Feature Friday: Mary Kate Morley

Today’s Feature Friday is spotlighting a past colleague and great friend of mine. Mary Kate Morley was a 5th-grade teacher in Utah for three years before she became a stay-at-home mom. She and I both attended school at Utah State University in Logan, Utah where she received her degree in Elementary Education. One of her favorite parts of teaching 5th grade is the American History curriculum. She said, “I love seeing the students catch the patriotic spirit as they learn the history of their country.”

What made you want to go into teaching? 

“I wanted to work in an area where I could make the highest impact in the world.  My teachers have always been big game changers in my life. Children are with their teachers for such a large portion of each day making teachers huge influencers. I love education and schools. I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. Walking in schools just makes me happy…what could make more sense than to work in one!” 

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

“Research for informational writing. I was always surprised at the excitement my students felt in researching topics that they got to choose (with a little guidance). Some of my student’s efforts really peaked during projects like this. Other than this, the obvious answer is KAHOOT to review!!” 

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

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. I love to use this book on the first day of school to teach that “people aren’t weird, people are different, and different is good.”  The artwork is great and this fun story teaches a great lesson!” 

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

“Handling difficult student behavior is probably the greatest challenge of teaching. It can feel like one misbehaved and disrespectful student can ruin your perfectly planned lesson for you and all the other students! My experience with misbehaved students like these is that if you are truly and honestly ON THEIR TEAM they will be good for you. It sounds simple but it will work. Be their friend. Care about them. Teach them how large of an influence they have on other students. Go to their sporting or music events. Praise them for every good thing they do. Call their parents to praise them.  If they are acting out instead of getting mad pull them aside and ask if anything is wrong because they aren’t acting like their normal selves. You want your tough students on your side. Never let it become you vs. them. That is a lose-lose situation.”

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

“You don’t have to do it all! You don’t have to grade every paper. Just enjoy the kids and do your best. There is a lot of “fake it till you make it” that happens. The students won’t remember a perfect bulletin board you spend so much time making. They will remember your relationship and how you made them feel.” 

Who influenced you most to choose a career education? 

“My fifth-grade teacher was a rock star. She made me feel like I could do anything. I knew we had a real relationship and that she cared about me. She let us battle out the revolutionary war battle with paper balls. She made me want to be a teacher, and that fact that I ended up getting to teach the very grade she did is a bonus.” 

Planting The Popcorn Seed Of Learning

In college, I took a course called “Teaching Science” where we spent class time creating our own scientific journals and carrying out experiments that our teacher created and that we created ourselves. While these were happening, discussions happened of how we can apply this to teaching our students about science, and how we can incorporate science into different aspects of our curriculum such as writing or math in order to see more of it in our school year. 

My professor for the course was truly one of my favorite professors throughout my entire college career. He reiterated over and over as often as possible that the goal with science was to be so influential that students picked it up and continued to use the scientific method on their own, beyond school. He told us that if we were teaching science correctly, students would be excited by the subject and want to know more, their learning would go well beyond the walls of the school. 

While I respected him greatly as a teacher, I never believed that I could be the type of science teacher to instill this in my own students. My emphasis for my degree was in language arts, and I had a hard time choosing between that and reading. Math and science were so far off of my radar. I knew it was something I would have to teach, but science wasn’t a subject I saw myself being so excited about that it shone through to my students. 

One day in class we were studying our long term science experiment, a flower we had planted. A colleague of mine brought up a childhood story of her sister and herself planting popcorn kernels made for air popping in their sandbox, and how they would grow tall enough that their mom would rip them out of the sand. My professor looked at us with a confused look and told us this was impossible. He said that the popcorn kernels we buy from the grocery store is processed and wouldn’t grow in soil, let alone sand. He claimed she must have been given corn seeds or some other type of seed because having any result from popcorn kernels was not possible.

The popcorn kernels I planted

Maybe it was the stubbornness in me, maybe it was my growing love for science, but whatever it was, there was a burning fire in me to prove him wrong. That night I went home and found a bag of popcorn kernels in my pantry, planted them in a pot of soil, and left them in the kitchen window. I didn’t tell him about it at first, because obviously I wasn’t about to be embarrassed if he was right and the popcorn seeds didn’t yield anything. Days and weeks went by with no sign of improvement, but I continued to water them and wait for the day they grew into something. 

One day I woke up to one little green leaf sticking out of the soil, it was incredible! It was actually working! I continued to take care of my plants until they grew bigger and stronger, strong enough to take a trip up to campus with me during my class. 

I walked into class that day holding my pot of popcorn seeds that had turned into real plants with the biggest smile on my face. I plopped it down on my professor’s desk and after he looked down at the plant, he looked up at me waiting for an explanation of what this was and why it was on his desk. 

