Friday, May 27, 2016

We Work for Food

We walked into OCA with the smell of frying bacon, sausage and fresh hot biscuits. We knew this was going to be a great and delicious day! We were greeted by the amazing principal and staff. We instantly felt at home. The nerves were swept away by the yummy breakfast.

Then it was time to get our presentation going. We were on a roll (no pun intended). As the presentation was going on, we were being filmed for Coach B. Since we are rookies, we have to watch our presentation and discuss our areas of improvement and strengths. Well.....let's say some areas of improvement are chunking more and.......let's also say the video DOES add 10lbs...right?
Speaking of those extra pounds, the awesome OCA staff made us a home-cooked lunch. Therefore we DO work for food!!!

All in all, we had a BLAST and can't wait to do more presentations! We are on our way up the Super Improper Wall, improving in ALL areas.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Success Story

Have you ever watched a video that completely changed your life?  Eight minutes and forty eight seconds.  That’s all it took for me.  In the spring of 2012, I viewed a YouTube video that entirely altered the way I approached teaching.  The video was of Chris Biffle, who is the director of Whole Brain Teaching.  Whole Brain Teaching is a grassroots, education reform movement that is based on the principle that children learn best when their entire brain is being activated through gestures, motivators, and structured games.      I saw the video at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, and, by 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, I had already started implementing many of the Whole Brain Teaching strategies that I had practiced the night before.  After that first half-week of applying WBT techniques, my class dynamics had taken a 180 degree turn in a positive direction.  I couldn’t believe it…I had discovered the Holy Grail of teaching!

I spent the entire summer of 2012 researching, watching videos, and educating myself all about Whole Brain Teaching.  I participated in weekly online courses and wrote college essay-style posts on the WBT forum.  I counted down the days until August because I was so eager for the new school year to begin.  A fire had been lit inside, and I couldn’t wait to see where all of this new-found energy would lead me in my teaching career. 

At the beginning of School Year 2012-2013, the word was out about my passion for Whole Brain Teaching.  My principal at the time asked me to lead a WBT training for my entire faculty.  In the fall of 2012, I was selected to be a Social Media Intern for WBT, where I created and administered the original 2nd grade Facebook page.  At the beginning of 2013, I was chosen to be a member of the WBT Mentor Program, where I worked on weekly assignments which were provided via email and weekly phone conferences.  By 2015, I was ready to take everything to the next level, and was encouraged by my amazing 2nd grade WBT mentor and Director of Certification, Nancy Stoltenberg, to join the Whole Brain Teaching Internship Program.  After enthusiastically applying for the internship, my quest for WBT certification began!

As part of the requirements for certification, I began submitting videos of my teaching skills and student engagement to my mentor teacher, I attended and assisted at the WBT National Conference in Louisiana, I engaged in an in-depth book study of Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids, writing comprehensive and reflective essays on each of the chapters, and I created a teaching blog and Facebook page where I could share my knowledge of WBT with an audience of educators.  During the summer, I also took a chance to travel to northeast Oklahoma and present a WBT workshop to 30 teachers from several small districts who had actually been introduced to WBT by visiting my classroom earlier in the year.  When School Year 2015-2016 began, my current principal asked me to lead a WBT presentation for our faculty members and become a mentor to my coworkers as they navigated through the steps of implementing WBT strategies in their own classrooms.  In the Fall, I was able to assist fellow Oklahoma WBT instructors at the first conference offered in OKC.  I also had the incredible opportunity to spread the word about WBT to Edmond Public School teachers at a break-out session on our district professional development day this past winter.

To say that Whole Brain Teaching has completely changed my life would be a grand understatement.  I wake up excited to go to school each day.  My students show 100% participation in my lessons.  After a full day of partner-sharing, gesturing and engaging in structured games, we are all exhausted, but it is the BEST type of exhaustion…the kind where you know all your students soaked up the curriculum and so much more.  Parents have raved to me about how their children previously struggled in school, but in my classroom, and with WBT, they are now thriving.  

