Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Podcast Episode #3 Connections

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Show Notes:

Music by Danny O'Flaherty http://www2.blogger.com/

Books mentioned:
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Drenched in Light by Lisa Wingate

Websites mentioned:
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/
Plurk http://www.plurk.com/
The Secret Life of Bees Study Guide http://studyguidesecretlifeofbees.wikispaces.com/
Oovoo http://www.oovoo.com/
Phonevite http://phonevite.com/
10 Secrets to Great Teaching http://www.slideshare.net/zaid/10-secrets-to-great-teaching
Google Earth Lessons http://www.atsolutions.info/google_earth/index.asp

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Do I Do With These Kids?

“Johnny and Gina are troublemakers and Betty and Frank won’t talk!” In Can We Reach Every Student, Joel asks, “What are some of the most effective techniques you have found to reach these (the troublemakers and the quiet ones)? This made me think of ways that I try to engage all of the learners in my class.

At the beginning of the year I like for my students to fill out a survey which serves many purposes throughout the year. It is an introduction at the beginning, it tells me their learning styles, and things that motivate them. I ask questions like:
· Do you like to: hear new information or read new information?
· Do you like to: take written tests, give an oral report, or make things to show you understood the material?
· Which of these rewards would you rather have: break pass (3 min. to get water or take a break out in the hall) or library pass when work is done or candy
· Would you like to: lead a group discussion or write notes for a group?
· Do you like: learning as a big group or prefer a small group?
· Do you feel better: sitting at your desk quietly working or like to move around when working?
These are just a few examples of what I ask the kids and they are pretty honest about answering them. I tell them that this will help me tailor lessons so that they can be more successful. Many of them have told me that they have had this discussion with other teachers and nothing ever comes out of it and so I have to convince them that I am different.

I like to look at my “troublemakers” and decide what motivates them to make trouble. Are they bored? Are they overwhelmed? Are they frustrated? I like to meet with the student and explain that we have a problem and I know they want to be successful so I want to help them be this way. We talk about behaviors that are disrupting the class and I try to focus on specific behaviors so that I don’t put the student on the defensive. Then I ask what is causing the student to behave this way? What does the student get out of acting this way? At first they will deny or shrug it off, but when I offer ideas, they usually see that I’m not going to go away. Sometimes we make a chart with cause and effect. I put the behavior in the effect and we try to figure out the cause. This helps them visualize what is happening. After we figure out the cause, we need to come up with a solution together. I also like for us to come up with a way to self monitor the behavior because when the student has to take ownership of the behavior, it helps to change the behavior. The “troublemakers” also like this attention which can lead to more positive attention.

Sometimes my “troublemakers” just can’t sit still. They may have been diagnosed with ADHD or they may not but you know the ones that I’m talking about. Sometimes if they are high functioning students, I ask them to help me with a unit. I will teach the unit but I will let them lead in the review. This means they have to pay extra attention and we decide together the important points for the class to know. They can decide if they want to make flash cards, a game, or have a discussion. This trust really helps their self esteem and it helps them focus more on the lesson if they know beforehand that they will take an active role. I usually make them the helpers with passing out papers or helping students who are struggling. If we get into groups, I let them help move around to different groups and help the discussion.

Now my quiet ones tend to blend in the woodwork if I’m not careful. These are the ones that hope you don’t call on them or never raise their hand for help. First of all I meet with them and confront their fears. I ask them if they are afraid to ask a question or answer in front of the whole class and the answer is usually yes. I also ask if they are afraid that I will ask them to perform in front of the class for a project. I can really relate because I felt like this as a student and the fear overwhelmed the actually learning. I made these 4” square foam blocks for all of the students to use. One side was red and the other was green. If they had a question, they turned it over to red on their desk and I would help them. If they had it on green, I knew they didn’t need any help. This actually kept kids from raising hands forever and getting impatient when I was helping others. I used the blocks also when we had a class discussion. If I asked a question and they knew the answer, I asked the students to turn it to green and write their answer down on paper. I then would pick a student and look at their paper. If the answer was right I would say it out loud and praise them. If it was wrong, I would tell them to check their answer. If they didn’t know the answer, they turned the block to red. It really worked well with discussions. Eventually when the quiet students started to see they had a lot of right answers, they started to participate more.

I really try to look beyond the behaviors to see what the motivation is for this. If I can find the key to what works for the student, they usually have a successful time in my class. I hope they learn skills that they take to other classes. This takes a lot of extra time and investigating but I really think it is worth it. It also builds a level of trust between student and teacher that helps with learning.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 09/26/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found 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!

Muchobeets – “What muchobeets.com offers... Create an unlimited number of flash cards, Share and study flash cards with your friends, Study in a non-distracting and ad-free environment - All for FREE!”

Kwout – “is a way you quote a part of a web page as an image with an image map.”

BBtv World – a “ series, in which we bring you first-person accounts of life around the world.”

212 The Movie – great inspirational movie

Moot Court – “A moot court is a role play of an appeals court or Supreme Court hearing. The court, composed of a panel of justices, is asked to rule on a lower court's decision. No witnesses are called. Nor are the basic facts in a case disputed. Arguments are prepared and presented on a legal question (e.g., the constitutionality of a law or government action). Since moot courts are not concerned with the credibility of witnesses, they are an effective strategy for focusing student attention on the underlying principles and concepts of justice.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Give Joy A Chance

In the article, Joy in School by Steven Wolk, he states, “Joyful learning can flourish in school—if you give joy a chance.” He tells 11 ways to bring Joy into schools and I thought about how I had applied that to my own classroom. Here are ways that I have tried to bring Joy into my own classrooms.

Find Pleasure in Learning – I tried to model this for my class so every year I would try to learn something new and share it with the class. One year I taught myself how to juggle after reading a book on juggling. Then I practiced in front of the class and they watched me struggle as I learned but I didn’t give up until I finally was able to juggle. I think they were as excited about my success as I was. One year I learned how to crochet and my class watched as my afghan grew bigger and bigger. When it was done, many of my students asked me to teach them how to crochet. I think it is experiences like this that shows students that there can be fun in learning.

Give Students Choice – My students with disabilities felt like they had very little power over their lives and tended to make bad choices as a way of rebelling. I tried to give them choices whenever the opportunity was there. For assessing what they learned, I gave choices of projects that could appeal to students with different learning styles. They were able to pick the project that they would enjoy doing and usually it was amazing at what they turned in. When they were able to have a choice, they tended to put a lot more effort and energy into producing something they could be proud of. I also asked my students what topics they were interested in learning more about and one day a week, I would try to incorporate their topics into the lesson.

