Maybe Ill be there to share the land

This post is going to challenge my ability to stay positive and not throw shade at other teachers. I don’t believe that teachers should create lesson plans and sell them to other teachers. This is something that makes me so mad when I hear about it happening. Teachers should share their lesson plans for free. We are a profession where I truly believe creation is rarely if ever truly original. In addition, we all are in it for the same reason, to make a positive change in students’ lives. Selling our lesson plans runs counter intuitive to that goal.

I am not a hypocrite. I am part of a physical education and health group that has about 40 people who have shared their lesson plans. I have included my plans in that shared folder as well.  If anyone needs physical education or health plans I will be happy to share them with you. I have created global projects with @nicholasendlich and @mradampe that we have shared with the world for free. We are also working on another groundbreaking project that will help physical education teachers introduce and teach bodyweight exercises to their students.  We will be sharing this as well for free.

Here are some of the reasons that I believe selling lesson plans are wrong. The first reason is that we are in the profession of sharing and collaborating. Selling lesson plans goes against this. It creates roadblocks for teachers and the last thing we need is our own professionals making our jobs more difficult.  The second reason is that if you create lesson plans for your job they belong to your district and not you. For example my physical education plans are really owned by my district. “Works made for hire (a work “made for hire” by an employee and certain kinds of commissioned works) are considered to be authored by the employer or the commissioning party. So if your boss asks you to write a report as part of your job, the company you work for gets all the copyright protection that would otherwise have been available to you.”  (http://goo.gl/6B6rw0)  If you don’t believe me read this NEA article that cites instances where districts have actually sued teachers who have sold their teaching materials and one! (http://www.nea.org/home/37583.htm)

Another common reason people give is that purchasing lesson plans saves the teacher’s time from having to create their own.  We all know that time is money so in actuality teachers are saving time and money by purchasing the lesson plans.  This is a great argument if you rule out the fact that these plans should be posted for free and should cost the teachers nothing!  This would save teachers even more time and money.

Teachers are all scraping by in life. I work four different jobs during the year to make ends meet. My family does not heave wealth nor taste. (hope you understood the reference) I have three children and two dogs.  My student loans are mounting and my cars always need fixing. I get what it is like to be poor and struggling. This still does not excuse the fact that selling lesson plans to other broke teachers does not advance our profession. Educators should support other educators and selling our ideas hinders not helps our profession.

Q1: Why do you believe ts should or shouldn’t sell their lesson plans? #slowchatpe

Q2: Where are the best sources to find free lesson plans? #slowchatpe

Q3: What do you create that you share with the world? Where can we find it? #slowchatpe

Q4: How do you make extra money or cut costs to make ends meet? #slowchatpe

Q5: What people are creating free educational tools that people should follow or know about? #slowchatpe

The Dark Side of the PLN

This post surprised me. It surprised me because it involves feelings and I am not the most sensitive person in the world. (just ask Pernille Ripp or Rafranz Davis) Let’s talk about the dark side of the PLN. We hear all the time how great they are. Well I am here to talk to you about the flip side. The side that people don’t discuss. The part of the PLN that makes you feel alone and inadequate.

Your PLN should be made up of the greatest people you can find. I know mine definitely is.  My PLN consists of people that create apps, create websites, create global projects, create backpacks with activities for students to do at home, know more about technology than so called “experts”, teachers of the year, authors, and the list goes on. I want the best and brightest at my fingertips to lead me to become the greatest teacher I can be. I found those people and continue to find more and learn every day.

There is a downside to this though. The part of you that lambasts yourself because you haven’t wrote that book yet, participated in that global project, achieved that award, or created that groundbreaking activity. Let me make this clear I am not hating on what other people have done. It is a feeling of jealousy and inadequacy of what I haven’t done yet. I do not want what those people have. I want to do what those people are doing.

