Friday, December 31, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/31/10

tools2I hope you had a great year in 2010 and that you have a safe and happy 2011! Happy New Year to all my readers! Thank you so much for your support of the Successful Teaching blog!

Here 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!

Toyota Teen Driver – “a comprehensive program designed to help teens avoid distractions and to help them stay safe behind the wheel.” Resources for Educators, Parents and students.

Write Comics – Create your own comic strip

Math and Money – “this academic standards-based program teaches your middle school students the value of managing and saving money so that their financial goals can be within reach. With the help of the lessons and worksheets available for free download below, your students will develop the tools necessary to successfully budget and save their money.“

The Year in Rap – this may take some time to load; it is an overview of this year’s top news stories.

Body Browser – by Google; “ a detailed 3D model of the human body. You can peel back anatomical layers, zoom in, click to identify anatomy, or search for muscles, organs, bones and more. You can also share the exact scene you are viewing by copying and pasting the URL.”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections on This Year

AYearInPicturesAs the year comes to a close, I want to reflect on all the things that stand out in my mind about this year. I have seen a few sites where they show the Year in Review in pictures and thought I would do a year in review in words and pictures. First, here the words and then a link at the bottom for my favorite pictures of the year. So here it is:

January:

· My 90 year old dad was recovering from surgery and I was so afraid when I left him to go home that I would never see him again.

· Our two rental houses were vandalized and cost us thousands to fix up.

February:

· We had snow! Fresh snow is always exciting and the best part is that it doesn’t last long where we live!

· We spent a lot of time dealing with repairmen and the insurance company. What a headache!

March:

· We did a lot of camping and hiking. On our hike to Whiteside Mountain, poor Bo slipped on the snow and ice and broke his shoulder.

· Finally, the houses are repaired and tenants are in them. I was so thrilled that was behind us!

April:

· We went on the Joyce Kilmer Camping trip with the group but after one night we came home when the heavy rains set in.

· We went on another cruise on the Carnival Liberty to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Jamaica.

· We visited my parents in Florida and my dad looked great! What a relief!

May:

· I worked in the Synergy Garden (community garden) on and off throughout the summer and fall.

· We did more hiking and camping which I loved.

June:

· I attended the Upstate Technology Conference.

· We got our ham radio licenses. Don wanted to get his and then talked me into “just trying” but I didn’t think I had a chance of passing. Boy, was I surprised! He is KB4DON and I am KB4HKR.

· Don began suffering from a bad case of chronic hives and continues to see a doctor in hopes of curing them.

· We went to the Standing Indian Campout with Bill Robertson and had a wonderful time.

July:

· I taught two courses for Furman: a Practicum in LD and a Procedures course (hybrid: online and face to face once a week)

August:

· We began the Master Naturalist Class through Clemson which lasted 12 weeks.

September:

· We raised a ham radio tower in our back yard with the help of other ham friends.

· We went to Universal Studios and I was able to ride on the Harry Potter ride. There were no lines so we rode all of the roller coasters many times.

· I attended a knitting event in Orlando.

· I bought my first drop spindle which I never thought I would ever do. Then I had to learn how to spin. (Thanks to my knitting group, I got hooked!)

October:

· We bought a new refrigerator (actually 2 but had to return 1 since the delivery men said it wouldn’t fit in our house!)

· We went to Karen’s house and saw a baby alpaca 30 minutes after it was born! (That was exciting!)

· I bought my second drop spindle.

· I attended the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival and took a drop spindle class. Now I have 3 drop spindles of different sizes.

November:

· Our Transition Cooperative put on the event: Passport to Success 2010 and we had almost 400 students. It was an exhausting but rewarding endeavor. Students learned what options would be available to them when they graduated.

· I went to visit my Aunt Daisie and cousins Becky and Nancy and Nancy’s family. I haven't seen them in awhile so it was really nice to reconnect.

December:

· We went on another cruise for 2 weeks. (back to back on the Carnival Dream). We went to Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten the first week. The next week we went to Cozumel, Belize, Roatan (Honduras), and Costa Maya.

· We spent a few weeks with my parents in Florida.

· We visited my cousin Wayne who lives near my parents one day and another day, we visited with my friend Bev, from Illinois who was in FL with family.

To see this year in pictures, click HERE.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recovering from the Holidays

exhaustionIn Is Your Heart Bigger Than Your Hammer? from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam tells us,

“… I would rather be known for the size of my heart, than for the size of my hammer.

If there is any lesson that I could take from this to offer to new teachers, it would be to be easy with the hammer. There will be times when you’ll have to make your point, and follow through with your threats of consequences for poor behavior, but try and take some time to see if there are any underlying reasons why the student is not paying the attention that you require. Could there be something else on the student’s mind, like parents who are in the middle of a divorce, or a recent death in the family, or a mother who is not there?

Be known as the teacher with the big heart, instead of the teacher with the big hammer.

This reminded me that during the holiday season, my students may be going through things that I could never imagine. I need to be sensitive to a wide range of emotions when they return to the classroom.

Many of my students worry about keeping their electric or water on or getting something to eat.

It is cold where I live and many of them do not even have warm coats.

Others may have family members or even themselves dealing with mental illness.

Some may have parents who lost their jobs and getting Christmas presents is a real strain on their budgets.

Some may even be worried about losing their homes.

Some of my students may be dealing with alcohol/drug abuse or other abuses unimaginable.

Even though this was a joyous holiday season for me, not all of my students are feeling the joy. This may come out as acting out behavior or withdrawn behavior.

I know that I sometimes want to make an impression and come down hard on my students during this chaotic time of being back in school. I want to reel them in before they get too over stimulated but I need to do this with a loving hand rather than with a hammer.

I need to make time to spend some personal time with each student so I can get an idea of what they are feeling and how they are dealing with these feelings.

I think it is important to give students the opportunity to talk about their holiday vacation if they need/want to do so. But I would give them different options in order to do this. Some may want to verbally report about their adventures and others may want to write it privately. Either way will be accepted. I see it as a “debriefing” or “venting” so the students don’t keep these feelings bottled up inside of them so they explode. Sometimes this can make a big difference in a student’s behavior.

Do you notice this in your classroom? If so, how do you handle this?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Extreme fatigue'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46425925@N00/114137112 by: Polo

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Amazing Things are Happening Around Us

treasureIn How Did You Get Your Kids to do That? on the PCHSdirectorBlog, Dave Meister talks about seeing great things around the school going on and states,

“I have spent too much time talking about how we need to change, how we need to integrate technology…etc… When it comes to making things “work” in school, I have missed emphasizing the golden examples that will change motivation for both staff and students. The answer is not some magic bullet that some teacher or principal just blogged about, it is not some new wonderful tool that allows people to create new meanings and experiences. It is concentrating on the work of the students. Finding those examples of exemplary student work that exist in every building and ask the question: ‘How did you get your kids to do that?’“

If you get a chance to read his post, it is wonderfully inspiring and motivating. It really made an impact on me.

