The PLE's Sunny Side-Up

Personalized Learning @ Brown Summit and Southwest

As we speed toward the end of the year we find that thoughts of quitting, adversity and the discovery of true courage fills our brain. Students and teachers wonder if they will make the grade and pass the high stakes test. We consider the difficulties we encountered through the year and blame snow, school assemblies, shaky internet and tablet collection on not having enough time to prepare for the EOG. The shoulda coulda wouldas envelop us to the point that we dream of outcomes, remediation and what else could we have done to be successful?

Guest contributor, Chase Mielke, had the same thoughts and allowed me to share this with you.


Twenty-four of my students are failing. Only two are passing. They are failing in the grade book. They are failing in mastering content. They are failing in overcoming the abyss of apathy that is a characteristic of the students I teach. And, because of this, I am failing.

I have tried dozens of techniques and watched them bomb. And then tried new ones and watched them bomb again. I am frustrated and at a loss and exhausted. For the last month I have fought hard not to admit this to myself, but it's time I live by a credo to speak hard truths: I want to give up on them.

I have heard it over and over again from dozens of teachers: Some kids can't be reached. Such kids have a perfect storm of disadvantaged genetics, dismantled home-lives, and self-destructive mentalities. One teacher cannot reach them. Nor can one school, nor one community. Save your energy and dedicate it to the “good ones.”

Another truth: Lately, I have felt myself nodding in agreement when I hear teachers say these things, even uttering variations of the “Doomed Pupil Decree.”

But it's ironic. Because my students are failing, I feel incompetent. Because I feel incompetent, I want to quit. And yet, quitting is exactly the habit I most want my students to break. It is a grey, dotted line separating irony from hypocrisy. But I can't shake it from my head that it's wrong – that I'm wrong – to say “There's no hope.” I choose to believe that there is always hope. Even if there is no hope, there is always need for hope. I can accept the reality that not every kid will be reached. But, I do not accept abandoning my effort in trying.

I can't kick it out of my mind that every child needs a champion, every quitter needs a coach, every failure needs a fresh start. Even as my frustration hits its wall, as my energy runs on fumes, as the easy option to give up calls me to play – even then I cannot quit. Quitting is not my job. My job is to try to influence every mind that enters my room. Every day. Every student. Every second. And, when I am not trying to my fullest extent I know it – and it is only I who must answer to my own lack of integrity.

Even when Carlos walks in late for the 9th time, still no pencil, still no notebook, still with ear buds marking walls of detachment, I cannot give up.

Even when Brian is gone for the twelfth day in three weeks without the slightest rationale, I cannot give up.

Even when Grant says this class is useless and that he doesn't care about graduating, about his career, about his future, I cannot give up.

Even as Cameron hangs on a thread of near-expulsion for breaking into the school to get high, I cannot give up.

Even as every inch of gain we made yesterday feels lost today, I cannot give up.

Even as I face empty promise after empty promise – from students, from parents, I cannot give up.

Even after giving them every conceivable opportunity to succeed, every strategy I currently know, every resource I have, and seeing them fail, I cannot give up.

Sometimes I feel like I am only a candle in a cavern of darkness with these students and that both ends are melting. Yet, it is in the darkest rooms that the smallest sliver of light blares brightness to the walls.

And this is not winter. This is spring.

So I will return day after day after day and face my failing students. I will try strategy after strategy after strategy. I will never stop learning, never stop yearning to be better so I can see better. I will accept that I may try and fail and try and fail again. But, I will not let myself try and fail and try and fail and fail to try again.

Tomorrow I will speak with more passion, listen with more empathy, teach with more energy, and plan with more intention. And I will do it again and again and again. Because someone has to. And, I chose to be that someone.

Mielke, Chase. "WeAreTeachers: An Open Letter to Myself: Don't Give Up." A Teacher's Open Letter to Himself on Not Giving Up. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <'t-give-up>.


Continue to be that someone to help our students. Perhaps it's trying a new form of EOG review with and without the tablets. Or it's taking the class outside and approaching your class in new ways of assesment that gets them up and moving. Whatever the case, give your students what they really need. And if you need help, just ask.

What Students Really Need to Hear [Video]


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Recognize the Effort of ALL Students (Engage 02)

I came across this picture above on Facebook the other day and it really got me thinking and reflecting about how we prep our students for the end of year test.

I first asked myself...How are we building student motivation? How are we building student confidence?

I reflected on when I was in the classroom full-time. I remember that my entire hallway would decorate the hallway after Spring Break (construction themed - Caution: 7th graders at Work) and cheering for the kids as they came down the hall. I remember making posters that went on my door and in my room, that said "I believe in you, Do you believe in you." It is truly amazing how much our/my students grew that year and I honestly believe that these confidence/motivation builders contributed to that growth

Then it got me thinking and reflecting on other ways that we prepped students for the EOGs. I asked myself... did I use/are we using the time we have with our students wisely? A lot of us, if not all of us use or have used stations to review for tests but how do we make the stations impact each and every student? Does each student need to complete each station? Do we need to focus on one domain a week or should we focus on all the domains everyday to get ready for the end of year test?

I remember, trading students with the other math teacher(s) on my hallway to work with students on certain skills that they needed to master. I would take all the kids that needed to master a skill, another teacher would take another skill and work with certain students, etc. Even though we might not have reviewed each and every standard, we covered the ones that we thought were the foundation and then used the data to guide the way.

Below are some articles and videos that will get you thinking about how we prep students for the end of year tests. I encourage you to reflect and take you build your students' confidence and how you can impact every single one of your students' success.


Janell Mallory - 6th Grade ELA @ SWMS

Janell Mallory has started something very interesting in her classroom. She is recording student explanations on her tablet. Students come to the board to solve a problem in front of the class or during tutoring. She has students explain their process and reasoning using appropriate and accurate vocabulary. (Engage 06) After the students are done explaining the problem, she will ask the students in the room what vocabulary words were used. She also uses the recordings to help students see themselves solve the problems. This really enforces the concept of showing your work because students immediately say "Oh, I didn't need to do that" or "I was suppose to multiply instead." (Blend 03) She also shares the videos with other students so they have examples to refer back to and she sends videos to parents to show them how their child is progressing in class. (Engage 02)

#knowthelearner #flextheenvironment

Garrett Gregory - 8th Grade Math and Math I @ SWMS

Talk about guiding with standards and adjusting instruction in response to formative assessment. That is exactly what Garrett Gregory is doing for this end of year test prep. He gives his students an assessment he created from SchoolNet. Based on what the data tells him, the lowest standard(s) are what he reviews with the students for that week. (Engage 05) This cycle repeats each week, thus he gets to see the growth the students made on the previous skills and then move on to the next skill that needs to be reviewed!


Jennifer Tyndall ART @ BSMS

We can all agree that there aren't many apps on the tablet that cater to Encore. However, Jennifer Tindle has found a way to use Tellegami in her Art Class. She has students creating a 30 second video discussing/explaining everything art - an artist, a time period, a style, etc. (Blend 01) What makes this so interesting, is that the students can make the background of their video a piece of art or they can make an avatar to mimic the artist. (Blend 02) Once the Tellegami was created, students attached them to QR codes so other students could see their work. (Blend 03)


Technology Tid-bits

Tablet Collection Dates

Brown Summit - June 8th

Southwest - June 5th (8th Grade), June 8th (6th Grade), June 9th (7th grade)

*More information to come

Amplify Market Spotlight - JogNog

  • JogNog is a library of more than 1,700 quizzes and 70,000 review questions that are aligned to state standards. It is a perfect way to review for state tests or as a homework helper for teachers or parents.
  • JogNog is Simple: 1. Pick a test 2. Share test with class 3. Watch progress with grade reports.
  • JogNog Works: Research in Massachusetts showed that students dramatically improved their proficiency on state tests when using JogNog.
  • JogNog is used by teachers for online assessment, formative assessment, summative assessment, as a homework helper, test-prep tool, and for rewards and general gamification of tests in the one to one classroom using tablets, smart phones or the internet on their Chromebooks.
  • JogNog is great for elementary and middle school but there is also content for high school and college prep.
  • Create custom exams or use questions banks in ALL CORE CONTENT AREAS!

Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks to keep you in the know.
    • Math Map Content
      • Math Map Content has been added to the Amplify Market which means that students may download if the content is not currently on the tablet.
      • If a teacher or student tablet prompts an error that Math Map Content is missing, please follow the steps to Download Math Map
    • For helpful guides and information, visit our Knowledge Base and our online community for helpful information and to engage with fellow teachers around the country
    • Check out additional test prep websites below. Ask your PLEF if you need a Flocabulary password.

I am always open to hear from you!

Megan Putnam

Personalized Learning Coordinator & Tablet Integration Specialist

Student growth is my passion! I truly believe that personalized learning is the path to maximize student growth! If you want to maximize your student growth, let me know when and where, I can help!