Today Tomorrow Always

I have been at my new school site for a year and a half now and as a fourteen year Veteran English teacher, I can say with extreme confidence that I have refined my craft exponentially within this time. When you think about this statement, it is actually quite absurd. When I started I was single, childless and living at home about 3 miles from work. I had the time, energy and passion for my new career. Flashforward 13 years and I am married with two children, ages three and six…YIKES! So what revolutionized my teaching?

  1. Teaching in a 1-1 school

  2. Working with a Digital Learning Coach

  3. Attending the UCI Writing Project Summer Institute

Teaching in a 1-1 School

Every student that enrolls in my school is checked out a laptop. The District LMS available to students is Haiku. At my previous school, I dabbled with Edmodo, Nearpod and a few other tech resources, but I will say without the access, it was very difficult for me to hold my students accountable for following through with lessons created with these tech tools unless I reserved the computer lab (there were 3 for the whole school). With Haiku I have the ability to assess learning, flip my teaching and embed/ upload ALL my unit resources. Knowing that each student has the access with their laptops makes what I can do with Haiku in and out of class limitless (see screenshot of my Haiku page).

Haiku Sample

Working with a Digital Learning Coach

Because I was going to be in a school setting with 1-1 technology, I signed up to be a technology fellow, which meant I would work with a DLC (digital learning coach) once a week on my prep period. Let me first say that I didn’t have just any DLC. My school’s DLC is Crystal Kirch…THE Crystal Kirch. If you don’t know who she is, check out her blog “Flipping with Kirch.” She is phenomenal!

Crystal and I would meet and discuss my lessons and learning objectives and then together, we would find engaging ways to teach my lessons supported by technology. We would have a coaching cycle that started with pre-planning, lesson implementation and then debriefing. Although I was giving up a prep period every Friday (yes, Fridays!), with all honesty I can say that without her support, I would never be the teacher I am today. I hope districts, schools, and teachers realize the power of true coaching. We expect our students to grow academically throughout their school years, so we should expect our teachers to continue to grow professionally, and with skilled coaches and open minded teachers, growth is inevitable.

One of the strategies I added to my “tool belt” was an Edcafe inspired by an Edcamp I attended last school year. With Crystal’s support, we planned, implemented and revised this strategy and it is now one of my favorite lessons to engage students in meaningful, academic conversations. If you’d like more info about Edcafes here is my guest blog post on Crystal’s site.

Attending the UCI Writing Project Summer Institute

A respected colleague of mine recommended that I apply to attend the Summer Institute last summer, and because I was fortunate enough to have time and energy, I applied and it was the best professional development experience in ALL of my teaching career.

During the Summer Institute, along with guest speakers like Kelly Gallagher and Jim Burke (an English teacher’s dream), we were involved in writing groups, both professional and recreational Book Clubs and workshops hosted by the attending teachers. My experience made me reevaluate the way I was teaching writing. I came to the realization that I never treated my students like writers; I didn’t even see myself as a writer.

This year, my students are WRITERS. They attend monthly writing groups and provide each other with feedback and commendations. I have a wall to showcase each writing group’s favorite piece and we have now just started publishing our writing on class blogs. I am so proud of their growth this year. It also helps when I say that this week is Writing Group and they yell out “Yes!!!”

Sample blog 

So today: I am grateful for all the motivation and support mentioned above.

Tomorrow: I have to reflect upon a new lesson idea inspired by this book that I read to my daughters tonight.

Always: I will strive to become a better teacher because my students deserve it!

 

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