A Week in the Life of a Teacher…

… on summer break

Summer break is a time for me to rest, rejuvenate, and prepare for the next school year.
So far, this summer, I have led students on a week-long summer science enrichment camping experience in the mountains of Wyoming. I taught hands-on science lessons and guided students in ranch and camping activities.
I just returned from a two-week long education program in Rome, Italy. I was a participant in an educational tour program and visited various sites around Rome.
While my summer break is certainly a time free from grading, lesson planning, and meetings, I have been involved in these educational experiences as well as taking more time for myself than I typically have during the school year. I have read several books, caught up on my Netflix queue, and gone on long walks with my dog. The rest of the summer will be free from travel and once August hits, I will spend some time preparing for the new school year.

What are your summer days like? Leave a comment here or tweet me @barry_christine!

Tips for Interviewing for a Teaching Position

While I don’t claim to be an expert on interviews by any means, I feel as though I have some tips to share for those who may have doubts or questions.  What better place to share those tips than right here on the Teachers Count Blog? Let me start by saying that I have only been an “interviewee” for a teaching job on two separate occasions.  The first time I was fresh out of college and interviewing for a school which had not yet opened.  I believe the principal may have had mercy on me and decided to give me a shot even though I was sweaty and red-faced throughout the entire interview.  One thing I had going for me was I maintained a smile the whole time and was able to slip in a few jokes here and there.  So, though I was nervous, I believe I came across as “likable.” My second and only other teaching interview was quite unique.  I was living with my husband in Canada at the time but, we were planning to move back to the States.  A friend of mine had been working at a Charter School and loved it.  She was able to “put the good word in for me” when a teaching position became available.  The principal was nice enough to interview me via Skype.  If you’ve read any of my other blogs, this may shine some light on why I love and feel so indebted to technology!  I managed to earn a second interview and was offered the job a few weeks later. I am still working at that school to this day!  What NOT to do… In the nearly five years between my first and second teaching interviews I was able to research interviewing tips and skills.  I found much of the same information no matter where I searched.  Most websites and books offered a list of questions that the interviewer might ask and insinuated that the person being interviewed should memorize these questions and formulate the correct answers to each one.  Is it just me or does this sound absolutely terrifying to a presumably already terrified potential teacher?  As if we haven’t gone through four grueling years of college, not to mention studied into the wee hours of the night in hopes of passing all THREE of our Teaching Certification Exams on the first try. Now we’re expected to study a list of questions and (what we hope are) the correct answers to those questions and, oh yeah!  Here’s a fun twist!  Some of those questions won’t be asked at all during the interview and they will likely be the ones we prepared the best answers for.  Long story short, I suggest you read these questions, maybe even skim them, and think of your general stance on them but, do not spend too much time sitting at a computer and actually typing out your answers or sitting in front of the mirror rehearsing your responses.  In my opinion, the ONLY thing this will do is to make you even more nervous than you originally were (if that’s even possible) and make you come off disingenuous.   Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying don’t come to an interview prepared.  I just think we should have more faith in ourselves and not only the innate knowledge that made us want to teach in the first place but, also what we’ve learned in college and already know from experience.  What TO do instead… While it is important to be up on all the latest education lingo and strategies that the latest research shows are “in” (and will probably be “out” by year’s end), I believe the best time to form a true and lasting opinion on these issues is while in the field.  Any teacher will tell you that you learn the most when you are physically in the classroom molding those young minds.  If you haven’t taught before, hold back on the research talk and if you have taught before, it is far more impressive to speak on what has worked for you in your personal experience than to quote someone else’s findings. Having recently had the opportunity to be on the other side of the interview chair, I realized that we are all reading the same articles, fabricated questions and latest behavior management books!  All this does is make each person being interviewed seem like a robot, spitting out the same information.  It makes you sound unoriginal.  And how, you may ask, can I come across as original and still impressive to my future principal?  My answer is simple. BE YOURSELF. Even if you are asked a question that you fear you will have the “wrong” answer to, answer it honestly!  Don’t cater to the latest research or to what you think the principal wants to hear.  More often than not you will be appreciated for being brave enough to speak your mind and, more importantly, you will come across as confident as opposed to nervous. My point is you can’t really mess up when the objective is being you.  Should you prepare yourself in your own way?  Of course.  However, we certainly don’t need an army of robot teachers, spewing out the same popular information in the education industry.  What we need are teachers who can speak their minds.  Teachers who have various and differing opinions about education and teaching in general and who are intelligent and diligent enough to work together to find out what truly is best for our students. In closing, I would say that the most important aspect of any interview is your “likability factor.”  Whether or not you know all of the answers to the questions that will undoubtedly be asked, if you can walk away from that interview with the principal thinking, “I really like him/her,” you have a great shot at getting a job.  This simply means you should remember to be punctual, smile throughout the interview, be courteous and take your time answering questions.  Also, utilize the personality strengths you already know you possess.  If you’re not sure what those are, ask a few of your friends to describe you in three words.  If humor is one of your strong suits, be sure to use that!  Remember, interviews are stressful for everyone involved.  Your future principal will surely enjoy a little chuckle to lighten the mood. If you are gearing up for an interview, I hope this blog has helped you!  I wish you good luck in your pursuit of a teaching job at a great school.  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.  Happy job hunting!

Pros and Cons of Social Media

I found this article on Te@chthought.com. I thought it gave a good overview of what is happening in classrooms with social media.

6 Pros and Cons Of Social Media In The Classroom

by Aimee Hosler

Like it or not, American youth are decidedly online. According to a 2013 report by Pew Research, 78 percent of teens have cell phones, and almost half of those are smartphones — which means they can log onto the Internet virtually anywhere, any time. You can bet many of those students are also using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat — maybe to excess.

