Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why teachers cannot collaborate cross-state more often?

As I sit at the Iowa 1:1 institute conference, I marvel at the fact that teachers are LEARNING....and having fun!  Isn't this exactly what we want our students to do when they learn?  Have fun and learn at the same time!?  Professional development is something we all grimace, groan, and do because we are required by our districts.  It is ESSENTIAL, but needs to be meaningful.  I am amazed at the districts that are not changing, don’t see the need to change, but I am proud of the districts that are not 1:1, but sent their teachers so they can learn, share, collaborate and communicate so they can come back to their classroom to help teach their students to become 21st century learners.  We need more professional development like what I am receiving at the Iowa 1:1 Institute.  I attend the annual Iowa World Language Association Conference and am able to collaborate with other like foreign language teachers. Like this conference, IWLA has presentations that are given by teachers to teachers.  What better learning, when teachers are allowed to collaborate.  I think several schools in the state of Iowa are seeing the need for meaningful Professional Development and the NECESSITY of having teachers communicate with teachers beside who is within the four walls of their own school.  Collaborating and getting out, is part of how change happens and how we as teachers can team together ot make ourselves better.  Thank you Van Meter CSD for allowing this conference to happen for its teachers!  We want to keep learning----we want to learn so we can be a better teacher for our students…we want to have fun learning so we remember our students need to have fun too!  Schools who are planning professional development for next year...remember to make it meaningful and remember that collaboration is key....Meaningful learning will allow us to have fun.  Teachers as you plan your day of teaching...remember to make it meaningful---making learning meaningful, will make it fun for the students!  Something I myself have to remember!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Technology---in a Spanish classroom!?

The love of technology.  I will be the first to admit that I was so far behind in the times with technology. Not even eight months ago I was not sure how I would incorporate what I have into my classroom.  If you had asked me then, what my classroom would like today, I would say just like last year, just older students!...and a computer in every student’s hands all day every day!  Sure I used technology---but my projects were far and few between that incorporated technology.  I think I did one a quarter per Spanish level! I thought it was a lot!  We were handed our lap tops as teachers in June. I took classes all summer learning about PLNS, wikis, diigo, delicious, twitter, Nings etc. I also took classes web 2.o tools, moodle and more.  I have taken 18 credits in less than 12 months through heartland!  Online classes are my passion!  Ironically I grew up in a technology friendly family.  My dad, owner of a Radio Shack in Northwest Iowa always would have the newest gadgets---still does! , my oldest sister is a programmer for Polaris Industries, and I married a programmer for Farmers Mutual Hail and Crop in West Des Moines.  I never would have imagined that in a few short months I would actually be the technology geek—trying to figure out how to do the same project I did which was such a fun and GREAT project---but incorporate some technology—and take away the paper trail!  Wow---it is February and my classroom does not look anything like it did---and my students are still learning! I had a student who struggles in Spanish tell me he did the most fun project he had ever done in Spanish when we learned reflexives!  And he understood it!  Who would have thought!?  I am curious to see how my teaching evolves and my classroom changes in the next 8 months—these past have been a roller coaster---wild, fun, busy, chaotic, stressful, but FUN... I feel like I am a new teacher again!  Remember what it felt like to teach a lesson and have it go GREAT! I am a new teacher without having to figure out how to learn what I am teaching ahead of time, rather I can “teach” I just have a bunch of new tools to teach with!  If only I can keep up with “learning”!  If one thinks they can teach without learning, I think they are wrong---we are educators we continually have to learn…however—I do wish we had a pause button on our remote so we can at least breathe in between the learning and teaching.  I have gotten to the point where I don’t even use my textbooks hardly!  My curriculum is being re-written as I teach…and although stressful and chaotic---in my own words: way NEAT to see the changes!

Estudiantes perdidos--or rather the absent ones!

Student absences.  What is the answer?  Students have their parents call them in ill…and often are absent multiple days in a week.  Sadly, these same students will expect different due dates on assignments, not find out what they missed and fall behind in class without asking for help.  How do we cure the disease of “perezoso” and have our students, if ill, stay home, but also contact your teachers and make sure they talk to their teachers to stay in the loop?  Maybe this falls under responsibility.   When students leave for the job world, one of the most common problems are lack of work ethic.  Now, don’t get me wrong—most of my students have excellent work ethic, but there are always a few no matter what school you are in have attendance problems---what bothers me is how do we correct those few?  This is why my blog is called mi caja de jabón.  Its my soap box.  How do you cure the “absent” problems in schools so that students come to school and stay in school so they can learn?  

Responsibilidad--Unos estudiantes tienen..otros..¿Qué pasó?

Responsibility--some have it--others..I don't know what happened!

I am piloting in my Spanish classes a collaboration project that is going awesome so far---we will see how it is tomorrow, when the project is due!  My Spanish students are required to make a project through a web application and have equal group work while working with students from two other schools.  Not one student has a partner from this school.  First excitement was displayed at the new venture, then frustration at their inability to communicate---they need my guidance!  Frustration on my part, then success as the project is coming together and the partners are communicating, then anger, at the fact that their partner did ALL of the work, due to lack of communication…and now FEAR…that their partners won’t do their share to get the job done…this coming from my habitual students who never pull their weight! I found it ironic.  The assignment being due tomorrow, my students are feeling success again and excitement that the project is pulling through.  They learned some valuable lessons that one can only learn through experience Communication, Collaboration (what that truly means) and RESPONSIBILITY.  I am constantly asking my husband at night—where is the responsibility, why am I having to make students stay after school for some quality learning time so they can finish an assignment from two weeks ago because the student just simply chose NOT TO DO IT…and then I remember I am the teacher, and responsibility is something we have to teach in school.  If High school is preparing students for life beyond, that is part of our job.  When some students have it, and some don’t, it mind boggles me to wonder—is it the parents, society…the student? Is it possible for them to gain responsibility? I think for most students—YES, however they have to have a drive for what they want out of life.  I think we have a lot of students going through the motions and no guidance at home or expectations to be responsible.  If it then is my job to teach them to be responsible, how do I teach a student to be responsible that does not want to be responsible? 

It drives me crazy when my students don’t take responsibility and I know they are capable.  Yesterday I had to be absent, and today my students missed my class due to testing.  They have a project due for the collaboration piece that I am doing in my classes.  I tracked down specific students to remind them to do their part.  They said, ”I know….” When I asked if they were close to being done they answered, “I hope so.”.  Oh dear! I don’t know if there was something in the water when that person was born or what?  Don't get me wrong, of the 140+ students I have in a day, majority of my students are responsible, and in my eight years of teaching it has not changed greatly.  There are some students who do not model responsibility--they are the ones who scare me- how do we continue to teach responsibility?