Through my passion and dedication for Whole Brain Teaching, I have finally turned my dreams into reality.  On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, my outstanding class and I produced an Exemplary Video and I became an official Board Certified Whole Brain Teacher!  To say that I am proud of myself and my students is a huge understatement.  Together, we showed the deepest levels of invincible grit that is deserving of so much honor.  My class of 2015-2016 will forever be my class of certified WBT students!  I can’t wait to present them with their own certificates next week!  Let the celebrations begin!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Creed

Today, in honor of President's Day, my students took our school creed and re-wrote it from the view point of being presidents.  They did an OUTSTANDING job!!!  Read on, and I bet you would vote for these 2nd graders just like I would!

Our school Creed: 
We are Frontier Falcons.
We are responsible for our attitudes, actions, and achievements.
We are accountable for our success and failure.
We accept the challenge to inspire and motivate.
We respect the differences of others.
We want to leave the world better than we found it.
We are Frontier Falcons, the leaders of tomorrow.
Falcon fly!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Virtue Village

Your lesson plans are written for the week.  You have Math and Language Arts skills mapped out according to the district modules.  Your Science and Social Studies materials are prepped and ready to go.  You’ve made sure that writing has been incorporated throughout each lesson, every day! 

But, wait.  What’s missing?  Character Education.  Not only do our students need to learn all the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they also need to recognize and understand the essentials of how to be human beings.  Learning how to be well-mannered citizens, living in a cooperative society, should be a vital part of the school curriculum.

Character education shouldn’t just be taught the first week of school when we are building our classroom communities.  It needs to be an integral part of our everyday routine.  Not just that, but as educators, we need to realize how much influence we do have in our student’s lives.  Children look to us, along with their parents and grandparents (among other community members), as role models.  It is important for us to make a conscious effort to teach what a positive, goal-oriented individual looks like and sounds like.  As we know, according to the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Since returning to the classroom after winter break, I have been submerging my students in Coach B’s brand new Whole Brain Teaching Character Education program.  This program focuses on 4 main virtues.  Even though there is a different focus each day, we refer back to all the virtues throughout the week.  The virtue calendar is as follows: Kindness Monday, Leadership Tuesday, Courageous Wednesday, Gritty Thursday, and Creativity Friday.  (Side Note: Remember, that there is no WBT police!  You take what you love about WBT and infuse it into your classroom how it works for YOU!  With this being said, I teach at a Great Expectations Model School, so right now I have “Virtue Friday”, where I incorporate all of the 17 life principles that are the foundation of G.E.)

On the first day (M-F) that I introduced each of the virtues, I set aside a good 30 minutes for a complete 5 step WBT lesson plan.  During the lessons, my class also filled out a Great Expectations Lexicon chart on the focus word.  Once I had taught my main lesson, I then added in an oral reading power point slide to my Morning Meeting.  Now, each day, during our MM, we are intentional about focusing on a specific virtue of the day.  I also created exit slips for students to fill out each day.  (We use them for all other subjects!  Why not character education?!) 

So, for example, on Kindness Monday, not only are we revisiting the virtue of Kindness, being intentional and making a plan of how we will be kind that day during MM, but we are also writing down all the ways that we have been kind on our exit slip.  The students receive their slips right after morning meeting; they keep them on their desk, detailing all their kind acts of the day. (Or they are writing down when they demonstrate leadership, courage, and invincible grit on all the other days of the week!)  On Virtue Fridays, my students will write about all of the life principles that they have shown that day, using specific examples in complete sentences.

Since starting this daily character education program, I have noticed a huge change in the way my students treat each other and view themselves.  Their self-confidence has skyrocketed, and they are much more aware of all the amazing positive behaviors that are happening around them.  Having the opportunity to identify virtues on a daily basis has had a tremendous effect on them.  After spending some time out on the playground last week during recess, I discovered, to my delight, that my students are even using this virtuous language within their casual conversations among their peers.  It truly does take a village!!!

