Now a Teacher and a Student

Howdy, you trusty followers! I know you’ve been waiting in anticipation for another post from me. The truth is that I’ve been beyond busy.

I got my first teaching job in June, and I’ve been teaching high school English at Elkhorn Area High School here in Wisconsin since September. I really love it. I’m teaching freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. We read. We write. We speak. It’s been such a learning opportunity for me as well as for the students.

Teaching has been more than I could have anticipated. Every single day is new, and every single student presents me with questions and challenges. I’ve learned more in the four months since I started than I did in my college teaching courses. Now, this is not a knock at UW-Platteville or any of the professors who got me to this point in my career. However, sitting in a classroom and planning a lesson here and there does not prepare people for having their own classroom.

I would love to say that teaching has been all sunshine and rainbows, but I’d be lying. There are days where I question my decision to become a teacher because I think my students are questioning my abilities. When I wake up each morning, I am excited to go to school, and when I go to bed each night, I know I’m supposed to be teaching. It’s the in-between that sometimes has me concerned. Managing a classroom is tough. Creating lessons for 12 weeks for three different classes is tough. Grading papers and tests and evaluating where my students are at in their learning is tough.

However, seeing a smile on my students’ faces after they understand something they didn’t previously understand is amazing. Having my students make connections between their own life and what we’re learning is amazing. Having a student thank me for giving them a 100% on an assignment is amazing. Having students who want to spend lunch in my room because they trust me is amazing.

There are so many amazing moments that have outweighed the tough times. I do believe it will get easier, but probably not for awhile. The things I’ve learned in these four months, though, have shown me that I’m still a student:

  1. Having support, especially in that first year, is worth more than a big paycheck.
  2. Talking to a student about their interests will make them see you as a human.
  3. Communicating with parents, whether with good news or bad, is calming.
  4. Getting students to think about their learning is more important than getting them to fill in a multiple-choice test.
  5. Being flexible is really the only option as a teacher.

Teaching is still my passion, but I’ve also realized that I want to continue learning for the rest of my life.

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I’m Back!!

Hello, my fellow educators. It’s been a long time since I’ve last updated the blog, but I felt inspired today.

My summer was incredibly busy, but I had a great time. I worked as a custodian at a school district near my home, and it was quite the experience. I met some really fun people and saw a school from a whole different perspective. People always say get close to the custodians and the secretaries, and after this summer, I understand why! Custodians work hard every single day, and unlike teachers, they don’t get their summers off. In fact, they work harder in the summer than any other time of the year. Scrubbing wax off of floors and scrubbing carpets are not extremely glamorous, but the people I worked with sure did make it an exciting time.

Coming back to school at the beginning of September was an exciting time for me! I am living on my own this year, and I’m doing my pre-student teaching this semester. Working in Potosi, WI with high school students and Platteville, WI with middle school students has reaffirmed my decision to go into education. Observing at the high school has been eye-opening. I thought high school students just did what they had to do to graduate, like I did when I was in high school, but that isn’t necessarily true for every student. High school students are there to learn, but I think more so to have fun. Being in the middle school has completely changed my perspective of teaching middle school students as well. I taught a lesson a few weeks ago, and I just want to scream out in happiness when I think about it. It was so fun, and the students were so receptive of it. My professor’s daughter is in the class, and my professor told me that her daughter loved the lesson and thinks I’m a good teacher. Truly, that is the best compliment I could have ever received. I was always certain that I would teach high school, but I’ve realized that maybe middle school is for me as well!

Living on my own and being single has really transformed my life. I always knew education was the right career choice for me, but I always had my boyfriend on my mind when we were together. I didn’t give enough attention to teaching. Being in my own place and being on my own has given me enough time to reflect on my choice of going into education, and every time I think about teaching, I get so happy and so excited for my future. I have a lot of people who tell me to not wish away my college years, but my excitement for teaching and for my future in a classroom makes me want to be done with college and in my career. I feel like I’ve made the best decision of my life by going into education and thinking about that makes me a bit emotional. I have such a strong passion for teaching and for English and for helping students and for making a difference. I wake up every morning thinking about teaching, and I’ve realized that those thoughts have confirmed my decision.

Educated by Other Future Educators

As a future educator, I’ve learned to rely on other teachers for teaching tips and tricks. There are so many education blogs out there, and I know a number of them come from other people in my class. I’ve been following some of the blogs of my fellow classmates and they have taught me so much!

