Saturday, October 31, 2009

Educarnival v2 Issue 10

The Carnival of Education Issue 10 is up on the midway at I Want To Teach Forever. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article Working Myself Out of a Job is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 10/30/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Creative Park – “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! It 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. To learn more, please visit For years Canon has been bringing you its cutting edge technology into your home, now let us help you in the classroom. We have a range of products and projects that can make learning fun and interactive. Learning to think creatively is an essential part of a child’s development and can be integrated into your everyday lessons at, whether you are printing up photos to get to know your students or working on a Creative Park project. “

Witty Comics - Make a Comic – free; make a comic strip with a 2 person dialogue. Great way to practice social skills or job skills. You can change the background, the people, and the word bubbles. Then just add the words.

Brain Flips – “user-friendly and effective flashcards anywhere, for students and self-motivated learners of all ages and academic levels. is your free one-stop source for flashcards on any subject.”

Online Spirograph – “This fun online kids game is a free internet version of the classic spirograph pattern-making toy.”

Doodle Source – “Get the latest Google logos and information about them”

Original image: 'Beautiful Tools' by: THOR

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Fun of Field Trips

In Under 100 Percent from Teacher Food, Mike Rush talks about the field trips he has taken with his students. He shares what he learned from all of this.

“The most important thing I’ve learned about field trips is that the sponsor needs to be prepared to be prepared. There are no perfect field trips. Something will happen that you did not expect and will challenge your wits in the moment. The more thinking you’ve done, the better prepared you’ll be to handle what comes. But when it comes, just keep thinking.”

This made me think about all the wonderful trips I have taken with my students. Some of them were great and of course many had their moments but luckily all of them were successes.

When I first started teaching high school, I found out that special education students were not valued very much. Other students were allowed to go on field trips but it would “cost” too much for my students to go on any. After talking it over with my students (and about half of them could drive), we decided to go on our own field trip on Saturday. I invited parents to come with us and we agreed to meet at a grocery store parking lot early one Saturday morning. All of my students showed up and we carpooled for the trip. We drove to North Carolina (about an hour away) to Carl Sandburg’s home. We hiked up to the top of the mountain where my students spontaneously recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” that they had to memorize earlier in the year. This made me so proud of my kids that it almost made me cry. After a picnic lunch, we returned home. What a successful trip this was.

Since the trip to Carl Sandburg’s home was so much fun, we decided to plan another Saturday trip. We met again on a Saturday and went up to Charlotte, NC to visit Discover Place. This is a hands-on museum with lots of interactive exhibits. The kids had fun and then we walked around Charlotte for awhile. On the way home, we couldn’t find a picnic area and finally found a rest area that was being built. There was a hole near the parking lot that we could dump charcoal and we ended up cooking our hot dogs in the barbecue pit. It was a lot of fun too.

Many years ago, I taught in a rural area where many of my high school students worked on farms which was very different from the way I grew up. I decided my students needed to see the state capitol and understand how and where our state laws were passed. Luckily my husband went with me as a chaperone on the trip. When we arrived, I got off the bus to make arrangements with the bus driver about where and when to pick us up. When I turned around, my husband had a brown paper bag and the students were dropping things in it as they got off the bus. Then my husband looked at me and told me not to ask any questions. Over the years I have learned to not ask when he makes this kind of comment. The trip to the state capitol was wonderful and all of my kids were great. That night at home I finally had a chance to ask my husband what went on when we got off the bus. He said he remembered that we would have to go through a metal detector, and most of the kids had pocket knives on them. He asked them if they would drop them in the bag so they didn’t set off the metal detectors and he would leave it on the locked bus. The students got them back when we returned to the bus. Without saying a word to me, they all realized that my husband was saving them from being in a lot of trouble.

I have taken my students to an art museum and the state museum. They have also been to a rock quarry to talk about the jobs involved in that line of work. I never realized how big a hole that is made for this until our bus drove to the bottom of this huge pit. Everything on top of the hole looked like matchbox cars. I enjoyed taking my classes to factories and mills to see how things are made and husband and I still like to do this when we go on vacation.

