Author: adotton

Otton CMP


This classroom management plan details how I plan to incorporate techniques and best practices into my high school biology classroom one day. Over the past year I have found valuable resources and learned advice from veteran teachers of both urban and rural school-settings. Because Nome, Alaska is a hub town that serves 15 outlying villages and tribes, I will utilize both techniques into my everyday practice. My teaching philosophy is social reform. I will hold all students to high expectations and show my students that they can pave their own paths away from disadvantaged and socially accepted norms of high rates of alcoholism, addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicide. These are things that plague our region and state, and my students will be pushed to be the young leaders who start changing these norms.

Preparation Before the School Year Begins

A. Organizing your Classroom and Materials

Before students are in my classroom, I will make sure it is arranged in a safe way that maximizes learning potential for each student. I will look into the student’s background; whether they have special needs or specific accommodations that enhance their learning style. I will look further into their familial background, and speak with parents before the school year about anything that works for their child when it comes to learning or discipline. Once I have this information I will have seating arrangements according to student strengths paired with another student’s weakness, vice versa. I am arranging student seating this way so students could help each other out over the semester. “The more successful students feel, the more cooperative they’ll be, the more they’ll look forward to the class, the better they’ll do’ (Teaching Channel, Jackie Ancess, 2017).

I like to be prepared for my lessons by ensuring that I have all the materials I need: enough paper, pencils, handouts, visual aids, and stories. I’ve found that working with rural Alaskan students, they appreciate stories. I will find ways to make connections with students that they could relate to. Often times, I find connections through their family tree. This is helpful, because once students realize that I know their relatives, they want to maintain a respectful relationship with me in school.

B. Getting off to a Positive Start

I will teach students how to introduce themselves the traditional way, and then in Inupiaq. I will have each student introduce themselves to me in the same manner. I will listen closely for connections to their family history. Rural Alaska is so deeply rooted in traditional values, and this is a positive start to showing my students that I care about who they are and where they come from. ԬլI will talk about my expectations of each student, because their families care about how they perform in school. I will do my best to get biology concepts across in a personal way. I will avoid just talking at them, and promise to talk with them about my content area and the larger picture of social reform. Students are the answer to reforming the current norms in society. If we build up young leaders, adults today can look forward to being lead by these future reformers.


A. Explanation of Rules

The rules of my classroom are the following:
1. Raise your hand
2. Expect to work hard and learn
3. Show respect for yourself and others
4. Participate
5. Encourage one another
6. Come to class prepared
7. Try your best

If we have respect in the classroom, then it will be a safe place to learn and grow. We will work on self respect by being prepared before entering my class. Do you have pencil and paper? How is your attitude? Did you bring your homework? We will respect each other by not distracting your peers from learning. Our class motto will be “If my aana was here, would she be proud of how I composed myself in Ms. Otton’s class?’ (aana is the regional’s collective traditional term for “grandma’ and a huge value in our region is to respect our elders)

B. Management at the School Level

Fire Safety: I will follow district procedures. During a fire drill, teachers have a packet with color-coded pages that clearly alert nearby teachers if all students are present (green), or a student is missing (red). During routine fire drills, the class will line up at the door, then I will lead them to the nearest exit where we will reassemble and retake attendance. I will raise the appropriate colored circle for my principal to take note.

Lab Safety: Every student will have a lab coat/apron, gloves, and safety goggles. I will avoid using hazardous chemicals or specimens in biology labs. During any dissecting labs, we will go over how to properly handle the pins, scalpels, and proper glove removal.

C. Beginning and Ending of the Day

We will establish a routine starting the second day of the semester, after introductions and expectations. Students will have to be prepared with a notebook, pencil/eraser, and be physically and mentally prepared to learn when they enter my classroom. This means taking self-responsibility of coming to class well-rested and taking advantage of our free-breakfast program, if necessary. I will not allow bathroom or water breaks during class. They have passing periods to get this completed. If they must go to the restroom during class, they will have the amount in minutes it took them to be away from class to owe back to me on Free-Friday’s. ‘¨’¨Free-Friday’s is the student’s reward to review the week’s lessons and solidify any fuzzy concepts learned earlier in the week. Half the day will be group-discussion review, and the other half is student’s choice of silent reading, homework, or an educational game. If I could collaborate a visit with a community partner, that will take priority for Free-Friday’s. ‘¨’¨The last five minutes of class I will go over their homework assignment, and then announcements for the upcoming week (including community announcements). Students will clear their work spaces and push their chairs in before being dismissed.