I think I need to get out more and see what others are doing. I know the excuses:

· I don’t have time.

· I am too busy.

· I have to get ready for testing.

· Maybe tomorrow.

· When I have time.

· I want to but…

I think it has come to the point where I need to make time. I need to see what is going on around me. I need to see what techniques are being used in other classroom. I need to see what students are talking about and how they are working in other classes. What are they responding to and how are they responding to this?

When I find something is great going on, I need to further the conversation by talking to that teacher. I need to know how it is being done and how can I modify it for my own classroom. How can I try to do the same thing and meet my student’s needs?

Maybe I will find out that it won’t work for my students or my personality, strengths and teaching styles won’t work with this but I won’t know if I don’t try. Then again, maybe I will hit a gold mine and find out it works wonderfully with my students and I like doing this.

Sometimes by going on this “treasure hunt,” I can find out what other teachers find inspiring. They can help send me to the classrooms that they like. Maybe this spark can set off a flame in other teacher’s heart and I can start a “movement!” Wouldn’t that be exciting?

Have you see something that made you want to ask a teacher, “How did you get your kids to do that?” If so, please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Contre-jour'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27793538@N08/2843957427

Monday, December 27, 2010

Leaving Quality Comments

qualityIn My New Year Resolution: More Quality Comments from Sabrina's Weblog by sabridv, Sabrina states,

“Comments are what separates a blog from a static website. As we write quality comments the conversation builds, and so does our relationship with the writer and the other people commenting. As a result, our PLN gets bigger and with stronger links. Apart from that, as links to other blogs and websites can be left in the comment section, we can also encounter new blogs to read, like-minded bloggers, and new post ideas.”

When I have my students blogging, I also require them to comment on at least 3 other blogs that week. But I’m not sure that I have explained “quality comments” and that is something that I need to do.

I have been getting a lot of spam comments which is why I moderate my comments. So many times I get a comment like “Good information. Thanks for sharing.” And then they leave a link to their commercial site. I’ve started to delete those comments because I feel they just want some free advertising. Their comment really doesn’t add anything to the post but the main thing is the link to their site. If they just left that comment without the link, I would probably publish it. But is that selfishness on my part?

As a practice, when I comment I try to do two things:

1. Write whether I agree/disagree

2. Explain why I feel this way.

I think both of these together are necessary to keep the conversation going. If I have a link to information that supports my position, I will add that to my comment also.

Too many times in class, my students want to just give their opinion but they don’t want to explain it. I’m not sure that shows they really understand the concept of what I’m teaching.

If they just write whether they agree or disagree with a post, I’m not sure they really read it or just writing this to fulfill the comment requirement of my course.

I also love when the comments created a conversation. This helps my students see the value of blogging and commenting.

I have to confess that sometimes I write a blog post to stir my students up and create a conversation. I feel like I’m going fishing and trying to hook the fish’s mouth. If a conversation gets started, I know I’ve caught the fish!

What do you think makes up a quality comment? Please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Quality'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/47131321@N00/3495340350 by: Morten Wulff

Friday, December 24, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/24/10

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!

Crayola Drawing – draw pictures online with crayola crayons

Cacoo – “is an online drawing tool that makes real-time collaboration a reality.”

DataMasher – “The Federal Government produces an immeasurable amount of data each day. DataMasher helps citizens have a little fun with those data by creating mashups to visualize them in different ways and see how states compare on important issues. Users can combine different data sets in interesting ways and create their own custom rankings of the states.”

Wylio – free creative commons pictures

Tours from Above – “panoramic aerial photography worldwide”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Education Buzz Carnival 12/22/10

carnival2Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Bellringers! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on There’s Always Hope is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Storing Instead of Using

storageIn Analyzing Shelf Life from Informania by Fran Bullington, she writes,

“Why would I have two bottles of orange peel when I rarely use that spice?  What is the purpose of hoarding spice bottles when each spice loses its potency over time?”

This brought to mind that story about the lady who saved all of her best for a special time and then she died before she ever got to use her best. What a waste!

I have to admit that I also think that way at times and luckily I have a magnificent husband who always encourages me to think that the special time is actually now. Yet, he buys tshirts from our travels and they are still in his dresser drawers with the price tag on them because he is waiting for the perfect time to wear them! I guess I need to be better at encouraging him to enjoy the special time now too.

How many times have I put aside a great lesson or teaching moment because I want to wait for the perfect time? Well, I need to remember that at that time, the perfect time is now. Sometimes those moments don’t happen in the future or the situation never presents itself in the safe way again. And when I try to teach it in the future, I don’t have the same enthusiasm or excitement that I had when I first thought of the idea. I guess like some spices, over time, the enthusiasm loses its potency.

Sometimes I may have something planned but then a teachable moment happens and I need to adjust what I’m doing to focus on this moment now. It is alright to change my plans if I think it is important because the perfect moment is now. I also think it is important to explain to my students why I am changing my plans so they aren’t thrown into confusion. This also helps them identify important moments also and helps them learn to be flexible when necessary.

Sometimes I have great ideas for lessons to do right before the holidays and then during that time, there are unexpected special events that occur or circumstances change where I can’t teach those lessons. Then it is too late to try to fit them in because instead of a great lesson, they become a hurried rushed through lesson which I don’t want to do.

So, after this happened to me a few years in a row, I decided to do my holiday lessons a couple of weeks before the holidays. This primes my students for the upcoming holidays as well as giving us a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the lesson. Many of my special education students have a hard time with holidays anyway because it is usually unstructured and chaotic which causes them to feel anxious. This is a great way to prepare them for the holidays. I also found it is a great time to talk about their expectations of the holidays, their anxiety, and how to cope with their feelings during these times. Parents have come to me after the holidays and actually told me that this preparation has made a difference and helped the families to enjoy the holidays more.

So I need to stop storing and start using when the time is right. I don’t want my lessons to lose their potency over time.

Does this happen to you? If so, please share your experience and how you deal with it.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'crafty stuff'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/77245385@N00/80146312 by: Nicole Vaughan

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Education Buzz Carnival 12/7/10

carnival4Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at the Steve Spangler Blog! (Sorry I am so late posting this but I’ve been on a cruise ship for the past 2 weeks and had preposted my previous posts and had to wait until we hit land to post this one.) Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on The Art of Conversation is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Monday, December 20, 2010

Carnival Dream 12/11/10 (Week 2)

Here is another slight diversion from Education. This is about our past week on the Carnival Dream where we visited Cozumel (Mexico), Belize, Roatan (Honduras), and Costa Maya (Mexico).

For more pictures, click HERE.

