Monday, March 31, 2008

Do Teachers Have to Provide Customer Service?

After reading this post “Who do we serve?”, the writer discusses the following questions and answered them according to personal experience. I thought it would be important for me to look at these questions and see how I would answer them according to my experiences.
Who is your customer? I have always felt that my students and their parents were my customers. I have discussed this over the years with many other teachers and was surprised that they don’t feel I should think this way. I feel that I provide a service and it is for students and parents. That is why I feel that communication with the family is so important. I don’t feel that I am better than them but I do feel that I am the “expert” pertaining to their child’s education. Just like I would expect the roofer fixing my roof, I would hope they are an expert in what they do so that they could provide the service that I need.

What is the customer value you provide and how do you measure it? I hope I can teach students to be productive citizens in the work place. I want to teach them skills in order to be independent individuals. The way I would measure this is if they can take the skills learned in the classroom and generalize them in real life situations. I have taught my students to count money, write checks and balance checkbooks, fill out job applications, interview for jobs, wash, and fold and iron clothes, cook simple meals, and develop a budget. I also wanted them to get a job and learn how to keep the job. These are skills they will need outside the classroom and I hope they were able to use them when they left my class.
What innovation best practices do you use to rapidly, efficiently, and systematically create new customer value? Students gave me a list of occupations that they wanted to explore. I would call someone in that occupation and ask them if I could shadow them for an hour. I would then take digital photos of what their job duties entailed. Students would do research on the job they were interested in and make a powerpoint presentation using my photos and their information. Then they would present this to the class.

Another thing I would do is have students hold their own IEP meetings each year. In order for them to be a self-advocate, they had to learn to be involved in the decision making process. They would make a powerpoint presentation to use at the meeting so they would feel more confident. At first they felt unsure, but as they mastered the skill, they became more empowered. Let’s face it, some of these parents have been to an IEP meeting at least once a year and really dread coming in to hear the same things read to them over and over again. Having their child hold the meeting really surprised them and opened up the lines of communication. First the student had to introduce all participants in the meeting. Then I really pushed them to talk about their strengths, weaknesses, and accommodations they needed to help them succeed. Of course, I was the only one that did this at my school and administrators were impressed. I felt as proud of my students as if I was the parent. Students were able to show parents how far they have progressed.

I think we have to constantly ask these questions of ourselves to make sure we are on track. If I got to where I couldn’t answer that, I needed to step back and reevaluate my actions. I liked to ask these questions at the beginning, middle, and end of each year. How do you answer these questions?

Photo credit: Customer Service by The Department

Friday, March 28, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/28/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found interesting this week. 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!

Free Technology Toolkit for UDL in All Classrooms – Karen Janowski states that “free tools offer opportunities for struggling learners that promote academic success.” I like the idea that these tools are free because many teachers already spend a bundle out of their own pockets for their students.

Midnight the Cow and Friends – a book written for children. I was interested in the fact that the illustrator was someone diagnosed with autism.

Computer Lab Favorites from Scholastic – “50 one-stop learning activities – 15-30 minutes each.” “is a website for kids to publish their own Podcasts so that other kids can listen. The idea is to make sure that there's a kid-safe Podcast out there for our young minds to hear. Contribution by kids makes it that much better, by allowing kids to listen to their peers on subjects they love!”

TeacherLed – “This site is designed to provide teachers with access to high quality teaching resources for use on Interactive Whiteboards.”

photo credit: Tools by mrjt

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Carnival of Education 3/26/08

The 165th Carnival of Education is on the midway at Bellringers! Don't miss out on some interesting articles! I even have one about using Web 2.0 with Special Education students.

Teddy Bear Travels

One of my favorite year long lessons is called Teddy Bear Travels. This is along the lines of the Flat Stanley projects that I have heard about since then but I actually heard about this through the Service Learning program at my school. I did adjust this to fit the needs of my students who were high school special education students in a self contained class. I was afraid at first that they would see this as babyish but when it was over, they were thrilled about having participated in this project.
First, I went out and bought the teddy bears, backpacks for the teddy bears, 6 postcards per bear, large postal envelopes for each bear, and postage for all the postcards and large envelopes. In order to pay for these I had written a grant for this project the year before. I went to the local craft store where the bears were about $1 and the little packs were really tiny tote bags. I slipped each arm of the bear into the handles of the tote bag to make it a backpack.

Introduction to students: I told them that we would name and dress up the bears in order for them to travel around the world. We would send them on their travels and hopefully they would return to us before the end of the year and we would donate them to the local police department. The police would be able to give them to children during traumatic situations. Each bear would carry a backpack that held self addressed stamped postcards that would tell us of their bears adventures. There would also be a letter attached that explained the project and the bear would ask that the host would fill out the postcard telling the location of the bear and any exciting places that the bear had been. The host did not have to use the postcard and could send photos if they wanted to do so. Whoever had the bear on April 15 was asked to mail the bear back in the large postal envelope. We would then study the places that the bears visited in order to learn more about the world in relation to where we were.

Preparation: Each student was given a bear to take home and dress up. Everyone seemed excited about doing this (even the boys) and brought back bears wonderfully dressed up with wonderful names. I had the students address the postcards to themselves in care of the school. This was great practice in writing addresses. The large postal envelope was also addressed in the same way. Postage was put on all postcards and the large envelope. Postcards, envelope, and letter were tucked into the packs.

The Beginning: Students were told to find someone to give the bear to and explain the project. When the host was tired of having the bear, they were asked to pass it on to someone else. At first my students were very doubtful about this whole project but they were used to my crazy ideas and just went along with it. That weekend I actually took my bear on a hike in NC and took a picture of him by a waterfall. There were two college girls (from the Midwest) with their families who were curious about what I was doing. When I explained the project, they asked if they could take the bear and away he went. When I returned to school that Monday, all of the bears had been given away and we just waited.