D. Transitions, Use of Materials

8:00am-8:10am Bellringers then check offs, and discussion of answer
8:10am-8:15am Review from previous lesson, what more we will learn
8:15am-8:35am Lecture with classroom discussion
8:35am-8:45am Differentiated practice
8:45am-8:50am Homework assignment, community announcements, extra credit

This is the generic structure of each class period. Students will practice this structure daily in order to set up a routine. I will use the smart board, power points, and videos. Differentiated practice will have break out activities that students may choose: reading the text, watching CrashCourse or Kahn Academy channels on YouTube, drawing, or worksheets. Extra credit will be ways students can start getting involved in community events such as listening in on city council, tribal council, and school board meetings.

E. Group Work and Teacher-Led Activities

I definitely plan on incorporating small groups in class lectures. Dr. Jacobsen, professor for the School of Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, advised that this is a tried and true way to get those shy students involved in class discussion (personal communication, November 28, 2017). Grouping students based on interest will encourage students to establish a common ground discussion, then be able to branch out to academic topics more easily. For those students who are better self-disciplined in proximity to the teacher, they will stay with my teacher-lead group. There will be consequences if students are off topic in the small groups.

Safety and Legal Requirements

A. Discipline and Consequences

Phones have a 1-2-3 rule: 1st time I catch students with their phones out during class, they get a warning. 2nd time I catch students with their phones in class it will be taken to the office until their parent can come out to the school and sign it back into their child’s possession. 3rd time they may no longer bring their phones to school. This will be clearly discussed with parents, to get them in on this disciplinary practice. ‘¨’¨Parents will understand the bathroom break rule, and know that I tally up minutes students owe me for time students will need to spend at the next community meeting with their parent. A journal entry of what they heard, learned and asked at the meeting will be turned into me. ‘¨’¨Consequences for not following my rules will follow a similar 1-2-3 rule: 1st reminder to follow my rules will be a warning. 2nd time a student deliberately does not follow the rules will be given a detention. If a student serves their detention only to continue breaking rules will require a parent-meeting.


A. Working with Parents

I will introduce myself to parents over the phone before the school year. I will also invite each one to Open House so that they can get to know me and offer advice for my class. I want to be able to partner with parents when it comes to their child’s learning. Here is what they are doing in school, here’s what will help at home. Checklists will be given to parents, and students will treat this checklist as homework. The checklist can look something like this:

1. Be the teacher: teach your parent(s) or sibling(s) what you learned today. Parents-check to see where your child seems fuzzy with concepts. Ask at least ONE question about the subject your child taught you.
2. Check your child’s take-home worksheet, initial that it is complete. Feel free to put notes where you and your child may have been unsure.
3. Go for a 10 minute walk with your child to check in if they are stressed about the school day workload. See where you can help. ԬլThese check-lists will be structured with the parents prior to the school year to encourage teens to start forming their adult relationships with their parents.

B. Community Resources

1. Katirvik Cultural Center: Indigenous Identities and understanding our history
2. Kawerak, Inc.: Job readiness and summer internships
3. Nome Community Center: Volunteer work
4. Bering Straits Native Corporation: Learning about “Native Corporations,’ why they were established, who they serve, what they offer to shareholders/descendants, and their community betterment goals
5. Nome Eskimo Community: Learning about tribes and why they were established, who they serve, what they offer tribal members, and ways to be involved at the youth-level

Planning and Conduction Instruction

A. Teacher-Student Relationships

This is a harder area to discuss, because I think there are some people who aren’t natural in their way with speaking with students. I find that humor is a good way to relate to any student. Be positive, even on days when you just want to go back to bed. My classroom could be the first place a student has been impacted by positivity all day! It is my duty to check in with students, make them feel safe, and model self-responsibility.

