Thursday, July 31, 2008

Carnival of Education 07/30/08

Come join us on the Midway at The Chancellor's New Clothes for this week's Carnival of Education. There are lots of great articles to read including mine about Highlighting Students' Talents.

Am I Replaceable?

In What will you leave behind?, Doug Johnson asks, “How long will your passions, your policies, your philosophy remain when you are no longer there to shore things up? How do you shape your organization's climate beyond doing important daily work? What long-term efforts are you working on?”

In What makes you hard to replace?, Doug Johnson asks, “…who would suffer and how if you didn't come back this fall? What critical jobs would go undone - or be badly done? Who would miss your professional services? (We know everyone would miss your charming personality.) Why might the administrator who cut your job suffer and rue having made the cut?”

After reading these two posts, I started to ask myself what I do that makes me unique in a school with over 100 teachers. How could I answer these questions especially since I recently retired from the school system to teach on the university level? I hope some of my answers may guide you in your quest for a unique identity in the teaching field.

1. I worked hard on doing my paperwork accurately and on time because I’ve seen too many others not do this. I took great pride in this especially when people started to rely on my paperwork because they knew that I went to great lengths to make sure it was done correctly.

2. I learned about the current laws that affected my subject area so that I would be able to make informed decisions about what I was doing in my classroom. In special education there are a lot of federal laws that we have to follow that other subject areas do not have to follow. By knowing the laws, I became a resource for administrators and other teachers.

3. I took the initiative to collect data and put it in formats for easy retrieval. Every year, reports have to be filled out and they ask for the same information each time (usually during a really hectic time of the school year) so I gathered this information when I had the time so that when asked for it, I would be able to quickly give the information. This surprised many administrators that I could do this so quickly and easily.

4. I researched and learned new tools to use in my classroom and documented the success of what was accomplished. In this way, I became a leader and a resource for other teachers. When new technology was given to the school, I was one of the few chose to try them out because I was not afraid to try new things.

5. I tried very hard to work well with other teachers, not just in my own department, but with other departments also. In this way I was able to give other teachers support when working with my students without making them feel uncomfortable with my suggestions. Too many times we let our egos get in the way of our students’ needs.

6. I tried very hard to help my students achieve success. In order to do this, I had to get them engaged in learning and not let their bad behavior get them sent to the office. If they were not in my class, then how could I help them be successful with what I was teaching? I used a lot of positive reinforcement (phone calls and emails home, small rewards in class, developing a rapport with students) that encouraged the students to work harder. If they were working harder, they had less time to misbehave and if they were not misbehaving, they were not sent to the office (which made administrators very happy).

I don’t know if these things made me irreplaceable but I know that I was missed when I left. I didn’t do all of these things in order to gain recognition but I did feel underappreciated at times. By doing these things, it really made my life easier and helped students and teachers in the long run so I came out the winner even though it was extra work. I don’t think the administrators realized until I left that I did not have to do these things, but that I went the extra mile on my own. I confess to feeling a little satisfaction when an administrator called me to tell me things were falling apart after I retired because no one was willing to pick up the ball when I left ( that sounds terrible, I know!)

So how would you answer Doug’s questions?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Be A Pioneer

In Why Educational Change is Hard, Chris Lehmann writes:
“The big problem is that we never, ever have a low cost of failure. When schools fail, kids lose. Shirky writes in Chapter 10 about how in a traditional business infrastructure, there is a natural disincentive to innovate because "more people will remember you saying yes to a failure than no to a radical but promising idea." (p. 246) I'd argue this is more true in education than in traditional businesses, again because the stakes are so high. So the educational establishment sticks to safe ideas and traditional schooling because we know that while the outcomes may not be amazing, they are predictably mediocre at worst.

The point of all this is just this: The hardest challenge facing our community is that we've done a very good job at going after the low-hanging fruit. We've done what was easiest to do... and most of us would agree that it hasn't been easy so far. To take things to the next level is going to be hard. Not impossible... and a lot easier because of the tools we have at our disposal today, but hard none-the-less. But "hard" shouldn't be the reason we don't do it.”

I need to be more like a pioneer in my field like in history so that I don’t short change my students. They risked their lives and their reputations by going places no one has ever gone before (no, I am not going to sing the Star Trek theme!) By asking myself if this is the best thing for my students, I need to get past my own fears and inadequacies in order to broaden my horizons and I need to be willing to face failure in order to help my students be successful. I think sometimes I take the easy way out and go the easiest route because I know that it has worked before so why should I try something different. Yet, how do I know that this something different won’t be even better. For example, for the past eight months I have been part of the Twitter community which I really enjoy. This is a kind of synchronous communication with people that I have chosen to communicate with in the education field and I have learned so much from this professional learning network. Then when this new opportunity came out called Plurk, I was resistant to join this new conversation but finally I bit the bullet and joined them. The best thing about it is that I love it! I am still part of a professional learning network with friends of my choice but it is easier to follow the conversation. If I hadn’t taken the risk, I would have missed out on this wonderful opportunity to grow professionally. I think I need to do the same thing in the classroom. I need to look at my students’ needs and find out what I need to do in order to best meet these needs. If I have to learn new tools and strategies, then I need to make the time and effort to do so. As mentioned above, hard shouldn’t be the reason that I don’t try.

In Accepting “Predictably Mediocre”, Will Richardson states:
“The where it’s at stuff is easy to get to, but hard to accept. And, as Chris says, our collective fear of failure, both of our schools and of our kids, is at the crux of the problem. Most are content with “predictably mediocre” schools because the risks associated with change are simply not worth it at this moment.”

“One more thing: Yesterday, when I picked Tess up from shooting (basketball) camp, she was sporting a new t-shirt, on the back of which read: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’”

With all the negative publicity and fear of litigation, it is no wonder to me that school systems are very fearful of trying new things in schools with technology. I think one way to help would be if teachers like myself would be willing to try new things out and then willingly be examples to show administrators, school board members and legislators. I think just talking about it and inviting them into the conversations will not be enough. During some presentations I have done this past year, I have noticed that showing real life examples are more powerful than just explaining ideas and tools to the audience. Administrators, School board members and legislators are just like my students when I am explaining new things in my classroom. At first they might not understand or agree but I can’t give up trying. I need to look for new ways to show them how things work and why it is important to use in the classroom. I want to keep on trying so I don’t miss out on 100% of the opportunities that open up to me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Time Management for Teachers

In Reclaim your time: 20 Great Ways to Find More Free Time, Zen Habits gives this list that I thought was so awesome for my own personal life but I think it really relates to how we can be more effective in our teaching if we find more free time for ourselves too. I have taken the list and put a little education spin to most of the items and hope as the school year is going to begin, that you can use some of these suggestions in order to have a more successful year.

1. “Take a time out.” Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in our classroom that we forget about real life. We need to make sure we have an outlet for our creativity outside the classroom or we will get burned out.

2. “Find your essentials.” Find out what is really working in your class. Make a list of 4-5 positive things and make sure you focus on them each day.

