Category Archives: Reflection

Why NGSS?

 
It’s funny I am just now experiencing this firsthand, but, tonight, I met my first parent that didn’t believe what we were doing in our NGSS classrooms is better. I have talked to many other parents who are so impressed by the changes and wish they had these courses instead of their drill and kill style experiences. Yet, as always, the negative is what I bring home.

So, as I sit here wondering how I failed, if I am doing the right thing by changing so much, I am reminded about the reason I became a teacher. Our system is broken. The way it always has been is not working for many students. Good students, top scorers with great GPAs are arriving in college campuses around the country unprepared. Jobs in high need fields like high tech manufacturing are going unfilled. Students are being left out of science education because of their life experiences and circumstances. Bottom line – what we have been doing is not meeting the need of students or our country. 

I do not believe, however, that I have arrived as an educator or I have it all figured out. But, I believe that I am part of a movement to make changes that improve science education for all students. I am making a difference for the students in my room today and making strides to better prepare students for the ever changing future. I believe in NGSS and I believe we can keep doing better for all students. 

Because ALL Kids Are Worth It

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I have always had a soft spot for the outsiders, the outliers, the underrated, the left out. Even as a privileged student there were times I still felt out of place and that education wasn’t designed for me. I know that students in my school today feel that way to one degree or another. From the day I decided to become a teacher, I have made it my goal to be a teacher for ALL students. That is why I was delighted to learn about the focus on ALL students when the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed.

For so long I have heard, “I’m not good at science” and “science isn’t for me”. I can’t wait to tell kids that this science is for them. It is not the goal of the NGSS to make every student the next great scientist, but what it is there to do is to make science an option for all students.

I have been working with the NGSS my whole teaching career (this is my 3rd year teaching), but it wasn’t until this summer when I joined my friends (Tricia Shelton, @Tdishelton, and Jessica Holman, @bchsholman) in a Twitter book study on the book “Science for All Students” that I truly learned the depth of consideration given to all students when developing our new standards.

This realization has only strengthened my resolve that the NGSS is going to improve science learning for all students and that the hard work currently being done in science classrooms is worth it – because ALL kids are worth it.

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Time to Step Up at Teach to Lead 2014 Louisville, KY

Teach to Lead

I am honored to have been “anointed teacher leader” by my department chair. I am even more excited to collaborate with her on building a community of adult learners sharing the journey of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

This weekend, we made our first steps as a team toward developing a structured plan for implementation by attending the Teach to Lead Summit in Louisville, KY. While participating in this conference, I was able to network and be inspired by the talented teacher leaders collaborating to improve education for all.

A new era of education seems to be approaching and I am excited to rebel against the tradition of leaving the classroom to pursue leadership and instead champion the hybrid role of teacher leader or “teacherpreneur”.

Thank you to all who continue to inspire me to be better everyday!

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Technology Implementation – Class Dojo

ClassDojo-IconThe Need

We have all been there – the parent conference for the formerly straight-A student. “I don’t understand. [Insert name here] has always done well in [insert subject here]. Why does he/she have a [insert non-A grade here]?”

There it is – the need for specific instances of student behavior that have led to their failure to learn. As teachers, we are aware of what behaviors lead to student success and which can stand in a student’s way, but how we respond to these difficult situations can be tricky. Sometimes, all it takes is your word. Other times, it takes data. Collecting behavior data can be problematic. It is inherently easier to note the bad behavior and to focus on only a couple of students.

That is where Class Dojo comes in.

The Tool

According to their website, Class Dojo is designed to “improve behavior, share data, and save time”. I have found it to be have a simple user friendly interface with great customization potential. When you first join Class Dojo, the tutorial and example class will teach you the basics. From importing rosters to inviting parents and students to view their progress, Class Dojo has made set up a breeze.

Deciding which positive and negative behaviors to monitor can be more difficult. Some questions to consider when choosing are:

  • How does this behavior impact student learning?
  • How will this behavior help students regulate their own actions?
  • How will tracking this behavior help parents support their student?
  • Which behaviors are valued by the school administrators?

Once your class is up and running, this tool is only as useful as you make it. Teacher accountability is necessary to keep useful and consistent data. Integration of Class Dojo into your daily class routine is essential. One easy way to integrate Class Dojo is by using the “Random” feature. You can easily call on students or check student participation by clicking “Random”. Class Dojo picks a student for you and then prompts you to assign either a positive or negative award.

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The Plan

My plan for implementation of Class Dojo includes parent and student involvement. At the beginning of the year, I am using the parent and student invitations generated by Class Dojo to share login information. I will be encouraging students and parents to frequently check their accounts to monitor patterns in their classroom actions.

However, the most significant point of including parents and students in Class Dojo is to meet the need described at the beginning of the post – responding to parent concern. When something goes wrong, we can collaboratively identify points of concern related to behavior and isolate the results of behavior from academic concerns.