When I worked for the county recreation department during the summers, we took kids to many different places like the national forest, farms, roller skating, bowling and other fun places. Unfortunately I was accused of being too strict when I wanted to count the number of kids going and the number returning. The girl in charge told me that she was the boss and it was her responsibility and not mine so I needed to quit spoiling everyone’s fun by worrying about this. Well, I’m really glad it was her responsibility the two times we returned home from two trips and ended up missing a child. That is when she put me in charge of making sure all of the kids were on the bus before we left!

One year I took two classes to Carowinds amusement park one year. The other teacher who was supposed to go with me had personal issues and my administration got her off our bus and would not let her go on the trip with me. They also decided that another chaperone going with us was not allowed to go. I immediately called my husband at work (probably in hysterics) and he is so good about calming me down. Since he is the boss, he told his office that he was going on a field trip with me because I needed another chaperone. His office manager’s daughter who was on holiday from college volunteered her and her boyfriend to come too. So along with the one paraprofessional with me, there were five adults going and I felt much better. Luckily I had thought about bringing two walkie talkies with me. When we broke up into groups, we agreed at a time and place to meet to return to the bus. Later that evening, we ended up missing one student so we got everyone on the bus while we hunted for the missing student. The walkie talkies were instrumental in helping us stay in touch and the missing student was rounded up.

As Mike Rush mentioned, always prepare for the “what ifs.” I tend to think of the worst thing that could happen and what I would do if it did. It is a kind of mental fire drill that I run through. It has helped me in many situations and I’m thankful I have learned to do this. It has helped make our field trips be successful. What do you do to prepare for your field trips?

Original image: 'Weird School Bus' by: Kevin

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Educating Esme – Favorite Quotes

I finished reading Educating Esme – Diary of a Teacher’s First Year in two days and it was a wonderful book. If you are a teacher, you will really enjoy this book so I highly recommend that you take the time to read it. I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes from the book with you.

“Even if I fail, I have to try and try and try. It may be exhausting, but that is beside the point. The goal is not necessarily to succeed but to keep trying, to be the kind of person who has ideas and see them through. “

“She urged me to forgive myself at the end of each day, that no single thing I could say would break a child…or make a child.”

“It’s not our job to be liked...It’s our job to help them be smart.”

“Compromise isn’t always something you do for somebody else. Save your job for yourself. If you want to leave, wait for the big fight.”

“So much of teaching is sharing. Learning results in sharing, sharing results in change, chang is learning.”

“You can’t test what sort of teacher someone will be, because testing what someone knows isn’t the same as what someone is able to share. This will be different for every teacher.”

“The difference between a beginning teacher and an experienced one is that the beginning teacher asks, ‘How am I doing?’ and the experienced teacher asks, ‘How are the children doing?’”

I hope these quotes might inspire you and remind you what you love about teaching. This love of teaching will help you be successful in the classroom!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Words Can Hurt

In Sticks and Stones… from Blogush, Paul Bogush states,

“The words that are chosen by a teacher carry so much meaning and power. I think we all forget just how much power we have. When a kid falls down in class and forgets homework, does poorly on a test, or even is the biggest thorn in our side, we have a choice to use words that beat them down or lift them up. Great teachers do not focus on beating kids down and putting them in their “place.” Great teachers lift kids up with their words and reveal to students that they can do what they previously thought was impossible. They find a way to give their kids wings.”

After reading this, it reminds me how powerful my words are and the impact they have on my students. Not only are my words important, but my tone of voice and my body language is also important. Students analyze everything teachers say and how they say it.

I remember when I was a student and a teacher complimented me, I was always looking for ways to tell if the words were sincere or if these were words that were said to every student. It was hard for me to accept a compliment because they were pretty rare when I was in school. It seemed that teachers saw their roles as being the Great Criticizer, not the Great Complimenter. I understood criticism because it was always explained to me that I would learn from my mistakes so criticism was a good thing. I was so used to criticism that I even expected it. When I was given a compliment, I waited for the other shoe to drop and the criticism to make an appearance. If it didn’t arrive, I was suspicious of the compliment. I felt that I must have missed the criticism which was probably included in the compliment somewhere. I wonder if my students feel the same way.

