Monday, January 25, 2016

Blizzard 2016

I awoke Friday already knowing I didn't need to go to school as it was cancelled because a blizzard was predicted to start in the afternoon. I still got up and drove my husband to work. Usually I only have time to drive him to the Rosslyn Metro. "I'll drive you all the way in. I have plenty of time," I reminded him. As we headed over the frozen Potomac River into DC, the sky was all white. "If it starts snowing, be sure to head back home," I warned Brian as I dropped him off.

Back home, hours went by and nothing. "I could have taught today," I thought. Then at 2pm, like the weather channel predicted, flakes started falling from the sky. They swirled down and started to sprinkle the front yard. Within an hour, Brian texted to say he was heading home by Metro. As I drove to retrieve him from the metro stop two miles from our house, the windshield wipers batted the snow off the car. The street was still black but the sidewalks were now white. As the sky got darker, the snow continued.

I stood looking out on the bench on my rooftop deck and I took this photo at 7:29pm to show the Blizzard's progress.

And this one at 11:59pm, just before falling asleep.

It was snowing when I awoke Saturday morning and continued to snow all day long. I was warm inside my new house. I happily read a whole book and watched some TV and made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and a beef stew and watched it snow and snow and snow.

And then, the next day - Sunday - at 1:18pm, when the sky was blue again I took this photo. It is my rooftop deck but instead it looks more like a playpen filled with white foam and no bench in sight!

I took pictures also of the patio table on the back porch as the blizzard progressed:

When I stuck a yardstick in what looked very much like a BIG white bundt cake, it measured 18 inches!!

This was my first time watching it snow for 30 straight hours and recording its progress.
My feelings started as, "So cool!"
Then, "Yep, still's so pretty."
To, "Has it stopped yet?"
Finally, "Hurrah, blue sky!"
"Oh, my...this is a lot of snow..."
"Will we ever return to work and a normal schedule?"

As I type this story on Monday, I received a text saying that school will remain closed for Tuesday and Wednesday, too. I get why. No plow has been on my street yet and until one comes, I can't drive. Brian took a walk today to make sure he can walk the two miles to the Metro stop tomorrow and he can so he will go to work on Tuesday.

And I'll stay home and watch the white bundt cake out back melt some more.
And maybe I'll see the bench soon.
And maybe I'll have school soon again, too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Reflections on Teaching Tools

Yesterday, as I watched the live broadcast from Boston of the ALA announcements of the  Caldecott and Newbery winners in my classroom, I started thinking about how many different tools I use today as a teacher. My first year of teaching was the 1986-87 school year. I taught 24 kindergarteners in a Catholic School in Falls Church, Virginia. Now I teach at a brand new, state-of-the-art public school in Arlington, VA. Here's a quick comparison as seen through the lens of technology used during these two years as a teacher:

Reflection on Technology as a Teaching Tool
Way I Taught Kindergarten,
my 1st year
Way I Teach 3rd Grade
Using a VHS video camera to film a class presentation and sent the tape home, student by student, so they could watch it with their family. At the end of 2 months, all families could view it.
My students took turns using their iPad camera to make a video of a class presentation. Then the file was shared via airdrop to all in the presentation so they could share it at home that evening on their iPad.
Reading about the Caldecott and Newbery winners in the newspaper or learning of it by seeing the medal sticker on a book at the library.
Watched the 2016 live broadcast from Boston of the ALA announcement of the winners on my classroom SmartPanel and heard the winners with my students the moment it was announced to the public.

Orally sharing at the parent-teacher conference and in writing on the report card about the kind of reader their child is.
Posting to twitter a photo taken of children in my classroom reading and being lost in a book as a way to show the kind of reader we are.
Having heavy dictionaries available to use to find the spelling of a word and feeling like looking for the word is like looking for a needle in a hay stack.
Typing the spelling of a word into the Google browser and seeing “did you mean …” and seeing the correct way to spell the   tricky word on the screen so it can be copied into our writing correctly.
Talking to my husband about a cool thing he saw at work that day many hours later.
Watching a video texted to me by my husband the day he saw the Pope’s motorcade as he walked to work. Then I airplayed it on my SmartPanel so my students can see this historic figure just 5 minutes after my husband saw it in real time.
Using a Kodak camera and snapping pictures. Then waiting a week for the film to be developed to then share with my class.
Taking a picture on my iPhone and tweeting it in seconds. Sometimes one of the 309 followers I presently have LIKE it and/or RETWEET it and then more people see it and like it and retweet it...
Using a blackboard with chalk and a mimeograph machine to make ditto copies and distributing the worksheets to my students to complete an assignment. 
Using Google Classroom to assign paperless assignments. Students easily share their assignments by airplaying them to either the SmartPanel and SmartTV that I have in my classroom to then teach the class about the assignment.
My, oh my! How my teaching has changed since 1987! Just this year, by teaching 3rd grade at a new school with 1:1 iPads, a Macbook Air, a SmartPanel, a SmartTV and Apple TV in my classroom, my approach to how I teach has changed. I still teach students. I still teach similar content standards. However, with the 1:to:1 iPads, lessons become more visually appealing, making the students more engaged and focused. Many lessons go quicker so students have more time to practice. Always, students have a choice of how to show and share their thinking and with choice comes endless possibilities.