“You told us popcorn kernels wouldn’t grow anything, you claimed that they were processed enough that they wouldn’t turn into anything when planted. Well, here you are, this is what happens when you plant popcorn kernels.” 

Immediately his eyes lit up and I distinctly remember him jumping up out of his chair in excitement. I was waiting for his praise on what a great plant caretaker I was and how right I was. I was also waiting to hear those precious words come out of his mouth, I was wrong. But that’s not what happened next. 

“You get it! You did it! You see what I’m saying now, this is genuine science, this is the ultimate goal as a teacher! You wanted answers about popcorn kernels and instead of going to the internet or accepting my answer, you conducted an experiment using the scientific method yourself! You did it!” 

At the time I was somewhat dissatisfied with his reaction, I wanted him to admit how wrong he was. But later on, when I looked back, I realized the full impact of what had happened. He knew from the beginning that popcorn kernels would grow, he just wanted to test us. He wanted someone to prove him wrong all along, and that ended up being me. 

That semester I may have planted popcorn kernels, but a seed was also planted inside of me. A seed that helped me understand why we teach science and how we teach it. I grew up thinking science was memorizing vocabulary and mixing vinegar with baking soda once in a while, but now I know that teaching science has evolved into inquiry and wonder of the world around us, how it works, and why it works the way it does and putting it to the test when we want to understand something deeper.

It took until my senior year of my undergrad education before I could grasp this concept, so my only hope is that I can inspire students to learn it much younger than I did and to plant the seed in them as well. 

Four Day School Week: The Pros And Cons

Your typical school week: Monday-Friday with the hours sometime between 7 am- 4 pm. But slowly over the nation, schools are switching to a four day school week. Class runs Monday- Thursday with an added 40-60 minutes each day to compensate for the lost time by not having the schools run on Fridays. Sometimes even starting school earlier in the school year, or keeping kids a few days later in the spring to again, make up for the lost time. 

At first, this may not seem worth it. In the end, the time spent at school is the same, just spread differently. So what are the pros and cons? 

Pros: 

Schools that have shortened to four days saw an increase in student attendance. 

Utility bills were less, as well as a decrease in labor costs and bus expenses. 

Teachers are less stressed and happier because they have an extra day for their weekend. 

The fifth day of the week can be used for tutoring, school activities, and collaboration between teachers and peers, still leaving Saturday for free time, instead of taking up the entire weekend. 

Cons: 

Students who are special needs or behind academically had a harder transition to the shorter week. 

Juvenile crime rates went up significantly. 

Longer days of school can be harder on the students, especially the younger grades. 

Childcare expenses can become a problem for working parents. 

The research is scattered for four day school weeks, a study in one state shows thousands of dollars saved, with reading and math scores going up, while another school shows no money saved and test scores dropping for a few years before they start to rise again. 

One thing that does seem fairly consistent in the research is the first five or so years of adapting to the new schedule for schools with negative side effects before seeing improvement in the later years. This alone is a big reason districts are hesitant to change. But overall, will the change improve long-term results? Is it worth it at the cost of potentially putting students through a few hard years? Some are saying no, others are saying yes. 

What side of the fence are you on? What other pros and cons do you see?

The Conclusion Of My MBTI Research: My Learning Summarized

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

In the last few months, I have analyzed all 16 Meyers Briggs personality types. Last week I wrote my 16th post in the series, the final personality type explained. Seeing my research come to an end was sad for me because I’ve dedicated so much time and interest in the subject. A few takeaways I ended  with were this: 

Figuring out student’s personality types can be hard and time-consuming, but also incredibly awarding if you’re willing to put in the work. 

You don’t necessarily need to know their MBTI personality type to know them better. Start with identifying introverts and extroverts and using that information to guide your teaching. Move on to identifying sensing versus intuitive students and then use that as well. 

Students can be aware of MBTI types as well to help them interact with other teachers and peers. 

When comparing personality types, they can be very similar and vastly different at the same time. 

There are not necessarily pros and cons to a personality type, just differences in how we think and who we are. 

Jane Kise has done extensive research on MBTI in the classroom. If I cannot convince you how beneficial is it, maybe she can with her TedTalk. Notice that she doesn’t find conclusive evidence by the majority of students acting and reacting in certain ways, but because every single student of the same personality type has the same actions. 

In the future, look for a post with links to each of the personality types to learn more about how to use your knowledge of MBTI in the classroom. Until then, share with me! How has your knowledge of MBTI helped you in your classroom? 

featured image: thedailybeast.com


Teaching The Boundary Pushers- ISTP Personality Type

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Do you have a wandering student that struggles with keeping boundaries? They are confident and realistic in their thinking and learning. This personality type could be ISTP. Although, according to statistics, there is a small chance to have a student with this type in your classroom, ISTPs only make up 5% of the population, making it a lesser common personality type. 

