Ms Eppele's Blog

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Why am I here, today?

I have been feeling broken these past few days with everything that has been going on, and this morning I woke up with an urge to get my feelings out and to be heard.  Over the past three days I have had many discussions with colleagues, parents, friends, and families. I have been struggling with the sense of disconnect with what is happening to the public education system, a system for which I have been proud to be a part of. Over the past three days two things happened that made me realize what it is I am hoping for our students.

The first happened on Wednesday.  I was walking in front of my school, with my colleagues, when we were approached by a fellow teacher who now works for the BCTF. She was gathering information about the strike and wanted to hear from us, the teachers. She asked me a simple question, “Why are you here, today?” A million reasons ran through my head, but she encouraged me to just speak from my heart.

I am holding a sign and walking with my colleagues because I am very worried about the classroom environment. I am a teacher, like many others, who strongly believe that school is about community and relationships. School is built on relationships with parents, teachers, support staff, and the most important our students. I go home every day thinking of the students I did not get to chat with during the day, and I am left wondering how their day went, what struggles did they have,what successes did they have, how their dance competition went, what was the score of last nights soccer game etc…

The second thing that happened yesterday, with “my kids” during our weekly circle. I asked them what it is that they need to be the best of who they are. We discussed the difference between needs and wants, and the kids filled the board with things from shelter, love, support, food, sports, the need to have feeling of love towards something, and many more. Next I asked them what do they feel when those needs are not met, what are their feelings when they are not getting what they need. Again, the students filled the board with amazing thoughts; sad, depressed, tired, anxious, frustrated. Some feelings were said more often than any other; they feel lonely and unheard, invisible, and someone without a voice.

I sat in awe of my students as they discussed how they feel when their needs are not met. I could not stop thinking of all the times I just could not get to the students to simply ask them about their day, their weekend, or just how are you today. I have always made it my goal to reach every child in my class at least two times a day, not including the teaching time, just two times to connect with the students, to hear them, to understand and know what their lives are all about. I believe if I know my students, if I get my students, if I know what makes them tick, I will be able to create lessons that engage them, encourage them, and ignite them.

One of the biggest reasons I became a teacher is because I had teachers that connected with me. I was lucky enough to have teachers that made me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to, that made me feel heard. Thank you to Mr. Carson, Mr. Hogan, Mr. Wilkenson, Ms. Davies, Mr. Berry, and so many more for making me the teacher I am today. Thank you for making me see what it is to be a teacher, and thank you for  reminding me why I am out standing with my fellow colleagues.

The biggest reason why I became a teacher is the kids. My hope is to encourage students to want to learn, to ignite their learning passion, to understand themselves as learners.  Listening to the students discuss their thoughts and feelings encourages me to stand up for what I believe in. I look at each of my students and I see them, I understand them, and I hear them. I only hope that I can continue to make those connections, build those relationships, and hear each student.

 

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Heading Back Tomorrow…

    School starts tomorrow, and I have to say I am more excited than I have been in a long while! This has been my first summer completely off in a very long time! Between teaching summer school and finishing up my post baccalaureate, summers have been busy! I am so eager to start this year off with an amazing class!

    This year I am going to try to implement a lot of changes to myself, not the classroom but to me. I am hoping my changes will then bring a more open classroom environment to the community of learners in the class. One of my biggest aims will to not sweat the small stuff. I want to be able to just let things go that really, in the grand scheme of things, are not all that important.

      Another goal I have for myself is to be mindful and positive in all areas of the workplace. I want to be more mindful of what people are saying to me and ask myself where they are coming from. At the same time I want to encourage a shift at our school level community, to practice what we want to teach, social emotional learning. We can not teach it if we are not practicing it ourselves.

       I am feeling excited and a little nervous about the upcoming school year. I am hoping to encourage a change at our school, in regards to how we develop relationships with the students, the parents, and each other. I want the school to feel like a community of learners, not each class hidden from the rest.

        Most of all, I am excited to meet the students that will I have the privilege to learn with this year. I am looking forward to seeing what the year will bring us and what we have in store for the year!

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A TPACK Inquiry?

    Today I had an amazing Pro-D day! I left feeling inspired and itching to get into the classroom. On my drive home I started thinking about my next field study inquiry. This will be my last inquiry for my TLTC program, and I want to make the last inquiry a conclusion to where I am now in my practice.

     TPACK was introduced to me this term, and I feel quite passionate about the importance it could have on my practice as I grow as an educator. It is TPACK that has be re-evaluating my lesson and units plans, and it is TPACK that has me reflecting on why I teach the way I do. I see that as the 21st century learners begin to take over our classrooms we as educators need to embrace what they have to offer to us.

