Just Breathe….

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The first two weeks of school are officially over and I have already had that “light bulb” teacher moment with my students this year. The blog that I am writing today is going to be very hard for me but I think it will not only help me reflect but help me grow as a teacher.

Yesterday, I made a mistake; I was really harsh to one of my classes…I REGRET it. We were doing our first lab of the year. A lab that would teach the students about the process of scientific inquiry and design. We had gone over what scientific inquiry was, how to plan an experiment, how to identify the variables, and how to collect and analyze the data. We even have a HUGE interactive word wall that breaks down each part. As I am teaching these parts the students are shaking their head and answering questions like they TOTALLY understand everything I am teaching them. We move on. It was now time for the lab. I broke down the procedures. We read them together and I was modeling how to do each part. I then set my expectations and reminded them of the safety rules. They all start the lab and that’s when everything went sideways. Students were doing the opposite of what I said, they were fighting in their groups, they were spilling graduated cylinders of water right and left, and they are not following procedures-I became so frustrated with them–and they knew it. Never in my short 5 years of teaching have I ever been sooooo totally obvious with how frustrated I was. Instead of just stopping the lab and talking to the class about what I was seeing; I was trying to put out every individual “fire” on my own, moving from table to table; getting more and more frustrated.

I struggled with how I handled the situation and how I talked to my students all last night. I was not proud of myself as a teacher and I was not proud of how I responded to it. I didn’t know what to do. How would I fix this? How  would I repair my classroom back to where my students felt safe to make mistakes but also address some of the mistakes they made as well?

Well today I laid all my cards on the table. I started class off by apologizing for my actions and how frustrated I was with them. I explained to them what I should of done instead of what I did. I then explained to them why I got so frustrated with them. They seemed super receptive and even some of them said “Miss. Kitchens–you didn’t get THAT mad…we did make a lot of mistakes too”. We had a heart-to-heart as a class. As a teacher; I wanted my students to see that you should always own up to your actions no matter what the situation may be. As for myself; I learned that repeating your instructions 2395715789 times and getting frustrated with the students when they don’t understand…DOESN’T SOLVE ANYTHING. Today ended up being a MUCH better day and I felt like a MUCH better teacher. My students used yesterday as an example of “what not to do in a lab” and learned from it…as did I. I am grateful for each one of my students and am so excited to learn and grow with them this year as their science teacher!!

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End of Year Technology Project

Space

End of the year can be a hectic time for teachers! The students are anxiously awaiting summer break (as are the teachers), EOY procedures are sent out, final grades and averages need to be done all while still teaching your students. I have always found end of year projects work best! Especially if the students are given choice–it is also a great way for me to see how my students have grown throughout the year.

My students this year were given an assignment to create a product that represents a time period in space exploration for the “National Science Exploration Institute” (totally made up). The students collaborated in Google Docs with their partner to research information. They then used their information and were able to use any type of platform they wanted as long as they can upload the final product to our Canvas Discussion Board (a classroom portal kind of like blackboard). When the students finish their project the students will then watch each other’s projects and comment on them as well as fill in a content frame. By doing this; my students are taking more of an interest in making sure their information is correct and their product is engaging since their peers will be taking a close look at them!

Some multimedia platforms my students are using are some of the following

  • PowToon
  • EMaze
  • Canva
  • Tellgami
  • StopMotion
  • Animoto
  • ThingLink
  • Google Docs
  • Movie Maker
  • Prezi
  • Google Slides
  • Veescope
  • IMovie
  • PicCollage

They are truly blowing me away with some of the projects they are creating! They have all been actively engaged with what they are doing and they are even helping other groups with issues they are having with technology! I am so proud of everything they are accomplishing! I am SO excited to see their final products!!

I will add some of their links/projects when they are done! 🙂

 

 

Teacher Appreciation Week

This year for teacher appreciation I thought I would take a look back at all my teachers growing up and thank them for everything they did for me and their influence on me and my teacher career.

Growing up I was not an all A student, I was often quiet, and I usually had difficulty in areas such as math and science (kind of ironic since now I am a junior high science teacher) but I received a great education through KatyISD and had many great teachers! There are 3 teachers to this day that I still remember being there for me and having a big influence on me that I would like to thank!

I apologize now for my grammar and spelling.