How many teachers use encouraging words on a regular basis? I think teachers are even so used to criticizing that they don’t really know how to encourage. It has become a habit of pointing out the wrong things our students do that we forget to look for the good things and encourage them to do them. Finding the good things may be hard at first, but the more we do it, the easier it will become. Maybe if we encourage more often rather than criticizing, our students would be willing to take risks and try harder. I think it would be a good practice to try to find at least one positive thing to say about each student we teach.

I want to help my students find their wings and fly! Thanks for Paul for the reminder. I plan to try harder about watching my words and how I deliver them.

Original image: 'Flying High....' by: Keven Law

Monday, October 26, 2009

Relating to My School Board Members

I recently received a comment on my blog from Fred Deutsch who is a school board member in South Dakota. I was so excited because I had never imagined that a school board member would even read my blog, much less comment on it! I was totally flabbergasted and immediately went to his blog, School-of-Thought, to read what he had to say on issues. Of course, I also added it to my Google Reader so I don’t miss any updates and would highly recommend that you check it out. .

I also realized that even though I encourage people to read blogs about education and follow many of them, most of them are written by other teachers or even reporters. I read one blog, Principal’s Page – The Blog, written by Michael Smith who is a Superintendent which I thoroughly enjoy sharing with my husband. It is interesting to see the school system from an administrator’s point of view. Yet, I don’t know of any school board members who blog, until now.

After reading Fred Deutsch’s post, Education Week takes a Slap at School Boards,
I began to think about the relationship between teachers and school board members. He states,
“There are good and bad folks in every line of work, including those that serve on school boards. The truth is it burns my butt when I see school board member that aren’t doing what they were elected to do. Our work is just too damn important! But those board members are few and far between in my experience. When I go to state or national meetings, I talk with school board members that are concerned, energized and passionate about education. It’s rare that I meet a school board member that isn’t.
The most significant challenge for national and state school board associations, in my opinion, is to do a better job in getting the word out about the “job requirements” of a school board member, and the important relationship between what we do in the board room, and academic achievement in the classroom. We have to do a better job in getting the word out that serving on a school board is richly rewarding.”

When I was a teacher, I thought of the school board as “them” and teachers as “us.” I never had any contact with my school board members and didn’t even think about them much unless we were given policies that we hated. I hate to admit that I did not attend many school board meetings in my whole career and wasn’t really encouraged to do so by my administrators. I couldn’t even tell you who the school board members were or who represented my district!

Even though Mr. Deutsch feels that the school board should inform the public better about what their job descriptions are, I feel it is important for teachers to be responsible in seeking out this information rather than waiting for it to be handed to them. If I could go back in time, I would definitely take a more active role in staying involved with the school board. Having a relationship with the school board would be a great way to share your beliefs as well as helping them make informed, positive decisions that impact the classroom.

Here are some suggestions that I thought would be helpful for teachers and school board members. Developing a relationship with the school board member could be so beneficial towards helping our students become successful in the classroom.
1. Teachers should know the person who represents the district they live in. Share this information with your students so they see you as a role model. Help them see who their school board member is.
2. Teachers should know the names of all of the school board members and have their contact information.
3. Teachers should attend a school board meeting as much as possible. They might be making decisions that impact your classroom and you should know what is going on.
4. Teachers should know and understand the issues that are coming before the school board.
5. Teachers should invite school board members to their classrooms, especially if you have a special lesson going on. They might not be able to attend but I’m sure they would appreciate the invitation.
6. If there is a special issue that you feel strongly about, call or email your school board member and tell them about it. They may not have any one who is giving them input from your point of view.
7. Contact your school board member and give them your contact information in case they have a question or if they want to know how you feel about a specific issue.

If you know of any other ways to help build a relationship with the school, please share. I really feel that developing a relationship with the school board is important and wish someone would have encouraged me when I started teaching.