One example of this is my physical education Voxer group. I have the best minds in the physical education world sharing what they are doing. Their ideas have helped pushed me to be a much better teacher than I ever would have alone. They also made me realize how much more I could and should be doing in my class. Another example of this are the multiple authors I have in my PLN. I want to write a book and it makes me feel like I am not doing enough because I am doing nothing to accomplish this goal. A third example is how some of my PLN uses solo taxonomy to take their teaching to the next level.   This seems to be an awesome way to let students control their learning. I want to be doing this.

After much reflection I have come to this conclusion.  I cannot look at what other people are doing (or have done) and compare myself to them. I need to use them as the springboard to get ahead. My time is precious. I have to prioritize and figure out what do I want and how can I accomplish it. My PLN is there to propel me forward. When I am ready to write my book I will have multiple people who can shine a light on the best way to accomplish this. When I am ready to tackle solo taxonomy there is a Voxer group that will help me figure it out.

If my PLN was not so wonderful than what would I aspire to? Do I want to be the top dog who knows everything and has done everything? No way who would assist me, push me, or inspire me? So if anyone else ever feels that they aren’t doing enough, don’t know enough, don’t have enough time or just plain feels inadequate remember that your PLN is there to show you what is out there not to make you feel like you haven’t done enough.

Q1 How do you keep from comparing yourself to others in your PLN? #slowchatpe

Q2 What has someone in your PLN done that you want to do? #slowchatpe

Q3 What specifically does your PLN do to make you better? #slowchatpe

Q4 Who is the greatest person in your PLN and why? #slowchatpe

Q5 What do you contribute to a PLN? #slowchatpe

Increased Test Scores

Fact: standardized testing only tests 1/7 of the whole child.

Fact: standardized testing misses out on the other 6/7 of the child.

Fact: teachers are getting judged based on their student’s ability to improve their test scores.

Fact: standardized testing is here and it isn’t going away any time soon.

This blog is not about whether you agree or disagree about standardized testing.  This is about the fact that standardized testing is here and we have to deal with it until it goes away.  My question is how are you going to attack this problem of needing increased test scores to validate your ability to teach?  What are you going to do to get your students to the next level of testing growth?

Option A is the ground and pound. You teach the kids what will show up on that test.  Every day you pound it into them how to narrow answers down until you get down to the two that makes the most sense.  You teach them that always, never, and sometimes are key words to pay attention to. You have them take a sample test every month so they can really understand and prepare for the test. You make their year’s goal to improve that test score.  If your evaluations are tied to this and money is the carrot that is dangled in front of your face this is what you may choose.  I don’t blame you one bit. Your class will be boring and the students will be extrinsically motivated and forget everything they learned, but I get it.  They set the rules you just play the game.

What if there was a better way that didn’t involve being tedious and boring.  What if there was a simple way to raise test scores that involved no more paperwork for the teacher? No extra assignments for the students to do at home? You wouldn’t have to threaten, cajole, force, push or prod a student to do more work.  All you would have to do is have your students become physically active.

Option B. We all prioritize physical activity and physical literacy as the number one positive change we can make for students.  Let me define all please. Students, teachers, administrators, board members, nurses, custodians, in short any stake holder.  Every stake holder has to share the vision that physical exercise is necessary to student success.  What does physical exercise do? “In one study, for example, nearly 2,000 California schoolchildren who were outside a “healthy fitness zone” — a 12-year-old who took longer than 12 minutes to run a mile would be outside that zone — scored lower on state standardized tests than those who were more fit.” (Adams 2013) That is one example of what research showing exercise alone can increase test scores.

Here is another example. “After adjustment, aerobically fit students had greater odds of passing the NeSA math and reading tests compared with aerobically unfit students regardless of whether the students received free/reduced lunch.” (Rauner 2014) This study shows that socio economic status can be ruled out as the only factor in determining test scores. Physical activity and literacy can make a positive difference! The research goes on and on.  “Being more active, says Singh, may improve blood flow to the brain, which provides more oxygen to cells involved in learning and attention.” (Park 2014) More blood flowing to the brain sounds great! I will take that please.

The why is pretty simple.  “When done regularly, moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity strengthens your heart muscle. This improves your heart’s ability to pump blood to your lungs and throughout your body. As a result, more blood flows to your muscles, and oxygen levels in your blood rise.  Capillaries, your body’s tiny blood vessels, also widen. This allows them to deliver more oxygen to your body and carry away waste products.” (NIH 2011) The widened blood vessels combined with a stronger heart allow more oxygen to be available for use in the body.  The more oxygen available the better!

A lowered oxygen level has multiple negative effects.  “It can have a harmful affect on brain function and physical ability. Attention span and concentration may be reduced. Memory and mood can be affected. Abstract reasoning and problem solving skills can be impaired.” (COPD 2009) We want the benefits of increase blood flow.

We can increase student test scores be increasing their physical activity.  This week we will get some ideas of how to increase student’s physical activity in the classroom, the physical education class, and at home.

Q1: How much does your school value physical activity? How can you tell? #slowchatpe

Q2: How do you get them to increase the amount of physically activity in ur class? #slowchatpe

Q3: What can you do to help classroom teachers increase physical activity in the classroom? #slowchatpe

Q4: How do we encourage our students to share our vision of the importance of physical activity at home? #slowchatpe

Q5: What can we do to get community support for physical activity and physical literacy? #slowchatpe

A Tale of Two Pities

EdcampNJ was today in New Brunswick, NJ. The energy was palpable, the people friendly, the event was organized brilliantly and the sessions I attended were engaging and informative.  I met people in my PLN that had previously been a stationary picture in the top left corner of a tweet. I instantly felt like I was amongst peers. What people taught or where they administrated (ok I made that word up) made no difference.  People were positive and happy. Ideas flew quickly and people weren’t afraid to take a contrary view and start a dialogue (@artlaflame).  It was a great day for learning.

I left feeling a little down though.  There were two reasons why.  The first reason is that all these great people (excluding @CapeMay10) work at other schools.  The positivity and vision that where we all worked together to create a great atmosphere was gone. The energy that made the event so worthwhile to go to had evaporated.  The fact remains that when I go back to work (which will be December 1) the same school will be waiting for me that was there before EdcampNJ.  My school is a great place to work but we are still in the process of buying into the vision that I believe is the future of schools.  The idea that technology should be used, that sitting for longer than 15 minutes is unacceptable, that Twitter chats and Voxer are pd that are done willingly because this propels us toward best practices.  The people today are already drinking the Koolaid (strawberry or cherry). They have already “seen the light”. They understand that collaboration and celebration create an atmosphere of positivity and fun.

The second reason I am feeling a little down is that I finally understand what it means to stand up for what you believe in. To go against the grain.  Brian Costello (@btcostello) really hammered home the point when told a tale all too familiar to me about teachers who stop talking when you walk in the room.  It is a lonely place sometimes to stand up and say to your coworkers I am not going along with you anymore. I am going to do what I think is best for my students.  Teachers call you a brown noser because you work alongside administration instead of against them. Who think that because you work hard to cultivate relationships with everyone (parents, students, custodians, secretaries, and teachers) you have an ulterior motive.  During the Schoolburger: The ingredients for better schools (#principalplnBIE Session Notes) one of the presenters stated, “you can be comfortable or you can be brave”.  This is true and it is hard to constantly feel like an outcast.

I understand that we are at a crossroads in education. Every day more teachers are realizing being a connected educator is the only way to reinvigorate a career where we are feeling the squeeze from all sides.  We will reach the tipping point where there will be more connected educators than isolationists.

Part of my problem is that so many of my PLN was there today.  The conversations seemed easy and comfortable.  The discussions were passionate and student based. This is what I crave. People who get me, my sense of humor, and understand under the goofiness I love kids. My PLN are educational leaders who put test scores secondary and a growth mindset first. I am invigorated from a day of learning and increased camaraderie and simultaneously saddened by the realization that we still have such a long way to go.

Technology in PE blog continued:

This year I have been trying to push my teaching to a whole new level.  I have increased the use of technology to an almost absurd degree.  My students have started to blog using Kidblog.  Their initial post was simply an about me post.  Like most use of technology there have been many bumps along the way.  While Kidblog is a great forum to post blogs for my students because I can control every aspect of what is posted whether it is an initial post or someone’s comment on the post, it is a little difficult to navigate.  You have to log in twice to get to your posts and once you are logged in it is difficult to find other classes that use Kidblog.  My PLN has numerous teachers who use it so I am very lucky to have classes that I can hook up with.  Some teachers that use it are @pernilleripp, @NicholasEndlich, and @Gordonn3.  My students have been great struggling along with me as we figure out what works as well as what doesn’t.

The biggest problem I have had so far is the students are so anxious to help each other out when they are struggling.  I am constantly reminding them that they can use verbal directions to walk them through how to do something but they are not allowed to physically do the task for their classmates.  Technology is like any other skill.  Some will pick it up quicker than others, but the only way to master the skill is by doing it yourself.

The next step in the process is for my students’ to blog about why physical education is important to them.  This will help me see what they think of my class.  I will inform them that they can write they are learning nothing or what they don’t like about physical education as well. They need to understand that their point of view is important and it shouldn’t have to be filtered because I gave the assignment.

In the future we still have Edmodo, Google Hangouts, Youtube videos, and much more to learn and use in my class. Hopefully my students’ are using technology to learn and are not only learning how to use technology.

Back to School

Back to school (Imagine Adam Sandler singing it)

Back to school.  Here we go. The I’m going back to school assignment…  The only difference between this assignment and every other back to school assignment done in the world is that I am the teacher and I gave myself the assignment this time.   This isn’t going to be the what I did this summer blog. Instead it’s going to be the what I have to look forward to this school year blog.

This year Mr. Nick Gordon, a physical education teacher from Wales, and I are going to be working together to create a new and unique learning opportunity for our students.  We are going to encourage our children to connect with peers on another continent.  The way we will do this is by utilizing every avenue of technology that we can get a hold of for free.  Our students will range from 11 to 13 years of age.

We will start out by writing a blog and posting it on our own website for both schools to see. This will be a nice preview for our students to understand why they will be blogging.  Mr. Gordon and myself will be using Kidblog and requiring that our students post at least one blog to their counterparts across the pond.  If anyone needs to understand why blogging is so important for children I beg you to read Pernille Ripp’s blog.  Our collaboration with Wales will knock her 6th point right out of the water!!

After that we will be using Edmodo to allow our students to have 24 hour access to each other under the watchful eyes of the “The Men”.  This will help our students create closer relationships as well as allow them to foster friendships on their own.  Edmodo gives us the ability to push out assignments or links as well.

If things haven’t gotten techy enough for you just wait one moment!! Twitter and Youtube will allow the students to post pictures and videos for the other class to access instantly.  This is where the students will take true ownership of their learning.  This is common in their world.  They post pictures and videos of themselves online every day. Why wouldn’t we encourage them to take pictures and videos of themselves during their mastery of education?

This will be our first real year collaborating with Mr. Gordon’s class.  I am filled with excitement and awe at the things we can accomplish.  What ideas will my students come up with themselves?  Will they want to learn about the Welsh people and customs?  Will our students be motivated to work harder in class because they know that their effort will be seen by people across the world? Will this be the way education works in the future or will it be a huge distraction that takes all our time and energy but ends up falling flat?

The opportunity that my students have this year will be unlike they have ever had before.  They will be using technology to learn not learning to use technology.  There will be an opportunity to realize that there is an entire world out there and our little town is just one part of it.  Real, meaningful, authentic learning can and should be accomplished this year.  Mr. Gordon and I are making the jump of faith that this will be an adventure worth taking this year. After all if we aren’t growing as teachers we are dying.

If you are still reading this that last line was a little melodramatic I know. If you are a Springfield 6th grader please continue reading. If you are not our short journey together is over.  I thank you for your time. Springfield students please post a reaction to this blog by clicking on the comment box below the blog.