So Much To Do

I met with my mentor this week, and although I was basically on the right track, she gave me some great ideas and some new directions to go in. Mostly we tweaked the grid that lists my accomplishments and how they impact students.

We deleted, combined and added things. One thing that I’m going to do is to have some video tutorials on the website for parents. This shows my interaction and collaboration with families. I am creating the videos myself using PowerPoint and SlideBoom, which turns the PowerPoints into Flash videos right online, which are easily added to my website.  Here’s a link to a tutorial I created on Vocabulary. My mentor thinks that it is too technical for parents, and I agree, so I will be editing this one, but in case there’s anyone actually reading this blog, I wanted to have an example.  : )  I’d also welcome any ideas/advice on editing the tutorial.

Another thing that I am going to, to show communication with families, is to post my grades online – eeeek! I have always resisited this because I am one of those teachers who has a stack of things that need to be graded in the days before grades are due. However, it’s also been a personal goal to improve the speed at which I grade things, so if parents can see my gradebook, then I have to be more on top of the grading.

Earlier in the school year, my Assistant Principal actually asked me to research some online grading programs. There was one program in particular that stood out for me  – TeacherEase. The reason I liked TeacherEase the best was because it had an integrated Lesson Plan component and the ability to align grades with standards. Their trial offer is limited to 3 at any school, and when I tried to sign up for one, I got a message saying that my school was already signed up. So I went back to my list and ended up with SnapGrades. SnapGrades is a very easy to use online gradebook that allows parents to access thier child’s grades. Parents can also set it up to automatically receive an email with their child’s grades every Friday (or whatever day they choose) and/or if their child’s grades fall below a certain grade. I can also email reports home, which is a great paper saver. The gradebook itself has some great features; you can do a What If for when kids ask what grade they need on an assignent to get up to the next letter grade. It also can show you what the impact of an assignment grade was on the overall grade. Another feature, which is good for where I live, is that the reports can  automatically be translated into Spanish. The trial that I have goes through October 2008, so I can try it with real students for a while. Then it’s only $50 for a single, year-long subscription.

The Box Has Arrived!

The day the box arrives from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is the day the journey really begins. Even though I have looked at the standards and guidelines online, and I have even started writing Entry 4 (My Accomplishments with co-workers and the community).

Tomorrow I’m going to meet with my mentor, who is a co-worker who has already achieved National Board Certification. She has been trying to get me to do this for years and now that I have finally committed to it, I need her tell me if my style of writing is what the assessors are looking for, and, if not, get tips on how to write for what they are looking for. I plan to get Entry 4 written during the summer (even though one section of it needs to be from the current year – I know what I am going to use and can write is as if I’ve already done it and revisit it as needed to make it current) so that I can focus all my energy on the three lessons that have to be documened – two videos and one written. I’m most afraid of being videotaped – I hate to hear and see myself in recordings, but I think most people do. Luckily, my mentor is the media specialist who is great at videotaping : )

Why Ask Why

You may be wondering why I have decided to undertake this awesome project. It’s actually taken me a couple of years to decide that I really wanted to put in the amount of effort that is required to complete National Board Teacher Certification.

A few years ago, I went back to school in order to get a Reading Endorsement. I did it before the state/county created a streamlined process for teachers to obtain the endorsement (which is now required for all reading and language arts teachers). I decided to jump the gun, so instead of taking the free online classes they now have, I went back to school. Three of the five classes I had to take, I had to pay for, and they were graduate level classes that I had to actually go and sit in a classroom for a few hours each week. I was exhausted, but I was also intellectually challenged. I had been in a classroom with Middle Schoolers for so long that that I had forgotten what it was like to think at that higher, graduate school level – and I realized that I missed it! I was actually enjoying writing papers!

After that experience, I realized that every few years I need to recharge my brain with deeper, higher order thinking. It’s kind of like after I fill my brain up, the information slowly leaks out and I need to refill.

So that brings me to my decision to tackle the National Teacher Certification process. A couple of teachers at my school have done it and they survived. One in particular keeps telling me that I should do it. I never disagreed with her, but it took me a couple of years to wrap my head around the idea and be in a place where I was ready to commit to the time necessary to complete it, and do it well. That time has arrived. I guess my brain level has hit the point where it can’t go any lower and it needs to be refilled.