Original image: 'final exam' by: John

Friday, October 23, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Creative Park – “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! It 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. To learn more, please visit For years Canon has been bringing you its cutting edge technology into your home, now let us help you in the classroom. We have a range of products and projects that can make learning fun and interactive. Learning to think creatively is an essential part of a child’s development and can be integrated into your everyday lessons at, whether you are printing up photos to get to know your students or working on a Creative Park project. “

Word Magnets – You write a sentence and the program mixes the words up. Then you can color them in different colors for nouns, verbs, etc. The student moves the words and puts them in the correct order.

UDL4All – “Collaborate with other educators using Universal Design for Learning tools in their classrooms to improve teaching and learning.”

Interactive Timeline – interactive timeline of the financial crisis. I think this would make a great teaching tool for the high school level.

Math eGlossary - put out by McGraw Hill for grades 6-12.

Original image: '18 tools and a hair' by: Sean Lamb

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Disheartened, Contented or Idealists

I just read an article State of Mind from Education Week that talks about a study showing educators falling into three categories: Disheartened, Contented or Idealists. Only 37% of the educators studied were contented. I think that as educators we fall into all three of those categories at different times in our career. I’m afraid this article will discourage many new educators from continuing in their career. Why would I want to stay in a career where I had a only a small chance of being contented? We need to let new educators know that these are stages that experienced educators go through often in their careers and that it is natural. We need to let new educators know how to move on to a different stage rather than being stuck in one without hope of moving on.

There were many times I have felt disheartened in my classroom. Whenever I was overwhelmed with paperwork or new policies as well as new special education regulations, I would feel disheartened. But like real life, there will always be ups and downs. I don’t think that this is just particular for educators but I think this happens in every career choice. I believe that it makes your choice of career interesting and not stagnant. When I felt disheartened, I talked with others and tried to find inspiration to come out of this feeling. Everyone shouldn’t be so worried that educators feel disheartened as much as worried that educators don’t have the necessary tools to overcome this feeling.

Being an Idealist is a good thing as long as there is balance. Being a Don Quixote in the education world could be pretty misleading to our students. Yet, teaching them to dream big, think big, and hope big is not necessarily a bad thing. Years ago, I’m sure that many people thought inventors were idealists but imagine our lives if someone hadn’t invented indoor plumbing, automobiles, cell phones, or even computers. I believe someone had to inspire and motivate an inventor so why not a teacher? I have been an idealist when I have had a great idea for a new lesson that I wanted to try in my class. I remember when I first learned about vermiculture (worm composting) and I had big ideas for composting all of the food scraps from our school cafeteria. We set up a system in our classroom but then I found out that the cafeteria wasn’t allowed to give me the food scraps (something about the health laws prohibited this). So we had to revise our ideas and instead had to settle for a smaller system than we hoped for.

Being contented is good too but I’m afraid that it would leave me complacent. Would I strive to do better? Would I struggle to be a better teacher or would I become stagnant, which could lead me to feeling disheartened? I have felt contented though when my students were being successful, no parent was mad at me at that particular time, and my administration felt I was doing a good job. Unfortunately I was not contented for long because then I would move on to either being disheartened or an idealist when I tried new strategies in my classroom.

I am currently reading a great book called Educating Esme – Diary of a Teacher’s First Year by Esme Raji Codell which is fantastic to read. As I read, I have seen her go through all three of these stages but she does not give up. If you have a chance to read this book, I highly recommend it. During her first year of teaching, Esme has wonderful ideas but faces of wall of skepticism from her fellow teachers. Even though the administration doesn’t seem to support her, she makes a difference in her students’ lives. I can’t wait to read more!

The article goes on to state,

“The characteristics and specific views of each group raise important questions for the field. Are the Idealists the best prospects for high-needs schools and for reinvigorating the profession, and what do school leaders need to do to retain them in the field? Given the Idealists’ passion for improving their students’ lives, how can administrators ensure that they have the skills and support to fulfill that goal? More than a third of Idealists voiced a desire to move eventually into other jobs in education. How does the field respond to those aspirations? The Disheartened pose a different challenge. Some may be ill-fitted to the job and ready to move on, but how should the field encourage and support their transition? Others may be good teachers trapped in dysfunctional schools and, in the right environment, might change their views and become Idealists.”

