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Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Friday!

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It's been a long week this week and I am eternally grateful that it's Friday! From spring fever to finding out Trump is the potential presidential nominee for the GOP, and being worn out, it's been a heck of a week!  We are heading into mid-May and the students are started to get riled up for summer vacation - I'm not sure who is more excited, the students or me!  


Last night, I met with my district-wide English Articulation Committee for our last meeting of the year.  We discussed all the possibilities we would like to see happen next year including professional development opportunities, creating a district wide PLC for 9th and 10th grade English, and a few other things.  One thing that we focused on was the idea of creating "course outcomes"  for next year.

Course outcomes allows us to check for mastery of a skill, something we as teachers so desperately need to do, but often find it hard to do.  With course outcomes, we break down each standard for English and create a rubric that allows us to check for mastery with four levels - exceeds mastery, mastered, approaching mastery  and not mastered. We can then determine how we want it graded.  It looks like a super cool idea to begin to implement and I have already spoken with a colleague who is in the same PLC as I am and we are going to work to create course outcomes for each standard. It is going to take some work, but I am thinking and hoping the time we invest will pay off!  

It is funny that we were speaking about course outcomes because in my grad school class, we are discussing grading practices and how the current grading practice is not effective and does not truly indicate whether students have mastered skills, it just gives an overview of the student's ability within the class. This could include behavior, participation, etc which are all not effective in determining whether the student has actually mastered theme or inferences.  My grad school class talks frequently about standard-based grading and giving a purpose behind each grade.  It makes so much more sense to grade according to mastery, but how can we do this when the education system is still stuck in an era that is long gone and continues to use the same grading scale that has been used for years?  What are your thoughts on it?


Cheers until next time!

Ms. Bergin

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week



As I navigate through my workweek, I hear from so many teacher-friends who say their school does nothing to show appreciation to the teachers that work there.  I am fortunate to work in a school that DOES show their appreciation. From a school-sponsored lunch to thank you cards from the students to small treats such as ice cream sundaes, my school works to make sure we know we are appreciated and I am grateful for that.  If your school is one of the ones that does not do anything for Teacher Appreciation week, check out various restaurants that are giving free entrees or discounts on meals in honor of Teacher Appreciation week!  I know IHop is offering a free entree to any teacher who comes in this week with a teacher badge!   

It is not always easy to be a teacher.  In many ways we are juggling many different jobs at the same time, from teaching, to being a nurse, a therapist, a mother (or father), friend, to administrative work and coaching, volunteering time after school to tutor and so many more. It's a wonder that we even have any kind of personal life!  Know that I appreciate each and every one of the amazing teachers I've come to know and admire.  Know that I appreciate the teachers I have had that have pushed me through. Know that I even appreciate the teachers who have tried to knock me down for giving me the fire and ammunition that I needed to keep going - you tell me I can't do something, I'm going to prove you wrong!

In a time of crisis within the education world, it is easy to lose sight of why we are teachers, it's easy to lose hope.  We are at the forefront of education. Politicians have no idea how to run a classroom. They wouldn't survive a day in the life of a teacher.  We must unite and speak up in support of education and more importantly, in support of our students.  Our students depend on us to make education better for them. They deserve the best education we can provide.  We must stand united and speak up and drive the change in education in the right direction. That change begins right now, within our classrooms. We know what our students need, so let's give them what they need to succeed.

The National Teacher of the Year was announced recently and she is a teacher at the high school I attended when I was in high school. I am so amazed by Mrs. Hayes' enthusiasm and drive for teaching, learning, and making sure the students succeed in life.  Her students are the reason she teaches.  Mrs. Hayes stresses the importance of making personal connections with her students as one of the reasons she does her job so well.  As teachers, we understand the importance of building relationships with our students.  We always have that handful each year that we build a great relationship with, but what about the others? I teach on average 70 students per semester.  I build relationships with several students each semester, but not all.  What can we as teachers do to build a relationship with ALL of our students, not just a handful?  



Cheers until next time!

Ms. Bergin

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Digital Tools

Hey y'all!

As my graduate course focusing on Integration Specialist Toolbox winds down, there are many tech tools I would like to introduce to you to incorporate within your classes that  I have explored within my course.  As a teacher in a very tech-accepting school, many of the tools I have been exposed to within my course, I already knew about.  It was a great feeling to know I am ahead of the game, but at the same time I wish I could be introduced to tools I am unaware of.  Nonetheless, this course afforded me the opportunity to explore tools that I have not yet had a chance to explore.


Podcast
Podcast is a great technology tool that I have not really explored until now.  I knew of podcasts, but just never really looked into it as a tech tool to incorporate within the classroom.  That might be partially because I was never one to listen to the radio, or listen to audio books, preferring actual videos to watch and books to read. I'm sure some of it stems from the fact I am hearing impaired and can't really listen to a podcast without a transcript.  

A podcast is essentially a digital audio file available on the internet for downloading to computer or media player.  Anyone can create a podcast - teachers, students, administrators, community members, and parents can create a podcast for a multitude of reasons. 

A teacher can create a podcast for students who are auditory learners. They can post lectures in podcast form and have students listen to it at home.  Students can create podcasts for assignments if they are verbally articulate, but not as articulate through the written word.  The one major downside to a podcast is it is not necessarily an inclusive tool.  People who are hard of hearing will have a difficult time listening to a podcast, though if they have a transcript, they can read along while listening.  

The only thing you need for a podcast is your computer, microphone, or even just a smartphone and do everything from your smartphone.  Creating a podcast is generally very cheap, and in some cases, it is free - if you upload it to Youtube it's free.   If you want someone else to create the podcast, he or she may require a fee of some sort.  If you want to find podcasts online, occasionally you will have to pay a fee, especially if it is through a site like iTunes.  

Training on a podcast is very minimal.  Most of us have experience with video-taping and even just giving lectures as well as possibly using an audio recorder to keep notes.  Consider podcasts like a video, except without the images.  

I am going to have students try to create a podcast.  I will post when I get a sample podcast.  In the meantime, go to youtube.com and google podcasts for your content area to get an idea of what a podcast looks like.



Diigo
I had heard of Diigo, but had not used it up until now. Diigo is an app that you can add on to your Google Chome and when you come across articles, assignments, videos, lesson plans, etc that you would like to look at later, you can send it straight to your Diigo and it keeps track of everything for you. It's almost like bookmarking a page, except you can actually annotate everything you put in your Diigo.  It's excellent for someone like me who loves to look up resources, but might not have time to look at it at that moment, so I can just throw it in my Diigo and then look at it later. As an English teacher, I LOVE annotating so this annotation feature is like Christmas to me!  Another feature that I love is the fact I can create groups in Diigo and my colleagues and I can share articles, files, etc with one another.  This is great when one of us finds an article on a new "best practice" strategy and want to share it with others. When we share articles through email, it tends to get lost in the massive amount of emails we get per day. With Diigo, it's right there and easy to access at any time.  

Diigo is complete free to use! All you need is an internet connection and an electronic device that connects you to the internet. Go to Diigo.com and sign up. When you sign up, it will ask you whether you want to add a Diigo extension button on your Google Chrome toolbar.  I added the extension button and it really makes it easier to just click on the button and send articles to my Diigo account without having to navigate first to Diigo and then putting the file in. 

The only negative feature about Diigo is you can't make anything available offline, like you can with Google Drive (at least that's according to my knowledge. If anyone knows anything different, PLEASE let me know!).

Training on Diigo is very self-independent.  I hope you take the opportunity to explore Diigo and incorporate it in your PLC/PLN.

Cheers until next time!

Ms. Bergin