Day 14: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.? A Reflection

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It was Saturday, December 16, 2017. The day my National Board Teaching Scores would be released. The day I learned whether I could shout, “I AM A NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFIED TEACHER!” Or the day, I tucked my tail, crawled back in bed, and complained about having to pay and redo all of the hard work I assumed was my best. Hmmm… I sat at my computer eating some grapes and drinking a nice glass of cold coffee. (Yes, we prefer iced coffee in this home. LOL!) I was excited! My husband was at work, and our son was still asleep. I was thankful for some quiet and alone time.

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Image Courtesy of Windows 10 Spotlight Images: Escape from Reality, Mangroves at sunset, Darwin, Australia

I clicked the black button on my mouse and waited for my computer to load. This beautiful background with a mangrove tree, and an amazing glow of dusk appeared before I logged-in. I took this glow as a sign of success. I keyed in my password.

 

I had the National Board Website bookmarked for easy access. I logged into my National Board account! I began to bite my nails. I felt butterflies in my belly, and my left leg shook rapidly as I waited for my scorecard to open! I was turnt-up! My excitement, nerves, and anxiety were wrapped together like a burrito. This is what I read:

“Dear Krystal Reid,
Your performance on this attempt did not meet the threshold established by our Board of Directors for achieving National Board Certification.”

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Image Courtesy of Pixabay.

That quickly, my heart dropped. I could not immediately read the rest of the letter. My eyes teemed with tears. I knew that there would be some positive jargon to follow, and I simply wasn’t ready for it. All I would think was,

“I have failed to become a National Board Certified Teacher.”

There! I said it.

I was heartbroken, angry, and frustrated. Quite candidly, I was pissed. I typically keep feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness to myself. But it is important for me to deal with these emotions so that I can move forward and reflect to continue to grow and achieve the goal of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. I still want it!

However, sharing this information brings another level of emotion I often conceal as well:

Fear

Image Courtesy of Flickr.

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                          This video terrified me as a child!                        Giphy Courtesy of Giphy.com.

I don’t want you to see me as a failure.

I don’t want you to judge me because I failed.

I don’t want you to think I am an incompetent educator.

While I shouldn’t worry about what people think, my feelings about my failure are real. If you are up-to-date with this 14 day series on what it means to be a RenewED Teacher, I am glad that I waited to share this final day because this failure is the perfect opportunity to share what the final “R” in R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. means.

As a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R, it is important that we always strive to:

REFLECT OFTEN TO SUSTAIN GROWTH

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As we are still roughly at the beginning of 2018, this is the perfect time to reflect on the past year, and create changes to make this year the best year ever! One of my major goals this year is to become a National Board Certified Teacher.

In my effort to be more reflective as an educator, sustain growth within the profession, and to help achieve my goal of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher, I am focusing on 5 questions:

  1. What can I learn from this?
  2. What could I have done differently?
  3. Do I need to inquiry or improve some skill?
  4. Who can I learn from?
  5. What will I do next?

Since I am not certified, YET, it is time to begin planning and preparing to retake certain components. I am still frustrated because I don’t want to have to put in the astronomical amount of time again, or spend the money it costs to retake the components. But I want to be the best teacher I can possibly be, in order to help my students reach their fullest potential and to achieve their grandest dreams. I have already learned so much about myself through this journey, that I want to learn more for the sake of my students. I also have regained my passion for teaching through this process, and I don’t want to lose momentum. Additionally, this quote by T.D. Jakes, gives me so much life:

“A setback is a setup for a comeback.”

Courtesy of Power of Positivity on Facebook.

I am ready for my comeback. Professional and personal development are powerful. I have been reading a plethora of books, listening to several podcasts, and implementing many of the strategies I am learning, and many quotes resonate with me. Darren Hardy said, “The key to success is massive failure.” John Dewey said, “Failure is instructive.” My all time favorite, and I have mentioned this before, is what Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” If I think of failure in terms of these quotes, I am going to use it as a means to an end and a massive opportunity to learn from what I didn’t do and don’t know; what I could have done differently; continue to learn and grow; find someone that can teach me what I do not know; and set goals to achieve National Board Certification.

This failure shows I am human and not perfect. I am “Purposed not Perfect.” As a RenewED Teacher, I have room for growth. My deadline is December 2019.

As we continue to learn and grow together, I would love to start a conversation about reflection and productive failure, and how we can use our failures and our reflection of them, to motivate our students when they fail. Most of us, as adults, do not give up, but many of our students unfortunately do. What steps do you take to overcome your failure? How can we use reflection of our failures as a tool for growth to help our students learn and grow?

Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing!

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Day 13: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

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I am what many would consider a veteran teacher. I am in my 11th year of teaching. For ten years, I taught in a low-income, title-one, and sub-urban school. The racial make-up was about 50% African American, 40% Caucasian, and 10% two or more races. According to the website, www.schooldigger.com, 100% of students are recipients of free/reduced school lunches.

