Wednesday, February 22, 2017

One Thing Leads to Another

One of my favorite moments as a teacher is when a small idea that I have blossoms and comes to fruition in my classroom in a way I never expected. Coming up in March, my students will be taking the Forward exam, a standardized state test. Naturally, the kids have some hesitancy about the test; so I had the idea to get all of my wonderful friends on twitter to send inspirational videos to my class about it.

The first person I contacted was my great friend Julie Smith; and she got just as excited as I did! Just before, she had attended a conference where she heard about a program called "Flipgrid" where you can share videos about the same topic all in one spot! So I got on the computer that night and with help from my husband, created a video explaining my idea, and shared it with my friends on Twitter!  You can imagine how over the moon I was when my friends Barbara Gruener and Joy Kirr responded with their videos within twenty four hours! Thank you!

I am very fixed in my mindset about standardized testing; I passionately do not believe that the score tells you  anything about the child's creativity, critical thinking skills, their communication skills nor their collaboration skill set. However, I have come to grips with the fact that standardized testing is not going away, it is a necessary evil, and it is important for our students to do well. 

So I asked myself... what is in my control to help make this testing experience a positive one for our class? And that is how I arrived at asking my friends for their messages, as well as making some changes to my classroom on my own.

  1. I can remain positive and upbeat myself.  I can remind our class to breathe, and not worry about this.  I can remind them to trust themselves.
  2. I can let them chew gum, have mints, and sit wherever they are comfortable to take the test.
  3. I can show them inspirational videos from my educator friends across the country.  Friends that took the time to send their own message about testing.  They say it takes a village and you never know what message might make a connection with one of the students sitting in our classroom.
We must never forget that teachers are learners too, and we have to adapt to stay relevant in an ever changing world. Today, I tried something new and it worked!  Color me happy and excited to share it with you! 

If you are interested in seeing my Flipgrid here is the link.

Image result for standardized testing

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Learning on a Saturday!

We gathered at Barnes & Noble.  We selected books for our classroom library. We laughed and enjoyed each other's company.  We did all of this on a Saturday afternoon.  There was even some math involved!  SAY WHAAAATTTT? Yes, you heard right!  The "Jones Class 103" met at a Barnes & Noble this past Saturday morning to purchase books for our classroom library. We were able to do this through a generous grant provided by the Merton PTO.

This was an optional activity for our class, yet thirty-eight people including students, parents, siblings, and even some grandparents, came to our event!  It was awesome!  We saw smiles, excitement, and even students picking out books for other students who were unable to attend.  Parents were helpful in collecting the books and getting them to the check-out station.  Additionally, we had parents donating their own money so that we could purchase additional books for our classroom!  Everyone was in the holiday spirit. Don, the manager of Barnes & Noble, was a wonderful person with whom to work in terms of setting up this event.  It was fun to meet Don in person on Saturday along with Nicole who took fabulous care of us by helping with locating the books we were after and finalizing the purchasing of all our books.  Other Barnes and Nobles workers, Kelly and Cory, were extremely helpful to us that day as well. As you can see, it took a village to make this a successful event.

It is an honor and privilege to work in a district where families are willing to come out on a Saturday afternoon so their children can get books for our classroom library.  Thank you to the Merton families who participated, to the Merton PTO, with whom this event would not have been possible, and of course, to Barnes and Noble of Brookfield for being such a tremendous help in the whole process.

Gathering outside waiting for all to arrive!

Fabulous 5th Graders!

If you would like to see a video of our experience, please click on the link below:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Shares from the week of 11.2.15

Our staff blog has returned!  I have asked our staff to either be guest bloggers or provide me with some highlights that I can share.  Here are the first two highlights of the 2015-2016 school year.