Introverted
Sensing 
Thinking 
Perceiving

Being introverted, they keep to themselves. The way they process information is in a personal way, using all of their senses. They need hands-on manipulatives to sit and work with while they quickly take in the information. Often working in groups or even with a partner can feel stifling to them because they don’t want to be limited by other’s thinking. They never want to discuss topics with peers, they want to answer questions as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

The sensing side of them thrives on using all of their senses to learn. Worksheets and procedural learning are difficult for them to use to understand concepts. In fact, ISTP students are commonly known for having a difficult time excelling in school and are the least likely to continue education beyond high school. 

School systems are built around extroverted, intuitive personality types, which are students who engage with others, work in collaborating groups, and learn in a procedural way instead of learning using hands-on techniques. While learning in a personal setting with hands-on manipulatives is becoming more and more common, it is still not ideal for this personality type to learn in typical schools. A study was conducted asking ISTP types what type of school they preferred. Trade school came in first place with public or private schools receiving very few votes. 

So how can we help these students be more successful? First, be aware of their needs. Give them the independent study time they need, as much as you can feasibly do with the collaboration-driven schools that we are in now. Also at the same time, teach them ways to cope with learning in groups and speaking with peers on learning topics. Provide them with learning that uses all of their senses, and find a balance with their resistance to structure and boundaries. And obviously the most important, just know who they are and be in tune with what they need. That’s the best thing you can do for any of your students. 

How do you keep respectful boundaries with your students who resist them?  

Teaching the “Entreperneur” Student: An MBTI Personality Type

This is part of a series of using Myers Briggs personality types in the classroom. For more information, click here. For information on how to figure out your student’s MBTI type, click here. 

Picture a student that is highly motivated by competition, one that is highly practical, yet disorganized. Perhaps spicy would be a word you could describe this student as. A student that you see someday owning and running their own very successful business. In fact, an ESTP’s nickname is “The Entrepeuneur”. 

Extroverted
Sensing 
Thinking 
Perceiving 

ESTP students have a hard time with theoretical ideas because they are the “get to work now” type. When they find excitement in a subject, they excel. ESTPs are known for jumping in with two feet with an idea and doing the thinking later because they want results and they wanted them yesterday. 

Group work and collaboration are where they flourish, especially with their extroverted tendencies. Bouncing ideas off of peers and working with others gives them energy and fuels their fire to take off and create something great. They are known for their original ideas and especially for making them happen. 

Their quick personalities also give them a love for games in the classroom or anything else that requires quick answers with a competitive environment. They are not ones to sit down with information and take it all in, they need the reader’s digest version of everything so that they can bounce around and move onto the next idea. 

Highly structured environments are hard for them with their perceiving type. They want the room to move and create at their own free will, not under the direction of a teacher. When given the right materials and space, ESTPs can blow everyone out of the water with what they can come up with. 

The sensing type in them thrives on manipulatives in the classroom. They want hands-on experience in everything, allowing them to take in and internalize a concept by doing, not seeing. If they are having a hard time grasping a concept, put it into action for them or let them put it into action themselves, that’s how they want to learn. 

Do you have an ESTP student in your class? How do you see their spicy, driven personality enhance the culture of your classroom? 

Sincerely, Your Substitute Teacher

Dear Teachers, 

We see you. We see the work you put in. We see the sacrifice you make in providing your classroom with materials paid for out of your pocket. We see the extra janitorial work you do before, after, and even during class. We respect the amount of time you put into the learning of these students, spending hours before and after class writing lesson plans, making anchor charts, calling parents, and prepping for upcoming days. 

When we walk through your classroom we see smiles on your student’s faces. We see their excitement for learning and how hard you’ve worked to get them to this point. Your love and respect for your students are tangible by the way they talk so highly of you. We see how much you care about them too by the work you’ve put into each detail, their personalized name tags, the extra study chart you made when you realized they didn’t quite grasp concepts right away. We see it in the way you leave us notes about specific kids and their behaviors we need to be aware of- the students who are more difficult or the students who are big helpers. You know them, you know who they are and what they need. We see the sticky notes you leave for yourself about upcoming community events your students are in or the reminders for passing out those extra homework papers you’ve made at least 5 copies of this week since they all seem to mysteriously disappear in backpacks. 

We know you’re still an excellent teacher even though you had to take a sick day, or a personal day for conferences, vacation, or to visit family. We know you miss your students just as much as they miss you. We see what an accepting and inviting culture you’ve created in your classroom by the need your students feel to have you back.

We as substitute teachers are privileged to enter your classroom for sometimes as little as a few hours a day. We are given a tiny window of your space and we respect your noble work. So teachers, dear teachers, we see you. We respect you, and we are proud of you. Keep doing the great work you are doing, because you are the best teacher for this classroom. 

Sincerely, 

Your Substitute Teacher