Feature Friday: Joe Capson

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Joe Capson, an 8th-grade social studies teacher in Rigby, Idaho. Joe is in his first year of teaching and has great insight on teaching challenges as well as the evolution of technology. Here’s what he has to say. 

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

I really enjoy getting to know the students and I absolutely love the subject matter, which makes teaching it fun. 

What made you want to go into teaching? 

When I was in high school I worked at a summer camp called Pine Basin for three or four years. During this time, I had to teach two classes a week and I felt like teaching was something that I could do and that I had a talent for. Also, my family is filled with educators and I have always felt close to the education system through my family. 

What is one of your favorite ways to utilize technology in the classroom? 

There are a million different interesting historical videos and I love to utilize them in my class because students relate to videos and it breaks up the monotony of classes sometimes. I also utilize my smartboard for interactive activities and for note presentations. 

If you could recommend one children’s book, what would it be and why?

I would recommend the book Hatchet as well as the various sequels to it. The reason why is because the book teaches you that you can do hard things even as a young teenager. Also, it teaches kids self-dependence, an appreciation for the outdoors, and it is a great read to boot. 

What is a big challenge you face often in teaching, and how do you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge that I face is classroom management. I tend to try to teach high energy and I encourage student involvement in my lessons. However, in doing this I feel that students take advantage and want to shout out or joke too often or during inappropriate times. I try to make my class fun but I have to struggle to find the balance between a class that is fun and a class that is only fun with no learning or discipline. Finding that balance has been a challenge. 

What do you wish someone would have told you in your first year teaching? 

That at first I would probably hate it and feel overwhelmed and terrified and question my life choices, but after teaching for a while and getting to know the students you really get invested and you become friends with your coworkers and you’re not alone in all of this. Suddenly you find yourself sad with the thought that these students have to leave. I wish someone told me that it was okay to feel discouraged and downtrodden. I also wish someone told me that college only prepares you so much for being in the classroom and to really understand anything you need to just do it. 

How have you seen education change through time?

I have only taught one year but I already know that it has changed since I was in middle school. The students today are good kids with similar challenges that we all face, however all of those challenges are amplified through social media, access to technology at any time, and popular culture. When I was in middle school if you were cool, you had a Razor flip phone. Now you are not cool unless you have an iPhone 10. Also, technology has been implemented far more in the classroom online forums and class iPad sets are not rare at all, whereas when I was in high school, one teacher had iPads and we all thought it was crazy.

Feature Friday: Danielle Macias- Emphasis on COVID-19 School Shut Downs

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new teacher each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here. 

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Danielle Macias, an innovative learning coach in Orem, Utah. She workes directly with teachers to improve pedagogy using innovative ideas. Before she became a learning coach, Danielle taught English and ESL. 

I asked Danielle to interview today specifically regarding the COVID-19 school shutdowns because I have witnessed how influential she has been to teachers at such a vulnerable time. Her knowledge and insight, not only as a learning coach but as a parent as well, I felt needed to be shared beyond our community. Here is what Danielle has for us: 

What is your favorite thing about teaching this age/subject?

“My favorite thing about teaching teenagers is that they are discovering who they are and where they belong in society. I like to think that the literature we read, the topics we write about, and discussions we share help mold the person they choose to become. 

My favorite part about coaching teachers is that I get to witness how they refine their practice and tackle challenges that were previously not allowing them to enjoy teaching to the fullest.”

What are the negative impacts you have seen with schools shut down for COVID-19?

“One of the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on education is the limited face-to-face interactions due to social distancing. Building classroom culture can take months to cultivate, and most teachers are now reteaching classroom procedures and expectations as they navigate online teaching, which can be frustrating and difficult to accomplish when you cannot see students face-to-face. The COVID-19 dismissal happened from one day to the next, and both teachers and students are now grieving the loss of those daily interactions with their teachers and peers.”

What are the positive impacts you have seen?

“One of the positive impacts of social distancing during COVID-19 is the innovative ways in which teachers use technology to teach online. In less than a week, Alpine teachers collaborated with Innovative Learning Coaches and other school leaders in technology to create content for online teaching. They did not sign up to teach online, yet they gracefully rose to the occasion.”