During the year: Within two weeks, the postcards started to come in. Many people did not use the blank postcards we enclosed but sent postcards of actual places. Some people even sent photos of the bears in different places and souvenir items as well. As we got these postcards, we marked on the map where the bears were seen and the owner of the bear had to find 3 important facts to share with the class about this place. My students looked forward to the mail each day and made learning fun in the class. My low ability readers were actually trying hard to read their postcards.
The End: By May, all of the bears had returned home. We had a display of bears, postcards, and souvenirs set up and we invited other classes to see our display. The owners of the bears shared some of the stories and explained the souvenirs to the visiting class. The last week of school I asked the local police chief to come by the classroom so we could present the bears to him but it was kind of sad for us to let the bears go.

This activity was reported in the PTSA newsletter and the local newspaper. We had photos of bears riding in Christmas parades, and traveling all over the world. The photo shown are some of the bears used in this project. One bear traveled from South Carolina to China. Another bear traveled with the military in a plane to Antartica (we have a picture of the bear sitting in the cockpit!). Students from other classes were interested in hearing where the bears’ last sightings were and my special education students went from wanting to “dissolve into the woodwork” into being the envy of the general ed students. I have to admit that I felt this was one of my most successful lessons.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Successful Whiz Kids

Reading this article “Meet the Whiz Kids” is all the more reason that the schools need to get on board with technology tools out there and start using them in the classroom. The young people are all under 21 years old and have made a name for themselves using technology. These are amazing stories to read and this could happen to any one of our students in our classrooms. It made me wish that I could put them all in one room so that I could learn from them. Just imagine what an exchange of ideas could happen if we had these kids in our classroom.
After reading their stories I had so many questions that I wanted to ask them like these:

1. How did you get started using technology?
2. How old were you when you began using technology?
3. Was it used in your schools and by your teachers?
4. How supportive were your parents with your technology usage?
5. What advice would you give other young people about technology?
6. Where do you plan to go from here?

I think the stories are very inspirational and should be motivational to teachers. These are examples of how fast students are moving forward and how teachers need to keep up. I can tell from some of the contacts I have had with my Twitter friends (some of them are students), we will be having many more of these inspirational young people coming forth in the future. As a teacher, I want to jump on that star and not get left behind in the dust.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ipods as instructional tools

When I came upon the article “Ipods in the Classroom” I was struck by a few things mentioned there.

“One aspect that is not so obvious, or for some reason forgotten is the clear usefulness that an iPod could have in a classroom setting.”

I guess I have enjoyed my Ipod for my own use but had not really thought about how it could be used in the classroom and all I could think of was, “What a great idea!” I also liked the thought that there were other positive benefits that could develop by using an Ipod in the classroom.

“If we look a bit deeper, we can also conclude that this will have a positive change in the environment, as paper waste will be reduced because of this. In other words, the potential to learn with the iPod and the ability for it to be beneficial is absolutely astronomical.”

Of course, another main concern is implementing the use of the Ipod in the classroom and how to convince the administration that it can be useful in the classroom.

“The only question is if anyone or any facility can implement it correctly allowing the students to benefit from all of the above mentioned features without having to suffer from the abuse of using the iPod the wrong way in the classroom setting.”

According to this article, “Reviewing for a test could be just a click away on your iPod,” An Ipod “enables students to review instruction in preparation for exams, clarify confusing concepts and make up for missed classes.” What a great tool for students who have trouble retaining material (such as special education students)! It is also great for students who miss class due to illnesses or some other excuse. It can be used as a bridge between the school and the home as parents use this in order to better help their children with homework or to open up discussions at home about this new knowledge.

Like any other piece of equipment used in the classroom, an Ipod can be used as a distraction. But so can the TV (to watch noninstructional videos), the computer (to do noninstructional tasks), a CD player (to listen to inappropriate music), or a pencil and paper (for doodling or writing notes). I feel it is up to the teacher to set the boundaries for using equipment in the class and by showing that the students can use them appropriately, the administration will be able to witness the benefits. I had the same concerns when I used CD players so students could listen to books on CDs as I do about using Ipods in the classroom, so I decided to make a list of the problems that I could foresee happening and then decide how I could prevent them before they happened.

1. Problem: Administration prohibits the use of Ipods.
a. Get prior approval before introducing them in the classroom’
b. Have a plan of action in hand showing how they will be implemented

2. Problem: Getting a classroom set of Ipods
a. Write a grant to buy a classroom set of Ipod Shuffles (approx. $60 apiece)
b. Submit a proposal to asking for a classroom set of Ipods
c. Talk to PTSA (parent teacher student association)
d. Talk to civic organizations such as the Rotary or Lion’s club

3. Problem: Students stealing each other’s equipment or breaking equipment
a. Have number engraved into each Ipod.
b. A letter will be sent home to parents explaining how the Ipods will be used in the classroom. Parents accept responsibility for any damage or loss if an Ipod is taken home and fails to be returned. Parents and students understand that only the teacher may be download material onto that Ipod. Any failure to follow the rules will result in loss of privilege to use the Ipod.
c. Students sign out the Ipod and intial when returned the next day.
d. The teacher will check for any damage before and after student signs for it.
e. If a student brings their own Ipod for downloads, they must be checked in with the teacher at the beginning of the day and will be returned at the end of the day (these will not be used during the school day).

4. Problem: Inappropriate material will be heard on the Ipod
a. Only the teacher may download material on the Ipod
b. The teacher will review all material on the Ipod when returned.
c. Inappropriate material found on the Ipod will result in loss of privilege to use the Ipod.

These are the same rules I used with my CD players (except the downloading part since my students could use their own CDs). I never had any CD players stolen or broken when I let them take the CD players or the Books on CDs home. Since they were thrilled with the privilege of having one to use, many of them took care of it like it was a priceless gift. I believe there comes a time when we have to take the risk of trusting the students to do what is right. It is like the self fulfilling prophecy and if we believe they will do the right thing, most of the time they will.

By using tools that are available and that students are comfortable with, we can make their learning environment a successful place for them to be!

Photo credit: Ipod Shuffle by diagneurotic

Monday, March 24, 2008

Do the right thing and do it quickly!

At the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children conference in Spartanburg, SC on February 27, 2008, Jim Rex (SC Superintendent of Education) was our keynote speaker. The thing that seems to stand out in my mind is the metaphor he gave about our education system and a tidal wave. It keeps coming to mind as I read many blogs and articles about education or when I’m talking to people in my network.

