Sunday, November 27, 2016

Final Project ~ Innovator's Mindset

As innovations go, this year was one of the most unique of my career in that 5th grade was departmentalized and I became solely a math and social studies teacher, as opposed to an "every subject teacher."

With this new role, I was worried about how I was going to keep up my connections to the outside world as well as invite our community into our learning space.  When I taught reading and writing, it was very easy to do Google Hang Outs with authors and other classes.  It was very easy to invite parents in to read to the children.  All of that was #winning...but how on earth would I do that with math and social studies?  Then I got to are always saying in math class, "When will I ever use this again?  Why do I need to know this?"  Then it occurred to me...invite the parents in and let THEM tell the students how they use math in their everyday life and job.  So...I drafted an email to my math families from both classes asking if they would like to come in and talk math to the kids! The response that I got was overwhelming and I already have six people signed up!  Parents were excited!  Kids were excited! 

We had our first parent, Mrs. Jensen, present on November 18th.  She not only presented to our morning math class (where her son is a student), but then she stayed for lunch, and did another session with my afternoon class!  She had a power point presentation that knocked our socks off, she had prizes for the kids who answered questions, and she kept the kids engaged the entire time.  We were laughing, doing math in our heads, and learning about economics all in one lesson!  It was awesome! The best part was that the kids learned from someone speaking from experience- Mrs. Jensen is a candy broker.  I couldn't have constructed a better lesson myself!  

Naturally, I tweeted this out so that other parents could see how this worked and that people were indeed coming forward to volunteer their time to help us learn more about how math is everywhere!  

Math is typically a straightforward, black and white, dry topic.  I wanted to find a way to kindle an excitement for math that kept the kids asking for more! After Mrs. Jensen left I heard kids say, "I can't wait until my dad comes in."   "I'm going to ask my mom if she'll come in."  #missionaccomplished!

Now if only I could get Greg Tang to do a Google Hang Out with our class...I'm working on it!  I'll save that one for a different blog....

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Innovator's Mindset Part Two

I love how part two of this book encouraged me to look inward and reflect on what we have at Merton School.

Relationships.  They are critical and lay the foundation for how we get kids to "work for us" from that point forward.  To me, relationship building seems like a special gene reserved for teachers!  I mean, come on...we're a "natural" at this relationship building stuff, aren't we?  It doesn't seem like anything else could get done without the foundation of building that relationship.  Furthermore, I think building relationships is one of the best parts of my job!  Just thinking about it makes me smile!  

Here is a great quote found on page 90:  "When people know they are valued and safe in trying new things, they are more likely to strive for something new and better."  I think truer words were never spoken.  We are lucky that Jay not only supports the idea of trying new things but encourages it.  Knowing that alone, provides a safety net for people who wouldn't ordinarily take a risk to take that leap of faith and do so.  

I loved the chart on page 103 titled "School VS. Learning" The learning side is so much more exciting to me and one that I aspire to have in my own classroom where we are creating, asking questions, and exploring our passions.  This, in my opinion, is what's best for kids.  This is what keeps kids engaged.  It keeps the classroom fun, energized, and full of life.  Sometimes I think we lose that sparkle when we get mired down in covering the content (pacing), taking away things that once brought joy into the school day, and grades.  I know that grades are a necessary evil, but I struggle with how much emphasis we put on grades and more often than not, at the expense of our kids getting all stressed out and riddled with anxiety.

I will leave you with this quote from Todd Whitaker, "The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters.  The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters every day."  I think this is so true.  We only have a certain number of days with these kids, so we have to make each one count.  No question our job is hard...but you know what?  I wouldn't trade it for the world!  I can't imagine doing anything else.