Spinners in the classroom


There are a lot of students that come from privileged families that place in an inordinate amount of pressure on them to be “something”. This means expecting straight A’s even if another grade really reflects what they understand.  It means feeling as though they aren’t ever capable of being good enough.  It means anxiety.

Sometimes students carry around passes that give them a 5-minute break when their anxiety gets out of control. As teachers, we can sometimes help.  We can work with them over a course of a year and help them so they rarely use them. However, that is usually more because of the number of students in the class than anything we could really do. There are always new tools that are created with the goal to help students that have ADD, ADHD, Anxiety or any other situation manage classroom learning and expectations.  Recently, it’s been the spinner or the fidget cube.

When I see such a tool, the only conversation I have with them is a quiet one that asks them to use it as the tool was designed to be used.  However,  if I see it being passed around or thrown (yes I have students that will do those thing), I will have to ask that it be put away.

I have some have this be the result of such behavior.  They were asked to put it away until they could use it responsibly.  Usually, they just need to realize they needed the tool more than they needed to play.

As a teacher, I could ask that students have parent permission to use such a tool. Yes, there are teachers out there saying that’s in order for the tool to be used, parents must come in and explain to the teacher why it needs to be there.  However, I really feel that as teachers we don’t always need a form or file or parent input to do what’s best for our students. If a teacher finds the kids aren’t using any tool correctly, there should be a conversation with that student first. Students are smarter than we give them credit for (at any age).

I also think that as teachers, we sometimes forget that it really isn’t OUR ROOM. We go to school and say that we agree with our professors when we learn about setting up our classroom as a place of refuge for our students.  We even talk as teachers, in meetings, that we recognize our students often have lives at home such that our room is the only place they will feel positive reinforcement in their lives. So, if it’s supposed to be a place of safety and learning for those kids, when it’s OUR ROOM, can we really say that is always the case. I say, if its really that big of an issue in your classroom, “Let the kids take ownership of the room. Let them decide what should be done when someone takes something intended to be used for good and changes it’s use jeopardizing someone else’s ability to learn effectively.

YouTube in the Choir Room, Part 1

I used YouTube in my class many times before as I’m sure many educators do. I’ve used it to demonstrate good performances versus not such good performances.  I’ve used it to model the vocal folds, breathing apparatus, etc for my vocal production units.  I’ve used it to show fun, random things occasionally.  Today, in on my technology classes, I thought of how to do this in a better way.

Although I’ve used YouTube and by virtue of YouTube being owned by Google, I have a channel.  However, not much more than that…until today.  One of our assignments was to create a channel that was separate from our personal one just in case we wanted to use it for our classroom.  I liked this opportunity because I could still have my personal items for me and maybe my own children but my students didn’t have to wallow through my searches and likes, etc.  My favorite part was where I could have YouTube restrict the videos by just selecting the Restricted Mode (at the bottom of your channel page).  This is extremely helpful since the school district (like most) have strict guidelines as to what we can show our students.  This is just one more feature that can me filter the comments (that we all know are not always kind or appropriate for our students’ ears) and it helps a bit with the videos too.  It’s not perfect so I know I will still need to do my job by previewing what I add to the channel.

Next we added a playlist.  I hadn’t done that one before so I found it really enlightening. I could allow the playlist to be private, unlisted or public. Currently, my playlists are private.  I felt this was a good thing for now because I can create the list with my students in mind but not allow them to have access until I have completed what I want them to see or even when I want them to see it.  So far, I have created two playlists.  One, is from the guy that created S Cubed Sightsinging…Dale Duncan.  I have linked his blog and product info on my Sightsinging Page so check that out. Two, is for videos I can use as performance examples.  I have been choosing the songs we are currently working on so I think this will be quite relevant.  What I like about this is the fact that once I make the list public, I can a link to my students through our Google Classroom site so they can review what we learned in class without having to find the correct video themselves.

My next assignment is to create a 5 minute video I would use in my classroom and post it to my channel.  I haven’t thought about what I would create yet so I have no idea what will be posted there.  I think I may talk it over with one or more of my classes and get their input.  Knowing my students, they will love to give their input and some will even want to help create it.  I will add a link when it finished though.  If you have suggestions of items you would like posted there, feel free to make a comment using the form below.

Where am I at today?

I have been thinking about my life the last three months.  It has been a whirlwind of activity.

I started my first accredited class for my Educational Technology Endorsement in January along with three other state courses (4-6 weeks each) that would also count towards the endorsement.  Wow, I really landed myself into a little bit of stress!  January through March is a busy time for a middle school choir teacher.

January is where recruiting and auditions begin.  We start with the elementary schools that feed into our school.  We then perform two more times for our 6th grade orientations (Feb/Mar) since our elementary schools are on a year-round schedule.  Finally, I get to audition my current students and those who didn’t take my class this year, for one crazy reason or another, to see if they will be in my Intermediate or Advanced choir for next year.  All of this has to be finished by the end of February while still preparing for District Solo & Ensemble (early Feb), our Combined Festival Concert with Elk Ridge Middle School and Bingham High School (end of Feb), and our District Choir Festival (Mar) that I was in charge of

I didn’t think I could accomplish it all.  Yet, I did.