He asked us to picture the big tidal wave that hit Indonesia in 2004. He remembers seeing videos of people as they stand on the beach and watch the tide pull back out to the ocean (which is normal during tidal waves). The people had no idea that a tidal wave was about to hit them but they were curious and slowly walked out into the sand towards the ocean to look at all the shells and animals that were now uncovered. These people were destined to die because when the wave came, they were completely swept away. These people did the wrong things and moved slowly so they died. Others had a gut feeling that something was wrong and moved slowly away from the ocean. These people did the right things but moved too slowly so they still died. Others ran away from the ocean and tried to get to high ground as quick as they could. These people did the right things and moved quickly so many of them lived. Our education system works the same way. If we do the wrong things and move slowly, we all lose. If we do the right things but move too slowly, we still lose. It is time to do the right things and do them now.

Mr. Rex talked about making changes and doing them in the four years of his term. He was told by many that it would take longer than his four years but he said he didn’t have time to take longer. When we are talking about the life of a student, four years is actually too long to make necessary changes and our students don’t have that kind of time.

I was really impressed by this metaphor and I hope those in position to make changes can do the right things in the quickest amount of time. I wish we could get past the politics and really make decisions that are in the best interest of our children but I sometimes I get discouraged and wonder if this is just a pipe dream. Thankfully there are people out there who don’t give up and who continue to try and whenever I fall down in despair, I reach out to them and they are there to pick me up, dust me off, and get me moving again. Thank you friends (my twitter friends, those who have commented on my blog, emailed me about issues, or talked to on chats!) I think together, we are moving in the right way and quick enough to hopefully ensure our survival and our students’ survival in the education system.

Photo credit: Tsunami tragedy by Aspirasi

Friday, March 21, 2008

Useful Information for In and Out of the Classroom 03/21/08

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/21/08
Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found interesting this week. 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!

Lego Games – games for all different ages. This would make a great motivator to get students to complete work.

Graphic Organizers for Content Instruction – ready made organizers for you to use

MIT OpenCourseWare: Highlights for High School

Termites - software to create seating plans. This helps you arrange seating according to personality traits without pulling your hair out.

Spelling City – practice for spelling tests

Photo credit: Tools by misterjt

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Can Retired Teachers Be Used as Resources?

Do we really teach knowledge in depth or do we just “cover the material? I read this article: Dig Deep or Scratch a Large Surface and it had me thinking more in depth too. How many times have I “covered” material to meet the curriculum requirements even though I was doubtful whether the students had truly understood the information? I believe I did this a lot when I first started teaching because that is the way I was told to do it. Being in a new school with new administration, I didn’t want to make any waves and have anyone regret my presence there. I just coasted along doing what was expected and not truly understanding myself why I did this. I was learning new procedures and policies as well as gaining my footing in my own classroom so I didn’t want to buck the system at this time. After teaching the same students there for three years, I realized that I was not giving them the foundation needed to learn new information. I felt like I was just spinning my wheels and not moving in a forward direction. Just imagine that if I felt like that as a teacher and a professional, what must the students feel like?

I started to reevaluate the way I taught and began giving pre- and post tests which told me where the students were and how much they learned after being taught the material. Students could not go on to new material until they met certain criteria showing me they understood what was just taught. Of course this meant that I had many different students at many different places. This made me be more organized but I was more focused on meeting the student’s needs. Suddenly when students were less frustrated and working on their level, the whole classroom climate changed. Behavior was no longer the focus but learning was. Students started being successful and able to see the results by comparing the pre- and post test scores. Parents were excited about the progress and praised their children which only made them work harder. This system really worked and I am amazed that we have come so far away from that. Yet, I still feel I was only scratching the surface. There was so much more “meat” in what I was teaching but I just couldn’t get into it enough.

Now we are so consumed with high stakes testing and NCLB that we are no longer focusing on the student’s needs. I feel like we are focusing more on the school and society’s needs. I’m not saying that schools shouldn’t be held accountable but when we start comparing schools all over the nation that have students from different backgrounds and communities with different needs, we are comparing apples and oranges. It is no wonder to me that we are losing students from the educational system because we are setting them up for failure. I have had special education students in my class taking high stakes testing because our district decided they didn’t fit in the percentage that needed alternative testing. My students were not getting a state diploma and this test did not affect their graduation so the only thing accomplished was that they were frustrated and felt humiliated by the low ability levels. I spent all year building up their self esteem and then they take this test and felt so bad. These scores affected our AYP so it built up resentment from other teachers who knew my students affected our school’s report card but there was nothing my students or I could do. The only thing I could do is promise them that if they didn’t misbehave and if they did their best, I would reward them in my class. I couldn’t expect any more from them. This makes me wonder how students who fall through the cracks, where they don’t qualify for special education but are still having major difficulties, feel when they take this test. At least my students had a support system (me) but these other students don’t.

I have heard other teachers not wanting to try new innovative ideas in their classes because they need to “cover” all the standards required. I think we need more professional development that can show teachers how to “cover” these standards by using innovative ideas. We need to start thinking outside the box because the old ways are not working any more. But teachers do not have the time and energy to explore the possibilities and it is hard to dig yourself out of a hole when the administration keeps dirt into the hole. I think this situation is exhausting to many teachers and even causes many to leave the field. Somewhere, sometime soon, we have got to address this problem instead of just insisting that if teachers taught the standards better, students will perform better (but we aren’t going to show teachers how to do this).

Here is my suggestion to districts: why not use retired teachers to help do this? Many teachers retire because they need a break from the classroom or they want to do other things but they don’t want to lose the connection with the educational system. Retired teachers have a lot of knowledge and experience that would be lost if the district doesn’t keep them involved in some way if they are willing. I have seen many retired teachers on committees so they can stay involved in the district but they never seem to be asked to come up with a final product or used to the best of their potential. Why not ask retired teachers to serve on curriculum committees and ask them to research strategies and tools that can help teachers in the classroom? I think retired teachers would be honored to be used as a resource for their field of expertise and schools and teachers would only benefit from this. I have retired and plan to do a lot of traveling but when I am not traveling, I have been looking for resources and tools for teachers. By blogging this information, I hope to share this with teachers in a way that might make their life easier. Luckily I’m still involved in Council for Exceptional Children which is a professional organization for special education teachers. I have an outlet to share this information but I don’t have any way to share this specifically with the local school district. I have talked with other retired teachers who have tried substituting but that wasn’t really what they were looking for. Maybe this is something they would be interested in but didn’t know how to go about initiating the conversation with the district. I also think it would be a great way to help teachers have more successful lessons in the classroom and still meet the student’s needs.