002Embarkation

We were back on the ship by 9:45. Jan and Mike from dinner were also staying on the ship so we visited with them until lunch time. Our cabin was ready about 10:30 so I ran down there and unpacked. Jan and Mike had seen a manatee the week before so we went to the back of the ship to look for manatees but we never found any. We rested in our cabin about an hour before the safety drill and it really felt nice not to be rushed or feel like we had to go and see everything. After the safety drill we went out to the deck to watch us pull out of the pier but it was so cold we finally went inside. By then it was time to get ready for dinner. We are sitting at the same table with the same dining room servers which are wonderful because we really like them. Mike and Jan are sitting with us again too. Our new dinner mates are Rocky and his wife Joyce and their sister in law, Wanda from Southwest Virginia. Then Bob and Dot and their son Mark are from central Florida.

Day 1 Sea Day

007My whole day revolved around eating! I was up early and had an omelet made for me on the Lido deck. When Don joined me around 9am, we went to the dining room where I had a poached egg, sausage, and hash browns. After breakfast we sat out on the deck and listened to the music. By then it was lunch so we tried the salads on the Lido deck before I tried the slot tournament. After the tournament we went to the dining room for lunch. After lunch, it was time for my second try in the slot tournament and each time I seemed to do worse. We walked around the ship before deciding to take an afternoon nap and ended up watching Oliver Twist on TV. Before long, we dressed to meet Captain Quierolo before dinner. We have sailed with him and Pierre the hotel director a couple of times before. After dinner we walked around and had an early night. The ship was rocking pretty good all day and night which is unusual because it is such a big ship.

039Day 2 Cozumel

We were supposed to go snorkeling today but it was cancelled because the water was too rough and the winds were too strong. I’m glad they watch out for safety that way. Plus it was kind of cool outside so I was glad we didn’t have to go snorkeling. Next time we are here though, we won’t book a shore excursion because when we walked the 3 miles into downtown, we saw the place we would have gone. It was only about a 10 minute walk from the ship so next time we will go there on our own. We had a really nice leisurely walk into town and stopped at their 2 department/grocery stores and looked for yarn but really didn’t see any. I guess in the tropics, they don’t knit very much. Then we visited our favorite bar which is called Ambar and saw the old man that remembered us too. His jewelry store moved down the street instead of across the street from the bar, but he came to see us and talk with us. After drinking a couple of beers (coronas were $1 each), and eating Mexican burritos (one plate for $6.50 was enough for 2 of us), we shopped some more. When I had to use the restroom, the only one we found was a pay toilet so we headed back to the bar and had 2 more beers. I figured if I had to pay, I might as well get a beer for it! By then we were tired of walking and headed back to the ship but we took a taxi ($7 total for both of us). We had time for about an hour rest until we had to get ready for dinner. When dinner started, we left Cozumel. After dinner we walked around the ship and watched a break dancing show before heading back to our cabin for the night.

Day 3 Belize

Belize is our least favorite port and if we can avoid this port we will. Of course it is the fifth time we have been here so we sometimes have to be here whether we like it or not. We had to tender into Belize and it takes about a 15 minute boat ride because the ship anchors about 6 miles out from Belize. The only reason we got off the ship was so I could take a picture of Kaeli’s picture in Belize. We walked around the port shops and some of the stuff was higher than the prices on the ship. I noticed that in Cozumel too. Once we tried to walk out of the port area but the people started harassing us as soon as we stepped out. When Don told this guy about 5 times, “no thank you” and the guy kept harassing him, we decided to turn around and go back in the port. Then I saw a wood carver and I wanted to take a picture of him but didn’t want to interrupt him while he was in the middle of carving. He looked up and then I asked if I could take a picture and he started accusing me of taking one before asking and then wanted to argue with me. I just thought he was plain rude! So, I never took a picture and by then, I didn’t even want one. We decided it was time to return to the ship and I never spent a penny in Belize! When we got back, it was time for lunch and then we walked 4 miles around the track before going to the coed sauna. By then it was just enough time to relax before getting ready for dinner. After dinner we watched the movie The Clash of the Titans.

Day 4 Roatan, Honduras

We had a wonderful day in Roatan! At first, it was really cold. After breakfast we walked outside to watch us pull in the port around 9:15am but it was so cold that we put on long pants and a jacket. It was disheartening because we had paid for shore excursion to the Tabyana Beach. When we got ready to get off the ship though, it had warmed up and the wind died down so we went back to our cabin and changed back into shorts. Our ship docked at Mahogany Bay which is different than the last time we came because last time we docked in the town. Mahogany Beach was right within walking distance of the ship so I was sorry I paid $37 per person for Tabyana Beach. When we got off the ship we boarded a bus that took us on a 45 minute drive to the beach and it was a very nice ride. We drove through town and around the island so it was like getting a tour in addition to the beach. The beach was nice and we got lounge chairs which was included in our tour. We sat and enjoyed the beach and then decided to walk down the beach. On our walk, I 043looked down and saw something that had just washed up in the wave and was wiggling. It was a tiny seahorse! Don picked it up and showed children around us and other adults before putting it back in the water and saving its life. After that we ended up getting a “bucket” of beer (which was really a bag of ice and 6 local beers in the ice) for $20. Later when I got hungry, I bought 2 hotdogs for us at $3 each. We also bought another “bucket” and since they ended up running out of bags, they brought the 6 beers to us in ice but it was in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator! About 3pm, we headed back to the ship and had time to explore Mahogany Beach. It seemed really nice and would not have cost us anything except chair rentals so next time, we will head to this beach. Some people paid for the chair lift but it was an easy walking distance for us over the bridge. We got back in time to get ready for dinner and then after dinner, we went to the magic show with Mike and Jan. The magic show was terrific and we all enjoyed it. Mike and Jan went to it last week and we didn’t but since they said it was so good, we wanted to see it. It was truly a wonderful day!

Day 5 Costa Maya041

We arrived in Costa Maya at 7am but we didn’t get off the ship until 9:30. We decided to walk around the port shops before taking a cab to Mahahual. It was $3 per person on the way there but $2 per person for the ride back. The wind was really blowing hard enough that I put on a long shirt t-shirt. We walked up and down the small fishing village about twice before Don got up enough nerve to get a back massage. It was $20 for an hour and he said it was wonderful. I sat beside them and got a lot of knitting done. After the message we stopped at one place and had a couple of beers (Corona for $2 each) before returning to the ship. When we got back to the ship we had lunch and showered and by then we could watch the ship pull out of the port. We ended up on the Serenity deck (adults only and really nice cushioned lounge chairs) where Mike and Jan were. We spent the whole time visiting until it was time to get ready for the past guest party but we ended up skipping it because I went last week and it is the same thing every ship. Dinner was really nice but I’m kind of getting tired of all this rich food and I’m to the point that I’m not eating everything on my plate (which is actually a good thing since I gained so much weight). We skipped the show since we saw it last week and watched TV in our cabin. It was a better day than I expected because I’m not really fond of Costa Maya but I’m glad Don finally got the massage that he has talked about getting for years when we come here. The only bad thing that happened was that Don got hives on his back again and we think it may have come from the pressure of the massage. I hope they are gone in the morning.

