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Ultimate Teacher Planner - Now on TPT

Thursday, June 29, 2017


What happens when you can't sleep?  Why, you stay up all night and create a new Ultimate Teacher Planner for your TPT store!  This planner has everything that a teacher might need.  It's 80 pages and includes...

  • a cover page;
  • a school information page;
  • class roster pages;
  • grade book pages;
  • teacher meeting note sheets;
  • long term planning pages;
  • two different monthly spreads; and
  • a lesson plan template.
The amazing part about it is that it is available as a bundle of PDF (so you can print and go) AND in Powerpoint, so you can customize until your heart's content!

Check out some of the sample pages below! 

Cover Page:
 

Lesson Plan Template:



You can find the full product over in my TPT store here!  Enjoy!




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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why You Should Read For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and How It Will Make You A Better Teacher


I just finished reading For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too by Christopher Emdin.  And... wow.  While I have about 12 blog post ideas just from reading it, I knew that I wanted to start by doing a recap of the book itself.  Mostly because the information inside of it is too good not to share and because I. Couldn't. Put. It. Down. You know it's good when you can't stop reading or thinking about it. 

Before you get too far into this, I must warn you that this post is severely long.  I tried cutting it down, but I didn't want to leave out any important information!  Okay, anyway, with that being said...

Let's start with how I came across the book. My district (Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky) hosted a Deeper Learning Symposium at the beginning of June. Christopher Emdin, author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too, was the keynote speaker on the last day of the symposium.  He was phenomenal to watch in person and his insights and perspectives about our students in urban settings blew me away. As a white, female teacher, the differences between some of my students and myself are too large to go unnoticed and yet, they're usually not acknowledged. At one point in his keynote, I remember feeling very uncomfortable, like I was a fraud. But I knew that the growing happens in the discomfort, so like any good lifelong learner, I ordered his book from Amazon and set out on one of the best reading adventures I've ever been on.

When I say that it is chocked full of good information, I'm not lying to you.  It is a terrible study habit to highlight most of the words in a book, but I couldn't stop because almost every line was one that I wanted to remember!  As a middle class white teacher in an urban area with many students who don't look like me, I wanted to take in as much as I could so that I could be the best teacher I can for my students.  I almost don't know where to begin this post.





Emdin's basic premise is that of Reality Pedagogy.  Reality pedagogy is teaching and learning that meets each student on, what Emdin calls, his or her own cultural and emotional turf.  That means that you take the time to recognize each of your students' realities and use that to inspire your teaching.  At first glance, reality pedagogy is very similar to the popular phrase "culturally responsive teaching."  And, in many ways, it is.  There are pieces of culturally responsive teaching that overlap with reality pedagogy, such as learning within the context of one's life and student centered instruction.

But let's be clear here, reality pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching is NOT as simple as pulling a book with a character who looks like the student.  This is often more offensive to a student's reality than avoiding it altogether.  Reality pedagogy goes much deeper and is much more effective.  According to Emdin, reality pedagogy is not about seeing students equal to their cultural identity, but instead individuals who are influenced by their cultural identity.  That means, for teachers, while we determine what needs to be taught (the content), our students help determine how that information is taught.  We are no longer planning lessons around the content to be taught, but rather around our students who need to learn the content.

When teaching doesn't connect to students, it is perceived as not belonging to them.


Within his book, Emdin goes through many strategies that we can apply to our teaching in urban areas that would be more effective.  I will go into all of these deeper in later blog posts (after I do MUCH more research and implementation!) but I want to give you an outline of some of the strategies that he proposes.  Let me know if you've used any of these strategies in your own teaching.

Pentacostal Pedagogy - Preachers in southern Black churches are probably the best teachers around because they know how to engage an entire room full of people simultaneously.  Some of the best teachers around don't have educational degrees, but they know how to create magic.  Watch Emdin talk about how teachers can create that magic in his TED Talk:


Cogenerative Dialogues - Invite students to be part of a "special task force" or cogen whose main job is to identify problems in the classroom and co-create solutions.  In the book, Emdin talks about how one of his cogen groups identified his yelling as a problem in the classroom.  He took it rough (as we all would) but they worked together to come up with a solution which involved a nonverbal cue from his cogen group.  Cogens should be created using a cross section of the classroom population:  a highly performing student, a low performing student, a highly engaged student, and a disengaged student.  While you're not specifically looking for cultural differences, you'll find these probably play a part.