These are just some thoughts about a possible solution. Sometimes I feel like I rant and rave to much about what is wrong but I don’t offer any suggestions on how to fix it. What do you think about this? Do you have any other suggestions?

Photo credit: Monceau’s Retirement Clock by Monceau

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Carnival of Education 03/19/08

The Carnival of Education #163 is on the midway and is hosted by Joel of So You Want To Teach. There are lots of great submissions so don't miss out on any of them. One of my posts is included (Viral Learning, Is It Possible?).

Web 2.0 and the Special Education Student

I have really enjoyed all the conversations about using Web 2.0 tools and the impact they make in our classrooms but I haven’t heard many special education teachers come out about the impact it can make for their students. When I hear of collaboration projects between classes, I hear teachers say they take the highest level students and I’m sure it is because these students need to be able to work independently more than students working on the regular school work. But I hope we make sure we include the special education students too even if it means we will have to work more closely with them the others. I think teachers may find out that special education students may shine using these new tools and actually show strength where pencil and paper may show a weakness.

Maybe because of confidentiality laws, no one is mentioning that the students in the projects are special education students and they are using these tools also. I can only speak from experience with the special education teachers at my school who were already overwhelmed by paperwork that they could not fathom the thought about learning new technology tools. The part that I have trouble convincing them is that at first it may seem cumbersome but once learned, it can give the teacher more time and freedom to do other things. I remember learning to drive and how hard it was to remember all the hundreds of things to do in order to get from one place to the other. Now I take it for granted because all those hundreds of things I do automatically. The same thing works for doing things on the computer with the students. Once they learn the process, they eventually will learn how to do it independently. There may need to be more guidance given or repetition for special education students but they are usually more successful on computers because it is kinesthetic-tactile, visual, and sometimes auditory which is perfect for students with different learning styles.

Here are some suggestions when working with special education students that may help:
1. Explain what you plan to do and why you want the student to do this. Special education students have trouble transitioning to new things so they may be reluctant at first, but with perseverance, they will get over this.
2. Before working with the student, write out a list of steps they will need to follow (task analysis). Some students can even check off each step as they finish it. Having written steps to follow is a safety net for some special education students and they can refer to it whenever they forget what to do next.
3. Try each step and make sure you didn’t leave anything out. Too many times I have not tried the procedures myself only to find out that I did something automatically but didn’t write it down in the steps which causes major confusion to the students.
4. Model these steps while the student is watching. If students watch you follow the steps, they can see that it works and will feel more confident when it is their turn to try this.
5. Explain what to do if you make a mistake (edit or undo). You might also make a note of this on the bottom of the steps you have for the student. This shows the student that an error is not a terror and they did not break anything or ruin anything. It is this fear of failure that tends to paralyze the student because they have such low self esteem.
6. Let the student follow the steps while you are watching. Then you will know if the student understands each step or where there is confusion.
7. Give the student praise after each step is done successfully. Praise works wonders for these students because they have had so little success in their lives.
8. Let the student work independently while you are not too far away. This shows that you believe in them and trust that they can do this. Too many times they are told that they can’t do something and this will help them realize their capabilities.

These are just some of the ways that a special education student can be successful when using Web 2.0 tools. If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment.

Photo credit: success by vmaurin

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Meaning of Music

When I first read this article, “Being a Middle Aged Nerd is No Excuse for Stupid”, I felt embarrassed for the NEA and for the teachers featured in the article. Then I felt angry at the ignorance of the teachers until I began wondering if I had done anything like this but I hope not. I remember growing up and being taught not to use words or phrases that I didn’t understand (especially growing up as the only one in the family not learning Chinese because the schools told my parents this would hinder my education). Many cousins loved to set me up by teaching me Chinese words and phrases that were inappropriate so when I used them I usually got in trouble or shocking many relatives. My mother used to tell me not to use words or say things unless I understood what they meant.

I feel it is our responsibility to make sure we understand what we are teaching our students whether it is by actively teaching them or teaching them by example. The teachers encouraging the students by allowing songs with these lyrics were teaching them that the words and what they represented were okay. This also brought back memories of my parents not allowing me to buy any Beatles records because they felt the songs represented drugs. As I look back now, I realize how in tune my parents were with songs that I listened to with my friends. I am proud of them (now as an adult) for taking a stand as a parent and facing my unhappiness (in other words – spoiled rotten!) about not getting my way but insisted on teaching me values. Maybe parents are too busy working many jobs to put food on the table to know what music their kids are listening to or maybe the parents accept this kind of music but I don’t feel it is my place to judge them. I do feel it is my place to know what goes on in my classroom and anything I am involved in and setting the limits to what is acceptable or not acceptable. By being ignorant about what is going on around me hurts my reputation and integrity because others view me in a negative light and I don’t like when people do that. I’m not saying that I will be perfect and not make mistakes but I hope that I make them honestly and not out of ignorance.

I think this would make a great lesson for the classroom. I would begin by asking students to tell me what their favorite songs are (song with profanity are not allowed) and ask them to find the lyrics to the songs. After they have found lyrics to the songs (any without proof of lyrics would not be considered), I would have them vote on the top 5 to study in class. For each song, I would hope that we would discuss the following:
1. What message is this song giving?
2. Why is this song popular?
3. Is it appropriate for all ages? If not, what ages should hear this? Why is it not appropriate for certain ages?
4. Are there in appropriate phrases and words in the song? (I would not go into specifics about sex acts)
5. Why do song writers use inappropriate language and phrases in songs?
6. Would you be able to write this song without inappropriate language and phrases and send the same message? Why or why not?