Let Students Create Things – my students loved to make things because they already had learning difficulties. When asked to create their own things, they felt the sky was the limit. Usually they were so overwhelmed with how much reading they had to do that it left very little time for them to create something new. I tried to allow time for this and learned that I had many artists, musicians, and photographers in my class.

Show Off Student Work – My high school special ed students were very embarrassed about showing off their work so I asked that they write their names on the backs of the work and not the front. Even though they said they didn’t want their work displayed, I saw how thrilled they were when I put their work up. Many of them had never been praised for having work good enough to display. Sometimes this was a new experience for many of them.

Take Time to Tinker – Many times I would take a box full of knick knacks and ordinary objects (paper clips, rubber bands, tape, thumb tacks) and ask the students (in small groups) to take out 5 things. They needed to invent something new, draw the invention, and then write a description of the invention telling what it could do. Then I would ask them to share their invention with the class. They loved to do this. Again this involves students making choices, and creating things.

Make School Spaces Inviting – For many years I taught in a room without a window so I went to the store and bought a mural that looked like a photo of the outdoors. My mural was a picture of Mt. Shasta with the sun out and flowers blooming that I stapled to my big bulletin board. Then I bought some cloth tablecloths at the dollar store and pinned them up on the bulletin board so they looked like curtains. We now had a window and the weather outside always looked wonderful.

Get Outside – It is harder to get students outside on the high school level but there were times I took them to the track and we walked and talked. Many times this gave me a chance to learn about their ideas and opinions and they were thrilled that I was interested in hearing them. Sometimes we would walk about the building picking up trash (which would turn into our science lesson) or we would sit outside and discuss our lesson. There are many lessons that can be taught outside as well as inside.

Read Good Books – Every year I would pick 2 books to read aloud to the high school class. I would spend a few minutes at the beginning of each class reading to them. This gave my class time to settle down before the lesson began. I was also amazed how many of my students couldn’t remember anyone ever reading aloud to them before so this was a great chance for me to model reading for them. I would really get into the characters and love to tell what they said with great feeling and the more my students loved it, the more I got into the acting. If I was reading the first book of a series, many of my students went on to read other books in the series or books by the same author. It really doesn’t matter how old the student is, they seemed to enjoy our reading time.

Offer More Gym and Art Classes – I see more and more art classes go down the drain with budget cuts. I have seen gym classes used as a dumping ground because there are no other classes available for students so the class size is outrageous. These are the two areas that my students excel in because they have academic difficulties so I really struggled to get them into as many of these classes as possible. Luckily I had supportive parents who would take an active stand on this also.

Transform Assessment – We did a lot of project based learning in my class (although back when I was doing it, it didn’t have this official name). I also gave the students the rubric I would use to assess the project so they knew ahead of time what I was looking for. This helped my students look at their project and determine if they had met the criteria before they ever turned it in. No wonder their grades improved.

Have Some Fun Together – Maybe this is a purely prejudicial view, but I believe we had fun together because we really enjoyed the time together in my class. We laughed and supported one another because I told my class that we were like a family. Just like a family, you don’t get to choose who is in it but together we can help each other become better. In the spring I would teach all of my students how to play croquet. Then at the end of the year, my husband and I would have a hot dog lunch at our house and invite all of my students and their parents. It was my way of thanking them for working so hard with me all year. Also invited were former students and their parents so I usually ended up with about 70 people each year. After lunch my class would break into teams and play croquet and everyone had a ball! I still keep in touch with many of my students from almost 30 years ago just like you would a family. We definitely had fun together!

I believe joy in the classroom helped my students become more successful. In fact, I think that is why I loved teaching them so much and stayed in special education for my whole career.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Carnival of Educatio 09/24/08

The 190th edition of the Carnival of Education is up on Steve Spangler’s site. Come walk down the midway for some great articles. There is even one from me on Do We Encourage Voting?

First Year Birthday

Last week was the first year birthday of this blog and I didn’t even realize it. It’s amazing how fast time slips away. I look back and think about how I felt when I started this and my reasons for starting this blog. I am amazed how this has all evolved over time.

I started it as a way to share my experiences with new teachers and struggling teachers because when I retired, I still felt like I had a lot of knowledge that I should share and not just let it go down the dream. Now I look back and see that through blogging, I was constantly learning new and exciting things. Just because I retired doesn’t mean that I stop learning!

By blogging, I started to read other blogs which broadened my whole point of view. In my teaching career, my life revolved around my family, my school, and my life in the community. Now with blogging, I am communicating with people all around the world. Through blogging, I found out about Twitter. This helped my professional learning network grow exponentially. Through Twitter, I found out about Plurk and again my network continues to grow.

By reading other blogs, I am finding out about free online conferences that are extremely informative. I am learning about new ideas and points of views that had never crossed my mind. I realize how egocentric my point of view is and this has helped to open my eyes. I am learning about other cultures and educational systems that really amaze me.

When I first started, I wondered if anyone would even be interested in what I had to write. I kept it low key but then when I got my first comment I was hooked. So, for all you veteran bloggers, I truly thank you for motivating me to continue blogging. Then I was so afraid I would offend someone or have someone disagree with me that I was a little tentative about sharing my opinions. When someone first disagreed with me, I realized that this was a great way to have a conversation with others. I might be able to change their minds or they might be able to change mine but either way, this conversation was important to me.

I put a counter on my blog because I was really curious to see if anyone was interested in reading my blog. I am thrilled to report that I have had over 26,000 visitors with over 38,000 page views. I appreciate all of you who come back to see what I’ve written and I hope you don’t ever feel it is a waste of your time.

For those of you who are just beginning, I’d like to share what I’ve learned this past year:
· I like putting in words what I think because it helps clarify my thoughts and beliefs.
· I enjoy getting comments and having a conversation with others.
· Don’t be afraid to ask for advice because there are so many others out there willing to help you.
· Bloggers are really supportive of one another.
· I like to keep a schedule and write regularly, just like you would practice for a sport.
· Adding pictures and links makes it more interesting.
· The “edit” button is my friend! I don’t care how many times I proofread it, it seems like I have to constantly go back and fix things.
· At first it is hard, but the more you do it, the easier it gets and it is fun.
· In the summer course I will be teaching, blogging will be one of the requirements. I feel it is important for teachers to know how to do this and encourage their students to do this.

