Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An Open Letter to My Students

What are your goals and dreams for your life? I am here to inspire you to learn from everything you do and explore your curiosities.

I care about you, your learning, your life, and I want you to find happiness within yourself in order for you to be capable of helping others. I have made some mistakes pursuing my life goals and dreams.  

It is okay to make mistakes and learn from them. Failure is a fundamental part of life and is often the first step towards success. 

We not only learn from our own mistakes, but we also learn from the failures of others. There are obstacles everywhere.

I encourage you to keep being awesome, passionate, and motivated in order to develop your confidence. Stay focused on the right things in school. 

Think positive rather than the negative. I want your life to have purpose and direction with the strength to keep going in the face of adversity.

I am here to help charge your battery. You will need a fully charged battery to make it in this world on your own. 

Get your sleep. Your going to need some energy.

Stay organized and focused. I appreciate your hard work.

I am someone in your life who is in your corner at the time you are considering giving up. I believe that no one is designed to be a failure. 

I believe in you. Focus on your goals and dreams for motivation.

Mr. Lerchenfeldt and his students cleaning up the grounds to promote environmental awareness and protection.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Why I Teach"

I am a teacher because it is a highly rewarding and fulfilling profession. Teachers have one of the most important, meaningful, and purpose-driven jobs of anyone today. 

Teachers share valuable information and important skills to encourage a love of learning that will serve students the rest of their lives. I remain in the profession because I am committed to having a positive impact on the future of each student that I serve on a daily basis. 

I believe that there is an exciting career for every passion. No two days in teaching are ever the same. 

I wake up each morning and serve students in our nation's schools. Being a role model and teaching students the skills and knowledge they need beyond the classroom is extremely inspiring and rewarding.

It is an excellent time to be a teacher. Today's teachers need perseverance, passion, validation, and hope.

The math, reading, and writing skills I developed as a student has allowed me to become a successful teacher. Playing sports and being involved in student government taught me valuable life lessons on teamwork, time management, and responsibility. 

Teachers helped me get to where I am today by providing me with an exceptional education. As a student, I learned the benefits of getting along with people from different cultures, which continues to assist me in my career, especially when I traveled abroad to New Zealand for a teacher exchange program. 

My passions for public speaking, fitness, and volunteering have provided inspiration for my future. There were many educators that had a positive influence on my life. 

They encouraged me to explore my curiosities, supported me with my struggles, and celebrated my successes. They cared about me, my learning, my life, and they wanted me to find happiness within myself in order for me to be capable of helping others.

They inspired me and pushed me to be my best in the classroom and on the athletic fields. I am now trying to pay this positive influence forward to my students.

It is essential to make lesson plans interesting in order to get all students motivated about learning. 
Teachers creatively facilitate the engaging interaction between students and provide feedback based on their observations. 

For me, the motivation to teach has always come from the students in my classroom.  I have been a guest panelist reflecting on my teaching career, advocating for our profession, and representing the Chippewa Valley Schools at the Macomb University Center in Clinton Township (click here). 

If you are in high school, college, or thinking about changing careers, this is a career seminar and networking event that you do not want to miss. Get ready to make the transition by learning about the important skills needed for a teaching career.    

Ensuring Teachers Remain in the Profession 

When I graduated from Oakland University's School of Education and Human Services, I felt knowledgeable and ready to have a positive impact on future students. The required field placements and internships provided me with work experience that helped me make decisions about my future career. 

I learned that I wanted to teach middle school science, not kindergarten. The study habits I developed as an undergraduate helped me with success in graduate school. 

There were definitely challenges I faced in my early years of teaching, such as how to do project-based learning, facilitate classroom discussions, and use technology effectively. A strong teaching internship experience and great mentoring programs have helped me become a successful teacher. 

Forging ahead on my own determination when the going got tough was essential. The wisdom that I gained with setting up classroom procedures and managing class time would benefit a newer teacher. 

