Posted by P.I.E. | January 12, 2014
My students come from many different backgrounds and all dealing with demons within them or within their lives. Each student has a story and a reason for having to go to online school. Often, these stories are overwhelming and heartbreaking. I once had a friend ask me, “How do you not let these horrific moments and sad stories that you deal with on a daily basis, affect your actual teaching?” I had never really thought about it and just realized that I learned to still be sympathetic and caring while also disconnecting myself from their lives so that I can keep moving forward each day and do my actual job.
I have one particular student who was a success story for me (I have many but this one stood out). Austin was in a car accident last spring and lost much of his short term memory. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but teaching Austin was much like teaching a fish; his focus was very short and each lesson was almost a repeat of the last. But after a few months he started to improve! I was able to get through several lessons a week as opposed to maybe one, and even his personality began to come back and we would have great conversations over the phone which allowed our relationship and trust to grow as well! But then he stopped coming to class and stopped answering my phone calls. A couple weeks had gone by where I didn’t hear from Austin at all. This wasn’t unusual for me. I often have students where once they see themselves get better at their English skills, they tend to think they don’t need me anymore. One day, though, I got a phone call from Austin’s dad who, right away, was very apologetic for not calling me sooner. He continued to inform me that their house was broken into one day when Austin was the only one home. When Austin confronted the intruder and tried to get him to leave, he hit Austin in the head with a lamp…
Back to square one. When I got on the phone with Austin that day, he had no idea who I was. I could no longer disconnect myself. I cried for almost 2 days over this situation. He had come so far and was doing so well and to make things worse, he is an amazing kid, an amazing student, an amazing friend and an amazing son. Why do such bad things have to happen to good people?
Austin and I continue to work every day at the same time. It’s a struggle, to say the least. But we do have some good days where I start to see a glimpse of that light at the end of the tunnel.
When I work online and the only way of reaching these students is phone, email or online chat, I cannot afford to be “disconnected” in a world where everything relies on connectivity. For me, there is no “clocking out” at the end of the day and my home is 24/7 invaded by work “drama.” These students are my life, literally and I don’t have an answer yet for how to not let things impact me. Even though, to my students and co-workers, I am a “part of the system” and we each almost take a “robot” form when all we see is a name on the screen, I am still human, and have human emotions and even though I do not directly see my students every day, I am directly impacted by them.
Posted by P.I.E. | November 8, 2013
Even while I was half way through the educational process of getting my AYA teaching license, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher. I don’t really think I came to realize being a teacher was what I wanted until towards the end of my student teaching.
My cooperating teacher was out sick that day and the principal couldn’t find a sub, so I was in charge of the class the whole day. I actually enjoyed it. It gave me a taste of what it would be like to have my “own” classroom. It was near Halloween and I had fun and exciting lessons planned and I knew the kids would enjoy class. Towards the end of the day, one of my students showed up crying from an incident that happened in his earlier class. We sat and talked a few minutes before class and by the end, he was all smiles. He came back at the end of the day and thanked me for cheering him up and he continued to express how my class always “makes him feel better… makes him feel warm…” At that moment, I realized I not only wanted to be a teacher, but was meant to be a teacher. I made it my career goal to always have a classroom that, for 50 minutes a day, the student feels better, warm and safe. I wanted to create that sanctuary for everyone that stepped into my room.
When I got my job with the online school, I was hesitant because of this very reason; how can I create a place where children feel safe, when that “place” is a computer screen and a mouse? I was very depressed for about 5 months knowing that while I had this job, I could never accomplish that goal of mine and be able to re-create that environment. It wasn’t until very recently when I realized I could still do this. I have one particular student who would come to his scheduled class session. Which, my sessions resemble a chat room with a Smart Board attached to it. Students are able to chat, use their microphones and write/draw on the screen which we all share. This one student would attend his normal session, but then show up for my remaining 5 sessions every day. I sort of ignored it at first then after a few days of this, I nicely let him know that he was not required to attend all 6 sessions by any means; that he only needed to attend one a day. He responded with, “Oh I know. But I like being in your class. I wish I could stay here all day and it be the only class I have.” I took this as a compliment and then really didn’t think too much of it. The very next day, my principal observed one of my sessions for our monthly meeting and observation. At the end, all she said was, “I can’t explain it, but your classes are just warm… I got a good feeling being in there…” It then hit me that, no, I cannot create an actual room where students are safe and shielded, but I can still create the feeling that comes with that; I can still make my students feel warm and accepted. It doesn’t matter the physical setting of really any situation, but the atmosphere that you make of it, and the sentiment you can convey to those who embrace it. Once again, I knew I was doing what I was meant to do.
Posted by P.I.E. | September 16, 2013
“… education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t. ” ~ Pete Seeger
Peter Seeger, better known as Pete Seeger, is a folk singer, political activist, and a key figure in the mid-20th century American folk music revival.
Folk song is a wonderful resource, not only for music lessons, but in teaching English, history and geography, making an excellent cross-curricular theme for both primary and secondary schools. Children love learning about their own communities and being able to contribute their own and their families’ experiences.
