Little Schoolhouse on the Prairie

The Pedagogy of a Rural Educator


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Time with Teachers: The Annual SDSTA/SDCTM Conference

Every year I look forward to the first weekend of February. Being a teacher from South Dakota, you might wonder why I would look forward to any weekend between December and March. The first weekend of February is the Joint Conference of the South Dakota Science Teacher’s Association and the South Dakota Council of Teachers of Mathematics. What does that mean? I get to spend time with teachers! It is rare for a teacher in a rural district to have another teacher in their building that teaches the same content area. You can read about this in my post: What to do When YOU are the Department. And when we get together, we can’t stop talking!

This year I presented for the second time. I did a presentation about the basics of Twitter, and how it can be used for professional development of teachers. It was very similar to the presentation I did last year, which you can read about here. I was excited to attend sessions hosted by the South Dakota Highway Patrol on crash reconstruction and the science of drug dogs. I also attended sessions by Sanford Promise and one where veteran teachers were able to interact with pre-service teachers. Although I’ve been teaching for five years, I still find this session to be one that I think I learn more in than I teach!

Our keynote speaker this year was Bill Zubke, a retired teacher and motivational speaker. He encouraged us to live with love, learning, laughter, and to leave a legacy. It was incredibly entertaining and encouraging. What a great way to get geared up to go back to our classrooms on Monday!

I truly look forward to the conversations I have with the science and math teachers each year at our conference. The weekend helps keep me going through the challenging days and long nights necessary to do my job. It also motivates me to do more and work harder in order to live up to the great legacy that South Dakota teachers have built. I look forward to many more years of spending time with teachers!


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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.


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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 12 – Future

Day 12 asked: How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?

Wow, this is a challenging question. I am really unsure as to where I will be and what I will be doing in five years. I have goals of going to school for masters degree, which means I could still be in school, could be teaching at a high school, or maybe even doing some work or teaching some classes at a college. However, here are a few things I know I will be doing:

  • Searching for professional development. This has become one of my favorite parts of teaching – learning about teaching. I really enjoy reading the latest book on pedagogy, joining twitter chats, and attending PD events.
  • Changing my lessons. Some people call me crazy, but I hate doing the same thing all the time. So, I create a lot more work for myself by continually changing my lessons I know that my lessons aren’t perfect, so I constantly look for new ways to teach my content.
  • Making a difference for kids. This is something all teachers do, everyday. I sometimes forget why I put myself through so much work and heartache to do my job as best I can, but then I remember, its for the kids. When I started teaching, I was more focused on content. Now, I realize that no matter how much content my students remember (hopefully they remember some), they will always remember how I made them feel. I hope those are positive memories and that I make a difference in their lives.


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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 11 – Favorite Part

What is your favorite part of the school day and why?

I have many parts of the school day I really enjoy. I always love it when I have time to chat with my students. Its always nice to create higher levels of rapport by asking about the volleyball game, talking about fantasy football, or sharing stories of what our pets did. I know I enjoy this, and so do the students.

I also love my lunch time. I spend lunch with my best friend and colleague at the school, as well as my husband (who started working full-time at my school this year). We try our hardest to avoid negativity, but if necessary, its a safe place to express our feelings and try to find solutions.

Finally, this year I really enjoy my time after school. For the first time since beginning teaching, I am not coaching volleyball. This means that I do not have to quickly run down to the gym after school every day. At first, I didn’t really know what to do with the time I had, but now I’m getting a lot better at utilizing this time to plan lessons, correct papers, and take care of other little tasks at hand!


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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 10 – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

The challenge for the 10th day had multiple parts. I answered each part below the heading!

Share five random facts about yourself.

  1. I crochet! Its a fun hobby, and I get to make gifts for my friends and family.
  2. I have played piano since I was about 4 years old.
  3. I ALWAYS talk with my hands.
  4. I love animals, and have way too many pets!
  5. I enjoy kayaking in the lakes near my home.

Share four things from your bucket list.

  1. Receive a PhD.
  2. Teach in a foreign country.
  3. Go sky diving.
  4. Raise a family.

Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.

  1. I hope to incorporate more Teach Like a Pirate lessons in my classroom this year.
  2. I hope to get back into shape, and run at least three 5K races before the end of next summer.
  3. I hope to determine a plan for my future, including moving toward getting a higher degree.

Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator. (I’m going to focus on laugh, since I do it pretty much every day!)

  1. A student told me a science joke! “What do you do with a dead chemist? Barium!”
  2. I was introduced by a student as, “the best science teacher, ever!”, when meeting their parent for the first time.

Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.

  1. I am extremely passionate about trying to become a better educator. I LOVE professional development (even the sometimes boring kind), and I constantly seek out new ways to further my education!


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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 9 – Accomplishments

The prompt for day 9 is: Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).

I feel like I really need to write this post tonight so that I get back on track with the challenge. However, I’m really not sure what to write about. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, but can’t pinpoint any one thing I really want to discuss!

I guess one thing that popped in my head was just the accomplishment of making it to my fifth year of teaching. I know this is not exactly what the prompt asked for, because people knew about it, but I think it’s a pretty big deal! So many teachers quit before they ever make it to this point, I think it should be celebrated when someone sticks it out and makes it this far! The first few years of teaching can be hard. Actually, they can be terrible! Mine were no cake walk. However, I feel like I made it to this point because I was able to connect with many great people! I have relentlessly searched for opportunities to meet other educators, further my education, and develop professionally. All of this I have done just because I enjoy it and want to, not because I had to, or was going to receive some sort of special recognition for it. So, I guess this might actually be what the prompt was looking for!


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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 8 – Desk Drawers!

Since I’m a day behind, this is going to be a very short post! The prompt asked participants to take a photo of their desk drawer and comment on what it says about you as a teacher.

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These photos show all four of my desk drawers. I think the number one thing they say about me I’d that I’m a struggling organizer. I try very hard to stay organized, but it’s definitely my biggest challenge! I honestly have to thank a former student for most of the organizing in these drawers! I also think that my drawers say that I am fun-loving, a little crafty, and apparently hungry (the marshmallows were for the first day of school)!