In the Classroom
10 Things I Wish I Knew As a Beginning Teacher
October 4, 2017
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10 Things I Wish I Knew As a Beginning Teacher

Dr. Beth Gotcher
@beth_gotcher

Candace Hines
@Mrs_C_Hines

10.Speak up: Your voice matters! In a room full of veterans, novice teachers often tend to take a back seat. New teachers may get overlooked due to their lack of experience in the classroom. As a beginning teacher, you may be hesitant to ask clarifying questions or contribute new ideas. However, when beginning teachers speak up, they can benefit the whole group by sharing new concepts. Mentors are also able to see their growth areas and refine their mentorship to allow new teachers to gain knowledge. So don’t be afraid to share your ideas!
Leadership Policy
Public Education is Vital to the Success of our Students
October 1, 2017
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Public Education is Vital to the Success of our Students

Stacy Jones
@stacyjonestned 

Ispent this week at a meeting in Nashville reviewing end-of-course assessment items for Tennessee’s state department of education. I have contracted independently in this endeavor for the past two years, and I’m sure that many—even some fellow educators—might question the potential interest level in such an activity. However, I enjoy it immensely. It connects me to the objectives I’m trying to achieve for my students in my public school classroom, based on our specified standards, and it keeps me engaged as an educator. Scrutinizing reading passages and their connected test questions most certainly requires a high level of critical thinking.
In the Classroom Policy
You May Say that I’m a Dreamer, but I’m Not the Only One: Reimagine Career Readiness
September 9, 2017
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You May Say that I’m a Dreamer, but I’m Not the Only One: Reimagine Career Readiness

Amanda Arnold
@Amanda_Arnold77

John Lennon once said, “Imagine all the people living for today.” This is such a simple statement, yet so hard for so many students to do. Career readiness is a critical part of education that students need for living everyday lives. Students must receive education that prepares them for excellence in all labor.
Leadership Policy Professional Learning
Get Caught in the “Web” of Teacher Leadership
August 29, 2017
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Get Caught in the “Web” of Teacher Leadership

Maureen Henderson
@MaureenHender18

Imagine a spider spinning a web.  It begins with individual fibers, then works to strengthen them, carefully finishing with their connection.   Across the state of Tennessee there are many strands of teacher leadership being spun.  Amazing initiatives and programs have been put in place to reinforce them.  What does it look like when these pieces are woven together to create a strong, powerful design?
Leadership Policy Professional Learning
Once a Fellow, Always a Fellow
June 22, 2017
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Once a Fellow, Always a Fellow

Diarese George
@DiareseGeorge

What’s my next move? What are my options? Are there opportunities for growth beyond the classroom? In the classroom? This time last year, these were questions that I had asked myself. At the time, I had just completed my fourth academic year of teaching and wondered what my professional trajectory looked like in the coming years. I transitioned into education after working in business for six years after college. In business, there was always an understanding that if you came into an entry-level role, depending on the company, you should be preparing for upward mobility within 2-3 years. Having surpassed that timeframe in the classroom, I was anxious to see what my next steps in the profession would be. That’s when I came across teacher education fellowship opportunities after reading Commissioner McQueen’s monthly Educator Update. (See past updates and sign up to receive them here.)

I decided to apply to Hope Street Group’s State Teacher Fellowship, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education’s Tennessee Educator Fellowship, and Education Pioneers Summer Fellowship. I was surprised to be accepted to each of them! At the conclusion of this year, I have completed each fellowship. Reflecting on them, I see they each offered unique experiences that have equipped me to be a better educator.

My Education Pioneers Fellowship placed me at the Tennessee Department of Education in the Office of Licensure and Educator Preparation. Last summer I worked on a project that explored the opportunities and challenges of school districts collaborating with education preparation programs to create partnerships. Working at this level helped me to see education from a broader lens, especially regarding an initiative like that. That experience helped me to reframe my thought process and view situations from different perspectives. It also gave me access to executive directors across various departments, professional development with the Commissioner, and a chance to view the Department’s five Education Priorities at work in real time.

I participated in both the Hope Street Group and SCORE Fellowships at the same time during the 2016-2017 academic year. The Hope Street Group Fellowship connected me with other teachers and local and national policymakers to give feedback on critical education policy issues, while serving as a spokesperson for positive change in the profession. I also was able to provide feedback to the Department of Education regarding professional development, chronic absenteeism, and RTI2. Additionally, Fellows convened throughout the year to receive advocacy training to aid in our roles. Three of the most helpful things that I learned are how to utilize Twitter for professional development, how to participate in and host Twitter chats, and how to conduct a meaningful focus group.