I think it is time to make students aware of the messages that are in songs and I’m not sure many do understand them. I think many students buy, sing, and support these types of songs due to peer pressure and don’t want to not be part of the “in” crowd. If they are going to do this, I feel as teachers we should make them accountable for their actions and have them support why they think these actions are okay. Maybe it will make some of the conscientious students aware of what is really being said in these songs and encourage them to move on to something different. For the others who don’t care, it will improve critical thinking skills and possibly engage them in learning. Either way, I think this will be a successful lesson for the classroom.

Photo credit: Music is Love by Janesdead

Monday, March 17, 2008

I Found My Teacher Voice!

I finally have found my teacher voice! After all the years teaching (almost 30 years), I feel comfortable talking with other educators, giving my opinion, and exchanging ideas. I can’t explain why I never felt comfortable about doing that before but maybe I felt like I wasn’t good enough, or I didn’t know enough, or I had nothing to contribute. But for whatever reason, I have kept silent. Finally, I am speaking out about what I believe in, what I feel should be changed, and even offering suggestions and ideas that I feel are helpful to making teaching more successful.

I once wrote a thank you to a professor from Furman University who was instrumental in encouraging me to be a teacher. She remarked how quiet and unsure of myself I was during that time and how delighted she was to see what I have grown into because she always believed I had it in me. I wish someone would have helped me back then to rise to my potential because I wasted a lot of years being a wallflower. Maybe I would have been an even better teacher during my career.

I hope in my new role as a retired teacher, adjunct university instructor, and teacher mentor that I can influence some beginning teacher to find their “teacher voice” early. I would encourage them not to be afraid of saying something that others might disagree with because that is what opens discussion and helps to refine what we believe in. Maybe by opening dialogue, it will help clear up some misconceptions or fears as beginning teachers are developing their skills. Maybe this would help in retaining quality teachers because through discussions with the education network, teachers would develop quality skills and become willing to try innovative ideas. They would also feel like there is a support system of other educators out there (I wish I had known this when I started teaching almost 30 years ago) because the fear of failing or making mistakes can paralyze a new teacher.

In an article titled Chemistry by Injenuity, she states, “We are making social connections, but I feel we are also making new internal brain connections, stimulating endocrine production and by nature, changing our personalities.”

I think that is what happened to me. I’ve made new brain connections! I feel more confident and sure of myself and I don’t think this is a temporary thing. I just hope that I can help other beginning teachers to make this new brain connections and help making their teaching careers more successful!

Photo credit: You Have a Voice by Skeletonkrewe

Friday, March 14, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/14/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found interesting this week. 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!

School Tube – according to the site: “SchoolTube is available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and US schools located across the world. SchoolTube’s mission is to educate and empower students and educators in safe, effective video production and online video sharing. SchoolTube is the only internet video publisher for teachers and students that combines dynamic curriculum and community outreach programs. All videos must be approved by registered teachers, follow local school guidelines, and adhere to our high standards.”

TeacherTube – according to the site: TeacherTube officially launched on March 6, 2007. Our goal is to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos. We seek to fill a need for a more educationally focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners. It is a site to provide anytime, anywhere professional development with teachers teaching teachers. As well, it is a site where teachers can post videos designed for students to view in order to learn a concept or skill.

Brain Pop – animated educational site for kids

Digital Media & Learning Award Recipients - The following projects are recipients of the inaugural digital media and learning competition. The open competition provided funding from $30,000 - $238,000 for promising innovations in the use of digital media for learning.

Scratch - Scratch is a new programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web.
Scratch is designed to help young people (ages 8 and up) develop 21st century learning skills. As they create Scratch projects, young people learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Importance of Reading Skills

I recently read this article “Reading Skills remain the basis of success” the other day that had me thinking about reading skills in schools and how we teach these skills. I would like to make a few observations and comments about some of the things this author says.

“But technology such as text messaging and chatting online has created new challenges for teachers and parents, especially when it comes to encouraging children's reading and writing skills and preparing them for future jobs.”

Isn’t it wonderful that new challenges happen every day? Isn’t that how we grow as learners? Hopefully soon technology won’t be something new in the classroom and will be the norm instead. As I worked with employers to prepare my students for future jobs, all of them said that computer skills were vital whether it was in auto mechanics or working in an office. Employers have been saying this for years and employers are using tools such as Second Life and online chats.

“But regardless of how we communicate today -- or 10 years from now -- basic reading skills will continue to be the foundation for student success in school and in the workplace.”

This is absolutely true but we need to look at how we are teaching students these basic reading skills. We need to show students the relevance of learning these basic reading skills. I still hear of young children reading Dick and Jane books (which I learned to read with almost 50 years ago). Wouldn’t it be better if we teach them to make up their own stories and read their own words because this would show them that reading is a way of communicating and sharing ideas? I wish I had all the opportunities learning to read that students have today. If we have all these opportunities, why aren’t teachers taking advantage of them?

“Books are still the key to developing reading proficiency. The teacher is the most valuable resource in the classroom, and when you equip that teacher with up-to-date textbooks, the combination is unbeatable.”

I think books are great and I am an avid book reader but I disagree with this because I don’t think textbooks are the essential tool in the classroom. In fact, I have taught many classes without a textbook because the textbook almost becomes a crutch. I would rather start with the objectives that need to be taught and find materials that will engage and interest the students in learning to master those objectives. By making learning meaningful and relevant, students will learn and remember the knowledge more than just reading a textbook. I don’t feel that textbooks make students invest anything in them and the knowledge is just pushed out of the book with hopes that a student will pull it in their minds. If students can take information and create something of their own with this knowledge, they are actually pushing their new knowledge out and this is what will help them remember this new knowledge. It is more active learning where reading a textbook is more passive learning.

“But we also need to meet students where they are; and while many of us may find new technology intimidating, it's the key to reaching today's students.”

I agree with this statement but it is almost a contradiction to what she says about the importance of textbooks. If technology is the key, then we need to move away from textbook learning and using textbooks as supplemental materials.

“School districts and the state should do everything they can to assist teachers in incorporating new technology as classroom tools that help build proficiency.”