“Additionally, teachers have found ways of maintaining relationships with students through social media, online discussion boards, live video conferencing, and video announcements. Personally, I have seen how my 6-year-old daughter looks forward to seeing her classmates and her teacher when they meet online.” 

How have you seen the schools, teachers, and students rally together during this hard time?

“I have seen teachers who usually do not socialize with others out of their department collaborate with each other by sharing resources, tips for online teaching, and provide emotional support. Teachers have not lost their sense of humor, and I can usually expect a meme or lighthearted message in my inbox. Most heartwarming of all is that, although students cannot come to teachers, teachers have found ways to go to students. I have heard of teachers dropping off materials to students, setting up one-on-one virtual meetings with students, and even driving by students’ homes as teachers put on a car parade.”

How have the teacher’s reacted to this situation?

“Teachers are stepping up to the plate! The teachers with whom I work are constantly refining their craft and relying on each other for support. In a way, social distancing brought our schools together because we had no choice but to collaborate.”

What tips do you have for parents at this time?

“At this time, I know how difficult it is to work from home and teach my own child. My advice for students and parents is to give yourself permission to prioritize your mental health and focus on the essentials. If something did not get done today, social distancing will still be here tomorrow, so that worksheet can wait. When online learning becomes unbearable, take a break, and enjoy each other. Who knows when families will have the abundance of time we have now to be together again.”

What tips do you have for teachers right now?

“My biggest tip for teachers is to create a work schedule and stick to it. Otherwise, you will find yourself answering emails all day long. Set aside time to offer feedback on assignments and discussion boards. Set aside time to improve your craft by looking at best online teaching practices. Set aside virtual office hours.”

“And just as important, set aside time to step away from your screen and check-in with yourself. It is easy to feel guilty about stepping away because every email seems urgent, and you think that if students are working after your own work hours, then so should you. The hardest part of this is being accountable to yourself because you can easily be sucked back into replying to just one short email or recording one quick instruction video until your work has bled into your evening.”

“One way I have managed my responsibilities is by creating a list of weekly to-dos in Google Keep so I stay organized, using the checkbox feature to check-off tasks makes me feel accomplished, and the list reminds me of where I left off the day before.”

“When work becomes stressful, it is comforting to know that by teaching online, educators may be providing the only sense of normalcy students will experience until this pandemic comes to an end.”

Thanks, Danielle for the great insight and tips you have fun us! Everyone stay safe out there and wash your hands! 

An Introduction To Feature Friday

Welcome to Feature Friday! A space where every Friday I will be interviewing a new educator, asking them questions about their teaching and learning, then sharing this here with you. 

Why Feature Friday? Because collaboration brings results. 

I think teachers everywhere can agree that some of their best ideas for teaching haven’t come from sitting in their college classes or in their conferences. They come in the copy room after school or in the teacher’s lounge during lunch with casual collaboration between one another. And being the big thinker I am, I know this can expand beyond the walls of our school with an #edtech mindset. Cue: Feature Friday.

Each Friday will be a new teacher, in a new part of the nation, possibly the world. We will see an insight into who they are, why they teach, and the resources they find most helpful. In the end, I hope we can all walk away with more knowledge as educators to move forward and teach our students to the best of our ability. 

In the spirit of collaboration, if you have any great questions that would be good to ask in an interview, please comment below or reach out via email. If you are an educator that would like to be featured, again, please reach out. 

When Science And Art Meet: Soil Painting With Ms. Heiner

Today’s post I want to feature a teacher who was an excellent representation of integrating arts into her core curriculum. Andrea Heiner teaches fourth grade in Utah, and during her science curriculum of soil layers, she used watercolors as their medium for creating a diagram. A little science, a little art, a lot of fun! Check out their great project here: 

The students started with the bottom layer, bedrock. The next day once this layer was dry, they worked on the second layer, subsoil.

Each layer shows components of what this layer of soil contains, such as rocks, roots, and even worms!

Once their paintings were finished, they added labels and descriptions for each section.

What a great example of arts integration! Great job, Ms. Heiner!

What’s The Deal With Puppets In The Classroom?

