Thursday, March 4, 2010

NCTIES 2010 - My Musings

This year I got the privilege of attending one day at the NCTIES Conference in Raleigh. The conference was awesome. I truly enjoyed the time to Tweet, reflect, and connect with colleagues. Ron Clark was the keynote speaker at today's luncheon, and I was inspired and humbled as he led each of us to reflect about the true reason we are in the classroom. "If you don't love every one of those kids, you need to quit," he said, and the audience applauded our agreement.

The most helpful session I attended today was probably Bethany Smith's (@bethanyvsmith) morning session about building and maintaining a PLN. She offered some great suggestions for organizing contacts and managing time. I'm already using Twitter much more effectively after download TweetDeck. Her points about the value and importance of blogging also really resonated with me. "Writing a blog has made me think about what I'm doing more than anything else," she reflected. As an educator, I often do not allow myself the time I need to truly reflect upon what is working in my classroom and what needs to change. I hope that by beginning the discipline of blogging, I can improve my own instruction as well as collaborate with other like-minded educators. You can see my notes from Bethany's session at this address:

The second session I attended was Learn NC's explanation of mapping tools. David Walbert presented, and all of his research and resources will be available soon at I enjoyed the session because David pointed out specific skills that students need to truly comprehend maps. He compared reading map symbols to decoding, and pointed out that students need more context to truly comprehend the maps they are using in class and in life. David cautioned teachers against the assumption that students have the spatial and projective skills to interpret maps in instruction, and he offered a variety of suggestions for the developing those skills in the classroom. My notes from the mapping session are posted in this Google document:

My last session was about using Web 2.0 with SMART Boards in the classroom. The presenter was MaryAnn Sansonetti with the PLATTS Co. She suggested many different sites to use with the SMARTBoard. My favorite was, which allows you to create interactive timelines that include images, text, and other multimedia. Some of her other suggestions included:

  • GoogleMaps - Use the street view to create a virtual field trip to any city in the world.
  • Glogster - Create a multimedia presentation or environment. Use the education version to create teacher and student accounts.
  • Kerpoof - Create pictures, cards, animated movies, and illustrated stories. The program automatically adjusts for depth and perspective. You must create teacher and student accounts.
  • Prezi - Create presentations in the format of concept maps.
  • ToonDoo - Create cartoons and ebooks that can be exported via Twitter and Facebook, printed, or embedded on a website. She advised educators to be sure the "Safe Search" feature is on for this program.
  • MakeBeliefsComix- Create basic comics in multiple languages.
  • Wall Wisher - Allow students to post answers to a question, then use the SMARTBoard to organize the responses.
  • Blabberize - Create talking characters from still pictures.
  • XtraNormal - Create animated talking characters. An English teacher mentioned that he collaborates with the drama teacher using this program to teach script development.
  • Sumopaint - Described as a "paint program on steroids."
  • Shepards Software - Educational games
Overall it was an excellent day at the conference - I feel challenged me to be more purposeful, creative, and reflective in my own classroom, and I'm inspired me to collaborate more often with my PLN around the world. I walked away with some concrete ideas about how to be more self-reflective, how to better manage my PLN, new web tools to try, and some great Geography lesson plans. Thanks to all the presenters and participants who helped to make this year's NCTIES a great success!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Through Their Eyes

Today we had Open House. I spent all day making sure my classroom was clean and colorful and ready to welcome 60 new students. I must say, this year is already much easier than last year. I know the adults around me. I know how Open House works, how to set up my room, and who to call when a schedule goes missing. I love knowing these things.

As I welcomed parents and students into the room, I was reminded of why I love teaching 7th grade. Shy students, loud students, students who wanted a longer summer, students who can't wait to see their friends - all of them filtered into my room. Some families brought translators. Everyone was polite. Parents offered to donate supplies, offered to volunteer, promised to be in touch. For those 2 hours, students were the center of things, and I was reminded of how the world looks through their eyes - if it's awkward to have your traditional Palestinan parents follow you around, if it's annoying to have your brother trail behind you, if it's exciting to see the boy you had a crush on all summer long. I looked at my classroom and saw it as a microcosm of the much bigger world, and I loved being a part of it.

A few students from last year stopped by, and that meant the world to me. I was so happy to see their new haircuts and hear their summer stories. It reminded me of why I wanted to be a teacher in the first place - I love people. I love kids. It's immensely humbling, to see 60 lives you will touch each day for the next year and know that you are entirely inadequate to help them with everything they will face - puberty, drama, break-ups, divorces, abuse, bullying, pre algebra, and the oh so unique process of becoming yourself.

It is my prayer that I can somehow be enough. Or if not enough, that I can at least truly be the best I know how to be. And as I posted bulletin boards, typed a syllabus, planned discipline procedures, shook hands, and heard tales of summer, I felt sure that it's going to be an incredible year.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." - Goo Goo Dolls

It's that time again. Tomorrow marks the first official work day for the 2009-2010 school year. Finally, I am no longer a "first year teacher," and although I learned and struggled and grew a lot over the past year, I must admit I am just as nervous as I was this time last year - maybe more so. Last year, at least, I legitimately didn't know what I was getting myself into. Last year I could always pull the newbie card. This year, I begin the school year with high expectations - for my students, my coworkers, and myself.

What do I want for myself, and my students in the year to come?

Personally, I've created a list of 13 goals - goals to help me be the person I want to be, both in and out of the classroom. Several of these personal goals also touch on professional goals:

#3 Say 2 positive things for every negative thing about students.
#4 Teach with enthusiasm. Be myself in the classroom.
#5 Pray for one student each day.
#10 Get to school by 7 a.m.
#12 Have confidence.

In addition to these habitual goals, I have specific procedures I hope to establish in my classroom. I hope to establish better classroom management from the beginning.
  • My classroom will be clean and organized
  • The syllabus will include written learning goals for each class and I will correlate instruction and assessment to these goals
  • Students will help set expectations for behavior and academics
  • I will maintain and fair system of rewards and consequences
  • I will work towards giving students ownership of and responsibility for their own learning in the form of Interactive Notebooks, self assessments, and ACT techniques
  • We will utilize technology, specifically in the form of our SMART Board, our class blog, and our class wiki

I have high expectations for the year to come. At times, I am overwhelmed by all that I want to be as an educator and a person. I have 6 workdays before students come, and a lot to get done. Any tips or suggestions for organizing a classroom, management techniques, or the first week of classes? Best of luck to all of those out there who are about to embark on yet another new beginning!

(Picture credit: Time for Change by David Reece)