Thursday, August 21, 2014

Please Don’t Call on Me!

hidingIn The Art of Cold Calling: Blogiversary Post #7  from Classroom as Microcosm, Siobhan Curious  asks,

“Do you cold-call in your classroom?  If so, how do you make students fell okay with that?  If not, why not?  Does cold-calling improve the classroom dynamic, or is it a detriment?  I want my students to rise to the demands cold-calling creates, but I don’t want to poison their learning with terror.”

I was one of the students who sat in terror when I was called on. I even felt anxious at the thought of being called on. Even though I knew the material, I would freeze at the thought of being called on! I remember sitting in desks behind a person that was bigger than me just so I could easily hide behind them. This didn’t mean that I didn’t do my homework every night but I just could not face talking out loud in class. Being ridiculed and forced to do so did not improve my education in any form.

No, I don’t believe in cold calling in my classroom. The main reason that I would do this would be to check for understanding or to make sure that the student is doing their homework. Yet, I don’t believe that by doing this, I am achieving my goal. I know from experience that just because students don’t answer a question, doesn’t mean that they don’t know the material. By pushing students to do so may end up with disastrous results and cause them to hate learning.

I believe that there are other ways to check for understanding or to find out if the student has done their homework. Teachers need to be creative and look at the strengths of the student. Have the students use their strengths to show their understanding. If needed, have the students give input on how the can show their understanding. They might actually come up with good ideas that you haven’t thought about.

If I do have to do some cold-calling, then I establish some ground rules. No answer is laughed at or ridiculed. We encourage and support our friends who need extra help coming up with the correct answer. I see answering cold calling questions more in the sense of brain storming. If the answer is wrong, then we need to reason out why the answer is wrong so the person will have a better understanding how to come up with the correct answer.

How do you feel about cold calling? Do you do it? Why or why not?

Image: 'Simon the cat playing in pajamas'
Found on

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Treat Teachers Like Adults

boringIn Technology in adult meetings from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson states,

“The use of technology in staff meetings and other gatherings of adults automatically seems to be viewed as a negative. When e-mail and other "distractions" are available, won't staff members, like kids, be distracted by default?”

One of the complaints I’ve had about faculty meetings are the way we are treated like children.

On the first day of teacher in-service, we sit all day in the library where the administrators read the teacher manual to us one page at a time. I’m told this is done for legal reasons so that if a teacher is fired, they can’t say they didn’t know the rules. Don’t we do the same thing with class rules and our students? We are adults and have the adults read the manual and sign something stating that they read it instead of wasting a full day reading it to us!

We were not allowed to leave during our planning period because we might not be back on time or might be doing things not associated with our job. Yet, why does the school not mind when I’m using my own time to call parents and grade papers? And if we aren’t back in time for our responsibilities, then treat it as such and deal with us as employees and not children.

During professional development, make the information relevant to what we need to know. Set an example for how we should be teaching our students. Isn’t that what leadership is all about? I have attended too many professional development sessions that didn’t even pertain to my subject area or age level. What a waste of time!

Ask teachers for their input and really listen to what they are saying. Have teachers brainstorm their major issues and then let them get into groups to discuss the issues. If there is a problem, have them come up with a problem statement and also come up with at least 3 possible solutions. Then bring the total group back together and have each group give their presentation. I’m not saying that an administrator has to follow any solution but I think they owe it to the teachers to listen. Maybe an administrator hasn’t realized that there was a problem and may even have a simple solution for the problem.

I believe that communication is the key. This is important to teachers just as much as students. Teachers are expected to behave like role models for the students but aren’t treated in such a way that allows them to act this way. If administrators treated teachers like adult employees instead of students, maybe we would see more positive changes.

How are you treated at school? What makes you feel this way? Please share.

Image: 'Riveting meeting'
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Give Time to Practice

practiceIn Maybe We Could Just Get Better from Practical Theory, Chris Lehmann states,

“Perhaps we are a time where we can admit that our best practices are the ones that we actually get the time to practice.”

I think that is the biggest mistake we make in education whether we are the teachers or the learners. We want immediate gratification and we want to be the best or be known as the best immediately.

I know that when I learn something new, I compare my results to the sample. Of course it won’t be as good as the original because that person probably had more practice creating it than I do. When I learn a new knitting technique or spinning technique, I want it to be perfect as soon as I’m finished. I need to remind myself that it will take practice. I might have to practice many times until I get the results that satisfy me.

In the same respect, I need to help my students practice. I need them to practice their skills until they become adept at what they are learning. I saw this a lot in the summer course that I taught. Many of the teachers were practicing and applying the skills they learned in all of their previous courses. This was a time for them to practice their skills but they all expected to earn an A and have a perfect score after 16 days. When they didn’t earn a perfect score, they got upset. I’m not sure how to help them learn that they probably won’t have a perfect score at the end of the course. Even though I give them a rubric to follow, many don’t read the rubrics or meet the course requirements outside of the classroom observation which results in a lower score. Then they want to argue that their teaching was exceptional so they should receive an A. Getting a B is nothing to be ashamed of and means they are still Above Average.

I would really like for my students to pick a skill that they want to practice and take the time to learn it well. I wish they would take the time getting better at this skill rather than be mediocre at several skills. My mother used to have a phrase about this: Jack of all trades and master of none.

I remember reading the book Outliers and Malcolm Gladwell states that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery. I wish teachers would give students the time needed to practice skills before discouraging them or labeling them as failures. I also wish that administrators would do the same thing for teachers. I can’t tell you how many times the district gives a new tool or strategy and gives you one school year to master it without sufficient training or time to practice. No wonder so many things fail or fall through the cracks and people become frustrated.

What skill would you like to practice more? Please share.

mage: 'Little violinist'
Found on

Monday, August 18, 2014

Planning a Road Trip

TripPlanningMy husband and I have been planning for an upcoming road trip. My husband loves the challenge of the planning almost as much as he loves traveling. I think many people don’t take big trips like this because they don’t know where to start when planning a trip or feel so overwhelmed at the thought of trying to do this without a travel agent. So I thought I would share the process that we go through when planning a big trip and maybe it might help some people or someone might have a suggestion for us to make our planning easier. Please feel free to send your suggestions if you have any to add.

1. Research the places that we want to see and make a list of the places with notes of what we want to do there. Using Google and library books work well for this research.

2. Plan the dates of the trip and make spreadsheet. I make a column for the day of the week (this is helpful when looking at hotel rates), date, location, lodging, and notes (for confirmation #, recreation plans).

3. Using a pencil (my husband works with the paper copy) and I use the computer spreadsheet, we decide how long it will take to get to each place and where we may need to stop for the night. This can be adjusted as needed.

4. If we want to spend more than one night at this stopping place, we pencil in the town on the spreadsheet for each day.

5. We continue planning the towns until we have planned all of the places. Sometimes this may change when we are looking for lodging. Some places may not have available rooms or may cost more than we want to spend.

6. Then we go back to look for lodging at each of those places by using Kayak, Priceline,,, or even the tourism web site for those locations. Sometimes calling the lodging directly can get us a cheaper price than the other booking sites and sometimes the lodging is sold out but the booking sites bought a block of rooms that may be available. Once I make a reservation, I ask to get an email confirmation or a confirmation number over the phone. All of this is written on the spreadsheet.

7. As we discuss things we want to do in each place, I make sure I note it down so we don’t forget to do anything we want to do.

8. After we stay there, I rate each lodging with a 1, 2, or 3 meaning 1 is the worst, 2 is okay, and 3 is really liked. This is a great reference in case we return to this area in the future.

How do you plan for your trips? Please share!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/15/14

tools2Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

A Graphic History of the Past 100 Years – using visual aids like graphs and timelines (L:M, H; SA:SS)

Countdown Timers – useful to time activities in the classroom (L:T; SA:A)

Typing Club – touch typing lessons (L:A; SA:C)

Flashcard Monkey – review SAT vocabulary words (L: H; SA: LA)

Crunchzilla – Learning to code can be fun! Learn to write javascript programs (L:A; SA:C)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley