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5 Lessons learned in 10 years teaching

Yesterday marked the first day of school on my 10th year of teaching. As yesterday went on, I reflected on lessons that I have learned through my decade career so far. 1.  Get excited - Every new school year is like a blank slate with unlimited possibilities. Each year has students who are nervous and excited for school. Show them that having a passion for education is cool.
2.  Surround yourself with positive people - We all know that the teaching profession can feel like a grueling and unappreciated profession at times, which is why we need to stay positive. You red to have a group of peers that will help keep you positive and focus on your goals.
3.  Start small - I can tend to get caught up in the excitement of trying new things and I make a big wish list of things I want to accomplish. Then my wish list gets to be overwhelming and I don't know where to start. In these last 10 years I have learned to pick one or two things to put into practice. That way it is more manageable.
4.  …

First Parent-Teacher Conference with SBG

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I had my first parent-teacher conferences with using SBG. Before these conferences I was so nervous. I know that people tend to have a hard time with change. I also know that this way of grading is not what they are used to seeing. I was prepared to explain all night that a 4 was not equivalent to an A or that if their student was not getting all 4's then they are not doing well in class. I think I thought of every possible argument that might come up during these conversations with parents.

We had 3 hours of conferences that night and it set records in attendance by parents. It was great to see everyone and to my surprise the parents were not all hung up over the new grading system. They just wanted to know how their students was doing. I had two that wanted me to explain the new grading system and they asked me if I believed in it. I was too happy to share my support for SBG and I think I helped a few parents understand why. Overall it wasn't a them vs. me battle, but inste…

First Few Steps in my SBG Journey

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Step #1: Creating the Standards - I spent a couple days this past summer with the two other social studies teachers in my school to create our standards and begin work on the rubrics for these standards. My school has really tried to align our standards with the Common Core Standards, but those standards for social studies has not come out. We tried to think of the skills that we would like to see in our geography and U.S. history classes.

Hardest Part: trying to think about skills instead of content that we wanted kids to knowAdvice: read Fair isn't Always Equal and research what other schools use for their standardsStep #2: Creating the Rubrics - This was my first mistake... the school year started and the rubrics where not finalized. My department went through so many drafts and we were so hung up on trying to make the wording perfect. I swear we could have revised these rubrics for years, but as most of you teachers probably already know you just need to start using a rubric to…

The Beginning to my SBG Journey

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Another school year is upon us and this year I am determined to get back into the swing of blogging. I have a lot to talk about. This year is the first year that I am using Standards Based Grading in my social studies classes. I am very excited about this because I fully support the idea of Standards Based Grading and I think it will be beneficial to my students. When I give out a B or a C+ it is not always transparent as to what that grade actually means what the student understands. With SBG it will be more clear what the student is proficient in and what they still need help with to master. I am on board with the philosophy, but now I have to actually use it.

At the end of the last school year, my social studies department created standards for two courses (World Geography and US History). It was tough to come up with the "right" ones or the ones we thought were "right" at the time. Now I am working on creating a rubric for these standards. This is the tough pa…

Constantly improving is the name of the game...

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Lately, I am analyzing how I teach my social studies classes and what I can do to make it better... actually I am ALWAYS doing that but this time it is on a much bigger scale. I am looking into how to make my classes to be more personalized for each student. Why does everyone have to learn the same exact thing for the same exact length of time? What if the idea of units were not based on certain weeks, but more on the time it takes each individual to understand the learning targets? There are many questions that go along with these ideas... what does that look like, how is that managed, how do you know students are learning, what motivates the students? I believe this is what teachers do... we constantly look for ways to improve lessons, our curriculum, and our teaching strategies to help students' learn.

Confession: Why I stopped blogging

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It has taken me a long time to write this post. In the beginning I was very excited to start blogging and share my experience with other educators. Unexpectedly and noticeably, the blog started to become something else. The focus started to be about view counts and comments. I started to feel like I wasn't this great teacher that I thought I was and I was scared to write about my ups and downs. What would people think if they knew that I found changes and improvements to the units I was teaching?  Would anyone want to read what I was saying if all I had were questions instead of knowing all of the answers? This anxiety got the best of me for a very long time. This is why I stopped blogging. I was scared to show myself, except I started to realize that I got into blogging to show myself... all of it. I am not the most amazing teacher (...yet), but I am a teacher that is constantly learning and evolving. I am a teacher that wants to be honest with my peers so that I can learn from …

What makes a good teacher?

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I know I have been on hiatus from my blog for the past few months and I apologize for that. I always forget how starting the school year is so time consuming (no matter how many times you have done it in the past). Lately I have been thinking about what makes a good teacher. In Wisconsin I hear a lot teacher backlash and I found myself more and more sad about this take on teachers. I have heard things like "teaching USED to be a profession and now it is just lazy people who want to get paid more for doing less" or "teachers are sleeping through their classes and don't care about my child... tax dollars should not go toward education". I highly disagree with both of these statements, but I can see how easy it is to judge someone or something that you don't know that much about. I teach my 7th graders about stereotyping and how they can't judge a whole group on the actions of a certain few... I wish some adults could learn about this too.

Back to my questi…