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Thursday, April 30, 2015

NO Rules

I moderated a wonderful spark chat this morning #BFC530. The topic was based on a video about a school in New Zealand. It takes a bit of time to watch, but presses hard at the boundaries that adults have towards our kids and their play. 

This principal has taken the risk research and pushed the boundaries to an extreme that makes many uncomfortable. But isn't that where change happens? Where we are uncomfortable? This idea that we just continue to "molly coddle" our children and develop these helpless beings who need to be told what to do, and how to solve problems scares me for the future of our world. 

One of the participants in this mornings chat was Abner Oakes (@aoakes4) and he proposed this article from about a year ago in The Atlantic (@TheAtlanticEDU). Called 

Then another participant, William Green (@7wgreen7)  posted his blog 

This topic is one that was so intriguing to me that I proposed it to my students. They (of course) had an opinion too! So I encouraged them to blog about it, and they were pretty insightful. 

During our class discussion, one of them said "I would love to see this happen Mrs. Boyce, but it never will at our school, because Parents wouldn't let it."   She used the word "Parents" like it was the giant from the Jack and the Beanstalk story. This entity which dictates how we teach. 
Oh wait, it does. 

Between fitting in curriculum between testing, worrying about how the scores are panning out, and how that is impacting our profession, in addition to trying to stay on top of what the legislature is doing at the local and federal level, we are losing the whole reason we are employed. 
The kids. 

As a teacher I am always trying to stay on top of what is best for kids. Isn't play what is best for them. I mean, curriculum is helpful, but doesn't play teach too? I think lessons learned from peers and play are some of the best teachers. What are we doing by taking away more and more play time, so we can assess? Is this right? What do you think? I would love to hear from you.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Powerups by letting go.

Kids are living in a video game culture. They like the idea of "power ups". The question before us today is about powering up our classrooms. How to build a more powerful classroom by letting go? Letting go of what? Control? Schedule? Curriculum? This idea leads down a dangerous precipice that can quickly go awry. I believe there is great freedom in giving up some of the control to the students about their learning and their timeline.

This idea is the basic principal behind
"genius hour" suggested by Don Wettrick's
book Pure Genius. This innovation education
allows the students the freedom to choose
what they are learning about.

We are always asking student to put on their creative hats on and
"think outside the box" but often educators are asking them to
do this within the constraints of curriculum or within boundaries
set by the teacher. This can be open ended, but more often than not, it is restricting for the students to have to try their hand at creative
thinking within the confines of the teachers expectations.

This is one reason I love blogging. When I began this process a year ago, I wanted to structure it so that I was always telling them
what to write about and when to write. I quickly learned this is the fastest way to shut down the writings. Since then, I give a suggested topic, but allow for freedom in the writing. I still expect them to write, but there is freedom in choice.

I like to give them an interesting photo
and ask them to ponder and comment,
or write their thoughts. Here is an
example of one of the pictures I offer
as a suggestion...

If a person were to look at this elephant from the top down, it gives a different perspective than if you start at the feet and work your way up. I may pose this drawing with this question...How can this change in perspective apply to your life?

So I feel like this is pretty random. But in general it begs the question, what do you let go of to inspire your students to have greater power in your classroom?

Friday, April 24, 2015

I love my school because

I love my school because we are a great big family. It is a place that I can call home. It has wonderful smiling faces that promote a positive environment, even in the face of all the testing, curricular demands, and stubborn learners. We encourage, enlighten, inspire, and promote each day. Not everyone participates each day, but the helping hands along the way, make it a place I want to come back to each morning. We stretch each other and make them grow, improve, or seek. We teach and learn honor, integrity, and the power of a hand up, not a hand out. I love my school because we are a family.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Social Media Challenge

Today's blog challenge was interesting, and timed perfectly. It was "How has social media changed your classroom?  Personally? Professionally? With students? Families?"

WELL, allow me to enlighten you as to the brass tacks of my students and their relationship with me! Last week we were having another discussion about digital citizenship and I was sharing my twitter (@boycem3)  page with them so they could see it. (a few of them did not even know what Twitter was) and one of my darlings said, "Hey Mrs. Boyce, I saw that you had an instagram account."  