Maybe educators need to stop on a regular basis and reflect on where they are at that point. I think this would be great for professional development or a faculty meeting. Have teachers figure out which category they fit in at that particular time. Then have them get in groups where each group has one of each category and have them discuss why they feel this way. Maybe this is one way that educators can support each other. Sometimes we don’t necessarily want solutions but instead we just want someone to listen. Maybe someone will come up with an idea that becomes a solution but if we don’t give people time to connect, we are doing educators a disservice by ignoring that these phases exist. If the administration allows this time for connecting, they would be showing that they value their teachers and are concerned about their feelings. This might be a way to encourage teachers to stay in the field. For those that stay disheartened and never move on to another stage, they may realize by reflecting and talking with others, that this career is not for them. For those that move to different stages, they may realize that it is okay to feel this way and that it is only temporary. I think this would be a successful way to encourage teachers and show them that they are valued.

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions or answers to the articles questions? Please share.

Original image: 'The Portland Nonprofit Career Fair'

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quality vs. Seniority

Scott MCleod talks about Teacher layoffs: Should seniority rule? in his blog Dangerously Irrelevant. He states,

“As budget cuts loom again in many states, employee termination, seniority, and ‘bumping rights’ are in the news. The essential issue is whether organizational leaders should be able to retain the employees they think are the most highly-skilled or whether seniority (or some other factor) should be employed instead. ‘Highly skilled’ in this instance means ‘employee quality’ or ‘best fit for employer needs,’ both of which are typically defined by the organization, not the employee or union.”

I truly believe that in our efforts to protect teachers from illegal personnel practices, we have gone overboard. I think we have done this to the point where we are doing a disservice to our students. Good teachers should keep their job and if they have seniority and experience, it shouldn’t be hard to show they are good teachers. The problem is that there is no uniform measure on what makes a “good teacher.” What one principal may consider high quality teaching may not be the same for another principal. I still think that is okay because maybe that school was not the right fit for them to be on the same team.

I have worked at one school where my efforts to communicate with parents and develop a rapport with them in order to help my students be successful were applauded. My students were successful and discipline problems with my class were practically nonexistent. At another school, I was told that I was too close to the parents and the community. In fact, the principal felt that because I lived in the same community as my students, I should go outside the community to do my grocery shopping. He obviously did not feel I was a “good teacher” so it was time to move on to another school where the principal had the same values as me.

At another school, I worked with a teacher who had been teaching for about 17 years but she was terrible. She did not teach her self contained students effectively, showed lots of R rated videos, and basically did very little teaching and even though the parents complained, it took three years to go through the process of firing her. Three years is a lot of wasted time in a child’s school life. They have wasted ¼ of their education years and they don’t have that time to waste! The reason it took so many years to fire her was the fear of litigation, so the school had to document and offer time to improve, and then more documentation that improvement was not happening. I’m sure there were many highly skilled newer teachers out there that could have been more effective in this classroom but because she had seniority, she was given benefits that brand new teachers are not given.

Our state does not have unions and we are a right-to-work state but I think teachers are protected pretty well due to fear of lawsuits. Lawsuits will cost the school district lots of money at the expense of the taxpayer. We need to get out of this fear mentality and make sure we are having good effective teachers who are offering a high quality education to our students. If teachers are not doing so, they are making the rest of us who are trying to do this look bad.

I do not have an answer to how to evaluate teachers in order to find out how well they are teaching because I know that an administrator is already stretched too thin. There is also the problem of personality conflicts and the impossibility of uniform evaluating. I do think administrators need to be in the classroom observing more. My school had 2300 students and even though there were four assistant principals, it was impossible to deal with discipline problems, day to day operations, and get in all of the classrooms more than once a year if that much. I think observing in the classrooms is the only way administrators will know what is going on in the classroom.

Maybe they need to put cameras in the classroom. I think it has helped with making sure state troopers follow the rules as well as protecting their rights too. If there is any doubt about a teacher’s teaching practices, a video would show evidence. This would protect students and teachers from false accusations as well as evidence to prove otherwise. If the video shows the accusations are true, then the student or teacher should be dealt with immediately.

