Posts Tagged: Lifelong Learning

In the Classroom
My Educational Journey
January 10, 2018
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My Educational Journey

Candace Hines

Peeking through the blinds, I anxiously search for friends who weren't sleeping in on this hot summer day. My heart leaps at the thought of playing school! Many days my Barbie dolls and teddy bears became my students. School was my place of escape - a place that I thrived and looked forward to visiting each day. Looking back, I realize that my passion for education was fueled by a welcoming elementary school experience.
In the Classroom Professional Learning
Implementing Classroom Changes
April 19, 2017
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Implementing Classroom Changes

Crystal Nelson, Ed.D.

fter a disastrous first year of teaching, I knew I needed to make some changes. I reflected on my year and identified areas I thought would make the biggest impact in the next year. That summer I worked on what I needed to learn and developed a plan to make my next year better. Thus began a habit of reflecting on my practice that has helped me to improve each year in my teaching career. I hope sharing these steps can help other teachers reflect and grow too:
  1. Identify where you need improve. What is going to make the biggest difference in student learning or even in maintaining order in your classroom? What is the goal of this change? Limit the changes you are going to make to no more than three. You can’t change everything at one time, and you may not see the success you’re looking for if you spread your attention too thin.  
  2. Decide how you’re going to measure a goal. Sometimes, my measurement stick is very specific and is exactly how teachers are supposed to goal-set: “I will use x instructional strategy 8 out of 10 lessons.” Sometimes my goal breaks the rules and lacks the specificity: “Don’t be terrible at x.”  Of course, you want to quantify any goals relating to student learning. However, changes relating to organization, classroom management, procedures, etc. can depend on where you’re starting, what the nature of what you’re trying to do is, and whether you have a clue what your “end game” should quantifiably look like. Sometimes the vaguer goal is just fine, and you will know if you’re happy with the change or not.
  3. Make a plan to make your change happen. If you aren’t sure and don’t know of anyone to ask, read. There is a book on every topic. Reading professional literature has been the biggest help to me, especially those times when I’ve felt like I had no one who could give me the advice I needed.
  4. Identify when to start. It’s hard to make “big” changes in the middle of a semester or school year. Because your classroom expectations and policies are already set, it often takes a lot of legwork at the beginning to make a new change successful. It might be better to start new changes on a fresh year with a new group of students when you’ve had all summer to let your ideas marinate and have had time to get new systems in place. It is possible to make adjustments and changes in the middle, but it really depends on what you’re trying to do, how you will be managing the expectations of students, and whether you physically have time to get the legwork in.
  5. Reflect on your new change throughout implementation. Is it better than it was before? Where are you seeing success and where are you still unhappy? Modify your plan as needed and figure out those problem-pockets. If you feel the plan is failing, you don’t have to continue living with something that isn’t working. However, analyze why it isn’t working and give it a real chance before you give it up completely. (Remember, if you’re attempting a behavior modification plan, the behavior might get worse before it gets better. If this is an area with which you don’t have a lot of experience and the behavior is especially challenging, get help from your principal or a teacher who has a lot of success in this area before implementing the plan.)
  6. Pick your next change if you’re happy with the results of your new change, or you’re at a place where you can handle something else.

My first year of teaching was incredibly challenging, as I know it is for many. I try to stay focused on what I can control and improve, rather than all the many factors outside of my control (lack of parent support, limited instructional time, etc). This has led to improved student learning, student behavior, and personal job satisfaction.

Crystal has taught at Camden Elementary for six years teaching PreK-2nd grade general music and reading intervention and serves as RTI Co- Coordinator. Crystal served as the Benton County Education Association president 2013-2015, is an active member of Delta Kappa Gamma, and was named Distinguished Educator of West Tennessee by the Tennessee Education Association in 2014. Crystal is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin where she earned a B.M. in Music Education. As a life-learner, she has also earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene 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 Leadership
Are You a S2.A.P.P.Y. Educator?
December 30, 2016
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Are You a S<sup>2</sup>.A.P.P.Y. Educator?

Tina Faust
passionate educator, blessed to be a technology integration specialist

Have you ever had a time that left you extremely frustrated? Have you found yourself aggravated because you were excluded from discussions that will impact you? Have you felt disheartened because you were not a part of the decision making process?

I confess that I recently found myself in the above scenario. Like many of you, I am a passionate educator. I was frustrated over things that are out of my control. I found myself venting to a friend and grumbling to a colleague about initiatives that I felt excluded from but they will impact me. I became mentally drained and exhausted. I finally stopped mentally rehashing the things that are out of my control and realized that I was the one letting my frustration take root. I’m usually a positive person but I was allowing my negative reactions to impact me. It occurred to me that I have the ability to control me. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with a process or decision, I can control my reaction and my focus.

