New Teacher/Mentor Google Hangout

As the new school year begins to approach, I am getting more and more excited. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what I deem necessary to have ready for the first of the school year and what can wait. I was TERRIBLE at this my first year. Absolutely terrible. What I thought was necessary was definitely not, so I spent a grandiose amount of time on extraneous things that had little effect on the classroom.

Many schools have New Teacher/Mentor programs, and many more schools do not. I was lucky. During my first full year of teacher, I was surrounded by wonderful teachers eager to help me with any questions I had. AND the school I worked at had a program for new teachers. I had double the support. The school year was still tough, but not nearly as bad as it could have been.

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I understand a lot of schools do not have this, so I would like to offer a place for new teachers to receive support from fellow mentor teachers on-line. The idea is to host the discussions once a month, the first session being in July. Each month, we would discuss a different topic ranging from parent communications to classroom management to balancing work and home life.

The first session will take place on the evening of July 6. The focus will be all about the first couple weeks of school. I’d like to provide a place for new teachers to voice their concern and receive encouraging feedback with useful advice. I’d also like to discuss what the mentors deem necessary to have prepare before day one and what can wait for later in the school year. If you are interested in participating in this discussion, join the google community, “Google Hangouts for Teachers“, since the discussions will be hosted through that community.

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Google Hangouts for Teachers

As many of you may know, I founded The Educator’s Book Club, an on-line group of teachers reading professional developments books together and discussing the reading selections on a weekly basis. The group has grown significantly to over 880 members in one year alone. In that year, I have met wonderful teachers from all around the world and have read some amazing books that will improve my skills as a teacher. Halfway through every book study, we nominate and vote on the books we will read during our next book study. As you can imagine, many subjects and books get nominated, but, because only two books are selected, we miss the opportunity to learn about the other selections.

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Everyone in the group nominates books for various reasons. Either they heard great things about it from coworkers or they’ve had the book for a year with the intention to read it. Maybe your school is rolling out a new curriculum or shifting the school culture. Maybe you are moving to another state or country and your new school follows a different educational approach than your past school. We all have different reasons for nominating topics and books, and I don’t want to keep anyone from learning more.

So, I created the Google Community called “Google Hangouts for Teachers”. Here is my vision for this group.

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As the group grows, the Hangouts will become more and more diverse. This is member driven, not admin driven. Meaning, I will be posting about Google Hangouts for The Educator’s Book Club, but anyone is welcome to post about Google Hangouts, in general. The purpose of this group is to provide a community of teachers excited about education and interested in connecting with other educators. For example, if you are reading Dave Burgess’ “Teach Like a Pirate” or revamping your brain break activities, post about your interest and invite for a Google Hangout session. My hope is that there will be other teachers interested in those same topics and willing to partake in a hangout session. Brew some coffee, put on some comfy clothes, and video chat with other teachers from the comfort of your own home!

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I have already created a couple of categories within the group: Professional Development, The Educator’s Book Club, and New Teacher/Mentor. I am excited about all three opportunities, but I am really excited about the New Teacher/Mentor category. How many of you are starting your first year teaching, but are unaware of any new teacher training at your school? Maybe your school doesn’t have a mentor program established yet, or never has. I started teaching mid-school year about 4 years ago, and didn’t have a mentor or new teacher program. I survived that year, and pulled many, many late nights. However, looking back, I wish I had been a part of a program. The following year, I transferred to a different school, and this school did have a program. I can’t tell you how valuable those meetings were, or how helpful my mentor was for me! I’d love for this community to be just as, or more, helpful for other teachers!

I still have a lot to learn in the field of education. I still turn to my mentors for help. But I also have learned a lot during these past four years and have a couple tips that I would love to share. I would prefer to not be the only “mentor” and would love to welcome more seasoned teachers to the group. My thoughts are to host New Teacher/Mentor Hangouts once a month, with focused topics for each discussion ranging from parent communication to time management.

If you are interested in connecting with other teachers about continuing professional development, please join us! This group is about our professional growth no matter how long we have been teaching. New teachers and seasoned teachers are all welcome.

Currently, I am co-hosting Google Hangouts with Margie Pearse as we discuss her book, Teaching Numeracy, with other EBC members. The discussions have been wonderful so far!

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Hopefully, the Google Hangouts for Teachers community will grow and be a wonderful place for teachers to “hangout” and discuss more about our profession!

If you are interested, just click here or click on the “Google Hangout for Teachers” image above. If you aren’t sure how to create a Google Plus account, then check out this video below.

30 Great Ignitions and Bridges

I am a creature of habit. My grocery list is pretty similar week to week. I have a favorite seat in the living room. Every fall, I begin to crochet. Every January, I pack up my needles and yarn. I am a creature of habit.