Somehow I kept up on my classwork. I fed my kids each night and had some really good laughs while reading or watching tv together. I worked and shared my new ideas and understandings with my students.  I even asked them their opinion! WOW!!! And had my gall bladder out during emergency surgery at the beginning of March!

Last week, I started two new classes.  One required me to get a Twitter, which I thankfully had already done! One said to start or restart blog.  HERE I AM!  I have spent my Spring Break getting this blog up and running, added a Facebook page where I almost didn’t have the nerve to ask friends and family to look at my work.  But I did it!  I can’t believe how far I have come.

Next week is our last class.  During the semester, we had to create a portfolio that showcased the work we have done, the reflections we have written and even shown a little creativity.   I have attached a link although realize it’s really simple and almost rudimentary especially compared to what I have done this week.

The semester’s almost over.  The time has flown.  All that’s left is to present my portfolio and enjoy the evening.

I still have yet to finish out the school on a HUGE bang of a concert on MAY 18th.  I refuse to count down to the end of the school year, but I can’t help counting down to our concert. I will post how it goes.  My stage crew and all of my classes are excited with the music selected, the ideas we have discussed for entertainment factors, etc.  I can wait to see what happens next…it all begins again this Summer with another accredited class and a lot of state courses.


Making things happen

The other night, I participated in a YouTube discussion with A.J. Juliani and George Couros, as part of the Innovative Teaching Academy.  The discussion was as phenomenal as I expected it to be.  I learned a lot, comment some but it was something that George said that really hit me.

How often do we spend our time complaining instead doing?

It really made me think.  Do I waste my time complaining (or worrying, or stressing, or any other adjective you can add here) about the things I can and can’t change?  I had to step back and really ponder that thought.  And hard truth was…sometimes, maybe even a lot of times.

I worry that being a short, older (not old) female that finished college later than most, I won’t be taken seriously unless I am perfect.  I worry that I won’t be able to provide for my children where my job status is unknown (decisions have yet to be made). As I find myself alone with two children, I worry that I haven’t been enough or done enough for long enough for the person that was supposed to be a part of my life forever.  I worry about a lot of things.  I’m sure you do too.

But you know what?  I realized that those things only provide excuses for me to not move forward,  taking control of my situation and saying I will get through it.  I have the resources and knowledge I need to help me achieve my goals.  I have colleagues and friends that I know have my back and will help if I ask.  I have my faith that guides and sheers me up when I feel worthless or alone.

So after hearing that statement and pondering on it, I have decided…I will spend my time MAKING THINGS HAPPEN!  I am going to continue to add lessons and technological examples I have created to the Teaching Choir Page. I will continue to post my thoughts to this blog.  I will continue to teach amazing students I teach every day (after Spring Break, that is). I will continue to look for new opportunities and even maybe a new job. But…I will succeed! I can do it! You can too!


Technology in the classroom/board room

Output or compliance?

“This is something that many people are struggling with in education and has nothing to do with age.  I have seen many younger educators bring pen and paper to a meeting while the veterans have access to technology. Whatever the case, we shouldn’t make assumptions about how other people learn because it looks different from us. Even if a person is doodling, that could be how some people process information.”

“I have been surprised how many leaders in education still ban devices from their staff during meetings or personal learning days, because they are worried what they might do or they are not paying attention.”

This is so true.  I have been many in meetings where the “RULE” is that NO ONE can be on technology of any kind simply because it’s viewed as wasteful or you aren’t paying attention to the speaker.  I am a major busy body that also happens to be a huge visual learner and therefore need to be doing something in order to even hear what people are TELLING me. Sometimes doodling works but more often than not, I can focus more if I am typing notes, or searching for something the speaker talked about or just staring at something on the screen.  If it’s that way with me, who knows how many of my students need something similar.  That’s why I allow my students to write down dates of concerts or even notes in whatever manner they need in order to remember it.

“Start from the learner, and move backward from there.”

Word Cloud and Interactive Poster

I wanted to share a couple of projects I have been working on for my Educational Technology Endorsement.  The first one is called a Word Cloud.

One of my choirs, Crescendo, sang this song for residents at the Beehive Homes in South Jordan.  My students love to share their talents with people, especially the residents at the Beehive Homes.  They know the power they have to impact the lives of the residents and they are grateful for the opportunity, even if it means missing three class periods;)  This is created by going to WordArt.com (previously known as Tagul.com) and entering whatever text you want and choosing a shape.  It is extremely easy to create a visual where repeated words are highlighted and often links to important concepts in the text like my example did.

The second project was to create an Interactive Poster.  There are a lot of websites that you can use to create them.  However, I wanted to see if it could be done using the Google products since I have found how user-friendly they are and how easy it is to share with colleagues.  I found that you can create your own using Google Drawings.  This is a really fun way to use pictures you already have or find free ones using the Google search (only looks up ones that are available).

The link to view the poster is below.  Let me know what you think.  Use the comments to share constructive thoughts I can use to tweak the idea.