Wesley Wingert showed me some awesome features that you can use when you green screen. I would have never guessed that green screening could be useful in the classroom until I came into this class. Wesley’s blog talks about how green screening can “breathe some life” into a classroom. Plus, he and one of his friends made an amazing green screen video that you have to check out! With the exciting video that he made, it is clear that Wesley will be a teacher that his students will never forget!

Baustin Bowers discussed using the Amazon Echo in the classroom. I really didn’t know what the Echo did, but he talked about the many ways it can be used in the classroom. The Echo allows people to ask it questions and it will give you answers as quick as if you would Google the subject. Baustin’s blog talks about how it can be a teacher’s aide: if the teacher is busy with a certain student, other students can go up to it and ask it questions. If Baustin is able to integrate the Amazon Echo into his classroom, I know where I’ll send my kids to school!

Sara Middendorf discussed this amazing app called Twiddla. It’s an online playground that teachers can use to teach students, even if they are not in the classroom. Sara’s blog discusses how if a teacher is away from school, he/she can explain the lesson through this app. Students can then work on problems or sample questions on the Smart Board and the teacher can see what the students are doing. This seems extremely helpful because then the teacher may not have to leave detailed subnotes. The teacher can still teach their students and not have to rely on someone else to teach the material. It’s obvious that Sara is going to be an extremely dedicated teacher!

I highly suggest that all of my followers (that’s you, mom and dad) check out my friends’ blogs. They have even more helpful information to share. It’s exciting that these are the people I will call my fellow teachers once I get into the workplace!

Well friends…I’m sad to say this is my last required blog post! I have really enjoyed keeping this blog, so I’m happy to announce that I will continue. I know, I know…you are all excited to see what I have to say next! For now, though, thanks so much for keeping up with me and all of the important things I have to say! See you soon, my loyal followers!

Kahoot!

I am someone who gets pretty bad test anxiety. I can study for hours upon hours, but once I sit down to take the test, the information gods take my knowledge away. If I focus super hard, I can remember most of the information, but then I’m kind of exhausted because my brain has been working in overdrive. Ever since I found out about Kahoot!, though, I have been really excited about quizzes in certain classes that take advantage of the website.

Kahoot! is an interactive quiz-taking site. People can create Kahoots! about any subject they want. The quizzes are multiple choice, which tend to be easier for students to take. Students are able to log into the site, as long as they have a smart phone, laptop, or other handheld device. They get to create names for themselves that the teacher and their classmates will see. This is a really cool feature because students do not have to use their first names if they don’t want or if their teachers allow them to. The teacher can also get rid of names that are inappropriate for the class.

Once everyone is logged in, the teacher can start the quiz. The questions are asked one-by-one, and once each student has answered the question, the site gives the correct answer. What makes this site so fun is that it is a fun competition. Not only do students get points for answering questions correctly, they get more points for answering the questions quickly. Everyone can see how many people selected each choice. This is a helpful feature for teachers as well, because they can see what students are struggling with and what they need to review.

This quiz site is great for all kinds of classrooms because the quizzes can be specialized for every content area. They can be used as a pre-test before teachers teach a lesson. The teacher can see what students already know about the subjects so they aren’t teaching material students already know. Then, after the lesson is presented, teachers can have the students retake the test to see how much they learned. If most of the students got a certain question wrong, the teacher will see that they need to reteach the information surrounding that question. This site gives a great tutorial on how to use Kahoot!.

Using Kahoot! is a fun and simple way to test students on material. Not only is it fun for the teachers to create their own questions on a simple testing site, it is also fun for the students because they are able to use their phones and they can compete to see who gets the highest scores. Kahoot! is an easy site to use and it can easily get rid of test anxiety!

The Flipped Classroom

There will never be a day when students do not have to receive an education. There will, however, be a time when the way we see education is completely different, and I believe that time is starting right now. Many teachers are starting to experiment with a flipped classroom method of education. The idea of a flipped classroom is simple; students watch videos of lessons at home and then spend class time doing homework, projects, and discussions.

A huge part of the flipped classroom model is the use of technology to help students learn. When students are at home, they will be required to watch short videos of lessons that their teachers put together and uploaded onto sites accessible for their students. Yes, some students do not have access to the internet at home, and in that case, teachers will give students time to watch the lectures during class.

I found some information on this site that discusses the flipped classroom more in depth. The coolest thing to me, though, is that more than 50% of freshmen failed in English in a regular classroom and 19% failed in a flipped classroom. Yes, 19% is not as good as 0%, but it is so much better than 50%, and I think those numbers will keep decreasing as teachers keep finding better methods to use to teach a flipped classroom.