Thank you for reading my blog and making me feel needed and wanted!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Welcoming Committee

On September 6th, my husband and I attended the Furman-Virginia Tech football game. Whenever we go to away games, we sometimes worry about how competitive the fans will be and how they will react to visitors. I was amazed how welcome we were made to feel as soon as we came across anyone connected to Virginia Tech. People smiled at us and told us how glad they were that we were there. I’m not talking just people my age and older, but I’m also talking about young people who obviously attend Virginia Tech or support the school.

After we parked our car we had to ask someone for directions to the stadium and they were so willing to help us. Another man came up and greeted us near the stadium and when I asked him how the team got its name, he told me some of the history of the school. He also suggested some beautiful sights to see since we were early for the game. On his advice, we wandered the campus and met another couple who were alumni and they also told us more about their school. It was so nice to see how much pride people had about their school and I hope people see the same thing when they come to Furman. We also went to the Memorial honoring the people who were killed in the shooting tragedy a year ago. It was very moving and visitors from both teams were there to see it. The campus itself was beautiful.

As we walked back to the stadium, many young people greeted us and thanked us for being there. It constantly amazed me how friendly everyone was. At first I thought it was just a couple of friendly people but then it continued all day while we were there. Even after the game as we walked to our car, we passed two young men, who looked like students, in a conversation. They looked up and smiled and told us that they appreciated us being there. We passed one house where they were having a party and one of the guys offered us a drink if we were thirsty. When we declined they told us they hoped we had a safe trip home.

This made me think about Furman and I hope we are as welcoming to visitors so my husband and I made it a point this past weekend to greet visitors and welcome them. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a group of students who spent an hour wandering the tailgate area and greeted visitors and welcomed them? Maybe we already do have that but I’m not sure. I think competitiveness is great between the teams but this welcoming attitude is just as important. From here on out, I will make it a point to be extra caring to visitors who support the opposing team.

I think we should be teaching this on the high school level also. As a high school teacher, I have felt many anxious moments when we leave a game and see tempers rising because one team lost. Maybe we need to start at this level and it will roll over onto the college level. I was amazed that it wasn’t only the older adults welcoming us at Virginia Tech but also the students. They had to learn this attitude from somewhere and it couldn’t have been all of a sudden. Maybe we need to model this for our students better on the high school level. I’m not sure what the answer is but after a taste of it on the receiving side, I plan to do a better job of giving.

I really think this welcoming attitude is led by the community and by the administration of Virginia Tech. I don’t think it would happen if the leadership was not somehow involved and encouraged by the community. I want to thank Virginia Tech and the community for making me feel so comfortable and welcomed. It made a difference.

Council for Exceptional Children Chapter 877 Meeting

I am going to try something new this year and use Flash Meeting for our CEC 877 online meetings. I have been meeting on Sunday mornings with teachers from New Zealand and Australia using Flash Meeting. At first I just typed in my messages in the chat windows while everyone talked using their microphones and had webcams showing their faces. After a few weeks I got brave and started using my microphone to talk. For the past few weeks I have been using my web cam so I feel I’m part of the face to face meeting. I have spent enough time to see how much this type of meeting can really be effective.

We have all had trouble in our busy schedules to fit one more meeting into our day so I love the thought of being able to access a meeting from wherever I can connect to the internet. I also like the flexibility of using the webcam or not using it (depending on how bad I feel I look at the time). With the struggling economy and higher gas prices, I think this is a great option for people to have and still stay connected professionally with colleagues. I foresee more and more meetings being held online for this reason. I am also impressed with Flash Meeting because it is so easy to join the meeting and there isn’t a lot of fuss with scheduling.

If you are interested in finding out more about our meetings, please go to our CEC 877 wiki and I will be listing meeting dates, times, and topics here. Our first meeting will be tonight at 7:30pm Eastern Time. You do not have to be a member of CEC to attend our meeting. Feel free to drop by and see how we are doing!

Monday, September 22, 2008

No Longer on the Outside Looking In

The other night I talked to Jo McLeay’s class in Australia from my home in South Carolina. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this and I was so nervous. I’ve talked to many other teachers in my network that has done collaborative work with other classes around the world but I never experienced it myself first hand. The class read the book The Secret Life of Bees and developed a study guide about it. Since the setting takes place in South Carolina, I was invited to share my thoughts and ideas as well as answer any questions that the students might have. I have also gotten some emails from some of her students but I had never talked to any of them “face to face” before.

Jo and I tried a trial run using Skype one day but we were both in our own homes so it seemed to work well. We scheduled a time for me to Skype into her classroom but unfortunately her school had problems with Skype. After talking to people on Plurk and Twitter, they recommended that we try Oovoo so we both downloaded it and tried it. Again we were both at home when we tried it but it seemed like it would be great to use. We set a time for me to join her class and it worked!

I don’t know if the class learned much from me but I learned so much from this experience that I want to run around and tell everyone about it. Maybe they will roll their eyes because it is nothing new to them but I feel energized and excited about what implications this could have for a classroom.

Things I learned:
· I’m not used to different accents and really had to concentrate on what they were saying. Teenagers tend to talk faster than older people so I had to pay close attention to what they were saying.
· We liked a lot of the same things about the book The Secret Life of Bees.
· They seemed to like tennis and were sorry I didn’t have a favorite tennis player. (Now that I think about it, I could have brought up about Arthur Ashe being the first minority tennis player but I didn’t think quickly enough.)
· I had no idea who Ben Harper was but they did and seemed a little disappointed I didn’t know him (so I will be doing my research on this).
· They wore uniforms and there were different types and styles. (When I was a child, my friends went to a private religious school and got to wear the best uniforms with plaid skirts. I always wanted to wear one like they did!)
· They were interested in American politics.
· They had compulsory voting there (which I had never heard of before) which really changes my way of thinking about elections. I can see why some people might have disagreed with one of my blog posts about voting which I didn’t understand before. In fact I was so excited about this discovery that I woke my husband up after the call ended and wanted to talk to him about it (but he failed to be as excited as I was and fell back to sleep).

