Sunday, December 16, 2012

There are no words

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Positive Publicity Makes for a Long and Exciting Week

Last week was one of the longest weeks of all time.  It started out normal enough on Monday, but Tuesday turned into something altogether different.

For this all to make sense, I need to give a little background information.  My class has partnered up with a class in New Jersey (taught by John Fritzky) and a class in Texas (taught by Todd Nesloney).  We have been attempting to have the kids in our classes blog with each other about math (as we are all currently flipping).  We barely had one post under our belts when Hurricane Sandy struck.  The hurricane hit New Jersey pretty hard, and Mr. Fritzky's school was powerless for 2 weeks.  They ended getting back to school in a week & a half, but in a different building.  Needless to say, our blogging got put on hold.  As often happens when something devastating occurs, the good in people starts to come shining through.  In this case, the good came from my students.  As we were watching CNN throughout the week, and seeing the photos of New Jersey, my students first reaction was concern for their buddies in Jersey!

"Mrs. Bush, are they ok?"  
"Mrs. Bush, have you talked to Mr. Fritzky yet?"  
"Mrs. Bush, how are they handling not having power?"

And on, and on, and on...But the most powerful comment came from one of my quiet kids...

"Mrs. Bush, what can we do for them?"

I know, goosebumps, right?!? This made my heart happy, and I knew we needed to plan something, but we weren't sure what.  Then our music teacher mentioned that our music concert was coming up early in December.  We decided that we would sell carnations, and have all the proceeds go to the families in Mr. Fritzky's class.

I contacted a local flower shop, and they came through...BIG TIME!  Alpine Floral donated over 350 carnations to our class.

Fast forward to Tuesday.  My students were wired all day, looking forward to the concert and the carnation sale...but it was a good wired :)  About 10 minutes before the bell rang, the office called and informed me that a reporter from our local paper was wondering if he could talk to me for a few minutes after school.  This was the same reporter who interviewed me last year about my flipped classroom, so I figured it was just a follow up.  I walked the kids out & came back to talk to the reporter.  He noticed my room was in shambles (we'd been making posters and buckets for donations).  I told what we were doing.  He was impressed.  We then spent the next hour and a half talking about the flipped classroom.

I had to take off, at that point, and get to the music concert, we had some flowers to sell!  I had students beat me there (and I was plenty early).  Throughout the lower elementary concert, my students sold well over half the flowers.  We sold out by the end of the upper elementary concert.  At some point in the evening, the reporter showed up: he snapped a few pictures, chatted with the kids, then took off.

Once I finally got home (8:30...still hadn't had dinner), I was oddly energized.  My kids did amazing, and we made over $350.  Our next step is going to the store, getting some gift cards & sending them out to Jersey!

My hope is that I can actually bring some of my kids to the store with me, but I'm not sure if the logistics will work out or not.

So are you wondering about the article yet?  I expected that I would get a small article...I was not expecting this:

Kenowa Hills Teacher Becoming Expert in "Flipped Classroom" Concept

I don't really know how I feel about this article.  It's really nice and very complimentary, I think I just have a difficult time patting myself on the back.  And I certainly don't feel like and expert.  None-the-less, it is still reassuring to get some positive press right now.

As I mentioned, this all happened on Tuesday...which felt like a Friday...which made the week take forever!  As exhausting as the whole experience was, I would do it again in a second.

Some days I love my job.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tightening up the some degree

A few weeks ago I was venting here about my students not getting their work done, and I posed the question, "Do my students have too much freedom?"  I decided the answer was, yes...and no!  It totally depends on the kid (as is true in every classroom, huh).  So here is the solution I came up with.  On Monday, the students & I went through and set up a calendar for the entire unit.  I told them they are allowed to work ahead of me, but they cannot get behind.

I love that the students have been able to quiz out of certain aspects of a unit, and it is a big point of pride for the kids who are successful in quizzing out.  I didn't want to lose that, but I wasn't sure how to make it work with the newly, more rigid schedule.  I mentioned this to the students because I'm all about being transparent, and quite frankly they have really good ideas!  Once again, I wasn't disappointed.  One child said to me, "Mrs. Bush, why don't we just skip that section and do whatever we have next?"  Another child responds, "Or we can make our student made videos during that time."  And yet another chimes in with, "Or we could help other kids."  In my head I'm thinking, mean just like I had you doing before?  DUH!

Sometimes it's easy to get stuck on the fact that if one thing isn't working, then everything needs an overhaul, and that isn't so.  In this case, my kids who are responsible & on schedule still have the same options they've always had.

And so the week began with our new plan in place.  On Monday, we all watched the first video together (it is agonizing to watch yourself on video btw).  I made the decision to watch it together b/c I thought we could all use a little refresher on what's expected when we watch the video & complete our WSQ.  Also, we had a few new students and I wanted them to get a clear idea of what is to be expected.  In addition NO ONE passed out of our first learning goal, so I knew that everyone needed to see the video.

The next day, it was magical!  Everyone had their work done (b/c we did it together), and was ready to move on (as a side note...yes I realize it was only magical b/c we did everything together in a group, but let me just bask in my moment of happiness, ok?)  I was able to get to everyone and help with a very difficult concept.  The fact that I was able to get around to everyone also helped me realize how difficult this concept was, and therefore led me to our next day's activity...angle bootcamp!

As luck would have it, on Tuesday I had some visitors in my classroom.  I was just getting ready to send the students off to work & I mentioned how they were really lucky that day because there were 3 adults in the room to help (myself, my parapro & a parent helper).  One of my students raises their hand & says "Mrs. Bush, there are a lot more than 3 adults."  At which point I turn around & see our curriculum director standing there with a consultant from Alaska.  Then in walks my superintendant with another consultant from Alaska (long story on the consultant part...but they are experts at mastery teaching helping out our district).  I took a second to introduce myself to the consultants, then I was off & running.  What I found really exciting was that they (all 4 of them) went around the classroom for 5-10 minutes talking to students.  Asking them what they were working on, how the classroom runs, how they manage their work, etc.  I don't know what the students said, but I do know that they all seemed impressed when they left...YEAH!

Of course on Wednesday there were several students who hadn't done their homework the night before.  Being a woman of my word, those students stayed in for recess that very same day to finish up their work.  By Friday they were pretty much all caught up again.  While I am NOT a fan of making kids miss all their recess, I do think they need to realize what their priorities need to be.