One great tool to use in a flipped classroom is Wikispace. Wikis are simple webpages that can contain text, images, videos, links, and more. Teachers in flipped classrooms can make Wikis for each specific class they teach. They are great for flipped classrooms because teachers can add different videos and links that show different methods of teaching the content. Teachers can even upload their own videos of them teaching the material so students see a familiar face when they are learning new information on their own.

Another helpful tool is Edmodo, a safe social media site that teachers can use to communicate with their students outside of the classroom. Students can chat with their classmates and teachers when they are not in the classroom. This tool is great for the flipped classroom because as students are watching lecture videos, they may have questions that are not answered in the videos. They can simply send out a message to their classmates and teacher, and someone can answer their question in seconds.Teachers can also create assignments and quizzes through Edmodo so if students want extra practice with the material, they can log into Edmoto and take a sample quiz or do some sample problems.

The flipped classroom is becoming more prevalent in classrooms in America. Giving students the help they need with homework in the classroom is better than them struggling through tough problems on their own. Allowing students to refer back to lectures and lessons whenever they need to gives students the opportunity to study and answer their own questions when they are at home. Even if students are struggling, they will have in-class time to work on homework and projects with the help of the teacher. Flipped classrooms are increasing success in many classrooms around the country.

The Better Luthanen

Well…my oh-so wonderful followers have spoken! They are sick of me and want to hear from someone new! Well folks, here you go! Introducing my amazing sister, Maddie Luthanen!

I hadn’t always wanted to be a teacher, I debated between being a mail woman or a truck driver, but soon realized that those jobs didn’t have the same impact becoming a teacher would. School was not always my favorite thing, but whose is? There’s a Maya Angelou quote that I think is very prominent for teachers: “People don’t remember what you said. They don’t remember what you did. They remember how you made them feel.” This is why I want to become a teacher, because of the people in my educational life.

I remember crying for my mom on the first couple days of kindergarten, as many of the other kids did, but that lasted much longer for me than anyone else. I don’t exactly remember what it was about school that made me not want to be there, maybe the freakishly small toilet in our classroom or the fact that I couldn’t cut out holes in the middle of construction paper. Saying goodbye to mom my got easier as I got older, but the school work did not. Learning to read was a struggle. The parent helpers would wait for me as I tried to sound the words out, but was unsuccessful most of the time. My dad would take me to the library after school and we would get beginner books to work on my reading with. I was so excited when I learned how to spell my last name so I could finally get my library card. That was probably one of the most exciting days of my childhood life. I think these facts really helped my love of reading prosper and also helped me become a much better reader, something I would definitely need.

Third grade was my favorite year throughout all of my schooling. Maybe the multiplication songs and the class pet helped out with that fact, but the real reason why it was my favorite was because of my teacher. She was more than a teacher, she helped me out with personal problems and taught me how to be a better person. I am still convinced that I was her favorite because she always snuck me jolly ranchers. She made school fun, which was something I hadn’t experienced before third grade. School was more of a chore for me, but I looked forward to attending that class everyday. After third grade I knew I wanted to be a teacher because mine had made such an impact on me and was such an inspiration. I wanted to be that same person for other students.

Middle school was the typical drama-filled, awkward stage of life for me. With all the craziness going on, I don’t even remember those school years too much, and then I was on to high school. I loved high school: being able to pick your own classes, being involved in clubs, homecoming and prom. I also had several influential teachers in high school that just continued to motivate me to become like them. My English teacher my senior year was awesome; just like my third grade teacher, he made school fun and the work didn’t seem like work because it was something I wanted to do to excel. I had a math teacher that really pushed me and I didn’t like her all of the time but I appreciate that she didn’t give up on me and pushed me to do the best I could even when I thought I couldn’t. I had a lot of opportunities in high school to teach others and help students out like volunteering through NHS, Link Crew–a freshman-welcoming program, and being a teacher aide at my local elementary school. Graduation was an equally exciting and scary time for me. I knew exactly where I was going and was happy about it, but I was nervous that I wasn’t going to be good enough for college or that I would miss home too much. I didn’t want my days living at home and seeing my friends to be over.

I am now a freshman at UW-Eau Claire studying Elementary and Special Education and couldn’t be happier about it. Yes, I do miss home and my friends and occasionally reminisce about high school, but knowing that I am close to my dream is so amazing. I know that becoming a teacher will be so fulfilling to me and I hope to have as much of an impact on my students as my teachers and school experiences did for me. Although not always the best memories, my education is what has shaped me to be who I am today and I am very thankful for every teacher I had.