I really think it says a lot that Jo McLeay was willing to go through all of this to connect her class with me. I can only imagine the time it took to set all this up and the frustration of not getting Skype to work. I have never met her in person and I can only hope that I didn’t say anything stupid and make her sorry that she invited me (those things run through my mind!). As a teacher, whenever you invite a speaker, you wonder if your students will like the speaker or be totally bored. Then Oovoo kept cutting us off and we had to reconnect. Of course I didn’t mind because I was sitting at home doing nothing and there she was in class full of students. Yet, she was so patient and kept up the conversation without even blinking an eye which shows what a good teacher she is.

After about 50 minutes, we said farewell and ended our call. I sat here for a few minutes just amazed at what had taken place. If you have never taken part of something like that, please find another class to collaborate with because it is an experience you and your students will never forget. I know I won’t. Suddenly places far away aren’t so intimidating and scary. Experiences like this can really help make student instruction more successful.

Photo credit: Original image: 'Watching' by: Tim O'Brien

Friday, September 19, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 09/19/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found 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!

Creative Park – From an email I received from them: “The Creative Park Web site offers ideas and templates for any lesson plan with projects ranging from 3D Paper Crafts, to scrapbooks and calendars and even tips on digital photography! Creative Park is a simple and interactive way to help teach students about geography, history, social studies, sciences and more. These smart ideas are both an easy and affordable way to turn your classroom into a creative environment.”

The Habitable Planet – “is a multimedia course for high school teachers and adult learners interested in studying environmental science. The Web site provides access to course content and activities developed by leading scientists and researchers in the field.”

The Best Sites To Introduce Environmental Issues Into The Classroom – “These sites are good to “introduce” environmental issues in the classroom, but generally don’t provide information on systemic, political, and corporate issues related to environmental damage.”

Google Earth Lessons – Lots of resources for teaching using Google Earth

Project Rubric Generators - This generator can be used to help you assess student projects. The rubric includes the assessment of both the process used for the project and the assessment of the final product.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Christine Southard asked on Plurk the other day what podcasts we listen to and it was a really neat question because a lot of people added podcasts that I hadn’t heard of before. So I decided to write a post listing which ones I do listen to and which ones I plan to listen to. I love to listen to podcasts when I'm gardening, doing housework, or traveling. It makes me feel less alone and also inspires me.

Podcasts I Listen To Regularly

Podcasts that I Plan to Check Out:
Teach42 Podcasts
The Teacher’s Life Podcast
Teachers Teaching Teachers
Tech Chick Tips
The Tech Teachers

If you have any other podcasts that you would recommend, please note them in your comments with a link to the website so I can find it. Thanks for your help.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Carnival of Education 09/17/08

The 189th edition of the Carnival of Education is on the midway at Thomas J. West Music blog. Come join us for a wide variety of wonderful thought provoking articles. There is even one from one about Tips for a Painless IEP Meeting.

Intentions vs. Action

On Twitter the other day, Lauren O’Grady of All teachers are earners - All learners are teachers said…”we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.” I began to think about how I look at other colleagues, students, and even family members and realized how true this statement is.

Family members: I grew up knowing my parents meant “Do what I say, not what I do.” I had a lot of conflicting thoughts when I was growing up. As one of the small minority of Asians in school, I experienced discrimination first hand from other students and adults. This made me more determined not to be this way. Yet, at home, my parents pushed that I had to be better than everyone else because I was Chinese. They were very strict about following Chinese traditions and encouraging me to find other Chinese kids to hang out with (but there weren’t any). Years later, they were very upset when I didn’t marry a Chinese man. I know that their intentions were to make me proud of my heritage but that is not what I saw by their actions. I rebelled and really didn’t want to know much about my heritage as a child because I wanted to be like everyone else and not the minority. Now I regret that and wish I had learned the language and the customs as a child. I decided that my intention is to know more about my heritage and decided to do something about it. I have recently signed up for a beginning Chinese language course next month and I’m really excited about it.

Colleagues: I get very confused when I read articles and hear educators talk about how we need to be more globally connected. I also hear how we are need to use technology more with students. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be enough funding to give teachers the training they need. I heard on the Virtual Staffroom podcast about all the open source software that is available but most school districts won’t use it. They believe if it is free, it must not be worth anything. I also hear other teachers agree that we should be using technology more in the classroom but I don’t see a lot of them making the effort to learn and use what they learn effectively. Many teachers come up with excuses why they can’t do this. I understand that the intentions are there but their actions show up differently. I’ve decided that my intention is to help other teachers find out more tools that are available and help teachers put them to use in the classroom. Yet, having that intention is just not good enough. I’ve put together some presentations and will be doing some workshops for teachers in the upcoming months.

Government: I see the government pushing for changes but it all sounds like rhetoric because I don’t see the actions to match these intentions. Sure, everyone wants a better education system but setting unrealistic and impossible standards are not the way to get it. It sounds good in the news and makes politicians look good but that is about it. I went to a meeting the other day with parents who were complaining about schools and teachers across the state. I realized that different districts had different problems and wondered what it would take to fix it. I believe the change needs to come from the top down. I see different school superintendents with different agendas and it trickles down to administrators and teachers. Teachers feel like they are sometimes beating their heads against the wall when they have to fight the government. My intention is to let the government know that their intentions don’t match their actions. In order for me to do this I’ve started to write letters to my legislators and school board members. I also vote in every election.

Students: I hear many students at the beginning of the year say they intend to work hard, study hard, and get good grades. Then when progress reports come out they seem surprised that their grades stink. I ask them if they studied each night on a regular basis, turned in homework on time, asked questions in class, completed their classwork on time and they usually tell me no. Again they had good intentions, but their actions showed differently. Maybe we need to help students bridge the gap from intentions to actions. I think I would have them right down their intentions (goals) and write down their actions to accomplish this (strategies). Then I would ask them to review these each week to see if they actually did what they said they would. I notice that when I write a list of things I need to do, I actually get more done than if I just make mental notes about it. Hopefully by doing this, my students could be more successful.
I hope that I will start looking at my own intentions and think about what actions I will take so they are not just good intentions. Hopefully I can be a model for students and other teachers. If you have ways to match your intentions with your actions, please share it in the comments because it might be something that I could do too. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Do We Encourage Voting?