Although this responsive use of Class Dojo is the main purpose of promoting parent involvement, my biggest reason for implementing Class Dojo in my instruction is to be PROACTIVE rather than RESPONSIVE. By monitoring class data, I intend to identify patterns and changes in student behaviors and INTERVENE IMMEDIATELY. Student interventions become more meaningful as I can separate behavior from academic issues and respond appropriately.

The Evaluation

Good implementation of any tool requires a mode of evaluation in order to assess effectiveness. The points of evaluation to be used for Class Dojo include:

  • Teacher Data Collection
    • Successful teacher data collection is demonstrated by consistent tracking of student behaviors at a frequency of 3 times per class session.
  • Parent Involvement
    • Successful parent involvement is demonstrated by a participation percentage of 50% or higher.
      • Participation is defined as parent account set up and some use of portal
  • Student Involvement
    • Successful student involvement is demonstrated by a participation percentage of 75% or higher.
      • Participation is defined as student account set up and some use of portal
  • Successful Interventions
    • Successful interventions are demonstrated by useful application of Class Dojo generated data to inform next steps to improve student performance behaviorally and/or academically.

As the semester progresses, I will post about how implementation of Class Dojo measures up to the evaluation criteria listed above.

The Conclusion

Class Dojo has tremendous potential to empower teachers, parents, and students. The usefulness of the data generated and the ease of collection makes Class Dojo an easy addition to classroom instruction.

Technology implementation for student success!

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New Year, New Educational Technologies

A brand new school year is upon us!

Due to my husband’s job change, I have relocated to the Northern Kentucky area and will be teaching at Boone County High School. My teaching duties now include Integrated Science, Honors Integrated Science, Biology, and Chemistry classes.

I am excited to continue to share with you the implementation of innovative strategies in my classroom. In the upcoming posts, you can expect a description of technologies to be used this year along with follow-up posts on the success of their implementation.

Here are a few teasers!

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Kentucky Literacy Celebration Week

KY First Lady Jane Beshear visits STEAM Academy!In honor of Kentucky Literacy Celebration Week, STEAM Academy hosted Kentucky’s First Lady, Jane Beshear, to share our innovative approach to increasing student literacy. Kerry Hancock, English teacher at STEAM, has implemented a series of steps to shed light on the gaps in student reading abilities and ways to address these findings. Ms. Hancock’s strategies currently include:

  • Reading Groups – much like “grown-up” book clubs
  • Piloting of Quill, Newsela, and ThinkCerca
  • Individual practice reading aloud
  • And our school wide Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas

It has been a privilege teaching with Ms. Hancock, as she is exceedingly willing to share her literacy insights in order to implement a common language regarding literacy across the disciplines.

I recognize that students who struggle with reading are typically uncomfortable with science; but working with Ms. Hancock at STEAM has led me to realize science’s secondary role among core classes. Now, don’t get me wrong here, science is still my favorite and I do not claim to bump it out of core class status. What I do mean is that in order to understand science fully, students must already be proficient in reading, writing, as well as math.

Due to the lottery selection for enrollment at STEAM, we have a wonderful degree of diversity in academic and social backgrounds. While I applaud the diversity and truly believe STEAM is more innovative for selecting this way, it has posed significant complications in meeting the needs of each student. We aspire to accelerate learning as our model school, the Metro School in Columbus, OH, does. However, this means discussing covering entire high school credit courses in one semester while also integrating the Arts and Design Thinking.

Our dream is admirable, but truly raises the question, “How do we meet students where they are, while accelerating them to reach college level courses by their Junior and Senior years?”

In science, for example, students need to be able to analyze informational texts and draw inferences. They also need to be able to work with mathematical equations and graphs of experimental data. When these skills are only rudimentarily developed, the task of teaching students science becomes more of a question of teaching them English and Math literacy with science as the topic.

When this realization finally “clicked”, my perspective on science teaching and how we prepare future science teachers has significantly shifted. Science teachers need to not only be masters of science content and typical educational pedagogy, but also proficient in teaching both English and Math literacy. Then we can change how we teach science across the board and reinforce the work being done in English and Math courses. The common language that Ms. Hancock speaks of can be a reality and the “ah-ha” moments among students can take off.

I have already begun to see the benefits of this approach in my current classes and will strive to find better ways of changing the curricular focus of science to put literacy first.

Put literacy first, and the rest will follow.

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“It takes a lot…

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”
― Erma Bombeck

I have long been enamored by wonderful teacher blogs that inspire as well as remove the vail on education. Somewhere under my pile of grading, KTIP, and starting a new school, I have been inspired to join their ranks. I hope to share both triumphs and obstacles in my quest to continually innovate for the benefit of student learning.

This is a scary quest for me. Hence, Bombeck’s quote. Hope you will join me in this journey!