Tuesday, January 12, 2021

 The CAPS Teacher Education students recently embarked on yet another adventure for the semester. Under normal circumstances, Teacher Ed students spend time in classrooms, working with teachers and students, designing lesson plans, and learning many classroom management skills.  This semester was required something different.

From the start, the Teacher Ed students found themselves "zooming" into classrooms to observe rather than traveling across the district to spend time in classrooms.  Out of this reality came the concept of the "Kids' Konference."  What would happen if they could create a mini conference of activities in which the elementary students could participate, similar to the way they interacted with professional development conferences of their own during the semester.

Immediately, the students went to work, brainstorming resources and ideas to begin its taking shape.  Early on, Dr. Fry, CAPS Teacher Ed instructor, applied the design process to the project so that not only were the students coming up with activity ideas, but they were learning some design fundamentals related to creating lessons or activities for the elementary students and planning a large-scale event for a virtual platform. The students began with a survey to see if this was something that would even interest teachers.  They also laid out what they were thinking about doing and asked for suggestions for not only the execution of such an event, but also suggestions for activities of which they had not originally thought.  The students also included a choice of two dates for the event...one prior to the holiday break and one after.

With survey results in hand, ideation began to take place, and a prototype rough draft website was created.  Through many iterations, a final layout was decided upon.  Next, students outlined the activities that could be done virtually and attached themselves to those activities that interested them.  After many days of breakout rooms and whole-class discussions, the "Kids' Konference became a reality.

The conference was held on Thursday and Friday, January 7 and 8, and teachers, some virtual, who had not been able to attend on those particular days requested customized time slots on Tuesday, January 12, when students zoomed into the teachers' classrooms to carry out the conference activities with these students.

From the experience, the CAPS Teacher Ed students, in their reflection on the activity said that they learned several things including the demand for patience, especially in a virtual classroom environment; the necessity for teachers to "think on their feet" when working with classrooms of students; the excitement of realizing that something you created could engage and interest students and help them learn; and the realization that every group of students is very different and that sometimes it is required to pivot and adapt to meet student needs.

It is the hope, after what the students thought was a successful first attempt, that this could be an event that could be repeated as an amazing outreach to our Blue Valley Elementary communities. The students are also considering using this experience as a basis for a concurrent session presentation at the National Educators Rising Conference this summer.

Here is a video overview of the fun!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKVLNeAUVi8 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Thank You, Teachers!

 Hey teachers out there...one of my pet peeves is hearing, "I'm just a teacher."  I was at a conference once, and the lady in front of me was having trouble adjusting her badge and was fidgeting with it.  After struggling with it for a few minutes, she gasped and said, "you know...I'm just a teacher."  I looked her in the eyes and said, "don't ever say that about yourself!  You are a teacher, and you should be proud of that."

Why has our society put such a low rating on teachers?  Now this doesn't apply to everyone, but I can't tell you how man times I've heard, "must be nice to have a break," "best thing about teaching is June, July, and August," or "those who can't teach!"  In response to these comments, I say that the breaks that we have are not always breaks. 
Do you know how many hours I spent yesterday (on a Sunday...my day off...the Chiefs were playing...) on a puzzle site, creating fun puzzles on teacher content so that my students could start out after break with something rather fun?  Would you like to see the transcripts I created over the summer months during which I not only planned teaching in all modes:  in-person, remote, and hybrid...because there was no telling what mode we would be in come the Fall beginning of the new school year?  And, lastly, would you like to see my college courses and transcripts?  I CHOSE to go into teaching.  Could I have been an engineer?  Yes.  I lived with four over my life...I could have done it.  Could I have been a medical doctor?  Yes.  I earned a PhD in 3.5 years.  I could have been anything.  I CHOSE to go into teaching.

I work with students who also have a passion for working with students.  It is not fair that they have to rack up expenses for a 4-5 year college education and come out of school and earning less that many and then try to survive college loans.  No...that is not fair, and these are some of the most bright, compassionate, and able people I know.

Come on people...let's give teachers the credit and the respect they deserve.  As I tell my students all the time...I never remember or contact the person who set the interest amount on my bank accounts and tell them that that rate just enriched my life...I never go back to visit my mechanic to tell him or her that the new muffler made me a better person...but I ALWAYS remember and go back to visit teachers who have been such an inspiration to me.  Thank you, Teachers!