I saw this CNN’s League of First Time Voters video and it made me realize that maybe we don’t encourage our students enough about registering to vote. When I encouraged my students who were 18 and older to register to vote, they told me that their parents wouldn’t let them because they could be asked to serve on a jury. First of all, I really think that is the most selfish reason for not registering and also the biggest misunderstanding. In the past they used to do that, but I really feel that it is everyone’s civic duty to serve on a jury when asked. I understand that everyone is busy in their own lives and it is never going to be convenient to put your life on hold while you serve on a jury but it is still everyone’s duty to do so. In my state, they pull the jury pool from driver’s licenses now and not voter registration. Some of the older generation needs to know this so they can at least get out and register to vote. Of course, that should be another blog post.

I feel that everyone who meets the criteria to register to vote should get out and do this. Then when the time comes, they should go out and vote for every election when it happens. I have been to countries where they do not have this privilege and wish they did. Some people even risk their lives to take advantage of this privilege. When we don’t register to vote or go vote when we have the opportunity, it is like a slap in the face to the people in these countries who wish they could. I also feel like people who complain about taxes, the government, the elected officials and the laws need to be able to show their voter registration card before anyone will listen.

I am so disgusted when I see the percentage of voter turnout after an election. People are being killed in other countries when they even try to vote. We are taking for granted something that could possibly one day be taken away from us. We need to do a better job in schools in teaching about the voting process and the benefits to voting. I think we talk about politics and candidates but do we talk about actually going out to vote? Do we not explain that each vote counts and there have been some races where someone has won only by a few votes? Do we show a sample registration form and tell students how to fill it out? Do we get someone from the election commission to come speak to our classes? I actually talked to our county election commissioner who said he was more than willing to speak to classes but no one has ever asked him to. What a wasted resource! I think we need to start this conversation on the elementary school level and continue every year until the student graduates. This should not be a onetime conversation but should be ongoing throughout their school years.

If you are doing something in your classroom to encourage voting, please share with me in your comments. Others might be interested in learning about what you do too.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Analyzing Test Questions

Do I just ask my students Knowledge based questions or do I require critical thinking to answer my questions? I was listening to a Wicked Decent Learning podcast today when they started talking about the questions asked in the classroom and what kinds of questions they were. This had me reminisce back to when I took a statistics class in college and we discussed test questions.

When I give a test, I ask the student questions that ask for knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation based on Bloom’s taxonomy as a guide. Sometimes I would look at the questions and decide that I asked too many of one type and not another. Even though I taught special education students, I believe that they are capable of answering questions on all of these levels. I really like application and evaluation questions but that is just a personal preference and I feel their answers show whether the student understands what I have tried to teach them or not. Of course it is easier to have students regurgitate whatever I taught them but do these types of answers really show understanding? I can teach a parrot to repeat answers but that doesn’t mean it understands the concepts. To ask questions that require critical thinking skills, a teacher must spend time composing these questions.

After the test, sometimes I like to analyze the results. My students did not use scantron sheets and just used regular paper. When I graded the papers I would tally how many students got a specific question wrong. Sometimes if they had the same wrong answers I would make a note of this. By looking at the results of this, I was able to tell if the majority of the students missed a certain question and if they were answering a question with the same wrong answer. This might mean many of them didn’t understand the concept, or misunderstood what was taught. Either way, this concept needed to be re-taught. By just giving a grade and not looking at the overall picture, I am missing a valuable teaching moment.

I helped a friend grade some test papers the other day and the question asked about prehistoric inventions that improved life (or something like that). The student answer involved Christopher Columbus and how this prehistoric invention helped him find the West Indies. I can just picture Columbus wearing a caveman outfit and holding a club! Thank goodness this answer was a one-of-a-kind answer and not many others had this answer wrong.

I was pretty busy with every day teaching responsibilities and didn’t do this for every quiz, but I felt if I gave a major test, I needed to look at these results. If it was important enough to test and expect the students to have the knowledge, than it was important enough for me to analyze the results. And let’s face it, sometimes I just enjoyed reading their wrong answers. I remember doing this a lot when I first starting teaching, when good habits were first taught. Then as I became busier and busier, this test analysis fell to the wayside. Then as I gained more and more experience, I realized how important this was. If I missed this step and started to move on to concepts that were based on the previous concepts and skills, I needed to make sure my students could master the previous concepts and skills first. Otherwise, the frustration level would increase and the failure rate would also increase. By doing test analysis and rethinking my lesson, I was able to increase the success rate of my students and everyone in the class, including me, was much happier.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 09/12/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found 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 League – “is a school- and web-based system that provides the tools and resources to teach students about giving, service and civic engagement. Does your school already do good? Whether it’s through a student council food drive, a club doing service, or a class doing its own project, log on, get recognized and connect with others.”

Kidthing – (requires a download) Free platform of digital publishing tools for kids.

Friv – 200 children games; great to use for reward/ positive reinforcements

Periodic Table of Videos – I didn’t watch them all but I watched the Sodium one and I thought it was pretty cool. That would be a neat way to learn about the elements and some of their properties.

Learner.org – “producing educational video programs with coordinated Web and print materials for K-12 teachers who are increasing their expertise in their fields and learning how to improve their teaching methods. Our video programs are also intended for viewers at home and students in the classroom. All of our videos, however they're used, exemplify excellent teaching.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Taking Care of Administrators

First I read Being an Educational Leader by Kelly Christopherson where he asks the question “When do I get to be that Educational Leader I so desperately wanted to be?” Then I watched He Was Me by Peter Reynolds, which is a story “about the inner child in all of us, and the eternal struggle to retain our sense of self in a busy world.”

Both of these made me realize that it is hard being an educator and that people outside the educational field really don’t understand. Part of our inner child is what makes us the educators that we are and we need to make sure that we don’t lose it. We also need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the world from a child’s eyes because that is what is important. We need to be able to help our students learn from their childhood, live in their present lives, and look to the future. I began to wonder if I’ve become jaded and cynical now that I am a veteran teacher and maybe that is where some of the negative remarks I’ve made come from. I really love being around preservice teachers and new teachers because I felt their energy and enthusiasm was really catching. Maybe this is what we need to retain good teachers (both new and veteran). We need to make sure that both experience levels don’t lose their inner self.

