What message are you sharing?

I recently had the privilege of sharing the closing remarks of the annual SDAMLE EdCamp. When I thought about what I would like to share, I thought about my journey to becoming a middle level educator.

You can check out the presentation here: SDAMLE EdCamp Keynote Closing

When I was going to school to become an elementary teacher I would hear the “horror stories” about teaching experiences. When I became a teacher I heard the same stories in the teacher’s lounge and in staff meetings. In addition to these horror stories I also heard the message that our training and professional development were terrible, boring or worthless. Yet, I kept teaching. I felt a bit weird because I loved being a teacher. I loved learning. So I was quiet and enjoyed any opportunities I had to connect with others who loved teaching and learning as much as I did. I started my career as an elementary teacher and I was terrified of middle school students– you know– I listened to those horror stories about all the other grade levels. 

But then I had the opportunity to teach in a K-12 position. I quickly discovered that my favorite time of the day was with my middle school students. The next year I took a position as a middle school technology teacher. I have found that Middle Schoolers are sarcastic, they are enthusiastic, and they are compassionate. They find humor in everything. Literally EVERY. THING. They have endless energy but small amounts of attention. Every day  is an adventure!  Imagine if I had listened to those horror stories? If I had not taken my learning opportunities seriously? This is my 5th year at my current position teaching middle schoolers.

I want to share with you 3 Ways I Stay Excited About Being a Middle School Teacher (because not every day is easy, but every day is worth it).

  1. I laugh with my kids.
    We are able to do this because I build relationships with my students. I treat every day as a new day. I greet every student at the door with a high five and a smile every day.
  2. I am a lifelong learner.
    I participate in #sdedchat on Twitter. I attend EdCamps. I learn what I want, when I want with people who want to be there. I offer PD at my district and I am vocal about what I want in PD at my school and district. I participate in the PD offered at my building, district, and state level whenever possible.
  3. I have a positive attitude about my “job”, my kids, and my school.
    I think things like countdowns, constantly complaining, saying “I’m just a teacher” or telling the horror stories gives people an idea that teaching is not a fantastic career, that our schools or kids are “bad”. I think it also causes college students to doubt their choice to go into education. I let students and colleagues know that I missed that, that I’m excited to learn with them, and am always sharing that I LOVE being a teacher. 

Why are we so vocal about our negative experiences in the classroom & then wonder why the public has such a negative opinion about public education? Or why our kids don’t see the value in education?

Alright, so if we are going to change the message. If we are going to talk about what we love, what is wonderful about the students and content we teach. If we are going to be the best spokesperson for education around, then we have to start changing our message.

Part of my positive message is to share with you My 3 Favorite Things About My Middle School.

  1. START (Students and Teachers Addressing Responsibility Together)
    I love our START time, this is our 15 minutes of advisory every morning with a small group of students (about 18 per class in a MS of 600 kids). We do team building, grade and planner checks, Read on Wednesday, goal setting, Special Olympics curriculum, kindness challenges, community service and so much more! I love getting to know this small group of students and hearing their thoughts about our school and the world.
  2. FLEX
    This is 30 minutes at the end of the day. Every Wednesday the Encore team has their weekly meeting and the rest of the school does Read on Wednesday. The other days of the week we have intervention and enrichment opportunities for students, the time is FLEXible. Four times a year we have FLEX Blocks. These are classes that teachers can offer on any topic they want: rock climbing, crocheting, microwave cooking, coding, etc. Students select the top 4 classes they are interested in and then are placed. We have 10-12 sessions together and get a combination of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. I love being able to share my passions: Makerspace, coding, and technology– with students I may not have in a regular class. These FLEX Blocks aren’t graded. They are a time for students to explore, learn, and have fun!
  3. Makerspace
    Our Makerspace is in the Library and is open most Wednesdays after school from 3:30-4:30 pm. This is our 3rd year of Makerspace. Any student in grades 6, 7 or 8 is welcome to attend. I love watching the students learn how something works, teaching others about it, and creating something new or fun that they are proud of. I look forward to Makerspace every week because I learn the most from students during this time.

Some final thoughts on changing your message.
Build relationships with your learners (coworkers, parents, and community too).
Have a positive attitude.
Be a lifelong learner.
Choose to be awesome.

SDAMLE

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Today was hard.

Today was hard.

My day started off with an e-mail containing heart-breaking news about a student. In the afternoon I spent a while talking to a student in the hall about the stress they feel with things happening at home. It is really painful to know and feel the hurt that these kids are dealing with and feeling unable to help them.

I think I was a bit out of it for the day, just worried for my students and their well-being.

We have this ongoing discussion at our building about a structure type of problem. It is hard to go into a meeting focused on adult wants or demands when you’re wondering about the safety of a student.

By the end of the day I felt drained. I was tired of dealing with adults and feeling like we’ve strayed too far from thinking about kids… But I had Makerspace.

I had time with adults who wanted nothing more than to spend their afternoon watching kids get excited about something. Most importantly, I had the opportunity to be around a bunch of super amazing kids who were learning, making, and playing.

One of my students from last year, who I have not had the opportunity to teach yet this year, told me he can’t wait until next trimester when he has my class. I told him I couldn’t wait either and started to move on around my tour of the room and he added “because you’re a great teacher Mrs. Bauerly”. I stopped and told him just how much I needed to hear that today.

We had a special event at our Makerspace tonight, my husband came to teach kids how to play Magic the Gathering and the SHS Games Club teacher brought some of his students down to help. There were over 20 kids playing. As we cleaned up for the day one of the freshmen students who came down to help stopped, gave me a hug, and told me to have a great day. This was a student I taught grades 6-8, he knows that I’m not a fan of hugs (I prefer high fives), but I was so grateful for that kind gesture.

I’m still worried, I’m still thinking about those students and hoping that they are safe, I’m still looking at my to-do list wondering what to tackle next, and I’m still counting my blessings which are the 600 students I have the privilege of interacting with at SMS… I am so grateful for their kindness and generosity. They are the reason we pursue this profession and they are the reason we fight through the hard days and the heartache.

Every day is not perfect or easy (are any of them?!), but every day is worth it. Please always take the opportunity to let the people around you know that you are there to listen and that you care about them.

#oneword2018

My word in 2016: presence
My word in 2017: perseverance

& my word for 2018: challenge

I recently wrote to a past administrator to thank them for believing in me and encouraging me to try something new and take a chance. In their reply, they wrote “keep challenging the status quo”… and it got me thinking. My first few years of teaching I was a ‘shut the door and teach’ kind of person. I didn’t always agree with the way things had always been done and I didn’t want to cause problems. I remember being called a brown-noser by another staff member because I read the professional development book that our administrator had purchased for us. I remember voicing a concern at a staff meeting to have another staff member snap back a harsh remark. For a while I was afraid to speak up. I continued learning as a professional and kept to myself. As I got on Twitter and started connecting with other educators around the state (and farther), I started to find my voice again. I don’t agree with doing something just because it is the way it has always been done. I’m not a fan of making decisions that make things easy or comfortable for the adults. I think professional development, social media, and reading are powerful and purposeful. Most importantly, I believe that every student matters every day. That we are all capable of learning. That we all deserve a quality education.

This year I am working hard to be healthy. I struggle without an accountability partner. A good friend who also works in the same school district created a fitness challenge for interested co-workers. I decided to participate. Working out is a challenge for me, because I lack confidence and have never really been into sports or exercising. The past few years I’ve really started to use food as a coping mechanism as well. I have decided to face these challenges head on and embrace the pain and discomfort knowing that I will be better able to enjoy life and face adversity when I am healthy.

I don’t want to be afraid of challenges. I want to grow from the challenges that I encounter and learn to overcome. I know that I will have failures along the way. There may be others who do not understand my journey or destination. I may face harsh criticism. So, in 2018 my word is challenge. I will face them head-on and I will challenge the status quo.

oneword2018.png

Attitude & Actions

Today was our first day back with students! I was excited to get back into our routine together, I missed my middle schoolers and I couldn’t wait to hear their stories.