The SCORE Fellowship selects teacher leaders from across the state to train them to advocate and elevate their voices to support and advance student-focused education policy. SCORE provided the historical context of education policy in Tennessee, including where the state started and how it became the fastest improving in the country. This Fellowship connected me with key individuals and policymakers who played a role in the state’s improvement. It also equipped and empowered me to lead my own advocacy project, which centered on supporting educators of color in Tennessee. SCORE convened Fellows four times throughout the year to provide both advocacy training to support our projects and opportunities to meet key stakeholders, including Commissioner McQueen, executive directors from national education reform organizations, state legislators, and gubernatorial candidates.

My participation in each one of these fellowships has left me feeling enlightened, equipped, and energized to continue to engage in the policy work that I have begun. As my fellowships concluded, I remind myself that the work is just starting. We need more educators involved in education policy and engaging policymakers. When highly effective educators inform and shape education policies based on their practical knowledge and experience of excellent teaching and learning, the results are better for students. I highly recommend any of these fellowships to any educator who is looking to advocate on behalf of students and make an impact in the policy space. Each one of these fellowships proclaim once a Fellow, always a Fellow. For that, I will forever be connected to these organizations, their ongoing work, and the future Fellows who participate in them.

Diarese has taught Business courses at Clarksville High School for the past three years. In that time, he has served as a lead instructor for the school’s career Academy, member of the Instructional Leadership Team and an Academy lead in cross­-curricular collaboration for project­-based learning. He is a graduate of his district’s Leadership Development course, and a district­-wide Professional Development facilitator for Microsoft Excel training. Diarese holds a BBA in Marketing and Management and M.A. in Corporation Communications from Austin Peay State University, MBA from University of Phoenix and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

Leadership Policy Professional Learning
Finding Your Teacher Voice
June 16, 2017
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Finding Your Teacher Voice

Hayley Cloud
@hcloud_tn

Ibegan holding adult conversations at a very early age. My vocabulary was well beyond my years, and I could hold a conversation with almost anyone who would listen, no matter the individual’s age, gender, or appearance. I wasn’t picky. Looking back, I’m sure the duration of my conversations sometimes reached the level of annoyance. I know my audience must have thought after a while,  “How do I get her to stop? How much more can I take?” Let’s just say that I have always had a voice, and it was a pretty strong one. I never had trouble finding my voice—until I became a teacher.
In the Classroom Professional Learning
Less Work (Teacher) + More Work (Student) = Rigor
June 10, 2017
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Less Work (Teacher) + More Work (Student) = Rigor

Cindy Cliche
@CindyCliche1

As another school year comes to a close, many educators reflect on successes and begin to set goals for the upcoming year. One word seems to be a part of many conversations: RIGOR. It comes up in evaluation conferences, Professional Learning Communities (PLC), and grade level planning team meetings. Yet many educators still seem to have some confusion about what rigor looks like in the classroom.
In the Classroom Professional Learning
Blended Learning and Education
June 3, 2017
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Blended Learning and Education

Elaine Vaughan
@evaughan77

Blended Learning: When I first heard those words, I was not impressed. I imagined all my students doing their math on a computer with little or no assistance from me. I knew that within 3 years my students would each have a laptop so I started doing some research on integrating mathematics and technology. I learned very quickly that my interpretation of blended learning would take on a new role and realized that I could combine classroom learning with online learning in which my students could, in part, control the time, pace, and place of their educational experiences. I also discovered two main ideas concerning differentiation and the mathematical practices and how my support of a blended learning environment within the classroom could enhance student learning.

Differentiation and Blended Learning: Every educator’s desire is to determine the learning styles (visual, kinesthetic, or auditory) of the students in the classroom and promote student investigation through multiple representations. Students may discover and experiment with graphing, examining tables, and analyzing concepts by using free online tools such as Desmos and Geogebra. A teacher should carefully evaluate the technological resources to assure the support of student learning of mathematics and the advantages offered in posing mathematical problems as well as illustrating mathematical ideas.

