Sunday, December 9, 2018

A self-care Christmas list!

Good morning colleagues! There are only two weeks left before Christmas, and I realized I haven't done a self-care post in a while. I figured... why not combine the two? So here is a Christmas list with some of my favorite self-care products!

For relaxing on the couch

  • Kindle Paperwhite - currently $99 (regularly $129): I am a voracious reader. It's in my Bails blood! I always scoffed at people who used e-readers. I preferred to have a real book in my hands that I checked out from the library (thank you very much!). Then I found out that you can check out ebooks from the library, so I put the Paperwhite on my Christmas list a couple of years ago. Thanks to my generous in-laws, I am in LOVE. Not only do I check out books from the library, but I also stash books that I find for free online (you know, for a rainy day...)
  • Twinings Earl Gray tea - $3 (available everywhere): Within the past year I had my first taste of a London Fog latte, and it CHANGED MY LIFE. I always thought Earl Gray tasted disgusting, but with some steamed milk, vanilla syrup, and a sprinkle of homemade vanilla bean powder, it is the BEST. If you're a tea drinker, especially a tea latte drinker, you have got to make one of these! 
  • Fuzzy socks - price varies: Do I have to explain why you need a good pair of fuzzy socks? Have you ever spent the entire day in your pajamas on the couch? Bonus points if it has a cat or a llama on it!
  • America Needs Teachers mug - $12: Oh Raygun... I love you! I'm all over this website because they make hilarious Iowa stuff. They are also entirely unhinged liberals, so they are pro-LGTBQ, teachers, women, science... basically all of the things I am "pro" of as well. I have to shout out this mug because the people reading this blog are teachers... duh... 
  • IKEA lamp - $12.99: A - this lamp emits more light than you think; B - this lamp has a reading lamp attached; C - it's twelve bucks. SOLD!
  • Spotify subscription - $9.99 a month ($14.99 a month for 6 accounts): I may have been an unsavory music downloader once Napster was created. Since paying for Spotify, I haven't downloaded a single song. It's incredible - I just want access to all of the music. And Spotify has almost every song you've ever wanted to listen to!

Getting to the gym

  • Fitbit Versa - $149 (not sure how long this price will last): Fitbit put the Versa on sale for Black Friday. My Charge 2 was cracked and wasn't very good at keeping my heart rate during an intense workout. I bit the bullet and upgraded to the Versa. I am SO glad that I did! It's waterproof so I can track my swims. I also trialed it with a spin session, and it kept my heart rate the entire time. Because it has a larger watch face, it can show me all sorts of notifications. I can be updated with breaking news, and sports score alerts!
  • Zella leggings - price varies: People rave about Lululemon, but I'm too cheap for that. I'm obsessed with Zella instead. Their leggings are just thick enough for great coverage and fit, but aren't too thick for significant sweaters like me! They're so flattering on any body type, and no matter how much my weight yo-yos, I've worn the same pair for 5-6 years. They last after repeated washings! 
  • Yoga towel - $38-$58: These hot yoga mat towels are not cheap, but they're so good! They have some beautiful designs, and on the backside of the towel, they have little grippy buttons. When you are super sweaty, and you lay down for locust pose, you will be glad you have that towel!
  • Camelbak water bottle - $10: There are cheaper water bottles out there, but I'm partial to the "podium" series by Camelbak because they are easy to drink out of while on the bike, but they also don't leak (after repeated dishwasher washings)!
  • Clif bars - price varies by store: These bars are filling and relatively cheap. The flavor is also good, and though they aren't gluten-free, they are okay with my gluten intolerance. 