I replied with "why yes, I do. (also boycem3) "   His quick fire response was..."and you only have one picture and it was taken 17 MONTHS ago!!" (obviously a cardinal sin...) 

He then proceeded to challenge me to make it a class account and then further extended the challenge to take at least one picture a day until the end of school.  Talk about being shown up by a ten year old. Well, not me. I immediately accepted the challenge and we hashed out the requirements as a class. 

1. Must take one picture every day until the end of school 
2. Must be about school or for the students in class. 
3. Multiple pictures in one day will not count toward upcoming days 
            (tried to negotiate this one today since I took like 40 pictures of our field trip) 
4. Must tag children in it if they have an account. 
5. Must save all pictures taken to our shared google drive account for any students who do not have access to instagram (about half of my students) 

Their job...sit back and hold me accountable. 

As you all know, when trying to take on something is tough. So blogging once a day AND getting photos into Instagram has been daunting (good thing I am in the DAUNTLESS faction!) 
So my job for the last 27 days of school? BLOG, and CLICK!! BLOG and CLICK!! BLOG and CLICK!!  Here are a few from the last two days.

This is a shot of them yesterday listening to make a list of sounds they could hear outside our classroom door. They are in the process of writing a poetry book, and sound poems (or list poems) are one of them.

The caption on Instagram said "they are like Easter Eggs on hidden in the grass." Aren't they sweet looking?

We also ended up writing a haiku poem to this...

Like eggs in the grass
Hidden on Easter morning
Each student listens

Here are a few of today's field trip and their captions....
Roasting Marshmallows for our "No Fire- No S'More" activity

Getting ready to kayak, learning how to paddle

A view from the kayak...No one went swimming! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


I was presented with the question "Why do you teach?"

It made me pause. Why do I teach? Well, I... so many reasons come gushing to the surface, I need to take a moment and sort them into some coherent thoughts.

1. Because God created me to teach. I know it sounds arrogant, but it is one of my spiritual gifts. I entered the world as a teacher. That is the first and most important reason.

2. Because I want to make a difference. I know it is cliche. But I do. I have always been a relational person and I want to affect people in a positive way. It has taken me years to focus and build up my skills to encourage, inspire, and work hard for the good of others, but it is vitally important to me that people believe in themselves and aspire to do more for the greater good.

3. To see the learning. There is no feeling like watching someone "click" into what is happening. I do not get to see it from every student every day, but usually at least one. It is so fulfilling watching a kiddo "get it" and know that you have opened another door for them and their future.

4. And selfishly, I teach because it opens opportunities for me to learn. I know there are some people who are "forced to learn" but because of my field, I "get to" learn. Like that hotel commercial.  It is incredible what my mind can grasp and adapt to. I am excited and passionate to find new things. (in my comfort zone, and directly outside of it, of course) I won't be cutting anyone open to find out something new, or dropping myself in a new country, alone, to learn a new language, but the idea is intriguing. (of the travel, not the surgery)

It is so funny, the answer to the question comes easily but requires explanation. Why do I teach? Because I am.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

To read or not to read...that is the question!

Today's idea is reading. What am I reading you ask? As usual this time of year, I am reading material that my student read. I am always trying to stay a book or two ahead of them, but between that and technology, I am struggling to keep up! My current book is called SteelHeart by Brandon Sanderson.

Sitting on my nightstand is a few Lee Childs books, and a couple christian reads. Also two J.D. Robb books. All selfish pleasure reading. As soon as summer starts.



Reading is such a guilty pleasure for me. It takes me to places I cannot really go. It entertains my mind and fills my heart. I am one of those readers that zone out. I usually have a book with me in my purse, in my car, next to my bed. Reading is something I love!  Mostly fiction, science fiction, relational and faith growing books. I am not a fan of non-fiction. What sorts of books are you reading now days? Which ones are your favorites?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Right....What's Left?