Day 6 At Sea

Today we had a day at sea and didn’t do anything special. Don got up for breakfast and then went back to bed while I sat out on the deck and enjoyed the sunshine while I knit. Unfortunately the pressure of the massage caused his hives to appear on his back and shoulders so I think he was miserable. By the time he got up, he was better and it was time for lunch so we went to the dining room where I met curriculum specialist. I love meeting new people and finding those in education! After lunch we packed which really didn’t take long at all and then we both entered the slot tournament. But neither of us got into the finals. So, we went to the coed sauna again and just relaxed most of the day. Dinner was sad because it was the last night. We really enjoyed our dinner mates and servers. We gave our cabin steward (Bong) a box of SC tea as a thank you gift. After dinner we came back to the cabin and put our suitcases out in the hall and then watched the movie How to Train A Dragon.

Debarkation

First of all, we will never ever (I hope) book a cabin on the back of the ship on the 1st floor ever again! As they prepared for the arrival to the port, the noise was terrible and we were up most of the night. Throughout the trip, it was pretty noisy. It was so noisy that we had a hard time hearing the TV. Of course, when you book it last minute, you get what is left but next time, we will probably leave this alone. We will try to stay in the middle or the front. We went to breakfast by 6am and then went to the Crimson Lounge where we were told to meet. Since we were Platinum members, we were allowed to leave right after the self assist people so by 7am, we were off the ship. I like claiming my luggage because it is like the airport conveyer belts so we quickly got our luggage and was on our shuttle to the hotel by 7:30. Our car awaited us at the Hampton Inn safe and sound. We really had a great deal by staying there because our room was $119 and the ride to and from the ship was free plus it included free 2 weeks of parking. We saved a lot of money doing that!

This week was a lovely week and for I’m glad the weather was sunnier than the previous week. I think we will try smaller ships from now on though because the lines were too long on the Lido deck at lunches and sometimes it was hard to find a table. The smaller ships seem more personal too. We hope in the future to try some Celebrity and Princess ships. I think we would also like to sail on the Carnival Legend which is one we haven’t done yet.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Pictures by Pat Hensley

Friday, December 17, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/17/10

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!

Changing the Balance: Digital Assets Investigating Climate Change is a site that helps middle school students in grades 6 - 8 explore the science behind climate change. You can build your own lessons about climate change using these standards-based digital assets. You can use our blog Blood Fever, which links all the assets into one instructional strategy.

Who Wants to be a Mathionaire – great math game

Historvius helps you discover the world’s historic sites, from the most famous national treasures to the oft-forgotten hidden gems. You’ll get information on each historic site, directions, entry and contact details and comments from other users – everything you need for your perfect historic holiday.

Road to Grammar – grammar and vocabulary practice using quizzes, practice, and games

Rag Linen is an educational archive of rare and historic newspapers, which serve as the first drafts of history and the critical primary source material for historians, authors and educators.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Gift

giftFrom the Fall Blog Challenge by Melanie Holtsman, this week’s topic is the gift.

Challenge: If you could give one gift, who would you give it to and what would you choose?

If I could give one gift, it would be a cure for lupus and I would give it to my sister. She has suffered from this for over thirty years. This disease ended up killing my oldest sister and my mother died with it also. I feel so bad when I hear of all the medical stuff my sister has to go through but I’m glad it has kept her alive all these years. She is involved in the Lupus Foundation and walks every year to raise money so a cure can be found. My blood was even given to a research group to find out why I did not get lupus and if it could help in finding a cure. If a cure could be found and it would help her, that would be the greatest gift for both of us!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'ready for the holiday'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/77485110@N00/2069160530 by: Sarah Parrott

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Through a Kid’s Eyes

eyesIn Act Like an Adult, Think Like a Kid, the writer states,

“If you want to be successful working with kids, you have to stop thinking like an adult all of the time and start thinking like a kid. Remember what it was like when you were their age.  Don’t assume that your priorities are the same as theirs (or that they should be).  Don’t talk down to them, coach them up.  Empathize. Guide. Mentor. Connect. Be an adult in action and a kid at heart.”

As I write this post, I am sitting on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean and what better place than to contemplate this! We have done a lot of cruises so many things on the ship are things that we have experienced before. We skipped the Welcome Aboard show because we have seen it so many times that we can practically lip sync what is happening. In fact, we were thinking that we would take a break from cruising after this to go on more road trips.

Then last night at our dinner table, a new couple showed up and this is their first cruise. They were excited and everything was new for them. They asked questions of the 6 of us who had been cruising before and we were glad to be able to answer them. Then there were things that we took for granted because of our experience and after dinner was over, we knew we had to leave so they can get ready for the next dinner group. But the new couple did not know this. They were ready to have their coffee, relax, and talk with us some more. When we explained why we needed to leave, they were surprised and said that they didn’t even think about that.

All of this makes me think about how we see things differently when we see them for the first time compared to what we have seen many times.

For me, that is the fun of teaching.

I love when I teach a student a new skill and they can do it independently after some practice. The wonder in their eyes when they accomplish something on their own is wonderful to see. But I also have to be careful that I forget they sometimes have to be taught the little things and I take them for granted because I know them.

One year for the senior prom, my husband and I double dated with a couple of students from my class. Both of them happened to be mentally disabled so we did a lot of practicing before the prom. We talked about fine dining etiquette since we would be going to a fancy Italian restaurant for dinner. We spent a lot of time preparing for this big day.

That night at dinner everything went smoothly. After dinner, the girl and I stopped in the restroom. Boy was I surprised when she stripped out of her gown entirely to use the bathroom. Using the bathroom while wearing a gown was a skill that I took for granted and did not address before this night!

It is these little things that we need to remember and have patience with when we teach our students. We need to look at the skills through a student’s eyes and not through our more experienced eyes. Whenever I do, I’m usually amazed and can feel the wonder of new learning all over again.

What experiences have you had with looking at life through a child’s eyes? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Eye See You'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/21314760@N00/518956588 by: Paul Sapiano

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Understanding The Military and Special Education

militaryRecently we held our Passport to Success 2010 which is an event filled day of activities enabling students to receive information which will assist them in transitioning from high school to post secondary training or post school employment. I think it is a wonderful event which brings agencies and businesses together for the students and parents in one venue. In fact, I was thrilled to see some parents attend and get involved.

