Educational Transformer

So, my first blog post–for me.  I just arrived home from MACUL (an educational technology conference here in Michigan) and it ruined my weekend.  I’ve connected, thought, and expanded as a teacher from those days.

Anyway, I also got the chance to present the changes that have been happening in my classroom.  They have been extreme and MANY.

So, here, on my first blog, I’ll share the notes I used in my Lightning Talk.  I think the last thing to share is that a Lightning Talk is accompanied with slides and I’m not going to show those here just yet.  When the video is available through MACUL, I’ll be sure to post it.

Finally, the fifteen changes I’ve made over the last six months that TRANSFORMED my teaching–and, more importantly, my students’ learning.

Change 1: I went back to school.  I reminded myself of what it is to be a student and re-learned that sitting in the classroom and hearing the teacher talk at me makes for the least exciting teaching.  If I don’t like it (and I LOVE learning), how can we ask students to?

Change 2: I added technology. Through a pilot program in my district, I was able to secure a classroom set of ChromeBooks. It’s easier than ever to share, edit, and publish work. Students have been able to search their curiosities. Technology hasn’t made education, but it has accelerated it.  

Change 3: And this is the most important of all–I gave my students authentic audiences.  All year, they have been reading to parents, posting to YouTube, publishing on Facebook, Tweeting details of class, writing Letter to the editor of our local paper, sharing on websites and blogs.  Whether it’s a traditional essay or a digital personal narrative, we’ve found an audience.  All their hard work cannot to be thrown away; it must be shared and enjoyed.

Change 4: I asked for parents to be part of my classroom again.  Most parents LIKE knowing what’s happening in their child’s educational life.  Just because the child is 16, it doesn’t mean the parent wants out of his/her development. I emailed them my ideas, my hopes, and ways they can be included and they stepped up.

Change 5: I found better mentor texts for my students and I showed them only the best I could find. It’s critical for us to find positive examples.  I did–when I was thinking about putting together this presentation.  Why pretend people don’t look at great writers in order to write well?  

Change 6: I have committed 15 minutes of class to reading and writing every day.  Give students genuine choice in what they read and reading rates go up.  The amount of literature read in my class has skyrocketed.  (The whiteboards show just three months of reading.)  And encourage students to put down books they don’t like; it’s not a crime.

Change 7:  I take five minutes out of every day and give a play-by-play of me doing my own assignment. (I always wanted to be John Madden–BOOM!)  I make mistakes and then I fix them in front of the students.  I show them my successes and my failures and I use them as editors.  

Change 8: I committed to daily conferencing.  My classroom is now a project-based learning classroom and I get to work with students individually.  This is the greatest reward.  In my writing class, I get to talk about tone and rhythm.  In literature, purpose and word choice.  I couldn’t get that depth on the individual level through lecture.

Change 9: I’ve created an EDMODO account.  This safe educational networking site has allowed me to eradicate the use of the copier.  It is now easier than ever to comment on student work AND to organize their papers.  No more accusing me of losing homework.

Change 10: I got rid of the “one rubric fits all”. It just doesn’t work.  It doesn’t push the high-level students enough and it pushes the low-level students too much.  We wouldn’t stand for a coach who is silent during a game and then gives game-winning tips after the final buzzer. Why allow that in education?

Change 11: I rearranged the seating in my classroom.  The students are now facing each other, not the front of the class.  It encourages collaboration.  And we know  the value of collaboration.  I mean, we’re here at this conference collaborating.

Change 12: I embraced social media. I have found that Twitter is a dynamic place for educational resources.  With just 140 characters, I can share successes with leading voices in my field.   I get access to articles which would have escaped me otherwise.  All with the tap of an app.

Change 13: I have watched more colleagues teach in the past six months than I have in the first nine years of my teaching.  It’s the best PD I’ve ever had.  I learn great practices to take to my classroom and I experience a class from the students’ perspectives.

Change 14—we celebrate: sometimes it’s with food, sometimes with Post-It notes, sometimes with the simple snap of our fingers. It’s important.  I like to treat my students to a job well done.  Ideas–they just don’t flow as well without the fuel of celebration.

Change 15: So now, to the MOST important change of all–the single one that led to all of the other changes–I TOOK RISK.  Like this conference and speaking in front of you, I took many leaps of faith, but the rewards have meant a better classroom.  So, RISK to make change.  It’s worth it.  And now, SMILE, because you’re today’s example of my risk.  

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