I do not believe that seniority should be more important than high quality teaching if we want our students to be successful in life. What do you think?

Original image: 'Teaching is not Rocket Science' by: Dean Shareski

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Using Common Sense is Not Impossible

In Are You Dumber Than A First Grader? from SpeEdChange, the author states,

“The Christina School District is the latest poster child for the need to wipe the entire idea of "Zero Tolerance" from our school vocabulary. They became this when they "zero tolerated" a first grader who had an awful lapse in judgment.”

The author is referring to the story about the first grader who brought a Boy Scout tool to school which included a pocket knife. He had just become a boy scout and wanted to show it off. Of course now they are planning to expel him. He is just a first grader and this is how we want him to begin his relationship with the education system?

I still can’t understand why school boards can’t use their common sense. I have heard that they do things like this so that they can show everyone that they are being treated equally and fair. I tell my students that life isn’t fair and it is impossible for it to be that way. We can try to be as fair as possible but when we are working with people, they need to be dealt with individually. You can’t deal with situations but you can deal with people.

This reminded me of another situation at a high school where I taught. A young girl was in the process of being expelled because of the zero tolerance policy. This girl was a straight A student and expected to be salutatorian of her class when graduation rolled around plus had already been accepted into college with lots of scholarships. It was around January and there was a class field trip planned. When the girl got on the bus, she realized that on her keychain was a tiny plastic case holding a pocketknife and tiny scissors. I saw this item which was about an inch long and probably wasn’t even sharp enough to pierce skin. If it did pierce skin, it could not have gone deep enough to do much harm because it was so tiny. She immediately turned it in to her teacher so she wouldn’t get in trouble. The teacher turned it in to the administration when they returned to school and they jumped into action. They acted like this girl was planning an act of terrorism and suspended her. Due to the zero tolerance policy, they were recommending expulsion. I couldn’t believe that they were going to ruin this girl’s life over something like this. She would lose her scholarships as well due to disciplinary actions against her.

As educators, we expect our students to show some common sense when they are interacting with their peers. Yet, this is the role model we give them? We expect our students to learn critical thinking, yet the people in power show none. The system is so hypocritical that it is no wonder our students are confused and rebellious. For many years I have taught my students steps to problem solve. First they identify the problem and brainstorm possible actions. They make a list of the pros and cons of these actions and then decide the best way to act. We expect our students to look at a situation then weigh the pros and cons of their actions and make a decision based on these but yet the adults don’t seem to do the same thing. When adults have a set policy that they follow, I don’t see them weighing the pros and cons of their actions. They blindly act without thinking. They follow this set path without looking at any other possible avenues.

I think this is a way for school boards to get out of thinking. They don’t have to think, brainstorm possible avenues to follow, or even evaluate their actions. Rather than acting responsibly, these people are just reacting. They stand behind a wall and hide saying that it was the district policy. These people are the policy makers so change the policy! Maybe they need to come up with a policy that when situations occur, they will need to use their common sense and look at each case individually when it is brought before them. I really don’t understand why this is so hard but maybe I’m just using common sense. I think if school boards did this, they would be more successful in running the district. What do you think?

Original image: '(im)possible - 282/365' by: Niklas Morberg

Monday, October 19, 2009

Accepting Criticism

After reading 10 Tips for Coping with Criticism, it hit me that I really don’t think we teach our students how to accept criticism and learn from it. Most teens get defensive and shut down but learning from criticism can be a positive experience if we choose for that to happen.

When I was trying to get my students into the work place, one of the items on their evaluations was a question about accepting criticism. This was a pretty broad statement. By accepting criticism from an employer, I wanted them to listen without becoming defensive, listen without giving excuses, listen to find out what they needed to do differently, and then actually do things differently to make the boss happy. I think I was expecting too much out of my students without actually teaching them all of those steps separately. A student isn’t born knowing these steps and needs to be taught them. This is such an important skill to learn in order to keep a job.