Okay guys, it’s me again! Was that enough of a break for you all?

I want to say thank you to Maddie. She is truly going to make an incredible teacher because of everything she has experienced. She is such an inspiration to me, and she is definitely someone who inspired me to become a teacher. I’m going to try pushing her to start her own blog, because she has some pretty incredible things to say!

The SAMR Model

The SAMR model is becoming a popular model for educational technology. Technology is such a huge part of our culture, so teachers feel like they need to integrate it into the classroom. Technology in the classroom can benefit both the students and the teachers, but only if it is being integrated in a meaningful way. The SAMR model can help teachers learn how to use technology in their classrooms in more ways than simply reading books on iPads or filling answers in on PDFs.

I think there are some teachers that think technology will be hard to integrate into their classrooms, but I truly believe that every content area can benefit from using technology. This site gives examples of lessons in many content areas using the different steps of SAMR. I think integrating any form of technology is exciting for students, but if you can transform a Shakespeare lesson from simply listening to an audio version of it to having students create a concept map to map out the symbols and themes of the play, the students will become more engaged in the lesson. As this website shows, the SAMR model can be implemented in all kinds of subjects, from math to English and even art and physical education.

Another way to learn about SAMR is through this video. This video is one that I actually made for my class, and it briefly goes over each of the steps of the SAMR model. After each of the steps are explained, I went over lesson ideas that implement more exciting technology with each step. I used Shakespeare as my example because I am an English major, but the SAMR model can easily be used in any subject area.

This final site is similar to the other sites, but it focuses on the functional changes of each step of the SAMR model. As we travel up the SAMR ladder from Substitution to Augmentation to Modification and finally, to Redefinition, each step gets more involved with technology in the classroom. The Substitution step is perfectly fine for certain lessons, but students will probably get bored if the teacher stays on that step throughout the whole school year. By using all the steps for different assignments and assessments, students will be more engaged in their learning and they will have a fun time learning.

Once I get into the classroom, I will want my students to enjoy learning, and I think using the SAMR model to integrate technology into the classroom will make my lessons more exciting for my students. Technology is becoming so prevalent in our world, and if teachers are not willing to integrate technology in creative ways, their students may not get as much out of lessons as teachers hope. By using the SAMR model, teachers will help their students learn in meaningful ways, and they will help themselves learn as well.

Assessing and Grading Students

Assessments and grades are causing a lot of controversy within schools. Should we give students grades based on simply their work? Should we grade students on effort? How do we assess students with different learning needs? Should we stop giving end-of-unit tests and focus more on assessing students’ progress?  Assessment can be an intimidating topic for students to discuss with their teachers, but it really shouldn’t be.

In my English Methods class, we discuss assessment and grading almost every week. We read Jim Burke’s book The English Teacher’s Companion, and he spends a whole chapter discussing assessment and grading. Because there are both English and Social Science teachers-to-be in the class, we focus on many different types of assessments that can be used in both subjects.

Every single teacher needs to be able to assess their students. Assessment benefits the student as well as the teacher. If a teacher is not giving their students regular assessments, how will they know how their students are improving (or not improving) in their classes? How will teachers be able to give feedback to their students? How will students know how they’re doing in the classroom? Assessments also benefit parents of the students. If a parent comes into the classroom for a parent/teacher conference, they are expecting to hear how their student is doing in the class. If a teacher isn’t assessing the students, what will they tell the parents?

Grading is another topic that causes a lot of controversy in education. Is grading an effective way to judge how someone is doing in your class? What if students are bad test-takers and they get bad grades because of that? Can we give grades based on progress and effort, or should they strictly be based on content? I believe that all A’s do not have to be the same. What do I mean by this? Let’s say Johnny came into your 7th grade classroom the first day of school, and he was reading at a 3rd grade level. By the end of the year, he is reading at a 6th grade level. I would personally give him an A (at least for reading) because he progressed so much. You also have Jenny in your 7th grade classroom who begins the year reading at a 7th grade level. By the end of the year, she is reading at an 8th grade level. I would still give her an A in reading because she still progressed. Even though she didn’t progress as much as Johnny, she still improved and deserves recognition for her hard work.

Teachers need to decide how they are going to grade and assess their students based on their students’ needs and skills. I don’t think teachers can simply not grade their students, but I do think teachers can choose to give grades based on the content knowledge and progress and effort. Many teachers feel that grades should be based solely on content knowledge, but I think the journey a student takes from the beginning of the year to the end of the year should be taken into consideration.

Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher, and Nancie Atwell are three great teachers who discuss how they assess and grade in their classrooms. Although they all have different methods of assessment and grading, their ideas should be considered in all classrooms. Ultimately, the needs of the students are the most important things teachers should be focused on. Teachers can choose to assess and grade based on content knowledge, progress, and/or effort, depending on the skills and needs of their students.

Queen Georgia

Princess Georgia

Yes, I am one of those people who thinks their dog should be treated like royalty. So why not allow her to appear like royalty for a day?

I really wanted to edit a picture to make it kind of silly, but also accurate (in my eyes at least). After looking through my pictures on my phone, I came across my gallery of 300 pictures of my beagle, Georgia. I decided to edit a picture of her, and when I found the crown image I could insert into the picture, I had my inspiration.

Picmonkey is a super easy site to use for beginning photo-editors. I chose the celebration theme, mostly because the other themes were holiday-focused. There were all kinds of filters I could add, but I decided to go with the “Radiance” filter. The beams of light you see coming off my pooch are not usually there! They really should be, but I had to insert them myself.

There was an “Overlays” section that allowed me to add facial hair, hats, and masks to the picture. The crown was obviously the most appropriate choice for a queen, so I simply slipped it on Georgia’s head and changed the size to fit her perfectly.

The stars seen in the lefthand corner of the image were found in the texture section. The “burst” that they provide to the picture adds just enough razzle-dazzle to the image. Georgia is framed by stars and rays of sunshine, because she is true royalty.

In the classroom, photoshop tools can help teachers avoid copyright issues simply by personalizing a picture. There are some tools that are free and some that are not, but all the tools can be useful in livening up a lesson. Simply having pictures on a PowerPoint can be kind of boring for students, but if you flip to a slide and William Shakespeare has an eyepatch and a tattoo, that will surely get the students’ attention. Keeping lessons exciting by integrating photoshopped images is an engaging activity for both the students and the teachers.

And sometimes, photoshopping an image of your dog to make her appear like part of the royal family is perfectly acceptable.

“Let me get the Overhead Projector from the Library!”

When I was in elementary school, Wednesday’s were my favorite because that was the day that we got to go to the computer lab. We were able to play games and use Kid Pix to make some quality artwork. In middle school, it was always really exciting when you walked into a classroom and the rolling stand with the 20″ boxy TV was standing at the front of the classroom. Teachers would also have to check out overhead projectors from the library if they needed them because there weren’t enough for each teacher to have their own.

Once I hit 8th grade and was getting ready for high school, Smart Boards were introduced, and I thought they were the coolest thing to hit the classroom. I actually started to enjoy math because that was where Smart Boards were first introduced in my school. I was unhappy to become a junior in high school, because the school purchased iPads for the freshmen and sophomores. My grade always missed out on the cool stuff! Once I realized that they blocked YouTube and Facebook and all game apps, though, I wasn’t upset anymore. During my senior year, the school purchased Chrome Books that were on a portable cart for the juniors and seniors. That was the first time that our school had enough technology for everybody to use.

When I walk into a classroom now, everybody has a laptop or an iPad or is sitting at a computer. The teacher is using Google Classrooms, and students are interacting with their peers on sites like Kahoot! and Writeabout. Even when the teacher isn’t at school, students can still learn thanks to tools like Screencastify. Smart Boards aren’t really even the “cool thing” to have in classrooms anymore.

Because technology is advancing at such a rapid pace and more and more apps are being developed specifically for the classroom, students are starting to learn at a faster pace. They have access to information faster than ever before. Smart phones allow students to search the song lyrics to the newest Beyonce song, and less than ten seconds later, they are posting pictures of their Chicken Patty on a Bun cafeteria lunch to Instagram. When I snuck my cell phone under my desk to check my text messages during class, I thought I was so sneaky. Now teachers are asking their students to get their phones out in class and respond to survey questions using special apps and websites.

Maybe teachers are afraid that if they don’t let their students use their devices at school, eventually the students will start defying them and use them anyway. I, however, think that teachers are taking advantage of this technology explosion! They are letting students use their devices in class to enhance their learning. Teachers are staying up-to-date on the best educational apps so they can help their students learn even better. The growth of technology since I was in high school (and that was only three years ago) has come at such a rapid pace that teachers don’t really have a choice but to allow their students to use technology in the classroom. If students can learn better using technology, though, this whole technology boom is probably the best thing that can happen to education!