      We need to be open to having students teach us and each other the new skills that come along with the digital shift that is happening in our world. As teachers we are here to help guide the students in their learning, and as it stands, technology will ever be present in our students’ lives.  We too have been adapting with technology in our own lives; social media, online banking, online shopping, using Skype, and many more. If we are using it in our day to day lives we need to be using it in the classroom.

       We do not only need to be using technology, we need to understand it. We need to understand how it affects student learning, how it reaches different learners, and why we use particular technological tools. TPACK gives me a way to look within myself and my practice, gaining confidence in using the tools available to me and my students.

        Going back to my Pro-D day, I was in two different sessions. I took a teaching French session and a Technology sharing session.  The entire time I was learning about different ways to teach a second language, I was thinking of how I could use certain technological tools to engage the students more into the lesson activities. At the same time, I was also thinking of how technology would engage me more into teaching French, which I admit is difficult for me.

        I left today, with many wonders bouncing around in my head. I think it is invaluable to get the word out around TPACK. For me, when I was introduced to TPACK I had a light bulb moment. I became a little less uneasy about teaching with new technologies.   I think it is important for other educators to see that they already have the content and pedagogy part down, it is how they can integrate technology into what they already do, it is more than integrating a cool tool into your practice.   

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How do I Integrate Technology into my Practice? More Like How will I Continue?

So I have been asked to be interviewed on how I integrate technology into my classroom. I have to admit, at first I was a little freaked out. I started thinking I had to come up with these amazing things I have the students do. I do have the students doing some pretty amazing things using 21st century skills, but to me nothing earth shattering.

I took some time to think about what the question; how I integrate technology into the classroom?  I automatically started going through all the activities we do as a class, but I wanted to go deeper than that. I want to show how technology has integrated itself into my practice. Technology is not simply added to the lessons; it is a part of the lessons. Technology is not a part of my practice; it is a part of who I am as an educator.

 

Once again, I am brought back to TPACK. I recognize that many people do not know or are hesitant about integrating technology into the classroom. I am beginning to see that we need to be sharing with our learning community on what TPACK really involves. I am only beginning to see how in depth TPACK can be to our practice. I am beginning to see that our district is in need of a TPACK support group.

 

I feel that after our co-hort is finished, which I have to admit it is already beginning to feel that way, our support and encouragement will be gone. How can we ensure that we will continue our development of TPACK in our practice, if our support group is not there? I value the time spent discussing issues around technology integration in the classroom. I felt inspired to try new things; I felt that if I had questions I knew where to find the answers.

 

I get the whole PLN thing. In fact I really appreciate that I was given the chance to actually develop one. I do not think I would have had the opportunity if it was not for our co-hort. I do not feel that my PLN online will be as supportive and inspiring as our Monday night classes. I believe we need to create some kind of support system at the district level, not a learning team, but some sort of place where educators can go to share, inspire, collaborate, and problem solve as we dig deeper into this new century of learning.

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The Power of Modeling Blogging and Commenting

I am continuing to feel excited and inspired by my ever growing PLN/PLC. Today I was reviewing my students reading responses they did on another classes Harris Burdick stories. As I was reading through them, I noticed a lot of University of Alabama education students commenting on my students’ blogs. I have to admit I was a little leery, so I looked into the comments and the students a little more closely and saw that our class blogs were assigned by their professor teaching EDUC 310. The university students were asked to comment on the blogs, and I have seen that the comments are thoughtful and fantastic examples of good comments. Our class is currently working on developing our know how on creating a good and thoughtful comment to blogs. The comments left by the university students have provided my students with some wonderful models. I have already seen the results of having the models available for my students to see. The students have become more engaged with what they are reading and are creating some wonderful comments that have left me thinking! I do need to comment on the fact that Twitter has played a huge part in my learning this week. I have seen just how powerful Twitter can be and I have been sharing what I have learned with my class. My confidence in teaching writing has continued to grow, as I see my students’ confidence blossom. I truly believe that having the support, especially from around the world has not only inspired me but has gotten me much more excited about how I use writing in my practice.

http://kidblog.org/MsEppelesClass/

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The Give and Take of a PLC/PLN

This past week I have been having many moments of clarity on what it mans to be a part of a learning community. What it means to support, teach, question, and admire when working with other educators. I guess you can say I am finally “getting” the importance of being a part of a learning community/network.

 

Being a part of a community of learners is about give and take, and I will admit for a little while there, I felt that I was doing a lot of giving and not any taking. This week I realized I should not be expecting to take, that in fact it is up to me on what I want to take away with me when collaborating with others. I am not into giving new teachers stacks of resources and paper hand outs to support their teaching. I am more about encouraging the new teachers to ask what is it that they want to learn and why do they want to learn it. Being a part of a learning community is very personal and it is up to us to take what we want and need to better our practice.

