Saturday, November 11, 2023

Planners Your Students Can Do

In late September, I shared how I have helped students with organization - they need a lot of help! - and I promised I'd be back with my thoughts on planners. It's 2023 - most schools are in 1-to-1 situations, so I'm sure the assumption is planners should also be digital, right? I disagree!

As with most of my advice, there is NO clear answer. There is NO "one-size-fits-all" answer either. There ARE a lot of factors to consider and there are a lot of options. That's part of the problem. Let's break it down ...

Factors to consider:
  • AGE - the younger the student, the more direct support needed - whether it's on paper or it's digital. This isn't news to you; this is true of everything! Younger students probably should have a paper option, especially if they are not 1:1 with a device they bring home from school.

  • TEAM/DISTRICT guidelines - ideally, you are working with a larger group to scaffold the supports and bigger picture of what using a planner looks like. What does the grade younger than you do ... what about the grade above you?

  • OPTIONS - ... do you have an LMS? ... can you provide paper planners? ... what does the parent side look like?

  • DEVICE SET-UP - if your students are 1:1, do they take them home? If a school device goes home, a digital planner might be a great option. If a school device doesn't go home, a paper planner might be a better option.
When my previous district went 1:1 with chromebooks, it was decided to NOT provide paper planners to our students. I was in a middle school - grades 5-8, I was teaching 7th & 8th - and it might seem like that is the logical step. I took a different approach. I created the following presentation to go over options with my students. Please keep in mind this was roughly 10 years ago ... I've not updated it. 

But it did help ... it showed my students there typically isn't just one way. They don't have to be locked into one path. It showed them they can make decisions. And ultimately, it allowed me to support my students in a manner that helps them.

If your district mandates one method over another, do yourself and your students a favor:

Follow it. Follow it with a passion. 

Don't complain about it to your students. We don't always get to choose our path. Be a good example of what to do when this happens.

Don't make keeping track of work a more difficult path than it needs to be. We are cramming so much content into our students on a regular basis, keep this as easy as possible.

Some kind of planner method is necessary in today's classroom. Picking the one that works best for your students is important, and hopefully can be a building or district wide one to make it something that truly works for ALL of the students, teachers, and parents.

How about you teachers???
Do you have a favorite planner? I am constantly on the look out for that "perfect" planner ... this school year I've got one that is a weekly lay out with a month overview. I'm finding the weekly lay out is my go to. If you've got a favorite, drop it in the comments ... I'd love to check it out! 

*** BONUS if it's a bullet journal!!! I'm fascinated by these, but super intimidated! ***

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Saturday, October 21, 2023

Quick Tip: "Tab-aholics" You Can Do this!

I've recently encountered a few fellow "tab-aholics" who apologized for the number of tabs they had open. I always smile and laugh when I find another member of the the club I fondly refer to as "tab-aholics" ... aka, the people who have what seems to be a ridiculous amount of tabs open. I assure them they aren't alone and that I, too, am part of this club. I take it one step further and usually have several windows open with multiple tabs. And then, even one more step, I have all of my Google accounts set to "Continue where I left off" so when an update needs to push through, or I close Chrome, or my computer restarts unexpectedly, all of my much loved tabs pop right back open for me.

These new tab-aholic club members apologized because they were struggling to find the right tab and I showed them this quick tip. They found it super helpful, I wanted to be sure to put it out there for you, too.

Did you know you have the quick ability to search and locate a desired tab with 2 simple and easy methods?

Method #1: Hover
You can just hover over any tab with your cursor and it will tell you the name of what is open on that tab. It's as simple as that. Just move down the line - or hover of the icon you recognize for the application. VoilĂ ! This is my top choice for finding the tab.

Method #2: Use the "Search tabs" tool
In the upper right corner, you'll find a down facing carrot. Click on it and you'll see a vertical list of your tabs open in this window. Super convenient! Even better, if you're list is longer than the screen, you can start typing next to the magnifying glass and type in a word or so. Boom! 

I use both methods frequently. I know quite a few people who like the ability to group tabs, but I am not one of them ... yet. I might check into that, but if you are interested, here is a great shared write up from Sethi de Clercq, Boosting Productivity with Chrome’s Save Tab Group Feature.

Enjoy a more efficient way to find your tabs!

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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Student Organization You Can Do

Recently, I had a conversation about a topic I love. Organization - specifically, organization for students.

Some students naturally know how to be organized, others can and will learn it, and others will struggle. So what are we to do? 

Often, it feels like a losing battle. But remember, as with most everything, organization IS an important skill that needs to be taught, reinforced, and at times, adjusted. AND, as with most everything, there is NOT a single "right" way. Which is why organization is such a struggle.

Honestly, I loved working with my students on their organization. Together, we'd empty their locker, backpack, and folders. We'd pitch what wasn't needed, make a pile to ask about, and put the things in the place where it made sense. But it had to make sense to the student. Then I'd send them with their pile and ask the other teachers what, if anything, needed to be kept. They'd return with a smaller pile and we'd find a home for it. I am no organization wizard, but I had a heart for those students who'd walk around with papers shoved into folders and lockers that were bursting at the seams. And I'd make the time to help them organize. *full disclosure ... we had a study hall like period I'd utilize for this task* I'd do this several times during the year, as needed.

I taught social studies - a subject that had less pressure on it - so I coordinated with my team when we'd do a locker clean out. Typically, it was at the end of a grading period. It's wild what you find in lockers ... forgotten clothing, school supplies that had never made it to their "requester", even packed lunches the student had chosen to not eat! All amongst the typical random papers and pencils. When you do a locker & backpack clean out, you'll see a different side of your students. And you will find school supplies that need a home.

After a year or so, I got smart. The 1st day of school, I had a box to collect supplies for my team. Sharpies for art class that you won't have until 3rd quarter? No problem! I'll get them to the art teacher. Index cards for science - got you covered! They can all go in this box and live there until needed in science. Post-it notes for ELA - yep, drop them in and they will get moved over to the room. And so on.

Finally, one of my favorite parts ... end of the year. Have you ever looked at the supplies that are going to be thrown away? How about a 1/2 used notebook? Go ahead and rip out the used pages, put them in the recycling bin and I'll put the notebook in a cabinet for a student who really needs it. What will you do with that binder? Toss it? Nope, I'll put that in the cabinet and when someone needs it, it'll be there. When i switched positions, I had filled an entire cabinet with partially used notebooks, another cabinet with folders that had a little love to them, notebook paper, binders, index cards, and pencils. All of these supplies would have been throw away. I never asked questions when a student - even students who didn't come to me for class - needed a supply. Help yourself. [P.s. I never required students to leave supplies ... it was completely voluntary.]

Why do I share this today? 

I'm back teaching in the classroom and I'm part of these kinds of conversations again. I'm back at the middle school level where it is assumed these kids "know" how to organize. Most of them don't, or better put, they don't know how to organize.

The things I shared above are easy things we can do to help our students - ALL of them - get and stay organized. Small, easy tasks ... but ones students don't - no, WON'T - make time for. WE teachers need to make time for them. We need to show them it's important and that it takes a little bit of time and energy. And when we do that, ALL of our students will benefit. I promise.

Soon, I'll share about planners ... do you go digital? Or do you stick with paper? Which is better? 

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Saturday, August 12, 2023

Reflecting on 21 years ...

I have started a new chapter in my professional life. I have changed districts and positions. I know I don't share specifically about my employment or personal life often, but this is a BIG change for me. I've backed off of social media, presenting, and creating because this has consumed my heart. 

It wasn't an easy decision - just ask my husband - but it
IS the right decision for me. July and August have been packed with tears flowing freely; getting together with colleagues; phone calls with friends; and wrapping up the final chapter of my career in Ross. After all, Ross has made me into who I am professionally.

I am excited to take the next steps as the technology teacher for another district's middle school. I will work with 6th, 7th, & 8th grades. I already feel welcomed as a new staff member. And as I am getting to know my new professional home, I am finding quite a few similarities, while at the same time - big differences. 

Change isn't a bad thing (as I'm reminded quite often). Change allows for growth. Change allows for new challenges. Change provides new opportunities.

The infographic below is a quick overview of the last 21 years. Position changes, major life events, even the number of shirts I've collected! (And I was excited to use Canva again to create an infographic!)

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Sunday, July 16, 2023

New Adventures + old email You Can Do

Last week I shared my plan for what to do with your Google Drive if you are moving from one district to another in New Adventures + old files You Can Do . I do NOT recommend using Takeout or Transfer as I firmly believe we are all digital hoarders. If you are making a move, use this as an opportunity to go through your Drive and take what will benefit you, not what will weigh you down - and if your Drive was a mess then, it's not like it's going to clean itself up by moving to a new account!

Something else that you might need or want to look at as you move from one district to another is your Gmail. This one is a bit trickier. You can't really "export" emails. You can export your contacts.  But honestly ... stop and ask yourself ... which ones do you really need? And if you are brutally honest with yourself, I don't think you find there are all that many.

I'm going to share my thoughts - but this is all based on the idea that you have NOT tangled your personal emails with your school emails - meaning you don't handle bills or personal accounts through your school email address. If you DO, PLEASE STOP. I think of it as "multiple identities". Anything to do with home gets done with my personal Gmail. Anything related to my job, through school email. I don't cross these lines. Period.

Just with my Drive, I'm a big user of labels in my Gmail. Here's also where knowing some searching tips comes in really handy. When you find the ones you want to preserve, forward them to the newly created - or personal account - you are using to house the files you are taking with you.

Here are some things to think about:
  • Looking for an email(s) from a specific person? Search their name at the top ... and comb through the ones that appear.
  • Looking for an email(s) about a specific topic? Search the topic at the top ... and go through those.
  • If you use labels, think about which labels are worth even looking at - and go through JUST those.
  • Want to have email addresses for certain people? Search for one of their emails and forward that. Their email will show up for you.
You might just find there aren't a whole lot of emails you really need to keep. 

Good luck! Making changes is always hard - even when it's a really good change. 

Also, do NOT wait! Some districts are very strict about shutting off accounts. And once you are locked out, you could be locked out forever. 

FINAL tip: in the future, create in your personal account and share it to your school account. Then make a copy to use at school. Making it in your personal account will prevent the above 'song and dance' in the future.

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