This year, I decided to apply somewhere closer to home. I was blessed with two interviews, and offered 3 teaching positions; one of which I accepted which is about a 10 minute drive from home!

The school I currently teach in is also a low-income and title-one, but urban school. The racial makeup is about 94% African American, 2% Caucasian, and 3% two or more races. Based on information also from www.schooldigger.com, about 53% of students are eligible for free/reduced school lunches. It is the largest elementary (K-5) school in the district, but smaller than and houses less students than the school from which I transferred from.

Leaving my former district, I felt I was at the top of my game (but still with room for improvement). I may have been overly praised and evaluated, and I may have been led to believe I was a better teacher than what I really was because this year, I feel like a novice. But then again maybe I really was a great teacher for those students, in that school, at that time. Nevertheless, the change in schools has been a rude awakening for me.

Change is never easy. In fact, it is unavoidable, can help us grow, is often scary, but often brings opportunities. Many times we fight change. I actually fought changing my approach to teaching in my new classroom this year. I thought my routines, procedures, and style of teaching would be just as effective in my new home school as they were in my previous one. Y’all, I was all the way wrong, but I did not want to change. I didn’t think I needed to change. I wanted to change the kids and make them fit into my box. What was I thinking? That sounds like a teacher with a fixed mindset, right?

Things are getting better in my new classroom. I am actually teaching and not always dealing with discipline issues. I can say that this change has a lot to do with me being willing to change and not forcing my students to fit my mold. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe each and every child in my class can and will succeed. I believe they will not only meet my level of expectation, but will rise above my expectations. However, I had to meet them where they were.

On this 13th day of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. Series,” I want to talk about the final E in T.E.A.C.H.E.R.

As a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R, we should always:

ENGAGE WITH STUDENTS AND EMBRACE CULTURE

Upon applying to my new school district, I knew that I would more than likely teach in a

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school that was considered high needs. A high-needs school according to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is defined as “within the top quartile of elementary and secondary schools statewide, as ranked by the number of unfilled, available teacher positions; or is located in an area where at least 30 percent of students come from families with incomes below the poverty line; or an area with a high percentage of out-of-field-teachers, high teacher turnover rate, or a high percentage of teachers who are not certified or licensed.” I was used to working in this kind of school with these statistics. Because I felt this way, I made a few assumptions. You know what they say about that…

It was then that I stopped assuming I knew best, and started over by asking questions. The beginning of my school year was more challenging than even my first year out of graduate school. In my blog post, “Caveats to Day 13: An Overwhelming and Under-Prepared Beginning” I describe in detail what made this year more challenging than I anticipated in addition to my asinine assumptions. Click here to read or listen to a short blog post about them.)

On Engaging with Students

Now that you have the facts, starting over was challenging. I had to let go of what was, and focus on what is. I had to commit to getting to know my colleagues, students and their families and stop comparing them to my former colleagues and students. I used the 2 by 10 Strategy attributed to Robert Wlodkowski. I spent 2 minutes (give or take a few seconds) each day for 10 days in a row talking to my students about anything they wanted to talk about. Most times it was an impromptu conversation in the morning after Harambe, at their lockers, in the hall during transitions, before or after lunch, during dismissal, or during our morning circle.

This strategy is recommended for teachers to use with at-risk students. It is really easy to use if you only have a few at risk students in your classroom, but when the entire class is at-risk, it takes a bit more elbow grease. Some students needed more than 10 days. I can tell that it is working because my students and I get along well. (They don’t always get along well with each other, so I still have some work to do there.) Additionally, another educator in the building brought to my attention that one young lady in my class this year is 100% better behaved now than she was last year. She said, “I don’t know what you did, but keep doing it. She’s a totally different person. 100% better.” After I heard a few things about this student and her behavior last year, I was committed to “Making her My Girl!” I’m so glad I chose to engage with her and the rest of my scholars.

The strategy is not a magic trick and it’s nothing miraculous. It simply helps teachers build better relationships and rapports with their students.

On Embracing Culture

Because nearly 100% of the students in my 4th and 5th grade classes are African American (this has never been true for me prior to this year), I feel that it is important to mention this next statement. As an African American teacher in the United States, who attended a public school district (before having a major goal to eliminate racial disparities in achievement levels of African-American students) and a predominantly white University (before it had the Center for Urban Education), I was taught using a curriculum that was primarily and essentially Eurocentric. Because this is the education system in which I was molded, I am sure the way I teach is also Eurocentric in nature.

What does this mean? It means I am unable to connect with my students culturally. You may think that it does not matter because I look like my students. We know that color matters. YES, WE DO. We may not want it to matter, but that’s the unfortunate basis of the United States of America. The fact is that the color of my skin DOES NOT ALWAYS afford me opportunities to better relate to students and families that look like me. Culture is more than skin deep. My historical education has limited my ability to truly understand who I am as an African American. Because of this, I am unable to fully understand who my students are and furthermore unable to help them fully understand who they are.