To pamper yourself

  • Mighty Patch blemish patches - $2.50 for 6: I don't get much acne, but when I do, it comes in like a hurricane! Put one of these patches on your zit for six hours and it sucks all the white stuff out of the zit. They're pretty amazing. I will wear one overnight, but other people swear you can wear one under makeup. They work either way!
  • Dr. Jart Cicapair Cream - $40: Though this cream isn't cheap, it's been a GAME CHANGER for my face! I have a lot of redness when I don't wear makeup. My face is super dry and is easily irritated. I also blush very easily (or get red face when I'm warm, workout, or drink). I don't like putting a lot of products on my face. BB cream works relatively well (especially when paired with a redness-reducing primer), but sometimes I need something quick in the morning. A little bit of this cream goes a long way. I received a .5 oz sample in a Birchbox. I've used it almost every day for two weeks and probably have another 5-10 days left in the container. It is thick, but spreads easy. It covers all acne and definitely evens out my skin tone. It looks like I'm wearing concealer and it reduces all redness. It's absolutely amazing!
  • Blistex Medicated lip balm - price varies by store: I love Burt's Bees, but I've recently found this lip balm. It works well with my dry lips, but also adds a little tingle (I'm guessing due to the medicated piece?). It also has 15 spf sunscreen in it, so it's great for track season when I'm outside all afternoon.
  • GlamGlow Thirstymud - $25-$80: A little bit of this hydrating mask goes a long way as well. It doesn't look like a traditional face mask, so I use this product more like an overnight moisturizer. I think it smells fabulous and it makes my face really soft. When I've completed a hot yoga session, my face is sunburnt, or my face is just super dry, this is my go-to product.
  • Gold Bond Radiance Renewal - price varies by store: I got a sample of this in a beauty box, so I tried it on my new (at the time) tattoo. It was perfect for the dry, irritated skin! I bought a bottle and now won't look back. It's really good, thick lotion. I use it every day on my dry hands, and if the rest of my skin is looking a little rough, this lotion smooths it out. It's that good.
  • SinfulColors Nail polish - price varies by store: This is cheap nail polish that I stand by. They have crazy cute colors and the price is solid. Pick up a bottle for your next girls night in!

"Hitting the hay"

  • Vanilla Sleepytime Tea - price varies by store: I love Celestial Seasonings tea, but I am partial to their sleepytime tea. Drinking a mug makes me cozy and dozy! I recently tried this vanilla flavor and I'm obsessed. It's SO good.
  • Nature's Truth Sleep Spray - $6.99: A few sprays of this on my pillow and I'm ready to pass out. It smells like frankincense and lavender. I love it!
  • Foam mattress topper - $25 for queen size: This mattress topper is cheap, but it works! We have a decent mattress, but this topper makes it that much softer. I want to curl up and stay in bed all day!
  • Fuzzy blanket - $40: When eight of my college girlfriends came to visit, I went out and bought some new blankets for the house. Now that they're gone, I put this blanket on our bed. It's cute and cozy, and the cats goes crazy for it. It's perfect for snuggling and it's soft on the face when you're tucked under the covers.

And with that, I hope you find something great for yourself on this list! Thanks for reading... I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel

Saturday, December 1, 2018

My Relaxing 5

Good morning, colleagues! I am part of a teacher blogging group, and one teacher, Mari, encouraged us to blog about our "relaxing 5." This stemmed from Brian's post about "Putting Yourself First." As teachers that have stressful jobs, we need to find ways to relax and take care of ourselves. I always likened this to airplane rules - put the oxygen mask on yourself before your child. You can't be a good teacher and take care of students unless you care of yourself. This blog post is all about the five things that I do to relax after a long day (or week) of teaching.

Read a book. I've blogged before about my love for reading. I'm currently reading book #51 for the year. Reading is often how I wind down before bedtime. I make time to read each night from 8 - 8:30. I change into my PJs, spray my pillow with sleepy spray, and tuck myself in under the blankets. If I'm lucky, one of my cats will join me on the bed. Once I've read for a half hour, I'm usually sleepy and ready to go to bed. It's also a way for me to let go of my day and "escape" into another world for a while.

Meet with friends and grab a drink. I have fabulous friends here in the Springs, but because most of us are stressed-out teachers, we don't meet up as often as we should. Sadly, last week, one of our friends passed away (she was also a former colleague and my mentor during my first year at Skyview). The week of Thanksgiving was rough, to say the least. We've all discussed how we really, really need to get together more often, whether it's for a game night, a movie night, happy hour, dinner, or coffee. No excuses - these ladies are my people, and I want to enjoy every moment that we can together.

