The smartboard is still on vacation…

I love having a smartboard in my classroom. There are countless ways to use it, and the students love when they get to use it in interactive lessons. It is definitely a wonderful tool for the classroom.

Unfortunately though, like with all things technology, it doesn’t always work.

One of the first things I do when I arrive to work is power up the smartboard to see if its up to working that day. Most days it fires right up, ready to rock n’ roll. But of course there are days when it decides it needs a new bulb (which requires a work order to be put in, and that can take a day or two to get signed off) or it just decides to blink on and off.

While my students love the smartboard, the inconsistencies of when it works have become normal for them. When we started back to school from winter break the students started saying, “the smartboard is still on vacation” when it decides not to work. They think its hilarious, and also started betting on whether it is going to work or not each day.

At least they find humor in it! I on the other hand have adopted the habit of planning two ways to implement my lessons. That way I am not left hanging when the smartboard takes a day off!

Sorry I’m late…

Most people who know me know that I am a stickler for routine and consistency. Especially with my kindergarten students.

In my class, every morning right at 8:15, my students are welcomed into the classroom and immediately they turn in their homework folders and place their lunches and backpacks in their cubbies. They make their way to their desks and once everyone is ready, we say morning prayer together and the Pledge of Allegiance. This routine works well for my students. They know what they can expect every morning when they enter the classroom.

It never fails though, just about every morning right in the middle of morning prayer or the pledge, we hear a knock on the door. And just about every morning when I welcome that same student into the classroom, he enters with his uniform disheveled and is typically scarfing down a powdered donut or a frosted poptart.

Not only is he still trying to fill his tummy to hold him over until snack-time, he still has to turn in his homework and put his lunch and backpack away before making his way to his desk and joining the rest of the class. 

The beginning of the year he would anxiously rush into the classroom and rush to  get caught up. As the year has progressed, and he is still late more days than not, his rushed demeanor has turned into him strolling into the classroom and him now taking his sweet time to unpack and make his way to his desk.

On my end, I have sent numerous emails to his parents about how important it is to have their son to school on time. I have also had conversations with them at conferences. Each email and conversation has included the school’s tardy policy straight from the handbook. Nothing has changed. What else can I do?

The boy is 6. It’s not his fault he is habitually late to school. He is only in kindergarten, and I have seen a change in his demeanor since the beginning of the school year. He is defeated. How is this going to affect his attitude towards school?

I can’t help but wonder what kind of impact being habitually late to school has on students.

Yes, I did take your child’s phone.

The classroom policy is clear.

Phones are not allowed in Mr. Palowitch’s classroom.

Your student knows that phones must be away and out of sight during class. You and your child signed the syllabus where this policy is stated.

If I see a phone, I will take it. I will attach a piece of tape to the phone with their name and period written on it. The phone is turned into the attendance office where the student can pick it up at the end of the day. The attendance office records the offense, and on the second occurence, you will receive a phone call.

There are rare times I allow phones to be used for schoolwork. Emphasis on the word “schoolwork“. When students have time in class to complete their math work and there is time remaining, I will clearly state that students may use the rest of the class to do schoolwork. Mine is a working classroom; not a gaming room, not a social gathering, not a music sharing party. They can look up their grades on Q, look up assignments, do research, and read. That is schoolwork.

If I took your child’s phone it is for one of two reasons.

  1. During class, the student was using their phone. Usually they are using it in a manner where they think I can not see them. Really. They really think so. They’ll learn quickly enough.
  2. When phones can be used for schoolwork, they were using it for non-schoolwork. Again, they are using it in a manner where they think I don’t know what they are doing. Really. They really think so. It is obvious what gaming behavior looks like. It is obvious what facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram user interfaces look like. It is obvious that showing/sharing your phone in a jovial manner is not schoolwork. It is obvious that when you are wearing a hoodie you just might be hiding your earbud wires or airpods.

You can help by letting your child know you understand and support the policy 100%. Let your child know you expect them to utilize the entire class time for learning. Make sure your student has a book in their backpack to read in the unusual event they have no homework.

