Saturday, April 28, 2018

Homework by: Spencer Hill

When I’m working through my homework, I often feel more frustration or cluelessness than actual understanding. I don’t have the greatest attention span in the known universe but having to truck through a packet of content that I have basic to no understanding on is plain discouraging. The majority of my homework assignments end up feeling more like spillover that the teacher didn’t address in class than a tool to help me learn. I’m not opposed to homework per se, but when it becomes a trek through my notes, searching for any remotely similar questions, it feels like a waste of time. To practice and develop a skill at something, one must have familiarity with the skill first and then build off that. Having a large amount of information dumped on me and being told to reproduce it won’t do anything. Teaching and telling are two separate skills. If there is nothing about teaching or retainment done in a class, I guarantee that most students will forget the content by the time they get home.

In my math class, I struggled with working through the daily homework packets we were assigned, rarely even finishing a page. Because nearly every packet started out with the basic information that I’d been able to retain and quickly accelerated to challenging questions that called for more than a basic understanding of the subject. In 4th quarter however, the packets we’ve been doing have been much shorter, about 8-10 word problems per packet. A couple of them I remember, and the rest, I looked through the notes for. Even though it was a similar amount of work, having everything packaged up helped me motivate myself.

On the other hand, I’ve had a science class that is supersaturated (pun intended) with information. During the whole class, which was a lecture, we covered vocab and multiple types
of problems with maybe 2 examples the whole class. There was so much information bouncing around in my head, I would walk out with a headache. The homework would be 2 pages of word problems that required most of the vocab to be memorized, all of the formulas tucked in your head, and have an understanding of where to start. Even when my teacher explained the next morning, I didn’t understand.

To properly utilize homework as the valuable tool it is, just slow the pace down and make it humbler. I would recommend giving out the homework at the start of the class and working on each skill as it comes up in the packet. Leave a portion of the packet for homework and give them a little bit of information on where to start. This way, the homework will be significantly less intimidating, as every student as already seen it and worked with it. Even if it becomes impossible to discuss every topic, it’s better that the students can comprehend and be confident with one skill than have meaningless jumbles of multiple skills in their head.

Elevated Discussions by: Kellen Pluntke

Discussion, as I and many other #bowtieboys have said before, is one of the most important ways to bring real life application into the classroom and create a more engaging and thought provoking environment. As the school year continues discussion based classes, especially at the high school level, tend to get more serious as the year progresses. Students get comfortable with the environment and find it easy to voice their thoughts on whatever questions come to the table, and if the content of the discussions doesn’t shift to the next level of thinking, students are likely to get bored. There are plenty of what I call “elevated discussion” topics, but my personal favorites are discussing students’ rights/ rules in school, responsibilities and privileges minors should or should not have out of school, and discussion about any issue relevant in that community at the time.

If the discussions in class are beginning to get stagnant, asking the students how they feel about school rules, and the rights that they should have almost always brings the passion out of a student. Teenagers (especially myself) spend a lot of time either consciously or unconsciously working out their morality in the world, and during this time violations of their rights of what should be will always spark a flame in a student. Justice is a huge part of teenage life, with kids at the high school level beginning to understand the world more, and poking out all the injustice in the world today. This fire can easily be brought into the classroom with a simple discussion about the school rights they have and the rules that they have to follow. Many school rules seem very borderline with being constitutional or not, especially anything pertaining to the first or fourth amendment. Asking your students about what they should be able to wear to school, or if the school police officers should have the right to search your possessions at any time without probable cause will definitely bring some heat back into the discussions in the classroom. I had this exact question in my class in school earlier this semester, and it did a whole lot for the students, both as people and academics. The elevated level of passion in the class allowed me as a student too see that some of my peers that I never thought I could get along with have very similar views and interests as me. The issue that we ran into though, is that most all of the students took the anti-school rule side of the argument. To prevent this from becoming a problem in the first place, with this topic I suggest that as the teacher you strictly try to oppose the views of the students, which will make them think harder to use logic in their arguments to persuade you. After you decide to end the discussion, (which I add might be a tricky thing to do, the students often get very passionate) debrief your students and inform them of your strictly contrarian stance, and then if you feel comfortable, add in your opinion on the matter. The connection that this discussion builds between peers and between student and teacher will do wonders for the class in the long term. Students will feel much more comfortable when they see that many others have similar ideas as them, and that these are real problems and ideas that they are thinking about, and that this kind of thinking is important.

Another discussion idea, that complements the last one, is “What rights should minors have out of school?”. This can go into an array of topics, ranging from the age that teens need to be to acquire a driver’s license to legal issues and so on. The passion will always be there in
these discussions as long as you switch it up a little bit each time. This morality based discussion is fantastic for showing students how to formulate their passionate thoughts in to words that could maybe make some change in the world around them. Teens often begin to feel powerless in our society, especially when it comes to legal issues. This kinds of discussion can empower students greatly, especially if followed by a debriefing talk from the teacher about how teens can make their voices heard, and actually make some hard change out there. This kinds of discussions are so impactful due to that students can learn to see their worth, voice their opinions, make change, create a more powerful bond with other students and the teacher, and leave students still thinking about the topic. If a student is still thinking and talking about what was being discussed in class as they are leaving, then you have created a successful discussion. Students shouldn’t leave their classrooms with just answers, but more questions.

Sometimes events that happen in the community that your school inhabits can bring a very dark mood to all the students and faculty. It’s just the horrors of life that happen every day. For example, last year at my school a young child was killed at an intersection due to apparent distracted driving, and many students saw the scene on the way to school. This caused a terrible gloom to almost come over the students and some teachers, and everyone just didn’t know what to do. If you believe as a teacher that the students will benefit educationally and emotionally from talking about what happened, then by all means do it. Due to the standards that teachers have to cover, many teachers who wanted to discuss this tragedy with the students weren’t able to. However, this is one of the times where the notes might just have to take a seat. These kinds of dark times that can hit a community cannot be fixed with silence. I encourage any teacher of any subject to discuss any emotions that stem from the incident, and the things that students can learn from it if the students appear ready to. It is so important to learn how to voice how you feel about these tragedies, and silencing talk about it just makes all the students seem horrified. Bringing a discussion about these events to your students will help them not just academically, but possibly emotionally as well.

A discussion based class is a great experience for anyone involved, and these ideas are sure to spark up the intensity. Feed in to the morality forming teen mind by asking these questions. Students will grow from these discussions morally, academically, and emotionally. There are plenty of thoughts trapped in the mind of the everyday high school student, and this will give the opportunity for students to finally release those thoughts

Friday, April 27, 2018

How Stress Increases during Fourth Quarter by: Ryan Beaver

As the year rounds winds down, stress levels wind up. The overall pressure of getting a GPA that will help towards future goals, obtaining the proper relationships with teachers, and preparing for the horrid standardized tests just weighs down on the students. I for one have been under a lot of stress recently due to these issues as have many students in my grade. Not only are there more stressful tests in class but the standardized tests also pose a threat to the future of the students, especially concerning college. Most of the colleges I am looking into only accept 4s or above on the AP tests. This has led to a lot of studying and late nights trying to balance all of this with sports and extracurriculars. Teachers should understand this and offer support to students in these areas of need.
            One way for teachers to support students through this difficult time is to be available for questions and extra help. When I am stressed out about a test, I go into school early to talk to my teachers about what I need help on. This helps by giving me a more complete understanding of the material and gives me confidence. This is a very important thing for teachers to do. It also shows the students that the teachers care about them.
            Another thing the teachers can do is give small breaks in class. This will allow the students to decompress a little and kind of center themselves. This free time in a class helps balance some of the stress. Busy and rushed classes just increase the stress on the students. If teachers carve out a five minute chunk for the students, then they will not be as stressed.
            The major causes of stress are the standardized tests. Many teachers do not even review for these in class. The teachers can help by reviewing some material that will be necessary to know for the tests in class. This way the students can ask questions if they need to. Also, give the students different study strategies so that they can study in their free time. Standardized tests are necessary for some students to get into college, so they should be of utmost importance, especially the AP tests. While they are not beneficial, they are still around so make sure they aren’t causing students to stress out.
            Students are very busy at this time of the year. With all of these things to do, they can get very stressed. Just supporting them when they need it is super important. Be there when they have questions, help them out with in class review, and give them a little bit of free time in class. These are all great ways to help the students handle the stress.

