We have a Responsible Use Policy (formerly our Acceptable Use Policy) that everyone (students, parents, staff) have to sign at the beginning of the year. It outlines what the students can and can’t do on their school-issued devices. And just like many things people sign, they barely read it and move on with their day, not really understanding what they just signed.
Like other schools that are 1:1, we have had our share of inappropriate and downright crazy situations surrounding the students and their computers. Before this year, the discipline after violating the RUP varied from school to school, but often resulted in taking the device away. In talking with many teachers and administrators, this was a major issue for obvious reasons; everything we do is on the computer, but there wasn’t anything in place to discipline the students. Not to mention that if a student gets their computer taken away, they can no longer participate in what the rest of the class is doing thus creating a lot more work for the teachers.
Seeing the need for some consistency and a way to educate students on their behaviors without taking their computers away, the RUP Redirection Plan was born!
After deciding to create this as a project for my education law class, I gathered a small committee of librarians, members of the tech department and administrators and met with them frequently in the beginning stages. Before approaching the committee, I met with and emailed back-and-forth with over 40 teachers so I could truly understand what they wanted and needed out of a discipline plan surrounding our RUP.
We met several times during the spring semester last year (2015) to discuss our ideas. What we came up with was a tiered system that corresponded with an online course in Canvas. Our Director of Technology created a system where students could be moved up and down tiers. I created the Canvas course where all students from the corporation were enrolled in their respective school’s course. We piloted the tiers with several students and teachers in the spring and began rolling it out to teachers and staff late May.
I will explain the rollout process in an upcoming post!
Part 2: RUP Redirection Plan: The Tiers (Coming soon!)
So it’s been over a year and half since my last blog post, but A LOT has happened in that year and half! I intentionally stopped posting for many reasons. One very big reason was that we adopted our son, August!
This little boy has completely overturned our lives for the better. Fighting for something so hard, fighting for your family, will change a person. My views on life, relationships, school and leadership have been made much clearer after going through the process of finding our son. I made a video of our first month with August, if you want to check it out!
While enjoying every second of being a mom, I completed my Principal Licensure Program! My program actually started a week before August was born. We found out about August only six weeks before he was born so in that time, my husband and I talked a lot about whether I should postpone taking my classes or if I should forge ahead. It was almost a no-brainer; God has put in me the desire to serve a school as their principal and if I didn’t follow that path, I would not only be doing a disservice to God, but to my son.
And along with all of that, I intentionally chose (as I stated before) to stop blogging because I began to see that I was becoming way too outwardly focused. I cared more about the educators from around the world than the educators within my own buildings. I chose to become much more present in my actual life, as oppose to being very present in my online life.
(Disclaimer: I still see the very high value in being a digitally connected educator, I just also see the very high value in being a digitally disconnected one, too).
Through focusing inward, I got to be a part of some really cool projects. One project in particular, I am going to share in a series of posts that highlight the process that was taken to create a system within our school corporation called the RUP (Responsible Use Policy) Redirection Plan.
The first post is going to be about what even brought me to the idea of creating a plan like this, along with a brief overview of what it is!
When I taught 2nd grade, vocabulary was one of those things I tried to make exciting because, to many, learning new vocabulary words can be boring. Vocabulary, as everyone knows, is vital to all communication. Pronouncing, understanding, applying and spelling words is not only tested out the wazoo, it’s infused in everything we do. It’s ok to go old school when it comes to using things like flashcards and good ol’ writing the word and it’s definition down, but adding a little flavor can really enhance your student engagement!
Here are some fun ways to learn and work with vocabulary words!
(Some of these tools may not be new to you, but see if you can think of creative ways that you haven’t tried yet!)
- Create fun (really fun!!) and interactive quizzes utilizing images and videos to correspond with the vocabulary words!
- Have the students create quizzes to review with each day!
- Create a dynamic presentation that students can refer back to whenever they need!
- Have the students create an emaze for key vocabulary words including images and videos, then embed them on your classroom website or share them on social media!
- Have students share sentences with specific vocabulary words. You’ll have a transcript of all kinds of examples to share with the class.
- (Modified idea stolen from the incredible Matt Miller!) Create a story one line at a time. Give each student a number. Student with #1 starts the story with one of the vocabulary words and the rest of the group follows by the number they received. You can decide if each student needs to use a vocabulary word or if it should be every other student. This could be the entire class or just small groups. With smaller groups, you’d get more examples of vocabulary in context!
