The end of the year has come and with it the chaos that teachers know all too well. This blog that I have been intending to write for three weeks is just now coming to fruition…at the end of a 15 hour day. This is teaching in June. Actually, this is just teaching.
When I last wrote it was the end of April, and I was reflecting on the power of audience, when my students had been blogging daily at school for the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life challenge. Then came spring break. THEN came M-STEP. I’m imagining readers emitting a groan of understanding at hearing that acronym. M-STEP became the bane of my existence, not because my students had to take it but because it completely dominated all of the technology in my building, totally disrupting our blogging routine. Students had grown accustomed to blogging at school; they were no longer satisfied with blogging homework. Some had no means to blog at home and so were completely left out. Chromebooks had to re-charge at lunch, so we couldn’t use them even then. We were cut off – our rhythm disrupted – and blogging enthusiasm waned.
We were finally able to recommence blogging last week, but I noticed a change in my students. They hadn’t heard from their blogging buddies from Maine (I’m guessing similar end of year woes were happening there), and end of year activities were throwing off our routine. We went ahead with the assignment I had planned, but I knew that it would not be their best effort and I was right. However, all is not lost. Two things came from this experience:
1. I learned that I must find a way for us to blog throughout online testing next year.
2. I learned the value of keeping blogging homework, even throughout March.
Prior to the March challenge, I had assigned blogging homework every week. Those students without technology were able to stay in at lunch and use the single student computer in my classroom. The students were excited to do this online writing and I gave them feedback every week. I loved it because students were creating a digital portfolio of their writing that would show their growth over the course of the school year. I gave them weekly assignments reflecting the work we were doing in the classroom, which gave me one more look at how they were applying the mini-lessons. Parents liked the technology use and the fact that they could also see their child’s writing – something not easily accessed with often well-guarded writer’s notebooks.
Once March arrived, I made sure we had technology every day to ensure that students were blogging (daily is a much bigger order than weekly) and also to ensure time to respond to other classes who were participating in the challenge. The kids loved it and so did I. It required a sacrifice of some of my instructional time, but was well worth it. Blogging homework disappeared. My mistake.
Now I know the importance of keeping the weekly blogging homework. Had I not let it go, my students would have kept blogging consistently right up to the end of the year. As I think now about the potential writing that was lost, I could kick myself. All of our reading and thinking and discussing of the American Revolution could have been captured on our blogs! Instead, most of it went home today in writer’s notebooks that I can no longer access. Oh but if it had been in the blog…
But that is the beauty of our profession. Like our students, we learn. Then we do better. So into my folder for the 2015-16 school year will go this note: blogging homework every week. Tomorrow I am going to e-mail parents to remind them that their students can blog all summer and to assure them that I will respond. This same message will be in report cards as well. Most students won’t – I know this from previous years. Perhaps next year will be different though. Blogging homework will happen all the way through June. Perhaps next summer I will have lots of posts to respond to each week. Time will tell…
Beth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006. She is blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner teaches all of their math and science. This enables them to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.