Hayes Elementary 1996-97: 
Dear Ms. Herbert, 
You were my 2nd grade teacher and you may not remember the quiet and shy 7 yr old that I was but I remember you. I struggled in reading and writing but you made me believe that I was the best reader and writer you have ever been around. You turned writing into an exploration. You made me think that the way I said my “R”s was not different but unique. I often remember (and can actually still watch on VHS) many of the projects you had us do. From acting like Barbara Bush to a How-To on Peanut butter and honey to show and tells to creating shirts and so forth. Every time we presented in the class you can over hear you saying something nice or smiling when I seemed to be struggling with reading aloud. You never gave up on me and you always made me believe that you cared so much about each one of us in the class. I still talk to many students that were in my same class and we all agree you are by far one of our FAVORITE teachers!! Thank you for making us feel like a family and for making 2nd grade one of the best years we had in elementary! 🙂

McMeans Junior High 2002-03 and Taylor High School 2005-06:
Dear Coach Richards,
You may not remember me but you had the great pleasure of teaching me TWICE; lucky you!  8th Grade science and Chemistry would of been the death of me if it wasn’t for you! I still don’t know how you made a subject I was terrible at (mostly Chemistry) be one of my favorite classes to go to.  You made me believe in myself. I would swear  that I would never understand a concept and I would be in tears with frustration but you would always work with me during tutorials to make sure that I did and you were ALWAYS so patient with me (that must of been a hard task). I was never an A student but you made me feel like that as long as I tried that I should be proud of whatever grade I made. I’m sure I gave you many headaches but you never showed it. I still remember the exact words you said to me when I was walking into Chemistry the first day and realized that you were my chemistry teacher; you said “I thought that was the same Kate Kitchens I had at McMeans–so glad to have you back!” and I said, “Yes, but I still suck at science” in which you replied with “Well that is going to change!”  It was at that point that I decided that no matter how hard chemistry was I was NOT going to let you down. Your enthusiasm for science was what made me love coming to your class. Thank you for not giving up on me and for always helping me! The last thing you said to me as a handed in my exam and said “I hope I pass your class I did my best” and you told me “That’s all I ever wanted was for you to do your best–so don’t worry you will pass.” and then we jokingly talked about how I would never want to have ANY job that required science…and now ironically I am a science teacher and I LOVE teaching science–I even ended up teaching your nephew! haha

Taylor High School 2004-05 & 2006-07
Coach Hutson,
You also had the great pleasure of teaching me TWICE–and teaching me my absolute WORST subject–MATH! With all the students I’m sure you have taught you may not remember that you taught me Geometry in 10th grade and again in Math Models? (I forgot the name of it) in 12th grade. I was always just trying to keep my head above water in Geometry but you somehow ALWAYS were able to teach it to me in a way that I understood it. Anytime I made above an 80 on a test (which was almost impossible for me to do in math) you always celebrated it with me! You had a knack for figuring out the best way to help me understand a concept and had the patience to then teach it to me a 2nd time!! Math models my senior year was THE only math class I had ever taken that I received an A in! I am still extremely proud of my self for that A! I know for a fact the only reason why I did that well was because you were my math teacher. You took the time to get to know me and understand my learning style and for that I am SO grateful! your class is the reason why I am spectacular at doing my own taxes; I am so glad I took that class right before I graduated.
One of the biggest lessons you taught me other than math had to do with another student in that class that consistently picked on me. This student would sometimes get me so upset and put me tears (although I tried to hide it; you obviously picked up on it) –you pulled me aside and told me something along the lines of this: to never let him see me sweat…to not allow him to have that control of getting a reaction out of me and that everything he would say would mean nothing as long as I knew who I was. From that point on; I always stood my ground with him and soon enough he laid off the jokes and stopped messing with me. So Thank you for getting to know me as a student and caring about not only my academics but me as a student! 

It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realized the effects that other teachers like Ms. Herbert, Coach Richards, and Coach Hutson had on me. I want my students to feel the same way a lot of my teachers made me feel–like I was capable of anything. Being that student who was just average sometimes made me feel like I was never noticed…but to ALL the teachers who made me feel like I was SOMEBODY and that I could achieve ANYTHING–the ones who never gave up on me–I sincerely THANK YOU! You are MUCH appreciated!!