These statistics might make educators a little uncomfortable. After all, uncontrolled social media can be a major distraction in the classroom and open the doors for cyberbullying or the sharing of inappropriate Web content. When looking at social media from this perspective, it is understandable why many teachers choose to ban these technologies from their classrooms entirely. This may be a mistake. In fact, with a little planning, social media can be a powerful teaching tool. Here’s why.

The Case For Social Media In The Classroom

Mashable reports that in 2010, Portland-based teacher Elizabeth Delmatoff launched a social media pilot program in her seventh grade classroom. Thanks to her carefully crafted lesson plans and selective media choices, Delmatoff’s students’ grades and attendance improved dramatically, and one-fifth of students began completing extra assignments for no credit at all. Here are four reasons to consider following her lead in your own classroom.

1. Engaged students are more successful

Delmatoff told Mashable that at one point, students were nervous their blogging assignments might get them into trouble — because they were so fun. Social media allows students to flex their creative juices and interact with their peers in a way that just cannot be replicated in the classroom. By engaging students in this way, learning outcomes improve.

2. Social media teaches important life lessons

In November, 2013, a school counselor named Julie Culp posted a photo of herself on Facebook holding a sign that asked anyone viewing it to like and share the image. Her goal: To teach students how quickly photos and ideas can spread online. According to The Huffington Post, the image was shared more than 16,000 times and liked more than 600,000 times in the first week alone. By embracing social media, educators like Culp can teach students how to use these tools appropriately.

3. Online collaboration trumps cliquish behavior

Mashable notes that students eventually entering the job market will be expected to collaborate effectively and respectfully with their peers. By using social media, teachers provide students with a head start on developing this important skill since most may find it easier to share their ideas in what feels like a less personal setting. These technologies can also serve as a great equalizer allowing students who typically would not interact to do so.

The benefits of social media in the classroom are clear, but so are its risks. Understanding and planning for these downfalls can ensure these projects succeed.

Classroom Social Media Risks — And How To Beat Them

There is a reason why, according to CNN, a California school districts recently paid an outside firm $43,000 dollars to monitor students’ social media behaviors: These technologies can be abused and exploited. Teachers understand that as well as anyone, but that does not mean they need to ban it entirely. Here are some of social media’s greatest risks (and how to prevent them).

1. The Internet is a new medium for bullying

There is little denying the social media makes it easier for students to bully or abuse their peers — or even their teachers. The Cyberbullying Research Center reports that in 2010, 20 percent of students reported being the victims of cyberbullying, and just as many admitted to being cyberbullies. The group notes other studies place these estimates as high as 40 percent. Fortunately the center also offers resources for teachers who want to prevent online bullying among their students, including lists of warning signs, teaching materials for lessons in Internet safety, and even scripts for parents and teachers who want to approach the subject with their students.

2. Social media can be a time waster
Anyone with a Facebook account knows that what was meant to be a quick peek at friends’ activity can turn into an hour-long affair — at least. Teachers can prevent social media from becoming a distraction or time-waster in their classrooms by setting clear rules about how and when these technologies should be used, and by selecting classroom-endorsed tools widely. More on that next.

3. The Internet is a dangerous place

Yes, the Internet is chock full of inappropriate images and language, viruses and scams. Thankfully, notes Mashable, the Children’s Internet Protection Act helps protect students from much of these dangers by blocking social media sites like Facebook and MySpace in public schools. Tools that help teachers block unwanted content in the classroom are available and include Edublogs, Edmodo and Wikispaces Classroom.

Planning Makes (Virtually) Perfect

If the points above teach us anything, it is that social media can be an important learning tool when used appropriately — something that demands a great deal of planning and Internet savvy. Do your research and plan for potential problems before introducing social media to your students. Ironically, one of the best ways to do that is to flex your own social media muscles, joining communities of educators willing to share their own ideas and experiences.

Aimee Hosler is a writer and mother of two living in Virginia. She specializes in a number of topics, but is particularly passionate about education and workplace news and trends.

Three Key Topics for Students to Learn

I was asked this week what are my top three things I want students to learn in terms of technology/social media.
Here is my response:

1. Digital citizenship
Our students need to know how to interact with each other online as well as with faceless strangers. We need to teach our students to be good models of ethics on and off line. We need to teach our students that there is no place for bullying, on or off line. We need to teach our students about upholding their character, on and off line.

2. Critical thinking skills
We need our students to be thinkers and doers. Regurgitating information from learned from a Google search doesn’t cut it anymore. We are preparing students for a world in which all information is available with just a few clicks on devices we carry in our pockets! We need to teach our students to evaluate information, to be critical of findings, and to take information and do more with it.

3. Digital literacy
We need to teach our students about copyright laws and giving credit to other people’s work. We need to teach our students how to create using all the tools at their disposal. We need to teach students coding–to increase their critical thinking skills and enable them to create anything their minds think of.

These are things I want my students to learn. I set up my curriculum and my lessons so that my students are digitally-literate, critically-thinking citizens prepared for the world.

What are your ideas? Leave me a comment or tweet me @barry_christine

Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom

In researching social media practices in the classroom, I came across this succinct Edutopia article by the esteemed Vicki Davis (coolcatteacher).

Check out the article here.

The article started with a few quiz questions to get you thinking about social media and then explains the answers and the myths surrounding social media in education. The feature I liked best was the ways in which teachers are using social media in their classrooms this past school year.
Check out the article and then leave a comment here with your thoughts

You can also tweet me @barry_christine