Teacher, "Recess time!"
Teacher, "Let's play some football!"
Students, "I wanna be on your team!"...
It is 5:30 AM on a weekday during the winter and the phone rings. That can only mean one thing, SNOW DAY! I have to admit, at that moment, I do not feel like the 15 year veteran, sixth grade teacher I am, but rather, I feel like one of my sixth grade students. I roll back over in bed and fall back asleep, only to get woken up by my wife as she gets up to get ready for work (seems like she is extra loud getting ready on snow days...nah, she wouldn't do that, would she?). I tell her to, "Keep it down. I'm trying to sleep. I've got a snow day." That goes over about as well as getting a snowball in the face.
Living in Pennsylvania, snow days are part of the school year and one of the great perks about being a teacher, unless you end up having too many of them. Then you have to make them up in the summer. Then they quickly become an inconvenience. They can also become an inconvenience with what you had planned for class those days. Inspired by Matt Miller's Ditch Summit session with Alice Keeler, I thought about what they shared and how I could use that to connect with my sixth grade students on snow days.
Now one thing I wanted to ensure, was that a snow day was still something to look forward to for my students. I knew whatever I created for them on a snow day, needed to be creative, collaborative, and fun. I wanted my students to be comfortable. I wanted them to be able to stay in their PJ's, drinking hot chocolate, sitting in their favorite chair, listening to their favorite music, all while in the comforts of their own home doing some math and finding relevance in it.
So I decided to use the power of Google Docs and create a Google Slides for a snow day. Below is simple breakdown of it, followed by a link to my Snow Day Class document....
This is my 15th year of teaching, and this is by far and away my favorite year to date. It is not that I haven't enjoyed my other years, but this year is standing out already as a special year. I have been thinking a lot of what is making this year my favorite year, and what is making it different than my other years. So these are the ideas I believe are the difference makers for me this year.
This year I started using the Remind app to better connect with parents and students. It allows me to connect with parents in real-time using my smartphone or computer. In years past, I would send out emails or send home a daily report book or sorts. However, what I was failing to do those previous years is not only meet the parents where they are, but also where I am. Nearly everyone has a smartphone and nearly everyone never puts it down for more than five minutes at a time. So not only are parents getting notifications about assignments, but Remind also allows me to send pictures, send files, send links, and have individual messages with parents. It is a fast and easy way of communicating with the parents, and it has helped build stronger parent-teacher relationships than in any other year.
Do you send out invites to your parties, or do you just hope people hear about them through word of mouth and just show up? Unless you still live at a college frat house, chances are you send out invites. The invitations are an important part to any successful party. Without them, people don't know when, where, or even if there is a party. And it could be the best party ever, but no one would know without the invitations.
Earlier this year, few of my colleagues and I went to a Breakout EDU workshop. It was something we all had a strong interest in, and something that we were excited to try when we got back to school. But then, something terrible happened. We all went back to work the next day, closed our doors, and started teaching in our own self-induced, solitary confinement classrooms. What we were so excited and energized about doing (and something that required communication and collaboration), faded away as quickly as the next day came.
A few weeks went by, and I kept looking at my Breakout EDU kit that was sitting in my room since I had received it from attending the workshop. To be honest, as cool as that black, spy-looking kit looked, it was also a bit intimidating. All those locks with all those Breakout EDU games were a little overwhelming. The box was unlocked and I was still unsure whether I could break out of it or not. Then I started thinking about my colleagues who attended the workshop with me. I sent an quick email, or invitation, asking if they would like to do a Breakout EDU game together with my 6th grade math class. Everyone quickly responded with a, "YES!" That was it. That was all that was needed in order to get this party going. A simple email inviting others to join in. So, we all eagerly got together at the end of the day on Friday of that week, determined which game to do, picked a day to do it the following week, and took our kits home for the weekend to set up. We met briefly Monday to iron out any issues we encountered from the weekend with our kits, and then again at the end of the day Tuesday to get the room set up for our Breakout EDU game the next day. The next day, the day of the Breakout EDU game, we all adjusted our schedules to be there for the party.
Now, a couple of things. First, we made time to meet. It wasn't a hour or even a half hour. We didn't request time from our principal to let us met. We just made time. It was 5 minutes here, 15 minutes there. But that time allowed us to connect and share our ideas, struggles, and excitement. Second, nothing goes the way you plan it out in your head, and this proved true once again in our planning. One of teachers accidentally locked another teacher's directional lock and had forgotten the combination to open it. Things happen, and I am glad this did happen. It allowed us to troubleshoot and problem solve together. It allowed us to come up with a solution so things like this don't happen again. Sounds eerily like a real-world situation and in school, no less! So now, when we share out Breakout EDU experience with other teachers, we can give them some preventative measures so they don't end up making the same mistakes....