3. “Find your time-wasters.” Ask yourself if you are wasting too much time giving negative attention to students who don’t deserve the attention. Are you spending too much time gossiping or encouraging negative attitudes when you get with other teachers? Do you spend too much time complaining about things you can not change?

4. “Schedule the time.” It has really helped me if I make a list of all the things that I have to get done that day. Then once I can visualize the tasks, I am able to prioritize them and then mark them off when they are done. Not only do I get more things done this way but I also feel better about myself.

5. “Consolidate.” Sometimes you can see things on your list and notice that someone may have already done something like this already. If so, check with them and ask if you could look at what they have done and adapt it to your needs. Why reinvent the wheel? Sometimes I tell other teachers about a topic or idea I want to introduce in my classroom and usually they are willing to offer suggestions, help, or even some of their own work they have done.

6. “Cut out meetings.” Use email as much as possible. Make a wiki for exchanging ideas. This can be done with colleagues or parents. I contact parents very often so they don’t feel a need to have a face to face meeting which is harder for me to schedule.

7. “Declutter your schedule.” If there are things you are doing that are not essential to what needs to be done, stop doing it. Many times I would make too many unnecessary trips to the library and office instead of consolidating all my errands. This freed up 30 minutes of my time.

8. “Re-think your routine.” Think about when you do things and why you do it. Is this the best time to do them? I used to check my email at the end of the day and found out that it really overwhelmed me. If I checked it at lunch time and at the end of the day, I usually didn’t have so many emails to respond to all at once.

9. “Cut back on email.” I learned to make folders in my email and then make a rule to send emails to different folders. Then I could concentrate on only the important ones first and when I had time, I could check and respond to the others. This rule also sent junk mail to one folder and I didn’t even have to waste time sorting through them.

10. “Learn to say no.” Learn to say no. Sometimes we want to impress others or feel like we can’t say no to our friends. Practice different statements so that you can feel comfortable saying them face to face. Statements that worked for me are: “I would love to help but I’m overextended right now. Maybe next time.” Or “ I have already committed myself to some other projects and I wouldn’t be able to give this my best. I don’t want to let you down so maybe next time.” Or “I’ve already committed to spending my free time with my family and I keep my promises to them so I won’t be able to help you this time. It is really hard to tell your administrator these things but many administrators will respect you more if you stand up for your priorities.

11. “Keep your list to 3.” I have started to make myself write down three goals each day. These are the most important things I want to accomplish this day. By writing them down, I find it easier to keep them in focus and usually accomplish them if at all possible. I would try to find one for each category: what I want my students to do in school today, what I want to do with my teaching today, and what I want to do for myself today.

12. “Do your Biggest Rock first.” If at all possible, pick the task of your “To do” list that you hate the most and get it out of the way. Once you do that, the rest of tasks should be a downhill prospect and be easier to get done. Again, I use my colleagues as a sounding board if necessary so they can support and encourage me if possible. Once I verbalize the task, I feel even more obligated to get it done.

13. “Delegate.” If at all possible, let your students help you. They love to help the teacher, no matter what age they are. Teens feel trusted and worthy if the teacher asks them for help.

14. “Cut out distractions.” Many times I have been deep into work when another teacher has stopped to chat and never want to leave. Even though I want to be a good colleague, I know I have to get this work done and then I begin to feel anxious. I have learned to listen for a few minutes (it won’t hurt to take a few minutes break and it is worth it to keep a good relationship with a colleague) but then explain that you would love to hear more, but can you do it at another time because you have a lot of work to do. They may feel a little embarrassed but it is better than feeling resentful and not getting any work done. I have also learned to lock my door and put a note on the door that you are working on a serious project, please disturb only if absolutely necessary. I don’t use this often so when I do, everyone respects it and lets me get my work done.

15. “Disconnect.” Sometimes you have to physically move yourself away from things that distract you. I have taken my work to a corner of the library where no one expects me to be and I get my work done. I have turned off the overhead lights and moved to a corner of the classroom away from the window on the door so no one can see me.

16. “Make use of your mornings.” Mornings are the best time to plan. Just like going to the doctor’s office, he is usually on schedule early in the day but as things get off schedule, by the end of the day, he is very backed up. Try to plan and prioritize early in the day so that when things get backed up, you won’t feel so anxious.

17. “The Golden Right-after-work Time.” Take time after the school day is over to regroup. A good way to do that is to keep a blog and write your reflections in it while things are still fresh in your mind. Blog about your concerns or your successes during this time.

18. “Your evenings.” Spend evenings doing things for yourself and don’t let your teaching consume your life. This is a good way to get burned out quickly. There is more to life than teaching and after you retire from teaching (yes, it will happen), you will need something in your life to turn to.

19. “Lunch breaks.” Do not work consistently through lunch time. I have a friend who never stops for lunch and uses this time to do class stuff. I think if she used her time more wisely, she would have time for lunch. Not only does your body need nutrition, but your brain needs a break too!

Hope you enjoy your free time! If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment with your suggestion!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Teaching & Gardening Part 2

Maybe I should name this post “How to Grow Tomatoes (I mean Students)” but I went with the basic title so I wouldn’t scare anyone else. I really enjoy gardening so much that I tend to look at gardening to see how it relates to teaching. According to Gardening with the Helpful Gardener on How to Grow Tomatoes, here are the points made:

“Not all tomatoes are the same.” I look at students and see them so differently. They all have their own personalities and learning styles. Too many times I see classes where teachers want them all to fit the same mold, think the same things, write the same things, without using any imagination or creativity. Just like it is impossible to have tomatoes that are all the same sizes, flavors, and colors, it is impossible to think that we will have students all the same. We need to look at their individuality and help build on their strengths.

“Tomatoes require plenty of sun.” Students require a lot of nurturing, positive encouragement and good teaching. Without it, students will end up hating schools and learning. For years my husband hated learning because of his bad experiences in school. Once he found out how to help himself (through other support systems), he began to love reading textbooks on his own. If he hadn’t found a way to do this, I don’t think he would have been as successful as he has been. What about the students who are not able to do this?

“As for soil, they will grow in just about anything you throw at them.” Yes, students will learn something no matter what kind of class they are in but is that the best we want for them? Will they grow strong and tall or will they learn some things that may not be in their best interest? Maybe this is how gangs are formed. Maybe they will learn that they hate schools and books. We can’t control all of the things students may learn no matter how much schools and parents try.

“Uniform watering is the key to nice fruit.” Students need consistency. Discipline needs to be consistent in order for it to be effective. I have seen a teacher change her discipline plan every 2 weeks because nothing was working and then she would complain about the students. Well, she wasn’t being consistent if it was changing every 2 weeks!

“As your plants get larger, they will need to be staked in order to support the weight of the fruits as they begin to grow.” We need to support our students as they begin to grow. We need to encourage them as they explore and discover new learning. If it is things we don’t know about, we can help them by learning along side of them.