6th Grade Science (from Mrs. Iwanski)
Students showcased their knowledge on their second science test of the year with a significant increase in scores from the first tests. Students pointed to more focused attention in class, better notetaking, and studying harder (even though it is open notebook). Proud of my students for stepping up to reach higher levels of achievement.
Our team continued to function at a high level despite several absences and subs in our hallway. It was life as usual in 6th grade even with several days of guest teachers filling in in various rooms
We are excited to welcome Grandpa Bulen and his fossil collection next week Friday. Students will have the opportunity to see and touch an enormous collection that we are lucky enough to have him share with us for the second year in a row!
Sarah Kasprowicz, along with other staff, is serving Merton proudly this week at the State Gifted and Talented conference.

Math 7/8 (from Mrs. Senese)
This week students worked in groups to create a review video highlighting important facts about a section of the chapter. Students came up with great ideas and made their videos funny, educational, and helpful! I am so happy with the final products and the students were able to share their creativity with me in Math!
A fellow teacher has been instrumental in my year so far. I am new to my school and she has provided me with guidance and materials. So this isn't really a highlight from the week but more like a highlight of the year :) Without her help, who knows what my year would have been like thus far.
We have parent teachers conferences coming up next week!

Look for more updates in the weeks to come!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Merton Parents Rock!

Good morning!  And yes, it is a good morning!  Do you want to know why?  My morning started out with a Merton parent showering me with a random act of kindness!  How cool is that?  You see, she was parked in the front of the Intermediate building waiting for her son to return, while I had just arrived at school with my heavy school bag, purse, and a twelve pack of my beloved Diet Coke in tow.  As I walked up to the door, struggling with my belongings, this awesome mom got out of her car and said, "Let me help you Mrs. Jones!"  She took the Diet Coke that was precariously balancing on my arm!  What a relief! "Thank you," I replied!  We walked into school together chatting and reminiscing about her son I had in fourth grade.  She escorted me to my room and set the Diet Coke down inside.  We smiled, hugged, and laughed. What a great way to start my day.  Thank you Mrs. B.  You made my day and reminded me of how nice the families are here at Merton School.       

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kids Are Listening!

Yesterday was one of those days….not THOSE days but THOUGHZ-DAYS!  It was a day I will not soon forget.  It all started when one of my students came up to me and handed me a drawing on her white board that she had been working on.  It looked like this:

As teachers we get many of these special pictures and notes throughout the year that we tape to our desk and take down later (how lucky are we?).  Now make no mistake each note is special but for some reason THIS note was extra special to me on this day.  Why?  Take a look in the lower right hand corner of the drawing. She wrote, “and loves us like a family.”  I almost started to cry when I read that.  I looked up at her big blue eyes and told her she had just made my day and gave her a big hug.  She quickly pointed out that the bottle she drew was the Diet Coke bottle I had received a few weeks earlier from a boy in our classroom for my birthday.  The bottle had the word "family" on it!  Again, #blessed.  I digress…

You see, the first weeks of school are critical in building relationships and community in our classrooms so I constantly tell our class, “You’re like family to me.  You’re my second family and I love coming to see you each day.”  And I MEAN it from my heart, if I didn’t the kids would be able to tell I was faking it…it’s a gift that kids possess.  So when the girl in our class handed me her white board drawing and I saw her message about family it told me the kids are listening and they hear my message loud and clear!  #heartwarming.  At that moment I could have literally done a “mic drop” and been done for the day because I was completely 100% fulfilled.  It instantly recharged my batteries and made me want to go home and prepare rock star lessons for my class who is so deserving. 
So in the end I learned, keep talking, keep sending positive messages because the kids ARE listening. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Family Information Nights

It has been an incredible week.  Our staff and many of our families participated in Family Information Nights after school.  In case you missed it, here are the presentations from each night.

6th grade on Tuesday, September 15
5th grade on Wednesday, September 16
7th and 8th grade on Thursday, September 17

Each evening was different because of those in attendance and the way in which the information was presented, and that is a good thing.  Here are my highlights from the nights.

