Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wednesday Words With Natalie Krayenvenger - First Year Fourth Grade Teacher and ISTE Atendee

Q1 As you reflect on your last year(s) in education, what is a stand out moment for you?
Moving to 4th grade.  Not actually being in 4th grade per se, though there are many amazing and wonderful things we get to do as the “Top Dogs” of the Lower School, but the fact that this was the year I met, and got to work with, Diana and Jenn, my teammates and (without sounding cheesy) soul sisters. This was the year I felt like I could do and try anything because when I did, I would always have not one, but two supportive, loyal, and inspiring people standing by my side, ready to jump with me into the unknown.  It was the year I found the courage and the confidence to swim against the current and do what I thought was best for my students.  In addition to, and as a result of, this newfound (or should I say renewed) courage, I implemented techniques, strategies, and methods in my classroom that were novel to me, and was, for the first time, comfortable admitting I didn’t have all the answers on day one. I got on Twitter because of Jenn, which led me to meeting Wonder Woman herself, Stacey Lindes, and is the reason I now find myself typing these words!  Because of 4th grade, I had the best year teaching while experiencing my hardest year teaching. I learned that one of the most beautiful and gratifying things on Earth is being part of a team in the truest sense of the word.  That relationships, like the ones I found in our fourth grade hallway, do exist in the real world and not just in Remember the Titans.  I am a better teacher because of moving to 4th grade, and that means my students are better because I moved to 4th grade.

Q2 Who or what inspires you as an educator?
Oh boy!  Well, we know Jenn and Diana do! But even more inspirational than these two angels from the Garden of Education, are my students.  They are the reason I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face, go to sleep at night wondering what I could, should, can, and will do differently, and randomly crack up in the middle of cooking dinner. They are my everlasting fountain of youth and keep me young at heart.  Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when I don’t know how I still have all my hair, or why I still want to have children one day, but those moments are fleeting and could never outweigh the pure joy and pride that accompanies a student’s squeal of glee upon realizing he “gets fractions!”  I get to be part of that magical moment. Me. Every single boy or girl I have taught has taught me something in return.  He or she has made, or will make, me a better teacher.  I do it all for them and will instantly walk away from this privilege called teaching the moment that is no longer the case.
I also need to give my mom a plug here.  She was my first teacher.  Yes, Dad too, but my mom took me into her own classroom and showed me that patience, love, and understanding breeds a love of learning. She was my model for what a true teacher could and should be.  She truly knew her students and always took the time to see who they really were and could be.  Even more importantly, she told them what she saw.  My mom is without a doubt my inspiration and my aspiration.

Q3 How do you integrate technology into your teaching?
  • Netbooks - writing, conducting research, making presentations
  • iPads - practicing skills, conducting research, listening to and reading books, going on scavenger hunts, QR code-related activities, listening to themselves read aloud, documenting activities
  • Skype - Mystery Skypes, talking to authors of their favorite books, Global Read Aloud (we talked to another class)
  • Kahoot! - assessing understanding, friendly competition, reviewing material
  • Twitter - talking to other students around the world, discussing topics, learning how to summarize and determine importance, identifying theme, participated in the Oreo Challenge
  • Movie Maker - created book trailers
  • Various websites for playing games, learning new information about topics we are exploring, going on interactive tours, etc.

Q4 What resource(s) do you use to learn about new instructional technology? Where/how do you do your tech-sploration?
TWITTER!!!!! I have learned so much from being on Twitter this year.  This is where I find and read articles and blog posts about technology and participate in chats, like #podcastPD. I also listen to podcasts that talk about the latest and greatest in technology, like Chris Nesi’s (@mrnesi)  #HouseofEdTech.  Another podcast I listen to is John Mason’s (@jhnmason) #BeardEd.  This podcast reflects on the use of technology in the classroom and looks at both the pros and the cons of living as a connected educator. ISTE was life changing and opened many more “tech-doors” for me to knock on and perhaps walk through.  I guess the great (and at times overwhelming) thing about technology is that it is always changing and there is always something new to learn!

Q5 What's next for you in the coming year? fantabulous team was awarded a grant to revamp our curriculum, so we are excited to be rehauling our literacy and social studies units of study.  This will include how we use technology in the classroom.  ISTE came at a perfect time!

We are also going to be starting Genius Hour! Woot-woot!  We are so excited to be embarking on this next adventure and cannot wait to see what the future holds!  Again, thank you ISTE!

Blogging!  All of our 4th grade students will be blogging next year and in every subject the homeroom teachers teach (literacy, math, social studies, character counts).  I am excited for my students to share their thoughts and writing with one another and other students around the world!

With all the exciting things still happening in the world of education and all the amazing educators I am continually connecting with on Twitter, there is much to be excited about and much to learn!  Needless to say, I am looking forward to another amazing, inspirational, and risk-filled year in 4th!  

Natalie Krayenvenger

Natalie lives and teaches in Baltimore, MD and her passion in life is all things education! She is currently a 4th grade teacher and has been a "sherpa of learning" since, well, as far back as she can remember, but according to her diploma, a "real" teacher since 2011. Reading, writing, social studies, math, and social/emotional development is what makes her jump out of bed in the morning and what she is still thinking about at night as her head hits the pillow like a 50 lb weight.  When she is not in the classroom, she can be found reading, cooking, coaching, running, knitting, tweeting, or having fun with her bearded and handy husband, Jeff, and their wiggly and uber friendly bulldog, Copper.

Natalie would love to connect with you on Twitter (@nkrayenvenger) or through her blog What’s YOUR Rush?!?


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