“DO NOT REFRIGERATE TOMATOES! Ever! Fresh tomatoes start to fall off the flavor wagon as soon as they go below 55°.” If we are supporting and nurturing our students, we can’t just abandon them when we are finished teaching them. I tell my students that once they enter my classroom, they become part of my family and even after they leave, I want them to keep in touch with me. I have tutored students who are no longer in my classroom so they can continue succeeding in others. I have been to weddings and their children’s birthdays years later. I think it is important to keep these connections as much as possible so students don’t feel I was insincere when I said I cared about their future.

So, I feel growing students is a lot like growing tomatoes. You can get tomatoes that fall off the stem before fully mature and ones that die of stem rot; or you can get tomatoes that are fully ripe and become the highlights of your vegetable garden. It is all about how you plant and grow them!

Photo credit: early june ripeness by greenhem

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tagged by Clix for Friday Five

Clix at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable tagged me for this and I thought I would share my answers.

When you go to the beach, lake, or pool, are you more likely to lower yourself gradually into cold water or to take a determined plunge and get it over with? We usually play in the rivers during the summer when we go hiking. I usually wade slowly in up to my waist and then I can’t stand the suspense anymore and plunge in up to my neck.

How is this like (or unlike) your approach to other tasks or ordeals? I hate suspense in movies, in life, and I guess in water! I hate when the principal asks you to come down to his/her office during your free time because he/she wants to talk to you. I would rather they say “about…(whatever they want to talk to you about)” so I wouldn’t worry about it so much. I can’t help myself even if I know I didn’t do anything wrong.

When someone gives you flowers, are you more likely to let them turn completely brown and gross before throwing them out, or to discard them the moment they take on that sick-flower look? I hate to get rid of them and admit to keeping them for way after they are brown and gross. Just looking at them even when they are dead brings back memories of the occasion, the person who sent them, or just an overall good feeling that I don’t want to end.

How is this like (or unlike) your approach to other gifts, purchases, or relationships? I tend to collect things and hate to get rid of anything. I have “stuff” from former students, former colleagues, former schools, former neighbors, etc. You get the picture. We have an attic full of stuff, a shed full of stuff, and even had to rent a storage building somewhere to hold even more stuff.

Think of your favorite movie (or a movie you really like, if you can’t think of a favorite). Some people say that the reasons you love your favorite movie are related to what you value in romantic relationships. How is this true or untrue in your case? I love the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird” so I guess it does relate to what I value. I feel honesty and standing up for what you think is right, standing up for the underdog are so important in relationships. I broke up with someone I was dating in college because he thought I should just keep quiet about anything I disagreed with. He also hated whenever I found a lost child in the store or skating rink and wouldn’t rest until I found it’s mom or dad. That ended that relationship rather quickly. My hubby is just like me and can’t resist helping someone in need which I find extremely caring and loving. We both believe in honesty and standing up to something if we are right (expect when we argue - then I should be right all the time!LOL).

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 07/25/08

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!

Writing Fix – “iPods: Poetry and and Writing Across the Curriculum Promptsusing iPod technology to generate excitement about writing assignments in all curricular areas” I think this would be pretty motivational in getting kids to write.

B. Brainy – “B.Brainy is a place where parents can find cool links to share with their kids. :-)” I really did enjoy checking out these links!

Immune Attack – “an educational video game that introduces basic concepts of human immunology to high school and entry-level college students. Designed as a supplemental learning tool, Immune Attack aims to excite students about the subject, while also illuminating general principles and detailed concepts of immunology.” It does require downloading the game but it looks pretty neat and also comes with a teacher guide and a game guide.

Thinkfinity – “ makes it easy for educators to enhance their classroom instruction with lesson plans, interactive activities and other online resources. also provides a wealth of educational and literacy resources for students, parents and after-school programs. All of's 55,000 standards-based K-12 lesson plans, student materials, interactive tools and reference materials are reviewed by the nation's leading education organizations to ensure that content is accurate, up-to-date, unbiased and appropriate for students. At, you'll find primary source materials, interactive student resources and grade-specific research lists to help you tailor materials to meet your needs.”

Microsoft Training Materials and Resources for Teachers – “…training and curriculum materials for use and replication at no cost. The materials include a range of professional development resources, curriculum and learning materials designed to support teachers in developing further skills, from ICT and using ICT in the delivery of their lessons to investigating new approaches to teaching and learning.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Carnival of Education 07/23/08

The 181st edition of The Carnival of Education is on the midway at Education Wonks. Great entries to ponder and respond to. Don't miss out on a great chance to join the conversation!

Photo credit: Colour My World by carf

Teaching & Gardening

After reading Writing & Gardening, I started thinking about how teaching and gardening were alike since I love to do both. There must be some common characteristics that I enjoy that match my personality. Suzanne gives some profound statements that directly apply to my classroom and teaching style.

“Gardening is about promoting and nurturing growth.” That is exactly what I want to do in my classroom. I want to promote and nurture growth in my classroom. Just like plants who need sunlight and water and soil, my students need encouragement and basically good teaching. I cannot be so negative that I stunt or impede my students’ growth. Sometimes I can be so rigid and inflexible that I expect my students to conform to my ways and in the course of doing that, they may break instead of bend. I need to look at their needs and gear my teaching towards their learning styles instead of expecting them to learn according to my teaching style.

“I must spend some time weeding, lest the weeds obscure my blooms.” I can’t focus so much time on the students who don’t want to learn or who are misbehaving. I need to focus on the students who are learning and succeeding. Maybe the attention these students are getting will encourage the non-producing students to participate. Sometimes we give too much negative attention to the non-producing students to where it is more of a pay-off to not produce than to actually do something.

“No one ever compliments a garden because it is weed-free.” If I see a classroom where all of the students are sitting quietly at their desks and no one is saying or doing anything, I wonder if they are really learning anything. I think a big part of learning involves discussions and debates. I feel students need to share their ideas and opinions in order to formulate new ideas and opinions. Also, as a teacher, I would find a class like this boring. It would be boring to teach students who are all from the same cookie cutter form, spitting back to me what they think I want to hear. To me, I’m not teaching them what they need to survive in the real world if they do this. If students have a different opinion than I do, I like to try to persuade them that I am right and by doing this, both of us grow from this experience and I am showing them that learning is a lifelong experience for all.

These are some of the reasons my classroom has been successful. What makes your classroom successful?

Photo credit: rainbow series 1 by mick y

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fear and Ignorance about Technology Needs to Stop

In the article Collaboration….Blocked by a Firewall Near You, Heather talks about how many sites are blocked in schools and states,
“… by blocking many of the online sites for collaboration from our schools, we as educators have censored the very tools of collaboration that this generation of students speaks. By blocking blogging sites, wiki sites, YouTube, etc…we are also blocking our students from the tools of their future.”

I think many sites are blocked because school systems are scared and ignorant. I don’t mean that in a nasty way but ignorance makes people scared. In fact it is scary to think that school systems are scared because they don’t know enough. School board members are politicians and it isn’t “what you know” that is important but who you know and how will it affect the next election. Many don’t go into the position planning on being politicians but it becomes a political arena once they enter it. They are pulled in all directions from all different sides and they have to do the politically correct thing because the decisions they make can determine whether they will get reelected or not. Until school board members get informed about technology and learn to use it in order to support the schools, I feel this will be a constant battle that schools have to fight.