One of my biggest challenges was teaching my students with autism to accept criticism. They usually saw things in black or white and there was no gray area. It was really hard for them to understand that that sometimes they had to act differently in various situations. One of my students worked in a medical records office where he filed all of the medical folders. He was exactly on time to work, took his lunch time at the allotted time and returned back to work promptly. When it was time to leave at the end of the day, he left exactly when it was time to leave. He was such an excellent worker and was doing a great job. I was approached by the employer about one little problem though. Apparently he had learned that doctors were supposed to update the records by a certain time (I guess it was office policy) and some of them didn’t do that so my student scolded doctors who didn’t follow this rule. We had to have a conference to explain to my student that he did not have the authority to scold the doctors. Of course my student argued that the “rule” needed to be followed and had trouble accepting this criticism. We finally compromised by agreeing that following rules were important but there was also a rule that you could only scold people who work under you and not people that you work for. This seemed to click with my student and he was able to move on.

I think it is important to teach students different coping skills so that they can handle criticism they receive. Many times they take criticism as a personal attack and sometimes they need to learn to step back from the words and look at the big picture. They need to stop thinking that criticism means they are bad people and look for the behaviors that this criticism is addressing. It is alright to admit that criticism hurts our feelings because that is normal but we need to move past the hurt feelings in order to learn from them.

My students always learned best if I could come up with a procedure or steps for them to follow. So here are the steps that I think helped them.

If you are criticized:
1. Listen without interrupting. Keep an open mind and really listen without thinking about why you did what you did. Do not take what they are saying as a personal attack but as a way to make you better.
2. Restate the behavior that the person is having a problem with. Sometimes you might think they mean one thing but they really mean something else.
3. Ask the person what you could do differently.
4. Restate what they said you should do differently so you are sure that you understand.
5. Try this different way because it actually might be better.

Then I have my students role-play different situations so they can practice this behavior. It needs to be practiced like a fire drill so when the actual situation occurs, they will be prepared. I have little flash cards made up with the criticism on them. One student plays the boss and reads the card. The other student plays the employee and follows the steps. Then they switch roles.

I actually got to see it work on the job site so I was very proud of my students. Even some of the employers remarked about how well they took criticism and noted this on the job evaluation. I think this lesson was very successful with my students and will help them later in life also.

Original image: 'I Hate It When I Don't Listen To Myself' by: Bart

Friday, October 16, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 10/16/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Place Spotting – a google map quiz game. You can solve those made by others or you can make your own for your class.

Scholastic Word Wizard Vocab Word Quiz Maker – add up to 25 words; even puts in a word bank

Get Body Smart – “Visually Learn About the Human Body Using Our Interactive "Flash" Animations.” There are tutorials and quizzes.

Reading Logs – “gives students a better way to track reading, create vocabulary cards and practice spelling. Learning material is uploaded by teachers and is accessed online by students in their class. Once the material is online, it is brought to life with our learning tools:
Electronic Reading Logs
Vocabulary Card Creator
Listen and Spell practice system

Map Puzzles – “Free Online Map Puzzles, no downloading, no installation - PC or Mac!”

Original image: '18 tools and a hair' by: Sean Lamb

Thursday, October 15, 2009

EduCarnival V2 Issue 9 State Fair of Texas Edition

The Educarnival v2 Issue 9 is up on the midway at Bellringers. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article The Importance of Involving Parents is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Working Myself Out of a Job

In Job Security No More…… from Tech Thoughts By Jen , JenW states,

“You see – for many many (too many) years …I was the holder of all tech wisdom. (100% mostly for my gratification and my ego). The false sense of pride of being the “techie know it all” not only alienated and limited my staff but also was selfish to myself and the burden I placed upon myself…because of my unwillingness to share the information.

So now I am consciously striving to put myself out of a job.”

I think as a special education teacher, that is what my main purpose is – I need to work myself out of a job. I need to teach students skills so that they can be independent and not need teachers like me. Here are some of the things I need to do.

Over the years I have heard about whole language approach and other reading approaches and have followed the debate. Everyone has their own opinion on what works and what doesn’t. I really believe in phonics as a key to reading. I need to teach students decoding skills so that they can figure out words they don’t know when there is no one to ask.