Co-teaching - The next step of the cogen mentioned above is inviting students to teach a class.  Emdin states that "they [students] love the teaching and learning process when they are a part of it."  By having students teach the content and experiencing what it's like to engage in the lesson planning and delivery process, they gain a better understanding of the teaching process as a whole.  It is important for you to encourage the students to plan for the best way they believe to teach the content to their urban youth community, not the way that they would expect the teacher to plan the lesson.  The goal is to learn from the students and how they interact with each other.

Create a Cosmopolitan Classroom -  The cosmopolitan classroom is one where the students are emotionally connected and invested.  The class turns into a family and each person fills a specific, special role to keep the family functioning.  Class jobs go a long way in the cosmopolitan classroom.  Cosmopolitan classrooms create their own social norms and language that is respected by each member of the group.  These might include a catch phrase such as "I will not lose" or a co-created handshake.

Teach Within the Context of Your Students - Emdin makes an interesting observation in his book by acknowledging that his students are often more tied to neighborhood networks than they are tied to ancestral origins.  So, in order to teach within each of your students' personal contexts, you need to get out and be a part of them.  Emdin spent his evenings on the basketball courts with his students and his weekends at cookouts and church events with their families.  He observed how they interacted with each other and how they learned from each other and he brought that back into his classroom.  

Create Friendly Competition - A large part of urban youth culture is the battle.  It's not about violence, but about being mentally, physically, and spiritually ready to be challenged.  Just as rappers prepare for a rap battle, students can prepare for classroom battles where their knowledge of content is put to the test.  The beauty of the battle is that even students who struggle with content and may perform poorly on standard academic tests have the opportunity to shine in a different environment.

Keep it "Clean" - To be blunt:  fashion, art, and aesthetics matter.  Emdin says, "engaging with an audience who values aesthetics requires attention to one's attire."  Urban youth display their personalities through their dress and they should be allowed to express their style without being punished for it.  A good guideline to follow is if what a student wears or chooses to do impacts teaching, learning, or his/her intelligence, then it should be addressed. Otherwise, self-expression should be welcomed.

Teach Students to Code Switch - This chapter could turn into 2-3 blog posts all on its own, but the basic premise is that students should be taught how to engage in different environments.  How one speaks on the basketball court is likely not the same way they will speak in traditional classroom settings and is far removed from Ivy League college lingo.  While it's important to meet students where they are and let them be themselves within our classrooms, they also need to know how to navigate the world outside of our classrooms.  Code switching is how students (and people of other cultures in general) do that.

Let Them Be Where They Are (on Social Media) - Social media can be scary for educators, especially when it comes to letting students use it within the educational context of the classroom.  The important thing to remember is that they already do use it to collect artifacts of their realities.  Why shouldn't we use that to our advantage? Just remember that it is your responsibility to teach them how to use it productively.

I could spend all day talking about this book and still not feel satisfied.  I hope, if nothing else, this post has given you something to think about in regards to your own teaching in an urban classroom or ways that you can push yourself to be more culturally competent.  I'll leave you with one last quote from the book.  It's probably my favorite, as I highlighted, circled it, underlined it, and placed a star next to it.  Emdin says, 

You cannot teach someone you do not believe in.

Even if you're struggling with the cultural piece -- as all of us middle class, white teachers have -- remember that, above all, your students need you to believe in their ability to do it.  For their sake and for yours.






Also, side note, I created a LOT of #booksnaps while reading this book.  I'll put them all here in case you're interested.  Another fun way to use social media for teaching!








Book Bites: Top 10 Leadership Quotes from "Hacking Leadership"

Monday, June 19, 2017
I know that one of my favorite places on the Internet is the Quotes section on Pinterest.  I'm constantly looking for inspirational words to help me get through the week.  I do the same thing when I read by highlighting lines that speak to me and jotting down notes in the corner.  Teaching is a hard job and, most of the time, these quotes motivate me to do my best in the classroom.

I just finished "Hacking Leadership" by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis.  Like the other books in the Hacking Education series, it's a quick read and filled with poignant quotes that carry lots of meaning and application to teacher's jobs.  While this book is geared towards school leaders, it's truly applicable to anyone who plays a leadership role in schools, such as teacher leaders, coaches, and administration.

Below is a list of my favorite quotes from the book, in no particular order.


1.  A school leader's objective must be to remove barriers and help transform perceived problems into opportunities and possibilities.

2.  When we commit to a project and feel ownership of it, we feel pride in its impact.

3.  Be a school leader who takes the work seriously and pours heart and soul into the school community, but at the same time, keep your ego in check.

4.  We learn by doing, but we learn more by reflecting on what we have done.

5.  Telling a school's story shapes its culture, giving individuals a common identity as members of the school community.