According to Afroetry of www.afroectic.com in an article titled, Education: Europe-Centered (Eurocentrism) vs. African-Centered, we were and “are typically taught that human civilization begins with Greece and Rome…[and]…further educated within the framework of Greek, Roman and European culture. The substance of what [is] learn[ed] is rooted in the western stories [we] learn to read from, the mathematical concepts [we] learn in school, and the science applications that are rooted in the observations of white males.” To read this article in its entirety, please click here. We all know that human civilization began well before Greece and Rome.

I mention this to say that no matter where you teach, no matter your race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or cultural background, it’s our responsibility to learn about who we teach, and intentionally take the time to do so. We do not have to act or dress or pretend to be something we are not to understand those that we teach. It’s unnecessary to appropriate. These things make us look as if we are trying too hard, being fake, and typically backfire. It’s always best to Keep it 100 by being Audaciously Authentic. But we do need to talk to our students and their families, listen to them, respect them, and value the differences and the similarities we share. We should read what they read, watch what they watch, and go where they go. We should read about their history with non-judgmental lenses on. This is no easy enterprise, but I believe it is worth it for us as educators and furthermore for the development of our students, schools, country, and world.

In conclusion, although I am African American, my mindset is Eurocentric at best. There is nothing wrong with that. However, as Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome say in the title of their book, the “Kids Deserve It.” Our scholars deserve renewed teachers that engage with them and are willing to and able to embrace their culture.

I learned a valuable lesson this year by changing school districts. I learned what worked before, may not work later, and in order to meet the needs of my students, I need to be a great teacher for these students, in this school, at this time, every time.

Until then, Happy Teaching
Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher
American and African American History Resources:
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson
Stolen Legacy by George G.M. James.

Caveats to Day 13: An Overwhelming and Under-Prepared Beginning

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20180107_011541.jpgIf you have been following my blog for the past couple of months, you will know that I am currently completing the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?” Series, where I share the essential elements to being a RenewED Teacher. This post is a caveat to Day 13. I felt the need to include this post for three reasons: 1) Day 13 was entirely too long; 2) The beginning of the year sets the stage for how the rest of the year will be; 3) I need you, my readers, to understand that despite stressful situations, a good teaching year can still be had. There were barriers and obstacles that my devilish mind felt were automatic set ups for failure. My angelic mind helped me to be patient and realistic about the situation. Things needed to get done regardless of how unfair I felt the conditions were. 

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GIF courtesy of www.tenor.com.

Let’s jump right in. The beginning of my school year was no where near what I expected. I was overwhelmed and under-prepared. This post is not meant to bash or throw shade on anyone or any organization. I am simply stating some facts that increased my level of anxiety at the beginning of the school year. Schools and districts have rules and policies that must be adhered to in order to be in compliance with the district and state. With that being said, if I were a new teacher, you know, my first year out of college, I would’ve probably quit, and I wonder if events like this are related to why there are high rates of teacher attrition. Check out the 10 reasons that were beyond my control that could have easily contributed to the beginning of burn-out and frustration for me this year.

Day 13 Caveats:

10 Reasons I Had An Overwhelming and Under-Prepared Beginning

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  1. I was not permitted to set up my room until I was cleared, which was about one week before students started. We started on a Tuesday, and the students started the following Monday. I know what you are thinking, I had six days to set up. No, I didn’t. Keep reading.

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    Image courtesy of Pixabay.

  2. I was not able to bring anything in the room until the former teacher’s materials were removed. Most were removed by the end of the day on Monday, and the rest were removed by Tuesday morning. (Between her new position, trainings, and the summer program, I understand the lack of time she had to clear the room out.)
  3. Most of my teaching supplies and materials were at home in my garage until the Wednesday before school started. (I packed my car and brought things in little by little beginning on Monday. On Wednesday, my husband brought everything else in.)

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    My guys are the best!

  4. On Wednesday, we had a big back to school celebration and District-Wide PD. I was out of the building for a great portion of the day. (It was pretty fun and exciting though!)

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    District-wide PD was packed and boomin’!

  5. Thursday, we had Math PD outside of the building. ALL DAY!!! I returned to the school later in the evening to continue getting my classroom to actually look like a classroom. (Slightly frustrated this day. I teach both 4th and 5th grade math. We were separated by grade level. I could not attend both sessions at the same time.)

  6. Friday, I made copies, lesson plans, organized Monday’s materials, etc. My friend and former colleague and I hosted a hugs and farewell party with our former co-workers, so I left the building around 5 pm. Although we both resigned around the same time, we did not plan this. We left for varying reasons, and she is in a different state. (I cried as I drove to the going away party. Not because I was sad I would miss them, but because my classroom was no where near ready for Monday. I was overwhelmed, felt under-prepared, and exhausted.)
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    I love these ladies. We were a dream team!.

