Quote of the Week

Never say you are "just" a teacher. That's like saying Clark Kent is "just" Superman.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Handling Unforeseen Events, by Lou Anne Christian, 2nd grade teacher at Watertown Elementary School

     Every teacher has those expected times- crying child, sick child, irate parent and we learn to handle each situation with grace and intelligence but what do we do when we have those unexpected situations or times? For example, construction, large enrollment after you have your class roll, teachers displaced because enrollment has dropped after school started, etc.?  We still do what we are called to do, we nurture, we make the child feel safe, we love, we teach.

     Because no matter how many times we as humans may feel we haven't done enough, that child, that student has looked up to us for guidance, self assurance, and life lessons and they see success thru their eyes.

You Must Be a Talent Scout!, by Becky Gullekson, Kindergarten Teacher at Stoner Creek Elementary

Speaking from a Kindergarten perspective, I can say that my students come to me in August in a vast array of different levels.  Some students have had many educational experiences through pre-school and some have had no educational experience at all.  Additionally, we know that all students learn best in different styles.  This might leave you feeling like a “Talent Scout!”  How can I reach all these different students and give them the best learning experience?

Remember…all students can learnall students have strengths…we just have to figure out what they are and use them to our advantage! J 

Ø  Start from the very basic- GET TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS!  Talk to them, find out what their interests are and begin building a positive relationship. 
      Ø  Have your students talk to you about their goals…what do they hope to learn?  If they feel like they are working towards something they are more invested and motivated!  Short term goals are best.  This way a student can see results quickly and not get discouraged.  Once that goal is met, set another!
     Ø  Try to make a point to praise & encourage your students for what they CAN do rather than putting so much focus on what they cannot do. 
     Ø  Know your students well enough to know who might need a little extra encouragement (those that might not be receiving it at home).
     Ø  Small group instruction in reading and math is a great way to spend more time with individuals to determine what they can already do and what to work toward next.
     Ø  Providing advanced students with opportunities for leadership can be a motivating tool.
     Ø  Allow fidgety students the opportunity to move about if that helps them to focus and be successful.
     Ø  Provide plenty of hand gestures or other visual cues that can encourage ELL students or other visual learners.
     While seeking out each student’s hidden talents might take a little extra time, it’s worth it! 
     Here are some great articles that might provide you with some other helpful tips or encouragement for reaching all your students:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Designing Homework That Leads to Learning, by Amber Gross, English Teacher at Mt. Juliet High School

We all know that homework is inevitable in our classrooms, but as educators, it is our job to make sure that every assignment we give is essential to learning.  There are many things that we can do to make sure that every assignment given leads to learning (not just padding the gradebook).  I have found that by asking myself, “What is really important about this unit?” and “What do I REALLY need to my students to know about when they finish?” helps me create some neat and essential assignments.
As an English I teacher, we have required units of study that include Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”.  Neither of these pieces, in particular, are short or easy for the kids.  In order to keep my students from becoming overwhelmed, I try to focus on a couple of elements that will help my students after they leave my class but will also assist their learning in the moment.  I try to create assignments that will help improve skill as well as keep their attention (and think outside of the box). 

For example, when we read “Romeo & Juliet”, I had my students complete a single major writing assignment at the end of their reading that was completed entirely outside of class.  I change it up year to year to see if I can come up with something bigger and better.  This year, instead of having students write a typical “Research Paper”, I had them analyze one major character and determine whether they thought their character was a Hero or a Villain (a twist on a colleague’s assignment that she used in World Studies in the past).  They had to cite textual evidence from the play to support their opinions and have valid claims – not just, “Romeo was a villain because he killed Tybalt.”  They had to explain why they thought Romeo’s killing of Tybalt was villainous and malicious (which can be perceived in many different ways – Did he act out of rage?  Did he go there only to kill Tybalt?  What previous actions led to Tybalt’s death?) in his killing of Tybalt.  They had to provide textual evidence in the form of quotes (with in-text citations) from the play to support what they said (which we all know will be HUGE for TN Ready) and complete a Works Cited page.  My students all said that they enjoyed this writing assignment because it really made them think about how they felt about a character and, for some, it made them realize that a reader’s feeling towards a character can change throughout the reading.  This single assignment hit multiple standards and was a quality assignment.  It took their thinking to a whole different level.