  • Families were able to ask questions, either during the presentations or afterwards.  The teachers were more than happy to answer the questions and in some cases, some of the families who have had children in the grade level before provided answers, too.
  • The presentations were accessible before the meetings on my website and were also on Twitter and Facebook.
  • The 5th grade team "flipped" their presentation by sending an email a week in advance so that families had the information and could have questions prepared.
  • The energy of the staff was electric.  It was obvious that they are passionate about their role as an educator.
As I think back on the three nights, I can honestly say that I am proud of the extra time and effort that our staff puts into our students, their families, and each other.  We have become a family, constantly growing and changing, looking out for one another, and sharing our successes and our struggles.  The ultimate characteristic of a strong family is the way in which the entire family nurtures and cares for their children.  I can say unequivocally that we embody this characteristic and that makes us the ultimate strong family.

Does anyone have any highlights that they would like to add?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Proud moments

Last week, I asked the staff for a one sentence response to the question, "What are you most proud of this year?"  Here are the responses thus far.

  • I try my best to reach each and every student, but I am most proud of one particular student. Both the student and I have worked each and every day the entire school year during RTI time (as she is my only RTI student).  I am so proud of her and the work that she has done.  She started the year out very low in math and according to AIMS Web she is well above where it was expected that she would be at by the end of the year.
  • With all of the pressures of the standardized testing era we are currently structured under, one thing I am most proud of this year is that 25 out of my 26 acc. math students showed growth in their MAPs scores from the Fall to Spring without any changing in instruction or  "teaching to the test."
  • I'm proud of the writers that my students have become!  So fantastic!  I'm proud to be a part of the Merton Staff.  #mustangpride!
  • I am most proud of how the 8th graders have increased their discussion skills to the point that they can conduct a high level discussion without the aid of a teacher/facilitator.
  • I am proud of the connections I have made with my homeroom students.  It has been a great way to start each day.
  • I am proud of the growth that the eight grade students have made in their ability to learn through problem solving in science.  They are much more skilled at trying to "figure things out by thinking science" than at the start of the year.  The seventh grade students in science have also grown as a group to expect more from each other and themselves.  It is my belief they will extrapolate that into their eight grade year.
  • I am most proud of the students who take the initiative to include all students, in the classroom as well as outside the classroom. I am proud of the students who have been a positive role model to other students and who reach out to involve all.
  • I am very proud of the  Human Growth and Development  committee which updated the curriculum. The collaboration of staff and community members was outstanding.
  • I am most proud of my sixth grade students, every one of them, as I observe their student-led portfolio conferences this week.  Students poured their heart and soul and Google Drive contents into their Merton Middle School Portfolios to show their academic progress and personal growth with their parents.  I am most proud when I see my students in charge, explaining their F & P Level and how they managed to increase their levels this year. I am most proud of my students who explain to their parents how they earned their PLTW Badges in our Design and Modeling Course. Last night I listened to one of our sixth graders explain MAPs scores to his parents and the difficulty of increasing a high RIT score on the grades 6+ MAP test as opposed to the test he took last year for grades 2-5.  I am most proud of our families who have all shown up for their conference times, eager to listen and learn to their child share their sixth grade year.
  • I am proud of the work that the 6th graders have done this year to tackle the challenging Project lead the Way curriculum. They worked hard to earn their badges, and earn the right to 3-D print.
  • I love my job and enjoy coming into work everyday.  What I am most proud of is that I leave at the end of the day knowing that I have made a difference in at least one child's life.  If I can help to shape these children into successful, energetic, driven, focused, enthusiastic, problem solvers I have done my job and am very proud of it.
  • I am most proud of the positive attitudes of the students in my class this year.  The classroom environment has been very collaborative, cooperative, and accepting of each other.  I am proud how the kids in my class seem overall happy each day and have taken on whatever new concept I need to teach them with energy and ambition.  Everyone has gotten along and included all.  I am most proud of their enthusiasm each day.
  • I am most proud of the community and relationships that were built in each of my classes this year.
  • I am proud that we took our 5th graders to camp and provided learning opportunities that can't be discovered within classroom walls.
  • I am so proud of my 7th grade LA students, as 96% of them moved up at least one F & P level this year.  This is noteworthy because my class was packed with the lowest readers from this grade level.
Thanks to all staff who shared their thoughts.  I am most proud of our energetic students, dedicated staff, and caring families.
What are you proud of in your school?