But, I fight it. Having a routine gives me peace of mind. Routines give students peace of mind. But a routine can be boring in lesson plans. Sure, my routine in the classroom with transitions and schedules should be consistent, but the content of my plans should be engaging and fun. And here lies the struggle.

Independently, I struggle with opening every lesson with a new, fresh take. I may start a unit out with a big bang, but, five days into a math lesson, I begin to run out of fun intro ideas. I hit a rut, and usually turn to Pinterest. I love Pinterest. But have any of you noticed that some of the ideas on Pinterest are just… cute? Adorable, interactive intros with not much academic meat to it’s bones. It’s simply cute and somewhat related to the subject you are teaching.

I have such a hard time incorporating these activities in the classroom. Where is the critical thinking? Where is the problem solving? What true value does this activity have? Which leaves me back at square one… Until now!

Margie Pearse, co-author of Teaching Numeracy, provided this wonderful list of ignitions and bridges for math lessons! This list will definitely stay next to my plan book as a reference guide for creating engaging and thought-provoking intros. Just click on the picture below to view the file!

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Glad I Said YES to Reading Unshakeable

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The Unshakeable Summer Book Club

A couple months ago, Angela Watson asked me to co-moderate a summer book study of her newest book, Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching… No Matter What. Well, after reading Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching with The Educator’s Book Club, I knew that this book would be just as amazing, if not, more so! The Unshakeable Summer Book Study officially begins July 6, 2015, and I can’t wait to start discussing with all of the members of the group. (Click on this link or the image above to join. All members will be approved after June 15!)

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Order an autographed print copy here! Just click on this image!

I’ve already started reading the book and can I just say that this book is phenomenal?! Angela has really hit so many points and struggles that I deal with daily as a teacher. Teaching is truly a juggling act, and we continue to juggle day and night. Seriously. How many of you go to bed and check Pinterest for any last minute ideas before turning out the light? Or maybe Pinterest IS your night light? How many of you are grading at family get-togethers on Sunday? Or planning your lesson at your son’s baseball game on Saturday?

Our personal-lives and work-lives intertwine so seamlessly that it’s easy to lose sight of our priorities. All of our tasks seem equally important and need equal attention.

As for me, I don’t like to disappoint. Myself, or others. I just finished reading Chapter 6 of Unshakeable, titled oh-so-appropriately, Say “No” Without Guilt and Make Your “Yes” Really Count.

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I have a problem with saying yes. And, when I say no, it is weighed heavily with guilt, and backed with about 100 apologies and 10 reasons why I cannot commit. I hate to disappoint people: my family, my friends, my students, my coworkers, and the families of my students. Unfortunately, what I found by default is that I was disappointing my family by making so many commitments to everyone else. I was tired, grumpy, and no fun to be around at home. No matter what, disappointment was inevitable. I had to re-prioritize my future commitments, and have been improving… slowly.

I’ve learned to say no to commitments that I knew would stress me and take time away from my family. I’ve learned to say no to commitments that I knew would interfere with my lesson planning for my own students. I’ve learned to say yes to plans that fell within my “pre-approved” time slots based on my family and work schedules. I’ve made these adjustments, but the guilt never left. The apologies still haven’t stopped. And the “excuses” are just abundant. The excuses are the worst part of saying “no”…

Is it possible for Angela to have read my mind?! Or do most of us truly feel the same way? This chapter was packed full of practical advice for anyone who struggles with saying “no”. She understands the struggle, relates to it, and offers great tips to truly say no without guilt!

I wouldn’t necessarily say that I can’t wait to use these tips, because, well, I’m not biting my nails to tell the next person “no”. However, I am more confident that I will be able to better prioritize my to-do list, reframe my mindset about “no”, and truly be able to only make commitments that I can handle with my professional and personal life.

I am so excited to discuss with you all the many AHA moments I have had while reading Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching… No Matter What in The Unshakeable Summer Book Study!  Every chapter is incredibly relatable and it is very clear that Angela has, not only, had a lot of personal experience in the classroom, but has worked with and observed many other teachers as well.

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Just check out the chapter titles below to see what all Angela covers in Unshakeable!

  • Create curriculum “bright spots” that you can’t wait to teach.
  • Gain energy from kids instead of letting them drain you.
  • Uncover meaning and purpose for every single lesson.
  • Incorporate playfulness and make real connections with kids.
  • Stop letting test scores and evaluations define your success.
  • Construct a self-running classroom that frees you to teach.
  • Establish healthy, balanced habits for bringing work home.
  • Say “no” without guilt and make your “yes” really count.
  • Determine what matters most and let go of the rest.
  • Innovate and adapt to make teaching an adventure.