MiddleWeb.com put together a series of articles that were, “adapted from Rick Wormeli’s seminal book about teaching in the middle grades, Day One & Beyond: Practical Matters for New Middle Level Teachers (.”  The following suggestions, from Part 2 of MiddleWeb’s series “Smart Homework: Can We Get Real,” can help to make sure that your assignments are going to be assigned for quality, not quantity.  While this series was written to help (primariy) middle school teachers, these suggestions can definitely help all levels. 

1. Give students a clear picture of the final product. 
This doesn’t mean everything is structured for them, or that there aren’t multiple pathways to the same high quality result. There’s room for student personalities to be expressed. Students clearly know what is expected, however. A clear picture sets purpose for doing the assignment. Priming the brain to focus on particular aspects of the learning experience helps the brain process the information for long-term retention. Setting purpose for homework assignments has an impact on learning and the assignment’s completion rate, as research by Marzano and others confirms.

2. Incorporate a cause into the assignment.
Middle level students are motivated when they feel they are righting a wrong. They are very sensitive to justice and injustice. As a group, they are also very nurturing of those less fortunate than them. Find a community or personal cause for which students can fight fairly and incorporate your content and skills in that good fight— students will be all over the assignment.
3. Give students a real audience.
There’s an audience for the students’ work and it isn’t always us, the teachers. For example, when students work on something that uses a lot of technology – whether it’s a PowerPoint talk over the internet, a project blog, or Twitter and other social media, it’s not the technology that’s motivating—it’s the fact that there will be an audience other than the teacher. Somebody will see this, they realize. “What will they think of it?” they ask themselves. So how can you create real audiences for homework?

4. Incorporate people whom students admire in their assignments.
Students are motivated when asked to share what they know and feel about these folks. We are a society of heroes, and young adolescents are interested in talking about and becoming heroic figures.

5. Allow choices, as appropriate.
Allow students to do the even-numbered or odd-numbered problems, or allow them to choose from three prompts, not just one. Let them choose the word that best describes the political or scientific process. Let them identify their own diet and its effects on young adolescent bodies. Let them choose to work with partners or individually. How about allowing them to choose from several multiple-intelligence based tasks? If they are working in ways that are comfortable, they are more likely to do the work. By making the choice, they have upped their ownership of the task.

6. Incorporate cultural products into the assignment.
If students have to use magazines, television shows, foods, sports equipment, and other products they already use, they are likely to do the work. The brain loves to do tasks in contexts with which it is familiar.

7. Allow students to collaborate in determining how homework will be assessed.
If they help design the criteria for success, such as when they create the rubric for an assignment, they “own” the assignment. It comes off as something done by them, not to them. They also internalize the expectations—another way for them to have clear targets. With some assignments we can post well-done versions from previous years (or ones we’ve created for this purpose) and ask students to analyze the essential characteristics that make these assignments exemplary. Students who analyze such assignments will compare those works with their own and internalize the criteria for success, referencing the criteria while doing the assignment, not just when it’s finished.

8. Avoid “fluff” assignments.
For example, assigning students to create a life-sized “dummy” of a person found in a novel (or in history, in science, in math, etc.) doesn’t further understanding. It’s a lot of coloring, cutting, wadding paper, and stapling (or stuffing old clothing with newspaper) for very little return. Make sure there is a clear connection to curriculum, not just something that would look cool when displayed in the classroom. Students will figure out how empty these assignments are very quickly. They’ll see homework as serving little or no purpose other than to give them something to do, which sinks motivation like a big chunk of granite.

9. Spruce up your prompts.
Don’t ask students to repeatedly answer questions or summarize. Try some of these openers instead: Decide between, argue against, Why did ______ argue for, compare, contrast, plan, classify, retell ______ from the point of view of ______, Organize, build, interview, predict, categorize, simplify, deduce, formulate, blend, suppose, invent, imagine, devise, compose, combine, rank, recommend, defend, choose.

10. Have everyone turn in a paper.
In her classic, Homework: A New Direction (1992), Neila Connors reminded teachers to have all students turn in a paper, regardless of whether they did the assignment. If a student doesn’t have his homework, he writes on the paper the name of the assignment and why he didn’t do it. I’ve had students add their parents’ telephone number so I could call home and share what the student said about his homework. Calling parents usually results in a terrific homework completion record for students—at least for a few weeks. An added dividend is that classmates don’t get as many opportunities to see who didn’t do their homework—a reputation to avoid.

11. Do not give homework passes.
I used to do this; then I realized how much it minimized the importance of homework. It’s like saying, “Oh, well, the homework really wasn’t that important to your learning. You’ll learn just as well without it.” Homework should be so productive for students that missing it is like missing the lesson itself.

12. Integrate homework with other subjects.
One assignment can count in two classes. Such assignments are usually complex enough to warrant the dual grade and it’s a way to work smarter, not harder, for both students and teachers. Teachers can split the pile of papers to grade, then share the grades with each other, and students don’t have homework piling up in multiple classes. There are times when every teacher on the team assigns a half-hour assignment, and so do the elective or encore class teachers. This could mean three to four hours of homework for the student, which is inappropriate for young adolescents.

13. Occasionally, let students identify what homework would be most effective.
Sometimes the really creative assignments are the ones that students design themselves. After teaching a lesson, ask your students what it would take to practice the material so well it became clearly understood. Many of the choices will be rigorous and very appropriate.

Consider your true goal with homework:  learning that moves into long-term memory, right? Cramming is the stuff of partial memories to be parroted for a quiz that week, then dumped in the brain’s recycling bin, never to be seen again.

This is one reason I always recommend that, as a basic premise, we avoid Monday morning quizzes and weekend or holiday homework assignments. Sure, there will be exceptions when long-term projects come due. But if we are really about teaching so that students learn and not about appearing rigorous and assigning tasks to show that we have taught, then we’ll carefully consider all the effects of our homework expectations. Our students will be more productive at school for having healthier lives at home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

True Grit: Developing Resilience in Students, by Stephanie Jernigan, Librarian at West Elementary

Most likely somewhere in your past you had a teacher who believed in you, encouraged you, or mentored you.  That teacher may have completely changed your life but definitely made a difference for you. 

On the flip side, we’ve all had students who were in desperate need of an adult who would make a difference for them.  They are the students, who when faced with the slightest bit of challenge or difficulty, give up without really trying to overcome the obstacles.  They lack grit, also known as resilience.  What exactly is it?  Resilience is the human capacity to face, overcome and ultimately be strengthened by life’s adversities and challenges.  Having grit means that a student:

  • Can bounce back
  • Is resourceful
  • Is aware of his/her strengths
  • Has the ability to reach out to others
  • Manages his/her emotions
  • Develops problem-solving skills

Often students come to school having dealt with outside forces that tear at their resilience.  Others may feel family or internal pressure to perform and excel.  Research shows that when internal and environmental protective factors are strengthened in students, resilience develops.  The great thing about school is that for students who struggle with resilience, school in general and each of our classrooms specifically can become a haven.  We can’t always change the outside forces that present challenges for students, but we can certainly all be potential agents of protective factors.  It’s really more about how we teach than what we teach.

So, what can we do to build grit in our students?

  • Develop caring relationships with our students as role models and mentors
  • Show respect and human dignity to all of our students
  • Create an environment with structure and clear and fair boundaries
  • Keep students accountable for their behavior
  • Have high expectations for students
  • Notice and encourage positive internal traits that we see in our students
  • Give students opportunities to participate
  • Acknowledge that life comes with challenges that can be overcome
  • Include stories of overcoming adversity in lessons
  • Initiate class discussions about what trying is or what effort looks and feels like
  • Help students recognize and change negative self-talk
  • Let students ask for help

In other words, building community within our classroom develops resilience.  As you face your students this year, see the good in them, care about them, and hold them responsible.  Who knows?  You might just be the teacher they remember forever as the one who changed their lives.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Overcoming Burnout, by Tammy Boothe, Kindergarten Teacher at Carroll Oakland

Plato “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Each of us feels at some time that his/her efforts are completely and totally ineffective.
We feel as though things are never going to improve.  We feel at times that we are helpless to anything about it.  These thoughts can soon become pervasive, permanent and allow us to feel powerless.  The following are the ideas that I gained from my reading” Awakened: Change your mind set to transform your teaching” by Angela
Watson and hope they help all of us.  Our perspective will determine whether we feel courageous and accomplished or discouraged and defeated.
  1. As teachers we must stop rewinding thoughts that might be negative. We must refuse to allow harmful messages to permeate our thinking. These are counter-productive and stay planted in our minds.
  2. We should dismiss negative thoughts and feelings.  We are all doing the best we can with what we have been given.
  3. Distract any further negative talk with something positive.  Don’t compare it to what you thought or wanted. Be flexible and willing to change.
  4. Reject any negative talk to you personally.  Don’t even think about it.  As long as you are thinking about it you are giving power and importance to it.  Thoughts need to be dealt with head on.  Thinking about this does not help me be the best teacher I can be.  It will tear me down and make me feel bad about myself.  We should remind ourselves that even though we don’t feel like it right now, we know that we have the ability to be successful with this student, parent, or you fill in the blank and  we will succeed.
  5. Replace negative thoughts with something strengthening.  It will affect the way you view problems all throughout the day.  Notice the good things.  Replace false helplessness and remember your core beliefs.  We should always remember the reason we went into teaching.  Our problems today will not last forever and our efforts are making a positive difference. We must choose to be powerful.

I would like to encourage all of us to set our minds on something positive and productive;  stay focused on what we can control;  give ourselves permission to do what we can do and don’t worry about what everyone else is or isn’t doing.  In doing so, not only do we empower ourselves but also the students we teach.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Grading Writing with a Rubric, by Allison Johnson, English Teacher at Lebanon High School

You have probably heard that student writing is a major component of the ELA tests that will determine the literacy score of your school this year. Maybe you have made the decision to try to incorporate writing into your classroom this year.  Maybe you have had the students write in a variety of ways with many different purposes.  Maybe you were feeling super awesome about yourself for working so much writing into your classroom.  Maybe you then looked at your desk one day, at the piles and piles of paragraphs and reports and reflections and essays sitting there waiting to be graded, and your heart sank.  If writing is so important that we are all going to try to have the students write all the time, how will we ever get through all of the grading?
            This is a question that I asked myself this summer many times as I anticipated coming back to a world where the EOC was a thing of the past and TNReady was the new challenge before me.  I knew that I was going to have to get my students writing more (and I teach English); however, I was lost on how I was going to grade all of those papers that I knew that my students needed to write. 
The answer to this problem is the writing rubric.  Rubrics are excellent tools to use in writing instruction no matter which level you teach.  They save time for you and keep your students focused on what they need to do to get a good grade on a writing assignment.  To use them effectively, it does require a little work and planning on the front end, but they save so much time in the long run.  The important thing to remember is that a rubric should make your life easier, not more difficult. 

How to use a rubric to grade student writing

1.  Create your assignment and the rubric you will use to grade it.
            Ideally, you will think about the specifics of the assignment and create your rubric before the students write it.  If you have already given an assignment, it is not too late; however, in the future, think about the rubric as you are creating the assignment.  This is better for you and for the students. 
There are three major categories of writing for the TNReady test:  opinion/argumentative, informative/explanatory, and narrative.  Hopefully your writing assignment will fit into one of these three categories.  You can use the TNReady rubrics for your grade level.  These can be found at the following link: http://support.micatime.com/teacher/classes/scoring-student-responses
These rubrics break down into four separate scores: development, focus and organization, language, and conventions.  I would recommend these for longer, more formal assignments.  You can definitely use them for every writing assignment that you do, but sometimes smaller assignments can be graded with a simpler rubric that still encompasses the majority of the elements that the TNReady test will look for.  For example, in my classes this year, students are reading an article of the week.  They receive the article on Monday and have to annotate the article by Wednesday.  On Thursday, they write a timed reflection that references the article.  They have 30 minutes to write on one of the prompts I give them.  Because they are writing these every week and they are not full-length formal essays, another teacher and I developed a condensed rubric that I use to grade them.  You can see the rubric here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hWAzdt5RcX2hbN7sX909FUrj29mc-BF6yzm_dQBAfiE/edit?usp=sharing
You might want to develop something similar for your assignment if it is a shorter piece of writing.  The main thing is to consider what exactly you want the students to show in their writing.  Do they need to reference a text?  Are you looking for a clear introduction and conclusion?  Do they need to bring in outside examples?  Develop a rubric that will work for you and the assignment.  It is easier if you start with one that has already been created, like the TNReady rubrics, and edit them if necessary, or you can google a rubric that fits with the type of writing the students are doing.  There are tons of free examples online.
*The TNReady site does not have K-2 rubrics that I can find, but your school might have a rubric that you have decided to use if you teach those grades.  If not, here are some links to rubrics for those levels that look good to me. http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/gradesK-2-6pt-rubric.pdf

2. Give the students the rubric, and discuss what you are looking for.
            Students need clear direction on what they are supposed to do in a writing assignment, so taking time to go over the rubric will help them write better and make your job of grading much easier.  Letting them see the rubric in advance takes away any argument over grading in the future.
Again, this is helpful to do before they actually write the assignment, but if you have a stack of papers that need to be graded right now, you can still use a rubric.  Just make sure to give it to the students when you give the papers back, so they can see where they are and what they can do to improve. 

3. Find anchor papers
            The first time that you use a specific rubric, it is always helpful to set anchor papers.  These are the papers that are clearly one of the scores on the rubric.  If you have four possible scores on your rubric, you want to find four papers, one for each number on the rubric.  I have been a grader for a district-wide writing assessment, and the first thing we always did was to set and study anchor papers for each score.  Read through your stack of papers, and when you find one that stands out as a perfect example of a four, pull it out.  Do the same for each possible score.  This helps you internalize the rubric and will make grading so much easier.  When you are grading all of the papers and get to one where you can’t decide between two scores, such as a two and a three, look back at your anchor papers.  This should make it clear which score the paper should receive.

4. Score the papers and don’t write (too many) comments.
            The part of grading writing that absolutely takes the most time is writing detailed comments on each paper.  Individual comments are a great way to point out the good and the bad in student writing, and you should probably use them from time to time.  However, if you want your students writing enough for them to show actual growth in their writing abilities, providing detailed comments and marking every grammar error will take way too long.  I think it is more important for students to write often and get quick feedback than to have detailed comments on every paper. 
            If you give your students the rubric before an assignment and make them familiar with it, then the comments are built right in.  There is no need to write that they didn’t develop their ideas enough; that should be stated in the rubric, and they can look at their score and get that information.  I still write comments on papers (because I just can’t stand not to sometimes), but I try to not write things that they can look at the rubric and see for themselves.

