Everyone knows teachers are not supposed to play favorites. We usually have a few that we rely on to answer questions, run errands, know will behave with the sub, and so on. However, there is always one student who stands out for some reason. Most of my class wouldn't be able to pick out this student if you were to ask who was my favorite.
Every year there always seems to be one child who affects me differently than the others. This year it is Charlie (To be honest, that's my dog's name, not the real student's name, but they both hold a place in my heart). He is THAT KID. As with many other students from past classes, Charlie came to me from a different school hoping for a new start. He had been labeled a major behavior problem, had trouble keeping up with the class, and was not well liked. At the beginning of the year, Charlie seemed to be on the same path as he had created at the other school. Other students complained that he was causing problems. He was quick to say it was never his fault. In class, he was constantly moving and never seemed to be doing what he was supposed to be doing. I was irritated with what I was seeing/hearing on a regular basis. Charlie's parents and I were having regular communication of what was going on in school, most of it not positive. It was going to be a very LONG year.
While I can't pinpoint when the change happened exactly, I do know it was sometime around Halloween. I began to notice how often he was trying harder than the other students, how he raised his hand quickly with that look of "I know this!" on his face, how much he was willing to help his classmates with something he knew how to do. Charlie didn't always have the right answer when he was called upon, but boy was he willing to share. The other kids were becoming more open to letting him help them, especially when it came to the technology stuff that he seemed to have a knack for. There were less problems on the playground as well.
Nine months into the school year, Charlie still needs reminders to get back to work. He still has the "I know this!" look on his face on a regular basis, even though he doesn't always know the words to share the ideas. I still talk with his parents, but no longer does it need to be daily. Somewhere over the course of the year, Charlie and I learned what the other needed. He shares things with me, and I give him space to do what he needs while still doing what I need. All it takes is a look from me and a smile from him and all is right between us, even when I should be getting irritated.
A couple of months ago, Charlie and I were talking after school. When I brought up something I am going to be doing next year, Charlie's response, "Well, I can do it since I am going to be in your class again!" (He knows I am most likely going to keep some of my current students when I have another combination class.) Back in August, I would have calmly explained that it was way too early to know who I would have again. Now, I will happily write his name on any list I create when thinking about next year's students. For me, Charlie is no longer the student that every teacher hopes they don't get in their class. He has become THAT KID who will always remind me of why I became a teacher.
What I learned:
-Everyone deserves a second chance.
-When respect is given to students, they try harder than when they just get labeled.
-Kids are the real reason I teach.
Edcamps, CETPA, Cue: these professional learning activities have sparked a change in my teaching. I have been lucky this year to be able to attend several conferences and seminars. Some were paid for, others were free. All of them have taught me something that I could bring back to my students and/or colleagues. While each learning experience could be its own blog, I will share a little of what I experienced. Please click on links at bottom for more information.
Last fall I was introduced to the concept of EdCamps. I have now attended three. The first time is always a little different. This is an unconference where you may not have any clue what you are going to learn or if you are going to help others by facilitating. So I headed to the board (where participants put post-its of what they want to learn or are willing to teach) and was just going to browse what might happen for the day. Suddenly I found myself willing to take a risk (doing that a lot lately!) and decided to facilitate a session on Genius Hour. I was by no means an expert, having done it three times (my students work on it for a full semester) made me understand more about it than someone who had never tried. While I can't say I did the best job, I was able to give others in the session a few resources to help get them started. I spent the rest of the day learning from what others had to share. My next EdCamps were just as interesting. I have shared with others and learned a whole lot more than I can mention here. There are two parts of EdCamps that make it different (in my opinion) from the others conferences I attended. First is that you are encouraged to walk out of a session and go somewhere you feel might be a better fit for you. There is no sense of shame if you leave or get somewhere after it has started. I should have done this when my own session kind of fizzled out half way through. The second great thing is the food. So far all of the EdCamps have provided a small continental breakfast and a fabulous lunch. (See photo for the only picture I have ever posted of food! Delicious!) Did I mention all of this is free?! And thanks to generous sponsors, there is also a raffle. So far I have won a free upgraded subscription to an online writing program for my students and an Acer Chromebook (How great is that?!).
My first real conference was four days at CETPA (California Educational Technology Professionals Association). Our new head of IT is on the board and wanted some of us to check out a few new ideas that he had for our school. What we got out of it was so much more! The sessions were jam packed with people from all parts of education: teachers, admins, IT personnel, TOSAs. This lead to some interesting discussions and learning for a classroom teacher. Many sessions were geared toward makerspaces, coding, using Google For Education apps (including YouTube), and using Chrome. Much of this prepared me for next years 1:1 Chromebook rollout for our district. Attending this conference with my colleague and principal sparked the semi-revolution that is currently going on at our school.
The next conference, and by far the biggest, was the three days at Cue (Computer Using Educators). While the list of sessions to attend was overwhelming, it forced me to focus on what I wanted for my class and myself. This is where I learned blogging (needed the basics before I started!), sketchnoting (a cool tool for both students and my creative side), how to use My Maps in Google, and many tech tools that I have either heard of and never used or never heard of but want to! There were many opportunities for people to interact with Twitter friends and share ideas with colleagues who attended with you. I was able to bring back almost everything I learned from Cue to be used within the first week after I returned to my class.
My students are willing to have me spend quite a bit of time out of the classroom because I always bring back something new and exciting for them to do. While I miss them (and preparing for/returning after a sub can be a hassle), learning from experts and other teachers who are innovative is always worth it! I am lucky to be signed up for more learning opportunities this summer, and I can't wait to see what new ideas I can learn.
What I learned:
-CETPA: Google is awesome, going to conferences with your admin and a like-minded teacher can create school-wide changes, when district personnel believe in what you are doing the sky is the limit (although funding has a way of slowing it down), coding/robotics are fun and important to a student's future
-EdCamps: teachers learn a lot from others who have been doing it, raffle prizes/sponsors rule, when you feed teachers they will come!
-Cue: big conferences can get overwhelming, there is so much to learn, be grateful for those who share their resources when you can't get to their session
-Keynote speakers can be both moving and hilarious (got to see Hadi Partovi [code.org], Brad Montague [Kid President producer/cameraman], Jeff Havens, Robyn Benincasa, and Sylvia Martinez)
-I wish I had enough $ and time to go to all the conferences!
Since I am always up for suggestions, what are your favorite learning opportunities that need to be checked out?
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching