Work Smarter, Not Harder: How Google Forms Really Work in the Classroom

There are many uses I have found for Google Apps for education, but one of my favorites has been to use Google Forms to collect information from my students and their parents.  Below are a few of the ways that I use them in my classroom.

What it is and How it Works:

Google Forms basically allows you to create a basic webpage for collecting data.  There are many question options and customizable features, but the best part is what it does with the data once it collects it.

For every Google Form you create, a separate Google Sheet (Google’s version of Microsoft Excel) is created automatically which collects the data and organizes it into categories corresponding to the questions asked.  This data can then be easily reviewed, downloaded and even applied to gradebooks depending on the software used.

Form Uses for Teachers

Google Forms offers many great features for teachers to use in their classrooms, here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Self-grading quizzes: have an assessment that you want to give and grade it fast?  If it is multiple choice, Google Forms is an excellent tool to use, especially with the Google Sheets add-on Flubaroo, which does the work for you by grading the test itself.  If it is long answer, all responses are still collected into Google Sheets, so you can read each response quickly and without fear of losing your eyesight from your student’s handwriting.
  2. E-mail/data collection: At the beginning of each year, I collect e-mail and contact information from parents of students so that we can keep in touch throughout the school year about important events or student concerns.  I’ll explain this further below.
  3. Bell ringer/exit tickets: For quick access at the beginning or end of the class, students can type into Google Forms or click on a few multiple choice questions without students wasting paper, or teachers struggling to collect typical exit tickets on post-it notes or scrap paper.
  4. Surveys/check-in activities: Want to know how the students are feeling about your classroom setup?  Wonder if parents are happy with classroom expectations?  What about a student reflection activity on their progress so far?  All again are very easy options to create and collect using Google Forms.

Here are two images of an example quiz and the accompanying Google Sheet below:

Google Form Quiz

An example chapter quiz using Google Forms

Google Form Quiz Response

The Google Sheet that is automatically created and populated once students enter their information (names removed for anonymity)

How to Make a Form

New to forms?  Try the following simple steps below to quickly make an awesome form for your classroom:

1)Go to Forms

Type the URL https://forms.google.com -or- Under Drive, click the red ‘New’ button on the upper left side of the screen, scroll down to the ‘More’ option and hit ‘Forms’.

2) Make your form!

You can choose from a variety of question types, including short answer, multiple choice, or check box responses.  You are also able to decide whether you want to make the question a required one or not, meaning that the user cannot finish your form without answering that particular question.

3) Change the theme

Think your form lacks flair?  Then mix things up by clicking on the ‘change theme’ button at the top of the screen.  There are a variety of options to choose from to make the ultimate form to match your personality.

*Note: In order to track the name of each student, make sure to either collect the e-mail addresses of each participant or to require the first question be “Your Name” so that you will know who submitted each set of answers.

E-Mail/Data Collection

As a teacher, I like to keep in communication with the parents of my students.  Whether it is for individual student concerns, upcoming major assignments or important events at school, having direct e-mail access makes a big difference in keeping parents in support of our classroom.

As a Google School, all of our students are supplied with G-mail e-mail addresses, but how would I contact the parents?

In the past, I had 2 options: 1) use the MiStar grading system to attempt to access e-mails, some however are outdated, missing, or only gave access to one parent in a household, not ideal for the realities of homelife today. 2) Ask each parent to write out their e-mail address on the bottom of my syllabus.  Then I could spend several hours identifying poor hand-writing and manually typing out an e-mail address for everyone.