To start our professional development day yesterday my principal sent this link:
3 Things Your Students Need Coming Back From Break

I immediately revised what I had planned for today. I created a short Google form with the 3 questions: On a scale of 1-5 how was your break? One thing I want you, my teacher, to know as I come back to school is… & One way that you, my teacher, can best support me is…

Then, I had students create & design a Google Drawing to show their Spirit Animal. They had to include 2 things that supported why that was their spirit animal (like hobbies, habits, or personality traits).

We had a lot of fun with the Spirit Animal activity (they are middle schoolers!). Some students took a quiz and had simple designs, others were as silly as possible, and a few were very detailed and serious. All provided me with different information about my students.

The most interesting part of the day was reading the survey responses. Some students didn’t have a great break. A few lost their pets. Some were already stressed about school (?!!!). Others had amazing achievements with their activities. As students worked on their Spirit Animal activity I talked with them about their responses. One 7th grader wrote how stressed she was, so I asked her why. This student looked totally shocked “YOU READ THOSE?!” Well yes, I read every thing. So we had a conversation about what was causing her stress and talked through the success she is having with being organized and prepared. I learned so much about my students from those 3 short question!!

At the end of the school day I was lamenting the amount of complaining I heard about students and their poor attitudes, not meeting expectations, etc. “They just check out this time of year, they don’t care”. I know I’ve felt this way in the past, but as I heard these comments today I didn’t chime in, I thought about them and the activities students did in my room today.

To the survey question: One thing I want you, my teacher, to know as I come back to school is…
Response from an 8th grade student: “We need a longer break, yeah I know that everyone says that but we really do. even the teachers are complaining that they don’t want to be here so why don’t we just have 3 more days.”

……

Wow.

What we say. How we act. Our attitude. Our enthusiasm. All of it matters. Every single day. We know it does and we know that is one of the challenging parts about our calling.

To that same question, many 6th graders wrote that they were excited to be back, ready to learn, happy to see me, or ready to improve.

To the question: One way that you, my teacher, can best support me is…

Students responded that they wanted help, for me listen to them, to smile, talk with them, be patient, fun, be supportive, understand that getting back into the routine will be hard.

I’m currently reading Kids Deserve It! by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome and I think it fits perfectly with the lessons I learned today.

Kids deserve to be surrounded by adults who want to be there, who want to learn with them, and who care about them as human beings.
Yes, we’re human and we have bad days. Yes, we are also tired and struggling to get back into a routine. And yes, our attitudes and actions have an impact on our learning environments.

 

 

 

Foggy Thoughts

On my morning commute a few weeks ago it was incredibly foggy. I could see the road directly in front of me, but I couldn’t see farther down the road. I couldn’t see the familiar  landscape or landmarks. It felt almost as if I was traveling somewhere unknown.

As I traveled down the road I started to think about how this commute was similar to teaching. There are days where you lose track of your path, you can’t see the final destination ahead. The people around you, students and colleagues, are not in focus. At first I compared the fog to mandates, those things we are asked or told to do that we are not most passionate about. That didn’t seem to fit and as I kept thinking I realized that the fog was more comparable to my attitude and my mindset.

When we complain, when we stay in a fixed mindset and are negative- it becomes hard to see the landscape, our path and our destination. We can become so focused on our negativity and our complaints that we can’t make progress. Sometimes the negativity creeps in, or appears suddenly. It is important to remember our path and our purpose when these moments happen.

Find the people, the hobbies, the resources that help you shine light through negativity until it clears.

Much of your success as an educator has to do with

Shifting Book Studies

The South Dakota Association of Middle Level Education chose Shift This by Joy Kirr as their first book study of the school year! I offered to lead this book study as I had just finished the book, and Joy herself is a middle school educator.

The book study would be offered online, through a platform of my choice, for 1 graduate credit or 15 CEUs. The standard method of conducting a book study would include short discussion prompts for each chapter or section and a final paper, which works just fine.

However, I had just finished reading Shift This and I was wondering how I could apply what I learned to this book study experience.

What were the things I disliked about standard discussion posts & required responses from my online courses?
How could learners share their learning and interact with one another without long and cumbersome discussion threads?
How could I provide a learning environment that would allow for changes without being too difficult or overwhelming for people?