    Each day, we had to exit the building by 5:30-6:00 pm.

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    He had to get his nap in.

  8. The building was open on Saturday from 9 am – 2 pm. My husband came to help. (Mr. Organization and Get Stuff Done, was amazing. I could not have finished the room without him.) Our son took his nap on the rug in my classroom with a bean bag as a pillow.
  9. I did not receive my class roster until the first day of school. (Yes, the day students arrived. No shade. Based on my knowledge, every teacher received their roster the same day. The only difference is that they knew most of the students because they were not new to the building.)
  10. The one thing I have done every year I have taught is mail letters (Yes, snail-mail) home to my students and their families. This gives them an opportunity to get to learn about me prior to the first day of school. I believe the letters set the tone. Additionally, I call the families after the letters are sent home to touch base with them. I also provide families with a means to communicate back with me about their child. I was not able to do any of this. I strongly believe this pro-active method of communication has benefited me and the relationships I have with my students and their families over the years. There is only one year I was not able to mail the letters, and that year was terrible! That was the year I wanted to quit teaching! This year was headed down the same line.

With that folks, look out for day 13 of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?” series, where I share the next component and what the final E in T.E.A.C.H.E.R. represents.

As we continue to learn and grow together, how was your beginning of the school year? I hope not as stressful as mine. Share in the comments below. I look forward to reading them.

Until then, Happy Teaching!

The RenewED Teacher, Krystal L. Smith

P.S. Here is a video of my classroom on the first day of school! (I do not own the rights to the music in the video.)

If this video does not work, please try the one below (No music).

Day 12: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

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Over the summer, I listened to an audio-book titled, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol Dweck. Have you heard of it? If not, I highly recommend it to anyone even if you are not an educator. It’s transformative! One’s mindset impacts every aspect of his or her life including, but not limited to relationships, business, parenting, and yep, you guessed it, schools.

According to mindsetonline, “Mindsets are beliefs—beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities.” It is not an attribute of a person. It is a way of thinking about particular things. According to Dweck, and her decades of research on success and achievement, there are two type of mindsets: Fixed and Growth. People with fixed mindsets believe the way things are, and feel they can never change regardless of what they do or not. They believe their success, or lack there of, is innate.  On the other hand, people with growth mindsets believe that hard work, effort, and dedication can improve any circumstances. They believe their individual qualities can be improved and developed upon over time. 

I am sure you can guess which mindset I support and try to embrace, and which mindset a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. should embrace.

Of course, a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R. should ALWAYS:

HABITUALLY EMBRACE A GROWTH MINDSET (or at least try to)

 

 

20171229_020022WHY WE SHOULD

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In many of my posts, I ask a variation of this question, “How can you expect something from your students that you do not practice yourself?” This is the main reason why we should make embracing a growth mindset a habit. We all want our scholars to work hard, stay committed to tasks, persevere and overcome academic and social barriers, and we also want them to grow in these areas. Additionally, we want them to believe in themselves enough to feel they can be successful at whatever it is they choose to do. If you don’t want any of this for ALL of your students, you may be in the wrong profession. But if you do want this for ALL of your students, we need to make a pact.

Can we all agree that it is necessary for us as educators to also work hard, stay committed to tasks, persevere and overcome our students’ academic and social barriers, and continue to learn and grow within our profession? Furthermore, can we also agree that it is important for us to consistently believe in ourselves enough to know we are 100% capable of teaching, reaching, loving, supporting, and growing each student in our classroom in order to help bring their hopes and dreams of success to fruition? I’m sure you agree, friends.

But whether you agree or not, I still must wonder how we can expect our students to embrace something if we do not do it ourselves, first?

HOW WE CAN

how-2730752_1280.pngMaybe you buy-in to the theory of the growth mindset, maybe you don’t. Let’s just say you’re interested in learning how to incorporate the idea into your classroom. I first and foremost believe that you cannot influence change and transform people, let alone children, without being a model of it yourself. My mindset is fixed in this regard. LOL! Therefore, you need to discover what mindset you embrace first, and work from there. If you have growth mindset, there are plenty of resources to use to begin the journey of helping all of your students embrace growth mindsets. If you lean more towards fixed ideas and embrace a fixed mindset, you are going to have to do some personal and perhaps professional development in this area, especially if you plan to guide your scholars towards believing in growth mindsets. And you know what? That’s okay.

According to Dweck, most people may not be consciously aware of their mindset. “Individuals may not necessarily be aware of their own mindset, but their mindset can still be discerned based on their behavior. It is especially evident in their reaction to failure. Fixed-mindset individuals dread failure because it is a negative statement on their basic abilities, while growth mindset individuals don’t mind or fear failure as much because they realize their performance can be improved and learning comes from failure.” (University of Hull).

