In education, words matter.

Many teachers use word clouds or wordles in classroom activities to have students highlighting important words or to show students which words they’ve overused in their texts. One thing I’ve never done before is apply a wordcloud to my own practice, which is exactly what I recently did for the educationrickshaw.com blogroll. Once I made it by uploading our url into wordclouds.com, it was time to start digging into what exactly was going on. Afterall, it’s important to see where our emphasis has been, and how we need to refocus our language in the teaching profession.

Below is the word cloud for our site, educationrickshaw.com, and some of my conclusions.

 

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Students First

Before I made the word cloud, I was sure that “teaching” was going to be the most frequent word. That would make sense, since educationrickshaw.com is meant to be a blog to be enjoyed by international teachers, not students or parents. I was pleasantly surprised to see that “students” is by far the largest word in the word cloud.

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I hope that this is because our articles focus on what students are doing in the classroom, with a decreased emphasis on what teachers are doing. I find that when I think about what I want students to be able to do, I facilitate lessons that more often than not achieve that outcome. When I focus on what I am doing, which I think is a common newbie teacher mistake, the learning suffers as a consequence.

I know teachers and administrators say that they put the students first, and I imagine that most believe that they do. It is a different thing altogether to actually put it into practice. Relying on tradition aka “the ways things have always been done”, ego, and acting in fear over the fallout that can come from putting students first is too often the status quo in education today.

Learning is the goal

Also up there in size is “learning”, which should always be the goal for teachers. If students are the noun, then “to learn” is the verb.

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Now, there are many ways that students learn, and our conversations need to be centered around how students best learn – Not what is easiest for teachers, parents, and administrators. The minute that we go down such a road, we begin to deprofessionalize the teaching profession, and we cheapen the quality of a student’s education. Similar to this is what I talked about in the article “The What vs. The How”, where I argued that we should give less attention to what we are teaching and what we are using for teaching, and focus more on how we are teaching. I suppose another addition should be the “why”, which I’d argue is for learning.

Yes we CAN!

The final big word I want to point out is the word “can”, which is floating somewhere over west-central Africa in the wordcloud.

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Even though I can sometimes lose my optimism, especially when I don’t have enough caffeine in my system, I believe that if we keep our focus on students and learning, we can reach our goal of making a lasting difference in the lives of our kids.

 


 

What do you think? Would you consider putting your comments for your report cards into a wordcloud? Stephanie, who’s name is currently reigning over Madagascar, and Zach (nowhere to be found 😂) would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Ways to Enhance Reading and Writing Workshop with Technology

Our school recently made the switch to Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Although Stephanie and I received some surface level training on the project in our previous school, this has been the first time that we have been asked to follow the program with a high level of fidelity.

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Like with any program, there are ways to improve outcomes by looking at how best to use technology to maximize learning. We’re all about looking at traditional teaching practices and seeing how they can be improved. The following are some of the things that we have tried in our classrooms to facilitate 21st century learning experiences within the Reading and Writing Workshop model.

Use online forums and chat rooms for class discussions, teacher and peer feedback, and ratings

Class discussions can happen in many ways. When the program asks for reading and writing partners to turn and talk about their thoughts, students can also do so in an online forum. The tool that you use doesn’t matter: This could be on Seesaw, Flipgrid, EasyBlog, Edmodo. . . whatever! I use Moodle for forums, because I find it to be very customizable, but you can have kids discussing on almost any platform. Again, it’s not about the tool, it’s about the learning.

There are inherent benefits to having discussions online. Instead of always communicating in informal language, as is the case with “turn and talk” in class, students are forced to use formalized language. There is a record of what they have said, and teachers can see it, give feedback on which terms they are using correctly, and can have students go back and edit their ideas for clarity. Students can continue the conversation at home, alone or with their parents, and you can always go back to the conversations during your conferencing, which is much harder to do with traditional “turn and talk”.

