Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie

The Pedagogy of a Rural Educator

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30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 30: Dauntless!

What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid?

Keep teaching.

Teaching is hard. Teaching is frustrating. Teaching is scary. I mean, really scary.

Teachers are responsible for helping students become productive members of society. Teachers are responsible for preparing the next generation of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and you can’t forget, TEACHERS!

If I don’t do my job well, I am putting the future of our nation and our world at risk.

Scary, right?

However, thousands of teachers face that fear every day. They do it because they want to make a difference in the nation and in the world.

They love knowing that their students will grow to be productive members of society. They will become the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Jane Goodall.

Teaching is rewarding. Teaching is amazing. Teaching is awesome. I mean, really awesome!

Keep teaching.


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30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 29: Becoming a Better Teacher

How have you changed as an educator since you first started?

A student wrote me a thank you note the other day. It said: “Thank you for becoming a better teacher than you were when I was a freshman.”


At first, I thought it was an insult. Then, I realized that it was a compliment (or I forced myself to see it as a compliment)! This student is now a senior, and has seen me grow as a teacher. One of the greatest things about teaching in a small school is that I have the same students for 4 years. I get to see them grow, and they get to see me grow! I know that I have changed in many ways since my first year of teaching five years ago. I decided to flex my creative muscles for this post and show this change in a fun way!

Management – My classroom management has improved greatly! Although I know I still have a ways to go, I have done a much better job of maintaining an environment of learning, even in the chaos of labs!

Reflective – Doing things like this blogging challenge has made me much more reflective about my teaching strategies. I think more about how I teach and change what I do if it isn’t effective.

Strong – A tough skin is sometimes necessary in this profession. My skin has gotten tougher in the last five years. I take less things personally, and work hard to understand where criticism comes from.

Knowledgeable – Not only have I learned more about educational pedagogy, I have increased my knowledge of my subject area in the last five years. I have spent many hours reading current science articles and working to apply them to classroom subjects. I have also gone to multiple professional development conferences and workshops in order to keep up-to-date on the latest information.

Organized – I can’t stress enough how important organization is! I am not a great organizer, and its a challenge every day. However, I feel much less frantic now that I used to! (And I can see my desk most days!)

Enthusiastic – Not much has changed here. I have always been a very enthusiastic person. I was a cheerleader in high school! But one thing that has changed in what I get enthusiastic about. I still love my content, but I now get more excited about new ways of teaching it, and seeing my students’ success in my classroom.

Happy – You would think that this would be a given, but I will fully admit that there were quite a few days my first year that I was NOT happy. It was terribly stressful, frustrating, and hard to be a first year teacher. I struggled daily. I’ll even admit that I cried weekly. Its really lucky I made it through! However, with the changes I’ve made through the years, I’ve lowered my stress (and added classes. . . how does that work?), relieved frustrations, and made my life much easier!

Local – After my first two years of teaching I became a “local”. For the first two years I commuted about 40 miles to and from school each day. Now that I live 3 miles from school, I have enjoyed becoming more connected with the community.

Expectations – As a new teacher, I didn’t really know what to expect. Now, I have very clear expectations as to what I will achieve personally, professionally, and academically each year, semester, and quarter. Although I’m still very flexible when I need to be, I have a better understanding of what my expectations should be.

Realistic – Teaching six classes and coaching a sport can be VERY time-consuming. I have become more realistic about what I can and can’t do due to time-constraints. When I started, I spend every weekend at school or working at home on school stuff. Now, I can usually cut it down to one weekend a month. Although I love doing new and exciting things in class, I have realized that sometimes you have to just do your best with what you have!

Well, that was definitely challenging! Now, I look forward to how I will change in the future!

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30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 28: Technology

Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa?


As a science teacher, my answer to this questions isn’t black & white, yes or no. I feel like we need to use technology to teach our curriculum, but we should also teach about technology. When it comes to technology, I like to follow these three principles:

1. Build curriculum and use technology to enhance the material.

2. Apply curriculum through the use of technology when appropriate.

3. Teach students the proper uses of new technology that can be used and applied to everyday living.

I believe if you follow these, the use of technology in the classroom will be appropriate and effective.