6.  Children in a school should feel confident that their educators love (or at least like) and respect them.  

7.  If we are going to create spaces that are about students, we have to offer authentic opportunities for students to be invested in the process.  

8.  Moving to individualized, learner-centered professional development can be transformational.  The process wasn't more work; it was the right work.  

9. Current narratives about public education are more Charles Dickens than Pollyanna Sunshine, and the more people we can get talking about the great things happening in schools, the better off we all are.    

10.  Remember, schools should be more about the kids and less about the adults.

That last one speaks volumes to me.  How often do we make decisions based on what the adults want rather than what the students needs?  

I love reading something that gets me energized to move forward.  What have you read lately that motivated you to make a change in your practice?

Click here to buy the book on Amazon for yourself: Hacking Education



Book Bites: Top 5 Hacks from "Hacking Education"

Friday, June 16, 2017
If you are an educator and you haven't read the Hacking Education series, you're already behind.  The books are quick reads and give great, easy examples that you can take back to your school or classroom the next day.  Really.  Part of each hack is titled, "What You Can Do Tomorrow" and it's always something you can actually do tomorrow.

Hacking Education is a combination of hacks from other books in the series, which I am slowly working my way through.  This particular book provides hacks for school culture and climate, leadership, technology, and more.  I can't wait to implement some of them in my building next year.  Below are my favorite hacks from the book, in no particular order.



1.  Pineapple Charts

This is GENIUS.  I know that one of my favorite things about being a teacher is getting feedback after an observation.  (Is that weird?  That's probably weird.)  I love knowing where I stand and how I can grow.  Pineapples are the universal symbol of hospitality and pineapple charts are calendars where teachers list what they will be teaching during a certain period of the the day.  Other teachers can use the chart to find teachers or lessons they may be interested in.  Read more about pineapple charts here.

We learn best from other teachers, but sometimes we're afraid to ask if we can come observe someone we think is a rockstar teacher because we don't want to intrude.  This takes the pressure off altogether.  If you're really feeling like stretching and growing, make a quick #ObserveMe chart and feedback form for observers.

2.  Teacher Quiet Zones

If you're anything like me, all you want to do during lunch time is to sit in a quiet, dark room.  Keyword being quiet.  I love my students, as I'm sure we all do, but they are loud most of the time.  Or take another scenario: you're in your room working hard on a unit plan or grading, only to be interrupted by another teacher or an administrator who wants to talk.... forever.  This hack proposes that somewhere in the building is a room that is strictly a quiet zone.  Teachers can go in there to work on something or take a break, but the key is that it is quiet.  This should not be a room such as the teacher's lounge or the copy room, but rather a place where silence is respected.  If you need to speak to someone who's in the Quiet Zone, you leave before starting the conversation.  If you need to answer a phone call, you have to exit the Quiet Zone.  Silence. Is. Golden.

3.  Marigold Committees

This one seems like a no-brainer, but I have taught in schools where it's not happening.  Start a Marigold Committee for new teachers in the building.  A Marigold Committee is a team of veteran teachers available to welcome and help new teachers as they begin their educational journey.  Anyone can be on the Marigold Committee and there is no requirement to be a part of it.  The authors suggested meeting on a regular schedule so that new teachers have the opportunity to meet with veteran teachers, ask questions, and learn the ins and outs of the school, district, and teaching profession.  At these meetings, topics could range from planning lessons to fire drill procedures to navigating the district benefit selections.  (Am I the only one who struggles with insurance?  I can't be the only one.)

4.  The In-Class Flip

The flipped classroom is nothing new to the education world, thanks to the rise of technology.  In a traditional flip, students would get the direct instruction part of the lesson outside of class via video or some other virtual means and the teacher would facilitate more of a hands-on guided practice inside the classroom.  While I LOVE this idea, I know that I would run into lots of hurdles, including lack of Internet and device access.  The book offers a different approach called the "In-Class Flip" where all of the instruction still takes place in the classroom, but it looks much different.  

In the in-class flip, students rotate through stations, one of which is a video with direct instruction.  This would normally be an at-home activity in a traditional flip, but moving it to a station during the school day ensures that all students have access to the material.  The authors gave very specific instructions on how to set up the stations to have the most benefit for your students.  I'm not going to go into all the details, but they suggested 5 stations:  a warm-up writing activity, review of prior learning, a hands-on activity, the video of direct instruction, and application of the new content.  In this model, the teacher is freed-up from direct instruction to facilitate learning in other ways.  This is something that is DEFINITELY happening in my classroom this year.  I'll be sure to keep you posted on our journey!

