Thursday, October 18, 2012

Remembering to Make a Difference

I have spent the last two days filling up my brain with new knowledge about teaching. I learned about motivating students, new technology I can use, how to involve parents and guardians, and various other techniques to improve my teaching strategies. I am excited to implement new multimedia into my classroom and to increase attendance of my live lessons. I am excited to try new ways of motivating students to make the right choices in their education despite their many barriers. I am excited to work even more closely with my inclusion teacher in a more effective way that helps us be a team. However, I took home more than just helpful tools this week. I was reminded of a philosophy that sometimes gets pushed to the backs of our minds. As teachers, we are here to change lives, to teach students more than simply our subject matter. Our first keynote speaker, Steve Gilliland told a story about the 5 people in his life who have made the biggest difference, one being his 6th grade teacher. I remember the teachers who impacted my life and who made me want to do the same. Sometimes as teachers we get sucked in to our daily tasks. For me its grading, making PowerPoints, and trying to reach out to those reluctant students I have in my classroom. And sometimes they get lumped together and its call after call and answering machine after answering machine that I am speaking to. But Steve’s story reminded me that I want to be the teacher that students tell stories about later in life, long after they are no longer students. I want remind students that they CAN do it, and that someone believes in them. Though I have been learning about new tech programs and approaches I can use in my classroom, the fact is that none of this matters without remembering to make a difference. I can craft the most wonderful lessons and creative projects but at the end of the day I must always remember my purpose. I am a teacher and I am here to change lives. Every moment of extra time I take to learn about a student and talk on the phone about things that don’t always have to be about art class, every time I stop to appreciate a student’s work, or commend a student on working through a personal challenge, these are the moments that matter. My goal now as I move into the end of the first quarter of our school year is to marry my new knowledge of practical skills with my enduring passion for teaching to make my students successful not only in my class but in life.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Perks of Live Instruction Time

This year, as with every year there were changes made to the structure of our office hours as high school teachers. While last year I spent about two hours a week in live instruction, this year I spend about five. One day a week I go over the weekly lesson and project and another day a week I offer an informal art critique for students to attend. Last year I did occasional art critiques with my students but not weekly. I have always been able to help foster discussion in these critiques but this year I am noticing students develop into a tight-knit community quickly and they have surpassed the stage of only making positive comments about each other’s work. Now, they also give suggestions to improve a piece of art, something they had previously not done on their own. The big change this year was going from one hour a week for homework help time to three. Three days of the week, I spend an hour each time with my live classroom open for students to “walk in” and get any questions answered. At first, I was skeptical about how many students would attend or how useful it would be and I have been pleasantly surprised. Last year I had one day a week students could attend to get help with their work and rarely had any students attend. With three guaranteed days a week it seems students are able to find time to attend. I am finding that students without working phones or who might be too shy to call me back are not reluctant to come to a live lesson. Today I worked with a student with special needs to get caught up on some missing projects. I reviewed the examples, instructions, and demonstrated some of the techniques we were learning while he drew them on his paper. These opportunities are difficult to have during a lesson day when I have many students attending but they work well in the smaller homework help time. This student was able to correctly complete a drawing using linear perspective and has been using these days to receive one-on-one help from me. I am making a concentrated effort this year to really slow down and get to know each student and I feel I am starting to be successful in this.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Professional Development and Integrating the Arts

Over the last month my colleagues and I have been preparing for our upcoming professional development meeting in October. We are a little bit of a unique school because we have so many teachers that we cannot fit in many venues all together for a PD day. Therefore, our October PD meetings will be taking place in a convention style where teachers sign up for workshops they would like to attend from a large pool of choices. The presentations and workshops come from a variety of categories such as instruction, technology, and engagement. Our art department will be offering a workshop on integrating the arts into different subjects, which is specifically geared to our online curriculum. With teachers being asked to differentiate lessons for different learning needs and styles, and the changes coming in the Common Core standards, it seems that integration is more important than ever. For our presentation we are focusing on providing online resources, specific lesson plans that can be integrated into existing content, and SMART notebook activities that can be used in live instruction to make lessons more visual and interactive. I have focused on Language Arts for my portion of the presentation and I have worked with the Language Arts department to craft several examples of integration specific to their curriculum. I look forward to presenting this information to colleagues at PD and learning from others.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Day in the Life

Lately I have been busy, busy, busy! My team and I have been working on a presentation for our upcoming professional development event about integrating the arts into other subjects and I attended a field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art last week as well. I will be writing more about that soon, but in the mean time I found this interesting video showing what a typical day is like for students at an e-school.