5.  Assign a numerical grade to each score on the rubric
            After you have given each paper a score, you have to figure out how that will translate to a grade in the gradebook.  There are two methods that I use regularly.  The first one is assigning a numerical grade to each score.  For my articles of the week assignment, if a student gets a four on the rubric, he or she gets a 100 in the gradebook.  A three is a 90 and so on.  I think this is fast and fair.  Based on this scale, even a paper of that scored a one will still get a 70 in the gradebook.  That might be a little too lenient for your taste, but you can adjust it accordingly.  Another method I have used is to group the papers by score.  On an assignment where I am going to use the full TNReady rubric, the scores could range from a four (getting a one on each section) to a 16 (getting a four on each section).  I sort all the papers into groups by score.  The top pile gets A’s, the next A-minuses, etc.  I also believe this to be fair because if the highest score was a 13 out of 16, those papers get the A’s.  It basically works like a curve. Whatever method you choose, just make sure that you are comfortable with whatever numerical grades the students end up with.

6. Give the papers back with the score, and let students reflect
            Something that just drives me bananas is when I hand back a paper, sometimes with comments lovingly written all over it, and a student takes one look at the grade, crumples it up, and throws it in the trash.  To prevent this problem, I often plan a reflection activity on the day I hand back papers.  You could have your students look back at the rubric, list things that they did that they shouldn’t have and look to the next score up and list things that they could do next time to get a higher score.  You could also have them pick one paragraph and rewrite it based on what the rubric says.  Any activity that gets them to look at the rubric and reflect on their own writing will translate into better performance on the next writing assignment. 

Keeping Things Organized - My Favorite Tips, by Missy Butcher, 6th Grade Teacher, West Wilson MIddle School

My favorite tips for keeping things organized

I will never forget 11 years ago when I stepped into the classroom for the first time; I was so excited! I’d grown up teaching  my classroom of stuffed teddy bears, but this was for real….my own students! I was ready to embark on my life-long dream of being a teacher. I would soon learn that being a new teacher, with all the disarray of the new experience in the classroom, is challenging enough! I realized that I had to get organized! Being that I am a structured individual who likes routines, cleanliness, and everything to have its place, I needed to instill this into my career. And, while I am self-motivated to figure this out for myself, I soon realized that many of my middle school students were not. So, in my apprentice years of teaching, I created and learned a few techniques of keeping myself organized, and showing my students how to do so as well. Below are some organization tid-bits that I’d love to share with my teacher 

My organization tips:

1.  Students & Standards. I saw where another teacher had done this, so I can’t take 
credit, but it is  brilliantly worth sharing! Take a 3 ring binder, and create sections for the following:
class rosters, student data, grades, lesson plans, standards, pacing guides, resources, etc. With all

the on-hand information we teachers need for
our students and our curriculum, this keeps it 
all in one place. At the beginning of each school 
year, I buy a new, durable binder that will hold 
all this information. Then, I create tabs 
to the information to stay separated. This is my 
school “Bible,” and I love having it all in one place!
2.  Structure & Routine. As an ELA 
teacher, it is overwhelming to have so many standards to teach.  I find that setting up routine in my 
class not only helps students, but also with my lesson planning.  For example, Mondays & Tuesday 
are set aside for informational text studies. Wednesday are for writing focus. Thursdays and Fridays 
are literature study. Kids need structure, and they value

routine so they know what to expect.   Even with 
the routine, it still allows variety within the weeks,
which kids also love!
3.  What are we doing today?
KUDOS. Not only  is organization important 
for planning, but it’s also essential for chunking 
class time. When my students walk into 
everyday, they like to know what’s going on in 
class that day. They may know the focus, but they 
also need to know the standards, objectives, 
and class agenda. Everyday, I post my KUDOs 
for this reason. K is what we will KNOW. 
U is what we will UNDERSTAND. 
DO is for the class agenda. 
This posted everyday presents consistency and

My students' organization tips:

1. Students' Divider Tabs. I think many teachers constantly tell their students to be 
       organized, and we assume they already know how. Showing our students how to be organize is an essential like skill! As the beginning of each school year, I purchase bright, neon paper to print dividers for students’ binders. I use BEP funds to purchase sheet protectors, so these divider tabs are durable  and last all school year. The dividers include: bell ringers, classwork, homework, writing, and graded work. Everything that is given in class has a place within the students’ binders. I can honestly attest that I have had 100% student satisfaction with this! Even the most disorganized students will find a  way to keep everything in its place because they’ve been shown HOW. Any teacher can do this, and the divider tabs can be customized to the teacher’s subject content and/or personal style.  

