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An Attitude of Gratitude

We taught my nephew to say “thank you” at a very young age. It was a family effort, and when he would forget he was prompted with raised eyebrows and a “What do you say?” He is now 7, but the lessons have continued for his younger brother, with the occasional exaggerated, “Could you please pass the butter? Thank you!” at the dinner table. He’ll catch on just like his brother did and soon the lessons will become less pronounced, the “thank yous” more second-nature.

During this month – dubbed “Teacher Appreciation” – I can’t help but think of these lessons and how important they are, not only for the young ones, but for us “older” ones, too. Is it really enough to dedicate a single month to showing teachers just how greatly they are appreciated? Absolutely not. We all know that. Teaching is a tremendously challenging occupation, one that does not get recognized nearly as much as it should. And it’s not just people on the “outside”; it’s us on the inside, too. When was the last time you showed gratitude for your students? Other teachers? For yourself?

When considering gratitude, you may think, “Well, I said thank you to my students yesterday for not kicking the stones on the playground.” Although it was probably much needed (we all need a gentle reminder from time to time), it’s not the thanks I’m talking about here. Instead, we can try finding ways to express genuine gratitude on a daily basis. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

 

Gratitude for your students

  • Post-its go a long way: A simple “Hey, great job yesterday!” stuck to a students’ desk in the morning can make all the difference. Want something a little greener? Try using a tool like ClassDojo to type a quick text to a student’s parent. It’ll be a great surprise!
  • Give your students voice: Taking the time to really hear someone is one of the highest forms of gratitude (and respect). Flipgrid is an easy way to provide students with opportunities to share their voice!

Gratitude for your colleagues

  • Collaborate with the best of them: Got a real team mentality at your school? Maybe you’re in need of one? Google recently introduced the Team Drive and it makes sharing your ideas and resources that much more efficient. What better way to thank a fellow teacher than by sharing an idea?
  • Give credit where credit’s due: We all work hard, so when we are fresh out of ideas, we often find ourselves sorting through skads of them on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, the works. Show your thanks by sharing your find and t@gging the owner of the idea. (I personally LOVE getting @ed on Twitter!)

Gratitude for yourself

  • Star in a movie: I would venture to say that this is the most important kind of gratitude. As teachers, we are constantly celebrating our students’ progress, but we don’t always recognize our own. This recognition is essential to our growth as teachers and can serve us greatly in terms of feeling accomplished and happy in what we do. In order to observe growth, take advantage of available technology and record your teaching from time to time. (SWIVLs are great if you have the funds, but anything will do!) You will be surprised to see how much you grow on a weekly basis.
  • Time machine: Not feeling the video? Perusing your Google Drive can have a similar effect. It can be shocking to see how much you’ve created and utilized over the months. When was the last time you looked back with an attitude of gratitude? Do yourself the favor and take some time this week; go back and “star” the lessons you liked most, comment on those that needed a little tweaking. You’ll be that much more prepared for next year.

I realize that time is of the essence in the teaching world, but I can’t stress how important it is to honor your journey as a teacher. We spend so much of our time following a pacing calendar, grading assessments, spotting the “developings” on our observation reports. Take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back. Pick up a mocha instead of a coffee; do whatever you have to do to thank yourself for sticking it out and showing up every day for your students.

Flip the Music Classroom with YouTube Videos

The Challenge

Mr. Chung is a music teacher at University Neighborhood High School in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. On average, he has more than thirty students per class period, making it virtually impossible for all of them to watch him playing instruments up close. Anyone who has learned to play an instrument knows how important these demonstrations are and on top of that, students can easily fall behind if they miss a class, because the lessons are taught “live” without a textbook or any other supplementary resources.

The Solution

While working with Kyle Liao, an instructional technology coach from Educate LLC, Mr. Chung began experimenting with video as a possible solution to the challenges he faced in his music classroom. At first, the Educate coach recorded Mr. Chung playing a few of the songs he’d been teaching in class, sharing them with students via YouTube. Mr. Chung quickly realized that the digital generation was excited to watch the videos outside of class time and continue practicing their instruments at home.

Over time, he saw the value in this model and since has been able to completely flip his classroom using video. As his work with the Educate coach progressed, he was able to create a Google Site to organize the growing video catalog, embed teacher notes, and annotate the clips. Mr. Chung now records all of his lessons and instrument demonstrations. He even encourages students to make their own demo videos as a rigorous form of assessment (i.e. high on Depth of KnowledgeBloom’s Taxonomy).

The Outcome

By recording his lessons and demonstrations, Mr. Chung can ensure that every student properly sees and hears his music instruction, even if they happen to miss a day of class. Moreover, student engagement has increased exponentially because students love using their personal mobile devices as a part of the learning experience. “They are way more willing to watch a video on YouTube than to listen to the words coming out of my mouth in the classroom,” he jokes.

In addition to increased engagement and better focus during classroom sessions, students are now spending more of their free time watching the videos and practicing their instruments. Mr. Chung also uses the videos as a form of differentiation, as students can pause and rewind the clips, learning the music at their own pace. Since the  majority of the instruction can now be done independently, students are less intimidated to get started with a new song or instrument. Their confident performances speak for themselves!

Make it happen in your classroom…

The Tools

The Steps

1. Record each lesson using a format that allows for a gradual release of responsibility where students can hear from the teacher first, try it along with the video, then pause the video and practice solo.
2. Upload and organize the videos on a classroom YouTube channel or other video hosting service approved by your district. If you use G Suite for Education, you can also easily create a free Google site and organize the videos there.
3. Record other demonstrations so that students can practice a variety of songs and techniques alongside a video example. Make sure each video has a specific and clear focus (such as playing a scale, a new song, or learning a chord).
4. Plan and teach classroom procedures that allow students to leverage computers or mobile devices to access the videos alongside their instruments. Consider allowing them to use their own cell phones if your school’s policy allows for it.
5. In order to assess students, have them record themselves playing their instrument and upload it as a private YouTube video or in a Google Drive folder for later review.

 

Podcasting: Empowering Students to Share Learning Beyond the Classroom

This guest blog was written by Nasrin Jafari and also published on her website.

Our students are more opinionated and informed about the world than any generation before them. Modern pop culture, technological advancement, and rapidly changing social norms have continuously given our students more opportunities outside the classroom for self-expression and connection with the world around them. Any teacher who knows the power of active learning environments will see this development as an opportunity to engage their students. And yet, the recent waves of standardization in instruction have made sharing student voices beyond the classroom harder than ever. We need to use technology in ways that empower young people to advocate for the changes that need to be made in their communities. Student podcasts are an effective medium for students to critically engage with content, draw connections between the classroom and their own realities, and – most importantly – take action on what they learn.

 

What are the benefits of creating a classroom podcast?

For one, creating a podcast challenges students to consider their audience, which is a crucial skill to learn not only for podcasting, but also for writing, forming new ideas, and navigating varied social settings. Creating a podcast also empowers students to discover and develop their unique voice through critically reflecting on their opinions and knowledge of the topic at hand while sharing them with a wider audience.

An example of a platform that elevates student voices is The Bell, a podcast co-founded by Taylor McGraw to promote a more urgent dialogue about inequities in the New York City public schools. In his extensive experience interviewing students for The Bell, Taylor explains that he has seen students “transform into passionate advocates for educational equity. By speaking up about these issues in a variety of settings, they are inspiring others, young and old, to follow their lead.” Nelson, a high school senior who has spoken on The Bell and co-founder of Teens Take Charge, said that, I learned that it was okay to speak out on the problems I saw around me. Since I was given the chance to speak up, I felt empowered to make more change.” By integrating simple podcasting technology into the classroom, we can harness the power of students voices and turn the classroom into a place of insight, discovery and connection.

 

How can you start a classroom podcast?

Materials:

  • Phone or microphone (to record)
  • Laptop (to edit/produce)
  • Audacity audio editor (to edit/produce)

 

10 Simple Steps to Produce a Classroom Postcast:

 

1. Determine your topic.
Will your class discuss how to teach and talk about history? Explore opportunities to integrate technology in the classroom? Grapple with tough topics, such as race and inequality in schools?

2. Target your audience.
Will your class be speaking to parents, educators, fellow peers, or policy makers? Determining who your audience is will help your students decide what type of language to use, what kind of counter arguments they can expect and what approach will be most effective in reaching their audience.

3. Name your podcast and create a graphic.
Have your students come up with a podcast name and use something as simple as a class picture for your graphic.

4. Brainstorm episodes.
Think about various topics that will be of interest to your chosen audience. Remember: Your students should be able to speak confidently on these topics.

5. Plan the first episode.
Once you’ve brainstormed episode ideas, have your students write an outline or loose script for their first episode. The episode doesn’t need to be read verbatim, but guiding points and questions will help the conversation flow. Also, be sure that your students decide what format they will use, such as co-hosted conversations, guest interviews, or storytelling.

6. Record the podcast.
When your students complete their episode outline and/or the script is ready to go, find a quiet room (this is important!) to record the podcast. You can use a phone to record the episode, or for better sound quality, you can purchase an external mic for less the $50.

7. Upload and edit the podcast.
Once your students have finished recording, upload the audio onto a computer and edit it using Audacity, a free, online audio editing software.

8. Upload your podcast to an online platform.
Some favorites are Soundcloud, Podomatic, or Buzzsprout.

9. Share your podcast.
Once you’ve posted the podcast online, have your students think about which people, schools or organizations they would like to share their work with. Help them write and send emails or soial media posts to “value aligned” individuals to gain more listeners.

10. Plan the second episode!
After a successful first episode, take the lessons learned from the process and audience feedback to produce a stellar sequel!

 

While launching your classroom podcast will be an involved (and at times frustrating) undertaking, this is the type of authentic project from which students and educators stand to learn greatly. Nelson speaks of his podcasting experience as “one of the best opportunities I’ve been given.When asked if student-run podcasts would be manageable and beneficial in the classroom, Taylor responded, “Absolutely. Podcasts present a compelling medium for schools to use to amplify the voices of students.” As a former educator, Taylor’s mission is a reminder that quality education empowers students and provides avenues for them to take action and make change within their communities. When we turn classrooms into platforms that elevate youth voices, we show our students that their stories matter, that they are heard, and that they can be agents of change.

 

About the Author

Nasrin Jafari is an aspiring education reformer who leverages cross-sector partnerships to mobilize educators and school leaders on the front lines of education reform.

She currently works in a middle school, writes about k-12 education on her blog, and organizes community events that address pressing challenges facing NYC schools. Don’t miss her upcoming conference this spring: Frontier 2018!