Summer Learning

My brain is about to explode!  I know it is summer vacation, but I have used the first few weeks of vacation for my own personal learning.  I started out reading two amazing books.  The first one is by Carol Dweck, entitled Mindset The New Psychology of Success.

The first time I had heard about this idea of mindset was during an SDAWP writing conference.  One of the presenters talked about fixed mindset versus growth mindset.  I won’t go into too much detail, but this quote is taken directly from the Mindset website.

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

Reading this book had a profound impact in the way I view things.  As a teacher, I want to make sure that I encourage the growth mindset in my classroom.  As a parent, I want my daughters to understand the importance of a growth mindset in their learning.

When I finished this book, I read the book Drive, by Daniel Pink.

Wow!  This book also made me more aware of the ways we use extrinsic rewards to motivate.  Here is a youtube video that outlines his findings.  However, I would highly recommend you still read his book.

Again, reading Pink’s book made me think about the implications of student engagement and motivation.  How can I as a teacher make sure that students are involved in their learning?  As I read the book it reminded me about all the work I did last year with my Genius Hour time.  That whole experience lit a fire within me.  How amazing would it be if I could create that spark in all subjects, not just Genius Hour time?  What impact would that kind of learning environment have on students?  It’s a lot to think about and implementing this inquiry-based learning would be hard work.  But man, it would be so worth it in the end.  Learning can be fun.

I also signed up for a massive open on-line collaboration (MOOC) through Stanford University.  This MOOC was about how students learn math.  It is not a free course, but anyone can sign up to take it.  Here is the link to the site.  I thought this course would give me some insight on how to teach math in more meaningful ways.  I was not disappointed.  Although I am not going to be teaching in my own classroom next year, I can still use the ideas I learned in my math coach position.

Finally, I know I have mentioned before that I am going back to school to get my administrative credential.  I just completed a course in school improvement leadership.  In this class we talked about change theory.  We discussed the benefits of Professional Learning Communities and formative assessments.  We learned how to create effective school growth plans.  I just finished the final project and wrote a culminating reflective essay about my learning in this course.  It feels good knowing that is one less thing for me to complete.

Did I mention that I feel like my brain is about to explode??  The beautiful part is that all my learning is connected.  The principles I learned in each activity overlap with one another.  I think I need to take a break from all this learning and read something light.  However, I ran into a former colleague of mine, and she was so excited to talk to me about a book she was reading.  It’s funny because I had just ordered the same book and it arrived the other day.  It’s next on my list of school books to read.  The book is called The Writing Thief, by Ruth Culham.

I can’t wait to cram more knowledge into my already packed brain.  🙂

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Computer Lab Success!

This post is a continuation of yesterday’s computer lab fiasco.  I have to say that today went much better.  We actually got a lot done.  I found that front loading my students before we actually went into the lab helped.  Today, I shared two new resource tools with my students.  The first was Worldbook online.  This is an online encyclopedia.  My students are doing animal reports, so I showed them how to search for information.  Students were able to print up the information in the lab.  The second tool I shared with my students is how to access the school’s card catalog.  I had my students search for books related to their animal.  They wrote down the title, author, and call number.  I am going to give the information to the librarian, and hopefully, she can pull the books ahead of time for me.  Finally, I asked my students to access the Google Docs folder that I created.  Then, they created a new document.  It was successful.  In fact, at one point in the morning, my friend, Laura, asked if she could borrow a few of my tech experts to go to the computer lab and help her third graders.  This is what it is all about.  Students teaching students.  After school, Laura and I got together to manage her Google Docs files.  We are both truly learning about this application, and we are supporting each other the whole way.  It is a great parallel.  Students helping students, and teachers helping teachers.

The sad part is that after spring break the computer lab will be closed for the rest of the year due to testing.  The 3rd through 5th graders have to take the SBAC.  At the conclusion of this test, we are scheduled to take the MAPS test.  The lab will be reopen in June, the week before school gets out.  Since my school does not have iPad or Chromebook carts, we will not get to continue typing our reports.  I have got to get creative.  I might activate a Bring Your Own Devce (BYOD) policy every day.  I had only been allowing devices on Friday, but that may have to change.  That way, my students can work on their reports in class.

We shall see what happens.  For now, I am pleased with my students’ progress.  I am equally pleased with my progress.  My friend, Kim, commented that it was good for students to see their teachers struggle and to figure things out.  I have to agree.  That is how the learning happens.  Laura and I both said that we will be more prepared next year when we attempt this.  The key is being okay with the chaos in the beginning.  I am learning that after the chaos comes the calm.

Assessments Here We Come!

It hasn’t even been a full month of school yet, and we are already gearing up for assessments. At the beginning of the year my school conducts a series of informal and formal assessments to show where the kids are. Part of me feels like this is a good thing in that I can get an idea where my students are academically. However, the other part of me wants to know why we do this to kids so early on. It doesn’t seem fair that I have to give my students an assessment where they won’t know what to do. I can see where kids would get frustrated. I question myself and wonder do I really need a pre-test to tell me that many of my second grade students will not know how to multiply or divide. They may not even know how to add or subtract with regrouping. I already know this. So, I don’t know why I need to give the assessment. What is frustrating to me is that these assessments do not align with what I am actually teaching in the classroom. The assessments for me are not authentic. However, I continue to give the assessments because I don’t want to be the only teacher who doesn’t give them.

Some teachers may argue that we need a baseline, some number, at the beginning so we can determine if a student grew academically at the end of the year. At times I just feel like I am collecting numbers. I also know that these numbers are what I am being judged on. It lets others know how efficiently and effectively I have done my job. So, even though I hate collecting the numbers, I also know it is neccesary.

So, in the next few weeks, I will be giving my students a math assessment, a writing assessment, and a computer-assisted assessment (MAP test). Then I can get on with my job of teaching, and students can get on with their learning.