I did everything “Right”…right??

img_7721 The other day we had a quiz in my science class over Earth Structures  (Plate Tectonics and the Earth Layers); when I looked over the quiz grades I was taken back by the scores. The scores were lower than what I would have thought. I immediately questioned myself as a teacher and wondered where I went wrong. I went through the last 2 weeks in my head and thought to myself…we did multiple hands on labs, we did in class discussions, we did videos, we did notes, they had other interactive activities, they did a project, and they had a review sheet; so WHERE did I go wrong ? I technically taught the material in different ways to connect with multiple different learning styles–every college class I took would have backed me up and told me that it wasn’t my teaching; so maybe the material was too hard?? I was completely confused on what to do next. I began to stress out…would I only have one day to reteach EVERYTHING?? The wheels in my head began to start moving when I remembered a break out professional development session that I attended with LaVonna Roth about the brain and how it works. I remembered these kinetic word webs she was telling us about that helps build vocabulary and connections between the vocabulary words. It was at that moment that realized I never really helped my students make those connections on their own–I was making those connections for them. They had learned the concepts and the vocabulary as a whole. They knew that the lithosphere, asthenosphere, mesosphere, outer core, and inner core were all layers of the Earth and they knew the order but they were confused the the WHY’s and HOW’s of the order. My students knew the WHAT but I had failed to make these topics connect. I think sometimes as teachers we forget that these topics are BRAND NEW to our students. Students need to have the time to digest the material and form connections on their own through teacher guidance.

So here I was… Continue reading “I did everything “Right”…right??”

The Power of Choice

Capture 1I am a firm believer in the power of choice. I know as a teacher I don’t like being told what to do and how to do it. Even as a human being, I hate it; so why would my students like being told what to do and how to do it ALL THE TIME? How students are assessed is one example where teachers could allow their students CHOICE. I totally get that part of our jobs as educators is to teach students certain standards and to assess them on their knowledge. Luckily, I work for a district that gives their educators the choice on how they assess their students on these standards. I believe that assessment can be done in a million different ways other than your standard multiple choice test. My favorite form of assessment is allowing my students to choose the format and presentation style to show their knowledge on a topic. I believe this allows students to fully process what they have learned and create a product that accurately shows their knowledge of the concepts without the stress of a multiple choice test.

I usually give the students the topic and the rubric & the students use their imagination to take what they know and create a product that accurately expresses their understanding of the standard. For example; This last round of projects in which they researched plate boundaries and how they move. The students needed to find real examples of these plate boundaries and what geological event/landform they caused. The results were incredible. I was truly blown away by the projects my students created.  I had projects that came in all forms;
Students created…
*News presentations or Documentaries using Veescope (green screen app) and put into IMovie.
*Stop Motion Animation using legos, clay, and cut out letters!
*Scrapbooks and brochures of their adventures to these plate boundaries using canva, pic collage, and Haiku Deck.
*A LIVE AUCTION (totally blew me away) using google slides and fake money as a supplement… (In case you were wondering the Mid-Atlantic Ridge went for a whopping 33 Million)
*Apology letters, Scrapbooks, travel brochures, poems etc. using scrapbook paper and other craft supplies.

To give you an idea of creativity that these projects brought out in my student; here are a couple of examples…

Apology Letter
Students wrote about continental-continental divergent by writing an apology notes from the actual plates themselves to the residents it affected. 
MidAtlantic Ridge Example
Here is a snip-bit of part of a project (since I can post videos) in which students used multimedia as well as Legos to show how an oceanic-oceanic divergent boundary moves and what type of land-form that movement can make. 
Alps Example
This is a picture taken from a scrapbook students made showing their knowledge of continental-continental convergent boundaries. 
Auction Example
I really wish I could upload a video for this one. I had a student do a Live Auction with pretend money. He described the different oceanic-oceanic divergent boundaries around the world. Students bid on which geological boundary they wanted. Fun Fact the Mid-Atlantic Ridge went for 33 Million dollars! haha 

So…What do Great Educators do Differently?