Use online multimedia journals with links, videos, photos, audio, drawings, table of contents, dictionary and thesaurus

I am a fan of both paper/pencil journals as well as multimedia online journals. While the benefits of the paper/pencil journal are well known, it is sometimes effective to give students the chance to write or write about their reading in an online journal.

In my students’ wiki journals, they are able to create new pages whenever, wherever they feel like. This creates great situations where they can [[link]] to a new page (for example, a character page), and then fill in their ideas there. If they need inspiration for character development, setting, or anything visual, they can pull up images from online and stick them in their journal. If they need to create a quick sketch, they just insert a drawing into their journal, and can move it around as they wish without feeling that they are getting in the way of their writing. When I provide them with materials from the program, they can link to these materials, refer to them, and annotate the parts that they feel they need to work on. By just clicking on a word, they can look up new words in online dictionaries and thesauruses and build their vocabulary . . the multimedia journal creates learning experiences that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with a 100% paper/pencil workshop.

Give assessments with feedback, rubrics, checklists, infographics, memes, pictures, video, inline editing

I find the assessments in the Reading and Writing Project to be easily convertible into online resources. For the beginning of the year reading assessment, I put all of the questions into an online assignment, and had kids take the test.

After the kids took the assessment, the data came back to me organized by student and question type. I was then able to give students feedback to enhance their learning. I did this in the form of inline editing, inserting the rubrics right into their answers, and providing checklists, infographics, memes, and links to previous discussions and journal entries that they had made. After I helped one student with a certain problem – using pictures, videos, or whatever – I was able to use that same teacher-created resource to help the next student that had the very same problems.

The point is, with technology you can link up all of the resources that you and your students have created – assessments, discussions, journals, rubrics, glossaries, etc –  at any time, so that students are not only making digital connections, but connections in their craniums as well.

Make the Heinemann resources accessible to students online

Instead of printing everything that I’m provided in the Reading and Writing Project from the Heinemann online resources – the sticky notes, the reading logs, the anchor charts, the exemplars, etc – I put them on my class website and into student hands. It saves a tree, and it helps students engage with the materials by actually using them in various ways.

Why not just project the resources? I find that projecting these resources without putting them up on my online courseroom makes it so that I become the “keeper of all resources”. I believe in a student-driven classroom, where information is accessible to all, parents included. By putting the resources up onto our Moodle page, students can not only access them anytime they want, but they can manipulate the content, insert it where they want, and ask questions and post comments about it.

Go nuts combining apps, web tools, social media and productivity tools!

There is so much out there that can help kids think and remove potential barriers for learning the content required in the Reading and Writing Project. I’ve written before about some of my favorite tech tools for getting kids writing, but I really recommend that you go sit on your couch with your device in hand, and explore the unlimited possibilities that exist out there.

Even if the Reading and Writing Project doesn’t explicitly say that you should or could use technology, that doesn’t make it wrong to take advantage of the best tools at your disposal. For me, technology is ubiquitous in the learning process, and learning is non-linear.

So, have kids record podcasts and watch their speaking and listening skills grow as they engage with the Reading and Writing workshop. Put up a green screen in your classroom, and explore the possibilities this has for student learning and engagement. I also believe that learning should be shared and public, and with technology this is possible. Have kids share out their reading and writing on blogs, social media, and e-mail. Get parents engaging with the Reading and Writing Project from their phone.

There are so many ways to make this program more dynamic and better for the learner. So if you’re like me and new to the Columbia University’s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, keep at it. I know I will!


Thanks for coming back again and again to educationrickshaw.com, a website by Stephanie and Zach Groshell. Feel free to comment below!

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Guest Article on TeachersMatterMagazine

Last year around this time, I was invited to the AEC conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I took two institutes that really blew my mind. One of those was led by the fantastic Karen Boyes, and it focused on getting students to do the thinking and take control of their learning. I’m happy to announce that one of our articles was selected for her mag, TeachersMatterMagazine!

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Many thanks to Karen Boyes and all of those that have supported us in our never ending pursuit of excellence in education. Check out the original article here and if you’d like to join my PLN, follow me on Twitter @MrZachG, check out our facebook group, Over Posting Educators, and keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com!

5 Luxuries Bestowed Upon Thee As An International Teacher

The typical teacher in their home country is afforded few luxuries. A coffee at Starbucks is seen as a rare treat. A PB&J for lunch is the norm. I remember clearly when one boisterous teacher in my first stateside school’s faculty lounge asked that anyone who had a tarp covering some part of their car (to protect from the rain in Washington State) to raise their hands, or forever hold your peace. Scout’s honor, there were five hands that raised that day admitting the tarp.

While, in my opinion, most international educators are still severely underpaid for what we do, the cost of living in many of our host countries allows for some pretty sweet perks. That coupled with the built-in savings potential that comes with many international teaching contracts (free housing, free flights, etc) makes it so that many international teachers find the benefits of international teaching to be too lucrative to ever want to return to teaching public school back home.

Compared to teachers back home, we have it good. We have teaching assistants. Our classrooms are well resourced. The class sizes are smaller. There is money for PD. These are all things that we experience in the international school classroom. But on this educationrickshaw.com post, we will be looking at 5 luxuries that most international teachers enjoy as they go about their leisurely lives that teachers back home just can’t afford.

Ka-Ching! $$$

#1 Affordable Cleaners

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There’s nothing like coming home to a clean house after a hard day’s work.

Most international educators that I have come across in both Vietnam and Sudan hire a cleaner. Some have them come for a couple of days a week, others have a cleaner come everyday of the week. When I first heard of this arrangement, I initially had uneasy feelings. Aren’t we taking advantage of these poor local women by having them do the lowliest of jobs for measly wages?

While cleaners may be way out of a teacher’s price range back home, the cleaners in many developing host countries do have a small salary in comparison to the American minimum wage. However, all of the teachers that I know tend to pay significantly more than the average local pays their cleaners.  Instead of delving into that here, check out this article on Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty For Having a Cleaner.

#2 Cheap Massages

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Expat Chillaxin’

I don’t know about you teachers, but my back is always hurting after a day of work. You don’t need to read the studies to know that teachers get stressed out, and this can lead to chronic foot and back pain.

While a massage in the US can set you back 60 plus dollars per hour, many expat teachers in developing countries find themselves getting quality massages for less than a third of that cost. Whether you’re looking for a back massage to ease the pain of bending over and getting on kids’ level, or a bizarre Dr. Fish massage served up in murky waters, international teachers have the full range of possibilities within reach.

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This was in Cambodia, and it cost 1 USD and you got a free adult beverage. How about that for a deal?

#3 Security Guards That Do Everything

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My friend, and one of our trusty security guards.

All of the countries that Stephanie and I have taught in have felt safe. But because wages are so low in developing countries, many schools will hire security guards for their buildings. Many large apartment complexes in capital cities will also provide security guards.

 

All of the guards that we have had at our apartments have been extremely gracious with their time and efforts. They will go out of their way to help us translate phone calls and documents, fix popped tires, and alert the school when there is something wrong with our apartment or car. The average security guard in the international setting is part handyman, part electrician, and full-time procuror of all local goods. They’re more often than not the first person to go to when you’re in a bind, and many of them have become my close friends. I can’t imagine going back home and living without them.

#4 Taxis that cost next to nothing

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Vinasun, the omnipresent Vietnamese taxi that has the monopoly in Ho Chi Minh City. CHEAP!

The only time I have ever paid for a taxi in the USA was when I was in a real pickle and had my dad call me one to take me home. I remember that it was 35 bucks back in the early 2000s to go just a few miles from my school to my house. It took the driver over 25 minutes from the time I called him to the time he arrived to pick me up at my school. It felt like a big waste of time and money.

Since I moved overseas as an international educator, I’ve taken hundreds of taxis. Many countries have a taxi culture that allows for affordable rides, even in some of the more expensive cities (Dubai, for example). When Stephanie and I lived in Vietnam, we would leave our motorbike at home if we were going out late, and taxi the whole night long. If our motorbike happened to break down, one of us would take a taxi to a repair shop, hop on the back of a mechanic’s motorbike and come save the day. It was truly one of the most convenient forms of transportation, and it was cheap, cheap, cheap!

