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You Oughta Know! September Edition

Welcome to September’s edition of You Oughta Know a blog hop created by Jasmine over at Buzzing With Mrs. McClain.  This is the first one after our summer hiatus, which you would think means that theres a lot that I want to tell you about.  But quite honestly, its September and my brain is kinda on autopilot.  I took a moment to think about what impacted me the most this summer, and that of course has to be Periscope and Blab.  If you haven’t checked them out yet you REALLY need to.  There have been so many other posts done about those two things though, and I did not want to be repetitive. 
Then it hit me… it wasn’t just Periscope or Blab that made my summer, but who was on the other side.  One of them is this fabulous lady:
Please allow me to introduce you to Sheila Jane from Sheila Jane Teaching.  
Sheila has dedicated herself to teacher wellness… and she’s pretty stinkin’ amazing at it.  On her website you can sign up to become a Teach Happy Member #THM and have access to oodles of sparkly hearted teacher amazingness, or you can follow her on social media and basque in her glittery feel-goodness.  Either way you will not be disappointed.  Seriously, Sheila has an amazing talent for being down to earth and real, while also sending out uplifting vibes for teachers everywhere.  There have been many days where she has said exactly what I needed to hear.  She also provides teachers with a wealth of information on entrepenuer know-how.  No matter what the topic is, I can not get enough!  I could spend hours talking about how much her efforts mean to me and teachers everywhere… but I really want you to find out for yourself.  Go to her website or follow her on social media @sheilajteaching… either way you will surely not be disappointed.


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You Oughta Know- May edition

Hello everyone!  Welcome back for another blog hop sponsored by Jasmine over at Buzzing with Mrs. Mcclain.  I originally had other plans for this post, but I’ve scratched that idea because I am so excited to share with you something that I stumbled upon just a few weeks ago!

If you’re anything like me, gone are the days of after hours working in your classroom – unless absolutely necessary.  When I first entered the profession I would spend countless hours devoted to the perfect bulletin boards, organization, etc.  I had it all together each and every day.  Fast forward a decade later and I am usually out the door as soon as my contract time is up, rushing home to pick up little ones, cook dinner, you name it!  Most things I can do at home, but there are a lot of items that can only be done on my school desktop (smart board presentations are a big one).  That is until a few weeks ago!

I was attending a meeting after school one day with other teachers from around the district.  We were all sitting around chatting and catching up when I looked over at a friends iPad.  I noticed that she had file folder icons on it… like you would see on a desktop.  I asked her what she was doing, and she introduced me to SplashTop!  SplashTop is an app that allows you to remotely control your desktop.  It is free if you plan to use it within close proximity to your desktop (in your classroom for example).  If you want remote access outside of your building there is a subscription (I paid around $16 for the year).  Now I have access to my desktop wherever I am!  I have already used this app in many different ways, and I know that next year it will really help change my world.  

Just a few days after discovering SplashTop I had my first real opportunity to test it out from home.  I had taken the day off to attend a program at my daughters school and then head out of town for my graduation.  While I had everything ready for my absence ahead of time, I logged in before the start of school just to make sure I had everything up- like the correct morning message and I also logged into all the different websites we use during the day (GoNoodle anyone?!).  

Not gonna lie, my youngest and I also enjoyed creepin’ in on the class just a little bit!  I may or may not have caught my sub shopping online for table cloths when my students were in the room.  Note- there is an explanation of the app in my sub plans, should a sub ever need help finding the right item etc.  There is also a pop up that occurs on the screen whenever I turn the app on letting anyone near the desktop know that “Lindsey’s iPad” is accessing the desktop.  

This tool has already shown me how useful it can be… but can you imagine how amazing it will be for those unfortunate unplanned sub days?  We have all had the “request a sub a 3am because a kid (or you) is puking moments”.  And then once things settle down we try to haphazardly type sub plans, explaining where to find things and how to log into things.  Or when all that hard work goes down the drain because a well meaning sub can’t get something to work on the smart board, or can’t find something.  A simple “s.o.s” text could literally save the day… click the app, fix whats wrong, crisis averted.  

Aside from using the app in sub situations I have used it frequently to do just the day to day work.  I used to work on Smart Notebook files from my home desktop, save them and then download them onto my school desktop.  Since I no longer utilize my home PC I’ve really struggled.  Now I can work right from home and no longer need to take the extra step of saving on a flash drive or uploading to Google Docs.  And just this past weekend I realized one of its greatest potentials… I can print at school- from my bed!!!  Can I tell you how many times I’ve scrambled in the morning to print something out or have forgotten items to be copied in my printer at home?  I printed what I was going to need, and picked it up Monday morning!  Amazing.