At the beginning of the year; during the infamous staff development days; my principal comes in absolutely on fire with passion about a conference she went to in Chicago. She was going on and on about all of these great ideas that she had learned from all these “famous” educators from around the US. Now, I know my principal and she has more passion for education in her pinky finger than a lot of educators have in their whole body; so I honestly believed it was just another conference she had come back from and was just excited to tell us what she learned. After listening to her for not even 3 minutes I could feel the passion and the true “awesomeness” of what she had experienced and I wanted to feel that same thing!! Fast forward a few weeks and the staff received an email with an opportunity to attend the same conference except for it was in KATY!! I was so excited about the opportunity that I ran down the hallway during my planning period to my principals office and basically told her “I want to go to that conference, please make that happen for me!!” to which she laughed and responded with “You’re already on my list!!” That conference was the What Great Educators do Differently ( #WGEDD) and I was so pumped!

This past Friday and Saturday I attended the conference and received a wealth of eye-opening information. Looking through my notes that I took in those 2 days is a little over whelming (thank God my principal made us this handy-dandy notebook to take all of our notes in otherwise my thoughts would have been all over the place!). To give you an idea of what was going on in my brain here are a FEW of the things I wrote down.  Notebook

*Changing my language with students can change the relationship I have with them. Stay positive! (Never argue, yell or be sarcastic)–thanks @toddwhitaker
*My students live in a totally different world now then when I was going  to school. They do not learn the same way I do. We must create a culture of innovation so we can prepare our students for jobs that have not yet been created!–thanks @thomascmurray
*Teachers need to Ignite their S.H.I.N.E so that we can conquer  our  fears and be great role models and leaders for our students. –thanks @LaVonnaRoth
*Be mindful of what you say and do because ONE moment can effect someone’s entire life!! –thanks @Jeff_Zoul and @Casas_Jimmy
*Change your environment to keep student engagement; use GHO or Mystery Skype, challenge your students to “blow my mind”, build emotional experiences that students can relate too, connect with others through twitter to share, learn and grow. Basically, create a class environment in which students would pay $1 to come to. –Thanks @techninjatodd
*Take educational and inspired risks! Don’t be afraid of failure, there is nothing wrong with trying something and it not working. You grow and learn from failures; you become a better leader and educator.–Thanks @RefranzDavis
*Everyone has the obligation and the ability to lead and to change the world. You have to make a choice to be courageous in order to be the leader you were meant to be! Every person should believe that “You are a genius and the world demands your contribution!” –Thanks @angelamaiers

During and after this conference I had a list of ideas I wanted to bring back to the classroom! These ideas ranged from starting a teacher blog, doing a student lead science podcast or student written science blog, finding time for genius hour, creating cards for kinetic word webs, creating a standards based rubric for projects, implementing multiple different types of formative assessments and activities to help my students build and retain knowledge, find an innovative way to use my space with the furniture and technology I have, find resources to help my student create and collaborate, work on building strong and positive relationships with every one of my students and MUCH MUCH MORE!!

I was so inspired from everything that I had learned from this conference but then reality hit; how am I going to make ALL of these changes? Well, no one said I had to make them all right now. The beauty of it all is that I can take this one step at time and find out what works best for me and my students. After taking a hard look at everything I wanted to do; I decided to pick 2 things from the list to start with and go from there! I wanted to start small and integrate it through my routine until it became just that; part of my routine. I decided to start with 2 things I am the most comfortable with; talking to students and work with technology.

I chose to work on building strong and positive relationships with my students because in the end that’s what matters most! None of what I learned this weekend would matter unless I am willing to do it for my students; because they deserve it! They deserve to have a teacher they feel understands, respects, and believes in them! The challenge for is making it a point to be there everyday to greet them with a smile and hello, taking time out of a sometimes already hectic day to listen about theirs, and to always be positive even when I feel stressed, exhausted, or upset. This is always something I strive to do but sometimes with the world moving so fast around me, grades to enter, discipline problems to attend to, and all the “other duties as assigned”, I often forget to take the time to do what is most important…keep up with my relationship with my students.

I also decided to create a blog. I chose this because I am good with technology and use it everyday so I figured it would be something easy I could put into my everyday routine. I have so many thoughts and ideas that are sometimes overwhelming; I figured this would be the best way for me to get them all out there and organize them. This blog would also keep me accountable for trying out my ideas and then reflecting on them. My challenge and fear will be putting my self out there as an educator.

All in all; this conference was life-changing as an educator. My eyes were opened and my passion re-ignited. I am so thankful to have had this experience!