Thursday, January 25, 2018

Building Relationships with Students

Building Relationships with Students
-Beth Weiler and Robin Kress
I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”-Haim Ginott as presented in Mandt training materials.
      I feel the need to seek out students who were in my classroom during my first years of teaching and apologize. As a twenty-two year old teacher, not much older than my senior English students, I was so worried that I would “lose control” of the classroom that I relied on the old adage of not smiling before Christmas. I wasted all that precious time being stern instead of building relationships with my students.
     In the article Relating to Students: It’s What You Do That Counts, Marzano states, “Positive relationships between teachers and students are among the most commonly cited variables associated with effective instruction. If the relationship is strong, instructional strategies seem to be more effective.” While building strong connections may sound like an easy endeavor, it may take some of us out of our comfort zones.
     Our students need to trust us in order to feel comfortable enough to take risks and to collaborate with us and others. But how do we build trust when we have thirty students in a classroom- all of them at different educational levels, from different backgrounds, and with different needs?
      I am not sure I have a magical answer to that age-old question, but here are some ideas to begin your journey:
·         Make it a priority to learn every student’s name by the end of the first week.
·         Formulate a student questionnaire or ask them, “What are some things you want me to know about you. I was surprised, shocked, and dismayed with some of the personal information  students have told me.
·         Send home a parent questionnaire, “What do you want me to know about your child.”
·         Start off each day or class period meeting and greeting each student by the door.
·         Speak to the students with respect and watch your tone and facial expressions. According to Mandt, 55% of your communication is non-verbal.

Shout out to Chad Miller from CHS. My son is not an enthusiastic math student, but Mr. Miller has found a connection with him. In Tanner’s words, “He gets me. He sees when I have lost focus, and he gets me back to work. After class, we talk about cars and stuff.”

Twitter Discussion: 
1)      What is your “go to” in making connections with your students? 
2)      Think of a teacher connection you had when you were a student…what did that teacher do differently to reach you?
3)      What is the “weather” like in your classroom?
4)      Any helpful hints for those hard to reach students?
5)      Are there any resources you need to facilitate more positive relationships with your students?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Helping the World with LEGOS, Values and Projects

So, what happens when you get a team together and start attempting to solve the world's problems. Amazing things when that group is a combination of 4th - 6th grade students working together. The Highland Acres Hawkbots Lego Robotic team is hard at work for this year's First Lego League Competition. They have been posed with the question, how do we as humans interact with the water cycle, and what impact does that have on our environment. Once they are able to understand the problem that they face, they then have to come up with an innovative solution to solve it.

So you may be wondering what has this dynamic group discovered and attempted to solve? They recognize early on that the runoff water in Bismarck (after storms, melts or during events like cleaning cars) carries with it polutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, oils and bacteria which directly enters our coulees and river systems. They didnt' like that idea and created the "Super Cleaner 8,000." A system, that combines photochataltyics (light filtering) along with compost filtering of contaminated water. An invention created by Dr. Fowler and Portland State University combined with a trusted (old but true) system to filter water.

 But why? Why create this? Ask any of them and they will tell you that they don't like the idea that pollution is entering the coulees in their neighborhoods. They will also tell you how interesting the learning was and is. In all the pictures you can see interviews and research happening with Dr. Fowler, as he came from Oregon, to visit with us about our idea. He even did a Google Hangout with the team. These kids want to make a difference, and even got information from the engineers from the city about this issue. They have created a plan and plan to present it in front of a panel of judges in hopes to advance to the State First Lego League competition.

These students also had to design, plan and program LEGO robotics to interact with mechanical builds. They had to learn core values. And here is the best part about it all. They actually didn't HAVE to do it. They do it because they want to. They chose to be the ones that were a part of a team, solving problems, learning gracious professionalism that the non-profit group FIRST teaches them.
The beauty of First Lego League is that the students are completely self sustaining. They need to read the challenge guide that shares with them all the rules for the project, the robot games and the core values. As the adult coach, I am simply a guide. I can not directly teach, and I have to give up control to their decisions. I am simply the guide on the side. A true example of highly engaging, extremely inquiry based learning, but in a team format. The Hawkbots are changing the world one thought and program at a time!
Twitter Tuesday Questions!

Q1: What inspires you to help our youth create change in the world?

Q2: How have you sustained inquiry in children/young adults?

Q3: How much does it scare you to guide, but not make the final decisions when thinking about how youth experience/design final products?

Q4: Would you lead a team of FIRST LEGO League, or something like it? What would it be for you?

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Student Tech Workers Adding Value to Schools

Whose school is it anyway?

Student Agency!  Success Skills!  Authentic Experiences!  PBL!  

These buzzwords are tossed around often, but what do they actually look like? How can
students learn real-world skills while adding value to a 1:1 school and community?

One excellent example of all of these buzzwords is Legacy’s Saber Cyber Tech Club. Their
goal is to empower students with the ability to choose a direction and run with it, all
while providing valuable community services back to Legacy and providing real world
experiences with technology to the students as well.

What exactly are these real world experiences though?

The students are technology leaders and offer first-level technology support to the entire
school community, including their peers, teachers, administrators, and staff.  But student
tech workers do more than simply offer first-level technology support. These students
have emerged in our BPS community as well-known technology leaders. They possess a
mastery level of skill and knowledge with foundational apps including the Google suite,
Moodle, VoiceThread and WeVideo.  This knowledge of technology allows them to serve
as partners in pedagogy by offering teachers new ideas for instructional strategies and
project-based learning.

The student tech interns are also responsible for keeping the 1:1 Chromebooks in working
order. They perform all hardware repairs, warranty submissions, report any misuse they
see and coach fellow students and teachers on usage, maintenance, best practices, etc.
The real world experience connection doesn't just come from repairing devices; however,
the true connection to real world experiences happens when students become responsible
for the process and procedures. Where do you put repaired Chromebooks vs. damaged
ones? Parts storage? Tracking progress and billing for damage? All of these questions and
more have been worked through by the tech club students, but it hasn't all been perfect.
Every step of the way has been scattered with successes and failures...however those are
the experiences that we all learn from and what really matters!

In short, we strive to give students real-world learning opportunities. Just like an actual
working environment, we expect students to be self-starters, independent and capable
of managing multiple projects. We encourage them to take initiative and develop an
independent learning path centered on technology.   We also encourage them to promote
their team’s services to all school stakeholders. It’s a challenge, but the rewards are well
worth it.

Twitter Tuesday Questions:

Q1:  Welcome to 2018!  Chances are you have one or two Ss that do something within
the classroom that makes your life easier.  Give an example of how you’ve leveraged your
Ss talents or skills within your classroom or school.   

Q2:  What are some ways that Ss have helped contribute to the climate or culture in your
school (tech or not)?   Are Ss problem solving or trouble shooting within your school?  
Role modeling, Peer-2-Peer?

Q3:   How do you help Ss identify what their strengths are so that they can add value
to the school?

Q4:   How do Ss benefit from being able to leverage their passions within the

Q5:  What's a New Year's resolution that you can make to foster Ss passion in your
classroom and/or add value to the school?