Friday, December 19, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/19/14

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

Winter Holiday Activities – “Download our free vocabulary word list and conduct a quick and engaging WordWriter project around our Holiday & Wintry Season lesson plan” (L:E; SA:LA)

Stain Solutions – “We have put together a comprehensive list of stain solutions. Each solution contains the supplies you will need and the preferred method for cleaning the stain.” (L:G; SA:A)

Mission Map Quest“Provide as many questions (clues) and answers (locations) as you like to create a virutal 'treasure hunt'. When you are finished you can save the game and share it with others. Players have to use each clue to collect the 'coins' that appear in each of your secret locations.” (L:G; SA:A)

Twister – “The "Twister" template allows you to create fictional "status updates" that can then be printed off for display purposes” (L:G; SA:A)

Try Engineering – “ is a resource for students, their parents, their teachers and their school counselors. This is a portal about engineering and engineering careers, and we hope it will help young people understand better what engineering means, and how an engineering career can be made part of their future.” (L:M, H; SA:M, S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Heart Hurts

pakistanThis week I heard about the school in Pakistan that was attacked. I’m not writing this based on my political views but from my view as a mother and a teacher. My heart hurts. It hurts for the students and the families. It makes me wonder if these people will be filled with bitterness and hatred and perpetuate this violence. I know that I would be angry and I don’t blame them for being angry. But monsters know that the way to get to most people is through children. Will our schools now have a kneejerk reaction and start increasing securing at our schools? Will children be afraid to come to school in fear that someday their school may be attacked? Where does it all end? Doing away with guns is not the answer because as long as there are monsters out there, violence will happen. I don’t have any answers. I just know that my heart hurts. Please keep all children and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

“Caption: The uncle and cousin of injured student Mohammad Baqair comfort him as he mourns the death of his mother, a teacher who was killed in the attack.” – photo from CNN site

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dealing with People Who Squeeze the Life Out of Me

squeezeIn 7 Ways to Keep Others from Squeezing the Life Out of You from Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Victoria A Davis shares ways to know if someone is squeezing the life out of you. This is a great post to get me thinking about my relationships with others and how I deal with them. It also makes me stop and think about how I come across to others.

I know people who squeeze the life out of me and have done it to me but it wasn’t fun or productive. Then I feel like I’ve dug a hole that I can’t get out of but I really can if I stop and think about it. I just hope that I’m not one of the vampires that she mentions.

Then I thought, once I identify the ones that are doing this, what steps can I take to avoid these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Here are some options I have:

If they are family, I need to remember that I can’t change the way they act but I can change my own behavior. I can’t choose my family so I need to accept them for what they are. I need to think about my own actions and what they do to cause me to act this way. Then when they push my buttons, I need to behave differently. I also don’t need to subject myself to having to be around these people unless absolutely necessary. I have tried this recently and it really works for me!

If they are friends that I really want to keep, then I need to talk about this with them. I need to explain how their actions make me feel and how I need to do something differently. This might mean being around them less or it might mean that we need to interact differently but maybe together we can solve the problem.

If they are more like acquaintances rather than friends, then I need to distance myself from them. Sometimes I find their drama entertaining and better than TV but then I realize this drama tends to bring me down. It is better to limit my contact with these people.

If they are coworkers who I have to deal with on a daily basis, I need to try to be more positive around them. Hopefully I can influence them into being more positive people. I might even share that for a new yearly goal, I’m going to work on being more positive and would appreciate their help and support.

For those coworkers that I really can’t get along with, I try to deal with them mostly through email and not in person. This really helps when personality conflicts stand in the way of progress.

Build new friendships with more positive people. I’m not talking about those that think everything is wonderful all of the time (which is impossible!) but the ones who are more positive than negative in their outlook on life. Positive feelings are catching!

What other suggestions do you have? Please share.

Image: 'A tight squeeze Project 365(2) Day 357'
Found on

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Opening Conversations Leave Us Vulnerable

vulnerableIn Daniel Learned ALL about Audiences Yesterday. from The Tempered Radical, Bill Ferriter shared a situation where his students were blogging and a commenter was extremely critical and snarky. Then he asked,

“So why am I bothering to teach my kids about writing for public audiences when those audiences are just as likely to want to tear them down as they are to build them up?  Wouldn't we be better off if we wrote only for audiences that would model the kinds of responsible behaviors that we want our kids to develop?”

Wouldn’t the world be wonderful if everyone was nice, agreed with everything we said and were nonjudgmental? Of course that is a fantasy world and will never happen.

I believe this teacher is doing the right thing with his students by encouraging them to write for public audiences. This is a sample of real life and luckily they have their teacher to help them deal with the situations that come up.
They handled this situation extremely well and I’m sure this comes from the guidance they have had from the teacher. They didn’t retreat with their tail tucked between their legs like a chastened dog only to feel humiliated and bitter. Instead they stood up to the challenge and answered maturely. If the teacher allowed them to retreat, I think it would have sent a wrong message that people shouldn’t question each other and only write for those people that will agree with us.

Instead, they thought about how to answer this comment with maturity that allows a conversation to continue rather than cut it off. They worked together to problem solve an appropriate response to the commenter. Opening conversations always leave us vulnerable and this will happen often to our students in real life. What better way than to show them how to act appropriately while they are in the classroom rather than let them be blindsided when they leave school.

There were so many lessons learned from the situation that I think it was actually a positive event rather than a negative event. Sure, it hurt their feelings, but they were able to see how comments affect others from the writer’s point of view. This will help them be more tactful when they leave comments. This also teaches them that not everyone is nice and how to handle a situation when people aren’t nice or if they disagree.

It is really hard for me when others criticize me or disagree with me. I tend to want to curl up in a ball and lick my wounds. Then I remember that criticism helps me clarify my thoughts. Maybe I didn’t explain myself very well or maybe there is a side that I didn’t think about. Sometimes I believe more strongly that I’m right. Opening conversations make me very vulnerable but I usually come out a better person when it is all finished.

So, I hope Bill continues to encourage his students to write for public audiences. This is real life and what better lesson can we give our students then a lesson that is relevant to today’s world. Good job Bill!

How do you feel about students writing for public audiences? Please share.

Image: 'Lion Lessons: Do it now!!!'
Found on

Monday, December 15, 2014

Decision Makers Need to Be In the Classroom

legislatorLast week I went to a state Council for Exceptional Children’s meeting and heard the discussion about accommodations. The teachers are waiting to hear what tests will be given to their students and then what accommodations that can be given. The district won’t tell them because they are waiting for the state department of education is waiting for the legislators to make decisions. Again, it is the students who lose in these situations. While the bureaucracy plays their political games, students aren’t getting the help that they need.

I don’t have any magical answers or solutions to situations like this. For years I have seen this played out over and over again.

I believe as teachers, we need to get legislators involved in our classrooms. Just as in war time, political players go to the areas where wars are being fought. They get firsthand knowledge of what our soldiers are facing and some of the needs. Well, our war is in the classroom and we need to get these political leaders in our land to see firsthand what is needed for the students.

We can talk with legislators on the state and capitol level all day long. We can write letters and attend rallies to help. But until these legislators spend time in the schools and classrooms for a length of time, they will never understand what teachers and students need.

I have heard several teachers tell me that they tried but didn’t get any response or willingness to be present. My answer to that is to keep trying. Be persistent. Don’t give up. Don’t just invite them to observe but invite them to participate and interact with the students. That will help them get a better picture.

Make a list of three key players and invite them to teach a mini lesson to your classes. Or have them come talk about their position as a law maker and what things they do. You can tie subject areas in to their visit and ask them to explain to your students how they used reading, math, and writing in their everyday lives.

If they don’t accept your invitation this year, then try again next year. Keep offering the invitation and they might feel bad about declining and eventually accept.

Meet with legislators on a regular basis and offer to be available if they need information or input about a certain topic. Legislators need to hear from people who work in the classroom so that they can make informed decisions.

We can’t expect the legislators to come to us. We need to step forward and make this happen. We can’t sit back and complain about the bureaucracy and feel helpless on the sidelines. We need to take action and bring the decision makers into the classroom.

How can you go about involving legislators in your classroom? Please share.

Image: 'Romesha Reception 06'
Found on