It was my job to invite vendors to the event and was thrilled that in our economic situation, that about 25 vendors decided to attend. The US Army Recruiting Office was one of those that sent a confirmation that they would attend. I was so excited to have them present because so many of our students ask about going into the military.

Yet on that day, two nice recruiters arrived to talk to me and said that if any of these students had “special education” in their records anywhere, the military would not accept them. I tried to explain that not all of the students in special education are developmentally disabled or physically disabled and that some may have minor disabilities that still enable them to attend college. They said that they understand that but that the military doesn’t offer any accommodations like the education system offers and would not take any student who received special education services. Of course, they asked me not to “kill the messenger” because they were just relaying what they were told to do. Then they politely left.

I can understand not wanting to have someone developmentally disabled or unable to control their behavior having a gun in their hands. I understand not wanting to have someone who can’t read or write or understand basic instructions because it would be too dangerous. But that is not everyone who receives special education services! Is this not discrimination?

What I don’t understand is who is lying? I know some students who received special education services that are serving in the military right now. I know their permanent records showed special education services because I have seen those records. I also know that they are performing well and in fact, moving up in ranks. Many current students know these people also and are getting mixed messages here. They don’t understand when some people are saying they can’t join and then others show they can by their actions. I’m not sure even I understand the right story.

I have had former special education students who are able to hunt and even provide food for their families. They have worked construction jobs and some have even worked on their own houses to provide shelter for their families. Some of my students are even quite adept at using computers and repairing them. For most of their jobs, they are required to prove competence and no one cares if they received special education services when they were in school. If they are incompetent, they lose their jobs and that is fair.

How can we deny these students the right to serve our country? Many people complain about our young people not appreciating our own country and then we treat the ones that do in this manner. I also look at the statistics and see how many people in our country have some kind of disability or another. Where will the military draw the line? Yesterday they were accepted but today they are not and tomorrow they might be?

I also think this is setting a precedent for students and parents to refuse the help that a school can provide. I think that many can struggle and possibly survive the school system without help but is that the best we can do for our students? I know that I have taught my students to find out what they need and what works best for them so they can apply it to their lives after they leave my classroom. Could this not also work if they chose the military path? What is the military so afraid of? I know the military came to our school and gave the ASVAB test so wouldn’t that rule out many who couldn’t pass the test? I believe that some of my special education students would be able to surpass some of the general education students in a physical test. Everyone who enters the military goes to basic training which would be one more level for students to show competence.

Is this a way to discourage students and parents from seeking special education services? It is hard enough for the students to face the stigma of having a disability but to me, this is just another insult. I spend hours and days telling my students that they have nothing to be ashamed of because a disability is not their fault. Yet, I feel that it is my responsibility to share this information with parents and students when they are considering special education services. Parents and students need to be given the whole picture and not find out until it is too late.

What do you think? Should this information be shared with parents and students or not? How do we prepare students who want the military to be an option when they graduate? Please share your thoughts.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'The Drill Instructor'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46042146@N00/1052385311 by: Randy Robertson

Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting Kids to Participate

In How do you attain participation?  from Learn Me Good by Mister Teacher, he asks,

participation“Instead, my question is, How do you attain participation in class? We always seem to have those kids that come in day after day with nothing better to do than try to impersonate a brick. Sometimes these are kids who do fantastic on tests, but they never talk in class. Sometimes they are kids who fail horribly in class and never raise their hands in class. Sometimes it's the vast majority of the class!...So any other strategies out there? How do you get participation from your ‘bricks?’”

This reminded me of all those students I taught who would never participate. I had to start of thinking about why they don’t participate and address those issues first. I think by knowing the reasons, I could give alternatives. At first it looks like the students are being oppositional and refuse to cooperative. But then I realized that many of them were just afraid. They were afraid of failure and of being laughed at by other students.

I started thinking about my own reason for wanting them to participate. My objective was to find out if they understood the material or remembered the information. Was it that important that they answered out loud in front of the class?

All of my students had a small square block that was green on one side and red on the other. They used these when they needed help. I decided to use this as a response tool so I started to ask true/false questions about the material. When I counted to 3, everyone had to turn their blocks to the answer (green for true and red for false). This really increases student participation!

Another strategy I used was having them work in teams of 2 to study material. After giving them time to study, I had a small competition between teams. More students felt comfortable answering because they weren’t alone anymore. I know I feel braver when I have someone backing me up.

I also tried to figure out alternative ways to assess my student’s knowledge. Sometimes I offered a choice of activities and let the students chose the one that they were most comfortable with. This really showed me that my students knew more than I expected. If the students were creating something new with the skills they learned, I didn’t have to worry about cheating or behavior problems. Most of the students were engaged and excited about this lesson.

If I had a student who still refused to participate, I would meet with that student individually and try to find out the problem. I would even offer to let the students come up with their own suggestions if it would meet my objective. By doing this, the students really had no excuse why they wouldn’t participate.

Once I have exhausted all options, it is time to call the parent. Usually at this point, there is more to the student’s lack of motivation than anything I can control.

What do you do to increase participation in your class?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Mapeado del Itinerario 1 (Zonas Verdes)'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/92402547@N00/3523048197 by: LaFundiciĆ³

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Carnival Dream 12/4/10

(Here is a short break from education!)

015Last week we cruised on the Carnival Dream. We went to Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Here is my journal about our week on the ship. To see more pictures, click here.

Embarkation

We left on the Carnival Dream today. Embarkation went very smoothly. We arrived at the port by 10:30 on the shuttle and left our car behind at the Hampton Inn. I only hope that it is still there when we return. We were on the ship by 11am and eating lunch. While waiting for our cabin to open, we stopped for a bucket of bear (4 for $21.54). Our muster drill station was in the Encore Lounge and we didn’t need our life jackets but it was really hot in the lounge. After the drill we went up to the Lido Aft Bar but I didn’t see any of my cruise critic friends and we just watched our ship leave out of the Florida. It is always fascinating to watch us pull out of the port as the sun is setting.

Dinner was at 6 and we sat with 2 other very nice couples. Mike and Jan are from Minnesota and Don and Melissa are from the Villages in Florida (but originally from TN- Nashville area). After dinner we walked around the ship and enjoyed the music.

I am surprised how run down this fairly new ship looks already and the service has really gone downhill. We had always loved cruising on Carnival but now we are rethinking this. I think because the economy is down that they have had so many cutbacks that it is affecting the running of the ship. As a Platinum guest, I should be treated special when I am in line for things but basically I’m ignored and treated like any other guest. The stationery that they give Platinum guests used to be nice shiny paper and now it is cheap regular paper. Our cabin steward never did turn down our bed last night which is the first time that has ever happened. As we walked around the ship we saw lots of rust and disrepair. I’m wondering if we will see more ship breakdowns in the future. We are hoping we will not be sorry we booked this ship as a back to back because now we feel stuck on this ship where the service is not very good and it is looking in rough shape.