 

This week I took so much away with me after mentoring teachers on math, planning, blogging, and management.  The biggest thing I walked away with was excitement and enthusiasm for bettering my practice.  For the first time in awhile I was feeling excited to try new things with the class, and to try new things with the mentees. I can not wait to find out what more we can explore and discover in this ever changing world of learners.

 

On a side note, I have to say I tweeted today. I tweeted my students Harris Burdick stories, and William Chamberlain tweeted back! He gave me more resources on Harris Burdick and he told me his wife just came across a new book where famous authors have done just what my students have done, they finished the tales.  I have done this writing activity for years, and what makes this kind of neat is that I read about William Chamberlain doing the exact activity but through blogs, in William Kist’s “The Socially Networked Classroom.” It was him who inspired me to ask my students if they wanted to blog their stories. It seems that this little assignment has made a complete circle in my personal learning community. And yes, I am so excited to try more!

 

I would like to send out a thank you to all those involved in my learning communities, whether you know you are a part of it or not, you have made a huge difference in mine and my students learning.

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Harris Burdick Writing – Inspired by Chris Van Allsburg

A great lesson that I have done for years has been the writing lesson based on Chris Van Allsburg book, “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.” As is in past years, the students love this lesson and are inspired to write at great lengths. This year, I noticed my non-writers and ESL writers were more engaged in their writing. They wanted to know more about the Harris Burdick and what happened to him.

Watching all the students get immersed into the assignment, I had a great idea to think about how I can take the content of the lesson and intertwine technology into it. I had read William Kist’s book, “The Socially Networked Classroom,” and saw that Wiliam Chamberlain had created project similar to mine, however it involved technology. I was inspired to see what we could do with the students.

I asked the students how they felt about posting their stories on their blogs. At first there was some hesitation, however after they all started talking they really liked the idea that other people around the world would be reading their stories, and maybe they could inspire others to write their own.  We have just starting posting them, and I have to say it is a great way to assess! Next week, once all the stories are in I hope to tweet their stories on #comments4kids and hopefully we will get some comments from other student writers.

A great sample from one of the authors in my class.

http://kidblog.org/MsEppelesClass/Hana50/mr-lindens-library/

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Letting Them Go

I have been doing a lot of  thinking around what Adora Svitak says in the TED talk;

I believe I let the students in my class make their own decisions and I have always tried to let them go and see what happens in their learning. After watching and listening to Adora and how we need to learn from kids. Kids do have amazing dreams and aspirations, and why do we as adults try to bring down their expectations? I started reflecting and questioning my lessons for the week. I wanted to see if there were areas where I need to let go and allow the students to go and learn.

I wanted to see if I could trust all of them to go and explore what they wanted to do for a project they were assigned. I had created this project a few years ago, but I wanted it to be different, I did not want them working on it at home. In other words I really wanted them to take charge of their learning and project themselves, without adult intervention.

I decided to book large amounts of time in the library so they had space and resources to explore and create how they wanted to. I sat back and watched them in action, and I was blown away. All the students were on task, creating and collaborating, helping one another, proving Adora correct. “We need to create opportunities for children to grow up and blow us away. We need to expect more from them.”  I know have in my head when planning assignments and lessons that I need to expect more from the students. As Adora states, “when expectations are low, trust me we will sink to them.”  As I have seen this week this includes all learners in the classroom, ALL!

I did show Adora’s talk to the class, and I was amazed at how they all took it in. They had some great discussions around it, and many felt that they were given choice in our classroom. I then asked them, why do you ask to go to the washroom or to get a drink, or is this enough writing, or is this okay… They all had a little light bulb go off! I loved it. So now when they ask me those silly questions I ask them what do they think?

One last note on Adora’s talk and its affects on me and the students; we have had a lot of snow fall over the last week. The principal keeps changing rules about sledding and the students are getting frustrated. I was in our classroom getting ready to go to a Pro-D event when a student came into to the room, he did not see me, and was explaining to the other students that our principal needs to listen to Adora, when she said “adults need to listen and put in kids ideas and thoughts when it comes to making rules,” the student added that we do know to be careful but changing the rules constantly creates confusion and it is just not fair.

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Two Weeks into my Field Study…And the Questions Arise!

As school started backup again, I find that I keep asking myself why blogging is not working for my grade five students, like it had with the younger grades I taught last year.

A few questions or theories I have are;

*they are bored

*they do not want to write, too much activity in the computer lab

*they just want to get to their free time slot

*do they understand the value in their blog? Do they care?

*why are some liking it and why are some not into it?