Educators entering the profession need to deal with the challenges and successes of teaching through developing a positive mentor-mentee relationship. These types of relationships are necessary to help retain our top teachers and support new teachers as they come into the profession. 

Better, high-quality professional development is also the answer and can be achieved with extensive, easily accessible support. There is something inherent about the teaching profession that is driving teacher's away, and the nature of internships, or lack thereof, in teacher education programs impacts retention.  

The Top 5 Lessons I Have Learned in My Position in Public Education   

1. Be persistent. Never give up on students, parents, and colleagues. Everyone is in this together, and it truly takes a village to educate a child properly.
2. Be open-minded. Listen to other people and their opinions. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Communication and organization is essential for highly effective teachers. 
3. Think positive. There is a lot of negativity out in the world, especially within the field of education. You need to have a positive outlook in order to combat all of the negativity.
4. Try different roles until you find your niche. Spend time with different people and in various extracurricular activities. Use your hobbies and passions as a guide.
5. Always want to learn. Whether it is a new technology or a new teaching strategy, teachers are life-long learners. We need to be learning alongside our students and show how passionate we are in seeking knowledge.     

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Four Strategies for Blending and Flipping Your Classroom

Technology can help teachers “Ignite Learning” in the classroom by promoting literacy development and critical thinking. The ability to communicate and create is what sparks learning.

“Kids these days” are just wired to operate in a digital environment, which enables them to take control of their education. This technology captivates students and makes them desire to learn more about the content.

Elite and innovative educators are “Blending and Flipping the Classroom” in order to meet the diverse needs of students. The numerous FREE online resources available can create a classroom that extends beyond normal school hours and walls.  

This provides students with more flexible opportunities for peer interaction, learning the content, and developing technology skills. “Blending and Flipping the Classroom” and in-person environments are really the best of both worlds because students receive the benefit of face-to-face interaction with more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. 

“Blending and Flipping the Classroom” consists of a combination of online learning using simulations, videos, readings, and forums in addition to small group differentiated instruction facilitated by the teacher. These instructional methods are appealing to digital natives.

Need some tips on how to engage students in a 21st century way? Check out these resources! 

1. In the classroom, I use video clips from Discovery Education and Safari Montage to “Ignite Learning”. Our school district pays for an annual subscription to these websites.

In addition to these resources, I also post videos on my classroom website from Khan Academy, TeacherTube, Vimeo, PBS Learning Media, and EDpuzzle.  

Khan Academy (khanacademy.org) is a non-profit educational organization providing video tutorials and interactive exercises for a variety of subjects and grade levels. Their Virtual Teacher Workshop demonstrates how to create classes, manage students, collect data, and provide feedback and much more.

TeacherTube (teachertube.com) is a video sharing website similar to, and based on, YouTube. Teachers can also view audio, documents, photos, and blogs. Teachers can register and upload files for students or parents. Teachers can also upload students’ videos in order celebrate their work. 

Vimeo (vimeo.com) is another popular video sharing and social networking site. A community of professionals knows it for high-qualilty videos. It has a cleaner layout with no advertisements.

PBS Learning Media (pbslearningmedia.org) features images, video, audio files, lesson plans, background essays, and discussion questions. Designed and aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

EDpuzzle (edpuzzle.com) allows users to select a video and customize it. Crop, edit, record audio, and add questions to make an engaging presentation or lesson.

Posts on websites do not always have to be videos. They can be readings and articles to helps students with literacy.

CK-12 (ck12.org) provides open, customizable educational textbook resources aligned with state curriculum standards tailored to meet student and teacher needs. The site breaks down traditional book chapters into smaller, bite-size pieces that may be easier for the kids to digest.

Newsela (newsela.com) is an innovative way to build reading comprehension with nonfiction thats always relevant: daily news. Makes it easy for an entire class to read the same content, but at a level that’s just right for each student.  

2. I facilitate the use of the Internet in order to have students conduct research, collaborate with classmates, and establish an online classroom presence. Students enjoy their time posting comments to a blog or on a social media site.

