What’s Next?

In yesterday’s post, I admitted that I reluctantly left the classroom about 15 months ago because my mental health was suffering dramatically. I was fortunate to be in the position that I had qualified for retirement and that our family could afford this change. This was about three months before the pandemic shut everything down in the United States, and I was congratulated on my prescience by many – despite the fact that I obviously had no idea of what was to come. Though I knew I was fortunate, I found it hard to be thankful because the hardships that unfolded for so many of my colleagues made me feel even guiltier that I had walked out on a career I once loved and people I continued to admire.

Since that time, of course, conditions continued to worsen. Some colleagues have resigned, some others are deciding this will be the last year, and some are actively looking for new opportunities. With demands on teachers increasing – while support either remained the same or decreased – many educators have sadly come to the conclusion that I did – that our system in the United States makes it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy personal/work balance.

I taught for nearly 30 years before I came to the above conclusion, so I am not advocating for teachers to abandon classrooms in droves. But if you have reached the same point in your journey where you feel you are no longer able to do a good job in either your work or your personal life, you may be looking for a change. I saw a post on Twitter where a teacher confessed this, and asked for suggestions. I thought it would be helpful to include the post here.

There were many great responses on the thread, so I want to mention a few here that are outside the usual sites such as LinkedIn:

I hope this post is helpful to anyone who is seeking a new adventure related to education. Students need great teachers now more than ever – but you can’t be great if your mental and/or physical health are suffering.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

More About Wakelet

I’ve been using Wakelet since late last year (2020) primarily as a curation tool, and wrote about all of the features that I like in this September post. As I know that I need to read about things a few times before I try them, I thought I would revisit this tool in today’s blog post so I could remind you of its amazing-ness, let you know about some features you may not have tried yet, and inform you about what’s new.

Wakelet is far more than a bookmarking tool, though it certainly does that well. As you can see in my description from September, this free app and website is extremely versatile, allowing users to curate images, social media posts, websites, text, PDF’s, and more from pretty much any internet-connected device. What I didn’t really emphasize in my previous post, though, was the education-friendliness of Wakelet. Take, for instance, its Immersive Reader tool, which is embedded so that any text can be read aloud. Another example is its integration with Flipgrid so that users can add video on the fly to a Wakelet. Collaboration between peers, between students and teachers, and crowd-sourcing for research or sharing resources are all possible with Wakelet. Portfolios like this one can be made by students.

If you want more ideas for ways to use Wakelet, the Tweet embedded below, by @TxTechChick has a nice visual:

The above list, as well as simple instructions for using Wakelet, can be found in the recently released e-book. In other Wakelet news, you can now “react” to collections and items in Wakelet. For up-to-the-moment information, follow the company @Wakelet, and visit their blog.

Here is a link to my Wakelet of items about Wakelet. You can visit this page to see all of my public Wakelet collections. I hope that you will see the value in this tool and give it a try!

The Creative Educator Podcast

A 4.5 hour roadtrip to see my daughter last weekend prompted me to load up on some podcasts. I added a couple of new ones to my Spotify playlist, including Adobe’s The Creative Educator, hosted by Tacy Trowbridge. So far, there are only three episodes. I listened to the most recent one, “Learning Spaces that Inspire,” a conversation with Rebecca Hare. Hare is the author of The Space: A Guide for Educators, which you can find on her website.

Before you dismiss design as being the least of your problems as an educator right now, you may want to at least glance at the transcript of the episode. Rebecca Hare is very conscious of the challenges teachers face right now. Her advice is not about buying futons for your classroom or hanging curtains in the windows. She gives practical suggestions for teachers who have zero budget and may even not be teaching in person right now. In fact, her mantra is “addition by subtraction” so that you are improving the quality of learning by removing items that are not essential in your space. Instead of pushing content to students, she is an advocate of “pulling learning through” your students by giving them more choices and agency within your physical and metaphorical learning spaces.