Take some photos. I am an amateur photographer. Recently I've been taking pictures of my travels (Steamboat Springs, Iowa, New York, Belize, Guatemala), but I know that I need to get out more often and take local images. I've recently been lucky in that someone posted on Reddit about a cool bridge in town. I went out to take pictures of the bridge, and it was super snowy (instead of pretty fall leaves). It was also foggy, so I drove to Garden of the Gods to see what it looked like. It ended up being a lucky opportunity because the conditions were stunning. BUT I made the time to drive around and take pictures. I NEED TO DO THAT MORE OFTEN!

Attend a hot yoga session. Literally, all I can think about is how hot I am. I cannot think about my day, about tomorrow, or about anyone else in the room. I'm purely focused on not dying. Then, once done with the session, I feel detoxed and relaxed. I also feel like I can conquer the world!

Listen to music. This sounds pretty normal... but I'm kind of a weirdo when it comes to music. Do you make a ridiculous amount of playlists for specific feelings? Probably not. But I do. Sometimes I can calm down and relax when I recognize my emotions and then build a playlist with songs that will change that mood. Need a good cry? Boom. Relishing your summer? Enjoy. Unwinding on the back deck? Cheers. Happy about something? Dance it out.

These are #myrelaxing5. What are yours? I'd love to hear them in the comments because I'm always on the lookout for #myrelaxing10 or #myrelaxing20.

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The day before a break

Good morning colleagues! I hope you are all feeling rested, especially since many of you (myself included) have this whole next week off from school!

Yesterday I was thinking about how it was the Friday before a break. My broadcast students always watch the broadcast on Fridays so that a) they actually view their work and compare/contrast it to other students' work and b) they look critically at all segments and provide feedback. The broadcasts range between 10-25 minutes and this week timed at around 15 minutes. I knew that between watching the show and filling out the feedback form that the students would have about 15 more minutes of class. What could I have the students do during that time?

Isn't that a common problem... what to do the day before a break?
I was lucky... Thursday afternoon I was digging through folders on Google Drive and stumbled across something I did with students last year: brainstorming ideas for future broadcasting segments. I knew that my current students are equally as creative, so I gave my students time to brainstorm in small groups and come up with ideas for the broadcast. They came up with some great ideas including new and exciting segments for the "Christmas broadcast."

Here are some other ideas for what to do the day before a break:
  • Peer feedback. When I taught Social Studies, I was obsessed with DBQs. I would make the due date the day before a break so that I could grade their essays over break. The day before time off was perfect for the students to use a peer review day before turning in their compositions. 
  • Educational game. I didn't particularly enjoy assigning a test the day before a break, but I never minded reviewing. Playing Scattegories or Taboo where the topic deals with what students recently learned (whether that week, unit, or semester) get them thinking about and discussing content information. At the same time, students are being competitive and (hopefully) having fun. 
  • Blogging. Have students blog about what they will do over their time off. You could have students make a short video using Adobe Spark Video or post on Flipgrid. Get kids talking about their lives then have students talk to each other. Use the last day, when kids are often in an excellent mood, to build up your classroom community.
  • Video writing prompts. Ask students a very open-ended prompt and have them answer using a video application. Adobe Spark Video works well with Chromebooks and Explain Everything works well with iPads. Students can be as creative as they want. Post student work on your blog, website, or YouTube. Offer extra credit over the break to students that watch and comment on others' videos.
  • Sketchnote. Use the day before a break to teach students how to sketchnote. If you've already shown your students the basics, give them an open-ended prompt (or a topic like "Christmas") and have students design a sketchnote about the idea. 
  • Podcasts. If you have a couple of days, have students write a creative story. You can make it about your content or about the holiday that students might celebrate. Students can then use Garageband (an example) to record their podcasts. If you want to take it up a notch, have students design their story like an "old-timey" radio show. 
  • Goosechase/scavenger hunt. Get students up out of their seats and out of the classroom. Send them on a scavenger hunt where the clues are content (or holiday) based. 
  • Reflection. Use the day before a break to have the students update their digital (or non-digital) portfolios. Give students time to study and think about their work, then post a reflection about what they've learned/how they feel about their work. 
These are just some ideas that I've done, seen, or heard about. Please don't just show a movie before a break... think outside the box and get your kids to be creative! 