For my classroom blog, I use Google Blogger (blogger.com). Students can also create their own blog in order to show and present their work.

Blogger allows users to chose from different artistic templates. It also has widgets that users can use anytime to insert HTML codes, pictures, slideshows, links, videos, and much more.  

Edmodo (edmodo.com) is a secure social media site accessible through a code you generate in order to invite students. Teachers of all grade levels are using Edmodo to post assignments and allow student discussion.

Students can also upload assignments, take quizzes, and receive alerts. This is an excellent resource for sharing content with students while keeping them socially engaged.  

3. Graphic organizers, diagrams, and other tools can help focus student learning depending on the topic. This allows the teacher to have more time to assist students with work during class time and provides more opportunities for review at home.

Quizlet (quizlet.com) allows teachers to create flashcards to help students’ remember and study vocabulary. There are also study tools and educational games for students to use.

Teachers can choose from the library of flashcards already made by others. There are six study modes, 18 languages, and it is very easy to share on a classroom website.

InstaGrok (instaGrok.com) is a great tool because it allows students to visually research a topic. Students use a graphical map that shows how concepts connect using key facts, links, images, and videos. 

InstaGrok allows teachers to monitor students’ research and note-taking activity. Up to 200 students can be linked to your teacher dashboard.

PhET Interactive Simulations (phet.colorado.edu) covers diverse topics in science and math. The list can be sorted by grade levels, language, and the type of interaction. 

Simulations assist with online engagement. There is also activities for the classroom available on this site. 

4. There are many ways to create a flipped classroom. Teachers need a “Face of the Classroom” in order to provide a location to share these online learning resources with students and parents.

Weebly (education.weebly.com) is perfect for creating classroom websites and student e-portfolios. This resource allows teachers and students to express themselves using a variety of multimedia tools.

Weebly consists of an easy to use drag and drop website editor. Teachers can protect all student websites with a password in just one click.   

Remind (remind.com) is a communication tool that helps teachers connect instantly with students and parents. They receive it as a text message or e-mail.

Teachers can also send photos, documents, and links. This is an excellent way to effectively communicate the resources available on your “blended classroom” website.

Students and parents need weekly communication and feedback in the form of a text message or e-mail, published website, and the use of an on-line grade book. 

Survey Monkey (surveymonkey.com) makes creating and sending surveys and assessments easy. Allows teachers to make smarter decisions with data. 

It is important for educators to be reflective about their teaching in order to improve. This is an excellent way to obtain student and parent input.  

My technology goal this school year is to integrate more blended learning tools into our classroom. Look at these Flipping Tools being used in the Chippewa Valley Schools (click here). 

This post was published by Corwin Connect (click here), Michigan Education Voice Fellowship (click here), and Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (click here). 

In a listen and learn style for the theme of innovative models for teaching and learning, it was presented at the 2013 Get SMART and 2014 Shaking Up Learning Conferences (Sponsored by Rochester Community Schools and Chippewa Valley Schools) 

In 2015, it was also presented to teaching professionals at the Kansas School for the Deaf, Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) Conference, and Michigan Digital Learning Conference.   

Many of the ideas in this post were taught to me at the Macomb Intermediate School District. The workshop series was titled "Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works".  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Role of Standardized Testing

How do these tests benefit students? Are they necessary? 

Teachers need tests to determine if students have learned what was expected of them and if it is the right time to move on to the next objective. 

The data gathered from tests identifies areas of difficulty, which can help teachers adjust instruction for subsequent cohorts of students. Tests show teachers, which students are achieving, and the instructional strategies that are effective. Results from standardized tests can help inform educational policy, school improvement, or instructional practice and develop an action plan.

There are socioeconomic issues such as the inequalities in school funding between wealthy and impoverished areas, which can have an impact on student achievement and test results. 

Standardized tests are just one of the many markers of progress, and alternative assessments such as observations, performance tasks, or portfolios should also be used by teachers. Results from alternative assessments can be more effective in communicating outcomes. 