I really liked the list Heather comes up with about issues and how she responds to them.

"Reasons NOT to use technology (and my refutations):
1. The legal issues are scary: what if a student writes inappropriate content online? Um, have you ever seen the desktop at the back of the classroom? It covers vocab no teacher dares to mention.
2. The teacher education and support necessary to train teachers is scary. Do it anyway. Teachers need to be on the forefront of curriculum, not in its wake.
3. Adding more to a teacher’s plate is scary. Of course it is, but take something off rather than put more on. Have an administrator cover yard duty so that you can actually focus on teaching instruction and practice for your next class.
4. Kids knowing more than the teachers is scary (to some teachers). Or it can be a very powerful tool. Regardless of your philosophies, the gap ever widens as we ignore its existence.
5. Some students don’t have access to technology at home so how can we expect them to do it? Well, many homes don’t have libraries either so it’s a school’s job to step up and provide. Even though some students may not have access to a computer at home, the school needs to see its role in equalizing the differences between those who have it and those who do not.
Technology is the great information equalizer."

Here are my thoughts about her list:
1. That is true about terrible things written on desks but as a teacher, I check these desks and ask that they be cleaned or replaced so other students do not have to see this. Yes, the legal issues are scary but we need to teach our students about digital citizenship instead of ignoring the need and refusing to deal with it. If we don’t teach it, they will not get it.
2. Teachers need to take an active position in learning technology and not a passive one. I observed a teacher who told me that his students were teaching him how to use the smart board because he didn’t have a clue. I think it’s great that his students were involved but I didn’t see where he was making any effort to learn things unless his students showed him how. This is not how a teacher should model learning. It would be great if the teacher came in telling the students a new thing that he had learned on his own to share with the class. This should be an exchange of ideas and not one sided.
3. Once you get over the learning curve, technology could actually relieve some of a teacher’s work load. I have found that I don’t need to “reinvent the wheel” and many things are available to me online that I had been making from scratch. I have also found a support system which has also helped me tremendously.
4. Many of my students knew how to do things that I didn’t know how to do. This is a great way to teach collaboration and focus on a person’s strengths rather than weaknesses. A teacher cannot be effective if he/she has an inferiority complex.
5. This is the one item that I disagree with. I don’t feel it is the school’s responsibility to provide for all students but I do feel that the school should help students and parents see all possibilities. Not all students have cars so schools should teach them how to access public transportation. Not all students have computers so schools should teach students/parents how to access computers at their local libraries.

We really need to look at the big picture when we block sites from our schools. Are we doing more harm than good? Are we holding back our students and causing them to fall behind students from other schools where these sites are not blocked? Are we letting our fear override our good judgement? Is our fear stopping us from being successful in the classroom? I hope not but if it is, we need to take action now.
Photo credit: ignorance by mcbeth

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Highlighting Students’ Talents

I first saw this video in Yoyo Kid in the Open Thinking & Digital Pedagogy blog which totally amazed me.

Watching this made me think of all kinds of questions:
1. How much does he practice this?
2. How long has he been doing this?
3. Has his mom told him not to do that in the house?
4. How many things has he broken in the house by a flying yoyo?
5. Has he demonstrated this in school?
6. Has he been reprimanded for doing this in school?
7. Has he done this during class and disrupted the class?
8. What is his behavior like in class?
9. Is he more interested in doing this than paying attention in class?
10. Does he do his homework?
11. Do other adults praise his talent?
12. What is his self esteem like?
I wonder if schools highlight students’ talents enough. I had a student who was extremely talented with a skateboard. In fact he would have his friends videotape him on the skateboard and many times show me the CD of him skateboarding. He loved skateboarding and anything about skateboarding so I tried to gear his lessons around skateboarding. I found articles for him to read about skateboarding and let him write up persuasive arguments on why he felt it was a safe sport. I also let him videotape a commercial (which he has to prepare and write up) about skateboarding and he also wrote a paper about the history of skateboarding. He did a presentation for the class about ramp building and all the things that have to be taken into consideration in order to build the ramp. I was very interested in his talent and he knew it so he was a wonderful student in my class with very little behavior problems. Unfortunately he had been diagnosed with ADHD and had issues with impulsivity so I tried to take that into account was preparing lessons for him.

Even though he was great for me and I was able to gear lessons to meet his needs and accommodate his interests, this did not happen in other classes. His behavior was atrocious (according to other teachers) and they could not control him. He would not fit into the “mold” that other students did. Because he had little interest in the subject, he would not pay attention or complete assignments. This was a shame because this boy was very smart and charming but other teachers hated him. I would ask him why he was so good for me and not others and he looked at me and said, “You like me and wouldn’t let me get away with any of that.” He felt the other teachers didn’t like him but he knew I cared and that made a big difference to him. It makes me sad to hear that after I retired, he quit eleventh grade. I felt like if I had stayed, he might have finished so I’m feeling guilty about that (but that is a whole other story).

I believe if teachers found out about students’ talents (teachers may have to dig for this), it would affect their relationships with their students. The yoyo kid obviously has the ability to focus and learn new things and persist until he gets it right. So did my skateboard boy. How do we harness this enthusiasm for the classroom? How can we learn from these students in order to make the classroom successful for them? I think we have to start by getting to know the students and find out their interests and abilities outside the classroom. If possible, integrate their interests into the lessons in order to hold their attention. We need to not take it personally when a student misbehaves in our classroom and think of how we can preempt the bad behavior so being in class can be a positive event for all involved. Let the students showcase their talents which will build up their self esteem. By doing some of these things, maybe schools will be a place where students want to stay and learn.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More Reflections on the Act of Teaching

In the post Never Stop Learning, Jen makes some very important points that had me reflect on my own ideas about teaching:

1. It is fun to learn something new especially if it turns out better than expected.
2. You reach more people if you can teach one and they can go out and teach others.
3. Keep trying.
4. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something.

Jen talks about working with another teacher using a program that Jen didn’t think was so great. But working together, she found out that it worked out better than expected. If Jen had not had an open mind, she could have resisted helping this teacher at all. Or she could have shared her negative thoughts with this teacher and started a downhill spiral about technology. Her willingness to try and the success will go a long way to encouraging others to do the same thing and I hope I can be a model like this for my colleagues.

I think it was great that this teacher was willing to help another one. Again, this shows what a great job Jen did in helping this teacher. Obviously she made the learning steps manageable and easy to understand which gave this teacher confidence. The teacher knew she could always come back to Jen for help if necessary. Do I do that for my students? I need to take a look at whether I’m having the same impact on my students. Do I also give students the freedom to help each other learn without considering it cheating? If students teach one another, their new information is retained longer because they are able to apply their knowledge. I need to make sure that I give my students opportunities to do this.