The Mathematical Practices and Blended Learning: Many of the Mathematical Practices dealing with problem solving, reasoning and constructing viable arguments, modeling with mathematics, and using appropriate tools are supported by various online programs and videos. Dan Meyer has developed many mathematical exercises that not only incorporate the practices into learning but also create scenarios that prompt students to stop and think about how to formulate solutions to the problems. One of these problems is called Meatballs and the Three Act Math Task: Will It Overflow? (http://www.101qs.com/2352-meatballs) Students work with the information observed in the three videos to solve the problem.  Educators may also choose Khan Academy, create flipped lessons, or use lessons from YouTube for students who need more practice or understanding on standards. Teachers also have various alternatives for on-line formative assessment such as Kahoot, Google Forms, Socrative, Quizlet, or student designed presentation using Screencast-O-Matic. Listed are just a few of the online learning tools for educators to use in the classroom.

Three years have passed since I first heard about Blended Learning. The ninth and tenth graders at my high school all have laptops for learning. I now realize that I will never be replaced by a computer and that I may serve as a facilitator in the classroom. The questioning techniques along with problem solving progress at a much higher level of learning for students. I am also preparing my students for the future world of work through the collaborative and communication skills they are utilizing with their peers. As an educator, one needs to keep in mind that all of the learning tools available for students take time to implement or adapt for multiple learning styles and that the technology should always support the mathematics. Also, an educator may want to investigate online professional development (MOOC-Ed, North Carolina State, https://place.fi.ncsu.edu/local/catalog/catalog.php). Whatever the decisions made in moving students forward in a technological world, the rewards far outweigh the drawbacks. I am now convinced that a Blended Learning environment will enhance my students’ work skills as they become productive citizens of the future.

Dr. Elaine Vaughan is a mathematics instructor at Oak Ridge High School for 20 years. She is a National Board Certified teacher, Professional Learning Communities Coach, and member of the Response to Intervention district and school board. Elaine is also a member of Delta Kappa Gamma and serves on the XI State Vision Board. Through this organization, she received both state and international scholarships. Elaine was a state mathematics textbook reviewer during the 2013-2014 school year. Elaine received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Tennessee and her doctorate from Walden University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

In the Classroom Professional Learning
Behavior Management with a PURPOSE
May 17, 2017
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Behavior Management with a PURPOSE

Michael Bradburn
@bradburnm

The first year of my teaching career was full of growth and a lot of professional learning.  Most of the growth occurred because of a young man who I welcomed into my kindergarten classroom during the second week of my teaching career. I got a call that I would be getting a new student in my classroom who has some “behavioral concerns.” As a first year teacher, I thought I was prepared for ANYTHING and ready for the challenge. Little did I know, he was ready for so much more! I met Aaron in August of 2004 and his impact on me as a teacher will never fade. The day started with me trying to convince him to stay in my classroom for all of the fun we had planned and the day ended with me convincing him the day was over and it was time to go home. During the day we were learning our colors and he got very angry because I asked him to use his purple crayon and he only had a violet. Each and every transition consisted of me setting a timer, dodging his shoes and school supplies, and typically watching my back for a punch or a kick. Aaron showed me that a behavior plan centered on a reward was not going to impact or teach him how to behave.

The why of management must be considered. We have to remember the goal when we manage our classrooms and potentially punish our students for misbehavior. It is because we, as teachers, want to help our students become better people not just compliant students. There are two questions that I think about when I am planning, implementing or reflecting on my behavior management and how we can help our students become better people.

What is the behavior that I want to teach them?
When we manage our classroom our goal should be to teach our students the appropriate way to behave. We have to ensure that we are clarifying how to respond appropriately. For example, when we have a student who is consistently interrupting we may ask the student to wait to speak or to raise his or her hand without any more explanation. However, if a teacher clarifies that we should raise our hand or wait to speak because it is disrespectful, the student can attach the behavior to an expectation. This clarification could be tied directly to a positive behavior plan and reinforcement because the positive choice is shared and the students can choose to be respectful and then be reinforced for that behavior.

Is this something I need to manage?
As teachers, we try to anticipate the actions of our students. One way we try to assist in smooth transitions and increase engagement is through structure and routines. However, these routines may cause us to manage our students more than we are able to teach. For example, I used to assign carpet spots during large group instructional time. This strategy worked for several years until I had a classroom full of students who needed to be separated. At that point, I didn’t have enough spots for them to be away from one another. This group allowed me to reflect on the need for spots. I realized I was doing the thinking for the students and not allowing them to make the appropriate choice.  From that point forward,  I allowed my students to select their own spots in the classroom. When students make the appropriate choice to separate from their friends or ignore someone talking with them I am able to positively reinforce that behavior and reward them.