I look forward to listening to more episodes of The Creative Educator, and will be following up on several of the other links on the podcast page.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

St. Patrick’s Day Resources 2021

I know that this will come as shock to many of you who are faithful readers, but I am feeling pretty good that I got Pi Day and St. Patrick’s Day covered this year before the end of February. Not only that, but I spent a little time today making my St. Patrick’s Day S.C.A.M.P.E.R. activity into both a Slides presentation and a Jamboard. Talk about UNPRECEDENTED!!!!! (No one needs to know that I was putting off folding laundry and doing yoga in order to achieve these magnificent accomplishments.)

If you are unfamiliar with S.C.A.M.P.E.R., here is a previous post where I explain the acronym. You might also note that the paper version of St. Patrick’s Day S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is for sale on my TPT page, but don’t waste your money on that, since you can just download the Slides and print it out if you want. For free! I’m working on updating all of my resources and making them free because that is exactly how much housework and exercise I am willing to sacrifice for you.

And that’s not all! I noticed that quite a few of my St. Patrick’s Day resource links were not working anymore (not surprising, since I’ve been publishing this blog for nearly nine years), so I gathered updated versions in this Wakelet for you.

Now I must go scour the March calendar to see what I’ve forgotten…

More Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep

One of the most popular posts on this blog is called, “15 Math Sites that Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.” One problem is that I keep updating it, so the number is misleading. Another problem is that I don’t update it enough, so there are many sites that I’ve discovered that weren’t on the post. I spent this morning putting all of the site links into a Wakelet, and it now has 56 items! Some are brand new to me, while others are ones that I’ve written about in the past. Quite frankly, it was difficult for me to stay focused as I re-discovered old friends, like Splat Math and SolveMe Mobiles, and stumbled upon unfamiliar but intriguing ones like Mystery Grid and Cube Conversations. Whether you love math or despise it, I guarantee you will find at least one site on this list that will fascinate you!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A Tip of the Hat to Hattie

I am currently attending the TCEA Virtual Convention, so I plan to share a little about what I’ve learned in each post this week.

Professor John Hattie has become a well-known name in educational research circles, and I have been learning bits and pieces about his work for the past few years. His extremely thorough studies on “what works” in education are changing the landscape of pre-service and in-service training for teachers. You can find out more about his background here. Though his information is not without controversy, much of it makes good common sense. As Hattie himself says, “We focus too much on the data and not on the interpretations.”

I was excited to be able to attend a session at TCEA last night presented by Dr. Hattie. He spoke about the delineation between surface and deep thinking, which he labels, “Knowing That and Knowing How.” One message that he seemed to feel people misunderstand is that we need both kinds of thinking in our schools, and that “Knowing How” is not nearly as effective when “Knowing That” has been skipped. He recommends that we spend time overtly teaching students the difference, and how to recognize when each type of thinking is required. “Are you snorkeling or are you scuba diving?” is a good question to pose to the students.

As a teacher of gifted students for 19 years, I agree with Dr. Hattie that there is still not nearly enough challenge in classrooms. We have got to work more effectively to design for the “Goldilocks Effect” in learning experiences so that students are not being given assignments that are too easy or too hard. This is tricky. In my opinion, until teachers are given better tools, smaller class sizes, and better professional development it is difficult to achieve on a consistent basis.

My hand was flying as I took notes throughout Dr. Hattie’s presentation, and I don’t want to inadvertently misinterpret his comments as I type this, so I will skip to a few comments he made toward the end regarding how the pandemic might impact students. His opinion is that the pandemic might be “The Golden Ticket” for when it comes to the effect of technology in our schools. Though technology has not made a huge impression overall on student learning for a long time, he thinks that it will help with a couple of things: teachers speaking less and students talking more. Teachers, through necessity, have learned to “triage” their teaching to make direct lectures more streamlined. Students are more willing to ask for help or clarification if they can do it privately, such as in discussion boards and with student response tools. Of course, this remains to be seen.

The newest Visible Learning tool for analyzing how specific strategies influence learning is located here. It can help you determine some areas on which you’d like to focus in order to make the biggest impact, or ones that you may be spending too much time on based on how little influence it may ultimately wield.

Photo by Amina Filkins on Pexels.com