In the process of tweaking her blog, Jen is trying new things and in the process learning. She is also sharing this with us through her blog which allows for comments and suggestions that might help her. Again this willingness to experiment and openness to others may actually help her be more successful. Sometimes students learn more by investigation and exploration than just being told what to do. Again, I need to make sure that students are given opportunities to do this. By doing this, students will gain confidence and willingness to try more and more things. As a teacher, I can be their safety net rather than dragging them through the learning process.

It is really hard to admit that you don’t know something or that you need help. I think in society we are brought up to consider this a sign of weakness. We don’t want our bosses to think we are incompetent if we don’t know something. Yet, I think it shows greater strength if you can admit that you don’t know something and are seeking the answers to help. The weakness lies in accepting that you don’t know something you need to know and making no effort to seek the answers. That is why it is so important to have a professional learning network, whether in real life or virtual because there is always someone out there who is more than willing to help or can direct you to others who might be able to help.

How do you feel about these ideas? Do you agree or disagree? Please let me know.

Photo credit: team work by Omar Eduardo

Friday, July 18, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 07/18/08

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!

Big Universe – read books or create your own

Exalead – a search engine that lets you see the actual web page; "it also gives categories in the lateral columns to narrow down the search and provides as well a global search over Wikipedia"

Read the Words – tell what you want to read (can be a word document, pdf, html), then choose a reader, it will read it to you or you can download it as an mp3.

Secrets about Presidents – fun trivia for kids. They love to find out secrets and it is fun for teachers too. I learned some things I never knew about.

The Everyday Life Project – “The Everyday Life project uses interactive, situation-based lessons to teach functional literacy skills. This new approach to learning allows learners to apply their basic literacy skills to real-world situations so they can gain the confidence and skills to be successful.”

Photo credit: toolbox full by Austin ampersand Zak

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Do You Know Where You Are Going?

Here is a great children’s story called The North Star that you can read online. It is a wonderful story that even adults should take note. You choose your character and the story begins. At one point in the story, my little character talks about exploring the world, “"Oh, but I HAVE been on a journey! I've seen many wonderful things."

I need to do the same thing when I am introducing new concepts, skills, and technology to our students and I need to do the same thing when I am introducing new technology to colleagues. I need to make make the world an exciting place to explore and make the students/colleagues curious enough to want more. I need to make them excited about the new things they learn and make them want to learn more. Not only do I want them to learn it but I want them to use it.
Just like a small child who learns by experiencing the world just by touching, seeing, feeling, hearing, and playing, I need to make sure that the new learner is able to experience the same things. Small children are constantly learning and are so enthusiastic to learn. Why have I joined others and changed the learning environment into straight rows and lectures? How could I think this was more important than touching, seeing, feeling, or experiencing the actual learning? Would it be better to teach a student to cook by having him read a recipe book or actually make something by following a recipe?

Now that the economy has gone in a downward spiral, how can I help new learners to get these experiences? I heard on the news today that local schools are being discouraged from taking field trips because of high gas prices. Teachers will need to see how to bring students on virtual field trips. Maybe they can invite people into their classrooms using Skype. If you can’t go to the art museum, maybe go to specific pictures of the art and have the art curator talk to the class over Skype about the art. Brainstorm with other teachers (in your real world or virtual world) about how to bring the world into the classroom.

Before teachers are able to engage students in this kind of learning, teachers will have to learn these tools also. Again high gas prices are affecting teachers going away to professional development opportunities. I have heard where many schools are letting teachers go to workshops because of the economy. Professional learning does not have to stop because of that. Why not get a group together at your own school? Have teachers talk about a new tool they want to learn or a project they want to do. Then everyone researches what they can about and get back together to share information. The other day someone on my Twitter network wanted to try out this tool called Twiddla and asked people to join her in trying it out. You could do the same thing with people at your own school and still invite your virtual friends to help out. When I see events like this, I think the options are limitless. We need to use all of the resources that are available.

The world is an exciting place and we need to experience it and we need to help other experience it too!

Photo credit: The Great Orion Nebula by DJMcCrady

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Teaching vs. Stroke Recovery

I recently read the book My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor which I felt had some important messages for teachers. There is a direct relationship between how she was treated and how she felt to the way teachers teach. I think teachers would really benefit from reading this book and hopefully change the way they think, teach, and react to students. I have quoted some of the passages and shared my reflections about them.

“I remind you that although I was mentally disabled, I was not unconscious.” P. 71

“Dr. David Greer was a kind and gentle young man. He was genuinely sympathetic to my situation and took the time to pause during his busy routine to lean down near my face and speak softly to me. He touched my arm to reassure me that I would be okay. Although I could not understand his words, it was clear to me that Dr. Greer was watching over me. He understood that I was not stupid but that I was impaired. He treated me with respect.” P. 75

“I chose to show up for those professionals who brought me energy by connecting with me, touching me gently and appropriately, making direct eye contact with me, and speaking calmly. I responded positively to positive treatment. The professionals who did not connect with me sapped my energy, so I protected myself by ignoring their requests.” P. 82

Even though she had trouble understanding and processing, she could understand tone of voice and body language. As a teacher, I need to keep this in mind when I’m teaching students. They may have difficulty understanding the concept but they can still tell whether I care about them and respect them by my tone of voice and body language. If a student respects me and feels I really care, they tend to work harder for me. Many times I have heard my students tell me that they didn’t like a certain teacher because the teacher didn’t care about them. I have seen these students just shut down in these classes. How many times have I heard other teachers say hurtful things about students and then comment that the student wouldn’t understand anyway so it didn’t matter? Or sometimes I have heard a teacher talk condescendingly to a student and it was so obvious that there was no respect for the student at all. I feel my special education students expend a lot of energy trying to concentrate and focus on learning but sometimes it is just so hard for them. When they become distracted or overwhelmed, it is time for me to step back and just let the student get to a point where they feel safe and secure again. As long as they are distracted or overwhelmed, I will not be able to teach them anything because they have shut down. I need to be more in tune to what the student is saying by looking at facial expressions and body language even if they don’t verbalize their feelings.

“I needed the people around me to believe in the plasticity of my brain and its ability to grow, learn, and recover.” P. 112

My students needed to believe that teaching them was not a waste of time. I have had many students ask me why I wasted my time and I had to tell them over and over that it was not a waste of time. I don’t think teaching students or helping them learn (even if it is something small) is ever a waste of time and try to tell them that I learn something new every day. As people, we are lifelong learners whether we want to be or not. If I can help make this learning easier or help them learn something they want to know, it will never be a waste of time.

“I needed people to celebrate the triumphs I made everyday because my successes, no matter how small, inspired me.” P. 118

My students needed constant encouragement and acknowledgement of their small successes. When a baby is learning to walk, every little step is celebrated and encouraged. I need to remember this when my students make these baby steps in learning. Usually teenagers won’t tell you that they want and need this encouragement but I feel it is basic human nature to want and need this. When I crochet something or make a scrapbook page, I want my husband to tell me that it looks great or he can tell how hard I work. It doesn’t matter if I’m young or old, people like to have others celebrate their triumphs.