With Google Forms, all of this hassle has been taken care of!  Here are the steps to making an e-mail distribution list:

  1. Create your own Google Form following the steps above.  You can see my example here.
  2. Click the ‘Send Form’ button at the top right of the screen, underneath where it displays ‘link to share’, click the ‘Short Url’ button so that you have a smaller link to the form to share.
  3. You can display the link on your class webpage, or add it to the bottom of your syllabus at the beginning of the year.
  4. Every time a participant visits the link and fills out the form, their answers automatically populate to the corresponding Google Sheet.  The Google Sheet will have the same name as your Google Form with the word (Responses) in parentheses behind it, and it will be located in the same place in your Drive folders as well.
  5. Monitor the sheet and check off every student.  You are able to type in information manually into the Google Sheet also in case anyone experiences a technical difficulty.
  6. Once your sheet is completed, click the ‘File’ tab on the top left of the screen and select the option ‘Download as’- you want to download it as a CSV (Comma Separated Values) File.
  7. In your Google E-mail account, open your contacts list by clicking on the ‘Mail’ icon at the top left of the page, scroll down until you find the option ‘Import Contacts’, import the CSV file you just saved and let it do its magic.
  8. You will now have a list of all the names that you just uploaded, change the name of the contact group to whatever you will remember (I label it ‘parents’)
  9. You can now e-mail your entire list simply by typing in parents in the ‘TO’ field of an e-mail! It’s that simple!  You can also message individual parents simply by typing in the name of the contact.

And it is that simple- the saying goes “work harder not smarter”, and Google Forms allows you to do exactly that.

Any questions, concerns, or thoughts on the subject!  Please comment below:-)

Education for All: Breaking down the German dual vocational system

What do you want to be when you grow up?   What path do you need to take to get there?

In America these are the top questions plaguing high school students around the country.  Whether children are successful at being students or not, many are leaving our schools each year without a clue as to a prospective career.  What few question however, is the importance of a college education.

In the American school system it is generally believed that to gain importance and to earn a lot of money, one must have good grades and complete a degree beyond the high school level.  In order to find this success, many students eventually go to some form of university.  In 2013, 65.9% of American students leaving high school attended college.  Still unsure of what they want to do with their lives, they are only told this is what expected of them without having any specific path to take. “Take general required coursework while you figure it out,” is a common, frustrating response to this issue.

This leads to further problems, as in order to achieve their “dreams” many students must take on boatloads of debt.  According to a recent TICAS survey, 7 in 10 students who had graduated from college took on loan debt in order to achieve their degrees- which averaged around 28,400 dollars a student.  That’s a lot of money.  But for what?  According to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey, almost half of employees that were surveyed found first-jobs out of college that were not related to their degree, and almost a third never found a job based on the degree they received in college.  While college is a great path for many students to achieve their dreams, the reality is that many more students are left behind, taking extra years to develop a plan, graduating with a meaningless degree, or dropping out altogether .  In the meantime universities get richer (and more expensive to handle the growing student body) and many students leave college with poor chances and an incredible amount of debt.  But college is the only way to find success in life.  There is no other choice in school, is there?

In my previous post I described Germany’s unique and effective educational system, but what I did not fully elaborate on is the “so what?” aspect of their experience. Does the German approach to tracked education in high school lead to better results in their workforce?

The German Plan

As a quick recap on German education, at the end of their elementary school experience, students are tracked based on teacher feedback and parent input and placed into one of 3 high school options- a lower, middle, and higher system of education.  Students in the lower high school (Hauptschule) tend to work in service industry fields and learn life skills.  The Gymnasium, or the highest high school, is for students who are very strong academically and who wish to attend university for careers in fields such as education, medicine, or law.

What I am describing today however is the benefits of the Middle High School, or Realschule approach to education.

In the Realschule, schools utilize dual vocational curriculum, meaning that their students get paired with companies in order to prepare them for future careers in a related field.

The Dual Vocational Approach:

1) Students attend work fairs at their high schools where companies can explain what they do and showcase what a future would look like in their organization.  Job options range from engineering fields to health care to human resources.  When students find a workplace that matches their interests, they can apply to become interns for the organization.

2) Once companies receive their pool of candidates, they go through interviews and sign students on as interns.

3) Students then spend the remaining 3-4 years of schooling working as a paid employee for the organization while also attending school for classes relevant to their needed skills.  The format varies by company, but essentially students spend about half of their time in school learning skills and half the time applying the experience on the job, working closely with mentors.

4) At the conclusion of the their program, students take a test based on their skill set.  Students who pass earn a certificate declaring the students as a master of their craft, and grant them the right to work anywhere in the country in that profession.  But at this point there is a great impetus for the both the employer and the employee to continue on their relationship.  In most cases the workers end up staying with their initial company for their entire career- as they are highly trained and skilled in their occupation already, are familiar with their colleagues, and well compensated for their time.

This is in stark contrast to the American model, where typically students take a survey in high school through a counselor about careers that may be right for them, college is pushed for all (especially for students with higher grades), and many technical courses are relegated to students who don’t fit the system or who earn poor marks in school.  Unfortunately in America technical training in high school is underfunded and also lacks support from the teachers as a viable option for all students. So the question is, if college isn’t really a fit for every student, why aren’t vocational schools or programs being promoted more often in our educational system?  Are adults with vocational certificates earning significantly less than ones with college degrees?

The answer is no, in fact according to a 2012 survey through Georgetown University, Post-secondary Certificate programs are an ideal choice for students looking to make a middle class wage based on faster training time (1-2 years) and the financial investment required.   In fact, 40% of certificate holders earn more than the average person with an associates degree, and 24% earn more than someone with a bachelors degree.  Meaning a student who struggles in Social Studies but enjoys working with computers can still average around 72,000 annually if they are pushed in that direction.

As a result of the tracked educational path, Germany today is again considered an economic superpower with a strong manufacturing industry, and people are quite satisfied with their jobs.  One of the outcomes of this is that they have a very low unemployment rate of 4.7% currently.  This is because people are being put in positions that better align to their interests because the schools are set up to better suit their needs.  There is also no negative stigma around people who work in the skilled trades in Germany.  In fact, interns are taught to take pride in their work, and since they must pass a test to be certified in craft, customers can trust in the work that a certified craftsman does for them as well.

Ultimately in Germany, vocational training is an effective option for many students who do not need to go to college to find success.  In this system, students are placed into career paths at an earlier age and take the process much more seriously.  Companies invest time and money into making sure that students are well-trained and their internship programs allow them to better plan for their future employment needs.  Interns train on the job under the guidance of veterans so that they can best support and eventually replace the older employees when they retire.  This means much better productivity for companies as new workers come onto the job expertly trained in the position of need.

Company visits:

In order to see these programs in action, we went to two different German corporations: Siemens, the largest engineering company in Europe, and Pfleiderer, a particle board manufacturer.

At Siemens we had the opportunity to walk through the facilities and see what their dual vocational training program looked like in person.  In one room, I saw students programming code into a computer in order to make an object that could be printed out using a 3-D printer.  In another room we watched students learning to work together as a team to make different portions of a miniature assembly line.  The teacher would instruct on skills and general principles for the day to help the students in their progress.  Yet in another room, students were adjusting sawing machines to the correct specifications in order to whittle a particular product for a miniature truck they were building.  It is this type of relevant job-specific experience that a company values as it presents hands-on experience for their workforce and pride in their employees.  How proud would a student in their classroom be to come home from a day at school where they earned a paycheck and were able to create something real to share with their family?  With hands on training and purposeful work each day, I noticed no one seemed to be falling asleep in these classrooms.

Later we had lunch on top floor of Siemens, an amazing experience, but I mention it because even the master chef had interns earning their culinary degree under his leadership.  How long do we have to wait for in America before we even find out if we enjoy the field we are working in?  As a teacher, I know that I didn’t interact with students in a classroom until the fourth year of my college program, while in high school, these students are already practicing in their chosen field of study.

At Pfleiderer we listened to the story of an intern in their workforce who I’ll call Anna for purposes of anonymity.  Anna struggled in school as a child and had to work hard to earn decent grades in her early years.  When she went to Realschule, she wasn’t sure about what she wanted to do with her life until she went to a job fair and met the people at Pfleiderer.  Today, she is in her third year in the HR division of the company, she is knowledgeable, competent, and more importantly proud of herself and assured of a bright future.

It was powerful to see the passion in the workers we met and understand how this program was created to empower students who may otherwise get left behind in school.  One final thing that stuck with me was that with every industry leader we met, the same message kept coming across- for the companies involved in Germany, the social responsibility to help support and educate the next generation of workers came first.  The financial benefits were not the motivator, but rather the byproduct of this excellent system.

Though I have been touting the benefits of the dual vocational system, there are also some concerns to address about such a program as well:

Early Choices

The biggest potential concern is that 14-15 years old can be an awfully young age to decide your life.  For instance, I’m not sure at that young age I would have decided to become a teacher- though I would have likely found pride in a steady paying job that would have a guaranteed future as well.  But in the end if schools focused earlier on career options for students, many would likely be able to find something that fit their interests.

Tracking

Tracking is never a perfect plan- as essentially students futures are often decided before they have fully matured.  One thing to note however is that parents in Germany do have input as well and students can switch paths if necessary.  In American education there are also more chances to start over than in Germany.  But ultimately the majority of students in the Realschule find success in vocational training programs that lead to successful careers.

A purposeful education should help to find the strengths in every student, and help individuals to pursue a path to make them successful.  We need to stop focusing on the “university for every child” approach when it clearly isn’t working.  Students need access to real opportunities earlier in their educational experience so they can identify their strengths and better plan their futures.  While any system faces its challenges- the German Dual Vocational system offers better choice for students who aren’t interested in attending university.  We need to offer better school-workplace partnership programs that are valued and supported as options for all students.  The American dream is not working for every child in our school systems, let’s wake up and make changes so that together we all can find success.

The Power of Positivity

Why the biggest change we need to make this year lies in ourselves.

 

Last month I agreed to challenge myself to spending a month without complaining.  How difficult could this be?  I asked myself.  A friend had posted this challenge on a popular social media site and immediately I decided to jump at the opportunity.  Why?  I’ll admit it, I always enjoy challenging myself in new ways and furthermore, I wasn’t happy with my mood lately.  It was the end of a school year that was particularly difficult for me due to many factors.  But what I soon discovered was much more important- being positive today is more difficult than ever, but the reward is worth the effort.

On the job as well as in our personal lives, we are more stressed out than ever.  The modern teacher must be able to decorate a classroom, maintain discipline, plan and develop curriculum, differentiate instruction, collaborate with colleagues, report to administration, and prove effectiveness all while keeping grades up-to-date and communicating concerns with parents at home.  Add in that most teachers supplement their workdays with additional clubs, tutoring, or coaching opportunities and it places a great deal of stress on our shoulders to be as efficient as possible with our time.  We are also humans too– trying to pretend that our personal lives don’t bleed into our attitudes at work is also a lie.  But it is incredibly important to leave negative emotions at the door in the classroom in order to achieve the best results for our students.

In the end-of-the-year evaluation my students completed, they labeled teacher attitude as the number one factor affecting their enthusiasm for class work each day.  When greeted with energy and excitement, they felt that they were able to focus more than in a negative or dull environment.  This should not be surprising, as students’ emotional needs must be met before they can focus on their learning.  If your students can sense that you do not want to be in class that day, how do you think they will feel as you continue with your lesson?  As an amateur actor myself, I believe that my greatest roles have not come on stage, but with the group of students I lead in my classroom on a daily basis.  In order to drive student engagement I have to identify exciting approaches to content, make meaningful connections with the students and adapt on the fly when I identify that something isn’t working in a particular lesson.

It is easy to explain factors for negativity today, but more important are the solutions to the issue.  Below are some important keys I find to staying positive in my life:

1)      Look for the good in everything.

 

This sounds simple, but the common expression “the glass is either half-empty or half-full“ points out an interesting conundrum in life- most experiences are neither bad nor good on their own, but can be interpreted very differently depending on the lens of the person experiencing them.  Taking a car accident for example, person A may be angry that they now have to deal with the damage to their vehicle while person B may be thankful they survived the ordeal and that no one was hurt.  Clearly in this situation both drivers have suffered, but the one who is positive tends to come to a better outcome.  Why? When we are in a poor state of mind, we tend to be more reactionary as individuals, blaming our luck, poor circumstances or even others for our problems.  Conversely, the person who is able to identify the positives even in the most challenging situations will glean lessons from the experience and will typically feel more empowered to take action.  Due to their belief that something better can come of a bad situation, they tend to think of better solutions and take action quicker than their counterparts.  In short, positive people persist no matter the obstacle they face.

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As educators, positivity can readjust our thinking and allow us to further grow our craft.  Take a challenging student for example.  It is easy to quickly label them as a problem, readjust their seat in the classroom and to develop a contentious relationship with them early on in the school year.  The key however, lies in looking beyond the behaviors in order to better understand the reason for their choices.  Student issues can range from lack of understanding, negative friendships, social ostracism, even to family issues at home.  By developing personal relationships with our students early on, it is easier to identify both strengths and concerns, and to develop a more personalized approach to their success.  This varies on a case-by-case basis based on the needs of the student.  For example, a student who seeks attention may benefit when given a special role in classroom activities, such as passing out or collecting homework each day.  Students who are more withdrawn may need someone who can identify their interests and talk them up on the subject between classes.  But for all students, it is important to acknowledge their personal victories, no matter how small.  This can be done by contacting home to tell the parents about their great attitude in class that day or simply making a quick positive comment to them on the way out the door.  By fostering personal relationships, we in turn receive a stronger investment from the students we teach.  This starts on day one during the school year- while it is important to talk with colleagues and to be informed about the students first entering our classroom, it is also just as important to give each student a fresh start.  This means to avoid snap judgments and to find methods to empower students who traditionally struggle or act out during class.  Every day we must be willing to come into the classroom and treat our learners with the same positivity and respect that we want from them, regardless of the behavior from the previous day.

Secondly there may be lessons in class that just don’t land, or situations that arise that our somehow beyond our control, but it is important to remember that every failed lesson or challenge we face can teach us how to improve for the future.  At the end of each day, reflect on the daily events and decide two things: what went well, and what do I need to improve on next time?  Even if something did not work out, there are always opportunities within failure if we are willing to learn and make adjustments.  Reflection allows us to identify our strengths and bolster our weaknesses.

And what if a problematic situation arises that is beyond our control?  Look beyond your frustration to understand why the concern came up in the first place.  There will always be times when people above you make decisions that you may not agree with, but it is how you take on the challenge that will ultimately determine the result.  Moping and complaining do nothing more than waste time that could be better spent finding potential benefits or solutions to the issue at hand.  Skip the negativity and decide for yourself how can I turn this problem into a solution that benefits everyone involved?  Administration will also take notice of the people that are willing to act on initiatives and take chances rather than complain and drag their feet.

 

2)      Pay attention to what you say and how you act.

 

Smiles are contagious, and the way you project your emotions and personality affects the feelings of the people around you as well.  Take a greeting, for example, if you walk up to someone with a smile, open arms, and an enthusiastic greeting, they will react much more positively than if you drift up with your hands in your pockets and a frown.  This is because people like being around others who make them feel better about themselves and life in general.

Taking this into educational context, ask yourself what the students see first on a daily basis when entering your classroom.  A friendly greeting in the hallway goes much further for a student than strolling past a teacher huddled over their desk checking e-mails or grading papers.  Making small adjustments at the beginning of a class can lead to big results later on.  During instruction, make sure to show the students that you really value and understand the lesson you are teaching.  If you take the material enthusiastically and can connect real world value to a lesson it will help students to follow suit.  The material we teach is only as half as important as the passion in which we deliver it.

The environment also makes a big difference, is your classroom experience warm and inviting, or cold and nondescript?  Find ways to take advantage of your atmosphere to encourage excitement from the students.  Can’t afford fancy posters?  What can you have students create at the beginning of the year that can serve as motivators or make their room more personalized?  Don’t be afraid to mix things up for lessons either- desks and chairs aren’t bolted to the floor for a reason- how can you best set up your classroom for the needs of the day?  In my humanities class, for example, when we were studying the topic of apartheid, I set up a scenario where the minority privileged group were treated like royalty and had free run of the classroom and printouts of all the materials, while the majority sat on the floor, fighting over supplies and struggling to understand their treatment.  The ensuing interaction and discussion led to an experience that the students walked away remembering and sharing, no matter how strong my PowerPoint lecture was supposed to be.  Long and short of it is that students need to feel that they matter, and if you make an effort to take a personal interest in their lives, and make the material they learn real for them, then they will be willing to do much more for you later on.  Connect with, support, and believe in your students, and you will find their capability boundless.

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3)      Choose your friends wisely.

 

Have you ever had that friend who complained about everything: The weather, the person who wronged them at the store that day, why their job sucks, etc?  How excited are you to spend time with them on a daily basis?  Misery may love company, but company prefers happiness.  How do people choose their friends?  People tend to migrate toward individuals who make them feel better about themselves and their lives.  In business, how do we choose our leaders?  Leaders are people who can inspire passion and enthusiasm in others, and it is no different in the social arena either.  Maintaining a positive outlook not only helps you to preserve and foster relationships, but it helps others to see you as a leader and people will want to be around you more often.  Everyone loves the person that can make them laugh, while we have all had hard times in our lives, it is the happy people we tend to keep going back to time and again because they improve our lives as well.

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We’ve all heard this before, but choosing to stay around negative people yields a greater cost than you may think.  We are always emotionally influenced and affected by the people we spend our time with.  Even if you are the positive friend in a negative group, you are being brought down by your peers more than you realize.  Particularly this is true in the workplace, where disgruntled coworkers look to others for sympathy or agreement.  While everyone has a bad day and it is important to support a friend, some people never seem willing to break out of this cycle of sadness.  It is okay to be supportive, but if you are in the company of a constant complainer, avoid giving advice no matter how strong the urge is, or try to even change topics entirely.  After all, many of the people who complain to you about others likely do the same behind your back, and many negative people also tend to resent those who they deem as positive “do-gooders” and may actually be offending by your attempting to help.

Still want to keep the negative friends?  Moving with a negative crowd can lead to damaging consequences on the job as well.  What does your employer think of you when they see you around the negative, gossipy complainers at work?  Sometimes guilt-by-association is just as bad as the actual practice of performing the unscrupulous action.  You may get passed over for an exciting opportunity or job because your boss has the wrong impression of your attitude.  Conversely, spending your time with coworkers that are passionate about their jobs not only pays dividends with the impression you make on coworkers and leadership, but can lead to great resources and connections going forward.  Remember, you are who you choose to surround yourself with.  When you put yourself around happy, motivated people, chances are you will feel more enthusiastic and energetic yourself.

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4)      Worry about yourself.

 

The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill.  But with every different position, association, role or seat at the table of life comes a litany of responsibilities and consequences you never dreamed of.  Spend your time supporting the people around you and the paths they take in life.  It is easy to become envious of others, but focus on the things that make you give you joy.  You owe it to yourself to do the things that make you happy, and you owe it to your friends to support them in their own choices as well.  There are many paths to success in life and no one journey is the same as the next.  Choose which path is right for you, and don’t be afraid to take some turns along the way if something doesn’t work out.  Every journey in life has its share of celebration and regret, but make sure that in the end you are happy with the choices you’ve made.

It is also important to remember that self confidence is key in every situation.  You will never be able to control what everyone thinks about you or says to others when you are not in the room.  And honestly, it shouldn’t matter.  Know that you are truly special in your own way, spend your time perfecting your strengths and don’t worry about the lives of others beyond supporting the wonderful people around you.  Respect yourself and love who you are, stop regretting the past and focus on the future.  It is never too late to become the person you want to be.

 

5)      Manage your time wisely.

 

Set aside time for yourself.  It is indeed possible to fly too close to the sun when you attempt to reach for the stars in your career.  Make sure that you are able to find time to live a full life beyond the walls of your workplace.  Most teachers today take their work home with them, and spend many hours planning instruction, catching up on grades and e-mails before we return to work the next day.  While it is important to meet deadlines in an appropriate amount of time, no one can work every waking moment of their day.  Find ways to reduce the workload into more manageable sessions, plan out small breaks or rewards for yourself.  Exercise, read, or find a hobby that interests you beyond the confines of your workplace.  Plan your time in advance so you know what must be done, but you can also find time to relax in between your required activities.  Life is only worth living if you are able to make the time to do so, and no one will ever willingly take work off your plate, either, that decision is up to you.  Set goals that are achievable so that when you accomplish them, you feel further empowered and enthusiastic, rather than defeated by expectations that are too lofty for anyone to accomplish.

 

 

Simply put – A negative person is more likely to bring others down and blame outside forces or people for their problems, while a positive person is more likely to feel in control of their circumstances, and feel empowered to make changes to correct an issue.  Step up and be more positive with your life- there are countless reasons why it is better for you in every way in the long term.  As a word of caution- this is by no means intended to be the “next fad diet” where you spend the next month being positive to the people around you, before you regrettably binge on the fat of negativity when you put yourself around the wrong people again.  No one will ever be 100 percent happy, 100 percent of the time- just ask anyone who has ever had to make a phone call to his cable company-  But making small, meaningful goals for being more positive will yield results quicker than you think.  Put the right practices into place now, and pretty soon, your positive feelings will become a happy habit that you will wonder how you ever lived without.

Let Them Speak: Increasing Student Engagement in the Classroom

Today, more than ever, teachers struggle to keep students engaged and focused in the classroom.  And with little doubt, this has to do with the increasing amount of technology and other various options at their disposal. For instance, on one student’s device, they can simultaneously play their favorite game, text a friend, and look up the latest scores for their favorite sports team.  So how can we engage these students and keep them involved in our activities?  The growing response to this concern is to focus on the individualization of instruction, gauging a particular students’ strengths, needs, and interests, and charting a personal course for them.  However, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel for every class period, and we do not need the latest technology to keep our students engaged either.  We need to listen to the voices that come into our classrooms every day, and put more power back in the hands of the students themselves.  This can be accomplished with three simple words- reflect, revise, and relinquish- and it will make a significant difference in the quality of our classrooms.

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Why Teach?

I was always destined to teach.  For me, the title was optional, I just always felt the need to help others in some way.  As a child, I always wanted to be a super hero, engrossed in comic books that depicted exploits of men and women far more amazing than I, and the battles they encountered every day to make the world a better place.  To me, this sounded incredible- saving the world seemed like a very enticing career choice, if only I could leap buildings, soar through the air, or pick up trains without breaking a sweat…  However this also felt slightly unrealistic, as I quickly learned that I did not possess any of these special talents beyond ‘reading quickly’, ‘eating without gaining weight’, or ‘waking up early’, and those felt like pretty lame super abilities.  Very early on, I decided that even if I wasn’t specially gifted with a superhuman faculty, I still wanted to help others in some way- but how? Continue reading