A Day in the Life of a passion-driven, project based (Cool Cat) Teacher

What passion based, flat, STEM based learning feels like.

As I pondered what to share with you today, I just wanted to mention a few experiences from yesterday to show what passion based - flat learning FEELS like as a teacher and what it means to try to fit things in.
I wrote this in late April/ Early May to share with you.
The first draft was in April.
It takes a while to polish up and add links sometimes.
Just a glimpse into some things in my life if your'e interested.
We're nearing the end of the school year at this point
as we finish up major projects and final work for the year.

Before School.
4:45 am-ish
My fit bit wrist alarm wakes me up when I'm in my lightest sleep. It is so nice not to wake my husband.
4:50 On the treadmill for 2,000 steps. Throw fresh coffee in the pot.
5:05 Reading my Bible/ Praying/ Journaling
5:20 Writing (Blogging or my second book.)
6:45 Get dressed
6:55 Breakfast with Kip
7:05 Head out the door. I like to get to school early to get my routine down.
7:20 At school. Do my 30/30 routine. (See 3 little tricks to smooth out your day.)


Kids are finishing up blogs and checking the Flat Classroom Ning to see if partners have replied. I send them to their homeroom so I can handle mine. Everyone wishes they had homeroom in the computer lab. I'm ready to have the infrastructure ready for BYOT. (Bring Your Own Technology)

1st period. 10th Introduction to Computer Science. (@netgened work)
We are outsourcing clips for the NetGenEd project. Students request clips, and other students in other parts of the world fulfill the clips. Lots of acting, interesting things happening, and a general commotion. These students know what they are doing. They know how to film and rip off my camera, their iphones, their ipads, and just about anything with a lens. They convert the files and upload on the Ning and post on the wiki their links. 

Current events make powerful teaching moments, plus
students need to talk about things sometimes.
2nd Period. 9th Computer Fundamentals.
We talked about the Boston Marathon because these students needed to and watched a video of Dick and Rick Hoyt and talked about how sometimes things are more than a race.

We also tied it in with understanding how to meet the needs of others through the power of social media. The students shared what they'd learned on their social media stats and shared the stats with each other.

We learned that an odd picture of a blowfish had gained quite a few followers on Instagram and that when you followed and unfollowed others quickly that you ticked them off and it wasn't something to do.

I checked the Trello board for the next lesson the students had proposed and voted up and taught a mini lesson on Tumblr to those who had signed up on the board. Looks like I'm teaching Twitter tomorrow.

(They vote up what they want me to teach while they are amidst their genius projects. I teach what has the most sign ups and handle individual requests individually. It is interesting, although some don't sign up, they often come across the room and start listening in and joining in.) (See 2012 genius work and current 2013 personal websites work being posted now)

Break. I have permission to walk for my break b/c of the 6 classes I'm teaching right now. I try to walk another 2,000 steps but only hit 1782.

3rd period. 9th Computer Fundamentals.
N is getting ready to test virtual worlds. We downloaded Second Life and talked about newbie island. Other students started watching and looking and were excited.

C asked people to post questions for her on her Tumblr that would spark conversation and others did as we laughed. We discussed why some things get shared and others do not. C is enjoying her tumblr and getting a very positive response. 

4th period. Senior filmmaking.
I took pictures of the seniors all over campus for their senior movie. They proposed to take a picture with their little brothers/ sisters for that section and the group photo was beautiful and one I'll start doing every year. I never would have thought of that!

5th period. 8th grade keyboarding. MLA Papers. Portfolios
We finished up taking MLA notes in Microsoft One Note about how to write an MLA paper and putting the notes in our binder as they started working on their MLA papers.

I'm a huge fan of notes because it powers the "external brain." If it is something they'll use in the future that is somewhat technically challenging or requires steps, they must write it down in the notetaking tool of their choice. These aren't things they will memorize but things they'll need to access in the future. Notes are taking in a way they will understand and remember.