I don’t want to be a yappy, negative educator but I want to always be a S2.A.P.P.Y. educator. I can control my thoughts and my actions. When I find myself frustrated, I can stop and find the positive in the situation and be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. I can always have a positive attitude and I yearn to be a lifelong learner.

2017 is fast approaching. For the new year, my goal is to be a S2.A.P.P.Y educator. When I find myself getting frustrated, I will remind myself to self-reflect, be a part of the solution, keep a positive attitude, maintain a perspective that involves a positive mindset, and I will yearn to learn. I can learn from every situation and I can I always control my thoughts and my reactions. Feel free to join me and get S2.A.P.P.Y.!



Attitude is Everything

Perspective is Key

Positive Mindset

Yearn to Learn

A former high school marketing teacher with Jefferson County, Tina is currently the Instructional Technology Specialist for Hawkins County Schools where she works with teachers and administrators across 18 schools to integrate technology in K-12 classrooms. A Tennessee Department of Education iTunesU featured presenter, Tina has presented at numerous professional conferences including Tennessee’s first EdTech Summit. An advocate for technology integration, Tina works with professional societies to plan, and produce annual technology conferences for teachers across Tennessee. Tina holds a B.S. in Business/Marketing Education, an M.S. in Human Resource Development, and an Ed.S. in Instructional Technology from the University of Tennessee. She is currently pursuing her Ed.D at Liberty 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 Leadership
Are We There Yet?
September 18, 2016
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Are We There Yet?

Elaine Vaughan

“Are we there yet?” I don’t know how many times I have heard that question asked as my family traveled to Florida for summer vacation before reaching our final destination. We arrived at the beach, hung out together,  and then returned home. However, I remember most vividly the experiences that happened when we stopped along the way. 

Similarly, in the classroom, a student may ask the question, “Are we there yet?” in the form of “Do we need to do all of this? Just give me the answer. Is it on the test?” During the past few years, the most important aspect of a student’s educational experiences has focused on end-of-year testing, partially due to pressure for students to perform effectively according to Race to the Top. Conversations by legislators, school boards, communities, teachers, parents, and students have centered on the standards and raising the bar in education through “the test.”  Tests are a part of the process in evaluating student growth and achievement. Consider that learning along the way is much more meaningful when engaging and inspiring students while  reflecting upon each educational experience.

Why should students be engaged in their learning experiences? Engaging students in the learning process strengthens their attention and focus, motivates them to develop and practice higher-level thinking skills, and promotes a culture of collaboration and communication within the classroom and the school community. Educators establish a student-centered environment where class time is used for inquiry and application through real-world problem solving. Teachers cultivate relationships with students, in which students feel safe, take risks, and a culture of curiosity and excitement prevails. The teacher serves as a facilitator who guides each student through multiple learning opportunities by integrating technology, real-world problem solving experiences, collaboration and communication skills, and academic growth. As educators, engaging students may mean stepping out of the classroom and exploring the world around us. John Dewey once said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”

Why should students be inspired to achieve? When I think of inspiration, there are four ladies that come to mind. My sixth grade teachers, Mrs. McNabb and Mrs. Pickelsimer, my Calculus teacher, Mrs. Benita Albert, and my piano teacher, Mrs. Rothermel, believed I could succeed. My teachers encouraged me to “stay the course” and that through productive struggle, I would succeed. Carol Dweck, a well-known psychologist, explains that a growth mindset can be developed by students when a teacher intentionally praises students’ efforts and perseverance. As educators, it is our responsibility to encourage students to try again if they don’t experience success the first time. As a matter of fact, students may have to try multiple times to reach their goals. Many students may not come to class with an eagerness to be challenged. However, teachers, parents, schools, and the community must work together to find multiple methods to develop challenging learning environments for the students and also allow the students to create learning environments in which they set standards to challenge themselves. Teach students to have courage. They might have to step out of their comfort zone but will grow leadership skills and self-confidence.

Why should students reflect upon their learning experiences? In a modern, global society information is available and changing quickly prompting users to constantly rethink, change directions, and examine many different types of problem solving strategies. Therefore, educators emphasize  the importance of reflective thinking during learning to help students create strategies to apply new knowledge with prior understanding to complex situations and develop higher-order critical thinking skills. Allowing time for students to reflect when responding to questions, taking the time to review the learning situation on what is known, what is not known, and what has been learned is important in the learning process. When provided with  a less structured learning environment, students are able to explore what they find to be  important and work within a social-learning environment that allows students to see and hear other points of view. Reflective thinking centers  on the process of making judgements through justification of solutions about what has occurred. Reflective thinking is essential  for prompting learning during real-world problem solving in achieving goals and standards.

Are we there yet? I hope not. I want to continue to be a lifelong learner. John Dewey stated, “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of a desire to go on learning.” One’s lifelong journey is not about finally coming to the end. Instead, it is how the journey occurs along the way, and when examining the steps, goals, and outcomes that happen throughout the learning process, life becomes all the better.

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.