#5 Great Vacations Closeby

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Our travel map as of 9/2017 with some funky rickshaws going in random places

I’ve talked before about the importance of maintaining balance in this profession by taking great vacations whenever you have the chance. However, in addition to having low salaries and savings potential in comparison to international teachers, American teachers are not afforded a great geographical location for travel. Just crossing the country to another American city costs as much in airfare as it would take to get me to a whole ‘nother country and culture. Just take a look at the map above; When we were in Asia, we traveled all over Asia. Now that we’re in Africa, we’ve traveled all over Africa. It’s just what international teachers do.  As an international educator, depending on your school and your package, you likely have the time, the money, and a great geographic location to travel.


We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this article. For more on international teaching and learning, keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com! Don’t forget to comment 🙂

EducationRickshaw is going to AEC 2017!

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You may remember last year when both Stephanie and I went to AEC Conference 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. We took some amazing courses by Karen Boyes and Ryan Harwood, tweeted a lot, got our yoga on, and danced, feasted and mingled with some of the best minds in international education.

We at educationrickshaw.com are happy to announce that we will be making our epic return at AEC 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya! We’ll be sure to keep you updated here and on Twitter and if you’re going, be sure to reach out here in the comments below. We’d love to become a part of your PLN!

 

Homework not effective? What about distance learning?

Homework is one of those contentious things that divides teachers as well as parents. John Hattie’s research leads to the conclusion that homework in primary school has an effect of nearly zero.  But the reality is that many schools have policies that require homework to be assigned to students on a daily or weekly basis.

This year, I am experimenting with a theory that primary student achievement can be improved with homework if there is a distance learning tutor available for coaching for every assignment.

What I’m trialing this year:

This year I’ve told all of my students that whenever they need help with their homework, they should shoot me an email. I know, it sounds like a crazy responsibility for me to take on, and I’ll see if I have the stamina to keep up with it throughout the year, but so far it has gone really well!

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“I don’t get this”

Much like my in-class helpdesk, I want my 9-10 year olds to get professional help in a timely and effective manner. I don’t want some parents to help their kids while other kids are left alone to stress about math during their valuable home time. This year, my students were instructed that if they have a problem they should screenshot their math or take a video of the strategies they’ve tried and to send it to me by e-mail. I then respond by either giving them some written or video hints, or by directing them to an available resource such as a Youtube or Khan Academy video.

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“Is this correct?”

 

How’s it going so far?

It has been a very positive experience to start the year off with this model for homework. One thing I have noticed, though, is that the students tend to ask very simple questions without really showing their work or the strategies they tried. I am going to work with students on how to ask for help, and how to get the students helping each other much more often. I am also learning how to give just enough help so as to get the students to figure out the rest of the problems on their own.

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Student created instructional YouTube video on our class channel

I am also incorporating a YouTube channel with student-created instructional videos so that students can refer to a growing library of flipped lessons from their peers. This is in the process of getting put together (so far, we only have three videos) but the students seem very excited about the prospect of sharing their knowledge with each other and the world.

It’s not that much extra work… so far

I am a fan of living a balanced life as a teacher, so taking on a “distance tutoring model” by having kids e-mail me all night long (their limit is 8:00 PM) might sound like a recipe for disaster. But the truth is that I only get a couple of emails per night, and it usually only takes me a few seconds to send back a response with Mark-Up or my laptop’s webcam. Usually just copying and pasting the link to a YouTube video can help them solve their problems. As students become more familiar with this system, and increasingly independent, I hope to teach them to search for their own answers online and to take it upon themselves to offer peer tutoring during the homework hours.