Virtue Exit Slips
Bonus!  We do "Character Virtue Hunts!"

Morning Meeting Oral Writing slide

Saturday, January 9, 2016

GRIT and Grace

What does it take to be a successful person?  Why is it important to set high expectations for ourselves? How can we influence each other to do our best in a positive, caring manner?  These were our focus questions in my classroom this past week as we began the New Year. 

Over Winter Break, Coach B (Whole Brain Teaching) announced four new sub-categories for Rule #4: Make Smart Choices!  They are: Kindness, Leadership, Courage, and Invincible GRIT.  On Monday, during Morning Meeting, I introduced these virtues, along with their accompanying gestures, to my students.  We discussed each virtue in detail, but I really honed in on Invincible GRIT this week.  “Invincible” became our amazing word of the week and we completed our Lexicon anchor chart whole group.

After filling out our Lexicon, we took this virtue to the next level and broke down the word GRIT, focusing on an acronym.  (There are a plethora of acronyms for the word “grit” online, but I felt this one was the most age-appropriate and the easiest for students to visualize and understand.) 

We discussed each of the GRIT components and how they relate to us in the classroom and in our personal lives.  Students were able to partner share their ideas on what the statements meant to them, write about how they will be able to effectively embrace these action steps, and finally, they had the opportunity to showcase what having Invincible GRIT actually looks like through role-playing.

Throughout the week, it was amazing to listen to my students as they engaged in conversations during lessons, saying to each other “Wow!  You just ignored giving up” or “Great job on erasing and starting over with your best handwriting.”  (Side note: Make sure to model genuine and specific compliments in the classroom setting so that your students are able to provide each other with positive peer encouragement that has more depth than just a quick high-five!)

By the end of the week, I had a great sense of accomplishment for how much my students had been able to grasp and take ownership of GRIT and how to immediately apply each element, not only in their school work, but also in casual conversations with each other.  This teacher was on Cloud 9! 

But, as we all know, there are always going to be one or two (or 47) hiccups during the day in any given classroom.  On Friday, I had a guest visitor come to my class.  You know the type: “A Very Important Person with a Checklist” who is there to make sure you are implementing specific classroom practices.   Knowing how diligently my students had practiced these classroom expectations since the first day of school, I had no fear.  And then the hiccups started…a few of my sweet students slipped up on some of the key aspects they had been so successful at all year.  A couple of my other students saw they had an audience and decided to show off their “special talents”.  One of my most engaged students, who I can count on to be a true leader, chose this time to forget Every. Single. Thing I had ever taught for the past 4 ½ months.  I just stood there, at the front of my room, and prayed that my visitor wouldn’t doc me for all these minor details.  I looked at my students (with those big teacher know exactly what I’m talking about) and pleaded for them to read my mind as I silently begged them to show off how amazing they really are. 

And then it dawned on me…if I was hoping for this visitor to show me a little bit of margin in that moment, then I needed to do the same for my students.  Was it really the end of the world if they weren’t being perfect?  Hadn’t I just spent all week teaching them about GRIT…that while it is so important to give it our all, we will also make mistakes along the way?  And when we make those mistakes, we just have to brush ourselves off and redo if necessary. 

So, as my visitor continued to sit at my desk and jot down comments on her “Very Important Checklist”, I looked to my students with GRACE.  I changed my focus from what they weren’t doing right, to what they were doing right.  I saw that the students who were showing off their “special talents” were still fully engaged in the lesson topic.  I noticed that other students were kindly reminding their partners how to address the class with our “College Talk” gesture.  I listened as students took time to restate their comments and questions while addressing the whole group.  Soaking it all in, I realized that every single one of my students was applying their own Invincible GRIT.  I stood tall and continued on with my lesson, showing my students the grace that they deserved…that we all deserve…while beaming with pride that I had 23 students among me who were influencing each other to be the best that they could be in an environment with very high expectations.  THIS was what success in a school was all about!

