Sunday, December 15, 2013

More Homework Meme #morehomework

My wonderful brother invited me to share some things about myself with you.  Enjoy!

First, 11 things you may not know about me.

1. While applying to college, I had two very different paths in mind. 1) Go to Iowa State and major in Marketing. 2) Go to Wartburg and major in elementary education. Because of financial aid, I chose #2, and my life would never be the same because of that choice.

2. I never want to own a dog.

3. I have a small Etsy shop. Though if you've been reading my tweets lately, you'll notice I've been a little more vocal about it.

4. I document what I wear. I wouldn't say I'm a fashion blogger, but I enjoy looking nice.

5. My first job was at a restaurant called The Garden of Eatin' complete with Adam and Eve on the pizza boxes.

6. I worked running a parts washer machine at a metal factory the summer after my freshman year of college. Just call me Rosie the Rivieter.

7. When I was in college, my brother and I co-hosted a show, "Townsley Time," on the campus radio station.  Russ and his buddies were about our only dedicated listeners as we reported on the cafeteria menu and other random things. I did not know him at the time. We met over a year later.

8. I've never been out of the country.

9. We don't do Santa at our house, and I think Elf on a Shelf looks creepy, but I don't voice my opinions about it much.

10. I clip coupons and have had a manager's approval on some of my purchases because of the amount of discount.

11. Pumpkin is my favorite scent and taste. Second is peppermint.

 Now onto Matt's questions:

1. What book written prior to 1990 has influenced your professional growth as an educator the most?

Not sure I've ready one prior to 1990 that I can recall right now. I thought Teaching with Love and Logic was old, but that's just 1995.

2. Why did you decide to start blogging?

I wanted to share my thoughts, and I enjoy writing.

3. Which educational author do you disagree with the most?
Any that back up letter grades.

4. What is your favorite fast food joint?
McDonald's for their Frappes and bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit

5. When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
Today - I tell my boys all the time.

6.What is most picturesque place you've visited?
Grand Lake Colorado, on the Fourth of July

7. What is your favorite holiday song?
Oh Holy Night

8. What was the last book you read?
Currently reading Allegiant (last in the Divergent trilogy). I'm a junkie for a good dystopian novel.

9. If you could work any job outside of education, what would it be?
I'd own a shop that sells cupcakes and fun accessories.

10. Android or iOS?
iOS - never going back to Android

11. What was the first computer you owned? 
An eMachine desktop that looked something like this. I took bought it for college.

I'm supposed to tag bloggers and make a new list of 11 questions, but I just can't think of 11 bloggers. I'm going to have to end the chain, sorry, but this was fun!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Always on the Clock

As a teacher, the job doesn't end when contract time is up at the end of the day. I don't mean the paperwork or the planning, I mean the title.

Today started out like a normal Saturday. We headed off to the local fireman's pancake breakfast.

"Hey, Mrs. Goerend! Is that your baby?" - Student.

"Yep, this is Wesley. He's sleeping." - me in my non-showered, pony-tailed, baby wearing appearance.

Which proceeded into an introduction to the student's mom. (I teach 300+ kids over two days, so, no, I haven't met every parent yet.)

- 30 minutes later. Still at the pancake breakfast - 

"Hi, Mrs. Goerend! Is that your baby? Where's Mr. Goerend?" - Student.

(proceed to have a conversation...then one with the student's mom about my class)

- Three hours later at the grocery store -

Wave and say, "Hi" to a former student selling Boy Scout popcorn as I lug the baby in his carseat into the store.

- 10 minutes later -

Wave to two students as I drive home.

- Three hours later -

Woman shows up to buy something from the local swap page.

"Oh, I was looking up your address and my daughter said, 'oh, that's my Leadership teacher!'"


And that was all by 2pm.

Do I teach in a small town? No. Fastest growing district in Iowa.

Today was a reminder to me that I'm always on the clock. I'm always Mrs. Goerend. 

Do you choose to live in the community in which you teach? If so, why? If not, why not?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My new gig

Phew! It's been a long time since I've blogged over here. April 7, I had a beautiful baby boy, and was off school for the remainder of the year.

Then, mid-summer, I interviewed for an in-district transfer, and I got the job! What's the new job? Awesome.

I have been an elementary school teacher for the past seven years (one year in second grade, four years in sixth grade, and two in fifth). Going into teaching, I figured I'd be an elementary classroom teacher for a long while, and I guess seven years is a long while, but I was itching for some change. My new job is in a middle school (the same middle school my husband teaches at...awwww...yep we now carpool and eat lunch together). I teach sixth grade, but I'm a "specials" or "elective" teacher, though my classes are required courses for sixth graders. This first semester I'm teaching Leadership Development - an awesome course for these students transitioning into middle school. The main goals of the class are:
  • applying a problem solving process to solve daily life problems
  • learning how to work appropriately with others
  • using personal strengths and weaknesses to create goals
  • understanding ethical behavior
We also touch on why it's important to have a good outlook and  attitude, organization, and gratitude.