What do you think? Will this strategy help improve achievement, or is it simply homework in sheep’s clothing? Is this plan sustainable, or do you bet I’ll let some student requests fall through the cracks? Comment below! We at educationrickshaw.com would love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

5 Traditional Teaching Practices Enhanced By Technology

For those of you that regularly follow educationrickshaw.com – by the way, we just celebrated our one year anniversary with our most views ever! – you’ll know that we talk a lot about blended learning environments. As I’ve discussed in earlier posts, there is no point in going digital if it is simply a digital substitution of what you always do. These tips will enhance your traditional teaching practices.

Digitize your daily schedule

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I used to write the order of my lessons on the whiteboard everyday before class started. I definitely didn’t do it as creatively as this guy. The kids didn’t tend to read it unless I read it to them, and it wasted a good portion of my whiteboard space.

Instead of doing that now, I use padlet to write up my lessons and part of our morning meeting consists of students looking at the schedules on their iPads. I’ve made a conscious effort to democratize the process so that students have a say in the order, or even the activity, of each class period. I try to change the role of who can edit the schedule every month so that a different student is in charge of getting this ready for our class.

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With padlet, I can include links to different activities (cmd + k) and provide pictures, quotes, memes, tweets, and videos to enrich their schedule with multi-media. It is also always online, right at the front of their BLE courseroom, so parents can check in whenever they want and see what we’re doing at any moment.

Digitize student planners

In the past I’ve used paper planners that students would schlep around everyday with a lot of other wasteful paper resources. Despite my every effort to get the kids to open it, including getting a parent signature every night, I wasn’t so sure how much it helped them keep up with their school responsibilities.

While I’ve used Homework.io in the past, as well as the planners on various BLE platforms such as Edmodo, Moodle, or whatever else, this year we’ve been using the “reminders app” that is native to IOS for my 1:1 iPad classroom. As I’ve argued before, the point is not which technology to use but how the technology is being used.

Students are taking advantage of their digital planner by setting alarms for their responsibilities, getting notifications well in advance for things that are coming up and by using hyperlinks to the various resources that I want them to have access to at home.

Digitize Textbooks

If you have the choice to go with an e-book or go with paper copies during your school’s next round of purchases, go with the digital version. Finding free digital versions is another option. Even if the version of the textbook is not built to be interactive (aka it’s a .PDF), you can make it interactive.

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For my math book, for example, I use .PDF resources combined with the app, Notability. This way, students can annotate directly onto the .PDF with text, drawings, and their own voices. They can easily cut/paste or screenshot parts of their math into other apps, including Explain Everything or Seesaw (see Teacher Toolkit for Seesaw), and manipulate the math in even more ways. Once any resource is digital, you can have students engaging with the material in so many more ways – Green screen? Youtube Channel? Twitter? How about good ol’ AirDrop? The possibilities are endless, unlike the paper version that ends the moment you start writing on it.

Digitize Learning Journals

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While there are many great platforms for student journaling – Class Dojo, Seesaw, and FlipGrid to name a few that I’ve used – I’ve been getting into the idea of the wiki as a journal of late. The possibilities for a wiki (think Wikipedia) are endless, and they provide ways for students to engage in more complex technology skills, such as simple html, embeds, hyperlinking, and much more. I currently use the Moodle wiki for both my reading and writing journals, and it has been such a sight to see these kids creating page after page of learning.

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Putting something online from paper to digital doesn’t make it an authentic learning experience, or a learning experience at all. It just becomes a formality for you and for the student. What makes a digital learning journal so much more effective than the paper/pencil version is the inclusion of multimedia, and the possibilities for peer and teacher feedback. When thoughts are contained in a paper journal, they stay locked there inside the classroom overnight and over the weekend. The only way for students to comment on each other’s learning is by passing around the journals and marking on them. Teachers spend an enormous amount of time saying the exact same thing on 25 – 30 journals instead of using digital features such as immediate and automatic feedback, or copy and paste. Help in the form of student exemplars, rubrics, memes and infographics can be easily shared between all in your learning environment through a digital learning journal.