If you are interested in learning what your mindset is, click here to complete this online assessment from MindsetOnline.com. While you complete the assessment, remember Day 10 and to “Keep it one hunnit” by being “Audaciously Authentic” with your answers.

I’ve Discovered The Mindset I Embrace, Now What?…

WHAT WE CAN DO

what-2730753_1280Whether you habitually embrace a fixed mindset or growth mindset, congratulations! You have taken the first step to helping your students embrace this idea of mindsets! Now is the best time to decide if what you currently do in your classroom aligns with either of these mindsets, and to decide if you want it to stay the same or change.

If you decide to remain consistent in what you currently do or change because things are not working how you like regarding your mindset, I would highly recommend reading or listening to Dweck’s book as soon as possible to help you really understand what Dweck’s research means. What you don’t want to do is introduce the idea in haphazard ways and risk not making an impact in your classroom.

Once you are comfortable with her research, introduce the idea to your students. Talk to them about what they think it means. Depending on their age, have them complete a mindset assessment to discover what your students think about themselves, and use this information when planning lessons and activities. I have done these surveys in my classrooms, and I have learned a plethora of information about my students including what they believe about themselves and what they think is possible to achieve or not. I kid you not, when things get challenging, I am able to intervene many times before a meltdown or a “walk-out-of-the-room-and-slam-the-door-with-frustration-act” occurs with certain students simply based on what I remember from their mindset assessments.

Here are five additional resources to get you started. Simply click the links.

Prof. Crole Dweck: Video-Growth Mindset Vs Fixed Mindset

Mindset Assessment Profile

How Can You Change From a Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset?

As we continue to learn and grow together, I CAUTION you not to fall into the trap of the fake growth mindset, the overzealous and the overpopularized use of growth mindset as I almost did before watching these videos and reading an article from Edweek.org titled, “Misinterpreting the Growth Mindset: Why We’re Doing Students a Disservice.” AND I CHALLENGE you to keep learning about mindsets and be willing to make a habit of embracing a growth mindset. As teacher Christina Gil said, “Pushing our students to adopt a growth mindset is an easy call. Adopting one ourselves is harder,” (Edutopia.org – “Teachers Need a Growth Mindset Too”).

Before you click away, share your thoughts about this idea of mindsets or your assessment results in the comments. I can’t wait to read your responses. Now get out there form a new habit.

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

Day 11: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R.?

Don’t have time to read this post. Click here to listen. 

As we come closer to the end of the, “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.? Series” we focus on the letter C.

As a RenewED Teacher, we should ALWAYS prioritize…

“CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT”

20171228_115718As defined by edglossary.org, content knowledge, “refers to the body of knowledge and information that teachers teach and that students are expected to learn in a given subject or content area, such as English language arts, mathematics, science, or social studies. Content knowledge generally refers to the facts, concepts, theories, and principles that are taught and learned in specific academic courses, rather than to related skills—such as reading, writing, or researching—that students also learn in school.”

Based on this definition, content seems to be the core of teaching and learning. It is the “WHAT” of the puzzle. We can build the best relationships with students, have the most well behaved class in

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.

the school, show up early and stay late everyday, love kids with the greatest amount of compassion and logic, be the neatest, most organized and creative teacher in the building, but without a deep level of content knowledge and strategies to present that content in meaningful ways, we are still ineffective. I don’t want to swallow this pill anymore than any of you, but as Bill Gates said, “Content is King.” If you’re a lady, go ahead and say, “Content is Queen!”

Content is important for three reasons including behavior, communication, and making sense of and connecting to the world.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Content Often Drives Our Behavior 

As a student and as an adult, I can recall being disengaged and bored in school or during a course when I did not have the background knowledge or experience to relate to a topic of discussion. Our students behave in similar ways, by talking, being off task, or many times by acting out to avoid learning or looking ignorant all together.

Having knowledge or lack their of in a particular subject can drive our behaviors positively or negatively. I have heard teachers say they are glad their grade level is departmentalized, and that they only have to teach reading or math because they did not “like reading” or, “sucked at math!” It seems students and teachers alike get anxious about the subjects they are less comfortable with. But as I wrote on Day 9, we have to experience a level of discomfort in order to grow, and on Day 4, it is important to take initiative and educate ourselves on those things we don’t know or else we fail ourselves and our students. If we don’t take initiative to gain knowledge about things we are uncomfortable and unfamiliar with, how can we expect our scholars to do so? This is their life almost everyday at school. Let’s show them how to navigate the world by making good choices when content knowledge is the only way to thrive and survive.

Content Helps Us to Communicate Ideas about Varying Subjects

For the teachers that teach in isolation, we do our students a huge disservice. I am sometimes guilty of that myself, so no judgement here. As a National Board Teaching Candidate (No, I am not certified…YET.), I am aware and learning more about how

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How could we use this image to help us create lessons that could forge a path for students to learn math, reading, science, history, technology, engineering, and                             art simultaneously?                             Image courtesy of Pixabay.