B. Differentiation Need and Strategies

I love the idea of assessing students in more than just one way, and giving students options when it comes to learning and practicing new concepts. I plan to utilize technology as much as possible. Because 90% of students in the Bering Strait School District are Alaskan Native, I plan to incorporate strategies from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network and partnering with Community Partners on delivering culturally-based instruction. I also really am not a fan of tests. Test anxiety is real, and student’s shouldn’t be measured on ONE test. There are so many factors that can be attributed to how they scored that ONE day. I like the idea of project-based assessments, as demonstrated in the documentary film Most Likely To Succeed (Dintersmith & Whiteley, 2015). In this innovative documentary, High Tech High in California moves away from the normal school structure and embraces the foundations of personalized learning, differentiation, and project-based assessment.

C. Students with Special Needs

I will follow IEP procedures, and work with the Special Education teacher on how best to modify my lessons to accommodate students with special needs.

D. Withitness and Emotional Objectivity

I will always take time to check in with my students by greeting them at the door as they enter my class. I will walk around the room to be in close proximity to all students, not just the front row. ԬլI will exhibit emotional objectivity by regularly checking in with how each of my students make me feel. If they make me feel negative in any way, or bring up preconceptions from my personal past, I will take time to reframe my mindset. According to Marzano et al, this can be done by stating what the student did that made you feel negatively towards them, then reframe it in a more positive light (2005). For example, one student could be receptive to the rules and school in general. He may even state that he would rather be working a job making money than be in my class. In that case, I will restructure my thoughts to be grateful he is in my class to learn about why I structure class with these specific rules, and how they will benefit him in the future when he gets a job.


Collaboration and new ideas are invited in my practice, because I am a first year teacher. I am open to working with parents, colleagues, and community partners on educating the children of our community. These are the future leaders of our community, we must start encouraging students practice leadership NOW in order to create steps towards social reform. My classroom is a perfect place to start holding all students to high expectations for learning and overall community improvement.

The touchy subject that needs to be talked about

Suicide is no unknown epidemic in Alaska.  In the Bering Strait region, we have approximately 10,000 residents.  Just this year I could count four suicides off the top of my head, two of which were committed by children in the elementary age group.  I think about suicide regularly, because unfortunately, with the way things are going I WILL have students who will fall to suicide eventually.  Unless something is done about it.

Whenever I feel at a complete loss for answers, I turn to my 80 year old grandmother. She is very wise and straight forward in her advice.  I believe her when she says that families aren’t raising kids right.  I believe her when she tells me that we need more long-term pastors in our villages.  As educators, we have such a power to make change in society.  We have the young, intelligent minds that are being shaped by our very hands in our very own classrooms.  Why not send off each grade of students to the next with a vision of future leadership in mind?

We can have a “I can only teach to who is present” attitude, or we can be proactive in teaching our students that they don’t have to follow society into hopelessness.  Let’s teach our students to have hope, instead of fear.  Let’s show our students, through our own example, that this isn’t how things need to be.  We have the power to change our paths.  Just look at some of the people in your own lives.  Look at some of your students!  How is it that sometimes that student, who you know their father is in prison and their mother is an addict, is still thriving in school?  Can you honestly say that YOU aren’t making a positive impact on that student?

One thing I like to do with my students in rural Alaska, is have them introduce themselves the traditional way:

  1. First and last name
  2. Parents
  3. Where they’re from
  4. Maternal grandparents and where they’re from
  5. Paternal grandparents and where they’re from

We like to make connections with each other.  Maybe I don’t know that student, but I know their dad went to Covenant High with my mom back in the 80’s.  I may not know their family, but I know their relatives in Nome.  Students need to have pride in who they are as a person, not what they have on paper.  I think Ms. DeWitt would have had much more confidence in college if she had a foundation in who she is and where she comes from, as she journeys forth on finding her own way.

If you are teaching in rural Alaska, I encourage you to study your village.  Know the families, and their family trees.  Take time to show your school/community that you care about them, and want to be apart of their introduction connection one day.  “Oh you’re from Nome?  Do you know Ms. Otton from NACTEC?” 🙂 You each really are in a position of power and I know that collectively we could prepare our students to be positive leaders one day.

Observation Reflection

1.) Describe effective management strategies you observed for opening a lesson, applied during a lesson, and for lesson closure.

Opening: Review. My mentor teacher always asks questions the students know (or should, because she just went over this yesterday).