Day 1 Nassau009

It was a really nice day. I was on the Lido deck and played on my computer before going back to the cabin to get my knitting and book. About 8am, Don joined me but I had already had an everything omelet. At 9am, we decided to go eat in the dining room so I had a second breakfast of French Toast (thank goodness it was a very small portion). I am trying to use the stairs in order to burn these extra calories I’m consuming but I’m not sure it is helping. I do know my calves are really sore and they say no pain no gain, so it must be helping! After breakfast we walked around the track and then used the coed sauna before finally laying under an umbrella until lunch time. After lunch we sat around the pool under an umbrella again so I did get some knitting done. We also went to a trivia game and walked around the ship. The Captain’s celebration was at 5pm and we met the Captain. We have sailed with him and the hotel director Pierre before. At dinner another new couple, Bruce and Pat joined us. We really have a great mix at dinner. We went to the “Get Ready” show after dinner and I was pleasantly surprised because it was better than I expected. We have been to so many shows that were the same thing but this one was different. The sets were different than we had seen and the dancers and singers were really good in this show. We will probably go to more after seeing this. Then we walked around the deck after the show but it was pretty windy so we ended up back in our room for the night.

Day 2 Sea Day008

Another day in Paradise. Today we went to the Chef’s cooking demo which included big sample of the mushroom cappuccino, spinach salad with mushrooms, a chicken dish, and tiramisu. I also entered the slot tournament but didn’t even get a huge score. During the day the top of my right foot became so painful that I could hardly walk on it. At first I thought I might have a stress fracture but later when my left toes started cramping, I hoped it was just cramping. In the afternoon we went to the sauna and then I elevated my foot and took some aspirin so by dinner time, it was feeling much better. At dinner there were just four of us (Mike and Jan from Minnesota) and we had a nice evening. It ended with the juggling show in the encore theater which was very entertaining.

Day 3 St. Thomas001

It was a relaxing day. Since it was overcast and showery, we did not go to the beach or snorkel. Instead, we walked around the mall right near the ship and then came back to the ship for lunch. After lunch we walked around the shops some more and found a cute bar that had a bucket of beers for $10 so we had a couple of buckets before coming back to the ship for dinner. The show was called Dancing in the Street which involved break dancing and some acrobatics which I enjoyed.

Day 4 St. Maarten008

Since it was still overcast and showery, we didn’t go to the beach like we usually do. We decided to take a tour around the island. Near the ships were lots of taxis and the posted rates were $90 for 1-2 people so we asked a cab driver to take us. He tried to talk us into going with a bigger crowd for less money but we didn’t want other people with us so he tried to find someone else to do it. Don and I both got a bad feeling about this like we would be ripped off so we told him to forget about it. So, we took the water taxi into town ($6 all day long) and found a cab driver (Ramona) who took us on a private tour for $80. We had a wonderful time and she said she even preferred private tours because they were easier. After the tour we found our favorite bar on the beach called Caribbean Blend and had a bucket of coronas for $12. While we were there, Mike and Jan came by and joined us for a little while. Then we walked around town before coming back for a couple of beers. We ended up having the last 2 coronas they had. Then we took the water taxi back to the ship and met up with Don and Melissa. At 5pm, we got back on the ship and it was already dark. I think that is the latest we have ever returned to a ship because when we went out to look where we were after our showers, we were already moving away from the dock. We didn’t go to the show because I was exhausted so we had an early night.

Day 5 At Sea004

We had a relaxing day and really didn’t do much at all. I entered the slot tournament again but had another really low score. I did get to finish knitting my second sock and I was really happy about that. Dinner was really nice again and it was formal night. We also had our laundry done today.

Day 6 At Sea004

Today was the last full day on the ship. We went to the sauna again and that was nice. It was nice that it was coed and Don and I could go in together because I don’t like being alone in there by myself. The ship was really rocking today. In fact, for the first time, I saw barf bags available at each elevator. We packed our bags pretty early in the day and it was fast and easy because we know we will just be switching cabins. We didn’t even have to put our luggage outside of our cabin because our cabin steward would be coming in the morning to move them to our new cabin. After dinner, we stood around and had a nice visit with Bruce and Pat (from Maryland).

Day 7 Debarkation

We were up around 6am to gather our last stuff together and the cabin steward arrived at 6:30am to move our luggage. Then we spent most of the morning on the Lido deck waiting until 9:30 when we would meet the group of back to back cruisers and find out what we needed to do. At that time, Winston (a crew member) took us off the ship as a group and through customs. Then we went back up the escalator and back on the ship. This process took about 5 minutes.

All in all it was a nice cruise and turned out to be much better than it started which is a relief. It makes us not so anxious about the next week.

crossposted on The Life of Loonyhiker by Pat Hensley

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/10/10

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!

Life Is – from BBC, “we hope you’ll be as inspired by the natural world around you as we are.
The world is an amazing place full of stories, beauty and natural wonder and we’re
passionate about telling stories that bring you closer to it.”

Trailfire – make a trail of webpages for students to follow

Simple Booklet – “Simplebooklet.com is a cloud based self-publishing platform. It is the simplest way to create and publish your own virtual brochures, flyers, flashcards, booklets, pamphlets, manuals, guides, and flipbooks across the web.” Free

Hey LHS Kids! – great science activities for kids

The Luckiest Nut in the World – great 8 min. video explaining free trade through a peanut; great use of global trade vocabulary.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 9, 2010

There’s Always Hope

hopeIn Optimism and Teaching, Where's the Line? from The Wise Owls - Tales from an Ag Ed classroom, the writer asks,

“Reading this, I guess the question I am raising in telling this story is, where do you give up that tiny bit of optimism and put it to use somewhere else? And for that matter, once you begin the cycle of letting go of that optimism towards a certain group of students, are you ever going to stop? Isn't it my responsibility as an educator to help every student learn and have opportunities at experiences that will help them later in life and broaden their horizons? Or do I only focus my energy on those kids who already have the motivation to do this things on their own, because it's not as exhausting or poor use of my time?”

This really hit home to me because at times in my career, I have asked myself these questions time and time again.

I think frustration and exhaustion make these questions pop up in a teacher’s mind. But I believe there’s always hope.

I remember working with a bunch of elementary school students and feeling bad when they were unsuccessful. I felt bad when they didn’t apply the skills I taught them into other situations. I felt bad when they misbehaved when I knew they could do better. I wanted more for them and I wanted them to want more for themselves. But they didn’t learn bad habits and develop low self esteem overnight, so it would take time. I needed to be consistent and patient because there’s always hope. I couldn’t lose hope because many times, the students have already lost it. It was up to me to give them hope.