Then when you realize your inner self, how do become what you wanted to be? Do many people have big ideas and dreams but then sell out to the status quo because it is the easier route? Their lives become filled with responsibilities and expectations that can overwhelm them to a point of paralysis. I remember when I wanted to be on every committee, and try every project and be everything to everyone but this was an impossible goal that I set for myself. With experience, I learned that I couldn’t please all of the people all of the time and just needed to do the best that I could. Being on every committee, doing every project, and trying to please everyone was not really doing the best I could but it was hard to face up to this. I had to see other people’s strengths and rely on them so that I could use my strengths in the most effective and efficient way. It doesn’t do any of my students any good if I was run ragged and ruin my own health thinking that was the way to show how committed I was. Of course, this made me think of how administrators practically live at the high school. My husband and I always joke about they must not have a life because there is something going on constantly where an administrator has to be in attendance. They couldn’t pay me enough to be an administrator!

I hope and pray that we have more administrators like Kelly Christopherson, who ask themselves questions in order to meet their goals. Is this not the model we want teachers and students to follow? He wants to “walk the talk” but all the other things are getting in the way and keeping him from doing all the things he wants to do. He talks about connecting with the faculty and the students who I’m sure love having an administrator who is seen in person rather than just someone in the background making policies. I wonder if the faculty likes this, what they are doing to ease his burden. Maybe they need to ask him if there is anything they can do to help. Maybe they need to take the initiative to do things before he asks them to do something. Don’t we love it when our students do this? Every year I knew my principal needed a report done and started to get it done before he asked for it. Imagine his surprise when he asked for it and I was able to send it to him in an email immediately. He didn’t have to worry about me getting it done and he didn’t have to chase me down to get it. I know it didn’t seem like a big deal, but he told me that it really freed him up to do other things.

I know that I’ve blogged about taking care of our students and taking care of our teachers but this made me realize that we also need to take care of our administrators. Many teachers complain about their administrators they don’t like but I wonder if sometimes we don’t have a lot to choose from. Let’s face it, being an administrator is a big responsibility and takes up a lot of their time away from their personal lives. When we get a good administrator, what are we doing to make sure we keep them? I think good administrators are hard to find and keep. Besides that, a happy administrator sure makes the life of a teacher much easier.

What do you think? Do you know of some suggestions on how we can help our administrators? Do you think we should or not?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The 188th Edition of the Carnival of Education

The Core Knowledge Blog is hosting the 188th edition of Carnival of Education! Stop by the midway and see all the great articles! There is even my post on One Bold Bird. Hope to see you there!

Yes I Can! Awards

Every year at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Annual Convention, we have an awards ceremony that is inspirational, motivational, and can move you like nothing else can. This is something you don’t want to miss if you ever attend this event. Click on this link to see a video Senator Kennedy speaks at CEC's 2008 Yes I Can! Awards. Please read the message below and consider nominating a student for this award. You can be a teacher, administrator, or a parent. Please help recognize students who deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments!

From CEC:
Through the Yes I Can! Awards, students with disabilities -- some for the first time in their lives -- are recognized for their accomplishments. The Yes I Can! Awards honor students with disabilities who have excelled in one of nine categories:

• Arts• Academics• Athletics
• Community Service• Employment• Extracurricular Activities
• Independant Living Skills• Self Advocacy• Technology

Each Yes I Can! winner has a special moment in the spotlight as he or she is presented with a statue and the audience learns of the student’s accomplishments at the Yes I Can! Awards Ceremony, held at CEC’s Annual Convention & Expo. The winners and their families are also treated to a special field trip. Plus, each student who is nominated receives a Certificate of Accomplishment.

Nominate a student(s) who deserves recognition for his or her achievements.

Also, please let your colleagues know about the Yes I Can! Awards. Click here for a flyer you can distribute to educators and parents.

Nominations must be postmarked by Oct. 14, 2008.

For more information and a nomination form for the Yes I Can! Awards, go to http://www.cec.sped.org/. Click on About CEC, then Yes I Can! Awards.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tips for a Painless IEP meeting

I attended an IEP (Individual Education Plan) workshop put on by Pro Parents of SC and was really impressed on how professional the presentation was. From the Pro Parents website, “Parents Reaching Out to Parents of South Carolina, Inc., is a private, non-profit organization which provides information and training about education to families of children with all types of disabilities.” The trainer was Susan Bruce who is a regional trainer for Pro Parent and participants included a parent, two workers from Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and two workers from Disability Action Center. This was truly informational and I really believe that knowledge gives power. The more informed parents are, the more successful the child will be. I also feel the same thing is true for teachers.

The reason I went to this workshop was so that I could keep current with IEP regulations since I no longer work for the school district and to also learn what parents were being told about IEPs. This would help me in my courses when I teach about the IEP process. I also saw the IEP process from a parent’s point of view which could really help teachers be more effective during IEP meetings. After the workshop I began to think of how I could take what I learned and turn them into teacher tips that could make the IEP process less painful for all and here is what I thought of. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

Draft copy of IEP: Send home a draft copy of the IEP at least a week before the meeting for the parent to review. This gives the parent time to voice concerns, ask questions, or even add things to the IEP before the meeting. It also keeps the lines of communication open with the parent and keeps this process transparent. By doing this it shows that we are all on the same team with the same purpose.

Transition: Encourage parents to talk to their child about transition services at the beginning of the school year. I usually ask the student and they have no idea or just say anything so I can put something down on the IEP. That is not the purpose of this statement and should be talked about a long time in advance before the IEP is developed at the end of the school year. Also be informed about what agencies out there are available to help this child when they leave the school system. During the senior year, I make sure they are invited to the IEP meeting and if they can’t attend, I make sure the parents have the name and phone number of a contact person.

Age of Majority: Make sure parents understand the Age of Majority and how it can affect the decision making process for IEP meetings. Think about how you would act if this was your child. I would also make sure that the student doesn’t sign this unless the parent is present. This helps keep any misunderstandings from happening.

Accommodations: Ask the student what would help them be more successful in their general education classes. Ask the parent for input on what they think would be helpful also. Check with the general education teacher also to see if they would suggest anything. Also, throughout the year, check regularly with all teachers to make sure that the accommodations are being followed. Sometimes when a student is doing well, teachers get complacent and busy with other things, so they might let the accommodations slide. Then the student starts going downhill and it finally comes to light that accommodations aren’t being followed. By checking regularly, this helps prevent any downhill slides for this reason.

State-wide testing accommodations: Anything used for testing must also be used on a regular basis in the classroom. This cannot be a onetime deal. Make sure the parents understand that this goes for every day also because if they need this for this testing, they need it to be successful in class also.