Well, with 29 days left in the school year, we reflect about how the year has gone, excitedly look forward to the summer days that are quickly approaching, and then PANIC. There is so much to do before those treasured days arrive.

There is the Math cram that happens this time of year, the field trips that are being gleefully attended, last minute learning before the almighty State testing, and what about that glowing orb in the sky? It has been so long since these kids have seen warm sunshine, that recess is mandatory! I need the vitamin D and the fresh air. So do they.

Also this time of year is the time when our school has assemblies, field day, movie day, spring concerts, bounce house reward day, and the list goes on and on and on. So that 29 days left really is about 18 days of traditional teaching time. AHHHHHHH!!!

For myself this year is really busy and bittersweet. I have my youngest graduating and so there is the planning for that and for family in town that weekend. And there are the connected relationships with my colleagues. That cannot just be left undone. There are parties to attend, dinners and picnics, and many summer afternoon activities. Life is so busy. It makes my quiet moments to myself even more vital. Many ways exist to take those quiet moments, some pray, read the bible, watch their favorite tv show, listen to music, drink coffee, run, social media, exercise, or lock themselves in the bathroom. Some take this time in the morning, middle of the day, or just before bed. Whatever and whenever that time occurs for you, make sure you take it in this busy BUSY time of year. Happy Relaxing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My "new teacher" self

I wish I had a time machine that I could go back in time to Jan 1993. Fresh out of college and all set with my binders of lesson plans from college, and a dozen or so already made bulletin boards. I stepped into that classroom mid-year for the first time, adjusted my rose colored glasses, and vowed to change the world one child at a time.

Now, 22 years later, I wish I could go back and have some straight talk with myself. Here is what I would say...

Hey there self! A bit of advice for you...

1. Stop worrying about the paperwork, the bulletin boards, the lesson plans, the grades, and focus on the kids. This job is 1000% about building relationships and making connections. You will change the world one kid at a time, by making a difference to the one kid.

2. Smile and have fun with yourself. Don't be serious all the time. Kids like to be around grown ups that smile. They like to see people laugh, and THEY like to laugh. So do it once in a while.

3.  Reach out to parents right away. It seems awkward and trivial to call or write that first week since they are strangers. But do it. RELATIONSHIPS!!! Not just with kids, but parents too. They have entrusted you with their greatest possession for more waking hours than they have them. (even if they dont always treat them that way) Feel honored. It is a privilege.

4. OMGOSH!  Make a mistake. In front of your kids. They like to see that you are human. (Not a big mistake that can get you fired or anything, you want to still be there to make the difference)

and finally...

5. It is okay to set strict and firm boundaries that stay consistent. Kids like things they can count on. And by golly, they want rules. Even if they don't act like it. So start strong. Be firm. YOU WILL appreciate it in April and May when other teachers are dealing with out of control classes. :)

Good luck newbie! I will see you again in 22 years. far away.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Being Someone's Champion

"Stand up for what you believe in, even if you are the only one standing." This is a quote I have hanging up in my classroom. We reference it often throughout the year. We talk about putting yourself in front of something you believe in, even if you are alone and different than the rest of the crowd, is how you "champion" a cause or belief. We talk about how that looks at a 10 year old level. How students should respond to bullying, cheating, meanness, and general bad behavior that requires a champion. This is how I teach children to champion for others.

I find that being a champion for others may look different for me. Although it still has to do with standing up against bad behavior, it also has to do with being an encourager and lifting people up. Not only students, but teachers as well. To be a champion means to be there when people need you, be someone to count on.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Microblogs? little snippets of information that take only moments to read....

I have to admit I borrowed this amazing idea from +Kelly Stidham who commented in my last post about Twitter. She gave me the quick idea of short little microblogs...LOVE IT! 

So here is mine for today. 

Presentation by small groups in Math today to demonstrate the learning of integers. They are researching famous places above and below sea level, demonstrating the magnitude (distance away from zero) and the direction (positive or negative) and then the opposite integer of the information they have found. 3 in a group...each find one! 