I hope by making these adjustments in my teaching, I will help students be more successful.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My New Outlook About Homework

After seeing this video on Never Lecture In Class Again, I have a whole new outlook on homework. I believed that homework taught responsibility and independence. But many of my students had problems working on homework at home because they still needed a lot of one on one support. When they became frustrated, they would shut down and not complete the homework. This video would be a great way for all students to be successful with their homework.

In this video, the teachers videotape their lectures and students watch the video at home for homework. Some students can watch it on their computers and for those students without computers, the video is sent home on a DVD. I know all of my students have a DVD player so that wouldn’t be a problem in my classes. I haven’t done this but I guess students could even download it onto Ipods. At the recent Upstate Technology Conference, I learned that my district even has classroom sets of Ipods for teachers. Some teachers send the Ipods home with the children to listen to lectures.

By having students use their homework time listening to the classroom lecture, it allows classroom time to be used for applying this knowledge. The teacher is available for help and this will relieve some students’ frustrations when they have difficulties. Students can ask specific questions about the lecture that they didn’t understand or need clarification. It also allows for group work and discussion. Students could work on projects to show that they understand the new concept or skill and show they know how to apply this information. What a great way to use classroom time more efficiently! Parents would also be able to see what their children are learning and have informed discussions at home.

With technology becoming more available, teachers need to look at different strategies for teaching students. Teaching the same old ways may not be effective anymore. I’m sure that during pioneer days, the slate board was new technology for the times. But when it was time to scrap it to try newer things, our educational system has not been hurt by taking this risk. This strategy is one of those things that should be tried in the classroom. It might not be feasible to do all of your lectures this way but if you teach the same topics every year, this may actually free you to do other things. If you see where student achievement is increasing by doing this, you can increase videotaping more and more lessons. I think it would be a great way to help students be more successful.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

In Quick Video Share: Quality Multimedia Takes Years to Master, Clay Burrell shares a video where Ira Glass talks about mistakes he made when he first started. He recommends that you make deadlines and complete things no matter how many mistakes you make. You learn more by completing and learning from your mistakes then from spending all your time perfecting one thing.

This made me think about my teaching career. With my special education students, sometimes you couldn’t spend the time to perfect one strategy because different strategies worked differently for different students. Plus on any given day, what worked yesterday may not work today. I didn’t spend a lot of time asking why but spend more time on how can I help them and what can I do differently. The more strategies I put in my “bag of tricks”, the more I had to choose from as I worked with more and more students. This strategy building is part of what I think a good teacher is all about. If I organized these strategies in some way that I can pull them out easily, it makes teaching easier. Sometimes I would actually discuss different strategies with the students and have them help decide which one to try next. I notice this is what the doctor is doing with my husband’s ear aches. He has tried several different things and we go back if it isn’t working. The doctor and my husband discuss what the results are and then the doctor changes some things and sends us home to try something new. There has to be this same communication between teachers and students in order to help the students be more successful.

I feel we also need to encourage students to try even if the final result isn’t perfect. The more they try something the better they will get. I try to relate this to my crocheting. When I first learned to crochet, some of my stitches were too loose and some too tight. It was the perfect looking afghan I ever made but I felt so good about myself when I finished it. Sure, it had mistakes and could have been better but I knew the next one I made would be better. I learned why it was important to have the right tension on the yarn but if I hadn’t seen the final product, I would not have learned this lesson. We need to let students finish something instead of expecting perfection in the final product. As teachers, we need to encourage the effort as much as the end result. Yes, we want them to do things the right way, but we need to let them learn from their mistakes. This is a real life situation because when the students get out in the real world, they will make mistakes and they need to learn that it isn’t the end of the world. Having students look at their final product and have them reflect on what they did right as well as wrong is very important. If students can’t see that they did anything right, they will give up and stop trying. Many teachers do not recognize the effort students put into something and just grade the final product. If the student did the best they could and thought they succeeded, only to get an F as a grade, they tend to give up and don’t see much reason to keep on trying. After looking at the positive things, I then have them reflect on what they could have done differently to make this even better. This is where the major learning takes place. If they can see their mistakes and change them in the future, haven’t we done our job? When teachers give a grade and then move on to another topic, when does the student learn how to correct the mistakes? Without knowing where they went wrong, they will continue to make the same mistakes over and over. Students need to make mistakes, correct them, and apply their knowledge to a new situation. This will make students more successful in the classroom and in real life situations.

Photo credit: erasing by dweebydude5

Friday, July 11, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 07/11/08

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!

The Ultimate Guide to Special Needs Teaching: 100+ Resources and Links – “this massive list of resources will help you research different disorders and conditions, review special lesson plans, and find the support you need to work with your students and help them succeed.”

Toondoo is a comic creating tool for kids (and adults too!)

National Library of Virtual Manipulativesa is a “library of uniquely interactive, web-based virtual manipulatives or concept tutorials, mostly in the form of Java applets, for mathematics instruction (K-12 emphasis).”

NASA for educators – great resource for teaching materials on different topics.

26 Learning Games to Change the World – great list of free learning games that can be used in the classroom.

Photo credit: toolbox full by Austin ampersand Zak

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carnival of Education 7/9/08

The 179th edition of the Carnival of Education has hit the midway at Scheiss Weekly. Come see what articles are under the big top (even one of my posts is included!) Don’t miss out on a chance to read some interesting articles!

Photo credit: Colour My World by carf

Education in the Surfing World

In the article Wisdom of the Wave, Laird Hamilton says that in every new experience he applies lessons he has learned on the water. I thought I would use his lessons and apply them to the classroom.

1. KNOW THAT YOU ARE A SPECK ON THE WATER. As a teacher, I sometimes think things should revolve around my classroom and my students. I need to remember that a principal needs to look at the whole school when making a decision. The Superintendent needs to look at the whole school district. Even if things don’t work out for me, I need to remember that it isn’t always all about me.
2. GO BIG OR GO HOME. I can’t “kind of” teach. I can’t only the good students or the students who seem to get it faster than others. I need to teach all of the students and attempt to meet all of their needs. I can’t do a mediocre job because I have a lot of influence that can affect students for the rest of their lives.
3. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. Your instinct will go a long way when teaching. Sometimes you will know you did a good job with a student because you will know it in your heart. If something doesn’t feel right, you need to listen to your instincts and look for another way.

4. UNDERSTAND YOU'RE NOT IN CONTROL. Teachers cannot control students no matter what kind of classroom management you use. You can only hope to change their behavior. Sometimes this may only work by changing your own behavior. Students may behave differently on any given day and you need to understand that there is nothing you can do to control this.
5. GET WET. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Sometimes when you just bite the bullet and try something, you will find out that it turns out better than you thought.

6. PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE. Talk to others about some of your difficulties. You might find out things are not as bad as you think or you might find that it helps to get someone’s opinion. Don’t keep things to yourself and let it get blown out of proportion.

7. KEEP LEARNING. Teaching and learning go hand in hand. It is a lifelong process. There are always need technology tools being developed or new research being shared. Teachers need to be on top of current research in their field.

8. BE DETERMINED. Don’t give up. Keep trying because student’s need this kind of role model. When they hit a difficult spot, they need to know that you can relate to what they are feeling.