If your student comes home and exclaims “Mr. Palowitch took my phone!”, it might just help to say, “Good for you!”

When Murphy Calls

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” — Murphy’s Law

Last Fall, Murphy called, unannounced, as usual.

I was in the second week of being a new high school Algebra and Geometry teacher. Ten minutes into a ninety minute block period in the middle of a lecture using a computer and projector, the power went out in the classroom.

Most power interruptions are brief. “Class – let’s wait a few seconds for the power to come back on.” After checking a few of the other outlets and sixty seconds later I went to the next door classroom to see if they have power. They do. When I return, the classroom was in the beginning stages of out-of-control buzz.

Grabbing the textbook I said “From what we’ve just covered, you should be able to do the first 5 homework problems. Take out a sheet of paper and begin.” That should last about ten minutes I said to myself.

I placed a call to the administration office and requested (probably demanded) the maintenance staff come over to help. When they arrived, I asked they run a long extension cord out the window from the neighboring classroom into my classroom window and up to the front desk. All I need is the computer and projector to run.

The maintenance staff went off to get started and I stood in front of the class. Most of them had finished the first five problems. “Alright, let’s see if I can remember my lecture!” The screen went up and the marker started to fly across the whiteboard.

I don’t remember if I made any sense. In those early days of teaching I had my ‘script’ down to the sentence and practiced the night before. I am sure I skipped a few key points. The maintenance staff returned and proceeded to run the extension cord between the two classrooms out through the window. I assigned the remaining homework problems so I could assist with the power cord.

With a little climbing, acrobatics and disappearing beneath dusty desks, I had power to the computer and projector. I thanked the maintenance staff and resumed the lecture. I did indeed skip key points and needed to review a few problem solving examples.

The power cord out the window remained in place for most of the day.

I learned later the classroom on the other side was having maintenance. An electrician had pulled the circuit breaker for that classroom and unknowingly cut power to my classroom.

When Murphy calls, be ready to improvise, demonstrate problem solving to your students and be flexible.

When has Murphy called on you? Tell us your story of how you answered his call!

A Flower…

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”
– Alexander den Heijer.

When my group decided to make a blog centered on our at school experiences, I’ll be honest, I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t think of anything to write. So this being my first blog post ever, I hope I do my group justice.

In my 6th Grade Class, we start a lot of our Language Arts assignments with a percept, so I instinctively am doing the same here.

Today, I told my class that I signed them up for a nationwide challenge in Mathletics, an online math program that is provided by our school. It is a competition where students compete in activities based on the math curriculum to earn points which will hopefully earn them rank and prizes. As you can image, this got their blood flowing, got them pumped up, got them excited. But then I had to tell them that in order to earn points they would have to incorporate the use of Mathletics to their at home and after school agenda. Boo!

At this point the attitude of the class dropped, not all but most weren’t as exhilarated and it was at this point that I thought of Heijer’s quote.

When thinking of needing to “fix the environment” there’s obviously the kids who dislike homework, not that these activities are homework but it can be considered school stuff at home, not cool. Then there are those with the extra curricular, complaining that with the homework they already have, and practice, and dinner, and being tired, and having to shower, and brush teeth, and chores and this and that; there is no time. Just like with anyone who hears this story, I’m sure you know how this environment needs to be fixed but that’s not what struck the chord.

I had a student come up to, on the side, away from the class, to tell me, that he would not be able to earn his share of points. Confident in his skills and work ethic I asked why.

“I don’t have a computer at home. I don’t have a phone or Ipad. I don’t even have wifi…”

With all the technology being used in schools and classrooms all around the nation, I stopped to think about this competition. And how many students from coast to coast, who like my student don’t have what most people consider to be essential. People who use the internet for entertainment, for cat videos and memes, for hating and commenting and the a thumbs up. People who don’t realized that not having wifi, while being a #firstworldproblem, is an actual close to home, real life problem that needs to be addressed, needs to be fixed.

As Heijer, so eloquently stated, there is nothing wrong with the flowers, its is how it grows, where it grows, and when it grows…

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