Digitize Class Communication Channels

All of the students in my class have an e-mail address which they use to contact their teachers and their parents when the need arises. This has cut down immensely on confusion over homework, after school pick ups, and other responsibilities that students have at school.

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In addition to e-mail, I make sure that students have ways to socialize with one another in a safe way, such as with an instant messaging system or chat app. Students often solve their own problems (“When are basketball tryouts?) instead of relying on teachers and parents to do it for them.

When students share their learning with one another, that learning may also be filtered into various public channels such as Twitter and YouTube. This way, I’m not writing a newsletter every week about what we did because there is a student-updated feed of learning going on in our class that parents follow.


We at educationrickshaw.com sincerely hope that you enjoyed this article about traditional teaching practices that can be enhanced by technology. While it is clear that any one of these five tips can be misused so that learning is not maximized, we hope that there was enough included in the article to steer you towards something that you are comfortable trying out in the coming weeks.

Keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com, a website and blog about international teaching.

 

 

The Jetlagged International Teacher’s Secret Weapon: A Cold Brew Coffee System

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Image from Clipart Library

Every international schoolteacher I’ve asked has been through it. After your long summer holidays spent joyously visiting family and friends, and possibly even traveling around the world, you come back and have to work in a different time zone. Sometimes the time zone of your summer vacation and your work are only a few hours different, and you find yourself either waking up an hour or so before your alarm or waking up extremely sleepy for a week. Other times, the transition can be brutal.

Traveling from the Pacific Northwestern United States to Sudan, we have to adjust to an 11-hour time difference. This is difficult for me to admit, but back in our early twenties it was no big deal. Now, as we’re reaching 30, our internal clocks have become more stubborn and the 2:00 to 3:00 AM wake-up times are lasting longer and longer.

On the positive side of things, waking up at 3:00 in the morning allows you to do lots of unpacking, cook up a delicious, elaborate breakfast, and even read a few chapters of your book before work.

But then about halfway through the day your body realizes that it has been awake for long enough and you crash, unable to concentrate on anything or have a simple discussion without repeating yourself over and over.

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No, I’m not getting paid by anyone for this post, choose whatever brand you want. ☺

Cue the cold brew coffee system. It’s super simple and easy to prep. You just need to fill the mesh strainer with coffee, fill with water, and let seep in the fridge for 12 hours. We have two pitchers, so we make sure we always have one full of coffee and one brewing. As soon as we feel a crash coming on, the coffee is already waiting for us.

And don’t worry, mom, although I am very addicted to coffee, once the jetlag is over I will tone it down.

Some Kids Pet Baby Birds, Some Kids Squash Them.

My first week of teaching this year is officially done. And, like every year, I am overwhelmed by the potential that this year has in store. What’s always amazing is that each class that comes into my care has such a different character profile than the year before. My new students bring with them a certain set of strengths and, of course, areas to grow.

It can be hard to determine what these areas are. Like all teachers, I will sift through the data of the standardized tests, but these will only inform me of their literacy and math achievement, and only indicate a moment in time. What interests me just as much, and maybe more, is the complexity and the nuance of the character of these students. How well do they demonstrate the IB Learner Profile and the PYP Attitudes? Are they able to stick to the Essential Agreements that they came up with with me on Day 1?

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As we’re working on implementing a workshop model for reading and writing primary-wide this year, my class created essential agreements based around the three main parts of a workshop: Mini-Lesson, Independent Work, and Sharing. “I will pay attention” was what the students came up with for Mini-Lesson. 

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The essential agreement students came up with for “Independent Work” time during workshop. We’re currently building up to 30 minutes of straight reading and 30 minutes of straight writing. 

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The essential agreement students came up with for “Sharing” time during workshop, as many of my students confessed that they were afraid to share in front of others. 

During a particularly recurrent moment on campus this week (our school has so many birds. . ), a baby bird became the source of excitement for the students at the playground while I was on duty. I snapped the photo above of a few of them trying to “pet without touching”.