As a veteran teacher, I’ve learned over the last few years just how organization helps me keep my priorities and responsibilities in order. I would encourage new teachers to find an organization style that works for them, and it may involve trial/error. Seek other teachers’ tips for organization as well to learn! The tips I’ve shared are the ones that I’ve found to be effective for myself and my students. After all, an organized classroom is a happy classroom. J

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Have You Googled Your Classroom? by Danna Armour-Johnson, Health Science Teacher, Watertown High School

Having taught collegiately for several years I felt up to date on the technology side of things, and didn’t feel too intimidated when I heard that the students at Watertown High School would be receiving laptops when the new school opened.  In fact, I was rather excited.  Nonetheless, my first year teaching at the high school level was pretty overwhelming. I had to do things the traditional way. Prep, prep, prep, and more prep work.  I was having to get to school early or stay late to get copies made for all classes.  I had the frustrations of the copier being down or the misfeeds, and it was all time consuming.  The amount of paper wasted when copies didn’t come out like they should just made me sick. Sure I could use it for scrap, but it still seemed like a waste.  Then you would have students who were always missing work, trying to convince you that they turned it in. With the mountains of papers you had been grading you felt like you had to give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes. I am by nature a very organized individual.  I like things color coded and filed away appropriately, but as organized as I tried to be, the papers just kept piling up.  That was my first year.  

Year two started off in the traditional sense, but then by mid-semester the students each received a laptop.  I was introduced to Google Classroom and like flying for the first time, I spread my wings.  At first, there were technology issues regarding bandwidths and wi-fi access with so many students using the service at one time, but this was a pilot program understanding certain adjustments had to be made.  Once those technical issue were resolved, it changed the climate of my classroom.  I could post worksheets, reading material, links to websites, the possibilities seemed endless.  I fell in love with this program. The students were more engaged.  They were doing their own work, and I was able to give them feedback quickly. No longer was I trying to write out comments that would take hours. I would simply post a comment and they could reply to questions immediately.  I could post quizzes and tests and the students could have their results by the end of class.  I could post PowerPoint presentations for students who have missed class. There are options to upload video for students who have been home-bound if they need additional assistance.  Most importantly though, I have saved so much time. I go home now at a decent hour. I no longer worry about being at school early to make copies.  When I go to the faculty lounge and see my peers struggling with copying issues, I cringe at the thought of ever having to go back to that.  Despite having computers available there are still teachers afraid to take the leap, but I tell each and everyone of them that they too will love it once they try it.  

Google classroom also offers an app which allows me to see my classroom at any time on my phone.  The other day I was absent on a school related function and realized I had told the substitute that one of the assignments would be a “career survey” link posted on google classroom. Suddenly it hit me that I had forgotten to upload the link, and I simply pulled out my phone uploaded it to the classroom, and boom it was done.  Later that day I was able to see who turned in their assignments as requested and who did not.  I can grade their assignments and post their grades anywhere there is wi-fi.  Students can see when an assignment is late, and no longer can use the excuse “I turned it in, you must have lost it.”  At the end of a reporting period I can download the class grades to a spreadsheet and transfer the grades to our grading platform.  

Realizing that not all of you have the luxury of laptops in your classrooms, it can seem as though this option would be obsolete, but if the majority of your students have computers and internet access at home, it would be worth your time to investigate it.  It has changed my life for the better. I can only hope you will see its value in the near future for yourselves.