Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Shake Up Your Snow Day!

It's that time of year again where snow days are possible especially in the midwest. There is always seems to be the struggle as a teacher where you are happy that our students don't have to come to school in this dangerous weather. However, you also don't want them to miss learning. So what to do? I know some schools are moving towards digital school days where assignments are online and students complete them from home. Other districts have a folder or packet that students take home and have to complete the work within on Snow Days. I always struggled with both of these because I know my students. Many don't have a computer or internet access. Some won't even open the folder if it is sent home (truth be told do YOU really want to grade a packet of work?...If you do then you are better than me). We have to be creative as teachers and create learning experiences that are engaging even from home. It is possible! There are teachers who are amazing at creating activities or connecting to their students even on a Snow Day. I know you're wondering what are some of these amazing ideas. Don't worry I compiled some amazing ideas that you could try yourself.

  1. Snow Day Challenges: This was an idea I saw a few years ago on Twitter shared by an amazing educator and then reshared by Class Dojo. This teacher created a list of different activities students could do in order to earn Dojo points. I loved this idea and borrowed it! This list consists of so many different activities from helping around the house, spending time with loved ones, to academic websites or activities. I have really enjoyed seeing students doing more than just academic activities. Parents love having homework be something that can help around the house. Also, make sure you ask to share pictures. It is great to see students doing these things. Now this works out great if you use Class Dojo, but you could also print a list of challenge items for students to take home. Parents can initial boxes of challenge items that were completed. I have seen schools where instead of Dojo Points students earn House points, coupon rewards, or just a special reward when they return to school. What you ask the students to do and the rewards you give are really your chance to be creative. 
  2. Snow Day Read Aloud: I will totally admit I saw this over the past few weeks on Facebook and LOVED IT! If you haven't followed Allyson Apsey you should! She is an amazing principal, public speaker and book author of The Path to Serendipity. She has done a read aloud live on Facebook everyday student have had a snow day and its so amazing. Parents and students can log on and watch their teacher or principal reading a book to them. This is fun for all readers. If you have Class Dojo you can record yourself and post it to your classroom or to the school story page. You could even have students log in to their Portfolio page on Class Dojo and record themselves reading their favorite picture book. Such a great way to engage students in reading and share the love of a good book.
  3. Reading Challenge: Speaking of reading, there is nothing wrong with a good reading challenge. I like to create them for my students from time to time and have two going on right now. One I created on a half day last week knowing that we might not be seeing each other for a while due to the snow and cold weather that has taken Illinois by storm. I looked on TPT and found this amazing free resource from More Than Worksheets and tweaked it to work for my Snow Days. I decided to give out Dojo Points as a reward and talked about how students could be creative when trying to accomplish these different challenges. Another challenge I created was where my students are trying to complete 10 books by April 26th. Then they have different options to show what they know like presenting on their book, creating a Flipgrid book commercial, writing/ designing a book report, or taking a test on the book. 

  4. Design You Own Math Adventure: Students don't always love math. They do enjoy a great adventure! This is something I came up with on a whim and I will tell you it does require a little more work. As much as I love reading I wanted to create a math challenge to get students excited to practice skills we have been working on in class. It would also be a chance for students and parents to work together and possibly see where their students are struggling and see what we are working on in school. 
    • (Now before I start explaining this weird, some might say a crazy idea; I need to let you know I have a flair for the dramatics. I love a good costume and Halloween has always been my favorite holiday because I got to be someone I'm not. Teaching is fun in that way because we can be characters and dive into lessons to get students engaged that adults might find strange. Regardless, I know that not everyone is comfortable putting on a costume. Or comfortable being loud and crazy like me. No worries there are still ways to modify it to fit you and your personality!) 
    • So after waking up and eating breakfast, I wrote out a quick script. I wanted there to be two characters, one good, and one evil. The whole goal would be to defeat the evil character, in this case, the Ice Witch from taking over the world with snow and ice. The students were put in the role of the Math Wizards and had to complete 4 challenges in order to get parts of a spell to send the Ice Witch packing. So here is my script: 
      Queen Lilac and the Ice Witch 
       It was nothing too epic, but simple and helped to relay the goal and give a sense of urgency. I then looked through my closet at home to help me find items to wear to make the characters come to life. After I had created my outfits I used my iPhone to film my short videos. The hardest part was listening to them back. To listen to yourself will always be awkward but you want to make sure you can be heard. So alas I listened. In all honesty, they were not going to get me an Oscar but I kept the first take almost everytime because it was the most me. Students want to see you engaged and having fun no matter how strange it might be. If they see your willingness to go all out they will too. 
    • After filming the 5 videos I then used a free app called LIKE. This app allowed me to add digital effects to my videos like ice, snow, and flowers to make them more exciting to watch. After saving them to my phone I was able to upload them to Class Dojo as I pleased throughout the day.
    • As for the 4 challenge I created my own math problems and found free Teachers Pay Teachers resources that I used and modified. 
    • To start with every hour or hour and a half I posted a video and a math challenge to complete on my Class Dojo Story page. This allowed all parents and students to be able to view it. Some students printed the pictures others wrote down the problems. After completing them the parents would send a photo of the work back to me and I would check it. If the student got a problem wrong I would tell them to look it over, give them hints, or even send youtube videos to help. If the student got the math right they would earn a part of the spell to cast the Ice Witch away.
    • The Spell was just a short 4 line rhyme I created and at the end, I asked students or parents to film students casting the spell and send it to my email or record themselves on Class Dojo. I had so many creative videos with expression, dogs, and even wands! 
    • Was this a lot of work? Yes. Did it have me committed to my phone and laptop all day? Yes. Was it worth it to see students learning and having fun? YES!!!
    • If you are willing to take the time to make something like this it can be so worth it, but don't think it has to be just like mine with videos and made up spells.
    • Consider: 
      • You could post challenges on Facebook if you or your school has a Facebook page
      • Post to Twitter, send it through email. or post to Google Classroom
      • Type a Story instead of filming a video with clipart
      • Use gifs and attach them to challenge questions
      • Make a tic tac toe board of math questions
      • Find fun math riddles or puzzles like on Mash Up Math
      • Have students design their own math questions and share them
      • Post challenges and give clues to a keyword or letters instead of giving parts of a spell.
      • *So many ideas, comment or share your own!
  5. Snow Day Project: Have students create, research or design a project of their own choosing or focused on a single theme. Since it's so close to the beginning of 2019 why not have students create their own Vision Boards at home. Set goals for themselves and create action plans to achieve them. It would be an awesome chance for family time and discussion. Also, a great chance for students to present when they return to school!