Also they have to find 3 places around the world that have differences in temperature, again demonstrating magnitude, direction and opposite integers. 

Super quick and easy and these kids are talking integers!!!! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Twitter...not just the "what I had for breakfast" social media

When talking about Twitter to my colleagues, there seem to be different camps.  The first camp is the "Not for me" group.  This is the group of people who just aren't interested in learning the "new fangled" technology. They believe that this fashion fad of Twitter will die out just like other social medias of the past. They are just fine doing things the way they have always done. They are not abundant, but they are the few, the proud, and the strong.

The second group is the ones that are willing to move forward, but don't really see the need to add another social media site to their repertoire. They think that Twitter is a site used to share what you had for breakfast, and what movie you are seeing. They do not understand the power of Twitter. I will tell you that I was in that camp for a long time. When I first joined Twitter, I will admit I joined to hawk my kids and their friends. I knew that Twitter was amazing for doctors to see the latest surgery and practices instantly, but did not see or realize the impact for education. A little more than a year ago, I realized the power of the PLN (Professional Learning Network).

At that point, I joined the last group. The ones that are already on board.  The group of campers of hard core PLN people use twitter everyday. Sometimes several times a day. These are the people that are gung ho, and working hard. This has been like when someone first gets a spouse. They want everyone to have someone and they try hard to set people up. I try to move my colleagues from the second group to this one.

My argument: Here is what Twitter has done for me...
Twitter has connected me to other fifth grade teachers in my district, my region, my state, the nation, and the world. It has enabled me to learn from others that have gone before me with 1:1 iPad classrooms, and those who are using technology in other ways. I have been able to have global curricular projects with classrooms across the pond, and in another hemisphere. It has opened conversations through #edchat of many kinds and helped to grow me as 21st century teacher. I was perusing through Twitter this morning, and this tweet caught my eye...

The top 12 "must reads" 

What Connected Educators Do Differently

Todd Whitaker and Jeffrey Zoul

Cited From:

Twitter. It is not the "what I had for breakfast" social media. Try it. You might like it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools Day (For real this time)

Hello folks,

April Fool's Day.  The day that elementary teachers and parents everywhere dread. The one day of the year when every teacher has a spider on their shoulder, shoelaces untied, and something spilled on their shirts. Elementary students are just beginning to explore their joke status. They love to pull off the "amazing joke" that makes everyone laugh.

By middle school (fifth grade and up) there is a clear cut "class clown" and students are really trying to nail down their sense of humor. I love how they are trying out one liners during math class and piping in with random thoughts of the day during transitions. Then there is also the one who has the physical comedy routine to provide us with hours of comedic relief. We look forward to any and all comedy given during the day...April Fools!

I have to admit, I am giggly excited to be on spring break this week. But never fear fans, my 19 year old son, filled the shoes of my students, by rigging a small explosive to my bedroom door this morning, to provide the quickest wake up call ever delivered....BANG!

April Fools day. Who created this day? Who is responsible, I ask....Well, here is a bit of history.

According to, this wonderful day of celebrating pranks was started in the US way back in the 1700's, although some historians believe it goes as far back as 1582. (We have had class clowns for a very long time) The day is said to have begun when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to get the news out were outted with a paper fish stuck to their backs.

Ancient festivals in Rome called Hilaria involving costumes and disguises. In Scotland, it is a two day event when gullible hunters were sent out to hunt for the elusive "gowk" or gooney bird. (Which I cannot help but connect to the summer night when my father took my friends and I out snipe hunting)

Which bring us to modern day fools day, when companies such as Burger King, Taco Bell, and the BBC all got in the game. With phony news reports and the release of the "new left handed burger". Right up to April Fools Day 2015. UNL released some great big news on Harvey Perlman's Twitter page:

Here is the info and the major offered at UNL!
Following some advice from a while ago, we’re launching a new major at today:

Well, April Fools Day...a day for everyone to have a little fun. So glad I only had one kid providing jokes, not 25! :)

April Fools Day

You thought I was going to post?

April Fools!