Study Habits by: TQ Williamson

Study habits vary with every student. This year the majority of my classes are easy because I lucked out with the teachers I got. Material in most of my classes is easy enough for me to take notes in class, pay attention, look over material before class, and get a decent grade. Some classes I have on the other hand I would be a disaster in without studying for every test.  I am also lazy when it comes to studying and know that I would get better grades if I put more hours into it but I just do not have enough motivation.

In elementary school, I had the best studying habits of all my education. One of the teachers I had made studying and making flash cards part of our grade. Although it is difficult to grade studying hours for example, teachers can grade flash card completion. With my flash cards that I made, I would study them with my stepdad until I knew everyone of them front and back so I would be super prepared for the test the next day. Although studying the flashcards my teacher made us do, was not necessary, it was encouraged. Even for students that hadn’t studied the flashcards, studies show that writing material down helps you remember it up to 27 times better than if you had just heard or read it.

When teachers give me studying assignments like flash cards that have the tangible aspect they can grade, and encourage using the study tool, I always tend to put more time and effort into studying the content then if they had not. The tangible studying tool grading aspect is to make sure the student has the studying tool and makes something to use. Using the tool is up to them but the chances of them using the tool is nothing without making or receiving it first. Study habits are crucial to performing well on assessments, as is making sure your students perform their studying to do well.

Running by: Christian Sporre

Running has been a common thing in most of my writings in the last two years. It hardly ever leaves my mind now and seems to be present in everything I do. Even as I sit in class I can’t help but visualize an upcoming race, playing it over and over again in my head. It is safe to say I have had enough experience to know how to manage my time between running and my school work. A typical day for me starts out a 7:00 am. Depending on what I have to do that morning, I will go for a small run to start out the day. Then I will take a shower, eat breakfast, and get to school by 8:30. After that I will get through the school day and then immediately go to track. Practice lasts until 6:30 and then I will go home and do my best to get my homework done. At this point it is about 8:00 and I still need to eat dinner and take a shower. Now it is 9:30ish, most students I know go to bed at at 12:00am and later, and I used to do that too. It is a lot different now, since then I have made my bedtime 10:00. This is because the more rest I have, the better I perform at track, mostly dealing with my mind. It is my mind that sets me apart from everyone else, because no matter how painful running gets, I will not stop, quit, or give up until I have meet my goals. Having a mentality like that requires a lot of rest. So going back to my daily schedule, if my calculations are correct, I have about 30 minutes of free time on a school day (an hour if you count lunch). This is one thing I definitely need to fix in my daily routine and I know I am not alone. There are so many hard working kids at my school that barely have any time to themselves. The weekends are like a breath of fresh air, but unfortunately I now only have Sunday to chill out because there is almost always a meet on Saturday. Although that free time on Sunday is awesome, it never carries over into the school week. I have come to terms that the life of a student athlete is full of stress and time management skills, but in the end this lifestyle has unprecedented rewards. During a sports season, I really think that kids should be getting even more free time. It can be really unhealthy for a students mental state if he or she does not get enough time to themselves. Free time can take a bunch of stress off students, letting them relax for a while and not worry about upcoming grades and events. There are a few classes that implement some free time and it helps me and many other students so much. Some of my favorite teachers are the ones that understand the struggle of a student athlete. Their classrooms are always a huge relief for me. One great example of this is my English class. My English teacher actually used to run track, so that's even better. His classroom is very laid back and work at your own pace. Sometimes when there is a big assignment due, he asks me if I can get it done in time or if I will need a little more time because of track and cross country meets. I will always try to get my work done on time no matter what, but it is always nice to have a little breathing room. I wish all of my teachers would ask me this, because just knowing that a teacher understands the kind of work your doing inside and outside of school, takes so much stress off your shoulders, it's insane. Stress is the ultimate enemy to all students and I think teachers should focus on combating it with giving kids more down time in class. Once a class can achieve that, I can guarantee students will be more engaged and productive, making for an even better classroom experience.

First Impressions by: Connor Grady

As the end of the school year rapidly approaches, I thought it would be just the right time to reflect on the first day of school.  Every student that walks into high school on that very first, nerve-wracking day is looking around them; assessing what it really means to be in high school.  At the same time, we students are forming opinions of our teachers, looking at the way they run their classroom.  They say that first impressions are everything on this day in particular, they certainly are.  That said, I want to provide teachers with “first day” ideas that this student has greatly appreciated.
                The first, and probably the most controversial, is allowing students to choose their seats when they first come into the classroom.  I recognize that this leaves the door open for students to sit with other students who will distract them, but I encourage teachers to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Giving your students choice right off the bat shows them that you value their ability to make decisions for themselves.  I know personally that I only reciprocate the respect of teachers that have first initiated respect for me.  I understand that this is a large risk on the teacher’s part, but I know from experience that it pays off.
                The second takeaway is that ice-breakers are effective, but only when done correctly.  Many teachers will craft questions for students to help others get to know them and to break the initial tension.  On the surface, this might seem like an effective idea, but this type of ice-breaker is rarely appreciated.   Many students don’t see the value in learning insignificant facts about students they don’t know.  Facts they will probably forget before the bell rings.  That said, ice-breakers that encourage teamwork between pairs of students or even small groups are far more likely to open students to collaborative relationships.  They remove the daunting nature of presenting yourself to a large group that doesn’t know (and rarely cares) who you are.  I also love ice-breakers that are slightly embarrassing in a fun way.  One game that will always stick in my mind is “cowboy, princess, gladiator”. It encourages students to break down their walls and work together with a partner.  I will always remember pretending to be a gladiator with another student, standing victoriously over their fallen body.  It was really fun and memorable.
                I hope I have given insight into the first day of school from a student’s perspective.  I encourage teachers to think about how they will present themselves on the first day, and then try to understand how they may be perceived by their students.

The Importance of Real World Projects in the Classroom by: Joe O'Such

Stress. That is quite honestly the only feeling that is currently on my mind. Tomorrow I have a presentation that could make or break an entire class for the next two years. I have to present on a Junior/Senior year research project that I have spent the past 3 months coming up with. If I pass, I just cleared a major hurdle, if I don’t pass, I just tripped and fell on my face. This is the most weight that has a simple PowerPoint has ever had for me. The teachers leading this say that this is essentially presenting your doctoral defense, but about 10 years earlier. So yeah, that’s where I’m currently at. But this opportunity is a good one, regardless on how well I do on my presentation. Not only do we get a pizza party for our months of hard work and preparation, but this presentation is real world practice, where I have to defend a 2 year project against the wild questions of people who have at a minimum Master’s degrees in this stuff 2 of 3 the teachers have doctorates). It did cross my mind however that this is the kind of stuff one has to endure in the real world, backing up a point, a proposal, anything, to experts on the subject. This is seen throughout many careers like a consultant, researcher, small business owner, etc. I think the importance of real world exposure should not be underestimated. Not only does this exposure help a person later on, but for me, these teachers who exposed us to real world techniques not only go down as my favorites, but also have made the following years a breeze. I think this real world exposure is so important, because ultimately, this is what school should prepare us for. School isn’t supposed to prepare students for a life full of multiple choice tests, five paragraph essays, or cheesy PowerPoint presentations with note cards. Quite honestly, school is currently doing the following; teachers simply pushing along students so they can be somewhat prepared for the following year. Few teachers are actually willing to teach us for not just one year down the line, but for a lifetime. These teachers are not only tend to be my favorite, but they subsequently prepare me for quite a few years down the line. For example, since 7th grade English, English has been a breeze, just because my teacher taught us in a way that was based one learning to understand and analyze the subject, not just to memorize. Granted I may have had one or two lax English teachers on the way, but regardless, this teacher prepared me for not only English classes, but also writing in general. Writing is something that is spread across so many jobs. Being a good writer is vital for so many jobs, so it is so critical that students, especially those in high school, are taught real world writings like resumes and official reports, not the standard 5 paragraph essay with sufficient details and sources and on and on and on. If you’re going to write a persuasive essay, the judge of that paper should ultimately take into account a single thing; whether or not your paper is persuasive. Ultimately, writing and presenting in a real world setting is vital to the future of students. Given the position of especially an English teacher, they possess the power to make students ready for the real world. By giving legit writings and presentations (maybe without the immense weight my current one has) to students, these students will be ready to jump over any hurdles that may come across their way.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Holding the World by the Tail by: Jason Augustowski

The past few months has been completely consumed with musical at the middle school where I direct.  Every year our production company ups the ante and provides the greater northern Virginia area with some of the highest quality musical theatre at the junior level in the area (if not nation).  In fact, the only thing "junior" about our productions is the age of the kids involved (11-14 years old).  But what the accomplish is absolutely jaw-dropping.  Each year, our program boasts two completely separate casts and crews performing the same Broadway-length show (this year, Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame), and perhaps most impressively a full middle school pit orchestra that learns and plays the original score.  In total, there are 200 students involved and about 40 incredible parent volunteers who literally work year round to make these experiences happen.  So needless to say, as the executive director of this program, every waking second of my life not spent teaching has been dedicated to this for the past few months.

But none of that is the "impressive part."  I tell the students all the time that at the end of the day, a great play is just a great play.  Amazing talent doesn't make a show.  Nor do fast crew transitions, perfect light or sound cues, or amazingly synced violins.  Because at the end of the day, a musical is just a musical until you make it more than a musical.  The most impressive aspect of these musicals is how absolutely incredible each and every student behaves to one another.  Back in our early days the kids use to call each other family, in recent shows: a company, and with this past performance: a community.  And this should be the endgame of our English classrooms.

When looking back, no one judges another on their lexile score, on their ability to analyze figurative language, on their eloquent explication of a conceit, or for being a wonderful orator.  They are remembered by the kind of person they were.  And we as English teachers have the unique ability to present the humanities to children in a way that helps shape the people they are and become.  An English class is only an English class until we make it MORE than an English class.

One way we try to measure success in my classroom is by "becoming the person that others want to be around."  This is the greatest of all successes.  This person holds the world by the tail.  A great way to encourage this environment is through constant group work.  Here are some items to consider.

1.  Allow students to choose their groups.  But create criteria for them to do so.  For example, in my 10th grade classes, students choose their groups based on their core values (which has been scaffolded in previous classes) or they will choose based on desired future career, or they will choose based on people they have NEVER worked with before, or they will choose their "dream team."  By the end of the year, each of my students will have worked with every single student in the room at one point or another.

2.  Make group work a routine.  Groups don't only occur when we are participating in a group project, group work is literally the second half of every class period (similar to how some teachers spend a majority of their time on SSR).  My classes will begin with a quick write, move into a full class circle discussion to analyze a text, song, or poem, and then into their group work.

3.  Make the group work relevant and fun.  The groups aren't simply getting together to complete vocabulary worksheets or packets about some full-class novel.  They are working in groups to address real world issues.  Some ideas include: working together to plan a dream vacation (full itinerary, costs, flight plans, hotels, restaurants - the works; synthesizing literature to find real-world application; opening a place of employment based on career goals ie: a hospital, engineering firm, a school; launching new products like on Shark Tank; presenting roundtables on personal passions, presenting PechaKuchas on necessities, and participating in panels mirroring a PTO, an HOA, an athletics board, a fine-arts booster, etc.

Now one may argue, how is this English?  It sounds an awful lot like business/marketing!  Perhaps these would be good projects for our school's DECA or FBLA chapter.  But remember, we in English have the unique tasks of marrying literally all other disciplines.  For without reading and writing and speaking, how can anyone hope to be successful at Math, History, Science, etc?  As long as the projects are real world, the students will never ask "when will I need this?" and they will be simultaneously learning how to read, write, and speak analytically and critically (all while fostering collaboration and celebrating each others' victories).

It is important for our students to become good people (while learning the important elements of our discipline) and that is why it is my belief that students should work together to discuss values and ethics, create common goals, innovate and take risks, and strengthen each other all the while.  In my experience constant and careful group work creates these environments and allows students to not only master our curricula but become inclusive, understanding, and productive kiddos who accomplish impressive work.  But even better, they're just nice people who get along with each other.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Failing Miserably by: Sam Fremin

Sometimes it takes failing miserably to come up with the best (or most obvious) fixes for problems. The technicians in my school’s drama department had to learn that the hard way recently. I am one of my school’s two Student Technical Directors for drama. Essentially, that means that my partner and I are the ones to go to if there are events going on during/after school requiring sound and lights. My partner’s job schedules him constantly and with my array of extracurricular activities, we were finding it hard to honor every commitment. We had to jump through hoops to make sure even just one of us could be there.

This led us to start delegating jobs to other people among our tech teams. As the head of lights, my partner reached out to the kids he worked with and since I lean more to the sound side, I reached out to them. Using a group message, we asked for assistance anytime neither of us were able to make an event. This lightened the load on us because we were able to go on with our other activities without a sense of dread regarding impending events. It also gave our teammates more exposure to performance scenarios that they typically only got during the fall play and spring musical. Everybody won. Our team went from two to nine and everything was more manageable.

Communication through a group chat though is nothing all that revolutionary. The fact that this idea hadn’t been put into use years ago is pretty spectacularly disappointing. Our biggest lesson was yet to come.

Earlier this year, a band concert was scheduled for a weekday and needed someone to run lights. My partner was called for work and I had #BowTieBoys work to attend to (work that you can
check out using that very same hashtag on any device that supports Twitter!), so it was necessary for us to find a cover. The day before, we pinpointed who it would be. They spent their study hall setting lights, cueing them, and writing out how they corresponded with each of the different songs that were to be played. This person ended up not showing up. Twenty or so minutes before the band concert was supposed to start, our band director went on a search. Already stressed out I’m sure, he scoured the fine arts hallway for anyone who might know how to even remotely run the board. Luckily our stage manager was there. Although his knowledge of the board was near zero (it has grown substantially since then, just in case), he managed to power through and give the band some light.