*As you begin another week in your classroom, take time to focus on GRIT.  Be a role model and talk to your students about how YOU display GRIT as a teacher.  Continue to set high expectations for yourself and your students.  Celebrate all student and teacher successes, no matter how big or small.   And at the same time, make sure to embed positivity in the classroom by showing grace to not only your students, but to yourself as well! 

P.S. Thank you to my friend for letting me bombard her phone this week as I sent her a ridiculous amount of pictures and videos of what my class was learning about for feedback.  Warning: there’s plenty more media to come as I'm planning to teach in-depth lessons on Leadership, Courage, and Kindness during the weeks to come!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Changing the World!

Kindness and Compassion

The world is full of kindness and compassion, but many times these qualities are overshadowed by heartache, despair, anger, and bullying.  I would like to take a moment to remind you that generosity is alive and well.  It is something that can be seen, heard, and felt in my elementary school on a daily basis.  If you have never had the opportunity to step inside the classrooms of Frontier Elementary, let me tell you that you are missing out!  Our students are the most upbeat, caring young citizens that I have had the opportunity to share my daily life with.  They are the kind of kids that make me happy every day when I go to work.  They are the kind of kids that make me wish I could have all of them in my own class.  They are the kind of kids that my own kids are proud to call their friends.  

This year I have been blessed to be the coordinator of Frontier's Kindness and Compassion Club.  The club consists of 4th and 5th graders who want to make the world a better place.  We meet once a month after school and dedicate our time to community service projects. 

If you are concerned that these qualities are a fading trend, then I welcome you to visit Frontier Elementary on any given day.  Our KC Club is leading the way of spreading generosity, not only throughout our school, but around our community as well! We are planting the seeds of humanity, encouraging the growth of positivity, and changing the world!!! 

Below are the highlights of our first semester!  Enjoy!

In September, we painted signs to kick off Rachel's Challenge for our school!
KC Club fearless leaders are Patty Craft, Nita Surrite, Leslie Singleton, and Robyn Hays.

Rachel's 5 Challenges
1. Look For the Best in Others
2. Dream Big
3. Choose Positive Influences
4. Speak With Kindness
5. Start Your Own Chain Reaction
For our October/November meeting, we taped motivational messages to all the student bathroom mirrors!  We also made signs for our Bedlam Canned Food Drive that benefited students at one of our Edmond Middle Schools!
In December, the students created over 50 amazing, hand-made Christmas cards for a local nursing home! 
Troy (KC Club member), joined by his sister, Piper, and brother, Colton, delivered the Christmas cards to some very special nursing home residents on Saturday!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Going Batty Over Brainies!

It's finally October, so you know what that means!  Lots of fun Fall activities for the classroom!  My AMAZING teaching partner, Mrs. Ziggy, found the cutest idea on TPT that we introduced today!  Meet Shadow, the Bat!  

Shadow will be in our room for the entire month, writing us daily letters that he will need help editing.  He had quite a few writing mistakes, so we made sure to tell him, "You're still cool, Shadow!"  After we edited his first letter today, we practiced reading it with our WBT Brainies!  Check out our video!

The students then wrote letters to Shadow, letting him know about our classroom! 

The "Quiet Place" corner is pretty quiet!

Hanging out under a desk could be dangerous!

Shadow definitely needs to make sure he doesn't fly after the alarm is set or else he will set off the motion detector!  The kids are REALLY concerned about this happening tonight!

Shadow will be teaching our class how to improve our editing skills during Morning Meeting through letters he writes to us each night!  The only problem is that Shadow loves quiet places, so we had to warn him that our WBT classroom will be loud when we are learning!  He said that was fine, as long as everyone was following the Class Rules, using their Brainies, and fully engaging in Partner Sharing! If not, he may fly to another classroom, or (gasp!) even another school!

Finally, the most exciting part about having Shadow in our classroom, is that he has a BFF in Mrs. Ziggy's classroom!  Meet Mrs. Ziggy's Shadow:

We will update you on Shadow throughout the month, as well as showing you our ever-improving Brainies that we use in the classroom each day!!!