Monday, January 19, 2015

Willingness to be's a game changer.

Most teachers don't like change.  I am one of those weird teachers who needs change to keep me fulfilled.  For that reason I am constantly changing/tweaking/improving on how I run my classroom.  I have found that my year if fairly cyclical.

I start off strong with some whole group lessons on how to actually watch a video.  Then slowly, as the kids develop some independence, I let them take over the video & we start doing some whole class activities together in class.  

Sometime around the end of the 1st marking period I end up needing to change up my day-to-day lessons.  This year we moved into a math workshop format.  The students did really well with it...until they didn't.  As soon as they got too comfortable, they started to waste a lot of time, and do a lot more talking (about non school stuff) than is really necessary.  For that reason, we had to change things up a bit.

Right now my class is a hodge podge of things.  We're at the end of our most difficult unit of the year (seriously, could double digit division be any more challenging????).  I have some students who have already passed their test & are working to push their grade up to an "exceeding excpectations" mark.  I have some students who are still stuck, and are getting some help, and I have a large chunk of students who are taking their test.  

I plan to have math discussion groups using my math circles format when we begin our next unit.  We've done this for a few videos in the last unit & the kids did great.

What will I switch to when this stops being effective? No idea!  When asked what makes my classroom successful, I think it comes down to my ability to change when I realize something isn't working.  Change doesn't have to be scary, I'd argue that it keeps things interesting.

Monday, January 12, 2015

2 brains (or 3, or 4) are better than 1 #flipclass #flashblog

Last week my principal sent out an email asking us to prioritize what we want in regards to specials for next year.  It seems like a relatively simple email, but looking at it made me realize that I don't know how to make my class work like I want it to work...there's not enough time.  Not enough time for me to be with my students, and not enough time for me to properly plan what I want to plan.  I quickly ignored my email (okay, I didn't really ignore it, but I definitely closed it down & moved on to other things).

The next morning one of our 4th grade teachers came in & said, "Did you get the email about specials? What are you going to say?"  Hmmm, I thought, I am not alone.  Then our interventionist came in & joined the conversation, and before you know it, the 3 of us were brainstorming possibilities, and instead of being all grumpy we began to get kind of excited about the possibility of doing something different.

Our big problem is that my district is moving to mastery based learning (which I 100% agree with), but we're not to the point where we don't move the kids on if they haven't mastered their learning.  It's a very awkward place to be in.  I know exactly where my kids are at, what they don't understand, and what they totally get, but I don't know when to fill in the holes they have, reteach what they're confused on when our day is so packed.

We talked about a number of things, and decided we should probably get more people involved in the coversation.  So now we are planning big meeting with all the 3rd, 4th & 5th grade teachers...and the interventionists...and the resource room teacher.  My hope is that all those brilliant minds will come together and come up with something awesome.

As I write this I am realizing how important it is going to be that we start off with a positive attitude.  It's so easy to spend an hour complaining, which gets us nowhere.  As of now, our meeting is scheduled for next week...we'll see how it goes!

Learning, Growing & Collaborating

So my weekend started off pretty sweet.  Thursday night a huge snow storm came through Michigan, and we got the notice that school was closed the night before.  That rarely happens.  Then on Friday my class was featured on our local news station as being the classroom of the week.  If you're interested, you can see the short spot here.  Then Saturday, I attended (and helped plan) the 3rd MIFlip conference, and it didn't disappoint.  I was fully prepared for there to be a small crowd, since the weather in west Michigan was brutal the day before.  As it turns out, we had over 70 people attend.

Steelcase was nice enough to host the conference at their Education Center...holy smokes is that an awesome facility! I kept trying to talk them into furnishing my room for me (for free of course), and I got no takers ;) Seriously, though, the venue was beautiful, and perfect for encouraging a collaborative feel.

David Tebo was our keynote speaker and he was unbelievably inspiring.  A few things he said that really stuck with me were: Flipping done right is an incredible tool...notice he said flipping done right.  That one little word is so hugely important.  The second thing he mentioned was that we need to change the way we're doing things.  Time has changed, but schools haven't.  In my district we are going completely mastery based, eliminating seat-time from our graduation requirements.  We are still in the very early stages of this process.  As of now we're at a point where the teachers are being asked to real go outside of their comfort zone & people are uncomfortable...really uncomfortable.  It was reassuring to hear someone outside of Kenowa Hills talk about what we're trying to do in such a positive way.

After the keynote I led an elementary session.  I didn't plan any sort of presentation because I was hoping that we could have more of a discussion.  It turns out that was a good plan because we had a great discussion and everyone had an opportunity to ask questions.

I spent pretty much the remainder of my afternoon working with David Fouch, a high school AP teacher from Forest Hills.  We had this grand plan to do something collaboratively, and we tried to work through some of the details together.  I will have a whole other blog post on that coming up, but I think it's going to be excellent!

To sum it up, I had another great experience at MIflip.  I am always surprised by how much I learn, grow & get energized when I get together with other educators in a positive environment like this :)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Interested in Flipping? Live in MI?

Three years ago I was approached by Dan Spencer with the idea of starting up a Michigan based conference that revolved around the idea of Flipped Learning.  Together, with a group of a bunch of other really excellent educators, we started MIFlip.  Our goal was to create professional development that was a mixture of edcamp & informational sessions.  It was also really important to us that it was FREE.

The past 2 years we were lucky enough to have MIFlip at Byron Center High School, and it worked out wonderfully.  This year we were approached by Steelcase, who offered to host us at their Learning Center.  I am beyond excited about it, and I can't wait to hear what this year has in store.  For more information, please check out the link.

Looking forward to meeting, learning and growing with all of you :)