Have a happy Thanksgiving! I'll be back on December 1st!

- Rachel

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Canva comes through again!

Hello, colleagues! I was thinking this week about the secondary part of my job, being the technology specialist for the building. I love being able to provide answers and training, but I hate that people aren't coming to me for answers or training. It's usually just answering emergency questions, which is fine but doesn't utilize my time very well.

So I decided that, on top of creating the tech tips newsletter once a month, that I would also start sending "digital extensions" of the newsletter through e-mail. I decided to do this after a conversation with another teacher. She stopped me in the hallway and asked how many e-mails I currently had in my inbox. I told her that I have five e-mails in my inbox. She let it slip that she had 14,000 and she needed some solutions to clean up the inbox. She wanted to know what I did to get to such a low number.
  • I snooze e-mails that I need, but not in that exact moment, to return to the inbox at a later time. I use snoozing as a reminder technique as I remember to reply to an e-mail or remember a field trip when I need to remember.
  • I use filters to automatically delete e-mails that I don't need. I don't need to read e-mails to the whole staff with weekly newsletters (because it doesn't affect my classroom) nor do I need to know who's going to Saturday School (because my students don't have missing assignments to make up). Those e-mails go immediately to my trash and don't clutter my inbox.
  • I use labels to automatically mark e-mails I need to read. All admin have a bright red tag next to their name, so I know I need to read those e-mails immediately. Labels also help with archiving e-mails because I know not to delete them, but "save" them in an "external" folder until I do need them. 
What I did for this teacher was use Screencastify to make a screencast explaining how to do all of these things in Gmail. As I was creating the screencast, I knew how handy it would be for the entire staff, but I also know my team enough to know they wouldn't watch a 10-minute video with helpful explanations.

So I used my old go-to, Canva, to create a handout that would work for teachers in a time crunch.
New Gmail by Rachel Jeffrey

I didn't think that the infographic did quite enough in telling teachers HOW to follow through on these ideas, so I made quick 5-45 second no-audio screencasts that shows the viewer what to do.

I hope it helps! I believe in decluttering your life and cleaning/organizing your email inbox is one way to do that (primarily as a teacher)! 

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :) 

- Rachel

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Finding a love of reading

Hello, colleagues! I recently digitally subscribed to the New York Times (they were running a promotion for $1 a week). I've been reading the news quite a bit in the last four or so years, so it only made sense to pay for a digital subscription for not only news, but opinion articles, recipes, and even a mini daily crossword.

I was reading last week when I came across an opinion article called "Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way?" As a teacher, I knew I had to read it. The article talks about how teaching phonics is the best way to teach students how to read, and because it's so intensive, most teachers ignore the best approach. Of course, there was a response article today in which readers wrote about how they learned to read with some responses supporting the original opinion article, and other responses refuting it.

Reading the original and response articles made me think about my own love of reading. I enjoy reading as much as almost anything. I don't remember learning to read, but my mother says that I picked up reading before I went to school. I know that she was a stay-at-home mom that read with me. I know we didn't have cable until first or second grade, so I the tv I watched was mostly PBS educational kid shows (Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow). Other than watching tv and playing outside, I remember reading... a lot! I grew up in a small town of 600 people with not a lot to do. My godmother (really my grandmother) was the librarian of our small town library that was two blocks from my house. I spent all of my free time there reading. I was reading well above my age since I eventually ran out of books to read that were "appropriate" for my age (e.g. reading John Grisham at age 12).  I fell in love with books at an early age, so I still love reading.

That is not, however, the case for most of our students. Why is that the case? I believe that part of it is due to students not knowing how to read, some of it is students not being able to read what they want, partly due to students being busy all of the time, and of course due to students being distracted by other things in their lives (e.g. social media, their cell phone, etc.).