Sounds like a sweet class, huh? In the spring I'll teach another course, Communications, which focuses on inter-personal communications, communicating with technology, and presentations.

I can say so far, that this position is a great fit for me. It's such a huge change from teaching reading, math, science, etc. and being on a team (who I miss greatly by the way), but it is so refreshing to spend my day not stressing about the core and focusing on these "soft skills." I get to see students in a whole different light than their core teachers because it's just different material.

So, if you've been wondering where I've been (sorry University of South Alabama students who visit here and just see old stuff!), I've been transitioning. Transitioning to being a mother of two. Transitioning to being a middle school elective teacher. I'm enjoying this new journey and hope to share more about it with you soon.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Turning it over to them - Success in the making!

image used from flickr

I mentioned in my last post about my struggle with too much social/not enough learning focus happening in our classroom and that I'd share what we're trying out. After 2 weeks down, we've been able to celebrate some success!

Here's what we're trying:

1) We identified as a class the three main behavior areas we struggle in: on task, voice level, and caring/respect toward others.

2) We made a rubric to score these behaviors.
  • I divided the class into three groups and they each started with what a secure classroom might look like, then went up from there for exceeding and down for beginning and developing.
  • Then we came back together as a class to share out and make sure the language and numbers matched up for the whole rubric. 

3) We identified the 3 key times in the day that students struggle most: math, Words Their Way, and independent reading.

4) I chose two students per day to assess the class during those times. Those two students had a quick discussion after each of those subject areas, came to an agreement on how to score the class, and reported their assessment to the class. We did this for four days and then looked at the data and set a goal.

5) I compiled the data by assigning one point to a beginning score, up to 4 points for an exceeding score. The first four days, students scored 65/144. Many were able to see that it was below 50%, and that an average of 50% would be all developing scores. Then we set a goal for the next four days. The class agreed that we should shoot for 50%, so 72/144. Different students continued to assess and report to the class each day.

6) At the end of the four days (yesterday), I compiled the rubrics again. Good news! They exceeded their goal! They got 78/144 - 54%! We set a new goal for next 5 days. Students decided on this goal and are aiming for a little above 50%. We'll see how it continues.

Here are a few questions I would ask someone if I read about this. If you have more, feel free to comment and I will get back to you!

Where did this idea come from? I shared my struggles with one of my building administrators. She came in to observe and noticed I was working a lot harder than the students. We sat down and brainstormed some ideas, and this is the one that stuck and felt like the responsibility was being passed over to the students.

Are we seeing classroom behavior improvement? I'd say somewhat. There are still areas we struggle with that aren't necessarily during the three times students assess with the rubrics, but we can't do it all, all the time. Plus, we've just been doing this for two weeks!

Are students being honest with their assessments? Yes. I even noticed that when a few of my more off task students had their day to score the rubric, their behavior was better because they were focusing on their work and the rubric.

Why do I have students do the assessing? It turns the responsibility over to them. The idea that the students should be working harder than the teacher wasn't happening before this. I was the nag, the reminder, even the babysitter at times. Now they students get an honest reflection about their behavior from their peers and some of the pressure is off me.

Doesn't this take a lot of time? To begin with, yes. It took us a few hours as a class to come up with the rubric. I have to copy rubrics and plan who is going to assess the class. We have to take a minute to report at the end of each of the three subjects, but things that are worthwhile do take time. If this helps the learners in my classroom focus more, it's totally worth it!

Thursday, March 7, 2013


image used from flickr

It's nearing Spring Break...which means it's getting closer to the end of the year...which means my fifth graders are preparing to become sixth graders/middle schoolers. Lately we've been struggling as a class to put learning time ahead of socializing time. I know it's something so many teachers struggle with and this time of year seems to be prime time for it.

Teachers have a variety of different strategies they try to get kids to stop talking and focus on learning. From taking away recess minutes to erasing letters of a random word on the board to having them put visual reminders on their desks to who knows what else.

My biggest struggle has been how to get the students to intrinsically monitor themselves instead of me being the external reminder voice that feels like a broken record at the end of the day.

I'm going to be experimenting with something over the next few weeks in an attempt to turn it over to them. It's something I've talked over with some colleagues, and I'm going to give it a whirl. Students at this age are very aware of what appropriate behaviors look like in the classroom, but sometimes just become oblivious to what they're doing in the moment. I hope to come back here to share how it went, and maybe it can be something you can try! So, come back in a few weeks and I'll post about it then.

How do you help your students internalize the importance of the work they need to do? I know socializing is necessary. I know it's important, but how do you balance it with the learning priorities in your classroom? I'd love to hear some things you have tried. What has worked? What has flopped?