By Amanda Schaffer on March 1st, 2017
Last month I saw the movie “Hidden Figures” and I was so incredibly inspired.
I am a former English teacher, so my love is words and writing and reading. But I ventured to see this movie because it empowers women and sheds light on some pretty amazing mathematicians who had the power to make this word-loving English teacher a fan of math. I mean, as a teacher I’ve always loved data, but for me, seeing this movie reinforced why numbers are just as important as words.
We look at data a lot in education, but most of the time I believe we are just looking at numbers and not really grasping the full story data can tell us.
Data does tell a story.
Sometimes it’s a story we don’t want to hear; sometimes it’s a story we already know and we’re just validated. Sometimes it’s a story we never gave any thought and a whole new path is opened for us. If the data you look at regularly is just numbers on a screen and it’s not telling you a story, maybe some insights from “Hidden Figures” will help. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on November 22nd, 2016
2016 is an incredible time to be a teacher.
I am grateful for each and every day I get to work alongside the best of the best in education.
While expectations are high, standards seem impossible to meet, and the everyday trials and struggles we face seem endless, this time in our country and our world is truly an incredible time to be a teacher. We have so much more access to research about how and why we learn. We have clearer pictures of our brains and all they can accomplish.
We might be up against some very difficult mountains to climb, but the teachers that have gone before us have never been as well equipped as we are today.
As a teacher I’ve always been fascinated with the brain – how it operates so much more than just our physical bodies. Each and every day, new research is published confirming something I think teachers have always known. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on September 28th, 2016
The winner of the 2016 Tony for Best Musical was “Hamilton,” an untraditional, hip-hop musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda about the life of Alexander Hamilton.
The popularity of this musical is impossible to deny – and the most amazing thing is that this hip-hop soundtrack to a founding father’s life has captivated teenagers in a way perhaps no other musical ever has before.
There is no denying this musical crosses age and cultural gaps and has brought a new love for musical theater that is refreshing and powerful. Many teachers are using this incredible soundtrack to start discussions about our history and to reinvent how students study such an important time period.
It is possible teachers of any content could use Hamilton’s addictive appeal to energize their classrooms, but I will share some ideas specifically for English and History teachers. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on August 15th, 2016
It’s August and that means it is back to school!
For much of Florida Virtual School, our teachers and students have been hard at work – even through the summer months.
Of course, the new school year always brings with it anticipation and excitement for the year to come. In traditional schools, there are some eagerly anticipated back-to-school traditions.
So how do we do these in our virtual world?
Let’s walk through a few back-to-school basics!
By Amanda Schaffer on June 27th, 2016
I’ve recently realized just how addicted I am to my phone.
My 2-year-old daughter is the one who helped me see things a bit clearer. Imagine that? See, my 2 year old pays attention to what’s around her. She sees snails idling by on the ground. Snails! And planes that fly in the sky. She sees happy faces in the clouds and she points each and every detail out to me as we play outside.
All the while I sit scrolling on my phone. Scrolling on my phone is relaxing – I will admit it destresses me and allows me the chance to reset myself if I need a few minutes. So I’m not judging phones. I work in the virtual world – trust me, I’m not judging technology. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on March 14th, 2016
Are we teaching our girls to fear failure?
Several months ago, my colleague Amy Lowyns, who teaches French for Florida Virtual School sent me an article on this very topic. Of course Amy knew how passionate I am about fostering a growth mindset in all of our students, but when she sent me this article, the idea that maybe we need to look deeper into what we are teaching our girls really lit a fire inside me.
We have been researching the idea that we are teaching our girls to fear failure ever since – and the research is hard-hitting, significant, and extremely eye-opening. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on January 19th, 2016
My daughter is not quite two, yet her little brain is abuzz – learning new things at every turn of the corner.
Almost constantly she comes up against something new, something strange or challenging, and every time without fail, she looks up at me with her big brown eyes and says “help!”
It astonishes me how easily she is able to admit she needs a helping hand. How quickly she recognizes she’s facing something new and challenging and she may not get it right the first time. This mindset is what Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset.” And most children my daughter’s age have it.
They are perfectly okay with asking for help, and not just asking, but receiving it. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on November 19th, 2015
While we should make sure to thank our military families each and every day, setting aside some time to truly reflect on their service and to honor them for their sacrifice is also super important.
My family, and especially my dad, has always made it a point to thank our men and women in service who give so much to protect our freedom. Before enjoying our meals, each and every night before bed, and every holiday as we gathered as a family, we would thank the military.
Thank them for giving us the gift of togetherness and safety. Thank them for standing guard in a million different ways to ensure we get to live the greatest life imaginable. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on November 3rd, 2015
In his critically acclaimed book, “The Global Achievement Gap,” author Tony Wagner explores what he considers to be “Seven Survival Skills for Careers, College and Citizenship.”
After spending time with the most successful executives and professional people in the world, Wagner came to the conclusion that there is a gap between what our students need to be successful when they enter the real world and what we are teaching them in the classroom.
As a result, he created a list of essential 21st Century skills that all people need in order to be successful in college, in their career, and for their overall citizenship. Continue reading
By Amanda Schaffer on October 17th, 2015
This is one of several posts celebrating Connected Educator Month during the month of October. October 20th is National Day on Writing and we are joining The National Council of Teachers of English to celebrate how writing helps us connect. Join the #WhyIWrite and #CE15 discussions on Twitter to share your thoughts!
As far back as I can remember, I have loved the English language. Having the opportunity to teach my passion was truly such a gift. Part of teaching English was teaching writing. And that by far was one of my greatest joys. Passing on a passion for writing to my students has always been an important goal for me. So dedicating an entire day to the celebration that is writing, well, that’s pretty special to me. This year we will celebrate “National Day on Writing,” on October 20th. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Why I Write.”
I write for so many reasons. I write to tether intangible emotions to something as concrete as words. I write to inspire, to grow, to change. I believe that language is a powerful tool and shaping it into phrases to share my story makes a difference. Continue reading