How about you?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016 OLW - transparency (following 2015 OLW - responsivenenss)

Sally’s 2016 OLW – Transparency

Last year I was bothered by my responses and my OLW became RESPONSIVENESS.
In a January, 2015 blog post, I wrote:
I want to spend time actively learning how to better respond to:
~ 10 year old boys
~ colleagues, thoughtful, arrogant, and/or ignorant
~ the drama of school and family situations
~ the lack of kindness shown by strangers I pass during the day
~ anyone causing me angst

Overall, my OLW served me well. It helped me to look back at how I acted with hopes of acting better the next time. I still want my responses to get better so they are always grounded in kindness and tolerance and openness and I will keep working on this.

To help, my 2016 OLW is TRANSPARENCY.

While responsiveness feels more of a reflection after the fact, transparency feels like a pro-active stance. If I am clear and open and tolerant from the very beginning, my interactions with my students, my colleagues, my family, strangers, anyone, I hope will improve.

Why Transparency?
This year, I have come to realize that much of what happens as I teach is invisible to others - my students' parents, the administrators, even the students themselves at times. As an example, just before Winter Break, the librarian visited my classroom to show my students an app that allows them to download e-books onto their iPad (each student in grades 2-5 at my school have their own district-issued iPad). He showed us a few steps and then I watched for the next 15 minutes. The classroom was very quiet. All were touching their iPad screen, moving to different screens, trying his steps. All were discovering the nuances of an ebook. When I did hear a voice, it was, "Show me how you did that?" I observed lots of collaboration between peers and with the librarian.

Reflecting on this 30 minute lesson, I realized that SO much happened, yet so much was invisible. I started thinking: Could I / Should I make lessons like this more transparent - clear - for all to see/understand? Could we / Should we capture all the ebook options on an anchor chart? Is it necessary? Is just taking time to talk and collaborate with another enough to remember how to navigate around the app? I am reminded how most electronics no longer come with a manual anymore. Instead, I can google "How do I ____ using ___? to figure out features of my iPhone and macbook air. The knowledge is available but is not clearly displayed first for all to see. Knowing this, maybe instead, I teach lessons on HOW to find my answers to my questions? Maybe the anchor chart becomes all our questions about the e-book app and not the steps to the answer but the steps to how to find the answer. Being CLEAR is definitely a word that may take me the entire year to fully "see clearly"!!

I will admit, that I am drawn to this word, transparency mostly because I have 1:1 iPads in my 3rd grade classroom. We just started using Google Classroom and I'm figuring out how best to use this tool to amplify our learning. I'm also in a brand new school where the district redrew the neighborhood lines and I often hear, "At our old school, we did...At this school, I don't know what is happening in the classroom." When I ask parents to say more, they explain they knew what was going on because lots of worksheet packets were sent home. Because our new school has a sustainability focus, we are trying to be paper-light. But I also understand the parents' wonderings due to the lack of visible work being sent home. Can I help parents to "see" what their child is learning when so much of it seems invisible?

By keeping the word TRANSPARENCY as my OLW, I hope to make my teaching more clear for my students, my parent community, and my administrators.

Another personal goal of mine for 2016 is to keep a clean house. For two years, I have been living temporarily in a rental house so a house could be built based on my architect husband's amazing modern, energy-efficient design. I will admit that while in the rental, I was a horrible housekeeper. Now that we moved into the new house (just days before Christmas!), I want to keep it clean! I wondered if CLEAN should be my OLW. But then I realized that when an object is transparent, it is so clean that light can go through it.

So my OLW for 2016 is TRANSPARENCY!
* I will work to ensure what happens in my classroom (and in my life) is shared in a clear, transparent manner.
*  I will build on all I learned last year, striving to have positive responses toward others.
* I will work to keep my new house clean!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Celebrate - cable installed in new house today!

Today I celebrate being connected once again to wi-fi and TV cable....

However, it has also been a bit freeing to move on Dec. 23rd and NOT have wi-fi and TV installed in my new house for 11 days.

However, it wasn't like I was totally unwired. I still had my cell phone but was careful not to do too much on the phone for fear of using up the data allotment. It did give me the opportunity to learn from my daughter that my phone could be used as a "hot spot" allowing me to pay a fee bills online at home on Dec. 31st.

Without wi-fi, my biggest treat was to I stopped binge-watching Grey's Anatomy on my kindle through netflix and just READ!!

I ended up reading 6 books:
1. Who Was Maurice Sendak by Janet Pascal
2. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
3. Orphan Train by Christian Baker Kline
4. Wait For Me by Judith Viorst
5. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
6. Platypus Police Squad - The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett Krososczka

And I realized that the 2 netflix DVDs that arrived months ago could be watched without cable hookup. So I also enjoyed watching The Wizard of Oz and The Theory of Everything on my TV screen using my DVD player.

But now I can sit and blog at my dining room table using my newly installed wi-fi. And I'm looking forward to watching Downton Abby tomorrow night on my newly installed cable.

Today I celebrate the friendly cable guy who hooked up our house with cable and wi-fi!