to have phones in class, I could use that to have the visual learners watch a video, the auditory learners listen to a lecture, and the kinesthetic learners to make something related to the lesson. Maybe my goal for that should be a once or twice per unit, kind of thing.

Finally, I need to let go of the idea that I am going to uniquely engage every single student, and just do what I can when the opportunity presents itself. Handle attitude issues with positivity and attempt to engage, but not be too pushy for those that just refuse to do anything.

I also need to stop caring about push back. It has stopped me from dealing with the back pack issues that I am having. They need to be fully out of the way, and the students just aren’t quite doing that. Maybe that’s something to fix in a class discussion and see how they would prefer to handle it. I’ll start by asking why it’s such a big deal to have their back packs away from them. I suppose, logically, if they can find a way to make it so we don’t trip all over them as we are walking around the room, and keep it with them, then that would be acceptable. I think I just need to have a conversation with them like adults.

Speaking of talking to them like they’re adults, I need to tone that down some too. Great teachers are caring and make connections with their students, which is what I attempted to do, but I opened up too much in the wrong way and have already caused some issues. I can own up to that and correct it though. I am very fortunate to have a principal that has my back and that is super understanding. She explained things in a way that I hadn’t realized and informed me that I have opened some doors for some students, making it a possibility that one or more may come to me with their own issues that are similar to the one I shared and she taught me a beautiful way to handle that. I’m really hoping to avoid talking to the parent, but if I need to, I know I can handle it.

I’m hoping the overwhelmingness of taking on too much is what has been keeping me up at night and keeping my heart racing and stomach turning all day long. The only time I fell relaxed and happy lately is during class when I’m teaching. I guess that’s a good sign that I’m in the right field. I just need to find more ways to lower the amount that I’m trying to take on in my first year without lowering the quality of my students’ education. And I really think I can.

If you’ve gotten through all of this, I would like to thank you for letting me vent all this out. It has been really helpful for me, and I would love any feedback, advice, or just words of encouragement you have to offer. Affirmations that I can do this and words of encouragement are probably the thing I need most in life right now.

Education, New Beginnings, Personal

I am About To Be a Teacher

I am about to be a high school chemistry teacher.

This is what I keep saying to myself over and over until I believe it. I’ve done the training and have all the advice and resource to have a theoretically great start. It’s quite a leap for someone who gets social anxiety and recharges her energy at home alone to go from an office job with social interactions being limited to a few friendly coworkers, to a classroom where she’ll have to guide and interact with over a hundred students on a daily basis.

I am about to be a high school chemistry teacher.

So far, it’s been a lot of fun, actually. I’m a very analytical person and I LOVE organizing. This means that I am really enjoying all the planning and learning that goes into my first year. It’s fun to me to put together my classroom management plan, my lesson plans, and organizing all the resources that I think I will find helpful as I continue to create said management plan and lesson plans. I even got a tablet for my birthday so I can organize all my school stuff on it and play around with apps that I could have my students use in the classroom as part of their learning activities. I’m even enjoying researching more resources and reading them. I still haven’t a clue how I want to set up my classroom, but there are lots of articles with information and advice on it that I am more than happy to read.

I am about to be a high school chemistry teacher.

Occasionally I’ll think about the fact that one day soon I will be presenting my management plan and my lesson plans to actual students, and that is terrifying. Kids are intimidating, no matter what age. At least to me. Adults are intimidating too. Big dogs running towards me with a big grin? The only reason I flinch is because I hate the slobber. But I’ll take that over talking in front of 30 teenagers. I suppose, if I really think about it, teenagers are a lot less intimidating than adults. Yes, some of them act like tough bullies, but as adults we all know there’s most likely a scared kitten just beneath the surface, and kittens are not intimidating. Part of my training was how to handle major behavior problems and students with any kind of mental disorder like ADHD or anxiety. I know many accommodations that I can put into place for all kinds of different students. It’s just a matter of figuring out what student needs what and putting it into place. And I’m good at puzzles. Being good at organization will also help with this area. And it’s not like I’ve never taught a class before. At least high schoolers are easier to deal with than middle schoolers, which is what I want to eventually teach because they need the most help, but that’s way too much intimidation too early.

I am about to be a high school chemistry teacher.

The more I say it, the more real it becomes. It brings down my excitement level so I can get back into reality, but it also brings down my anxiety level so I can realize I actually do have the tools and the ability to succeed at this. Yes, teenagers still seem intimidating, but if I can keep in mind that they are still kids who just need help and guidance in life, then I think I can handle it. After all, helping others to help themselves is the reason I wanted to switch from engineer to teacher. My job is to give them the tools, resources, and guidance they need to learn to succeed. And that is something in which I feel confident I can do.

I am a high school chemistry teacher.

Inspired

Our Need for a Purpose

A friend of mine recently made the comment that she was wanting to “find a purpose”. I think that’s something we all share. We all want to find our purpose in life. We all want to find a way to make a difference, to better ourselves, and to better the world. Sometimes we feel this desire so strongly that it feels like a need, like we might die without it. But where did this need come from? I guarantee you that my cat has no such need or desire. He could care less about finding his purpose or bettering himself in some way. He just wants food, water, belly rubs, head scratches, and to finally catch that elusive red dot. He is purrfectly content playing, napping, eating, and grooming all day long. So why aren’t we?

While it certainly seems like we are content working just enough to pay the bills and watching Netflix all day, deep down inside most of us aren’t. We may enjoy it at the time, but there’s that nagging voice deep within us telling us we should be doing more. We should be reading, writing, creating, exercising, and planning in order to improve ourselves. We look for our purpose in the things we make, the ways we improve, the volunteer work we do, and the career path we choose. We want to find a way in which we can contribute that will give us that sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.

Where does this come from? What part of our brain developed this inner voice pushing us to do better instead of being satisfied with just enough? Where along the evolutionary trail did we develop this need? And why do we have it? What purpose does this almost primal feeling serve that drives us to work harder and nags us when we relax?

Perhaps it’s sociological. Improving oneself and the community is rewarded with praise, admiration, and increased social status. Whether it’s having a fit body, working with a charity, or being knowledgeable in trivia, we are impressed by skills, knowledge, and selfless acts shown by others.

Or perhaps it’s instinctual. When the community is improved, it improves our own lives as well. Being fit or talented can help when threatened. And when people are in awe of someone, it’s easier for that person to manipulate his/her fans for self-gain.

Whatever the reason, we all have this drive to find that sense of purpose. That one thing that will give us a sense of fulfillment and help leave our mark on this world. Have you found yours?

What do you think causes this need for purpose? Why do we need this type of fulfillment? What purpose have you found for yourself? How did you discover it? Or are you still searching?

Me? I want to be a teacher, a writer, a mentor, and a mother.