- If you haven’t already, create a hashtag for your classroom! When you introduce new words or just need reminders of other words, tweet the word, short definition and the class hashtag. You, as well as your followers (hopefully parents!) will have a running list of the words the students are learning!
Vocabla (Great for ENL/ESL Students)
- With the Google Chrome extension, users click on any word within the browser, find the translation and definition then bank that word to work with later!
- Great way to track what words your students are frequently looking up!
Pixteller (one of many poster-making sites)
- Create posters with the vocabulary words using definitions or the words in a sentence.
- Print and display!
- Post on social media!
Low-Tech Idea (Nothin’ wrong with a little pencil/paper action!)
(Small group activity-4 or 5 students)
Get a large piece of paper and put it at the center of the table (or floor). In the center, put the topic/unit/story you are working with and circle it. Stem the vocabulary words off of that center circle (one for each student in the group). There will be a round for each vocabulary word. Once the student is done with their word, either the students rotate around the paper or just rotate the paper. They will then do the next round with a different word. By the end they will have interacted with all of the words.
First round: Write the definition in your own words
Second round: Write a sentence using the word
Third round: Write another sentence
Fourth round: Draw a picture of the word (or a picture of one of the sentences)
Fifth round: (if needed) Circle the word in every sentence
What are some creative ways you are teaching vocabulary or working with new words? I’d love to hear your ideas!
I was lucky enough to be a part of a project at the end of the school year last year that gave students a platform to anonymously share whatever was on their mind. The idea stemmed from Connect, an anti-bullying program that is offered in our school corporation, with the purpose being to encourage more students and teachers to get involved in the program. What resulted, I think, was much bigger than we first expected.
We passed out a notecard to all 600+ students in the school and their teacher explained to them that the intent of this idea is to show everyone that they are not alone and that many are going through some pretty rough things. We received some pushback because some of the cards were revealing very serious situations, but our goal was for everyone to realize (teachers, students, staff, parents, etc) that we are in this to support the whole child. We are not just teaching the academic side of the student. When we interact with people, we are not just dealing with the side of the person we see in front of us.
This is the result. I encourage you to share this with your staff, your teacher friends, your students and really everyone!
This is why I am in education.
What if we start the school year letting our students know we are there for them, all aspects of them, and that we are in this together?
What if we started the year not just telling our students they are important, but by showing them?
What if this was the school year where you change your students lives?
Make this the best school year you’ve ever had. Make this the best class you’ve ever had. Make this the year where you focus on the human aspect of education.
We had our last SOLE class for the school year last Monday. In all 6 years of being in education, I have never had an experience quite like this. At the end of last year, our school was awarded a grant to move forward with a more personalized learning approach across our corporation. Because this is a pretty major shift in the way we ‘do’ school, we knew we had to take it slow. After researching the concept of SOLE, implementing this idea for our 6th-8th grade students seemed like a simple, but impactful start.
When I taught second grade, my philosophy was that, no matter a child’s age, they need to discover things for themselves. I believed that they needed to feel the discomfort of not ‘getting’ something to truly understand the joy of learning. Students are often told what to do and how to do it. In SOLE, students are not given anything, but their computers and unending support from their facilitator. It took this group a while to figure out how to learn on their own, but once they did, magic happened.
I have learned so much about who I am as an educator by watching these students. Their ideas and creations this year blew me away. They stretched themselves past where they thought they could go. They were given the freedom to follow their passions and really develop their ideas.
Most importantly, they learned how to fail, rework their ideas and keep going.
Because this is a pilot program, the kids have gotten a lot of exposure through our local media! The students were interviewed in December, did a live spot on the local morning show and were just interviewed last week by another local news station, ABC57!
This video really sums up what SOLE is all about! Check it out!
Students, when given freedom, support and encouragement, can come into their own and figure out who they are as people. I am daily amazed by what goes on in our SOLE class.
Last week, one of my SOLE students, Grace B., gave her presentation on creativity. While I was watching her present, I felt like something amazing was happening! I felt like I was watching a TED talk! The other students felt that way, too! None of them wanted to present after her! Her ideas were fantastic and the keynote was done so professionally, I had to keep asking her if she actually made it! I wish I would have recorded it live. She luckily did a screencast of her presentation.
I encourage you to take 3 minutes and watch this. It is simple, inspired and, well, creative!
