27 July 2014

What question do you wish we had asked?

When we sit down with a potential candidates, we ask a lot of questions about their past and present.

Why are you the best candidate for this job?

Describe how you have overcome adversity.

What made you want to become a teacher and how your experiences have shaped who you are today?

How can you tell that a lesson is successful?

What words would your students use to describe your classroom and teaching style?

How do you handle students varied learning needs?

These are all great questions and will certainly tell you about the personality and teaching style of the potential candidate.  But we are living in a constantly changing world where one of the most important activities a teacher should be engaged in is reflection.

At an interview, the last question that I was asked was "What question do you wish we had asked you?"  I was totally thrown by this as this was the first time any interviewer had asked me this question.  I sat for a second and realized that in every interview I have been on, I have been asked about what I have done in the past or what I would do in hypothetical situations.  Never have I been asked about I am going to do in the future or what my professional growth goals are for next year.  So I described my professional goal for 2014-2015 of creating Google Certified Student teams ( I will talk more about this goal after the GTA this week).  

Why don't we ask about a teacher's professional growth goals or for their blog/Twitter handle/Google+ page?  Wouldn't these tell us more about a teacher than some of the typical questions?

What question would you want to be asked in an interview?

17 July 2014

What I meant to say

I had an interview this week for an Assistant Principal position. The first one went really well, but I was less than stellar the 2nd time around in front of the committee. To be completely truthful, I got out to my car and slapped my hand to my forehead as hard as possible in an attempt to see if I still had a brain in there. What threw me was one question, in particular:

What do you see as the difference between a MS and HS classroom? Specifically.

I will not reveal my actual answer because it is embarrassing. I had all of these things I wanted to include during my interview and this would have been the perfect place to use them, but my brain went blank.  I wanted to say:

The difference, as I see it, is simply how you structure the activities that you use at each level.  Students should be sitting in small groups and bean bag chairs while participating in Edcafes in English class. In science, they are completing guided-inquiry activities where they are given the objective, a tray of materials and are developing their procedures and documenting their results in a Google Doc. In math, they are creating small vehicles that propel themselves down the hall, record their results with their cell phones, and analyze the class results that was collected collaboratively in a Google Spreadsheet. In Social Studies, they are responding to the teacher's questions in a back channel while watching a video. In PE, students record each other with their cell phones while completing drills, analyze their form, and share the video with the teacher. 

To the school that I interviewed with:  I am sorry you didn't get to hear the response I wanted to share.  You got the generic me; the one that tries to be like everyone else. I won't make this mistake again.

This has been bothering me all week and I feel a lot better.  Thanks, everyone, for listening.

11 July 2014

Sometimes it's the little things

I saw this pin on Pinterest last year about leaving words of encouragement on pencils for students during exams. I tried it for my Honors class and they really loved them. One student even made a Tweet about it a few months later when she found the pencil in the bottom of her backpack.
I wanted to do this again for all my classes for finals this past year but with 152 students there was no way that was going to happen. So, at the last minute, I decided to just take a whiteboard marker and write the message directly on the desk.  Here are some pictures of what I wrote:

I think my favorite part about the day was when some students came in early, noticed the messages, and went around the room trying to find the one they liked best.  I don't know if it helped improved scores, but it definitely put a smile on their face.

One student told me at the end of the year that she feels so comfortable learning in my classroom.  I think I can call my year a success.

08 July 2014

Who are you?

I am reading through Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger and just finished the chapter on creating your brand. The concept is pretty simple: when people search the Internet what do you want them to see?  Using your school's website and social media, you can flood the Internet with positive images and stories about your school, keeping a high impression of the school in the public eye.

In my classroom, we use the hashtag #chemisawesome for everything that we do. Pictures/videos of demos, labs, good grades, all appear on this hashtag.  This is my brand.  These positive images are what I want students, parents, community members, random strangers, colleagues, hobos living under a bridge, President Obama to see when they search Google for my classroom.

