Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie

The Pedagogy of a Rural Educator

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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 18 – A Teacher is Like . . .

. . . a museum tour guide.

I used this analogy when writing my very first personal statement about being a teacher. I still love it to this day!

A museum tour guide is a great source of knowledge, but knows that the tourists will learn more if they experience it for themselves.

The tour guide will lead the tourists through the museum, making sure they experience the exhibits in an appropriate order and experience the most important things.

The guide will answer questions and lead tourists to ways of finding the answers to their questions on their own, when appropriate.

The tourists will leave having learned a lot of information, but also having had enjoyed themselves, experienced new things, and made connections with others along the way.



30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 17 – Challenging Issues

What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

31 school districts in South Dakota started the year without a full staff.

This is a terrible situation to be in as a district. What do you do? Hire a under- or unqualified person to fill the position? Hire a long-term substitute? Yes and yes. Districts in South Dakota are having to do both of those.

According to this article in the major newspaper for Sioux Falls, schools are blaming low teacher pay for many of these issues. South Dakota ranks 51st in the nation for teacher pay. In 2012-2013, we were the only state that had an average pay below $40,000.

Obviously, teachers do not enter the field for pay, but if people are not entering the field at all, it might be because the pay is so low that its difficult to support a family with it.

In South Dakota, the most challenging issue is how we get high-quality, qualified people to teach in a state that does not value them and their expertise. I hope that soon the state will see how important teachers are to the future of our state, and will start to value them appropriately.


30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 16 – Superpowers!

If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

READING MINDS! It would let me do these things:

  • Evaluate my teaching – are they engaged?
  • Evaluate their learning – do they get it?
  • Make better lessons – what do they really want to learn?
  • Know what I’m up against – what else are they thinking about/distracted with?
  • Share the love – who needs a pick-me-up today?

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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 15 – Strengths

Name three strengths you have as an educator.

  1. Curiousity: I want to know how things work, and why. This leads my students and I to some great discussions about the world and things in it! I believe this drives my ability to connect what we learn about to the “real-world”.
  2. Connection: I love high school students! Their humor, drama, craziness, thoughts, and lives intrigue me!! I will spend time just chatting with students, connecting with them an their lives, just because I want to know them better. Many students have said that I’m a better counselor than the school counselor (not sure about that one, but could just be that I’m a woman and he’s not). By connecting with students like this, I feel like they are more willing to “buy in” to my crazy ideas and new teaching methods.
  3. Crazy: I am so proud when students introduce me as their “crazy science teacher”. I can’t think of a greater compliment! I know that the students enjoy my antics, and that my craziness is actually helpful in learning the information I am presenting to them. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t do it! I love being energetic, exciting, and a little bit crazy when presenting, because nothing is worse than being boring (other than not learning).

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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 14 – Feedback

What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?

Traditional Feedback: Grades, Tests, Percentages.

How Feedback Should Look: Standards, Tasks, Mastery.

This is a huge struggle for me and many teachers. We are stuck in a world, state, district, or building that requires the use of traditional feedback. However, we would LOVE to utilize more of the words listed under “how feedback should look”. This is a bridge I haven’t been able to cross at this point in my career.

However, I am trying very hard to make sure that the grades, tests, and percentages reflect the standards I am covering, tasks students have completed, and mastery level of my students. At this point, its the best I can do. Hopefully, in the near future, we will move into the world of what it should look like, instead of what it always has looked like.

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South Dakota Ed Camp = Awesome!

No schedule. Presentations are not planned. The room is the expert. No paid presenters. No keynote. No vendor fair.

Great professional development!

Its not “normal”, but that’s what makes it great! The edcamp model for professional development is a new, different way of coming together as a group of educators wanting to grow, learn, and connect with others. I wasn’t sure what to expect on the day of edcamp, but I know I was excited.

Right away, I loved that on the nametags, there was a place to put your twitter handle! This showed that the edcamp was focused on connecting with other educators and maintaining those connections far beyond the day at Harrisburg North Middle School.

Putting together the schedule. We were pumped!

Putting together the schedule. We were pumped!

The schedule was built by the participants at the beginning of the day. There were no planned sessions, just the question, “What do you want to talk about/learn about/share about?” It was very empowering to know that everything on the schedule was chosen by us, not by some committee or organization. Here are some of the sessions I attended throughout the day:

TLAP: Teach Like a Pirate – with special guest Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) via Google Hangout! Thanks Dave!


Project Based Learning – with two teachers from New Tech High School in Sioux Falls, SD. A school entirely built on project based learning! (How awesome is that!?)

Great group collaboration!

Great group collaboration!

Edmodo/Blogging – A small group that discussed how blogging can be used in multiple ways. (Personal blog, student blogs, class blogs, etc.)

Genius Hour – I was able to share about my experience with genius hour last year (which I might write about sometime!), and how to improve and utilize the concept again!

Secret Agent – J. Parker Adair (@TheCoachAdair) shared his message on being a “Secret Agent” teacher, where every day experiences can turn into great lessons!

Overall, it was one of the best professional development experiences I’ve ever had! I enjoyed the time I had to talk to other teachers, meet people I had connected with on twitter, and learn from what all these great people are doing in their classrooms! I am so glad I attended.

Time to connect!

Time to connect!

A huge thank you to Travis Lape (@travislape) for organizing the event! I can’t wait for the next one!

If you are interested in seeing some of what we talked about at edcamp, you are in luck! Visit and go to “session schedule”. There, you can access links to Google Docs that have notes from each session! Enjoy!


30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 13 – EdTech

Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

  1. Vernier LabQuest & Probes – These have been one of my favorite tools throughout my career. I was introduced to them while in college, and have used them from day 1 in my classroom. I think the thing I love most about the Vernier equipment is that they help students put observations and qualitative data into quantitative data. They also help students utilize graphic analysis.
  2. PhET – Specifically for science teachers, these online simulations allow students to personally experience different phenomenon including chemical bonding, physics of motion, and even evolution by natural selection.
  3. Internet Videos – What student doesn’t want to watch movies in class? I have found a number of wonderful resources online that can be used as introduction, review, or even in a flipped setting. Here are my favorites:

Crash Course – These videos by brother John and Hank Green cover content from chemistry and biology to history and literature. They are entertaining as well as very thorough!

ASAPScience – While these videos are not quite as specific to content as the crash course videos, they ask some really interesting questions.

BrainPop – The videos on brainpop are more geared toward elementary to middle school aged students. However, they can act as a great review of material, or as a basic introduction to a new unit! A subscription is required to view all the videos, but there are some free ones.

TedEd (and Ted Talks) – Shorter videos that cover a variety of topics, the TedEd videos are animated, making them a little more appropriate for younger viewers. Older students may appreciate the Ted Talks more.