Standardized tests can be used to observe changes in student test scores over a year in order to inform the public of an improvement or decline in student achievement.  The standardized tests can also be used as a tool to compare certain schools within the same district because they are similar in socioeconomics. 

However, one thing our state’s elected leaders can’t continue to do is place such an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing.  Instead, we must focus our energy on empowering all students to care and understand the importance of obtaining a quality education. 

The goal of using data produced by standardized tests is to extract a correlation between the knowledge of the student and the effectiveness of the teacher. 

However, there is not a reliable learning assessment resource available to measure the different impact of each. 
Besides the effectiveness of the teacher, the knowledge of the student is also affected by social factors such as student apathy, peer relations, poverty, and parent involvement. 

Standardized tests should not be on the cutting edge of education because it promotes teaching to the test, which can be counterproductive and dehumanizing.

Tests cannot be the only assessment used to help with the evaluating, rating, and ranking of schools, teachers, and school systems. 
The toxic environment of standardized testing is causing teachers to consider leaving the profession because of the increase in pressure, wasted time, and negative impact on the classroom. Standardized testing has eroded student learning time, while doing nothing to shed light on the achievement gaps between schools. 

In 2002, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) doubled the number of standardized tests. Unfortunately, standardized testing does not solve our problems and has not increased student achievement (National Academy of Sciences, 2011). 

According to the 2015 Phi Delta Kappa Gallup Poll, the public is opposed to the emphasis on standardized testing. Alternative assessments should be used to provide a more accurate reflection of student achievement.  

There are many factors that impact student achievement in schools, including measures like student attendance, access to advanced courses, and school discipline policies. These all need to be considered.  

According to Diane Ravitch, Education Historian and Policy Analyst, "Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine on standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds". Thank you Michigan Department of Education for listening to teachers demanding less time testing students and more time for learning. 

Versions of this op-ed were published in the Oakland Press and Macomb Daily Open Opinion Forum, and Michigan Education Association Members Speak Blog. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

IT Professionals Visited Iroquois Middle School for 'Hour of Code' Events

Macomb Township, MI – Michigan teachers invited Information Technology (IT) professionals into their classrooms to celebrate Computer Science Education. Iroquois Middle School hosted:

Quicken Loans Software Engineer Rob Dusseau 
SilkRoute Global Software Engineer Devin Duden 
Cengage Learning Software Architect Sandesh Tattitali 
Allied Financial IT Director Darrin Deeter 

They volunteered their time to introduce computer science while seeing how the school is working to implement Michigan’s standards in technology.

According to Rob Dusseau, "As more and more devices and robots are being created, the world needs more people to tell them what to do. Learning how to code will give you the ability to control them. This is very important."  

Students had the opportunity to learn how they began a career as an IT professional, what it is like to be a programmer, and how to use computer code such as JavaScript (JS) and HyperText Markup Language (HTML). There was also a question and answer session about technology trends. 

According to Devin Duden, "These students can come up with the next great idea to solve an issue or problem. Kids of all ages can develop software. Parents and teachers need to promote technology careers."    

It was exciting to host these IT professionals. Careers in technology include web/game designer, programmer, data/system administrator, business/system analyst, software/network/database engineer, data architect, and security architect. Computers are a big part of our daily lives. We encourage all Michigan teachers to host an 'Hour of Code' event at their local schools. Teachers across Michigan are working to integrate technology standards. 

According to Darrin Deeter, "Software is becoming part of everything we use. We need more adventurous, creative, and detail orientated people who can understand it, design it, plan it, and build it."

For a game created by one of our students, click here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Women have influenced our children's lives for the better. Being a Mom is the toughest job in the world. 

My Mom, Sally Lerchenfeldt, is one of the best. She is my best friend.  

She is exceptional because she is kind, nice, and makes everyone feel important. I thank God every day for her. 

She loves me and has always been there for my family. She always came to watch my brother and I play sports. 

She consistently supported us at home with our studies. Her words were always an encouragement.  

She is constantly giving back to the community. I Love You, Mom.