We need to be saying this over and over until it is incorporated in every district. We need to get legislators on board with this also because I have talked with many legislators who don’t even know how to do email. When I talk about technology with some of them, their eyes glaze over or they have this look of fear cross their face. I have helped one state senator actually set up a blog because I was telling him about the power of blogging. Once he tried it, he loved it and realized what this could mean for students in the classroom. I don’t know that there was an immediate impact on education by doing this but if something comes up about technology in the classroom, I hope that this will influence him in any decision making about technology in the classroom. Just like I have said about changing one teacher at a time, maybe we should try changing one legislator at a time too.

What do you think? Am I off track here? Feel free to comment about this.

Photo credit: Reading by Maxey

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The 162nd Carnival of Education

The 162nd Carnival of Education: March Mathness Edition is on the midway hosted by Learn Me Good. Stop by and enjoy! There is even an article by me (Loonyhiker).

Preparing the Class for Emergencies

When I graduated from college to become a new teacher, no one prepared me for class emergencies. I would like to give some suggestions that no one ever told me and I had to learn the hard way.

The school has an emergency plan and you usually get this before the opening of school for students. Most experienced teachers store these away and will pull it out when needed. I suggest that you check out the plan as if you had a classroom of students and make your own classroom emergency plan. Decide where you will keep your roll book for easy access in case you need to leave the room quickly. Go to the appointed place so you will know where this location is and the route you need to take.

Once you have your students, this emergency plan should be one of the early things you do. I grouped my students into groups of 4 and made one person a leader. When we got to the appointed place, I asked my leaders who was missing in their group. This was for immediate attendance and I could go back afterwards and eyeball that each student was there. I would take the students on a practice drill to the appointed place so they could learn the route and the location. At this time I would also share my expectations with them on how we would get to this location. You might want them to stay in a straight line with no talking or stay in their groups. However you want to work this, now is the time to deal with this and not during an official drill or real emergency. You might also assign someone for turning off the lights and closing the classroom door. If you on the high school level, you will have more than one class that you will need to do this for. We also had a different kind of plan if the emergency happened during lunch time so that needs to be discussed also. After physically practicing the drill at the beginning of the year, I would discuss the procedures at least once a month and of course our school had an actual drill once a month.

I did this for fire and tornado drills. By doing this beforehand, I was able to have a well organized and disciplined class during official drills. Students, other teachers, and the administration will notice that you have control and during emergencies this is very important. Many teachers take emergency plans too lightly and as I see more violence in the schools, I think we need to take this seriously and the more we take it seriously, so will the students.

Photo credit: Fire Truck by Happy Dave

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Viral Learning, Is It Possible?

Jennifer talks about viral professional development and some activities that she has done in her articles Viral Professional Development and Virus is spreading, No Cure in Sight. After her list, she also notes that she has not done any workshops, PowerPoint presentations, given any handouts or documentation. She did this by “shared resources, celebrated success, and encouraged others to do the same.” I think she has also done this by setting an example for others to follow. It is hard to convince others to believe in something if you don’t believe in it or you haven’t tried it yourself.

Since I have joined Twitter, I have met so many people who have so much experience. I am more willing to try some of the things that they suggest because they also give many examples of it. When I wanted to know more about Voicethread and asked my network, people started throwing out all sorts of examples on all different levels. Not only was I able to get an example but I could see how it is used in the classroom for all different students.

I know that doing presentations are great and I also learn a lot from them but they seem to motivate me more than actually teaching me how to do something. That is why I like Twitter so much because I can try something new and have immediate feedback. If I run into a problem, I have a support system. I am free to ask questions without anyone making me feel inadequate because everyone is so eager to help.

Yesterday for the first time, I was actually able to help someone else. A person asked on Twitter if anyone could help her test out Skype and I volunteered. Since I am so new at all of this stuff, it was kind of scary for me to offer this help. We connected and I was able to let her work out the bugs with the program so she could use it for a conference call. I was so excited that here I was in South Carolina, talking to a woman in Australia and at absolutely no cost! Maybe for some of you this isn’t as exciting as it was for me, but at that moment, I realized the potential of using Skype. Even though I have read about people using it and how they use it, it is different when you actually use it yourself. It is things like this that make me want to learn more.

I never went to any Skype presentation or was sent any promotional emails about Twitter or Skype but heard about both of these by reading other people’s blogs. The blogs led me to Twitter and Twitter led me to Skype. I have also learned other things through this connection and I realized that maybe that is how we will have to bring many teachers into 21st century teaching, just one teacher at a time. If each of us reach out and bring in one teacher at a time, eventually we will be successful in making an impact! Like Jennifer says, the virus is spreading, no cure in sight!

Photo credit: Image#94392 by ktsdesign

Monday, March 10, 2008

Are Teachers Ready for 21st Century Learning?

Are Teachers Ready for 21st Century Learning? This is an article that I read this weekend which started me to think about where we are today with technology in the classroom. This is constantly in my thoughts as I learn new things every day.

In this article the author refers to another article written by Karl Fisch, “In it, Fisch points out an all-too-troubling tendency on the part of teachers to take great pride in their inability to be efficient users of technology. He also wonders whether being technologically illiterate today is analogous to being unable to read or write in the early 20th Century.” I tend to see my colleagues using the same excuse to not try new technology or experiment with new software. They also use excuses as I don’t have the time or I’m already overwhelmed with new stuff that I have to use.

A special education teacher is quoted as saying, “I think as educators, we must pick and choose what is most important for our students, in terms of what will benefit them and their learning. I realize now how using technology to teach a child with writing and reading disabilities will benefit them tremendously when they learn how to type a document, listen to information through our computer's speakers, or e-mail me when they are confused or troubled.” As teachers, we should use our judgment when looking at what might work with our students. Since we are the ones in the classroom with them and understand the student’s strengths and weaknesses, we should pick programs that might help the student the best. The only way we would know this is by actually working with the programs and trying them out. I have found that although it took extra time to learn the programs, it save me time in the long run and actually freed me to work more closely with my students.

A high school teacher states, “What fear exists among educators (teachers, administrators, etc.) toward technology is, I suspect, part of a larger, older fear of loss of control…when it comes to technology, many in education find themselves wading into waters where it's the students who are more competent and comfortable; where they [who are used to being in front— literally] are already behind, and the conditions keep changing. Some find it exhilarating; others are so afraid of drowning they panic— which, of course, causes them to sink faster.” I think that is a major key to all of this. Many teachers are afraid. When people are afraid, they tend to be paralyzed. I feel that teachers are afraid that the students know more than them but I don’t see that as something to be feared. I see it as an opportunity to learn more. Maybe it is because I feel that learning is an exchange of ideas and if the person with the knowledge is younger than me, which is okay. (Of course, as I age, the amount of people with more knowledge than me increases tremendously!).