“accomplished teachers value the relationships among subject areas, using those relationships to forge multiple paths to knowledge…[and to] recogniz[e] how knowledge is established within and across subject areas [as something] crucial to the instruction of logical reasoning.” (National Board, Proposition 2).

Many people assume content knowledge is just about facts, and that we should not teach facts because it does not teach students how to become critical thinkers. Many people think facts are things that need to be memorized and used only for standardized testing. But my question is if you don’t know anything about the basic facts regarding content in a particular subject, how can you formulate a critical thought to help build understanding, and later communicate it to someone else effectively? Content including some basic facts (and some need to be memorized), is the basis of teaching and learning.

I personally have a difficult time teaching concepts and skills I am unable to help students relate to the real world. I always ask myself why do students need to know this? If I cannot find a logical answer, I will do research and ask around before I teach it. Otherwise, I may not do my best teaching it because in my mind, I will believe it’s not important for them to know, and I could be wrong.

Last year, I struggled with teaching the powers of 10 in math. The concept itself is easy. The hard part was finding something relevant and meaningful to teach and reach my students. As I was planning a science lesson on Astronomical Units and how far each planet was from the sun, I finally found a way for my students to practice and understand why we may need to know and use powers of 10. The distance from Earth to the Sun is

Planets

Image courtesy of Google Images.

referred to as the Astronomical Unit (AU) and is 150,000,000 km. Why write 7 zeros if we can write 15×107? They saw this as a short-cut for writing large numbers, and they were right! Thank goodness for that astronomy course I dropped in college after 2 weeks. I learned something! This, some research, and reaching out to others allowed me to teach a cross-curricular lesson and help my students discover how math and science are interrelated.

Content Helps Us to Make Sense of and Connect to The World 

Connect

Throughout my years of teaching, I have often wondered how and why the content knowledge of my lowest performing student was so much different than my highest performing student, and why there was such a huge difference in how they demonstrated what they learned or did not learn, as well as major differences in their behaviors. I don’t have all if any of the exact answers to these wonderings, but through some research, content, context, and being able to connect play huge roles.

As a college sophomore and junior, I was an Americorps member of Jumpstart. Jumpstart’s mission is to provide “language, literacy, and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced communities and promotes quality early learning for all.” I start here because language, literacy, and social-emotional development (connected to behavior) is a child’s first experience with how they learn and comprehend content within given contexts.

30MillionFewer.PNG

                                     This is where Jumpstart began.                                       Image courtesy of Pixabay. Edited by PowerPoint.

Read it again… Let it sink in… Got it? 30 million fewer words by age 3!? This quote is from a landmark study done by the late University of Kansas child psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, and can be found in the book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young Children. There is even more telling in addition to this famous quote, and can be found here. “The researchers found that, on average, children from professional families heard more than 2,150 words an hour. Those in working-class families heard about 1,250 words. Children in families on welfare heard little more than 600 words an hour.” This is not just a word gap, it’s a content gap. When students are not hearing words or communicating with others, they are not learning content or gaining experience with people and the world. “Dale Walker, an associate research professor in early language and communication” who worked with Hart and Risley did a follow-up study, and learned that “vocabulary gaps in preschool predicted 3rd grade gaps in language-test performance.” In her words, “What I found in visiting those children from kindergarten to 3rd grade was, those who had heard the least were still at a disadvantage years later.[…]I always knew where to find them; frequently, they were in the hallways, for behavior problems.”

Making sense of the world begins prior to students entering school. We know this, right!? Therefore we know that many of our students from low income communities enter our classrooms with word, vocabulary, and experiential gaps. In essence, we know that they are unable to make more sense of the world than many of their peers because they are lacking some specific content. As educators, we cannot afford to contribute to these gaps because we know it then changes from a content gap to an achievement gap. It is our duty to learn who our students are and what they know or do not know and can and cannot do. It is further more our responsibility to continue to learn and study what they are supposed to know, and then work with families and community organizations to insure they learn it. This is what we do daily, teachers, and we know the mission is not easy. It’s important that we never give up though.

In closing, I feel that teacher Daisy Christodoulou, and the author of “Seven Myths of Education,” which was adapted by the American Educator as “Minding the Knowledge Gap: The Importance of Content in Student Learning” summarizes why content knowledge is so important in these three quotes:

Minding the Knowledge Gap 1.PNG   Minding the Knowledge Gap 2.PNG     Minding the Knowledge Gap 3.PNG

As RenewED Teachers, we have to keep content at the forefront of what we learn so that our scholars learn to manage their behaviors, communicate effectively, and make sense of and connect to the world.