I had a fifth grade student who ran away from home because he felt there was no hope. When we found him, (yes, I joined the search in the middle of the night), I told him that we would work together and that there was always hope and not to give up.

During the years I taught high school, I have helped student through many difficult situations. I had a student tell me she was pregnant and wanted me to help her tell her parents. I had students who committed crimes and needed to face up to what they had done. I had students contemplating doing the wrong things because of peer pressure and I was able to discuss this with them and help them make the right decisions. But sometimes things didn’t always work out the way I wanted or thought they should. But there was always hope. Hope that things would eventually turn out for the better. There was hope that the students would learn from the consequences of their actions. There was hope that later in life, they will remember that there is always hope and not give up trying.

As a teacher, we might not see the good results right then or even tomorrow or the next week or the next month. But I believe that someday, a lesson we share with the students may one day be useful to them. I know this because I can’t tell you how many times in my own life that something pops up that I remember learning in school. If it happens to me, there’s no telling how many times it happens in our students lives that we never know about.

I once had a colleague tell me that I saw the world through rose colored glasses and that I needed to stop thinking I could save the world. She felt like I would burn myself out if I continued to try to save everyone.

But I think she was wrong. I never regretted trying to save each and every one of my students. Sure, they may not have appreciated it at the time or even shown any gratitude at the sacrifices that I might be making. But maybe sometime in their life when they are all alone and feel there is nothing left, they can remember me telling them that there is always hope. Feeling optimistic about their future is never a waste of time.

I may not be able to change them right away or even see the change at the time. But I know that I can’t give up on them. I can’t give up on any of them. Maybe this is just me but that is one reason I became a teacher. I remember a time as a student when I thought there was no hope and wanted someone so badly to be there to tell me not to give up.

I think that is why I save all the good notes and pictures from former students and parents. When I get down in the dumps and wonder why I keep beating myself against the wall, I remember these people who have touched my life and how I might have touched their lives in return. Then I think about those that I might not even realize I have touched and continue to keep trying. These memories revive in me the hope that I know is out there.

So, like that old story that states, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I have to say, each and every one of our students need to know that there is always hope.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Hope_in_a_better_future'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/30488702@N03/2889103451 by: Massimo Valiani

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Life as a Scientist

scienceFrom the Fall Blog Challenge by Melanie Holtsman, this week’s topic is life as a scientist.

Challenge: What is your life as a scientist like? What kind of observations do you find yourself making? Do you have a wondering? Have you ever tried to find the answers?

When I was in school I was very good in science. I loved finding answers to questions. I loved doing experiments that showed me why things happened or worked. In fact, I was so good in science that the only course left for me to take my senior year was AP Biology.

Then I started hiking and became very interested in nature. I love watching nature shows on TV and I have lots of books on flowers, herbs, trees, mushrooms, birds, and insects. I like knowing about edible and medicinal plants. I also like learning about animals and their tracks. I find myself asking all sorts of questions when we are hiking and I can’t wait to get on the internet to try to find the answers. I started carrying a small notebook with me so that I can jot down the questions so I don’t forget them.

My husband and I recently took a Master Naturalist course which has taught me to be even more observant when I’m out in nature. There are things I never noticed before which have been pointed out to me. I also learned to look at the environment in order to see what things grow under those conditions. I had been learning things individually but it helps to link the new things to conditions that I already understand.

I find myself in other situations now that I can apply the skills I learned in that Master Naturalist class. When we go on cruises, I have questions about the ocean and the animals that live there. During our travels we are in different environments and climates so I want to learn more about the flora and fauna that live there.

I think my life as a scientist is a lifelong process. I hope that I can inspire my students to feel the same way.

What is your life as a scientist like? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Big Meadows - discovery walk (found a caterpillar)'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/73645804@N00/1430509591 by: woodley wonderworks

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What You Say Can Make a Difference

wordsIn The Power of a Teacher’s Words , from Cruel Shoes by eplybon , she tells about her son asking if it is illegal for a teacher to call their students losers. She also says,

“The words of a teacher have more power than any other unrelated individual in a child’s life.”

When I was in fourth grade, I had a teacher who terrorized us when we made a mistake. I think that may be why I’m such a perfectionist and at times, harder on myself than anyone else. I’m not sure I will ever get over this but I try to teach my students that an error is not a terror.

When I was in high school, I was very good in math and science. I was so good at memorizing facts and figures and formulas. But I was never encouraged to be creative or to create new things with my skills. I remember a teacher explaining to me that because I was so good in math and science that I would never be very creative and I believed this for many years. It took me this long to realize how wrong this teacher was. Since I retired, I am finding out that I do have a creative side. I love to do digital scrapbooking which involves photography and creating scrapbook pages. I also enjoy knitting now and creating my own things. Making these things make me feel so proud of myself especially when I realize how wrong that teacher was.

When I was in college and finishing my student teaching, I had a professor tell me that he didn’t think that teaching was for me and I should think about switching majors. I was totally crushed. You see, teaching was the only thing I had ever wanted to do in my life and up until that time, I thought I had been doing a great job. I remember going to see my advisor and crying on her shoulder. Luckily for me, she persuaded me to stick with teaching and told me that I would be an awesome teacher. Unbeknownst to me until years later, the first professor had been going through marital discord and he took it out on me. I decided to prove the first professor wrong and trust that my advisor knew what she was talking about. When I was chosen Teacher of the Year almost 30 years later, I knew my advisor had been right. I’m so glad that I trusted her words and let them help guide me.

I taught a self contained class for many years and in most cases I had my students for four years in a row for all the core courses. When I figured out the amount of time I spent with them, I realized that I probably spent more time with my students than any other adult in their life. In fact, I was with them more than their own parents during the school year. Whether they would admit it or not, what I said and did had a major impact on my students.

I saw this when I was teaching lessons and if I told them that it was a hard lesson, they had some difficulty with it. If I said it was easy, they seemed more excited and willing to try it.

They believed what I had to say because they had always been told that a teacher knew “everything!” I had to tell them that this was not true and that many times I would be learning along with them so we needed to help each other. I tried to impress on them that we were together so much that we were like family. Many times we would squabble like family members do, but we also had to be there for each other and take care of each other.

This became really evident in one situation when some of my students were taking an industrial arts class which I thought they would enjoy since it would be some hands-on activities. About two weeks into the class, one of my students asked to speak to me privately. He then told me that he felt two other students in our class were being treated badly in that class. The teacher called them dummies and retards because they were in a special ed class and then had them sweeping the floors during class time. Needless to say, I was furious and had a conference with that teacher and an administrator to correct this problem. It took me months to undo the damage that this teacher did to these students. I’m so grateful to the student who trusted me enough to share this situation with me but I also think if I hadn’t told the class about being family, it could have turned out differently.