5.  The Glass Classroom

I am no stranger to social media, but I know that sometimes it feels like taboo in the education world.  Principals and teachers can be reluctant to use social media to engage parents and families, but this hack suggests using social media to create a transparent classroom and allow the community to be involved.  What happens in our classrooms should not stay in our classrooms.  I'm excited to use a common hashtag and Twitter account to share what's going on at Camp Taylor Elementary this year. 

Have any of you read the Hack series?  What are your favorite hacks?  Are you interested in implementing any of these this year?  Let me know!



How to Build Your PLN This Summer

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Like most teachers, I am heavily involved in my students and classroom.  I am constantly looking for engaging lessons, rigorous curriculum, the next best behavior system.  Most teachers spend their summers working to add to their mental file cabinet with these types of knowledge.  And while I'll agree that these activities are important, I'd also be willing to bet that you'll get a lot more bang for your buck by building your PLN.



Most people in education have heard of a PLC (Professional Learning Community), which is a usually a site-based community of learners with the same or similar goals.  The term PLN, or Professional Learning Network, is a little more elusive.  A PLN is a community of learners that transcends all the barriers you might normally experience while networking.  Your PLN is much broader and might include teachers from your school and district, but also those across the state and across the country.

Why should you grow your PLN?

  1. They are like-minded but offer different perspectives on topics you're interested in.
  2. They are a system of support.  Got a question?  Ask and your PLN answers.
  3. They are cheerleaders for your work.
  4. They know people you don't know and can help you make things happen.  The key here is the word network.
  5. They can provide real-time conversation, or slower, on-going conversation. (Think Twitter or Voxer.)
  6. They are passionate and inspiring.
  7. They motivate you.

I could go on forever, really.

I really started building my PLN when I joined Twitter and started using it for educational purposes about 2 years ago.  Since then, my PLN has blossomed.  Here are some tips for building your professional learning network this summer.



Introduce yourself to new people in your building.  If your school is anything like most schools, you stick to your team and similar grade levels.  Kindergarten teachers talking to fifth-grade teachers?  Uh-uh.  Math people mingling with the ELA folks?  Forget it.  The notion that these people have nothing in common with you is ridiculous.  If anything, you share a love for students and a passion for education.  That's enough.  More than likely, you've seen someone in the building that seems like they have it - you know, that thing the students love, even if you're not sure what it is.  Talk to that person.  Introduce yourself.  Ask them if they want to meet up for lunch or coffee over the summer to talk about how to bridge the gaps in your school or work on a project you might both be interested in.  You can also take this same approach to district professional developments that you attend.  Introduce yourself!

Attend a teacher-led professional development.  It's not that we don't like administrators, but we all know that they have a different mindset.  Find a good professional development session that is lead by teachers and is designed for teachers.  An unconference or EdCamp is a great place to start.  If you've never heard of an EdCamp, it's a teacher-led unconference where participants sign up to lead sessions throughout the day.  It is very organic and is based on the idea that there are no experts, only learners.  You can learn more about EdCamps at www.edcamp.org.  If you're in the Louisville area, check out EdCampJCPS on August 1st at Moore Middle and High School.  If you're in Kentucky or anywhere near, EdCampKY is August 26th at Bardstown Middle School in Bardstown, Kentucky.

Get on Twitter.  If you do nothing else to build your PLN this summer, at least get on Twitter.  It's super easy and free to set up an account.  Start following some people in your district, state, and across the nation.  Twitter will also suggest a list of people for you to follow.  You can do a Google search for the best people to follow in your state on Twitter and get lots of ideas that way.  For example, here's a list of Kentucky educators to follow. Just by following some great people, you'll get lots of inspiration.  Following hashtags (such as #edchat or #edtech) is another great way to get inspiration, find like-minded folks, and build your PLN.  Let me be one of the first people you follow on Twitter.

Participate in a Twitter Chat.  It's one thing to follow people on Twitter, but it's another to interact with them.  This is where you'll get the most of your Twitter experience, hands down.  Check out the list of education chats here. Try to start with a grade level, content area, state, or district chat.  For example, as a third-grade teacher, I sometimes participate in #3rdChat.  Some of my other favorites are #learnlap, #tlap, #sunchat, #jcpschat, and #kyedchat.  You can start by just following them and gain more courage to participate over time.  My friend Kelsey did an amazing post about how to participate in a Twitter chat!  You can check it out here.

It's not hard to grow your PLN, but it does take some work!  I hope you've got a few ideas about how to get started.  Let me know how it goes!

Take care,



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