Share this with your students!
Teacher Appreciation Week should really be every week, right? We should show our appreciation to all of the people in our lives daily, but it sure is nice to dedicate a week to people who daily sacrifice so much to better those around them. Teachers are incredible people who selflessly and willingly give up their time to support their students. I could go on and on about how amazing teachers are and how noble a cause they have, but I want to take a second to share my teacher hero; the woman who inspired me to be the teacher I am today.
Everyone wanted Mrs. Hayes when they got to fourth grade. Everyone loved her. I mean, everyone. She always had a huge smile on her face and could make anyone feel like they were the most important person in the world. I was one of the lucky ones who got to have her as my teacher! I learned so much from her during that year and I knew she would always be special to me. She made the content relevant and made everyone want to learn. She shared her life with her students. She listened to what we had to say. It was evident that this was and is her life’s calling.
When it came time to choose who to do my student teaching with, I knew immediately that I wanted to teach with Mrs. Hayes. I have had many amazing years in education, but nothing will compare to my student teaching experience. I was so honored to be teaching and learning alongside my hero. She gave me confidence and helped me to believe in myself as an educator. She opened up her classroom to me and let me really become the teacher I wanted to be.
My last day of student teaching was absolutely unforgettable. Mrs. Hayes invited my extended family to surprise me, as well as, parents of the students, to celebrate my time with them. Each student wrote incredible letters to me. We all cried together because we knew that year was going to be something to remember. I have been lucky enough to teach some pretty amazing students in my 6 years in education, but that group will always hold a special place in my heart.
So thank you, Mrs. Hayes. You have inspired me beyond what I could ever tell you. You have made such a profound impact on my life. You are a phenomenal educator and person. Your students are so lucky to have you as their teacher. I can only hope to have the impact you had on me to one of my students.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Take a second to tell the teachers in your life how much they mean to you!
As mentioned previously, I have facilitated SOLE (self organized learning environment) all school year and Genius Hour this past semester. I have learned a lot about myself and my views as an educator through these experiences. I have observed many moments that solidify why I became a teacher and many that have, quite frankly, frustrated me. A lot.
In these environments, students are able to use self direction and decide what they want to learn/research/do. They get to choose what they do with their time. For those who are self-motivated and know what they are passionate about, this time can be invigorating and life-affirming. For those who are the opposite or haven’t tapped into their strengths or passions yet, it can be a rather boring waste of time.
I’m struggling with watching students ‘youtube’ their free time away. In this kind of environment, as the facilitator, I’m not to overly push the students one way or the other. I don’t want to dictate anything to them. I have done my very best to see what the students are working on and try to bring their passions out, but I have noticed as soon as I am not pushing, many go back to watching random youtube videos. I give them their space while encouraging dialogue about what they like to do, things they are interested in, etc., but I find myself getting very frustrated when I can’t help light that fire. I feel like I am not doing my job as the facilitator when I’m watching students look up dunk contests or play game after game.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling particularly useless during one of these times so I decided to just start chatting with one of the students. We talked about all kinds of different things. While we were chatting, he was looking up basketball videos on youtube. I made my rounds to the other kids and jokingly talked about what they were doing on youtube and the one student I was talking to said, “I really like this class”. I jokingly replied that it was probably because you get to watch youtube videos. He said that it wasn’t that. It was because he was able to do what he wanted no matter what that was. He had control of this tiny part of his day.
I was perplexed by this because on the one hand, I was really happy that I could give him that freedom at school, but on the other hand, he was using that freedom to mindlessly look up youtube videos. I do believe that everyone needs a brain break, but I think it really goes back to not teaching the students how to ‘do’ free time. In Kindergarten, their free time was self-directed play where they would use their imagination to create worlds around them. Free time is completely taken out of the equation as they grow older so when they get opportunities like this, they just want to take a break from everything around them.
Who can blame them, right?
It’s hard for many to be intrinsically motivated when their isn’t a grade involved. They are so used to doing everything for a grade, they don’t see the point in doing something simply because they are passionate about it; especially at school.
We have to make a calculated effort to encourage students to think beyond their grades and encourage them to find out what they are passionate about. Many don’t have a clue what they are passionate about because they haven’t been asked before so they haven’t thought about. It’s time to get them to start thinking!
What are some things you are doing in your classroom to bring your students’ passions to the forefront?