Helping students determine and use a notetaking tool of their choice is a big part of what I help them do in the younger years. Pushing them to recall and look up from prior notes happens in the later years. My brain shouldn't be their primary source of knowledge. If they'll take what I teach into notes and tag for easy recall, they are empowered to be self sufficient. Students are missing out if they don't know how to create a notes archive to use for their lives.

Those who finished were making timelines on Dipity. They liked dipity ok but had trouble printing, so someone found TimeToast and they ended up over there. They thought it was a better solution to the problem.  A personal timeline is on the portfolio checklist and they know that they can move ahead. If they move ahead and figure it out, they get to help me teach it! ;-)

6th period. Introduction to Computer Science. (Genius Hour work today)
A student was so excited as she bought a headband from another. E.R. just got in the jewelry from Destiny Rescue. Last year E. co-created Hope for Slaves, a project to bring awareness to a blight on our human existence: human trafficking.

On May 1st, (May Day, ironically) our students buy and wear the jewelry of those rescued from human slavery in an effort to put their money into the hands of those making a difference in this. Her friend M was buying a headband because Elizabeth is carrying it in her purse and selling jewelry to end human trafficking. She told me about a group of girls rescued by Destiny Rescue just a few weeks a go. Ending human trafficking is her passion and she's doing something about it. (See Hope for Slaves)

I also had to finishing helping set up a meeting with M and J to head to the irrigation research park. They are creating an animation for an irrigation system that minimizes water loss for the Nature Conservancy's website. They are heading out there during homeroom tomorrow and missing my first period class (with notes from their parents, of course.) They need to take photos in real life so they can complete their animation.
When students find a passion, we all find treasure.
Life means more when students are curious and
passionate. I have a curriculum but as a
teacherpreneur, I can always incorporate things they
are passionate about. The genius hour is the perfect
way to do that.

7th Period. Study Hall.
I'm supposed to have this as a planning period, but my room is full. It is OK, I'm used to it. It means longer hours. April and May are tough. I've often told my husband if every school day were like May, I couldn't physically be a teacher. We're on the sprint to the end, and I want to finish well. (See Finding Your Beautiful Moment the last week of school.)

After school. K had voted up Pinterest on the Trello board and wanted it to be taught, however, not enough had voted it up so it wasn't scheduled yet. She was in my classroom after she'd had her run and said she really wanted to know how. I sat down and said, Hey, I'll pinterest with you. 

K chose Pinterest because her passion based project is to teach pop art to fifth graders  and she's found that the best place to find art projects for elementary students is on Pinterest. We sat down and got her going and pinning. 

By the time we were almost done, her friend H was on Pinterest and Z was sitting there looking over my shoulder intrigued with what was happening. We ended up laughing at images on some pinterest boards and printed some of the photos.

The girls decided that we're all working too hard and are too serious and asked if they could be the "positive encouragement people" (PEP) and if they could put some funny (but appropriate) pics on my wall. Sure! Now, I have some hilarious things there and we're all laughing. I'm sure the kids the next day will enjoy these pics too. WE're all working so hard lately.

After work. I zip home when my youngest gets of tutoring at the learning lab. He is tutored until 4. I dash out the door at 4:15 to make it home by 4:30 to record another episode of Every Classroom Matters and throw dinner on the stove.

I hate to admit this, but this time of year is so tough. Sometimes I fall asleep as early as 5pm. Other times, I'm up late because there's too much to do. My oldest graduates from high school this year so graduation is taking a bit of time.

I find teaching fulfilling and important and glad I'm empowered to be a teacherpreneur. I tell my students that I'm not here just to teach them but here to completely blow their minds. But often teaching isn't that fancy stand in front of a room, Robin Williams kind of stuff. It is small daily interactions. We huddle up the first 5 minutes of class every day at this time of year as I make announcements and help them focus on deliverables. After that, it is run around the room, work, and encourage.

I hope you'll share your story of your passion driven classroom. If you want to know more about genius hour / 20% time - this is a great podcast to listen to. (See Engage Students and Supercharge Learning with Genius Hour)

My life is nuts but I wouldn't have it any other way. These students are not my children by birth, but they are my children by heart.

Photo credit: Big Stock

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