I guess my final thought is that we need to push our fears aside and look at what is in the best interest of our students. Yes, it may take time, and yes there is a learning curve. But that goes with the job of being a teacher. We need to be examples for our students and we constantly are asking them to take risks by trying new things and learning new knowledge. Shouldn’t we be the models for this thinking? I believe if we do this, our experiences in the classroom would be more successful.

Photo credit: Reading Skills in the Computer Lab by Old Shoe Woman

Friday, March 7, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 03/07/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found interesting this week. 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!

Classroom Instruction That Works – shows how technology can be integrated with these strategies to improve student learning

Secret History of the Credit Card – lots of good information we need to share with our students about credit cards

Safety and Social Networking – great article about “How can we maximize the learning power of participatory Web sites while ensuring students are protected and behave responsibly?” Written by Alec Couros whom I follow on Twitter. I have learned so much from listening to his ideas.

Pixton – user generated comic strip

Digital Wish – information about grant opportunities

TeachKind – free lesson plans and materials that will help students develop critical-thinking skills, empathy, compassion, and civic responsibility while empowering them to take compassionate action for animals in their own communities. Of course I like the idea of free and the curriculum kits seem to come with a lot of material.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Welcome to Our World Project

Welcome to Our World Project is a neat project that teachers and students would enjoy. What a great way to teach students about the world around them. If you look at the whole presentation, you will see that worksheets are even shown for the class to use. Here is information the teacher has sent out: “Welcome to Our World is a Voicethread project that seeks to connect students around the world to one another through images of their communities. The thinking is that different classrooms will upload pictures that represent normal life in their corners of the globe, showing pictures of housing, clothing, common foods, religions, landforms and past-times.

Each image will start with one basic question: What do you notice? Students studying new communities can try to make inferences about life in different places through the images presented. They can ask questions or leave comments contrasting life in new places with their own lives. Then, classes from the studied communities can respond to comments, better explaining their lives, customs and traditions.

You can participate in Welcome to Our World in two ways: By leaving recorded or written comments or by uploading your own set of images for other communities to study—or, better yet, both! You can begin commenting immediately. If you’re a teacher and you’d like to get your class involved in uploading images, contact Bill Ferriter at (or Skype him at wferriter). He’ll add you as a user that can edit and add images.”

You can go to his blog that tells about this project too:

I just think this is a great way to show our students the world around us. Many of my students had never been outside their own towns. Once I took my students on a hiking trip to Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, NC. When we got out of the city of Greenville and headed up the highway right outside of Traveler’s Rest, the students saw mountains in front of us. In fact, we had to pull over and he took a whole roll of film of just the mountains. Now keep in mind, this stretch of road is probably not even 15 minutes outside the city of Greenville. That is when I realized that I needed to find ways to broaden my students’ horizons. The next year I took them to Charlotte, NC to Discovery Place and they loved it. Since many of my students do not have cars and their parents do not drive, the odds of them leaving their communities is pretty slim. I think it is important as teachers for us to show them how to look for what is out there in the world. Something like this project would be perfect to show students the world around them. I feel this will help them be more successful in life. I hope you check out this project and consider collaborating on it.

Photo Credit: Earth by JayLopez (stock.xchng)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Carnival of Education 03/05/08

The Carnival of Education #161 is on the midway hosted by The Education Wonks. I can't wait to see all the great information given and there is even an article by me about Wikis. Stop by and have a look! You won't be sorry!

Technology Sessions at the SCCEC Conference

I attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s conference this weekend and was surprised that there weren’t more technology sessions. I wonder if the proposals were turned down or if there weren’t any more proposals turned in. There were five listed in the program and one of the sessions (Navigating Excent Online) was cancelled. I thought I would share with you a summary of the three that I attended.

The first one that I wanted to go to listed as “Point Your Browser Here: Twenty Five Awesome Websites for the Special Educator” was the first session. Since the map in the program was impossible to read, by the time I found the room, it was impossible to get into the room. There were so many people that it was standing room only if you could find a spot to stand. This overflow of people made me realize that many educators feel a need to learn more about this topic (and maybe technology in general.) I did give my email address and hope the presenter will send me a copy of the handout given since she ran out due to the large crowd.

The second session I attended was called “Face to Face or Cyberspace. Which do Teachers Prefer?” Dr. Coughenour of Francis Marion University compared her online course with the same course taught face to face. She shared the course evaluations completed at the end of each course. Positive and negative comments were shared also. She concluded that the success of the online course depended a lot on the kind of access the student had and the computer skills the student had. Of course I learned a lot about technology used with the online course that I could use when I teach a course this summer.

Next I went to a session called “ ETV’s collection of fun, interactive, multimedia Websites.” Again, this session was jammed packed with standing room only. is the portal to websites designed by South Carolina ETV and is a free online collection of resources designed for classroom use. The presenter (for more information contact Andrea Thorpe at ) showed us Gullah Net as an example but I can’t wait to look at these other sites. Below is a list of sites listed on the brochure given out at the session if you would like to check these out. When I went to the main site, there were many more websites listed so I will check them out soon.
1. Gullah Net (K-8, Language Arts and Social Studies) Journey through Gullah culture and history
2. Let’s Go (3-8 Social Studies) – Visit the Old Exchange in Charleston, the South Carolina State House and Historic Brattonsville without leaving the classroom.
3. The Hobby Shop (6-8, Math and Science) – hands on workshop using a microscope, rocket, and catapult activities.
4. Periscope (k-8) online magazine guides students through eight celebrations and observances occurring during the school year.
5. Keep It Real (9-12 Health and Safety) learn about teen choices and the consequences of unhealthy risk-taking behavior. Viewer discretion advised.
6. River Venture (6-8, Social Studies): take a trip through SC waterways from the mountains to the sea while attempting to solve a scientific mystery.
7. Scoot (3-8, Social Studies): Learn about 46 of the SC’s historic markers
8. Artopia (6-8, Visual and Performing Arts, Language Arts, Social Studies) interactive web-based arts experience
9. Road Trip! (6-12 Language Arts and Social Studies) learn about historical events, places and people who played an important role during the civil rights movement in SC from the 1940s to early 1970s.
10. Tech Team (6-12, Math, Science and Technology) start your own Tech Team
11. Kids Work! (4-8, Career Education) Connect schoolwork with real work at the hospital and theater in this interactive virtual community.
12. Ready to Vote (9-12, Social Studies and Journalism) Teen site about civic participation
13. Nature Scene (K-12, Science) Tour North American parks and preserves using online videos and images from ETV’s NatureScene series

