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General

Voices from the BAM Radio Community sharing their thoughts, insights and teaching strategies.

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Don't Believe What They Tell You...

I distinctively remember during in my first year of teaching; a colleague telling me: "Hey, your first year of teaching...just blend in and fly under the radar to get through it." I also remember nodding my head and smiling as I thought, "WHY?"

I made the decision, then and there, that I wasn't going to take the well intentioned advice of my friend, but try to do the opposite. I was going to stand out in every way possible. Our students deserve the best possible version of us. They deserve leaders, trailblazers, and a professional educators that are capable of not just blending in, but impacting their students every day.

Students Don't Care If You're New

Teaching is not like most highly trained and skilled professions that have a very strategic apprenticeship or residency programs. Most first year teachers get little to no support, other than a possible mountain of paperwork that the state calls "support."

Unfortunately, new teachers are often thrown head first into the classroom with the hope that they can swim. The problem is that the students in front of you deserve no less of a rockstar teacher than any others. And, I hate to break it to you, but those students do not care if you're new. They don't care about the learning curve, your nerves, or all the other challenges that come with your first year of teaching. If you don't get them engaged and get them learning, they will eat you alive. And having a mindset of "getting by" or just "blending in" can pretty much guarantee a new teacher will not reach their true potential.

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Brad Gustafson is someone who celebrates his students and staff like few others. Check his Twitter feed on any given day and you will see what I mean. And that is why Brad’s admission was so powerful. During our interview, I even gave him an opportunity to back out. But Brad is not that kind of leader. Not that kind of person. He said, “Jon that would be too easy.”

He is about as connected as an educator could possibly be. He is always finding new and innovative ways to challenge himself, his staff and his students. Actually, his reach extends much farther than that. Through his book, Renegade Leadership, his 30 second takes, his UNEarthed podcast that he hosts with Ben Gilpin and countless other initiatives, he has managed to challenge the rest of us.

The mistake that Brad made was one he didn’t even realize he was making. As previously mentioned, Brad does all that he can to celebrate the amazing things that are taking place at his school. He tweets out photos and videos so that the rest of us learn from and with he and his staff.

But at the end of the day, what matters most to Brad are the relationships that he forms with his staff, his students and his community. And as he admitted on the show, the way in which he was feeling about people just wasn’t coming through. He was so eager to highlight staff that were trying new and innovative practices that he lost sight of those that were not. Just because staff members weren’t doing things differently, didn’t mean they weren’t doing things well.

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Vocabulary retention is increased when words are used in context. In an English Language Arts classroom that often means using vocabulary words correctly in writing.  Writing assignments vary from sentences to creative writing prompts, to essays. Using physical movement during vocabulary instruction adds a mind-body connection increasing the likelihood of adding these words to one’s personal word bank. Not only does physical movement create a mind-body connection, it also may utilize the creative and innovation outlets the brain craves as these connections add a sense of novelty.  Furthermore, adding technology reinforces contextual learning as well as creativity. Combining physical activity with technology may be overload for some teachers, but there are some simple apps that can enhance the vocabulary tableau activities I have mentioned in previous posts.

Simple Videos: Built-In Cameras

One of the easiest ways to add video technology in the classroom is by using the built-in camera on a tablet or smartphone. For this activity, students work in groups of 3-4.  Each group receives a vocabulary word.  The task for the group is to create a 15-second video of a vocabulary tableau. Groups can either choose one formation that they freeze in for the entire length of the video, or they can create two formations in which the move from one frozen pose to the next. These videos are then uploaded to Google Drive with URLs shared with the teacher. The teacher organizes the URLs in a Google Sheet for students or groups to access.  Students can then view the videos to determine the vocabulary words each group was assigned. The activity can end here, or students can be asked to demonstrate the tableau “live” in class when words are encountered in the text.

Photos + Narration:  Shaddow Puppet EDU (http://get-puppet.co/)

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My daughter had not lost a tooth in what seemed like years. So when it came time to leave her a gift from the Tooth Fairy we weren’t quite sure what to leave. So we hid a five dollar bill under her pillow. We each thought that was a reasonable amount.

To backtrack, the night before, my son, who had yet to lose a tooth, was more excited than anyone. He couldn’t wait to see what the Tooth Fairy was would leave her. When they woke up, neither one of them could find anything. At first they were disappointed. Then I unraveled the blanket and a five dollar bill appeared. My son was excited. My daughter. Not so much.

Apparently one of her friends had recently gotten earrings and a shirt from the Tooth Fairy. So five dollars must have paled in comparison. I went downstairs to begin getting ready for the day. Part of me was felt that my daughter was spoiled for not being grateful for the five dollars. Another part of me was trying to put myself in her shoes.

It is not always easy for a parent to put themselves in their child's shoes. But I try.

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It seems these days, families live so far apart. I’m sure that’s the way it is for most of us. Keeping connected takes a lot more effort than it used to.  I don’t think it is just me and my loved ones.

Screen sharing is not the same as being together in real time, although it somewhat fills the gaps.

I feel like a slacker. Lately I’ve been losing things, including house keys and my wallet, twice. Moving much too fast. Not exactly self-care. I finished helping at the preschool until September and the preschool was the first graduation. We had seven of the littles graduating and what a fun, imaginative production for all the children.

It seems like I’ve been on a treadmill lately, such a busy time of year. I looked forward to going up to Beaverton to take a much needed family-filled break.

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