As a teacher, one thing that I want my students to remember about me is that I truly cared about them. Every one of them. There is not one easy way to build this sense of family. I tend to not be the overly mushy-gushy type of person with my students. It's just not who I am. I don't change myself in the classroom, just as I would hope that they wouldn't change who they are for me. I treat my students the way I would treat my own if I had them. I hold each one of them to the same high standards and I expect each to at least meet, if not exceed these standards. Sliding by is not an option in my classroom. I want my students to be polite, kind, and responsible. I want them to love school and to want to succeed - not for me, but for themselves. I don't feel that having high standards means that we can't have a wonderful time in the classroom. I love my job and I feel this rubs off on my students. I am excited about the subjects I teach and in turn, they are excited to learn. I joke around with them and they know it's OK to joke around with me.
One way this year that we have been building that family is by reaching out to others. We meet regularly with Mrs. Shearin's class of students with special needs. We read with them and go outside to play with this group of students. My students love this opportunity to become teachers and friends to a group of students outside our classroom walls. The support and level of compassion I see them give each other never ceases to amaze me. My class has also been reaching out to the community around us by visiting Harbor Chase Senior Center. Working with adults who are significantly older than my students has really opened a lot of eyes in my classroom. We recently finished working on a project which required my students to interview the adults at Harbor Chase about how live has changed over the years. My students were so amazed at how life was different back in the 20s. (Below this post you can see a short version of the video the students created.) I love watching the interactions between the seniors and students. They learn more about life and sometimes even about themselves. These experiences might not make my students better test takers, but I am convinced that it will make them better people.
I have never been more proud of a group of students than of those in my class this year. Their character truly shines through every day. I hope that the things they learn in our classroom this year last a lifetime. I know that this will be true for me.
Well, we have officially completed 5 days of school and I am so happy to say that I seriously have a REMARKABLE group of students. I'm not just saying that. We started using the iPads on Friday and the learning curve this year is incredible. Each of my students has quickly picked up on the skills they need to successfully use the iPad as a learning tool. I am so excited to see where this year will take us.
One new adventure we are embarking on this year is student blogs. Each student has his or her own webpage hosted by Weebly, which includes a home page and an individual blog. There is a Weebly app that students are using on their iPads to create new posts on their sites. The app is very user friendly which has made it easy for the students to experience success! They have already been able to post twice to their blogs and many of them have been able to access their sites at home. Please be on the lookout to see what new and exciting things are to come in our class this year!
I have been wanting to make some crate seats for my classroom since last year. This summer, I finally found the time to make them! And when I say "I found time to make them" I mean, I finally asked for help cutting the wood to fit inside the crates (see: husband and father-in-law in pictures below). It's just better off that I'm not involved in the cutting. I've heard/read that Home Depot will make some of the cuts for you. However, when I asked the worker there, he said that they aren't all that accurate when cutting. "Not all that accurate" doesn't work for me. I'm pretty picky. FYI: Click any of the pictures to see the full sized image. :)
So, I have decided to create another couple of DonorsChoose projects for my classroom. I would like to get durable cases for the other half of the classroom iPads that don't have them, so my students can achieve more mobile and active learning with the devices. Please visit http://www.donorschoose.org/cgaffney and consider making a donation. Thank you so much!
For those of you who haven't heard heard of DonorsChoose before, here is a brief overview:
DonorsChoose is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Here's how it works: public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org. Then, you can browse project requests and give any amount to the one that inspires you. Once a project reaches its funding goal, the materials are delivered directly to the school. Donors get photos of your project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. If you give over $100, you'll also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students. At DonorsChoose.org, you can give as little as $1 and get the same level of choice, transparency, and feedback that is traditionally reserved for someone who gives millions.
*Update: 8.13.12 - Both of my projects have been fully funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation! Huge thanks go out to the foundation. Please check back periodically for new projects!
This past year has been a learning experience for me. My classroom was chosen to be an implementation classroom for a 1 to 1 iPad environment. I was so thrilled and nervous at the same time. I kept telling myself, I had done my homework - I was ready. And for the most part, I was. As with everything, there was a learning curve. At first I went through a stage where I thought it was all about the apps. That was OK for a little bit, but then I asked myself, "are my students truly learning and being challenged?" I didn't want the iPads to be thought of as devices for "playing," rather they were tools for learning. It was then, that my whole outlook started to change. I realized that I had been given a great gift and really needed to figure out how to effectively utilize the devices in a way that would positively impact student achievement.
I took a look at the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for students: http://www.iste.org/standards.aspx as well as the revised Digital Blooms: http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy. I realized that by just using apps for game based learning, my students were working on the opposite end of the spectrum from where I wanted them to be. They were "remembering and understanding" and I wanted them to be "creating and evaluating." This was the first big shift. I started having my students do more creating on the iPad and then evaluating each others' work. We created eBooks, videos, picture journals, etc. They reflected on Edmodo and commented on each others' posts. Many of these things I will continue to use and expand on in my classroom in the coming years... but I want more.
I have been reading up on and talking to people about Challenge Based Learning (aka: Project Based Learning). I have included a link to the Apple site which has a fairly comprehensive overview on CBL: https://challengebasedlearning.org/pages/about-cbl. I just finished reading a book by Ron Berger called "An Ethic of Excellence" which I highly recommend. I already have some ideas for projects/challenges that I want to undertake with this coming year's class which I'm really excited about. I will keep you up to date with how things are going as the projects roll themselves out!
At the end of each school year I do a small happy dance of victory. I'm not sure why, but I'm always - ALWAYS - surprised and impressed at how much my students grow during the course of a year. This is one reason I love teaching second grade. My students come in as tiny first graders at the beginning of the year. Then, after countless hours of hard work and tremendous effort on their part, the end of the year arrives and they are ready to leave me and begin their lives in third grade.
Now, when I say that my students grow, I mean this quite literally. This past year I had a student who grew a full 3.5 inches during the course of the year! Of course, they grow in other ways too. They learn to work collaboratively, sharing ideas and their own passion for learning. I watch as their personalities come to life, each one so different from the next. My students teach me so much about life and learning over the course of a year, and I thank them for that.
My classroom gets packed up so the floors can be waxed and I head home for the summer. I kicked off the summer right this year. My family came down to visit from WI, and we all vacationed together to Charleston. That lasted for one glorious week. I always give a small chuckle (oh, who am I kidding - usually it's a hearty laugh) when I hear someone comment on how nice it must be to have the summers completely free. I am looking at my calendar. There are 17 days that I will be either at school for some necessary purpose, or in some sort of district training/meeting for school related things. This doesn't count the few days I'll go into school just to "get some things done." In addition to the days spent at school, I have posted a picture of what my couch looks like right this second. What you are looking at are some of the things I've been working on this summer (this website being one of them). I don't say these things to complain. On the contrary, I actually love it. Friends of mine will attest - I have a hard time turning my brain off. I love this time during the summer where I can clearly reflect on the year and have actual time to make changes for the coming one.
Don't get me wrong. I love a good day at the pool as much at the next person, and rest assured that I will probably read over 10 books "just for fun." I might even squeeze a few movies in there or a day trip to the mall. But if during one of those activities an idea for school strikes me, you'd better believe I'll get my phone out faster than you can say iOS 6, and jot that idea down in Evernote so I can remember to work on it later.
My name is Carrie Gaffney. Someone once asked me a question that remains in the back of my mind and helps to shape my life: "How will you be remarkable?" I am continuously trying to discover new ways to answer that question.