At age 94 Pete Seeger is still performing and was awarded the Peabody Medal this year….
As a member of the Weavers, he had a string of hits, including a 1949 recording of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene” that topped the charts for 13 weeks in 1950. However, his career as a mainstream performer was seriously curtailed by the Second Red Scare: he came under severe attack as a former member of the Communist Party of the United States of America. Later, he re-emerged on the public scene as a pioneer of protest music in the late 1950s and the 1960s.
He is perhaps best known today as the author or co-author of the songs “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)”, and “Turn, Turn, Turn!”. Seeger is also widely credited with popularizing the traditional song “We Shall Overcome”, which was recorded by Joan Baez and many other singer-activists, and became the publicly perceived anthem of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement soon after musicologist Guy Carawan introduced it at the founding meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960.
Only if … I Had a Hammer!
Global Cardboard Challenge October 5th: communities around the world will come together to celebrate anniversary.
Posted by P.I.E. | September 16, 2013
When “Caine’s Arcade” went viral last year, millions were inspired and the Imagination Foundation and Global Cardboard Challenge organizations were launched.
Inspired by the short film, ‘Caine’s Arcade,’ the Global Cardboard Challenge is a worldwide celebration of child creativity and the role communities can play in fostering it. In the month of September, kids are challenged to create and build using cardboard, recycled materials and imagination. Then on October 5th, 2013 (the anniversary of the flash mob that came out to make Caine’s day in the short film) communities all around the world will come together and play!
Visit http://cardboardchallenge.com to learn more.
Posted by P.I.E. | September 16, 2013
“It is generally recognized that a positive relationship exists between language ability and mental ability as measured by a standard intelligence test.” ~ Lenore Sandel
ENTER IN: ATTITUDE!
Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t— you’re right.”
Turns out, this can be true. Cognitive psychologists tell us that if, as a student, you believe your circumstances are futile, then you may develop what’s called “a pessimistic explanatory style” and view those circumstances as permanent; i.e. if you are fundamentally a pessimist and if you took Spanish in high school and did poorly, you may act helpless to do better if you should take Spanish again later in life.
Eric Institute of Education Sciences Blog
August 26th, 2013 by Celeste Schantz in Language Learning
Posted by P.I.E. | September 9, 2013
I have to admit it: I’m a “home body”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise since I serve as a K-12 digital teacher – and I LOVE my job. Well, this week I was asked to visit Columbus for some professional development. It’s typically not a fun commute: I drive 2 hours’ straight through rush hour and construction. I don’t look forward to these business trips – remember, I like being on my own, and running my classroom without much interference. But once I am there, and I actually see my colleagues (which is rare and a nice treat), I really enjoy myself.
While at PD this week, my supervisor was giving a presentation about the upcoming year. It was mostly about the new standards, the new test that is replacing the OGTs and the new SLO policy which is a rule that how the kids progress throughout the year, determines whether or not I get to keep my job. But then she made a quick turn just as I was zoning out and began talking about the students.
In an earlier blog for PIE, I mentioned that I have students from all walks of the earth: high profile fashion models, child actors, drug users, the homeless, etc. The PD Instructor said something that really stuck with me: “The kids that you talk to every day don’t have much more in life than you… Please, don’t be another adult that fails them. When you want to be done for the day, when you know you were supposed to shut your computer off at 2:00 and it is now 2:03, you make that one extra phone call, because that may be all that child needs that day; to talk to you.”
So when I mentally prepare to run out of my office at 2:00, I wait a moment. And I make that extra phone call to, literally, spend 30 seconds with a student and let them know that an adult cares about them. And in those 30 seconds, everything I have done the last few months, makes my efforts worth it.
Posted by P.I.E. | September 5, 2013
Using Instagram In School
From Facebook to Twitter and Pinterest, there are a ton of educators out there who are harnessing their students’ existing interest and knowledge of these social media tools to engage them in learning activities in the classroom. The handy infographic below (Via: librariansonthefly.blogspot.com) shows a number of different ways to employ another popular social media tool in the classroom and library: Instagram. It does offer you more than just fun filters for your photos! Keep reading to learn more.