*why do they write so little when their journals are full?

I started this year thinking I am going to start a writer’s workshop. Sounds simple, right? No, as I started reading and talking with other teachers I came to realize quite quickly that I was going to have to tackle it like I did when I created my reader’s workshop. Make it my own, find out what works for the kids, see what drives them, find out what challenges them, what bores them, and find out where I can fit it in the dayplan! The biggest challenge for me I have come to realize is letting go of teaching the processes of writing first, and having the students guide the workshop.

I have started reading Ian Wells andJanine Ried’s book, Anchor Lessons in Writing. I love how it uses books I normally use for reading activities and applies them to writing lessons. I found as out that my students love to be read to but they also loved to analyze what the author was doing or trying to do.  My first read aloud using it as an author analysis was, “Love That Dog” by Sharon Creech.

For starters, I adore this book and I know it makes me cry every time I read that one part, you know the part if you have read it. What makes this book so amazing is that the students get to know Jack, the main character, and how he grows as a writer. They get to see how he hates to write and how he is embarrassed of his writing abilities. They get to see that just like them, Jack is afraid that what he writes is wrong or sounds silly.

They students were asked to take notes while I read, and I have to say their pages were full of observations and opinions. A few thought that it was a reading assignment and starting listing there inferences, questions, connections, etc…but I reminded them how reading writing is all connected. It was a great teachable moment, where the kids made that connection.

At the end of the book the kids only wanted to talk about how they saw Jack turn into a writer. They wanted to know why he thought he wasn’t a good writer.  At times, they felt Jack’s teacher was too harsh on him. I asked why, when there was nothing in the book about what the teacher said only Jack’s responses. That got them wondering!

What I got out of this lesson was that the students got to see through another writer’s eyes, Jack’s.  They all connected with him. Afterwards, I did a brainstorming activity knee to knee.  Their writing assignment was to write about their New Year’s Resolutions. Looking back at the writing they did that week has shown me that finding the time and taking it means so much to their writing. I have now added more time to their journal writes, I remind them that their journal writes are not marked only read so why not explore and try something new in their writing.

I have seen more thought put into their writing since being back at school.  I have talked to them about my field study and how much they are going to be involved in it, and they love the fact that they are helping me become a better teacher. I am feeling very excited about exploring writing with the class this term, and wondering how I can put their enthusiasm of writing on paper into their blogs.

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TPACK and Making the Connection

Whew, I just finished reading the article on TPACK, http://www.citejournal.org/articles/v9i1general1.pdf   and I at first I was a little confused but then I related to a lot of it. Teaching, while integrating technology into your practice is a tough task to do. Making it more difficult is not having ownership and faith in how and why you teach; integrating technology can be even a greater task to take on.

Even before entering the program I was struggling with the concepts of why, when, how, and where was I going to implement technology into my practice. I am not a computer whiz my any means, but I have seen the engagement that comes along when implementing technology into lessons. I have seen the students engaged in their learning and more importantly their confidence in their learning.  I have seen how students collaborate with one another over one screen or a few ideas to create one project they are all proud of.  I have seen how integrating technology into my practice can bring enjoyment into the students’ learning and my teaching.

I like how in the article it states that yes, teaching with technology is no easy task but it reminds us that we need to look in how we can do this my looking into what we need to teach and what our beliefs and philosophy is around our practice.  It states that we need to understand the relationship between a) the teachers’ thought process and knowledge and b) teachers’ actions and their observable effects.pg 67 And with the idea of TPACK we use this study of the relationship however we need to add one thing to the knowledge teachers need to acquire, the knowledge of technology.

As educators we need gain a better understanding of how we can integrate technology into our practice. However, we also need to understand how it can be integrated into our pedagogy as well.

http://tpack.org/

 

At first the diagram had me baffled. Once I started reading through the article and the website, I began to see that it really is not that baffling. It really is the core if why I decided to take the TLTC course. I want to know how technology can be used in my practice. How is connects to my pedagogy, to what I already know about technology and to the ever changing content that I am required to teach.

I had a little aha moment when reading the section my group will be focusing on, Technological Content Knowledge (TCK).  I gave an example on how one can integrate technology into a geometry lesson. Something clicked in my brain, and I realized that TPACK is bringing all that I have been struggling with over the year and a half into perspective.  We do no only need to understand how to use the technology, we need to understand it, understand how it relates to content areas, how it connects with our own teaching philosophy, but we also need to ensure that we fully understand how the new literacy skills are changing how we teach and what we teach.  When I saw the word play in the geometry lesson example, what do you think I thought of? Of course the one article I seem to be guided to more often, Henry Jenkins, “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.” Better known as Jenkins White Paper.

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