Can’t wait to start discussing with everyone in the Unshakeable Summer Book Study! I definitely couldn’t say no to this commitment!!

#20ways20days #UnshakeableBook

A Summary of a Great Discussion

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Two weeks ago, The Educator’s Book Club and Margie Pearse were able to host our first successful live on-line book study! During this first session, hosted on May 24, 2015, we discussed Habits 1 and Habits 2 of Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking. With a group of excited and dedicated teachers, it’s no wonder that the conversation deepened and we began to discuss how we each can implement these habits and improve our instruction. This is a brief summary of the discussion!

As we discussed number sense, Margie Pearse recommended some great tools for us to use in the classroom. In fact, check out her TPT store! She has some great resources for sale and for free!

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Building number sense is so important for students of all ages, and we need to be mindful of their various learning styles. Providing a variety of tools to learn with is crucial, so Margie provided some great options!

She provided an example of a math rack, aka rekenrek. Personally, I have made and had these in my classroom, but I admit to not using them as often as I should have. Actually, I remember making them, but it was a shared material that I don’t think ever made it to my classroom. Either way, I could have made more for myself. There are a number of ways to make these if you or your school does not have the means to invest in any for you. I made them of foam, pipe cleaners, and beads. But I have found some great tutorials below!

Personally, I’m excited to try making them of blinds! They seem so durable! If you are curious as to how they can be used, check out this video!

How many of you have a 100 chart in your classroom? I am assuming that most of you do. I did and do. So, here is my next question. How many of your students struggle counting or skip counting past 100? I always had several students who struggled. Be careful with this. These students may never build a solid understanding until we teach them. We can’t assume that they will eventually “catch on”. This being said, Margie offered a great solution! Instead of using a 100 chart, use a 120 chart! Why didn’t I think of that!? This seems like such an obvious solution and I can’t wait to chuck my old chart and replace it! Check out this one and it’s free! Or check out the one below!

We, then, continued our conversations into developing mathematical thinking and problem solving skills. I am sure that we can all agree that this is a very imperative skill for our children to learn, but how do we do this? The first step would be to stop providing formulas at the beginning of a lesson. There is a misunderstanding in mathematics that if a student can formulaically solve a problem that the student understands the concept. In fact, this only proves that a student knows how to follow directions, and not think critically.

meq33Instead, Margie recommends providing the students with a real world problem and have them collaborate and solve the problem with the knowledge they already have. This helps them strengthen their prior knowledge and bridge their understanding to the new material. For example, when introducing multiplication, provide a real-world problem like, “Sam just bought 4 packs of candy. Each pack has 7 pieces in it. How many pieces of candy did he buy?” Encourage the students to collaborate and problem solve. Did they choose to draw? Repeated addition? Or did they invent their own solution? When we, as teachers, observe our students collaborate and host focused discussions, we are able to deduce their true understanding of the problem at hand.

We, as teachers, do not need to be at the front of the classroom for extended periods of time. Learning best takes place with engagement and Margie provided this wonderful resource on how to improve that engagement in the classroom. She recommended using Debbie Math Work Stations. This is a great way for students self-monitor their work, collaborate, practice prior skills, and build current ones! All the while, the teacher is able to provide more individualized assistance.

Lastly, I found Habit 1 to be the most impactful. Estimation should not be it’s own unit, but, rather, it should be utilized across the curriculum. Estimation is numerical thinking in action. Teachers can determine a great deal of a student’s understanding based on an estimation and explanation. For example, if the answer to a question is 4500, but the student estimated 2, then we can assume that there is a disconnect in the student’s understanding of a concept. This applies to any math problem, not just the unit on estimation. This is also a great tool to teach students as a means to check their work.

In fact, I have subconsciously used this skill recently! I’m not sure if I can use the word estimate in this instance, but I definitely used number sense to solve my cooking problem! I was following a recipe that called for 4 parts soy sauce and 2 part mirin (a sweet rice wine). I “tastimated” that the taste would be strong with the soy flavor and that the liquid would be a dark brown. Well, I doubled the recipe, and it was neither strong nor dark. Based on my original “tastimate”, something was wrong. I backtracked and realized that I hadn’t doubled the soy sauce portion, though I doubled the mirin. Problem solved and I had no wasted ingredients!

Our students are very good at regurgitation. Most people are. But we need to prepare our students for a future we yet to know. A future full of tools yet to be invented and needs yet to be discovered.

I am so very excited to for our next live discussion with Margie Pearse that will be hosted on Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 7pm EST. Join The Educator’s Book Club on Facebook for more information on entering the on-line discussion room! Or follow @edsbookclub or @Pearse_Margie.