Assistive Technology: Find out what is available for your student beforehand. If the parent asks for certain things, check with your special education director or whoever has the ability to approve this tool. If this request is going to be denied, make sure that you either have that person attend the meeting or ask them to put it in writing so you can present it to the parent.

Communication: If a parent asks for an IEP meeting, set one up as soon as possible. Make sure you understand the purpose of the meeting because it might be something simple that doesn’t require a meeting.

Emotions: Remember that if a parent is upset, not to take it personal. They may be more emotional because this affects their child which is very personal to them. If they are angry, do not make excuses or put the blame on someone else. The best plan would be to look at the facts and come up with solutions and it doesn’t matter why something happened or who is to blame because that is not the purpose of an IEP meeting. If the parent wants to talk about problems and blame, a meeting needs to be set up outside of the IEP meeting at a later time. Everyone is there to help this student be more successful and together you can work to make this possible.

I hope some of these tips help you. Remember a parent is an advocate for their child and that is their purpose. The teacher is also an advocate for this child. Together they can help this child be successful in today’s world.

Original image: 'Atlas, it's time for your bath' by: woodley wonderworks

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Letter to Someone in History

Writing a letter to someone as if they were the character in a specific time period is a great lesson for the classroom. I have done this with students have been quite entertained by the results. First I would have students research a specific person from whatever time period we were studying. Then they would fill out a form stating the person’s name, the year at this specific time, specific events happening at this time, the age of the person, location the person was in at the time, any important personal traits that would be important for someone to know.
Then the student would decide who they wanted this person to write a letter to. It could be to a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend or someone they would like to persuade. The student needs to write this letter as if they were this specific person so it would need to be in first person.

The students would need to include in their letter:
· Personal words to the person they are writing
· An explanation of what is going on at the time.
· The conflict or problems this person is facing
· Hopes for the future
· Personal closing to the person they are writing

It is important that they do not put information in that could not be possible for that time period (for example: mention they will drive somewhere if this takes place during the Revolutionary War period or talking about snow in the middle of summer).

Back when I did this lesson, we didn’t have computers in the room or the technology to share this with others. I think it would be great if the students could post their letters in a blog or podcast to share with others. Other students can respond by asking questions or making comments.

I think this was a successful lesson and the students really were engaged in the learning. They loved the personal aspect of this and enjoyed playing in character. If you decide to give this a try, please come back here and post your results and links to any blogs or podcasts you do.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 09/05/08

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found 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!

A Room with a View Project – “will introduce digital cameras and photo share online programs to elementary teachers! Teachers and students will choose ONE window in their classroom (or one area on their campus) and take a picture each month and post to a photo share album online. They will include a description of what they see, plus some other interesting facts. It is a simple project, but an easy way for classrooms to share what they see each day with classrooms all over the world.”

O. R.E.O Project – “This year's project will invite classrooms to have each student stack oreo® cookies as high as he or she can and then average each student's highest result to achieve a final Class result.” Join the project because it sounds like fun!

Edublogs.tv – video hosting site dedicated to education.

RTI Survey – “In March 2008, Spectrum K12 School Solutions and the Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) conducted a survey of K-12 district administrators to gauge the level of adoption of Response to Intervention (RTI).” It is a 14 page report but if you are interested in RTI, you might be interested in looking over this report.

Create a Graph – five different graphs to choose from

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Blog Challenge

Yesterday I answered the question that TJ Shay of TJ On a Journey asked me in his blog challenge. So here is my challenge to other bloggers whom I read on a regular basis. Feel free to write your answer in a comment on this post or write your own post but leave a comment here so we can go read it.

(If they don’t respond, please check out their blogs anyway because I really enjoy reading what they have to share.)

Blog Challenge:
Here is my idea, email or comment someone's blog with a post you would like to read. Try to keep it in genre of the person's blog. The person can choose to use your idea, ignore it, or answer the suggestion as a comment here.I will throw down the gauntlet here... If you challenge someone, please comment a link to their blog so we can all see if they accept the challenge. This is all in good fun! I hope it leads to great conversations.

Lauren O’Grady of All Teachers are Learners and all Learners are Teachers: What goosebump moment have you seen the Interactive White Board make in the classroom?

Bill Gaskins of Blogging on the Bay: There doesn’t seem to be enough male teachers in our profession. What made you decide to go into education?

Jennifer of Injenuity: If your son was a teenager, what advice would you give him about using technology today?

Joel of So You Want To Teach?: What is the single most important advice you would give a new teacher?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Carnival of Education 09/03/08

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Lead from the Start. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. There is also a post from me included: New Teachers and Dancing. Lots of other great thought provoking articles there to entertain you so don’t miss the excitement! See you there.

Happy Teaching Memory

I was asked by TJ Shay from TJ On a Journey: It has been one year since your retirement... Looking back, is there one happy teaching memory that rises to the top of the list? (also crossposted on my Life of Loonyhiker blog)

I had a boy come to my ninth grade learning disabilities self contained classroom who didn’t even know the alphabet. He looked disgusted with school the first time I saw him and refused to do any reading or writing work. Of course I didn’t know how little he could do because the achievement test he took the previous year was a multiple choice test and he had a lot of lucky guesses, which elevated his scores. I suspected that the scores weren’t accurate and called home to brag about how I enjoyed having this boy in my class because he contributed so much to class discussions. This mother was so relieved that he wasn’t in trouble and shared with me that the student didn’t even know the alphabet. She went so far as to say the previous teacher had told her not to help her son because as a parent, she had no educational background and was confusing him. I was horrified and came up with a plan of action so we both could help him in school and at home. In fact, I had lessons for him to work on in the summers too. I didn’t see this as doing anything extraordinary because I felt this is why I became a teacher. By the time he graduated, he could read on a second grade level and fill out job applications. At graduation, he came up to me with a dozen long stem red roses and with tears in his eyes, thanked me for teaching him to read. His mother said that this was all his own idea and he bought them with his own money. I was floored by this because I never expected it. Since I had this boy for four years, I developed a strong bond with the whole family over time and we are still friends 25 years later. After graduation he enrolled in the literacy program in our county to continue working on his reading. He found a good job and even brought his first pickup truck to my house to show us. I was so proud of him. I have been thrilled to see his son go through school and graduate. My student told me that because I didn’t let him give up in school, he was able to encourage his son when times got tough. I will never forget the lesson that this family taught me: that I can make a difference by teaching and it doesn’t have to be anything spectacular or extraordinary and it is so important to work together to achieve success. (When I write this, I realize how much I miss the classroom and now live vicariously through other teacher’s lives by reading their blogs!)