When we teach students about their digital footprint, we focus fare too much on the bad things that could happen to them.  Instead, we need to constantly model how social media SHOULD be used. Every classroom should have a blog/website/Instagram/Twitter account.  We should be forcing students to use those computers they call cell phones to document the amazing things they do every day and share it with the world.  Think of how easy it would be for colleges in the decision making process when they search for an incoming freshmen and they find hundreds of pictures of them performing community service, winning awards, participating in extracurricular activities, and what they are learning in their classes. Forget the 650 word essays about who you would be having lunch with.  Soon the application will say please insert the link to your blog or Instagram feed that shows how you are having a positive impact on the world.

So my question is:  when I Google you, which version of you am I going to find?

23 June 2014

41 years later

My supervisor is retiring next month after 41 years in education.  He started in this district 2 year before I was born!  He was hired as a MS science teacher originally, then was the first science teacher to teach in the new HS they created later.  Fast forward and he is in the last month of his career in education.  I am finishing my 14th year so I am pretty much finishing the first third of my career (assuming I can't reach my goal of 50 years. Sorry, honey, it's going to happen).  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the most important parts of the past 14 years. (All years are approximate to make this post easier to write)

14 years ago--I met Aashish (just had a kid!), and Martha, and Alexia (got a 9 for the marking period and is now working on her MA in biochemistry!), and Ashley (getting married!), and Ben (is now a 7th grade science teacher). Received the nickname "Evil Seigel" for how much work I gave them in AP Chemistry.

13 years ago--took a group of amazing seniors to Florida when everyone said it couldn't be done. Christina (now a teacher too!) fundraised so much money we actually had to give her some back as spending money.

12 years ago--Had a group of girls tell me something so personal that it changed my life and gave them courage. Started the fencing club. Let Lizzy hangout in my classroom (and then she wouldn't leave!).

11 years ago--Got tenure. Watched Alex and Ana create a unsinkable mousetrap-powered, amphibious vehicle (actually filled it with water and weights and couldn't get it to sink). Kicked Guy out of my class (the first and only student this has happened to).  Apologized to him later for it.  Watched Lucy make a presentation on what would later become the focus of her Ph.D. thesis.

10 years ago--Won Teacher of the Year for my school. Convinced Irene to go out with Kirk (they are married now!).

9 years ago--Accepted Teacher of the Year from the Class of 2006 from Bea (teaches English in China!).  Had to say goodbye to amazing students and colleagues.

8 years ago--Ran the worst department meeting. Followed it up later in the year with the best department meeting.  Met some amazing friends.  Fired someone.

7 years ago--Kissed a pig. Gave Alyssa an award and took one of my favorite photos ever with her.

6 years ago--Became a fencing coach, officially. Met Sara, Claire, Megan (happy birthday!), and Jae. Forgot who I was supposed to be.

5 years ago--Found myself (turns out I was just hiding for a little while). Got to coach Katherine. Had Barry show me that teenagers are different. Discovered that Jackson was a hacker and wicked smart.

4 years ago--Had my best fencing season as a coach and walked away from the sport.  Said goodbye to some of my favorites.

3 years ago--Presented at my first national conference. Started to figure out who I was supposed to be. Met Christiana, Matt, Xena and Raven (all graduating in 3 days!). Made some new friends.

2 years ago--Met Jordan (always making me proud), Christina and Tara. Dariel inspired me to do something I didn't think was possible.  Was thanked 180 times by Maddie. Presented at my 2nd national conference.  Got to team teach with Melissa for the first time.  Watched Eric almost win on Big Brain Theory.

1 year ago--Got a chance to teach AP Chem for the 9th time. Collaborated with students in Indiana via Google Hangout. Helped write a book! Was featured in several magazine articles.  Got accepted into the Google Teacher Academy.  Talked about life and college with Elias and Bobby. Tried to find the meaning of life with Jess (we failed). Discovered Sarah and Phoebe are unbelievably stubborn. Started a TED Ed Club. Watched John reinvent school. Created something Caitlin was proud to be a part of. Became an Explorer.

Every year I get a yearbook.  My fencing coach in HS did this.  When he retired after 37 years, he swept his hands over 3 shelves of yearbooks and said, 'This is my career.'  Even after 14 years, names and faces are fading, details becoming fuzzy around the edges.  This is by no means a complete list and there are hundreds of students that I have forgotten to mention (please don't assume these are my favorites. ALL of my students are my favorites!).

I have had a really great career so far (with many bumps along the road).  I wonder what the next 28 years will bring.