9. DON'T GET STALE. Work on professional development. Think about what you can learn from others and also what can you add to the conversation. Professional development should be a two way street.

10. DON'T JUDGE. Be careful about thinking your way of teaching is the only way. It may be the only way for you but not for others. Different students may respond to different teachers because not all teachers teach the same way. Don’t think that students should only learn your way.

Photo credit: yago boedo saliendo de la cavern by lolapaipro

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Coincidence or Not?

I was listening to an Oprah podcast as she interviewed Dr. Wayne Dwyer, when the conversation came to the definitions of the words coincide and coincidence. According to the Free Dictionary, one definition of coincide is: To agree exactly. Yet the word coincidence according the Free Dictionary is: a chance occurrence. One implies it is meant to be and the other word means that it is an accident. I found it interesting that both words with the same root can be used to mean completely opposite ideas.

Now you are probably wondering where I am going with all this, so hang in there with me and I’ll try to get to the point. I started to think about when I retired from teaching public school and how I thought it was the end of my teaching career and how I would miss it. Yet, in fact, this has resulted in the complete opposite. Since then I’ve been asked to teach on the university level to teachers in the master’s program, I have contracted with the school district to evaluate teachers, I have done professional development for different organizations, I have been involved in a daily blog to help new and struggling teachers, and I’ve connected with others in the educational field all over the world. Is this an accident or was it meant to be?

I had taught in a school for eleven years and expected to retire while teaching there. Unfortunately circumstances came about where I didn’t want to teach there anymore. It was heartbreaking to me to look for another job but I found a new position quickly. Once I started my new job, I realized that this was meant to be. It was a wonderful job with wonderful colleagues and a wonderful administration. If I hadn’t taken the risk, I would have missed this chance to experience something really worthwhile. At the time I was very anxious and apprehensive about making a new beginning. I imagine that many teachers even feel this way when they see new technology come out but maybe if they give it a chance, it will end up being something great.

This year I have joined twitter, started reading many educational blogs (as well as personal ones), made new friends and connections, attended professional development activities through ustream and podcasts, and even attended the Upstate Technology Conference. By being involved in all of these, I have grown professionally in ways that I never imagined. I have had to rethink my philosophies and retune the ones I feel strongly about. By being connected with others, I have been able to learn so much in the way of strategies for the classroom as well as technology use in the classroom. I believe these connections were meant to be and didn’t happen by accident. I’m not sure where this is all heading to but I’m sure enjoying the ride.

In my heart, I believe there are reasons things happen and that they are meant to be. Sometimes when we look at the future right in front of us, we don’t see where the road is leading us. Yet, when we look back, it is easy to see the way we’ve come and where we were headed. Sometimes we just have to have a little faith in things that were meant to be. Many teachers have decided this summer to transfer to new schools, start new jobs, or even get out of the field of teaching. I hope that when it comes time to make these decisions, as long as you know in your heart that it is the right thing to do, it will all work out all right.

Photo credit: A walk into the bamboo paths by El fotopakismo

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

To Tell or Not to Tell

Reading Disabled and Driven made me think of many parallels that my students face in their school environment. The article talks about a woman who has learning disabilities and is facing difficulties at work. It states, “The years she spent perfecting ways to do her job -- working twice as hard as co-workers to make sure her work surpassed his expectations -- made her disability invisible. And apparently, unacceptable.”

Many of my students face the same difficulties in the classroom and will face them again when they get out into the real world. Unless my students have a physical disability or obvious mental disability, teachers and students expect my students to be like “everyone else.” Most of the time if my students have a learning disability, you would never know it unless you were made aware of it. My students have learned how to mask it in order to hide their disability from their peers. They may act up or act like a clown as a defense mechanism because they feel if you are dealing with their behavior, you won’t notice their learning problems. Many general education teachers get suckered into this all of the time.

One year I taught a boy who was hit by a car in middle school and suffered traumatic brain injury. He had gone from the gifted program with all his gifted friends, to a learning disabilities classroom with students who had learning problems. This caused major problems not just with learning but with socialization also. Unless you know about the accident, this boy looked and acted as everyone else. Unfortunately he was filled with anger at the results of the accident and had extreme learning difficulties that he never had before. Teachers in the general education classroom expected him to be like everyone else and had difficulties with the accommodations because he “seemed so normal.” The parents and I had to fight for every little thing for him which was extremely frustrating. Many times I would have to go to the administration about problems which caused a lot of conflict between me and the general education teachers.

Another one of my students was a charmer. All of the students loved him, especially the girls. He was a very handsome boy and loved the attention. When he was in general education classes, he usually got some girl to do his homework (and classwork at times), but he couldn’t pass the tests. Teachers would accuse him of being lazy, and this spilled over to the parents. Needless to say, this student’s self esteem went right down the tubes. Since he was such a social person, teachers would overlook the fact that he had a learning disability and forget to give him the accommodations that were required. Of course, he would never ask for them or bring it to the teacher’s attention because that would make him different and open to ridicule by the other students.

I work very hard in my classroom on self advocacy. I think it is important that my students understand they have a disability (I don’t usually focus on labels) and think about what they need in order to be successful. Many parents are afraid for their children to know this but I feel it is important for the parents and the students accept this fact and move on past it. I don’t use a lot of time on the disability as much as strategies necessary for success. We talk about different ways to handle situations in the general education classroom including role playing these situations.

I also think it is important that my students develop a portfolio to show future employers. Included in the portfolio are pictures of my students at a workplace as well as recommendations from school personnel. We also include evaluations from employers in this portfolio. I am torn as to whether they should be up front with employers about their disability and sometimes the student needs to make this call themselves during the interview. If they feel it could hinder them getting the job, they may decide not to share this information. An employer is not supposed to discriminate against them because of their disability but this is hard to prove in court so usually goes uncontested.

What do you think? Should students tell a prospective employer about their disability? Why or why not.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Coping with Bullies

I saw this video Andrew Sings Pie Jesu recommended on someone’s blog and thought, “Oh no, another Idol contestant.” I have to admit that after seeing this, it was truly amazing. I think all students should be shown something like this. This young boy overcame his fear and sang a beautiful song with the most awesome voice. He even told that he was bullied most of his life because he was different than the other kids. He didn’t like the same music and that made him different. When asked how he handled it, he said that he kept singing. What an inspiration this young boy was!

I know what he was feeling because I was bullied a lot in my school days. I was the only Chinese girl in my school for many years and this made me different. Then to top it all off, I played an accordion (in the 60s and 70s, NOONE played an accordion! It was the time of guitars and rock music). My parents were proud of me because I ranked #5 in my state of all accordion players in my age group, so they bragged about me to everyone. I just wanted to crawl in a hole and die. I enjoyed playing the accordion because I loved music, but this talent stayed hidden, even for many years after I graduated college. Growing up, I remember being harassed and called names when no adults were present, which of course is the way bullies usually work. Of course I didn’t want anybody to know I was being bullied because it embarrassed me. Not only was I different but I was also not strong enough to fight a bully and I knew how weak it made me look. Unlike this boy, I didn’t have a choice because I couldn’t change my nationality and my parents wouldn’t let me give up my accordion, so I saw no way to cope with these behaviors. For many years it chipped away at my self esteem and made me feel very awkward in social situations. It took a lot of courage at his age to continue what he loved doing despite the bullies.