There are so many ideas to keep students learning and motivated during snow days you just have to think outside of the box!

Share Your Thoughts!
What are some things you do during snow days or your days off to keep students learning?

Share your ideas with me on Twitter using: @teaching_power   #teachingpower
Also share your ideas on my Facebook Group: Friends of Teaching Power Play
If you want to check out the videos I made check out my Instagram: @teachingpowerplay

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reflections on BURNOUT!

I have spent the first part of this school year focused and exhausted. I've been focused on trying to teach my students and get them farther than before. Also focused on figuring out the best way to teach math since we departmentalized this year. What I have done in past years doesn't always work or is as effective especially with the time frame and the number of students I see now. I'm constantly reevaluating and changing my curriculum along with my lesson plans. It's exhausting. I love what I do. I got into this profession because of how important I find this job. I want to show students learning can be fun, show them that they matter, and shape students who are better, more openminded people. Over the last few years, I have started to wear thin. What used to bring me joy is exhausting me more and more. I have gotten to a place where I do want to be better and help my students, but I also need to find time for me. I have given countless hours to school activities, planning events, committees, presenting, edu chats, and so much more. Now I need to slow down, take a step back, and focus on what matters to me.

As educators, there is a balance that we have to work towards. The balance between what we give to students and what we give to ourselves. In the age of social media, I feel like this makes it harder. I constantly see things that I want to do with my students or want to create for my classroom. I never feel like I am content with my class. I'm constantly working to do and create more. There is a part of me that is like, "That's a good thing Megan! Reflection is good and you should always be innovating and updating." Yet, there is a part of me that is shouting, "BREATH! Slow down, you can't do it all and you need time for you too!" I watch amazing teachers daily who have mastered the art of being powerful educators and masterful parents at the same time. I'm getting to a part in my life where I know I want a family and I know I will have to master the balancing act in order to make it all work. I know I'm not the only one feeling this way, but I also realize in the age of social media we post the successes and not the lows. So here is my low: Burnout is real and I might be struggling with it.

I have really been struggling with this the last year or so. As we start in 2019 I wanted to set some goals for myself in order to be better. So here are my resolutions to grow as a person this year while still balancing my career.

  1. I want to read 9 books this year because I do love reading, but I never make time for it anymore. 
    I love Once Upon A Book Club!
  2. I want to workout 2-3 times a week because it does make me feel good and proud. 
    All runs should end with taking your dog down a slide.
  3. I want to post on my blog once a month because I do love to share, but the pressure of posting weekly or biweekly was too much for me. 
    I loved being able to blog about my experienes and ideas
  4. I want to spend more time connecting with family and friends especially outside of the school setting. 
    My fellow educators and friends at our college reunion.
  5. I want to create one new creative lesson for my classroom that I can add to my toolkit. 
    I loved my rockstar day and I hope to make it even better!
  6. I want to plan more trips and take on more adventures. 
    The Bucket List Family is inspiring.

I write all this to say its ok. I know that these feelings are not only personal to me. I want those who connect to these feelings to know that you will be ok. With the title of teacher comes great responsibility and sometimes that responsibility feels like that of a superhero. We feel like we should be fighting every battle, creating new and unique moments, and be present at every single event when truth be told we are allowed to be human. We are allowed to take moments to ourselves, say no, and relax. I will never stop innovating, sharing, and creating but I will be working on myself too. I want to be a healthier, stronger person and sometimes that means breathing the fresh air. Never let your job define you, but instead, let your inner passion shine through your job. It's ok to admit that feeling of burnout, but it's not ok to not do anything about it. You are amazing and you matter so take care of yourself and don't feel bad about it!