Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Finish the Year Strong

“Finish Strong!” This phrase is used in so many fields and disciplines, but it all means the same thing, Even though you are tired, you have worked hard, do not let up when you are so close to the end. Do not “coast” to the finish line. We only have our students for a limited time, about 187 days. We ONLY have 187 days to make an impact on their lives. The spring can be overwhelming with all the events that happen this time of year but remember every minute we have with our kids should be intentional. Use the time to help them grow as much as possible; to reach and exceed every goal they have set themselves, to help them on the path to life-long learning.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, “the teacher matters!” The way we finish the school year sets the tone for the students for summer--whether they read or not, and sets the tone for the next school year--do they already have in mind that school is always important. I am not sure about you, when a student would ask me if they missed anything when they were absent, I would be offended. I still get offended if someone asks this question when he or she misses a meeting. “Of Course you missed something, important somethings.” We want our students with us to the last day because we plan important, vital, engaging, relevant lessons that they need to have!

Many of us are already making plans for next year, many of us have so many ideas it makes us excited, but do not forget we still have lots of days this year we can make an impact. When you are looking at your lessons, are you excited to teach them? If not, what can be done about that? We often joke that we have to “entertain” the students, but the truth is we need to engage them. No one wants to be in a place they are bored! What can we do to personalize lessons, to engage the whole child, to utilize the idea of anywhere anytime learning?
I am blessed to get to work with one of the most talented group of educators I have ever seen. The amount of knowledge, passion, and innovation is incredible; it is contagious! Be the teacher you wanted when you were in school. Be the teacher you want your child to have. Be the teacher that reaches their students! Leave them wanting more.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Differentiation



Differentiation
This has been a topic of discussion for years! What is the best way to differentiate? How do I make sure that I am differentiating for all kids in a class of 25 (or more)? What data is the best data to use to plan this? How do I find the time?

For me, T-Tess has been the best rubric to reframe my understanding of what differentiation truly is. As an inclusion teacher, differentiation has been extremely important to me; having my students be successful is what drives me. We all know that “Ah-Ha” moment and what that means to our kids- I love this look! Now, as I look back, I was not as effective as I could have been. I look at the strategies I used, the supports I gave, even who got the supports; I see now that I gave crutches to students who did not need them. Did the word bank help? Of course! Would they have been successful without it? Probably. What data was I using to make these decisions? If I could go back, the changes I would make! I think we all feel that hindsight is 20/20. If I had been more targeted with my scaffolds and supports, would I have gotten students to be more successful? I like to think so.

Why is this important to share? Why do I need to say this aloud? Because, we all have tried strategies that did not go the way we wanted them to or lessons that did not give us the results we thought we were going to get. It is important to know that is about our journey. Teaching is not an exact science; kids are unpredictable. We need to have lots of experiences and strategies in our toolbox to be the most successful teacher we can be.  

When we plan lessons, we need to think about all the students in the room. It can be any need the students have:

    Academic- maybe they need less answer choices or maybe they need to have a small group lesson before they start their assignment

  Social/Emotional- maybe the students need to turn and talk about their thinking before they can work without disrupting others or maybe they need a checklist to help them focus on the task at hand?

 

Whatever the need of the students are, it is our goal to meet them in order for them to be successful in their work.  It can be a daunting undertaking, but together we can work to close the gaps, challenge our students, and guide our students to success. Teachers have a tremendous responsibility of educating our future; we take this responsibility seriously.

Monday, January 22, 2018

STEAM- Schluter's Journey


As educators, we know we are teaching students, training students to have jobs that currently do not exist. We accept the challenge to develop minds to be open to the unknown future. When we ask our students what they want to be when they grow up, we smile knowing good and well that we have no idea the opportunities they will have. We live in an age of ever changing technology, one that keeps information once memorized at our fingertips to be recalled at the push of a button. We live in a global society that with a connection that could not have been fathomed when we ourselves where in our students shoes.

Teaching is a cornerstone profession; it is a part of every profession out there. We are innovated enough to see that we have to teach our students- to solve problems, think for themselves, and to be risk takers. These are all very difficult skills to teach. It takes courage, confidences, and the ability to see that failure is not the end, but the beginning to real learning.  We are teaching our students to be future ready- whatever the future holds for them.

The importance of STEAM learning

We have been in the process of incorporating the idea of cross-curricular education within our school for 3 year now. We started small; with the Makerspace in the library during recess and have grown to have a full-on STEAM Lab. The process has not been an easy one, teachers are pulled in many directions and it is often hard to see the value of something new. Luckily for me, Schluter is a school full of innovative teachers that are willing to try new ideas and step out of their comfort zone to ensure our students are receiving the best education possible.

Our journey:

It all started with Christa telling me (because she did not ask!) that we needed a space for students to learn and explore what they are interested in. I agreed. She brought the idea of the Makerspace to Schluter. We worked to come up with challenges for the students to choose from; they signed up to come to the Markerspace during their recess time. There were also opportunities in the library for students to learn about what they were interested in as well. It was a great start! The students worked hard and came up with a variety of solutions for the problems posed. It was exciting to see the learning students where choosing to be a part of.

Then last year during our construction, we hit a snag… space. We did not have the space to grow our program or even to keep it going at the same level. Unfortunately, we were forced to scale back on what we were offering to our kids, BUT what this time did allow is for a team to start thinking about what our kids need. STEAM- we had a group that brainstormed what we were wanting for our kids, what it needed to look like, and what we needed to make it happen! Our team was made up of teachers here at Schluter as well as a representative from Chisholm Trail: they worked on grants, plans, and a vision. Our grant writing proved to be fruitless, but we did not allow this to slow us down. We had to look for down new avenues for our sponsorship.

Our STEAM Lab is filled with materials that were purchased by our PTA, our parents, as well as some of our teachers. We are incredibly blessed to be in a community that is so supportive of the innovation we bring to our students. This year, it has been exciting to see the students working in the lab, in the halls, and in your room. To have a student, who has maybe said five words to me all year, get excited about explaining how wind moves his transportation device- talk about powerful. Or to see a student that struggles social be the center of attention, because a lab was design around his love of a storybook character and disco- moving. The groups that have been in the lab or working on of the lab because it was full, have extremely engaged students who were making connections that otherwise might not have been seen. Has every lesson been a 100% perfect experience where each student mastered each portion of the lab? No, we are learning. We are learning about the process, our students, and the connections they are making when given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning a little different.  

The STEAM lessons that have been designed for our students have been incredible. I cannot wait to see what other lessons our teachers come up with next.