The last session I attended was “ETVStreamlineSC: Free Video-on-Demand” and the presenter showed us how to access over 39,000 instructional video clips correlated to the SC standards. She also showed how to download these clips to a flash drive and use on multiple computers. I liked how she showed us how to download these to an IPOD and with an adapter, the clip can also be shown on a TV. There was so much to see that she couldn’t cover all the possibilities in a 50 minute session but it sure made me wanting to see more. If you want more information you can contact Debbie at

I am thinking about submitting a proposal for next year on Using Technology in the Classroom and using the wikispace that I developed. The presenters above connected the computer to a cell phone and I don’t have that capability so I would have to figure out a way to do screencasts. I am hoping that next year when we have the conference at the Sheraton at North Myrtle Beach, there will be more technology sessions.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Can We Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

I recently evaluated a new teacher during a classroom observation. This teacher recently retired from another career so he is not a “young” person. When I arrived in the classroom I noticed a promethean board in the room and was thrilled to see the students get up to use it. I noticed that the teacher didn’t do much with the board but the students were excited about using it. As the teacher taught his lesson, the students were up and down at the board doing math problems and sharing their work with the class. I was impressed that the students knew their way around the tools so well since they have only moved into this room about a month ago. I noticed that many of the students were more engaged in learning because of this piece of technology than the last time I observed this class. The last lesson I observed took place in a portable and the whole class was taught using a lecture and completing paper worksheets. What a difference this was!

When I talked to the teacher, he told me that he at first was not thrilled with using this new technology because he was from the “old school.” But when his ten year old grandson knew more about technology than he did, he felt he needed to learn so he wasn’t left behind in the cold. This teacher noticed that even his students were more involved in learning than before so he saw a positive effect from this and knew that he needed to learn more. He went to the training that the district gives but like anything else, you need to use it in order to learn. In fact, the students were so curious about the promethean board that he has pretty much given them a lot of freedom to explore and teach him the different things to do with it.

I watched them work with solving equations with exponents. The students were learning the FOIL method (first, outer, inner, last) and worked out all the steps on the board. They drew different color arrows to show which step they were doing. This helped the other students who were having difficulties see what was done. I noticed the slower students were actually paying attention and working out problems instead of acting up like they did the last time. All of the students were engaged in learning and not one student was distracted. Amazing! Each student couldn’t wait for their turn to get up to the board and work out a problem, even the ones who were having difficulties.

Near the end of class, there was some extra time left over and the students asked the teacher if they could show me all the different things that the board could do. They moved tools they felt were most used in this class and discussed which ones were not needed and why. They also tried new things too. When the bell rang to leave the class, they almost didn’t want to leave.

If we could only get students involved in all their learning with the same enthusiasm as they tackled this. I think students want to see new ways of teaching instead of the “old school.” I think they want to learn but we need to find ways to engage them and excite them. Seeing this today gave me hopes for our system.

Monday, March 3, 2008

How Can I Have a Successful Co-Teaching Experience?

I attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Conference this weekend in Spartanburg, SC and did a presentation with another teacher called Survival Tips for First Year Teachers. It was such a great weekend to learn new strategies and exchange ideas. I always come away from things like this so motivated and energized. I was thrilled that our session was jammed packed that resulted in standing room only. When we opened up for questions, one of the questions asked was about co-teaching which seems to be a hot topic lately. I realized this when I got home and there was an email waiting for me which asked for my advice with dealing with a co-teacher.

Over the years I have had to work very closely with other teachers and noticed that success depended on the personalities of both teachers and how much the administration supported the situation. Both teachers need to be willing to communicate closely with each other and be willing to compromise control, which is extremely hard. Also, if the administration has forced this collaboration, usually there is resentment from one or both teachers. Now with all that being said, what if you are in that situation anyway. What do you do about it?

If this situation was just starting, I would meet with the administration and teacher and want to clarify each of our roles in the classroom. If you are a special ed teacher and want to be active in lesson planning and teaching, you need to be proactive and state this. Sometimes the general ed teacher may not realize that you do want to do this and assume that it is not your responsibility so they won’t ask you to do this. This is why communication is so important. I think it is important the general ed teacher knows that the special ed teacher is a great resource and may have strategies that will help the whole class be more successful and not just the special ed students. I believe that if the special ed teacher wants more involvement, that they need to be involved in the planning stages of the lessons before they are taught.

If the special ed teacher is already in this situation, I would go to the administration for clarification of my role in the classroom. I would not go to complain about the other teacher but ask if the administration supports me taking a more active role in the classroom. If the administration is not going to support you, you might as well stop now and accept your role as it is in the classroom. If they are supportive of this, I would tell them that I would like to meet with the teacher and insist that I be involved in the planning stages of “our” lessons. During this meeting, I would do all I could to keep the teacher from getting defensive and probably do a lot of brown nosing by complimenting how knowledgeable this teacher is and how much I enjoy the lessons. Then, I would explain that I would like more ownership in the lessons and feel that I might have some useful input. I would also state that I realize this teacher has the expertise in this field, but I have a lot of expertise in strategies that may help students be more successful in gaining this knowledge and together we would be dynamite. Again, I feel this communication is so important. I would also start off by not making too many suggestions or changes so this teacher can feel comfortable with my input. As this relationship develops and becomes more comfortable, I would add or suggest more and more things until this truly becomes collaboration.

Credits: picture by Old Shoe Woman (Day 80 Conferring with Fellow Teacher) found on Flickr Creative Commons