As I came into school the next day, I was confronted about it by the band and choir directors. Our conversation was the first I had heard of the incident and I was mortified, as was the rest of our tech team. A miscommunication like that should never been able to happen. We decided to hold a meeting amongst the kids so we could figure out what went wrong and how we could potentially fix it in the future. While in that meeting, we came up with the idea to have a schedule and sign up spreadsheet easily accessible (it’s amazing this also had not been implemented before), that was not the major takeaway.

Communication is key. Every successful relationship is built on it, whether it be social, romantic, business, or any other form. We were faced with a problem and rather than dismissing it as a fluke and carrying on, our team met and discussed the issue. I would be very surprised if we were ever again faced with a situation like that poorly executed band concert coverage. The root of the problem was found and we cut it out of the ground.

That thought process can be easily applied to the classroom too. If a student is acting out in class, potentially disrupting other students, having a simple conversation is the right approach. Harsh punishment just hurts rapport and ultimately it doesn’t solve the problem. Having a conversation where both sides are free to express everything allows the real cause of the problem to come out along with ways to mitigate it. If a student is falling behind in class, it doesn’t make any sense to blow right past them without a second thought. Leaving them behind or pretending they’re on the same pace as everyone else is just flat out irresponsible. Sitting down with a student and discussing avenues they can take to get back on track is more likely to help than inaction. Disagreements occurring in class can be solved by talking through them. When students feel as though something isn’t as engaging as it could be, they should be able to speak up. Creating a forum where students can voice their opinions and concerns is the best way to ensure student voice is incorporated into the class while still keeping the classroom manageable. Teachers can seem hard to approach just because of the fact that they’re an authority figure. Try to make it widely known that communication is valued in your classroom. Rapport will remain high, issues will be solved with more ease, and everyone will be empowered and invited to work more efficiently as a result.

Online Quizzes by: Dawson Unger

So in one of my classes our formative grades are all made up of these online quizzes. These quizzes are quite the hit or miss for me, especially because they involve quotes straight from a “optional” textbook, that they are all on. The teacher made it seem like if you don’t get it the world wont end, but I soon learned that was not true. This textbook is the basis of 10% of our grade, and I was told it was optional. So now that I have completely understood this, I go in to the library during study hall and take pictures of the textbook pages, since we cant take the library copies home. And if you are wondering why I don’t just read it in the library, I do, I read as much as possible, usually about 10 of the 30 pages, and barely end up retaining any of the information because I get too distracted.

That is only part of the problem with these quizzes. I tended to average about 60% on them until the middle of last quarter. They all are worded in ways it takes me many times of reading it to understand, and then the answers are always so similar and it seems like you are just trying to be tricked. These quizzes are also timed to just a minute or two more than the number of questions, which if you are anything like me, makes them so much more stressful.

My grade on these quizzes have skyrocketed lately since I have begun to work with classmates and take the quizzes together, allowing both of our memorization of the textbook to work together. We both, or however many people we are working with, will all take notes in the textbook to use during our quiz and will use those to study for our tests. I have a pretty strong feeling that this was not the reason for us to have these quizzes, but with these quizzes my teamwork ability has grown and it has made me more motivated to do them, and to read the textbook. Because when I don’t, I feel like I’m letting down my team. My “team” and me also work together to study for vocab quizzes by making Quizlets’s and studying together before tests.

I have implemented this system of a study group into almost all of my classes now and it helps me tremendously, with getting work done, and with growing more friendships. And ill be honest these groups of friends make me like school so much more, in our study sessions we mainly just hang out and just go through all of the notes and problems during it, and it tends to be way more fun than I ever expected.

A Win-Win Situation by: Nihar Kandarpa

I really don’t understand how my Economics teacher comes up with a different game to play each class. It’s not the making of the games that is so perplexing to me, it’s the fact that he correlates each game perfectly with the subject at hand. For example, I remember one game in which he asked us to go online to and “shop” for whatever we wanted. He gave us a five-minute time limit, and told us to find five items in that set amount of time. Whoever found those five items first and still stayed under the budget of 50 dollars was supposedly the winner. After the game was completed, he asked us a variety of questions about our shopping. Based on our answers, he told us the fundamental economic principles that had to do with each of our selections. See, when he perfectly matched our shopping selections to his subject, I knew.  I knew that he was the teacher that all students yearn for.

            Children generally love to play games. That is a widely-known fact, as everyone at some point in their life was a kid. If students have motivation, something to play for, they will almost always try their best in any type of competition. My Economics teacher takes advantage of this fact and uses it in his classroom almost every class. Many of the topics in economics can only be expressed through hands-on experience and activities. When my teacher runs a game in the classroom, he makes sure that the students are getting that real-world experience, so that they know the exact feelings and consequences of the subject being used in the outside world. Our class average on our test was a 96%.
No surprise there.

            Another game that really helped me connect to the subject at hand was a game that involved the students becoming fake lawyers. Now, this game lasted a longer period of time, about two weeks, but it was a continuous thing that students were excited about. Our Civics teacher basically ran us through the process of how to become a lawyer. Obviously, many of the knowledge and steps were cut out from this game, because we were learning at an eighth-grade level, but our teacher literally took the time to provide a mock court-case for us and lead us through the process of becoming a lawyer.

            If games connect to the subject at hand in the right way, students will be able to grasp everything that is taught in the classroom. My friends and I always look forward to my Economics teacher’s class, because we know that we’ll have fun and learn at the same time, a combination that is rarely used in the classroom but is incredibly effective with both students and teachers. Even though Economics can be a hard subject to work with (at least in my experience), with the right techniques, students can treat it like a fun sports game, or an activity that intrigues them. This doesn’t just apply to economics, it applies to all of the subjects being taught in school. Teaching can be rather simple to get across, if a teacher just uses the techniques that engage students, like games in the classroom. If students experience something that is new, then the teacher will see something new in their students. 

Classroom Management by: Aaron Eichenlaub

What I’ve noticed has been happening a lot in my school is the disrespecting of teachers. My teachers will barely get a word out before my classmates start blabbering and interrupting them. Making loud sounds and bursting out in laughter is a big distraction to the whole class. In many cases the student responsible will get moved to another desk, or just get a warning, but that doesn’t stop them. Why do they do it? To be funny of course, but why don’t they stop? The answer is simple, no real punishment. People, kids especially, like doing stuff that brings them laughter, the only way to stop this is to bring real punishment (varying by what the student has done) to the table. Students like this are a huge distraction to the class and can stop the flow of learning.

Often times my teacher will describe a fun activity that we’ll get to do at the end of class, but we never end up getting to it because the blabber mouth at the back of the class hasn’t stopped talking. It’s really not fair for the whole class to suffer because of one kid. You would think that next class that same student would have learned their lesson, but no, still talking. The teacher has to give the student a punishment that will make them choose to not talk in fear of another punishment. I’m not saying the student should fear the teacher, but rather the consequences of what happens when they act out. If there is no consequence they will choose to act up again.

Though the consequence should be fair for both the student and the class and should be based off what the student has done. If the student is asking a question to another student about the topic that is being taught, the teacher should just answer it and give them a warning to not talk again. Though if the student is laughing loudly, or even just talking and distracting the class, it’s the teachers job to find the right punishment that will make them stop talking. If the student is being really bad, and continuously interrupting class, set up a parent teacher meeting. My point is, it’s not fair for one student to ruin the vibe of the class by interrupting what is being taught, and the teacher should give a fair punishment that will keep that student quiet.