As we continue to learn and grow together, I am interested in your thoughts and ideas regarding content as well. Feel free to respond to these three questions. On a scale of 1-10:

  1. How well do you think you know the content you teach?
  2. How well do you think you are able to connect one content area to another?
  3. How important is content to you?

Leave your digits and thoughts in the comments! I cannot wait to hear from you!

(Here are my digits: 6, 6, 10!)

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

If you like, love, or enjoyed what you have read follow the blog and follow me on PinterestLinkedIn, and Facebook. 

Sources:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/Karin-Chenoweth/the-importance-of-teachin_b_5610951.html

https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/periodicals/Christodoulou.pdf

https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/04/22/key-to-vocabulary-gap-is-quality-of.html

https://blog.learningbird.com/roxanne-desforges-meets-larry-edutalk-radio/

 

 

Day 10: What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D T.E.A.C.H.E.R?

If you don’t have time to read this post, feel free to listen to it here by clicking this link

100

Courtesy of Google Images

I believe in “Keeping it 100%, (one hunnit),” ALL of the time. Would you agree that it’s not always easy do though? Okay, let me take a step back. What does “Keepin’ it one hunnit” mean? According to a few definitions from Urban Dictionary it means:

 

  • “To keep yourself real and true, to be honest and stick to the way you are, no matter what any one else thinks.”
  • “To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. AKA “Keep it Real” or be honest with yourself as well as others.”
  • “Keep it pure.”

I remember “Keepin’ it real” so much that a parent of one of my former students just had

Graduation

There she is in the middle! This is her high school graduation party. #proudteachermoment #5thgradeteacher #backtoback with these young ladies!

to meet me! She could not believe what her daughter was saying about me at home. Back in 2009-2010, I used to love this show called “The Game” that starred Tia Mowry of Sister, Sister and Pooch Hall. Pooch played Derwin who was a professional athlete in the show. Tia played Melanie, his significant other. Derwin always said “Dueces” which means goodbye, and “That’s what’s up!” which is a compliment similar to good-job, but better. A few of my students watched the show, which made it easy for me to incorporate these phrases into my daily language and communication with them. This wasn’t done intentionally. It just worked. A group of students would be working well together by getting along, being on task, using quiet voices, and staying focused, and I would walk over to them, and say, “That’s what’s up, ya’ll! You’re on task and using your time wisely to complete the assignment.” I’d give them a high five, say “Deuces!” and put up two fingers, and walk away. They would laugh, smile, or say deuces back and continue doing what they were supposed to be doing. The young lady that told her mother I used these phrases and loved the show, loved every minute of it, but her mother felt differently. She showed up on parent-teacher conferences confused and upset. In a nutshell, she thought I was “ghetto” or uneducated and thought I was being inappropriate for using such phrases with the students. However, once she met me, and got to know me, we laughed, and she understood why her daughter talked about me so much at home. The mother learned to appreciate the fact that I stayed true to myself, and opened doors of communication for the students and I to relate to each other. She also appreciated how fond her daughter was of me. “I was different. I was her favorite teacher,” she said.

 

 

With that folks, I bring you Day 10 of the “What is a R.E.N.E.W.E.D. T.E.A.C.H.E.R.? Series” which focuses on being authentic.

As RenewED Teachers, we should ALWAYS strive to be:

AUDACIOUSLY AUTHENTIC

This means that we should be bold, courageous, and fearless in addition to also being candid, true to and consistent of ourselves, and caring of content and people while teaching and learning.Day10

 

Why We Should Be Audaciously Authentic

The word authentic is everywhere! We are required to have authentic assessments, use authentic/prime resources, create or use authentic math tasks, provide students with authentic readings they can relate to, as well as build authentic relationships with them and their families. I don’t see anything wrong with this. If everything else has to be authentic, I feel we should be authentic educators and human beings as well.

While the word authentic could lose it’s zest because it’s overused, the fact remains that we should simply be real, honest, truthful, and be ourselves while striving to become better over time. Teachers are not Gods, nor are we superheroes. Even though we do save some lives sometimes, teachers are not mystical beings, and should not pretend be something we are not, or fake. Period. We are human beings that have feelings and emotions similar to the students we teach and people we work with on a daily basis. Teachers should be legit…”Too legit to quit!” (Okay, I couldn’t resist). Students value this, and let’s face it, while we sometimes have to fake the funk to make it through a day or two or more, it is more fun be ourselves and to be direct and honest, but also compassionate.

According to Science Daily, in an article titled, “Authentic Teachers are Better [at] Engaging With Their Students,” the research “indicated that authentic teachers were seen as approachable, passionate, attentive, capable, and knowledgeable, while inauthentic teachers were viewed as unapproachable, lacking passion, inattentive, incapable, and disrespectful.” Which teacher would you rather be?

While the study focused on [about] 300 college students, I am sure many of us can attest that regardless of the level we teach, when we are more authentic with our students, the relationships we develop and the learning that occurs in our classrooms and perhaps outside of them, is stronger and full of impact.