As a teacher, I feel it is my job to do all that I can to make sure my students are safe in class and not bullied. Of course I can not control their behavior outside my classroom but I can equip my students with tools to help them cope with the bullies. A great way to begin the discussion is to ask students ways that children bully each other. I do not ask who has been bullied because no one wants to admit that they were bullied. Students can be like a pack of wild animals and if another student admits this, it shows a sign of weakness that the others will jump on. Once students brainstorm ways that others get bullied, they can begin to work together to find ways to cope with bullies. Sometimes it will also help them band together when they leave the classroom. This discussion has given some students courage to stick up for their fellow classmates in the lunchroom. Others were not aware that some students were bullying others and this made them more alert to the fact. Others have even felt comfortable reporting it to a teacher so action could be taken because they were afraid that it could happen to them next. Sometimes when these terrorizing acts are brought out in the open and dealt with, the bullies lose their strength. Those being bullied gain more confidence and there is a shift in power. If I could focus on students’ strengths and give them confidence, maybe they will be the one with the power and not the other way around. By shutting down a bully’s power, I could concentrate on that bully’s strength in order to build their self esteem too. This will help everyone involved be more successful, not just in the classroom, but in life too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 07/04/08

Happy 4th of July to everyone in the USA!

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!

Educational Technology Clearinghouse – great links to digital resources

Academic Skill Builders – great links to educational games

More for the Science Teachers: Another Collection of Science Stuff: A blog that gives great links to science stuff. Check it out!

Lookybook – you can look at picture books from cover to cover and read the summary and reviews to decide if you want to buy it.

Hunkin’s Experiments – fun experiments with food, sound, light, clothes and lots more.

Photo credit: toolbox full by Austin ampersand Zak

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Frustration over Discipline

After reading these two articles: Court overturns father's grounding of 12-year-old and Canadian Psychic Accuses Mother of Child Molestation, I wonder how many times that we don’t give parents enough credit for handling their own children. After a day of frustration, I have heard many teachers complain that the parents have no control over their children. Then I see articles like the ones above and it makes me rethink this opinion. If the court system is going to undermine the parents about discipline, what is a parent to do?

As a parent I have grounded my children many times for inappropriate things they had done. I admit to spanking my children when they were young also. Now spanking could be considered abuse to some but I feel that is a matter of opinion. Of course my wonderful husband tells me to calm down because both of these stories only tell one side of the story and we don’t know all the facts. That may be true, then the media needs to be more responsible when reporting this information. When students see things like this in the news, many may see it as a way to manipulate their parents. This can cause many parents to feel helpless in situations when they need to be strong and firm. I understand in the second story that the teacher was forced to report this but stories like this make me glad I’m not raising young children today.

A few months ago on our local news, a man was arrested for child neglect. Apparently his 13 year old son backtalked to the dad and the dad put the teen out of the car about 1 mile from his house and told him to walk home. Keep in mind that this young man has walked this route and area many times on his own. Instead he chose to go to the police department and whine about how he was an abused child and the dad gets arrested. And as teachers we wonder why this teen talks disrespectfully to his teachers. If this teen goes into school and talks disrespectfully to the teachers, hopefully the school will take action. How can the parents support the school? Apparently they can’t ground the child because the court won’t let them. What will happen when the courts start saying that schools can’t discipline students for inappropriate behavior? Who will teach these students that there are consequences for their actions if there are no consequences for their actions? How do we help these students be successful in the real world? I don’t have the answers but the questions have me pretty frustrated.

Photo credit: Why or why? by cayusa

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Must Read Blogs by Teachers

I made it on the list of 50 Must-Read Up and Coming Blogs by Teachers by Teaching and I'm so excited! The intro reads:
"Whether you’re new to the teaching field yourself or a seasoned veteran, you can find inspiration, advice and shared experiences by reading the blogs of other teachers. Both established bloggers and those new to the game like the bloggers listed here can offer some interesting and sometimes entertaining reading material for anyone involved in the education field. Check these new bloggers out the next time you’re looking for something educational to read."

I hope you get a chance to stop by and check out this list!

Carnival of Education 7/2/08

The 178th edition of the Carnival of Education has hit the midway at An (Aspiring) Educator's Blog. One of my posts has even made it under the big tent! Come check it out and read all the interesting information available. You don't want to miss out on anything so please go check them out. See you there!

The Journey is More Important than the Destination

In Life=Risk, Jenny Luca says “I think it’s good to be reminded that not everyone who has succeeded in life had an easy road to success…Anytime you tackle something new you take a risk and you have to be prepared to wear the possibility of failure.” What a great thing for teachers to model for our students! I like to try something new every school year and I explain to my students that sometimes it will work well and sometimes it is a flop. But it was worth it just to try. Many of my students have failed at so many things academically by the time they get into high school that they seem too worn down by the failures. It almost seems cruel to have them try new skills because they might fail but it really isn’t. I try to explain to them that sometimes with traveling; it is the journey that is more important than the destination. I have to motivate them so they are willing to take the risk and try for more rather than accepting people’s opinions that they they have learning difficulties and they will never amount to anything. The real failure is not trying, not the lack of succeeding.

As my husband and I travel, we try to map out a general itinerary but along the way, this may change. We might see something we want to stop and see but if we hadn’t been traveling, we wouldn’t have known this. Whenever we stop somewhere we ask the locals what they suggest that we see and do and sometimes we like their ideas and take time to explore them. Sometimes there is a detour and we have to take a different route whether we want to or not. This detour can sometimes lead us to an unexpected adventure that turns out wonderful. Sometimes the weather is bad where we are heading and we have to change our plans in order to go someplace that has better weather. These little changes usually end up having positive results for us but if it didn’t, the positives have outweighed the negatives. Of course these changes are like a ripple effect and means that we may not go as far as we had hoped, or it costs us more money than we expected.

This is the same way with my students. They need to know that they might enjoy their journey of learning as they head for a specific destination. Of course it might take longer or seem like they have to work harder than expected but the end result is not as important as what they learn along the way. Graduation might be the end result but along the way they may learn coping skills, social skills, make better friends, and learn different things than expected. By asking for help or seeking answers in different ways, this does not signal failure but rather improves the journey. Students might also decide on changing their destination but if they didn’t even attempt to make this journey, none of this would happen.

As a teacher, it is important that I teach the students how to map out their journey, and accept that changes along the way are expected. I need to encourage them not to “park the car” out of fear and anxiety. I also need to help them appreciate the journey and the wonderful things that happen along the way. As a teacher, I can influence the journey and make it a fantastic trip or a miserable drudge and I hope that I can influence them in the right direction towards a successful trip.

Photo credit: Which way do you want me to go? By Vincent Ma