I decided on using Google Classroom as a way to organize the materials. As I thought about ways that learners could share their learning while being able to observe the learning of others in class, I decided on using Google Slides.

I created a collaborative slide for each chapter of the book (chapters 1, 2 & 3 were grouped together). These became the ‘weekly assignments’ (still have that syllabus approval structure to follow) and I included the URL to the resources Joy shared for the corresponding chapter.

On the second slide I included the following information:
Ch 1, 2, 3

My intent is that learners who are more comfortable with, or used to, the ‘traditional’ method will be able to complete the course in that fashion. For those learners who would like to share their learning in a different way, I hope to encourage that and provide a way to do so.

The Slides are set up to be collaborative so that each learner can add as many slides as they need. Each learner in the class can view all other slides. Everyone has the ability to add comments along the way as well, as you can see in the following example.

screenshot-docs.google.com 2017-09-23 20-09-46-003.png

After reading Shift This by Joy Kirr I have started asking questions about my teaching and learning and thinking about shifts I can make in my own classroom. After seeing how Joy has created a different style of Twitter Chat to meet the needs of participants, I am inspired to see how making small shifts can apply to other areas of my professional life as well.

Shift This by Joy Kirr- Weebly Site

Writing.

I really enjoy blogging. I like informal writing & reflections. I even enjoy creative writing. Academic writing is more challenging for me.

In June I received an e-mail from EdSurge asking if I would like to represent South Dakota for their Fifty States Project. I spoke on the phone with the editor about my current activities and classes at school and we narrowed the topic down to Makerspaces and set a deadline.

Fortunately, the work I did for my in-depth TIE session on Makerspaces had me thinking about my personal journey into Makerspaces. I still struggled with how to organize the article, I didn’t know what was good background information and what didn’t make sense without supporting information. Did I mention that academic or technical writing is challenging for me? Fortunately, my husband is an English major and has a lot of practice proof-reading and editing. My first draft was quite a bit over the suggested length.

To help my article meet the length requirement and for it to be more organized and to the point there were quite a few things the editor cut or trimmed— that’s part of the process. This was actually really challenging for me. The parts that we needed to trim were the areas where I told about who inspired me, all of the places or people who provided funding to build our space, and the individuals who helped at our space on Wednesdays.

The whole process had me thinking about myself as an educator. I really like supporting others, celebrating them and encouraging them, acknowledging the contributions that they make. It is very hard for me to ‘celebrate’ myself. One of the things I had to adjust to when I became more active on Twitter was that it isn’t ‘bragging’. As educators we all do something amazing and unique and should be willing to share that with others.

Travis Lape is who introduced me to Makerspaces and one thing that Travis always says is that you have to tell your story.  What you are doing may challenge someone else’s thinking, it may provide them with a starting point, it might spark an idea… you won’t know unless you are willing to share.

I am going to challenge myself to share more… to tell my story through different mediums and to different audiences.

Here is a link to my EdSurge article: What to Put in Your Makerspace (and How to Pay for It)

Reading: Shift This by Joy Kirr

I love reading! I recently started “Shift This” by Joy Kirr. I’m only on page 21, but I already love this book.

My favorite quote so far, “When people from other classes visit, they often ask if there’s a teacher in the room. My answer: Heck, yes! There are twenty-six or so teachers in the room at any given time–my students.” page 3

I’m a fast reader and will sometimes go through something so quickly that I’m not really processing or thinking about what I’m reading. Throughout the book Joy has built in stopping points, with targeted questions and prompts.

One of the questions that Joy asks in Chapter 2 is “How do you start your first ten minutes with students on the first day of the school year?” I get a new group of students each trimester, and for the past two years I have started our first class together with a STEM building challenge. I used to show a PowerPoint of the classroom rules and expectations that would take the entire 40 minute period, sometimes part of the next day too. Now, I create groups in advance. At the 5 tables in my room there are directions printed out that look like a comic. They include directions for students to introduce themselves to one another, the GROUPS expectations, and the group roles for the building task. Students then have the period to complete their building challenge. As students finish they clean up their materials, I give them a handout for how to log into Google Classroom and then they answer a reflection question about their building activity.

What I like about starting class this way is that I’m not center-stage. I get to go around and introduce myself to students and see how they work. I would like to improve the flow of the first day, to maybe include a whole group discussion.

At the end of Chapter 2 there is a Reflection and Call to Action. The author leaves a section for the reader to write a response to what areas they struggle with, who could provide advice, and the tip to make a note on your to-do list to contact that person.

I think the areas that I struggle with the most are:

  • Assessment- providing enough formative assessment and the feedback that supports students and creating quality summative assessments
  • Grading- not a fan of traditional grading scales and assigning points but this is what our school uses, I don’t give homework or take off for ‘lates’.. I would like a better way to document my students’ progress to share with students and parents/guardians
  • Planning- guilty of not posting or updating my lesson plans, haven’t found a good format that I like, dislike them in general….

Try.

I recently presented an in-depth session at the TIE (Technology & Innovation in Education) Conference in Rapid City, SD. This was my first ever in-depth presentation (4 hours)! I’ve done two break out sessions in the past (less than an hour), some short professional development sessions at my district, and taught a Google class for credit.

Leading up to this year’s conference I was unsure if I wanted to present, but I was leaning towards a break out session again. While I was at the Systems Change conference in the fall, Sherry Crofut @SDSherry challenged me to do an in-depth session. I took on this challenge and was accepted to present about “Makerspaces for Student Learning” as an in-depth session. Thankfully, Travis Lape @TravisLape shared his wisdom and experience with me as I prepared. Facebook reminded me that 2 years ago I was having my first-ever makerspace experience at a TIE in-depth session led by Travis Lape!!

I actually get kinda nervous about presenting to other adults, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this leap. During March & April I participated in the #IMMOOC, an online ‘course’ that focused on The Innovator’s Mindset, a fantastic book by George Couros @GCouros. I also started gathering more information and resources for my presentation on Makerspaces.

The week before my presentation I had my students share some feedback about our Makerspace. I asked them why they loved makerspace and what advice they would give to others who may want to start their own makerspace.

As I was creating my presentation for my session I had one of those DUH moments, where it almost feels as if an idea knocked you upside the head. I was reading over some of these comments from my students about what they love about makerspace:

TIE.jpg

…when I finally made the connection between makerspace and the Innovator’s Mindset! In his book, George identifies “8 Things to Look for In Today’s Classroom” and they include : 1. Voice 2. Choice 3. Time for Reflection 4. Opportunities for Innovation 5. Critical Thinkers 6. Problem Solvers/Finders 7. Self-Assessment 8. Connected Learning (page 116). Through our makerspace students and teachers were participating in all 8 of these things identified by George Couros. I immediately added in some slides about the Innovator’s Mindset and George’s book.

I was still nervous for my session and doubting my experience… was I qualified to give such a presentation? Would it be any good? Would people learn something?? Then I started preparing the portion of the presentation with advice from my students to others who may want to create their own makerspace:
TIE (1)

As I organized this slide and read through my students’ responses again, I realized I should take their advice too! I was afraid of failing at this presentation… but really I just needed to TRY. I needed to tell our story, learn about my audience, and just do it.

When Sunday came around I was so excited to be setting up our Makerspace to share with others. Each station or activity has different memories about fun learning with students. I started off the presentation with WHY, I shared HOW, and then I gave everyone time to make, just like my students and I do. I made some great connections with other educators and leaders.

Presenting this in-depth session about Makerspace was a rich learning experience for me. I am so thankful for the Makerspace at Spearfish Middle School and the students who I get to make & learn with every week.

2017 TIE Presentation Resources

 

#IMMOOC Final Thoughts

The ‘sticking point’ of re-reading Innovator’s Mindset & participating in the #IMMOOC for me, is START.

Just start. This instant. There is no perfect time.

“If we ever stop learning, we might as well stop teaching.”- George Couros Innovator’s Mindset

I am so thankful for the opportunity to connect with others through Twitter as we shared our learning and questions on Innovator’s Mindset.

The variety of blog prompts also stretched my thinking & learning and helped me build new connections.

I am looking forward to continuing to improve my practice this summer with more time to read professionally and connect!