It hurts me to hear other teachers belittle students and call them names. I feel when teachers say things like this, even if they think they are joking, they begin to believe it. Not only do they begin to believe it but so do others including other teachers and students.

I guess it makes me think of that old saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”

I also hope that when I hear another teacher talking this way, I have the courage to tell them how I feel. Maybe they don’t realize how they come across and the impact their words have on others.

How do you handle situations like this?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Embraced by Words'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/21046489@N06/4289385819 by: Robbert van der Steeg

Monday, December 6, 2010

My DirecTV experience

(Warning: Rant in progress!)

frustrationEvery year I start my vacation on a bad note with DirecTV. I have been a loyal customer since 2006¸ paying almost $140 per month for this service. Keep in mind, I enjoy DirecTV and the programming we get with it but it is a luxury and not a necessity. When I called DirecTV to put a vacation suspension on my service, they say I need to have a zero balance to put this hold on my service. I just paid my bill in full on 11/19 and do not feel that I should have to pay the full amount in advance on 12/3 just to put a hold on my service. I feel this is a terrible way to treat loyal customers! It is not like I’m trying to get out of paying my bill because I pay my bill in full every month.

The first girl told me that it was impossible to do and got me her supervisor, Vanessa when I asked for her. She also told me it was impossible to do without paying the whole amount so I asked for my service to be cancelled. So, Vanessa passes me on to Solomon. We go through the same song and dance and I still feel that I am treated pretty shabbily when all I want to do is put a vacation hold on my service. I finally ask for the company president’s address and an email to file a complaint. Solomon gave me an address and told me to address to the attention of the “Office of the President” but would not give me a name (which I found out by looking at their website is Michael White, Chairman, President & CEO).

When I asked for an email address, he told me that he couldn’t give me a specific email address but told me to go through the following steps: Go to “DirecTV.com”, click on “About Us,” Click on “Our Company,” click on “Executive Team,” click on Executive Customer Care Contact,” then click on “Ellen Filipiak, Sr. VP of Customer Care.” Why did he have to go spend all that time when he could have just given me that final person’s name and email? I believe they hoped that I would be fed up and give up without cancelling my service! You would think that a company that can turn my service on and off by the touch of a computer should be able to handle this quickly and efficiently.

After all that, when I asked Solomon if he cancelled my service, he acted surprised, like he didn’t know that I still wanted to cancel my service. Finally, twenty minutes after I began this ordeal, Solomon says that he will put a vacation hold on my service but this is a onetime deal only. Again, I feel this is a terrible way to treat a long term customer and should not be made to feel like I’m begging for something that isn’t due to me.

I have to go through this ordeal every year when I want to put a hold on my service. Why do I need to have this aggravation when I start a vacation? I should not have to threaten to cancel my service in order to get good service.

When we return home, we plan to look seriously at this situation to decide if we want to continue with DirecTV. If they don’t value long term, loyal customers, there may a company out there that does want our business. Please let me know if you have a company you have had a lot of trouble with so we don’t put it on our list to consider.

Now it’s time to put this horrible experience on the back burner and go enjoy my vacation!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Day 15--Frustration'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/58372737@N00/369649914 by: Brandy

Friday, December 3, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/3/10

tools1Here 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!

The Economics of Seinfeld – Seinfeld ran for nine seasons on NBC and became famous as a “show about nothing.” Basically, the show allows viewers to follow the antics of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer as they move through their daily lives, often encountering interesting people or dealing with special circumstances. It is the simplicity of Seinfeld that makes it so appropriate for use in economics courses. Using these clips (as well as clips from other television shows or movies) makes economic concepts come alive, making them more real for students. Ultimately, students will start seeing economics everywhere – in other TV shows, in popular music, and most importantly, in their own lives.

The American Revolution – interactive lessons about the American Revolution

Oomfo – free add on for Microsoft Powerpoint, must be downloaded, make your charts and graphs animated and in 3D.

Geocaching for Educators – great info for using geocaching in the classroom.

Fatworld – download needed; “a video game about the politics of nutrition. It explores the relationships between obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in the contemporary U.S. The game's goal is not to tell people what to eat or how to exercise, but to demonstrate the complex, interwoven relationships between nutrition and factors like budgets, the physical world, subsidies, and regulations”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Individualized Instruction: Good or Bad?

individualIn Is individualized instruction a bad thing? from Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLeod mentions a comment from Diana Senechal that she left on a Wall Street Journal article about computers’ burgeoning ability to individualize student learning:

“While "individualized instruction" seems an unequivocal good, perhaps it is not. There is something to be said for asking students to pay attention to something that does not immediately interest them, something they may not immediately understand.”

Then Scott asks, “What do you think of Diana’s comment? Is individualized instruction and/or learning a bad thing?”

I thought about this for a long time and then couldn’t resist answering this question.

I think individualized instruction is important for all learners. Individualized instruction does not mean that all rules and expectations need to be individualized. In life, some people may ride a bicycle, drive a car, or walk to work, but we all follow basic traffic rules and expectations. The same thing applies to individualized instruction. I think behavior is being confused with instruction.

Too many times we have tried to make all students fit into the same mold causing many to fall by the way side. How many times have we heard about inventors who were poor students but were able to invent something that we just can’t live without?

I think it is important to teach students to know what ways work best for them. Students need to learn to be their own self advocates. Teachers can give individualized instruction but first they need to know what works best for the individual student.

When I taught students who had trouble passing the exit exam in order to receive a high school diploma, I noticed that the students were at all different levels of skills. There was no way to reach all of them by teaching one lesson per day to all of them. Using pretests, I was able to find out what skills each student needed to work on and move forward from there. Since they also learned at different rates, many of them did not need the same amount of time to learn the same skill. So, each student had their own individualized instruction and I had very little behavior problems during the year.

Even though each student may have been learning individual skills, they still were expected to follow basic rules of the classroom. Each student was expected to finish their assignments, do their homework, raise their hand, be respectful, and come prepared for class. Many basic expectations do not need to be individualized.

As an adult, I know what my learning style is and try not to put myself into situations that may conflict with this if possible. I also have found that if I have to be in certain situations, I find ways to make the situation easier for me. I really do not learn if I have to sit and listen to a lecture but I have found that if I can do something with my hands, I am able to focus on the lecture more easily. Since I took up knitting, I usually bring my knitting with me and this really helps me focus. If I am in a small room with a lecturer, I usually let the person know what I’m doing so that I don’t appear rude. Unless we let students explore and learn how to do this, they will be unable to make these decisions for themselves later in life. Isn’t this part of preparing them for life?

So, I guess my bottom line is that individualized instruction is not only a good thing but I feel it is extremely important to all students.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree and why?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Ever have the feeling that you just don't quite fit in?'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/61779926@N00/3925965984 by: Steve Wall