So how can we get kids to enjoy reading again?

  • Create a bedtime routine where you read every night. This is one of the biggest changes I made in my life within the last few years. I made the conscious decision to go to bed an hour before I wanted to fall asleep so that I could devote 30-45 minutes of time to reading. By reading this much each night, I read approximately one book a week. That is why, on my Goodreads reading challenge, I've challenged myself to read 52 books in a year. I've already read 48 books this year. 
  • Let kids read what they want to read. I read what I want. I enjoy reading trashy beach novels and suspenseful thrillers. I don't always enjoy reading about history... I need a break from what I teach! My husband doesn't enjoy reading very much, but when his monthly Wired magazine arrives, he reads it cover to cover... sometimes more than once. I feel that should be the same for students. They should be able to read magazines, or story books, or a John Grisham novel that is well beyond their age. 
  • Be a good example and read yourself in front of them. Part of the reason why I read so much as a child is because my parents read quite a bit when I was young. My dad would often sit in "his chair" and read at night. My mom would lay on the couch and read during the day. When my parents read, the TV was off. There was nothing else for me to do but read alongside them. 
  • Limit technology. It was different when I was a child than what it is like for my students today, but as I said in the previous paragraph, the TV was off when my parents were reading. Now, if I read, I will turn off the TV and will silence my cell phone. Before bedtime, I will read and then post on Instagram right before falling asleep. It's become a habit over the past year. 
  • Swap music for an audiobook. Install Audible on your child's phone so they can "read" while on the bus, or, if you drive them to school, turn on an audiobook instead of the radio. I'm not the biggest fan of audiobooks because I get distracted, but my husband loves podcasts and audiobooks much more than reading.
  • Help bring books to life. I've always tried to read the book before watching the movie because a) I love spoilers and knowing what happens and b) I want to see how it comes alive. My sister and I recently saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. I hadn't read the screenplay yet, so I read it on the plane. I was so disappointed when I read it and was worried that seeing the play live wouldn't live up to my expectations. Boy was I WRONG. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Now I want to reread the screenplay AND go see the show again! 
  • Stash books all over. Growing up, we had a huge bookshelf in the hallway that had a lot of books on it. Now, on my Kindle, I try to find free books to download (currently have 21 classics and 33 random books). It's all about having options and variety. That keeps me interested in my current novel because I want to finish it and start a new one!
  • Conquer the log. This probably looks a little different for students, but I love logging my books on Goodreads. Because Goodreads is "Facebook for readers," I can see what my friends are reading. This has helped me find so many interesting books that I never would have found otherwise. Goodreads also recommends books based on what I've read, so the more I read, the better the recommendations!
I hope, through this list, that your students (or you, or your kids) will start to enjoy reading more. I want everyone to have the same love for reading that I do! 

Thanks for READING. I'll see you next week :) 

- Rachel

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Google Expeditions

Good morning colleagues! I'm back after a luxurious two weeks off from school and ready to talk about a training session I ran this past Thursday with the staff.

I'm assuming that most people reading this blog have heard of Google Expeditions. If not, Expeditions is an application that allows students to travel the world using virtual reality. As the teacher, you can guide your students through these tour with pre-made, scripted text that helps you talk to the students about what they are seeing. In your classroom, you have six options for running Expeditions.

I will admit when I was asked to present to the teachers that I was nervous. Technology doesn't always go over well in my building, and I wanted to ensure that what I demonstrated was relevant and engaging for the staff. Initially I was going to present one application while providing teachers with an opportunity to learn about a different app if they so choose. But while I was designing the training, I realized how perfect Google Expeditions was for the staff. Basically, every content can be covered through the variety and quantity of expeditions available.

I've been obsessed with organizing information into hyperdocs recently, so I put together a hyperdoc for the teacher to access the materials. I also divided the hyperdoc into a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level (so that everyone was covered during the training).

I started off the training by having the teachers actually USE Google Expeditions. I received a grant from EdCamp last year and use the money to purchase Google Cardboards and inexpensive phones. I had the Cardboards and phones out, ready to use when the teachers walked into the library. I used the ultimate teacher tool - the hook. Yesterday I took the teachers to American Samoa, Mars, Hong Kong, and Machu Picchu. It worked "hook," line, and sinker. The teachers immediately responded positively because they, as adults, thought virtual really was SO COOL.

I briefly walked them through the hyperdoc: what Google Expeditions is, the six ways to access Expeditions in their classroom, and the available Expeditions. I then answered questions that they had, then gave them 20 minutes to play. The teachers were all over the app (whether by playing on Cardboard again or on their iPads searching the variety of Expeditions).

I knew that the training was a success when one very excited, but tech-resistant teacher checked out the Cardboards and cell phones to use in her class next week. I was STOKED! My former mentee also chatted with me about integrating the Gettysburg Expedition in his class by checking out the iPad card from the library and how excited he was for the students to "see" Picket's Charge.

If you haven't checked out Expeditions or how to use Expeditions in your class, please do. It's amazing what 15 minutes of virtual reality can do to change the environment of your classroom.

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Sunday, October 7, 2018

What inspires me?

Good morning colleagues! I am back for one last blog before our two weeks of fall break (thank goodness - we're all exhausted). Well... once again, I was not selected as a Google Innovator. Was I surprised? No, not really. But it still feels like a low blow.
So to change my mindset, especially considering #oneword2018, I have to look forward and remind myself... why do I teach? Why am I still doing this after 13 years?

A quick side note, this is my tenth year teaching middle school. Whenever people ask what I do, and I say that I'm a middle school teacher, I either get a crazy look or a sympathetic look. I've never gotten anything else. And even though this job is sometimes insane, I don't need the wild look or sympathetic look because I enjoy my occupation. I still want to come into the building day after that. I do this because I believe that my job is integral.

I believe that education has a purpose in society, that our job is to educate future generations to be well-rounded, productive citizens. I think that my role as a teacher is to facilitate students learning. My goal every year is to make my students better people. I do that by providing students with a voice and a choice as often as possible. I want students to take ownership of their learning, and for that to happen, students have to "buy in" to what they are doing in the classroom.

What keeps me going? What makes me come back to my classroom every day? My students, plain and simple. I love seeing them grow and mature. As a broadcasting teacher, I now have students from 7th to 8th grade. It's incredible to see how much they change from August of the 7th grade year to May of their 8th grade year. The students start to look at the world differently and begin to understand their place and who they are.

What inspires me day after day?
  • Conversations: On Wednesdays, I meet with a small group of teachers. We consider ourselves "coaches," but in different ways (interventionists, technology, English language, and our actual instructional coach). We discuss best practices and proven instructional strategies. We talk about how to move our colleagues and how to implement change. I also have great conversations one-on-one, randomly, in my classroom or a coffee shop. I love to talk about education and learning. It leaves me with my thoughts about how to implement change and growth mindset in my classroom. 
  • Learning: I enjoyed school as a kid, so it's no surprise that I'm someone who loves to learn. I learn while reading Twitter, reading books, having conversations, or through taking classes. We have professional development through the district that has provided me with great ideas, but I've also done online mini-courses that have given me great ideas. It keeps my classroom "fresh" and different each day and every year. 
  • Creating: I love learning and conversations that lead me to design unique curriculum. I do enjoy creating curriculum - thinking about what I want my students to know, which standards I'm covering, and how my students will use their learning in the future. I want to continually adapt and change my curriculum to meet my students' needs. Students will keep evolving... how can I keep up with them? How can I ensure that they become well-rounded citizens? 
  • Taking risks: Using new technology and ideas in the classroom leads to failure. It is a risk. But the more you do something, the better you get. If you try once and fail, do you give up? Maybe I'm just stubborn, and that's why I continue to take risks as a teacher. I know that I need to meet my students' needs and that's not going to happen if you don't try something new. 
As you "fall into fall" (the days get shorter, and we get closer to winter break) try to remember WHY you teach. What happens when you "fall"... how do you get back up and keep going?