Puppets have a special place in the classroom of littles. Using a puppet in teaching may feel like another item to worry about or check off your ever-growing to-do list, however, when used correctly, they can be powerful to students. It’s as if you have a second teacher in the classroom, a separate being with separate ideas is what they see it as. Puppets to students are magical, even when they are old enough to know better of what they are and how they work, their little brains work in the way that they look at that inanimate object as an animate object with its own thoughts and feelings, even if they are all indirectly coming from you as the puppeteer. 

Tips for using a puppet in the classroom: 

  • Use him as an example of good behaviors you want students to model.
  • Use him as an example of common problems in the classroom such as trouble with a math problem. Later, when students run into the same problem, a great reminder for them would be how the puppet solved the problem. 
  • Use him as a new storyteller in the classroom. 
  • Let the puppet introduce new topics such as persuasive writing or reading non-fiction. 
  • Let the students use the puppet as a writing audience. 
  • Turn it into an art project and allow the students to create their own puppets. 

Puppets have a big place in the classroom, whether he or she becomes a part of the classroom, or they are simply used in dramatic play for storytelling. The best part of puppets is that they can be as complicated and expensive as your limits allow, but also as simple as a sock with buttons glued on. They don’t care about the complexity of it, they just care about the magic behind it.

Do you use puppets in the classroom? What benefits do you see? 

Reader’s Theaters: The Golden Nugget Of Arts In Core Curriculum

Reader’s theaters. A tale as old as time. Teachers have been using reader’s theaters in the classroom for years and years now because they are the golden nugget of adding in arts to our reading and language arts curriculum. 

Students can work on reading, reading out loud, reading with emotion, drama/acting, and more while practicing and performing a reader’s theater. 

Ways to make an RT successful: 

  • Give it an authentic purpose and audience.  
  • Model, model, model the proper way to read for an RT. 
  • Pick an interesting topic to the students. 
  • Choose a good RT based on the reading level of your students. 
  • Utilize gyms, theaters, and stages in the school to practice reading.
  • Film the students practicing for them to go back and watch so that they can see what they look like reading out loud.  

A few websites full of good (and mostly free) reader’s theaters: 

http://www.teachingheart.net/readerstheater.htm

https://www.readinga-z.com/fluency/readers-theater-scripts/

http://www.thebestclass.org/rtscripts.html

Beyond these, a simple Google, Pinterest, or Teachers Pay Teachers search can also lead you to great reader’s theaters, whether free or paid. 

In my own experience, I saw reluctant readers shine through as they performed an RT on space for a younger grade learning about planets. Their confidence came through as they watched themselves get better and better in the spotlight with practice. Reading wasn’t a chore, it became fun and exciting to them. 

What are some great experiences you’ve seen while doing reader’s theaters in your classroom? 

A Little Math, A Little Art, A Lot Of Fun

When math overrides the majority of the time throughout the day, how do we incorporate the arts? We make art mathematical! Here is a fun activity to learn about the color wheel, as well as apply fraction skills in the process of creating the color wheel. 

You’ll need a print out of a blank or semi-filled in color wheel, and modeling clay.

I used Crayola Model Magic clay for this activity. It’s soft, squishy, and will change colors when mixed! Normal clay can work just fine too. You can either let it dry and let them glue it to the page when it’s finished, or toss it back all together and store it in an airtight container for future use. 

Start with three equal pieces of clay in red, yellow, and blue. 

Leave a small reference piece behind, then with remaining clay, split into two equal pieces, creating two halves.  

Mix the colors! Write out the fractions on the paper as well. 

Orange= ½ R ½ Y 

Purple= ½ B ½ R 

Green ½ Y ½ B 

For a shorter activity, find a smaller color wheel cut into sixths and stop here. For a longer activity, continue on. For the sake of a shorter blog post, I will only model one part of the next step.

On the blue and green side- split the blue and green pieces in ½. (For reference, I pulled a new piece of blue clay for this.)

Mix the blue and green pieces to make green-blue. Green-blue is equal to ½ G, ½ B. Or it is also equal to ¼ Y ¾ B. 

The other half of the green that was split before will be used to mix with a half piece of the yellow. 

Continue the same with yellow-green, red-orange, etc. 

Common core standards: 
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.NF.A.3
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.NF.A.2

featured image: hosmerart.blogspot.com