During: The lectures are constructed in a uniform way, no matter what the subject she is teaching.   She has a title slide with a visual picture of what she is going to be talking about.   Then she has a slide with three main facts about the subject.   Then she shows the geographic location of the subject on a world map.   Supplemental slides relate to the subject directly. Then a movie slide, then a peek at what’s happening next.   It is easy to follow along, and students seem to know what is coming up before it arrives.

Closure: Students know that they must not pack up before the bell, and they all must be seated before they are excused.   I wish I could have observed the first week of school to see how she established this expectation of students.   I started observing near the end of first quarter, so I’m sure I showed up after lots of practice 😉

2.) Name 3 common transitions you observed and how did the teacher handle those.

a. Start of class began with a bellringer every day.   Students get to work on it before the bell even rings.   A bellringer is a short question the students must write down and answer.   Takes about 5-10 minutes at the start of class.

b. After lecture notes are complete, a supplemental video follows.   Students were already aware of what was needed by their teacher: 3 learned facts to share with a partner afterwards.

c. Class was on a pretty tight schedule, there was really no time for students to ask for a bathroom break.   I haven’t seen one student go to the bathroom since I’ve observed her.   No real interruptions. She has classroom management down!

3.) Describe a strategy that you observed and may apply to your classroom.

My mentor teacher starts class at the door as soon as the bell rings.   She checks in with students as they enter her class, and I believe she’s monitoring how their day is going.   I notice that she is foreseeing classroom issues before her class even starts.   I definitely will apply this to my own classroom practice!

What kind of teacher will you be?

A teacher’s role is ever shifting, changing, molding, and adapting to their student’s needs.   Sometimes you will have to be their cheerleader, other times you’ll need to be their drill sergeant.   The most important role you are to your students is their care giver.   Show them in more than one way that you care.   Your students are as diverse as society.   Take time to learn how best to show students you care for them.   If students feel that you care about them as people, they will do more for you as their student.

I learned from the Bondy&Hambacher article that teachers have the perfect foundation to stimulate social change in under served populations.   When a teacher takes the time to understand a student’s background, they can teach that student in ways beyond the generalized curriculum.   Ask your students how they feel about school and adults.   See where they are discriminated against in society, even at an adolescent age.   See where students face injustice and teach them that the status quo will remain so long as they stay silent.   Be their advocate, while teaching them how to advocate for themselves.

One quote that really stuck with me from the Jennifer Collins article is the quote:

“What I have come to realize is that the
land of perfect lessons doesn’t exist. We are
human beings who are tasked with working with
other human beings.”

We all want to be the best teachers we can be, but we also much accept that not every lesson is going to be the best lesson ever no matter how much we prepare.   Be authentic in your care and delivery.   That’s what’s gonna count.   Demonstrate and uphold the value that we’re all human.   We are bound to make mistakes, just like our students will.   What’s important is that we learn from our mistakes together.

As I consider how best to approach my students in the Bering Straits region, I think of myself when I was a student.   What kinds of things affected me?   What social injustices did I face when I was growing up?   Has there been improvement over the years?   I end with a poem written by my 5th grade teacher, who is King Island Inupiaq and holds the same masters degree in which I am currently working on.   I hope that it helps teachers who plan to teach in rural Alaska or to Alaska Native children.   Read it and explore more on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network!

Always teaching
Always learning
An Elder speaks
While listeners
observe intently Learning from brain to heart

Lessons given
Lessons learned
Through oral speech
Knowledge passed
Knowledge gained
Through listening carefully

Stories told
Stories hold
Such treasured wisdom
That can only be passed
From an Elder to younger ones
In the Native language

Quiet settles as she speaks
A world created
In the minds
Of each individual
Always learning
Always teaching

–yaayuk alvanna

Personalized Learning

Personalization is the idea that students learn in a place where they are their own advocate.   Students are free and encouraged to study what they want, when they want, and where they want with teachers implementing such a curriculum.   The idea is that students are honored as individuals.   “Student-centered learning.”

If you are in a community that is ready for a change in education (aren’t we all?) then Carol Ann Tomlinson has some questions you should ask yourself before you dive into this paradigm shift.