Thanks for reading. I'll see you back here on October 27th!

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Reimagining Education

Hello, colleagues! Happy weekend!

Last Friday I was perusing Twitter, as I am wont to do, and I stumbled across an article from Singularity Hub. I had never heard of Singularity Hub before, so I went to their about page to learn more who they are. They wrote Since 2008, Singularity Hub has offered daily news coverage, feature articles, analysis, and insights on key breakthroughs and future trends in exponential technologies as well as highlighting how they’re being leveraged for social impact and utilized to tackle the world’s grand challenges. So... seems like something that's right up my alley! The article itself was focused on reimagining education in the exponential age. SH interviewed Rohan Roberts, the author of the book Cosmic Citizens and Moonshot Thinking: Education in an Age of Exponential Technologies.

Some highlights from the interview:
  • Classifying the skills that machines should bring to the table and what humans should contribute to the partnership is key.
  • Any curriculum worth its salt would focus not on content but on developing critical survival skills, such as leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, effective communication, analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination.
  • We’d need to focus on future fluencies that are based on problem solving, creativity, digital citizenship, media, and collaboration across networks.
  • The days of the teacher as subject expert and fount of information are numbered. In addition to being cross-curricular specialists, teachers will need to be guides, counselors, mentors, and facilitators.
  • If we acknowledge that human destiny is to become a multi-planetary species and that our future lies in the stars, then we’ve got to start training our students to have discussions about who we are, where we are headed, and what we want to be. 
I found the article interested as it entwined my philosophy of education with some futuristic science! It also got me thinking... what skills did I learn in school that I still use today? My answer is very little. I grew up while education was still very much listen, memorize, regurgitate, forget. There are bits and pieces that I still remember from school, but nothing of real value that I still use today. So what skills are we teaching students that they are going to use when they're 34? I'm hoping that the answer includes some of the bullet points above.

In my classroom, students:

  • Choose different "occupations" each week: producer, director of photography, audio engineer, on-air talent, or editor. Students know what they need to do in these roles. This allows each student to lead, but also to follow. They have to communicate and collaborate together to ensure that a broadcast is developed every week. 
  • Are all pre-production writers in that they have to plan and write the script and design the corresponding camera shots. Students must be creative to engage their viewers, but they must also critically think about how their video will appear to others.
  • Are sometimes absent, so a group must be capable and take initiative when that other student is missing. They know they have to "pick up the slack" because they have an upcoming deadline that doesn't budge.
  • Learn about local and world news. My advanced broadcasting students are designing two stories for the broadcast - the first is about a local narrative and the second is a feature outside of the United States. Students will have to research, check sources, analyze information, and conduct interviews. They have to be flexible especially when preparing to do a phone interview with a complete stranger. I am hoping by exposing them to local and world news that they will think about who they are as a student, a member of the community, and a US and global citizen. 
  • Design a social commentary video. Students will pick a social topic important to them, provide commentary and information on the subject, and suggest solutions to solve these social issues. 
I've realized in my (short) time in education that I am no longer the only person/thing that knows anything or everything about a topic. Students today have access to the internet, their classmates, and their own brain. I don't know "everything" anymore, so I knew that it was time for me to take a step back and have students take ownership of their own learning. My job, as a classroom facilitator, is to provide structure and a safe environment while also providing students with resources that will help guide their knowledge.

My last thought on all of this is something that happened to me last weekend. My husband has been craving eggs benedict. I'm by no means a top chef, but I like to cook and work in the kitchen. So I went online, searched how to poach an egg, found a website tutorial from Alton Brown (who I know is a renowned chef), and learned how to poach an egg. I Snapchatted how everything went, and on my first go, I had one formed egg and one runny egg. Did it still taste delicious? Of course. And the next day, I tried it again, and I successfully poached two eggs for my avocado toast (#millennial). I realized that I learned how to do something new, with a facilitator, I tried and failed, but then I tried again. 

So think about this... what are you still learning today? What do you want your students to learn as well? How can you reimagine education? Thanks for reading :) I'll see you next week!

- Rachel