 

Being Authentic is About Knowing and Accepting Who We Are

During my sophomore or junior year of college, I was a member of a program called Emerging Leaders. One of the sessions had us describe our personality as either introverted or extroverted. I knew I was introverted! Although I was outspoken, I enjoyed time to myself, always read on the bus to and from class, had my headphones on to avoid being in non-productive conversations, I mean it was a no brainer. I was an introvert. However, as I pleaded my case, the students in the program, who had only known me for about about 2 weeks, ALL disagreed with me. The entire class looked at me as if I were crazy! So I changed my answer to extrovert. I mean it fit too! I did love to talk, had tons of interests, was pretty open, and people described me as friendly and nice. I guess I was an extrovert after all! Had I known about ambiverts then, the answer I would have used to describe myself would have been perfect.

In order to “Keep it 100;” in order to be audaciously authentic, we really need to know ourselves. David Grossman from yourthoughtpartner.com says, “Leading authentically isn’t about being like someone else. Instead, it’s about knowing yourself and being who you are.” At 19-20 years old, I obviously had no clue who I was. I couldn’t definitively decide if I was an introvert or an extrovert. I was still in the discovery phase. (I believe that I still am in that phase today.) I was loud, boisterous, and outgoing, but also enjoyed alone time. However, I was sometimes told to calm down, or told I was too loud (by family and very close friends), and sadly, I did…for a brief moment. Because of this, I had a slight identity crisis. I tried to fit the mold of what others expected of me, but could not stop being who I was. I now accept who I am, and I am unapologetic about it. I am, who I am. This works for me in and out of my classroom because I am comfortable in the skin I am in. But I am always willing to grow and become better than I am.

Being audaciously authentic may look different for all of us. It certainly can be frightening though, right!? It is scary to show who we really are because we are afraid of what others will think and say. On Day 8 of this series, “Try New Things,” I discussed some new things I tried in my classroom. Creating songs and then performing them in front of a room full of students filled of judgment and looks of awe took great courage. Writing about it and sharing the experience on my blog was even more fearless!

Regardless of whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert, we all must discover who we are and accept it. If we are uncomfortable in our own skin, how can we expect our students, their families, and colleagues to accept us for who we are and further trust that they can learn with us and from us? 

Authenticity is key. So go ahead and have the audacity to be.

As we continue to learn and grow together, please share whether you an an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert. Let this be the beginning of you becoming audaciously authentic! If you are not sure which idea describes you best, here are two quizzes to choose from:

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Here are my results (you can read them on your own): 

Until then, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher

 

Word Fun at Autumn’s End

Although it may feel as if winter is here with all of the holiday decorations, music, cheer, and early December festivities, plus the snow that some of you may have already experiencing, the last day of Autumn isn’t until Thursday, December 21st!

Harvest.PNG

Image courtesy of Pixabay

As we teachers approach winter break, which is sometimes a high-stress time for us and our students, why not give our students the chance to unwind with a fun word scramble!

While a word scramble, may not be standards based in and of itself, it can be used to hit many ELA Standards (English Language Arts). In Pennsylvania, this word scramble would lend itself perfectly for the PA Core Standard: C.C.1.4 Narrative Writing: “Students write for different purposes and audiences. Students write clear and focused text to convey a well-defined perspective and appropriate content.” It would also fit well with various grade levels. Below I provide you with 5 ways to use this word scramble in your classroom. 

Scrabble

Image courtesy of Google Images.

Five Ways to Use this Word Scramble in the Classroom

  1. Have students brainstorm words that they think of when it comes to fall or Thanksgiving. Create a word bank with their list. Add to it as necessary so students yield success. (Team building as well.)
  2. Have students unscramble the words, and then use them to create a story. (Adapt by allowing the students to choose the number of words but no less than 1/2 (or five of the words.) Provide the students with a standard’s based rubric when writing.
  3. Once students have completed the word scramble, allow them to draw a picture or poster including the items. (This would be great as an extension for the story, or just as an outlet for those students that are artistically gifted or simply love to draw.)
  4. Hide the items or pictures of the words in your classroom and allow students to search for them. Once the students have found the items/pictures, they will then use them to unscramble the words. (This allows for those more kinesthetic learners to release some energy.)
  5. Provide a word bank, and allow students to complete the word scramble if they finish other assignments early. (We all have those few students that complete everything quickly.)

I hope this word scramble and these activities allow you some respite from your day-to-day and week-to-week planning that must be done.

Here is your free resource from Education.com: word scramble and answer key

As we continue to learn and grow together, I wonder what other activities can be used to incorporate this word scramble into the classroom. If you have some cool and/or creative activities, please share them in the comments.

For more reading activities, go to Education.com.

Thank you for reading!

Until next time, Happy Teaching!

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher