A Tour of the Body Systems

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Now that it has been several weeks after the end of the school year and two weeks of writing curriculum and a trip to Mexico, I am ready to reflect on an end of the year review that I did with my learners.

A colleague came to me before our final weeks of school and asked if I’d like to try using Spheros in my classroom. I am ALWAYS game to introduce new technology in my classroom and grow myself, so I jumped on the idea. After discussing a few logistics, I suggested reviewing the body systems for their final exam. I would have three days, which made us all a little nervous…that is not a lot of time to “play” with the devices, plan the tour of the body system chosen, code the Sphero and then present to classmates for review. But, I was confident in my learners. We are a blended classroom and I had been throwing resources, Apps and digital challenges at them all year. They did not let me down (and impressed everyone.)

Steps in Planning:

  1. My colleague, Monica Champagne, sent me this Google doc to get the ball rolling. I made a few simple tweaks to the terminology and posted it to my LMS for my learners to copy and collaborate in groups.
  2. A week prior, I had learners download the Lightning App and view a couple of tutorial videos on how to use the app.
  3. One day before I had the Spheros available for students to “play” with in class once they had finished the day’s assignment. I also had the outline of the body you see in the photos printed (we have an awesome printer in our library!) and ready.  Thank you to Trisha Goins, my DLC, for trouble-shooting the size of this outline!!
  4. Next, was our planning day in the classroom. Groups were larger than I like, but we only have 8 Spheros and with our connectivity, they don’t all always work at the same time. Eight would have been ideal, but we used 5 so we always had a back up. With the groups being large, I wanted to make sure all students were busy. So, I added PlayDough in the mix for learners to create their body system. So, body systems had to be created, the Google Doc had to be completed, the Sphero had to be coded and the hopes of a practice run-through all in one day! Students will always rise to high expectations and appreciate that you believe in them!!!
  5. Tour Day. I did have to give them about 20-30 minutes to organize and finalize their code, etc. This didn’t go as smoothly as wanted with some devices not connecting, groups accidentally connecting to another group’s Sphero, the code just not working. However, the students loved the challenge and the problem-solving; which is really what it is all about!!!
  6. Added half day (because it was just so awesome!) so learners didn’t feel defeated and could have a chance to show off their tour of the system.

I would like to add that I had never used Spheros myself or in the classroom before this time. Take risks, educators!! In addition, one of my learners found the fix that helped every group in class in their solution to making the Sphero “speak.” For all the groups in the beginning, the Sphero would complete the first movements and speak, but then stop even though code followed. After problem solving over and over, she found out that after the Sphero spoke you needed to have a timed pause that lasted the same amount of time that the Sphero spoke. I was in awe. She had never coded before and confessed to not watching the tutorial videos!! Her group learned together and then showcased their tour to the class. Then, each of those members went to other groups and helped them with their code. OUTSTANDING!!!

This whole process was amazing. And, it wasn’t amazing due to it’s no flaws success. It was amazing to see thinking, collaboration, problem solving, taking on a new challenge, etc. This is how learning should be. I call it “getting your hands dirty.” We learn by experience, and this is one of the best experiences of the year. And, we did some really cool stuff!!

Thank you to Monica Champagne, Victoria Tong and Trisha Goins for your ideas, support and trouble-shooting! Thank you to Bruce Hermans, Emily Froese and Laura Francis for coming and spending time with us as we coded!!

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Many years ago I watched this movie I’d call a “c” movie. The “c” comes from growing up being forced to watch these bad movies because we had one TV and my Dad chose the movie! Remember those old Kung Fu movies where they just grunted a lot and made Kung Fu movements? Yeah, those. So, I started a rated system of letter grading for them. He’d just laugh. But, it was the summer in the middle of the night and I watched it. I can’t remember if the name of the movie was Lather, Rinse Repeat or it was just the moment at the end of the movie that pulled all of it together. (A Google search did not help  me.)

The storyline was a group of grown friends stay at the home of a friend’s whose parents are selling the house in which she grew up in and the whole group had memories there. So, they stay one more night and party like they used to or tried. The culminating point of the story is that they haven’t past the best parts of their life as they thought, they just need to lather, rinse and repeat. Have you ever tried it? Followed the directions on the back of the shampoo bottle? Well, if you have, you’ve experience a much richer lather and fuller experience.

For some reason, this movie kept popping into my head at the most random moments; in my classroom, in our PLC time, researching, etc. It kept coming up. What came to me is the connection within the classroom. When educating our students all of whom have very diverse background experiences, we must lather, rinse and repeat often. We must let them experience our content in multiple ways so they can grasp the meaning and connect to their prior learning; and hopefully, close the performance gap increasing their success.

 

Empathy & Probation Officers

As I worked with a colleague on our next topic, Empathy, in our Leading Innovative Change Series through our Tech Tuesday professional learning community (PLC), I reflected back on my own experiences.

To add to my personal Learning Moments Blog Series, a very dear to me student came to mind. After four years teaching and coaching north of Houston, I was ready to move back to the Dallas area closer to family and away from the humidity and bird-sized mosquitos! I found a job on the Irving side of Valley Ranch. As I started the year, a young man (we’ll call him JA), asked me to sign a form for him. I gladly took it and said, “Ok, what is it for,” as it didn’t look like the normal school form for anything. He said, “Oh, my PO.” In my mind, I thought PO. What’s PO. And it dawned on me, Probation Officer. It made me wonder about him. I was still getting to know my students. As I progressed day to day, I watched this young man. I saw pleasantness, courtesy, calmness…I saw love in his eyes. His eyes that were as deep as wells, showed love and kindness. I wondered, Why does this kid have a PO?!”

I learned over time that he has a twin brother that was always getting into trouble and who was not kind in any way. JA being the good brother he is, would always back his brother which got him in trouble as well. JA became one of those students whom I would fight you for, a surrogate son of sorts even though I was not old enough to be his mother. Maybe and little brother. I say this because I did develop the relationship with him that allowed me to stop on the side of the road when I saw him trying to look “hard” with a group of boys he did not belong with to tell him if I ever saw him there again with those boys that I would lead him by the ear to my truck and drive him home to his mama. That got some, “yes ma’ams” out of him. He knew my threats were not empty.

One day, JA, was in a neighboring class and was brought out in the hallway because he was so upset. I joined as I was on conference, the teacher was a friend and it was JA! We learned that he was upset and crying-a 17 year old boy crying at school-because he was caught “slap fighting” and this would be his third strike and he would go back to juvenile detention. On our campus students could not “slap fight,” the act of play hitting and rough-housing, as it would typically turn into a rumble between students.

Oh, well… I wasn’t having that! I marched straight down to the principal’s office and said let me talk to his PO! The principal trying to talk me off the ledge said he would talk with her and explain things, etc. After much debate, I told him I would trust him to  handle it. I was skeptical, but he did handle it to my liking. He later told me that he had never had a teacher come in and go to bat for one of the “bad” kids.

That’s just the thing. Yes, JA had been in trouble and yes, he was a teenage boy and “slap fought” in the hallway not remembering that behavior was not allowed. That’s how boys go through their entire life! What a ridiculous thing in which to send a kid back to juvenile detention! Are you kidding me?!

I could empathize with JA. I could understand how being a teenager is hard enough even when you don’t have a brother bringing you down. I have lost touch with JA, but I think about him daily. I wonder how he is. His mom finally separates him and his brother by sending JA to a private school so he could be his true self.

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So, I challenge you to see all your students with empathetic eyes; especially the ones whom give you gray hairs and make you rethink your professional decisions. I could have written off JA at the first signature on the PO form like so many others. Make those connections. Grace goes a long way.

Do you have stories to share? Share them in the comments.! I would love to hear of the ways you’ve shown empathy with your students.