The Children's Book World is a locally owned business, that may love books just as much as I do! Through their shop and author programs, I have had the opportunity to meet many beloved authors, hear them speak about writing, and get signed books for our classroom library. (It is also a GREAT way to get student motivated to read a new book or genre!)
If we design lessons with the end in mind, why shouldn't we teach with that same concept? I just completed an education course where I was required to write my own retirement speech, several decades premature.
This was a great assignment! We were told we had to write it second hand, as if another person were writing it about us. What major achievements or moments would stand out among the many years of teaching? How would students, families, coworkers remember your spirit and work? Who are you as a teacher? These very questions should guide our instruction and our classroom. This is what I hope can be said about me in the year I retire from teaching...
My Premature Retirement Speech
How do you measure the success of a teacher? Sure, data points and lesson plans could measure success. Completed curriculum and a Pinterest worthy classroom could also mark success. However, the success of Miss Dougherty’s career does not lie within data points or even within the classroom itself. Michelle’s marker of success lies in the everyday challenges and victories of her students. Tonight, we gather in a room of coworkers, students, family, and friends to celebrate the years of dedication and love that Michelle has poured into her classroom.
An average school day runs somewhere from 8am to about 3pm, yet well before the first bell and well after the last, you could always find Michelle somewhere in the school building. Yes, many days that meant grading, lesson planning, or copying, but you could also find Michelle going the extra mile on a committee or team or doing something to make someone else’s day a little better. She made herself present in the classroom, but her spirit was throughout the building and community because of her involvement. During her first year at Bywood Elementary she volunteered to be involved at the school holiday concert. That was when she donned a yellow hard hat while students used their teacher’s heads as a surface to play jingle bells on! The smile on her face and on the kids made it memorable, for sure.
I think Michelle really committed herself to teaching because of the relationships. Her students and coworkers became part of her life over the years. She claimed she stayed after school to finish things so she wouldn’t bring work home with her, but I’m pretty sure work was always with her. Everything and every experience could connect back to her students. There were many days during lunch where she sat at the back table in her room, having lunch with a group of students. Or other days where recess was spent making snowflakes with kids to hang from the ceiling in their room. Those everyday relationships are the reason that when students think about 5th grade, they smile. Maya Angelou once wrote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Michelle is that teacher that when you think back on your time with her, you smile.
She hasn’t simply been “a teacher”, she is “the teacher”. She is “the teacher” that stopped to ask you how you were because she noticed that you weren’t fully yourself that morning. How did she become “the teacher”? Because she made herself available to others. She is kind. She is compassionate. She is real. She is thoughtful. These are the things that truly made Michelle an asset to our team, our school, our community, but most importantly her students. So tonight, we celebrate her and tomorrow we go to our classrooms to continue in our own ways to be present, kind, compassionate, and real with our students too. To Michelle, your presence in the lives you’ve touched will never retire. For you, we wish you an amazing eternal summer. Cheers!
School let out on Friday at 10:30am.... ahh summer! Then Monday morning rolled around and my alarm rang. I don't have anything to get up for today, oh wait. I do. The PACT Tech Academy 2015, a week of learning with other middle school teachers from the area.
PACT Tech Academy is funded and ran by the Connelly Foundation. They provide the opportunity for Catholic school teachers to network, learn, and share with other teachers throughout the greater Philadelphia area. I was fortunate to be selected to join hundreds of other teachers in this tech experience.
Day 1: Google Me this, Batman!
Google is king of the internet. That simple sentence sums up the existence of Google. Google for Education has an endless list of features, add-ons, extensions, and programs that can make life easier for students and teachers. By no means is technology a means to an end for education, but technology can make the art of education a little more stream lined while also building skills within our students for the 21st century (not to mention a great way to build student engagement or motivation).
We spent the day with Gene Carboni and Preston Tyrell going over Google Drive programs, Google Classroom, and various programs that work with those systems to make life, grading, writing, and organization slightly easier. Google Classroom was a program launched in the last year that is exclusive to Google for Education Schools. It was a great free resource for myself and my students to collaborate in a whole new way. The first day was a great review for me and also gave me some new tips and applications to try!
Day 2: A Digital Voice for the Classroom
Day 2 was probably the most rewarding for me. Blogging, social media, and connecting outside of my classroom were things I had limited experience in. Tina Schmidt and Bell Gallagher had countless resources and examples of how simple it can be to reach out and accomplish AMAZING things.
Tina and Bell both had classroom blogs, not for themselves but for their students. They had streamlined rules and expectations for the young authors and established a large audience for their work. It was intimidating. They created a new classroom blog and made each of us a student account, so we too could experience what their students did. Blogging can be simple! Blogging can be fun! Isn't that the fun in teaching? --to share with others and get new ideas that help inspire our own classroom.
Tina also showed me how Twitter can be used to connect classrooms. She would send out a tweet that her 3rd graders were looking for a Mystery Location and teachers across the world would respond. She would set up a Skype date with that teacher and after working out some details ahead of time, their students would live Skype and play 20 questions to determine where the other class was located. It was a great lesson for her students in geography, history, culture, communication, reasoning, and the list goes on.
Tina and Bell definitely gave me some things to work on, I just want to know when they have the time to sleep with all the things they are accomplishing with such young tech users!
Day 4: Sharing
After three full days of learning, creating, and collaborating it was time to share. We had a great guest speaker, shared work from the many different groups of teachers, and had some time to network or continue to create with the resources we had been given. The week certainly left me with a lot to think about and a big chunk of inspiration to try something new! Summer vacation spent with professional development and now a new book to be ready for the #GBA2015 in the fall!
Current 5th grade teacher and former middle school educator trying to be techy, Reading Specialist, Science Coordinator, Student Government Coordinator, life long learner, and avid reader