Know your purpose of implementing a new personalized learning curriculum in your school.   What are your expected outcomes?   If you know your answers as to why you’re doing this, that answer will motivate community support.   If you know your answers to what personalized learning will look like at your school and how it will be implemented, that informs the staff on what to do specifically to uphold your purpose.   Teachers will be the ones who carry out this new curriculum.   Curricula has a goal in mind.   Make sure that goal matches your idea of personalization.

Who is your audience, and when will they practice personalized learning?   Determine where personalization will best fit as you implement it in baby steps.   Ask for student perspectives, this is their education after all. As the school is making a change, think of how day-to-day logistics will have to adjust to personalized learning.   How will school resources be shared among individual learners?   How will you accommodate students who aren’t feeling it?   Consider volunteers in the teaching staff who are excited to try personalized learning in their classrooms. How will this marry with teachers who are still doing things the old way.   How will this affect students? What supports will teachers need? Who will support teacher training to stay up to date on this paradigm shift?

Parents will react similarly to teachers.   Some will be on board, some will not, some will be at a total loss for conceptualizing the idea that their child is in charge of their learning.   The blame is not heavily weighed on the teacher anymore.   Keep parents informed on personalization so that they understand it enough to respect the new model.   Keep parents in the loop as personalization is VERY different than when they were in school.

Perhaps the most important aspect of implementing personalized learning in your school is the principal.   How does a principal become an instructional coach?     How does he/she continually promote personalization for teachers?

Personalized learning does sound like a really cool idea, but it reminded me of a weapon.   Weapons can be efficient and effective if you know how to use it.   If you aren’t prepared and learned in it’s beauty, then it can be dangerous.   I think it’s a big idea that needs to take baby steps before we all can start singing Kumbaya.

One way my school is trying out student-centered learning is through a two week period in the school year where students spend the first half of the day in routine classroom learning, and then the other half of the day in an area of their choosing.   Teachers were able to pick ANYTHING they enjoyed and knew a lot about (i.e. Yoga) and students were able to sign up to do that every afternoon from 12:40-3:15pm.   Teachers got really creative.   Some popular ones were culinary arts, drone videos, and parka making.   Life skills, how awesome!   Read the article from our local radio in the link below:

Tomlinson, C.A. (2017). Let’s celebrate personalization: but not too fast. Educational Leadership (74), 6, 10-15. Retrieved from:’s-Celebrate-Personalization@-But-Not-Too-Fast.aspx

So you say you’re a dreamer?

Next year nearly 800k people will be forced to leave America if Congress doesn’t act. Try putting yourself in their shoes.   You leave everything you know, everything you’ve ever called home to the unknown.

A lot of these so-called “Dreamers” are really Americans.   If you were a child when your parents found refuge in the United States, and you’ve lived here ever since, I don’t think it matters where you were born.   It matters where you grew up.   You were raised in American culture your whole life.   You’re an American!   And the Trump administration isn’t thinking about one of America’s greatest values: family.

A lot of these “dreamers” have siblings who were born here.   While one child will be forced to leave with their parents, the rest of the children will be able to stay in comfort of their “home country.”   Trump is breaking up families.   I can’t say that Trump and his administration don’t have a close friend who isn’t a dreamer. I am from Nome, Alaska and I have friends who are labeled “dreamers.”   They are hard working American’s just like me.   They have no leg up on job opportunities or secondary education.   We face the same circumstances together.   A lot of my friends who are dreamers, I met them at health care camps.   They are driven to make their families proud by becoming health care professionals.   Keep these kinds of people around!   Don’t kick them out.

At the end of the day people are people, and I don’t understand why Trump is so bothered by the dreamers.   I would be more bothered about North Korea’s hate for Americans than people who are willing to serve their country.   There’s bigger issues to deal with right now.

Hello from Nome!

Hello my name is Amber Otton. I am from Nome. I am in transition to moving to Kotzebue this fall, so I hope to begin my internship there next year. I have my bachelors degree in biology, and am in the masters in secondary education program. My career goal is to teach high school biology in rural Alaska, maybe one of the Bering Straits or North Slope Borough villages! I enjoy being outdoors and staying active, subsisting, and trying new recipes on pinterest. I look forward to learning with you all this semester!