The teacher should also make the class fun, so students don’t feel the need to speak up. If students are having fun, there isn’t a necessary need to speak up, but if students are super bored they may feel the need to do so. Like having a group activity where students are interacting with each other. It might not stop outbursts entirely but may decrease them significantly.

DECA by: Tam Mandanis

Over the weekend my partner and I competed in a competition for a business group known as DECA. It’s an international group/platform with many categories under which high-school students can compete in. My partner and I competed in “Community Service Project” and ended up placing in the top eight of the thirty-five teams; and will have the opportunity to compete for the international title in Atlanta, Georgia in April. We helped out a school in Houston, TX devastated by Hurricane Harvey, which occurred in august of 2017. We then wrote a paper on what we did and presented on what our project consisted of.

Not only did the project allow us to compete, it allowed us to learn real life skills. We were able to learn more about team work, helping others in time of need, dedication, being grateful, and so much more. These are traits in which I believe every student needs to learn and have in their life as they are things that can be used on a daily basis. I also think that we need to have more groups such as DECA that allow students to learn real life lessons for their lives. Even though we earned something we worked so hard for, we attained so many other things more important than just placing in a competition.

Group Projects by: Jack Michael

A students walks into a library, He looks around and is quickly shuffled to his computer. He logs into his testing session and begins. In his mind the test is going well. Until question 13, ironic that the hardest question on the test is considered an unlucky number to some. He quietly sits there and starts to panic. He tries anything and everything to recall the material he was taught, nothing works. His brain has now switched to DEFCON four. Before giving up on the question entirely, he goes to his final resort. He thinks back to when the material was taught. Suddenly a memory pops into his head. He remembers a group project that was done in class. The ball is rolling in his brain. After a few moments of thinking, he has chosen the correct answer. After the test is finished, he again thinks back to when he did the group project. Not only can he recall the material being taught, but he also remembers the friendships and memories that were forged throughout the project. A friend then snaps him out of his thinking session, and he looks towards the task ahead. 
As students walk into a classroom, they are often greeted with a worksheet of some sort. After that the teacher gives them a long lecture with a PowerPoint at their side. Through trying to understand myself as a learner, I have noticed that one of my strengths is that I learn well from lectures. Although, When you’re greeted with the same teaching style every day, it becomes exasperating. You lather and rinse but don’t repeat. When a group project was introduced into the instruction, there would always be an excitement that filled the room. Not because I was excited to start working on the project, but because this offered me a much-needed break in the endless loop of lectures I was given that day. I was also allowed to talk to my friends. Whether the conversation was about the project itself or it was about something entirely irrelevant, I still enjoyed talking with my friends. A group project allows students to talk to each other freely without being scolded.

In our education system, we ask students to memorize the information they are taught then write it out on paper. Most students will tell you that most of the information they will cram into their heads will probably only go into their short-term memory.  So when a quarter test, final exam, or state test rolls around later on in the year. The students will repeat the same process of jamming information into their heads. This creates an endless loop of information flowing through the short-term memory of the students.  As I said before, group projects help lodge information into the long-term memory of students. Although, every teacher knows that no two students learn the same way. So how do we find a project that will benefit every student? The answer is simple, ask the students. You know yourself better than anyone else. So this means that every student understands which methods help him or her learn the best. Allow students to choose their own project ideas. That way. Students are able to enjoy their project and get the full benefit of the reinforcement of said subject.

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat forever. “ Life lessons aren’t exactly in the curriculum of any school district. We all try to instill within others the lessons we have learned, but most of the time others won’t listen. Teamwork is a virtue that is extremely valued everywhere.  At some point in everyone’s lives, they need to work with someone else. If our children are told to sit quietly and not collaborate with each other, how will they ever learn teamwork? We can tell them all we want that teamwork is important, but if we never give students a chance to learn how to work on a team, we are doing them a disservice. In this instance we are only giving our students the fish, we aren’t teaching them how to fish.  Although if we give them a group project, we are giving them the opportunity to learn how to learn teamwork firsthand. We are teaching them how to fish, and if we teach them they will eat forever.

I ask all educators to question their daily teaching style. Ask yourself if you would be bored in your own class. Chance are if you would, then you teaching style is repetitive. I am of the opinion that almost every problem has a very simple solution, the solution to a repetitive teaching style, is to break the flow. I beg you to add in as many group assignment and projects as you can. As you can see, I believe that group projects have an extremely powerful ability to prepare our students for the future. I leave you with this final question, if we aren’t preparing students for the future, what are we preparing them for?

Getting Students on Task at Home by: Rishi Singh

Every student likes those random days off where they do nothing but sit around playing Fortnite and watching Netflix. They are often happy and think nothing is going to happen in school the next day. Personally, I've done the exact same thing. I never looked at the other side and saw what I'm missing and how I can get it done. Days off often cause struggles for the teachers. Either they zoom through the missed class assignments or they shrug it off. Moving too fast in class makes me feel nervous but mostly confused about the topic and what's going on. Shrugging it off is just wrong and has the students stressed out.

Teachers should try their hardest to get the kids to do their hardest to get on task and finish work from their homes. It's hard to get the students to work on a day off but if the teacher could give a brief explanation of what is happening, then the next class won't be full of blank minds. I had a teacher in 7th grade who would always give us a quick review of what will happen in the next class. This got us ready for whatever is going to be assigned to us before and at the end of class.

If all teachers took this idea and used it when students have days off, there wouldn’t be any stress for students and the teachers wouldn’t have to do quick sessions on what the students have missed. The students can get their work done and have nothing to review in class, which could affect their new class times. There are lots of small things that make a huge difference in out of school academic struggles. If teachers could simply tell the students what is happening next class, the students could be better prepared instead of being lost in a mind-numbing amount of information. Technology is also a better way of informing students.

Now there is Remind, GroupMe, and all types of social media in which teachers can contact their students, having them well prepared. Remind is a great recourse for teachers. It simply reminds the students to remember an assignment or to remind the students of a quiz or
test coming up. There are various ways for teachers to help students on days off and when they are absent. If teachers take these ways into consideration, there would be a dramatic difference on days off

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Judgement by: Jason Augustowski

Third quarter is a tough time for a lot of students.  I used to think (as a teacher) that second quarter would be everyone's most difficult grading period but it seems like the holidays propel students through.  Not that there isn't a fair amount of distractions during the months of November-January, but it just seems that if students are at least excited about Thanksgiving and winter breaks, they can power through the drudgery of the second quarter winter.  Third quarter, however, is the gauntlet that slowly chugs on (without rest) until spring break.  And it is this time of year, that I believe we as teachers must be most cautious since everyone is on edge.

And "everyone" includes more than just students.  "Everyone" is other teachers, administrators, parents - well, everyone!  Each year, third quarter is the time where it is easy to get testy, have short tempers, and potentially lose students and collegial friends.  All of the "major drama" I have in my life almost always coincides with the third quarter.  You're in the slump and you need a break.  HOWEVER, third quarter is also a magical time for the very same reasons.

Most of us spend the first semester truly getting to know our students and their abilities.  While quarter one is mostly used for this, quarter two (as mentioned before) is so full of distractions with the breaks that it can be hard to develop a perfect rhythm.  So in essence, quarter two becomes "How to stay awesome kids despite distractions."  And then quarter three hits and EVERYONE slumps.  Grades drop, attitudes drop, if you teach seniors FORGET IT, and like I said, everyone in the school gets kind of testy.  I start to notice minor bickering in the hall, jealousy, and a general sluggishness from the students.  Spring sports and spring arts save some of them and keep them engaged - but these activities can also serve to tire them out ever more and make them less academic (and more importantly) less warm in class.

BUT - there is still magic afoot!  Now that we properly know our students, we can spend quarter three REALLY digging in with them.  They know the class routines and traditions by this point.  They know what we expect and they know we have created an environment in which they can achieve - now for the hard work of really bringing it home before quarter four creeps in and starts getting the kids' minds on standardized tests and summer.  The way you "dig in" with your kids of course is 100% up to you, your style, and the environment/rapport you have already established, but with all of the negativity floating in the air, I believe we should all just keep something very simple in our minds in order to achieve this productive and engaging, "magical" quarter three:

It is really funny how we judge other people by their actions yet we judge ourselves on our intentions.  It is this disconnect that can easily lead to a lack of communication between parties.  We get so caught up in our own day, our own struggles, our own successes, that we fail to properly recognize those (good and bad) for the people around us.  We are all SO busy.  But are we being graceful?  It is a simple question to ask ourselves, but one I believe will do us a lot of good in the long run.

Everyone has a story.  Everyone has their stuff.  Everyone is going through their own "gauntlet day" - and we have to take the time to slow ours down and be an ear for those around us.  School is the strange microcosm where we throw all of this raw material into one place and say "go" - with surprisingly minimal supervision and hope everything turns out well (let alone with everyone's feelings still in tact).  So here are some big no-no's for quarter three (and all the time):

1.  If we hold strict due dates for kids, we better hold them for ourselves.  We have as much time to grade as they had to work - period.  No "write a paper tonight and I'll get it back to you in a month."  I don't care how busy we think we are.  So are they.  Remember: "gauntlet days."

2.  If kids can't eat or drink in our classrooms, neither can we.

3.  If kids phones should be off and away, so should ours.

4.  If we tell kids to act like adults we better be treating them as such.

5.  If we demand respect, we must first model respect.

And the rationale behind these rules is simply what I stated above.  I KNOW that when we take a while to turn a paper around it is not because we are malicious.  I know that we don't eat or use our phone in front of kids to be malicious.  I know that we don't engage in accidental hypocrisies to be malicious.  But neither do the kids.  Their work is late because they are busy.  They eat because they are hungry.  Their phones are out because they care about their life outside of school.  They seek to be respected and thought of as older than their age.  So let's just take a step back, breathe, and keep all of this in mind.

It is our job as educators to model the behaviors we expect of our students.  It is our job to teach them - not only our content, but to be good, kind, contributing members to society.  Let's make sure we are being that first - especially when we are working so close with so many impressional and emotionally volatile young ones each day.  Even when they are in high school, and may seem SO big, they are still children (and regardless of what they say, they still need us).  Let's wield that power for good and leave them with lessons that they too will pass on to future generations.  All it takes is open communication and an ability to see things from a student's, administrator's, parent's or colleague's lens.  We are all trying to do right by the students in our lives.  Sometimes in third quarter, when we are all on edge, when a break is nowhere in sight, it is easy to forget.  Let's smile and choose to be graceful.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Chemistry by: Spencer Hill

                As of late, my blogs have been quicker, more anecdotal, and less all-encompassing. I haven’t tackled any huge topics like grading or technology in a while. I have some topics on my radar, like stress and homework, but I haven’t found the time to buckle up and grind out a blog. Although I haven’t been swamped 24/7 with constant work, I’ve been busy. I’m trying to take back control of my sophomore year, working on my chapter for the upcoming #bowtieboys book, and wrestling my procrastination. I decided that I should get a blog out and, surprisingly, I was enticed to write about my chemistry class. I had never really thought about it before, but I realized I could roll with a class analysis. In fact, I decided that this could even be a recurring series on my blog: Class Analysis.
                Overall, I would rate my chemistry very positively. The assessments, in-class work, and homework are all very reasonable and balanced. My teacher is a great class leader who knows how to engage body of students. They are helpful and charismatic, so even if the assignments feel boring or repetitive, the teacher can keep the class alive.
                The assessments are very standard; multiple choice and show your work questions. I’m not a very picky student and like I said earlier, the assessments feel quite fair. Chemistry is similar to math, in that it is often a very linear class. It’s not as open-ended as English, so it makes sense that the assessments are right-and-wrong, just like the class itself. There are occasional research projects too, which translate to researching a topic and making a presentation for it. If you’ve read my work before, then you know that I am a big fan of projects. When the class was doing a unit on elemental structure (like in model A), we researched notable chemical spills. Chemical spills were the perfect way to tie what we were learning to real world events, the perfect balance of research to background knowledge, and an appropriate amount of time and points. The labs, however, are the element (badum tssch) of chemistry that make it so great for me. Unlike most classes, the majority of my grade in chemistry comes from my labs rather then tests. Because the labs are so frequent (nearly every other class), the students come into class knowing that they can recover from any mistakes they make. The labs aren’t just good for grading, they also provide the chemistry’s signature explosive, acidic fun.
                Labs are the core of chemistry that most of the classes resolve around. We often take notes during the front half of the class and have labs in the second part. Although the notes aren’t very different from any other class, my teacher has them filled with great analogies and metaphors. I’ve beaten around the bush for a while now, but the labs are what solidify everything tough concept that we learn. What better way to understand water reactions than by creating reactions with water? It’s the ultimate visual. We can see everything nearly everything we learn I first person. Honestly, the labs are the only things in the class that keep my grade up, through their face grade and preparing me for the test.
                My chemistry teacher is what ties the whole class together. Hard classes often lead to kids despising every aspect of the class. But my teacher manages to keep the duration of the class stress-free and fun even though some students are struggling and don’t know what’s going on. They accomplish from the use of an abundance of humor so cheesy, that I can’t help but laugh. The other factor that leads to their success is simple conversation. She’s open to side conversations and discussions during the class, which keeps the mood light. They’re a likeable person who really cares about engaging us and that is very clear.
                Although chemistry is one of the hardest and most stressful courses on my schedule, I love almost every piece of it. I’m very comfortable with the grading scale and number of points in the book. I have chances to recover from my mistakes and I know that no single assignment will permanently destroy my grade. The general safety and state of mind contributes to me being able to perform to my fullest. The teacher threads every small aspect of the class together to make one stress-free, fluid experience.

How we Learn by: Christian Sporre

During the past few months, I have really started questioning myself about how I am learning information, especially in my math class. I am a pretty go with the flow kid, I get to class and I do everything that the teacher tells me to do and try not to question their methods, but sometimes I can’t help it. I am terrible at math and I am always trying to get better, but I don't even know where to start. Even now as I am writing this blog, if you asked me what I am learning in math I could not tell you. I know it involves some triangles and some radicals but that's about it. I go to school early almost every day because I am so confused on my math homework. I go to my math teachers classroom and pull out my homework to ask my questions. Every time I would ask a question I would get an answer and in my mind go “why didn't i think of that before” but the second I sit down in my chair to put that knowledge I have just acquired to work, I become confused again. I am not forgetting everything my teacher just told me, I just can put all the information together. I do not understand why the numbers work the way the do, yet I still have an A. To me that does not make sense, how could the class that I have the least understanding for have one of my highest grades. Then I realized why. I do not know how and why the numbers work with each other the way they do, I just know the formulas. All I have to do is remember the formulas to get the problems right, but the second I saw a problem with the numbers out of wack I have no Idea how to solve it. It just goes to further show that I do not really understand the problems I am supposed to be solving. If I can just understand the numbers and formulas instead of memorizing them, I could do so much better. Now I need to figure out how to gain the understanding of the math I am learning. Unfortunately math is always building on top of itself so I have started looking at the very base of the math I am learning. I know for a fact that a lot of students have this same problem in my math class because we are constantly asking each other the same questions. I think a great way to solve this problem and to let the students gain a little bit more of understanding of the topic, is a daily review of past problems. I am constantly faced with some types of products I haven't seen or worked on in a week. I think just a daily review would greatly benefit everyone in the class. I also am fortunate to have great friends who always help me out on the math that I do not understand and I think that it is from them I have gained the most understanding. One of my friends knows how I learn so he knows how to explain things to me, which really helps me understand certain topics I am supposed to learn. Now with me reviewing and with the help of my friends I am finally gaining an understanding for math. I think the future for my math grades is finally looking pretty good.

ZERO to ONE HUNDRED Assessments by: Joe O'Such

If you haven’t heard of zero to one hundred quizzes, they are exactly what they sound like, an assessment where the student get either zero or one hundred percent. In my school, I see a plethora of these in math. It is something I have noticed on the down low, and I have seen that these quizzes teach absolutely nothing. Toward the beginning of the year, my friend at lunch pulled out a front and back piece of paper, filled to the brim with formulas. Me being a math nerd, I starting glancing as I devoured my ham sandwich. I got curious, as many of the formulas were pretty advanced. I asked my friend, “Hey, is that your formula sheet for math?” He replied, “No, this paper is full of formulas for my zero to one hundred quiz. My brain went hay wire. I thought to myself why any teacher would even consider putting their students through this insane trial. All the students had to do was memorize the formulas, and write them down. If they missed even one, “oh well”, they get a zero and have to go in and retake the exact same quiz. My brain was flying a million miles per hour, and I finally asked my friend if he knew what any formulas were. He knew a few, but most of them he had no idea what they were. Even more numerous were the number of formulas my friend had no idea why. This happened to be literally every formula except the surface area of a cone. Why they were as they were. Coming from a different math class, we had to derive almost everything we learned by a teacher guided method. This got me thinking about what was to gain from this quiz. The only thing to gain was a one hundred percent. Those formulas would be lost and forgotten. This demonstrates the core of what makes school so boring and for the most part easy. Teachers tell you everything, you just have to remember it. However, teachers should tell you how to get to a certain point, acting as a valuable resource on the quest of knowledge. In the real world, you get told to do something, with little advice on how to do it, no rubric, nothing. The point of school is to prepare us for our lives afterwards, and this needs to convey a message of students leading their own learning, not mindlessly memorizing formulas that are quickly forgotten.

Finding Good Friends by: Dawson Unger

Finding friends has never been an easy thing for me since I moved to Northern Virginia in fifth grade.  After I moved I became the shyest kid ever, I lost all my self-confidence, and felt so looked over.  This was the way it was until about half way into my freshman year.  That’s when I found my first ever real friend group.  We all were very different, but all the same in some way.  The issue with the group I found is that they were all seniors or juniors, and my two best friends in this group (brothers) were moving back to California the second week of summer.  As soon as I found out I decided that we would all live up the time while they were still here.  We explored abandoned houses, had jam sessions, and would go on nighttime walks together.

Those two brothers changed me as a person in one of the best ways I could imagine.  They gave me a good reason to come to school each day, and made me feel involved.  I don’t fit in very well with my grade, so this gave me an outlet to listen to my music with, and they were all very understanding when I was having mental breakdowns, or going through something.  That relationship is vital for everyone to have.  There is too much stress in this world for someone not to have anyone to talk to. 

After they left I felt alone, I went through about one full month of summer skating alone, and listening to music alone in my bedroom, usually on the verge of a mental breakdown.  I remember halfway through the summer I found this one girl; at this point I was still awkward around new friends.  I hung out with her about five times before I even thought to take us to the next level.  We went through bad times, along with most of my summer friends.  But unlike most of my summer friends, we ended up as each other’s best friends, and she honestly gives me a reason to come to school now, and get up in the morning.  She manages to yell my music at the top of her lungs with me, and laughs at my corny jokes.

Since then I became really close friends with a fellow #bowtieboy, Kellen Pluntke, me and kellen became friends once we came to the first day of school and were in the same chemistry class.  After that we just started talking more, up until NCTE when we sat together on the plane, after that we basically spent the entire time at the conference together.  At this point Kellen and me hang out as much as possible and I feel like we could talk to each other about anything. 

These relationships among friends are necessary in life and are what get me through day to day.  Without these friends I don’t know if I could manage to do all that I do, and they make me feel very involved and we always just make each other laugh.  These people have changed me into a much better and more fun person, without having to change “Me” and I love them all for that.

Rapport by: Kellen Pluntke

The emergences of various crisis across our country have ignited the discussion of mental health to a level that we have never seen before. The numbers of minors being diagnosed with mental health issues is still on the rise, and due to the lack of support and care for these people, major issues have continued to occur.  Now is the time to finally put emphasis on what we can do to help.  A solution to this problem needs to start hitting the grounds of our country if we want to prevent disasters like we have faced from occurring.  The best way to start this is to ensure that every child has a mental health professional (ideally) or at least an adult to speak to.  The emergence of school psychologists has been increasing at least in my area of the country, but they can only meet with so many students, and we all know that it would be far too complicated to change our medical system to allow all children to visit a mental health professional in our society without massive political reforms on all fronts.  This leaves us with one solution left, and that is to make sure every child has at least one adult that they can confide in.  The best way to do this is with their counselors and teachers in school.

            Rapport is something that I often bring up in the topic of education with it helping students feel more comfortable and all that, but this is much more than that.  Educators need to put emphasis on the importance of connecting with their students to better our society all together.  These broken souls that have decided to take the lives of the students around them into their own hands have all stated that they felt completely alone.  Coming from broken families, these individuals have a hard time at home and an even harder time in school.  If there was a teacher that they were able to confide in and talk about what they needed to keep going with their lives in a positive manner for themselves and those around them, these issues could have been avoided.

            This push on connection between student and teacher is one of the only ways we can help our country without having to go through the policies of politics.  I have many blogs in the past on how to initiate this kind of connection and rapport with students, so please check those out if you have not already. 

Singing Telegrams by: Sam Fremin

Every Valentine’s Day our school hosts a singing telegram fundraiser for the end-of-year senior
trip. Kids of all ages across the school population organize themselves into groups, audition for
the senior class government and sponsor, and then spend Valentine’s Day popping in and out of
classes singing to whoever had messages purchased for them. Last year four of my friends had
set the school upside down with their telegram team, “No Hard Feelings.” Donned in pink tank
tops and cut off jean shorts, they sang assorted Beyoncé and boy bands songs. Taking it a step
further, they created choreography and assigned each other voice parts. It was a whole
production. Unsurprisingly, they sold a majority of the available telegrams. As soon as they
walked into a classroom to perform, you could feel the odd swagger they exuded. Little did I
know how much work went into creating the spectacle they put on.

This year, since two of the original members graduated, I was chosen to fill one of the empty
slots and I couldn’t have been more excited. Based on their financial success last year, it was all
but guaranteed No Hard Feelings would be accepted into the fundraiser again. Keeping this in
mind, we went all out with our preparation for auditions, but also the performance day itself. The
senior class sponsor reached out to us at one point to inform us just how excited he was for our
set this year. His expression of excitement rubbed off on us in the form of confidence. We
jumped right into our planning meetings and rehearsals. Our song list (“Any Kind of Guy” by
Big Time Rush, “Whatcha Say” by Jason Derulo, “Toxic” by Britney Spears, and “Love on Top”
by Beyoncé) was the first order of business. Together we discussed and debated what would
generate the most buzz, but would also be possible for us to perform well. Once we had the
pieces picked out, we delegated the remaining jobs amongst ourselves. Although we had songs
selected, we still needed to come up with choreography, costumes, voice parts, advertisements,
and instrumentals to sing over.

Self policed deadlines were put in place for when specific aspects of our jobs needed to be
accomplished. The members working on voice parts and instrumentals worked together to find
the right key and harmonies (I don’t really understand choral lingo, so I may have just
completely butchered what they were doing, but the point is they were working together on their
respective jobs). Choreography would be ready in pieces. Basically, every song would be done
by a certain point. I was one half of our costume team. We planned out what everyone would be
wearing and then spent a Saturday driving to numerous thrift stores to find affordable versions of
our ideas.

Rehearsing before school every Monday and Friday for an hour or so, we rocked our audition
and were told we were a lock for the fundraiser. The night before Valentine’s Day, the fundraiser
sponsor sent us a detailed schedule of each of the sixty-two classes we’d have to hit throughout
the day. It was going to be tight for us to reach everyone and it was going to be tiring, but we
were into it. This is what we’d been looking forward to for months.

I showed up the next morning in our designated rest area, dressed in a giant fur coat and joggers
with playing card designs on them. Our team discussed what our plan was going to be over the
course of the day to conserve our voices, but still remain fun to watch. As soon as the first bell
rang, we embarked on our sweaty journey to our sixty second performance.

Paramount Bonds by: Nihar Kandarpa

One of the most paramount things in the classroom is rapport between a teacher and a student. It helps amplify many other things in the classroom as well, such as individualized learning. Rapport is generated through a lot of ways, but teachers can start simple. One of the best ways to achieve rapport is through an entry routine, because it is done every day, and it becomes a habit for both the teachers and the students. Entry routines are always a good tool to get to know a student, if a teacher uses entry routines properly. These routines can include assignments, but they also include how the teacher greets the student every morning. Many times, a teacher in the classroom sits in the corner of the classroom working, and students just come in, take a seat, and get to work on a bell-ringer worksheet or something of the sort. If a teacher utilizes this time before class to get to know students, rapport will automatically generate. My sixth-grade history teacher not only greeted every student that walked by or into his classroom with a smile, but also said their names gave them high-fives. Even in eighth-grade, students still talk about how great of a teacher he was. That’s because he generated such great rapport with his students, and it all started by greeting them at the door.

Another way to get to know students through an entry routine is by asking a new question every day. If a teacher utilizes the time before class to ask questions individually to every student walking into his/her classroom, then rapport cannot help but take place.

         Individualized learning is also something that helps rapport take place. It is a mutual relationship, because rapport causes individualized learning, but individualized learning also causes rapport to be generated.

Situation #1
Students listen while a teacher is up at the promethean board talking. The teacher has been continuously talking for fifteen minutes. A student in the back is drawing something. The sound of the pencil scratching the paper is drowned out by the constant talking of the teacher, though. One student is looking at his phone, making sure to hide it in his desk. Some other students have zoned out and are looking at the blank walls in the classroom. Only a small portion of the students are listening to the teacher’s speech. That small portion is hard to find.

Situation #2
The teacher is drawing a graphic organizer on the board, as the test is two days from now. She is using real world examples and analogies to support her claims, and is asking questions every now and then to engage students. One student raises his hand, all the way in the back. He was drawing before, but now he’s not.
He likes this lesson.
But he’s confused about one thing. The teacher calls on him, and he asks: “How do symbiotic relationships work?”
The teacher thinks for a moment. “You like Star Wars, right?”
The student nods.
“Can Darth Vader live without his robotic suit?”
“No, he can’t.”
“That’s how symbiotic relationships work. If one organism has a mutual symbiotic relationship with another organism, they have to work together to live.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” The student sighs, and sits down.

Situation #2 is a rather general instance that shows how rapport benefits individualized learning, and vice versa. If a teacher knows a student well, it’s amazing how easy it is for the student to understand topics. If individualized learning is implemented, great heights can be achieved in the classroom.

Focus by: Jack Michael

We are not always at our top focus. In ever instance whether it be in a lecture or during class work, we are not always at 100%. Consequently, when students go home they need reinforcement of the subjects they have been taught. This way, when a test rolls around, students will not fear the test because they have had reinforcement of the lesson. One method of reinforcement I believe is extremely helpful is a project. Most students groan when they hear about a project. Yes, projects can be a lot of work, but they truly help to reinforce a topic that has been taught. If a project is done correctly, students will enjoy working on the project and it will help them fell more confident about the test. The focus of this blog will be to inform the reader on how to create good at home individual projects that are fun and useful for the student.

When a student sits down for a project, they often complain and fear the amount of hours or days it will take them to complete the project. A large and demanding project can make it extremely intolerable; this can lead to student apathy towards the project and less application and reinforcement during the project. The first step to creating a painless and fun project is to make it quick. If a student is able to finish a project over the course of a few hours or a day, they will find it more enjoyable. Projects like writing a minimum one-page essay or making a small booklet or even making a small PowerPoint are all tasks that can be completed in a few hours. When students spend only a few hours on a project, it will let them minimize mistakes, apply themselves more towards the project, become more engaged in the project, and finally retain more information during the project. Doing this will allow students to retain more information and enjoy the project more.

            Something I truly do not enjoy is doing the same thing over and over again. Sadly though, a lot of the projects I am assigned require me to do the same four things.  Either write an essay, create a PowerPoint, Make a poster board, and sometimes to create and iMovie. What I would enjoy seeing more of as a student would be differentiated platforms for project display. Doing things like creating a comic, making a stop motion, even building something would make the project more expressive and different to the student. As a teacher you should also create your own fun ideas for projects, this way students have a wide variety of platforms to display their work. Also allow students to propose their own ideas for projects, the project will be more useful to the students if they enjoy the platform they are doing it on. As long as students are retaining information and displaying understanding of the topic, then why should we confine them four platforms.

In this classroom where small projects are common, I believe every student would do exponentially better. Not only are students retaining more information from lectures and notes, but they will also inquire more about the lesson. School shouldn’t just learn what their teachers say without trying to learn more, school should foster more learning outside the classroom. I believe that these projects would foster learning outside the classroom. 

PowerPoints by: Aaron Eichenlaub

PowerPoints. The go to lesson planning for teachers. Just slide after slide after slide, with boring pictures. I learn best with hands-on lessons, and I don’t get anything from boring slide shows. It all disappears from my mind, and that’s the problem. A teacher has to teach the material, but if they can’t get that material to stick in your head the whole lesson has been a waste. Why waste time making a lesson when students will forget it the next day. To teach the teachers have to know the students, know how they learn, and make the material stick. Teachers have to know the students and how they learn and create lessons around that. Create a lesson that works for the whole class. Make a lesson fun and interesting, so the students will remember it on test day. Let the student have fun and let them enjoy the class. It’s no fun to sit for an hour watching slides, but it is fun to be engaged in a cool activity with your friends.

            You don’t remember a good movie because it was like all the others, you remember a good movie because it was different and interesting. So, the same should be said for the lesson. The students won’t remember a boring slide show, but they will remember a fun engaging lesson. The teacher should know how the students learn and create a lesson the perfect lesson for them.