If you look at these students only through the lens of math and literacy, you might see a number or a letter floating over each of their heads. I, however, am more intrigued by the instinct of some students to mother a baby bird, while others want to hurt it. Others still want everyone to stand back and leave it alone. Rather than accepting that “kids will be kids”, I am duty-bound to collect data on these children, and to provide the correct interventions to meet their needs. The IB Learner Profile includes Caring for a reason.

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This year, let’s try to see our kids as more than a score for literacy or math. 

I hope that over the next few weeks, I am disciplined enough to collect a ton of meaningful data on all of these students for all areas of development – bird-rearing included! Their social, mental, and physical development is vital to me, and I value the concept of pastoral care. If all teachers, parents, and childcare providers team together to provide the necessary support for our young ones, we might succeed at raising a generation of kids whose first instinct is to protect living things.


Feel free to comment below about how your first weeks have been going, and be sure to keep coming back to educationrickshaw.com. Thanks for visiting!

The Three Rs of Summer Vacation

When I first started my summer vacation in June, I committed to an easy-to-remember regimen of goals that I referred to as “The Three Rs”. These stood for Reading, Writing, and Resume. Now that I am officially back at work, and about ready to set some new goals for the school year, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on how these went.

More on goal setting: A Letter to My Student About Goal Setting, Body Image, and Healthy Living

Goal #1: Reading

I didn’t nearly read as much as I wanted to over the course of this short summer. I expected to begin committing to my reading list the minute I lifted off from Khartoum International Airport, but alas, it wasn’t a particularly good reading holiday. This might have been due to my recent addiction to the Nintendo Switch, or to the epic golf tournament that my brother and I played over this summer, which culminated in a close and contentious battle at the U.S. Open-famed Chambers Bay.

I would like to recommend one book in particular that had an impact on me: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie. 

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Why should teachers read it? While not a book on teaching for teachers (See: 5 Books To Start a Book Club for Teachers), this book can really force one to come to terms with what it means to be raised in America in the absolute poorest of conditions. For me, it brought me back to my first teaching position at a Native American Tribal School in Washington State.

Alexie is from Spokane, not too far from where I’m from, and his powerful prose and verse (the book switches between narrative and poetry frequently), puts you frighteningly close to the horrors that he experienced living on the rez. Stephanie and I live in Africa, and we both are familiar with the reservation community that we worked with 6 years ago, but nothing can prepare a reader for the agonizing and often gut-wrenching experience that is reading You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. If you get the chance to read it for a teacher book club, be sure you’re not in earshot of students and parents – this one’s disturbingly honest and profane.

Goal #2: Writing

I planned to write every week this summer. Even though I wasn’t able to meet that goal perfectly, I am still happy with what I managed to write during what was a busy time. I mean, I traveled to Guatemala, Belize and Mexico, and took trips around the U.S. in my awesome van:

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Honestly, I wanted a rickshaw to travel the U.S., but Stephanie forced us to go with the Ford Transit Connect. Retrofitted with drawers, a bed, blackout curtains, and exhaust fans, it does the trick.

Here is a list of all of the posts I wrote this summer: 

Goal #3: Resume

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The one thing I managed to get done just fine this busy, busy summer was my resume. I did a few versions of it using both Canva and PowerPoint. If you haven’t used Canva before for graphic design, I recommend it. The free version gives you plenty of templates and fonts, and it is nice to have all of your projects saved onto the cloud. It’s also great for creating infographics and memes to post on Twitter about education. I actually made the featured image for this post (Summer goals?) using Canva.

Another thing that I did on a whim was create business cards using Office Depot. For $16.99, you can get 50 cards printed on the same day in color. I think they turned out pretty nice:

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I may have been a bit lazy on achieving my goals, but hey, I’m happy with life right now. Maybe if I had worked out some SMART goals like I do with my students for student led conferences, it would would have worked out better. Either way, I’m not trippin’.

What about you? Did you set some goals in your lives that you’d like to share in the comments below? Were you able to achieve them to some degree? We at educationrickshaw.com would love to hear your experience. Thanks for stopping by.