Posted by P.I.E. | September 5, 2013
WDWDT (What Did We Do Today) is a popular classroom app that needed a new name.So Scholastic invested a cool million and helped Keith McSpurren, all around awesome guy and president of WDWDT, come up with a better name. Class Messenger is a private messaging service specifically to keep Teachers, Parents and Students in sync. It’s the best of things you use. So the app is now called Class Messenger (much better, no?) and is going to be ‘powered by Scholastic’ which means they basically will promote it, get the word out, improve upon it, and basically make it better. That’s the theory at least. In any case, look for big things from the Class Messenger and Scholastic partnership as this streamlined and quite beautiful app is going places. Literally. It’s probably headed to your smartphone right after you click off this article. You can download it here if you’re game! Download the App (Twitter, email, text, Instagram, blogs) simplified into a service that takes 10 seconds to use. Teachers use our mobile app and website to create quick short form messages in categories like Homework, Reminders, Surveys, Meeting Requests and more. Parents and Students get their messages from the app, website, email, push notification or even text message if they prefer. It’s private, two-way, direct and ensures that everyone stays informed. The company is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Posted by P.I.E. | September 5, 2013
LEARNING THAT MATTERS Students at English High School in Boston helped pilot a social networking and planning tool called Community Planit. The online platform offers participants a series of missions, problems to solve and questions to answer about how the school district could improve and meet student needs better. As a player completes missions, he receives tokens to spend on the priorities he’d most like to see in school. The information and feedback then goes back to the district. SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING Sierra Goldstein was always a good student, but it wasn’t engaging. She memorized facts out of the book, regurgitated them on tests and forgot them, getting A’s along the way. “There wasn’t a lot of freedom, except electives, so you really didn’t get power over what direction you wanted to go,” Goldstein said. “It made me feel like I had no control over my future.” POWER OF FAN FICTION The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is an organization almost entirely based on online interactions. It uses parallels in J.K. Rowling famous books to inspire young fans to become “heroes” in their own world. The project has media and literacy researchers excited partly because it started organically as a Facebook group and became international in a matter of hours. Read More
A documentary film premiering on public television this week — “Is School Enough?” — takes the viewer inside the lives of teens from various backgrounds and reveals the importance of tapping into students’ passions to drive their learning. Thanks to Mindshift.com we have learned these are some of the covered topics:
Check your local PBS listings for air times and dates.
Posted by P.I.E. | August 23, 2013
I wouldn’t exactly say that I set out to be an online school teacher; I sort of just fell upon it. I was struggling to find a teaching job right out of college and was substitute teaching every day for random teachers in different schools. This began to get unbearable in that I don’t like inconsistency and did not like walking into a classroom each day not knowing what to expect; I wanted my own classroom. I always wanted to create a place where for just 50 minutes, students felt safe, loved, cared for and welcomed. I wanted to create a space for every student to be able to know that when they were in my room nothing would hurt them. But this wasn’t happening. A friend of mine asked that I go in for this interview for an online teaching job. I was completely skeptical, and really did not want the position. But I thought, if anything, it was good interview practice. I left the interview with a feeling I had never had before. I felt as though this position NEEDED me — not so much that I needed it. It’s hard to explain, but I just knew I had to have this job.
This is my second year teaching for a virtual public school. And no, it is not a homeschool or a private school. Everything that I do is for the average public students. Well, not so “average.” I deal with students who are online because they are traveling the world as already established models, actresses (one particularly for Disney!), or kids who are already touring in a band, just to name a few examples. These students are here because the flexibility of an online school allows them to pursue their dreams at such a young age. Then there are the other students. These students are at a virtual school because it is a last resort. They have been expelled from all public “brick and mortar” schools in their area. They have been convicted of serious crimes and can no longer attend a brick and mortar school. These students are here because their parents cannot work and they have to have a full time job at the age of 17. They have families that are so dysfunctional and unsupportive, that they simply have nowhere else to turn.
My particular position is the 9-12 grade English LIFT teacher. LIFT stands for, “Learning Intervention Facilitation Team.” So I work mostly with the “other” students. Those who I will speak on the phone with as they are on their way to being incarcerated (yes, this actually happened). My students are the ones who call me at 2 am because they have been kicked out of their house and this is why they will not be logging in for class the next day. My students are the ones who call daily to tell me where they are living for the next few hours. My students are the ones who sometimes curse me out over the phone because they do not want my help. And that is if they even answer the phone. I wouldn’t trade this job for anything in the world.
When you don’t see your students on a regular face to face schedule and in a confined area, tracking them down is much more difficult. So calling/texting/email/letters are our form of communication. This is actually very difficult when the students don’t want to be tracked down. I had one particular student that never answered her phone. I would call her at the exact same time each day. She was first on my list to start calling at 1:00 pm. I called each day and left various voicemails for about 5 months to never hear from her. But I continued to call in hopes that one day she will eventually want to come to class. I was checking my emails and noticed that I had one from this particular girl. I assumed it was a mass email to all of her teachers which students often send in regards to assignments or why they haven’t been attending the sessions. But her message simply asked me to keep calling her. This seemed odd but not the strangest email I had received from a student… I replied back and asked just how she was doing. She responded right away and said she has several social issues and is on medicine for anxiety and depression. She said that she always wants to answer the phone because she knows it’s me but her nerves take over and she gets too upset and anxious and just can’t do it. I told her we could always chat via email and we don’t have to talk over the phone. She responded with a simple, “yes, but I like when you call me because I know at exactly 1:02, someone is thinking about me.”
I’m confident and secure knowing I will be in my own place someday creating a “space” for my classroom students. But until then, I feel great knowing the students that I reach online are allowing me into THEIR space. And for now, that is enough for me.