With the constant push to implement positive behavior plans it is important to be familiar with the process and focus on the WHY of behavior management.  Our job is to ensure that we are teaching our students the appropriate ways to behave and choices that will make them better people and prepare them for their future.

Michael is an Instructional Coach at Alcoa Elementary School. He has been an educator for 11 years. He received the East Tennessee PreK-4 Teacher of the Year in 2014 and the Wal-Mart teacher of the year in 2004. Michael is currently working on the Tennessee Standards Mathematics Review Committee and as a Teacher Partner in his school collaborating with teachers to impact student achievement. He was a Common Core Mathematics Coach in 2013. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor’s of Science and a Masters Degree in Child and Family Studies. He holds an Education Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.

In the Classroom Leadership Professional Learning
Training New Teachers
April 26, 2017
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Training New Teachers

Jessica Childers
@JDouttChilders

For the past seven months, I have had a residency student in my classroom. Prior to this year, I had only had one student teacher who spent about six weeks teaching my classes. At first I was nervous about having another person teach my students for such a long time. But now that she is finishing her last week with me, I know my classroom will not be the same without her. During this school year, I have realized that training a residency student is a great responsibility and a great opportunity. Established teachers have an obligation to help train student teachers and residency students to be the teacher leaders of the future.

Current Education Law
In December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA, to replace the No Child Left Behind law that was passed in 2002(1). Since that time, states have been working to create their own ESSA plans that follow the guidelines set forth by the new federal law. Here in Tennessee, Commissioner McQueen and the Department of Education have created a plan to build on the current education work in the state. According to the plan, there are five opportunities that the state will focus on. “Opportunity Four: Focus on Strengthening and Supporting Educators” deals with continuing education for current teachers and cultivating new teaching talent(2). To help support future teacher training, veteran teachers need to open their classrooms to residency students and student teachers.

Building Relationships
Future teachers participating in residency or student-teaching programs need to see the benefit of building relationships with other teachers in a school. Teachers can no longer be isolated in their classrooms creating all their own materials and speaking to no one. Teaching should be about sharing ideas, successes, failures, and innovations. Mentor teachers need to model positive relationships with others in a school setting. Hopefully, this will encourage graduates to seek out other teachers in their new schools and build those relationships for themselves.

Student teachers also need to see how veteran teachers build relationships and interact with their students. First-year teachers often struggle with classroom management, which is directly tied to student-teacher relationships. Mutual respect between students and teachers is built over time, starting on the first day of school. However, many residency and student-teaching programs do not start out the school year in their classroom placements. Hopefully, colleges and universities that partner with school districts will start residencies earlier in the school year in the future. Student teachers can still observe positive relationships throughout the school year but would benefit greatly from seeing those as they evolve from the start.

Technology
Most college students have no trouble using technology for themselves, but learning to teach with technology is a skill. Mentor teachers who have access to technology in their classrooms should model its use and explain the purpose behind the technology usage. What websites do you like to use with your students? How do you use Google Drive? What technology is the most useful for each subject area?

Also, student teachers need to learn how to monitor students who are using electronic devices in class such as laptops, Chromebooks, or their own cell phones. Many schools have certain sites blocked, but students are always finding ways to access them anyway. This will help prepare student teachers for their own classrooms and the problems that will eventually arise.

 

According to the ESSA Plan, Tennessee’s goals for education are that “districts and schools in Tennessee will exemplify excellence and equity such that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark upon their chosen path in life. Our work is focused on preparing students such that they have choice and quality options after graduation. This is how Tennessee succeeds.”(2) One way that Tennessee teachers can help support this vision is by ensuring that residency students and student teachers are fully prepared for their own classrooms after graduation.

(1) https://www.ed.gov/essa?src=rn

(2)http://www.tennessee.gov/assets/entities/education/attachments/ESSA_state_plan.pdf

Jessica has taught middle school math in Putnam County Schools for the past 7 years. She first worked at Avery Trace Middle School teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. Then she moved to Cornerstone Middle School, which is now Upperman Middle School, to teach 5th grade math. During this time, she has served as the 5th grade team leader, mentor teacher, 2015 school level Teacher of the Year, digital transition team member and mathematics instructional specialist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies – Middle School and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from Tennessee Tech University. She also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging her colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.