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30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 27: Weekends & Holidays

What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching?

A cup of coffee, the Today Show, 2 dogs and 1 cat on (or next to) my lap. I LOVE holidays! Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my birthday (funny how that worked out)! Holidays and weekends are incredibly important in teaching.

First, they give me time to relax and rejuvenate, which is super important after working an average of 55-60 hours a week! Second, I typically use weekends and holidays to plan lessons, grade papers, set-up experiments, and do a little professional development. Without this time to plan and grade, I’d never get it done. In a typical day at school I don’t have time to grade papers or plan lessons. Finally, I spend time with my hubby and friends. In my first few years of teaching, I found it very easy to spend 8 hours on a Saturday just doing school stuff. I soon found out that I need to set aside time for myself, family, and friends. Without that time, its easy to get sucked into a world that only includes work.

So, here is my advice for new teachers: make time for yourself. You’ll be happier which will make you a better teacher in the long-run!!

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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 26 – Websites

What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

Quick post this time:

1. For science teachers! She has resources for chemistry and biology from tons of different sites. Just overall a great catalog of science teaching resources!

2.  This is an obvious one, but youtube really has great content. I’ve started doing short videos to start each class. Some great channels include: CrashCourse, AsapSCIENCE, and The Slow Mo Guys.

3. If you are looking for a new way to review, this site provides templates for games like Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, as well as tools like a random name generator and seating chart maker!


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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 25 – Student Collaboration

The ideal collaboration between students–what would it look like?  

Not this!! I love having students collaborate on assignments, projects, and other classroom activities. I have had many questions like, “can we work together on this?”. My answer is always yes (unless its an assessment, then its sometimes yes)! However, its sometimes a challenge to define “work together”. There are three things I say equal good collaboration:

1. All students are involved. No-one is a by-stander, just allowing the others to complete the work and copying answers.

2. All ideas are valuable. Everyone in the group has the opportunity to share their ideas and have them heard.

3. Communication is essential and multi-faceted. There is not just one way that students communicate, so we should not limit them to just one.

Although these seem to be three things that should always be present in a classroom, everyone that has ever done a group project in a class knows that they are not always true!

As a teacher, we have to teach our students how to do this. It isn’t natural for them, and many have been conditioned to play their role and never strive to change that. It has to be a conscious effort to work to change the pre-set ideas of students about group work and collaboration.

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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 22 – PLN

What does your PLN look like, and what does it to for your teaching?

“If you aren’t on Twitter, you need to be!”.

I bet I said this 20 times last Thursday and Friday. I was asked to attend the Midwest Regional Noyce Conference in Omaha, NE. This is a conference where pre-service teachers, teachers in the field, Master Teaching Fellows, and faculty and staff from many different colleges and universities come together and share ideas and experiences. The common thread through all is that they were in some way involved in the Noyce Scholarship Program. This program is specific to science & math teaching and works to get highly qualified teachers into high-need areas, like urban and rural schools. I received one of these scholarships while I was in college. During the conference, I was part of the “Voices from the Field” panel, as well as a co-leader in a presentation about building a PLN!

I was very excited to share the amazing world of Twitter with everyone there. I started tweeting right away, hoping to connect with someone at the conference who was also a Twitter veteran. Unfortunately, the only people tweeting seemed to be sitting next to me – two other attendees from my university. At that moment, I knew my mission for the two-day conference. Get people on Twitter!!

I can’t express how much Twitter and PLN I’ve built on there have done for me. Here are a few examples:

  • Discovered the 30 Day Blog Challenge from @TeachThought
  • Collaborated with Jessica Anderson (@TriSciCurious) on a Virtual Learning Project where our students connected with each other to do a project. (Her students are about 1000 miles from mine!)
  • Connected with Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), author of Teach Like a Pirate, and I was able to see him speak live as well as on a Google Hang-Out.
  • Found out about South Dakota EdCamp, and connected with other SD educators before and after the EdCamp.
  • Have been involved in many chats, learned a ton, got support, gave support, and have really grown as an educator!

“If you aren’t on Twitter, you need to be!”

Check it out sometime, you will be amazed at the resource it is for educators!