SplashTop has also helped me in the classroom.  I can not stand being tethered to the smart board at the front of the room.  We do a lot of interactive things, and I really prefer to move around the room.  Now I can do so, and control whatever I need to control.  I completely freaked out my students the first time I used it- I was sitting at my kidney-shaped table doing some reading assessments and played one of our transition songs.  They were in awe and completely weirded out.  

Overall this app has been a great find, and I thought that you definitely oughta know about it!  You can check it out further and download it here!  

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blogs in the link up! 


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You Oughta Know About…

Welcome to the April You Oughta Know blog hop!  

You Oughta Know is a monthly blog hop where teacher bloggers share their tips, advice, websites, ideas, apps or whatever else they think would be helpful in your classroom. I was honored to be contacted the other day and asked to participate!  I then spent the next several days thinking about what I was going to blog about.  I decided that you oughta know about…

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Over the course of my teaching career I have had the privilege of teaching in some very diverse settings.  Last summer I was asked to participate in some training with Dr. Sharroky Hollie, and thus my love for Culturally Responsive Teaching was born.  The strategies have taken my classroom to the next level and it has become the main focus of my graduate studies.  

Basically, the concept behind CRT is creating an environment that validates students’ home cultures and how they may differ from the “school culture”.  You then teach them how to effectively code switch to the norms of the “school culture”.  If you have had experience with Responsive Classroom practices, then CRT will make a lot of sense.  The two are very similar, but CRT adds in the cultural element.  I have had a lot of success the last two years in my classroom by incorporating the Culturally Responsive Teaching mindset.  My students are more engaged and willing to take the risks that I ask of them, and they are more respectful towards each other.  

What is CRT?
Geneva Gay defines Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) as using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them; it teaches to and through the strengths of these students.   It changes the traditional understanding of the achievement gap by shifting focus away from the perceived student deficits and puts them towards school deficits.  Culturally Responsive Teaching requires teachers to respond to differences in students’ communication and learning styles by changing their own teaching techniques and classroom management methods. 

When using the term “culture” we are not referring to ethnicity.  It is the cultural norms that one subscribes to and is independent of race (think rapper Eminem).  Cultural norms can be influenced by race, age, socioeconomic status, location, gender, sexual orientation, etc. 
Why CRT?
If you take a look in the majority of schools across America it is obvious that our population is becoming more diverse.  This demographic shift is having a significant impact on our entire educational system as we have historically known it.  One of the most challenging aspects in regards to this change is that while our student demographics are becoming more diverse the teaching population is not.  “Eighty to ninety percent of the teaching population is White, heterosexual, middle class females, with little experiences with people from diverse backgrounds (Gunn 2010).”  Our educational system is geared towards educating individuals from a similar background as the majority of the teaching population, and it is not working anymore.  

In order for Culturally Responsive Teaching to be successful the following criteria is non negotiable.

  • You need to know who you are 
    • What is your cultural identity?
    • What biases to do hold?
    • Check your filter- where do you get your information about other cultures?
  • You need to know who your students (and families) are
    • What cultures do they subscribe to?
    • What are some characteristic behaviors of cultures that may be represented in your classroom?
    • Is it wrong or just culturally inappropriate?***
  • You need to know what and how you are teaching
    • Be mindful of your curriculum.  Can the students see themselves reflected within it?
  • An open mind and willingness to change
  • The belief that ALL students can learn
I could spend hours enthusiastically telling you all about Culturally Responsive Teaching, but instead I will let Dr. Hollie himself explain it to you in this interview.  

*** Wrong vs. Culturally Inappropriate
In one of my workshops Dr. Hollie used this example:  “A Southern Baptist is visiting in a Roman Catholic church.  He is moved during the worship and shouts out “AMEN!”  Heads turn and disapproving glances are shot his way.  The question is, was this individuals behavior actually wrong?”  The answer is no.  It was just inappropriate for the cultural setting he was in.  How many times does this happen in our classrooms?  Think of the student that has trouble excitedly blurting out answers, and how many times they’ve been reprimanded for it… were they actually doing something wrong?  I have found this to be the biggest mind shift change, and the one that causes the most resistance and struggle with my colleagues.  

I plan to go more in depth over the course of the next year on this blog so stay tuned!  In the meantime, if you want to learn more please check out the website for the Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning or any of these books:

Like I said, this is pretty much just a taste of Culturally Responsive Teaching.  I am more than willing to answer any questions that you may have, so please let me know!  Make sure you hop around to the other blogs and see what else you oughta know!