Photo credit: Original image: 'Roses 20' by: Karl Eschenbach

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One Bold Bird

From the book Drenched in Light by Lisa Wingate, “He focused on the geese again. ‘Of course, what they’re really looking for is a leader. All those birds, and they’ll just keep circling forever until one breaks the cycle and heads north again…I’ll have to put that in the Sunday sermon. I’ll call it, One Bold Bird.’”

This was a wonderful book about a guidance counselor who is recovering from an eating disorder who helps a young student find her way in a new elite school. By taking an unpopular stand because she is not willing to compromise her principals, the guidance counselor tries to make a difference at her school. I look at the many characters in this book and wonder which one I am most like. I hope that in the same circumstance, I too have the courage to do the right thing instead of the thing that will cause the least amount of controversy.

Sometimes I have taught in some schools where I thought a little differently than the rest of the faculty. I was a little wary of voicing my opinion because I always felt like I was in the minority. I saw things from a different perspective than others and because I did, I wondered if my perspective was the wrong one. Now that I look back I can see that just because mine was different, didn’t make it wrong.

I really think we should use more technology in the classroom. I think we have a lot of resources available but I don’t feel that schools and teachers use them in the most effective and efficient ways. As a department head, I saw the opportunity to use some fantastic tech tools to help the special education students. For example, the district gave us free training for Wynn and Test Talker software, bought the software and scanners necessary to implement this in the classroom. Out of twelve teachers, I was the only one to use it consistently every week, two others used it occasionally, and the others always told me that they were too busy to ever use it. No one can force others to use things that are out there but I felt like it was such a waste of money that might have been better used if each teacher could have requested the purchase of something they may have felt more comfortable using. If they didn’t need anything, pass the money on to someone who could use it. Instead the software sat on a computer unused and the scanners never was touched. Of course when you have a large faculty, with many egos, different philosophies of teaching, and different teaching styles, it is hard to bring everyone together but eventually someone is going to have to be the “One Bold Bird” to convince the school district to stop wasting money on things that will never be used. We are wasting taxpayers’ money when this happens.

As with discipline, school systems are too worried about litigation that I feel students get away with too much. I have been in meetings where the parents refuse to let the student take responsibility for his/her actions and insist that it is the school’s responsibility. But what about the parents who do not feel that way and want their children to face responsibility, only to find out that the school has let the bad behavior slide by. For instance, my daughter wore a skirt that was too short according to the dress code and we were trying to support the school’s policies. After a lot of arguing, my husband convinced me to let it go and let her face natural consequences. We told her that if they called us about this, she would be punished that night and the weekend. She goes to school and of course, nothing happens to her. She says it was addressed but they told her not to wear the skirt again. What are the odds that she won’t wear this skirt again, only to achieve the same results? She said the dress code was not enforced because too many parents complain. If this is so, why bother having a dress code if you aren’t going to enforce it? We decided to make that decision for her and the skirt was taken away so there wouldn’t be a next time. I can’t tell you the times that I have called for an administrator about a dress code violation only to be told that 1) they have more important things to do and/or 2) those parents won’t support us and it isn’t worth the hassle. It is time for schools to get back into control and until they do, many students will fall by the wayside. I hope in the future I will start to hear schools say they have had enough and be willing to be the “One Bold Bird” so that other schools will follow.

I have also had a different opinion than most of my colleagues at school about grading scales, ignoring certain attention getting behaviors, and consistent communication with parents. Of course these opinions are more individual beliefs so I don’t have to openly be the “One Bold Bird” but if I had too, I hope that I have the courage to stand up for what I believe in.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cooking is a lot like Learning

The other day on Plurk I was telling people that I was cooking something for dinner and I realized that I actually enjoyed cooking. I never did before but now I did and I didn’t even know it until I started to think about it. When I was growing up I was told by family members how incompetent I was in the kitchen and I believed them so I never made an effort to cook. I made some mistakes and everyone laughed about it and told me I was a disaster. Then when I got married, I was had been teaching for only one year and so my life was consumed by my career. When I fed my family, it became out of necessity and not out of fun. I was usually so exhausted when I got home that anything for dinner was usually fast and easy (and I was not too proud to open a can of Chef Boyardee for the kids). Then when they became teens, it was easier for my husband and me to go out for dinner so I never made the effort. All of sudden I’m retired and now I have the time. I told my husband that I wanted to experiment with recipes and he encouraged me to do so. Now I try 2-3 recipes a week and he is enjoying this.

Is this the way students feel when they are learning? When they make mistakes do adults and peers laugh at them so they just give up trying? Have they been told by people who are charge that they can’t do something so they don’t even try? I have seen this with my students and have fought on a daily basis to change their mindset. They believe this so much that even their parents have fallen into this false belief.

Then are our students so exhausted from daily tasks that it takes too much effort to even try to learn something new? Sometimes I look at all the stuff my students had to do and was overwhelmed by the busy work they were sometimes given. My students had trouble reading and writing so many times I helped them with their homework for other classes. A lot of the homework entailed just spitting back something on paper that was in the textbook but they had no idea what any of it meant. There wasn’t any application of knowledge so I’m not sure they learned anything other than writing better.

This makes me wonder if there is a way to help students step back and learn how to enjoy learning. They need time and space to do so. With all the pressure teachers are under to meet standards and then pass standardized testing that I think we have taken the joy of learning away from our students. I remember a third grade teacher telling me that if I wanted to learn anything, all I had to do was find the right book and I would succeed. We may not be able to teach our students everything but we can teach them that anything is possible if they want to learn it and then show them the tools to find out how to meet their objective.

As the school year begins in South Carolina, I have talked to a friend who is stressing out about all that is required of her right now even though only one week of classes has passed. She doesn’t have time to worry about what the students need because she has all the regular paperwork to turn in plus benchmarks to develop for future testing plus new paperwork that is required. She is having to spend personal time to prepare for class and get her room in shape. She doesn’t have time to enjoy the art of teaching or help students enjoy the art of learning. I hope we don’t get consumed by the fears and regulations of the rule makers to forget about the needs of our students. Helping them succeed in school and life should be a priority for everyone.