I’m not sure students really understand all the things we have them read. Too many times I remember being told to read pages of text and then the teacher goes over it in class. I don’t think I was expected to really comprehend what I read as much as I was expected to spit back what the teacher told us. I need to teach students comprehension skills so that they are doing more than just reading words.

I hear students repeat things they have heard on TV about political candidates and I wonder if that is what they really believe. This is a good way they don’t have to think. They don’t have to sift through the facts or make a stand themselves. They need to learn how to make good decisions by evaluating what they have learned. I need to teach students who to think critically and not just believe everything they read or watch or hear.

What happens when these students get out of school into the real world? Who will be there to hold their hand and guide them every step? What if they change jobs or are given a promotion and need to know more? I need to teach students how to research for information to want or need and how to know that the information they find is valid.

Many of my students have been ridiculed for many years because of their learning difficulties. Before they have been labeled with a disability, they probably have been called lazy or inattentive by parents and teachers. This has caused many to draw inside themselves and keep their social skills from developing the way they need to. It is hard for them to work with others because they are always waiting for rejection that they have come to expect. I need to teach students how to work with others so that they can function in society.

If I work myself out of a job, I will know that I have given my students a chance to be successful in life. I know it's a fantasy but it's a nice one!

Original image: 'Lonely in golden place!' by: Khalid Almasoud

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top Ten List: What Motivates Me?

In Motivation from bluyonder, Greg Whitby tells us,

“What motivates me and many of my colleagues is a desire to give young people the best opportunity in life by giving them the gift of education.”

This post made me think about all the things that motivated me to teach. I love teaching and I never regretted for a minute that I went into teaching. But what makes me love it so much? Why is it so important to me?

I think it is important every now and then to look at what is motivating us. Let’s face it; the news is full of stories about how terrible education (or schools or teachers) are doing in our society. Not to mention the low pay, liabilities, paperwork, and responsibilities. But no one really talks about the good things because the good news doesn’t sell. We tend to get caught up in all the negative-ness around us and forget to look at the positive reasons why we do what we do.

Now that the school year has started and we have gotten busy in our routines and grading papers, it is time to step back and look at ourselves. Reflect on what we are doing and not forget about why we are doing it (I know for a fact it isn’t for the big money we get for teaching!). I believe if we think of the positive results of what we are doing, it will reenergize us. We sometimes need to be our best support system and give ourselves a pat on the back instead of just depending on others to hold us up.

Here are some of the things that motivate me to teach (these are not in any order of importance):

1. The smile on students’ faces when all of a sudden they understand a new skill.
2. Seeing students, who think they can’t do something, suddenly realize that all things are possible.

3. Sharing knowledge that students may not know.

4. Parents who appreciate me and encourage me to continue what I’m doing.

5. Learning something new along with my students.

6. Knowing in their hearts, these students really want to be successful.

7. Facing the challenge of teaching students who have not been successful in the past and seeing them become successful in the present.

8. Talking to former students who remember me and finding out how they are and what they are doing now.

9. Students who begin to ask questions and are thirsting to learn more.

10. The hope that I will influence someone else in a positive way.

What motivates you?

Original image: 'Motivation' by: Peterjon Smith

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good Answers to Tough Questions: A Book Review

I am not being paid to write this review and wanted to share some information about these great books. I recently read the books from the Good Answers to Tough Questions Series by Joy Berry. The author has written books to help parents and children deal with issues for the past thirty years. Her classics are broken into six series which are:

Teach Me About (ages 1-3)
Let’s Talk About (ages 4-5)
Help Me Be Good (ages 5-7)
A Fun and Easy Way (ages 7-10)
Winning Skills (ages 11-12)
Good Answers to Tough Questions (age 6-12)

In the Good Answers to Tough Questions series, I read the books on Moving, Disasters, Death, Divorce, Trauma, and Substance Abuse. These books were well written, easy to understand, and written in a positive way that would not make the reader uncomfortable. I would highly recommend these books to parents and teachers.

As a teacher, I really liked the book on Disasters. It broke the disasters down into natural disasters and manmade disasters. Then when it describes each type of disaster, the author tells how to prepare and survive each one. I like the way these were given in easy to follow steps. There can be a class discussion about each step.

The book on Substance Abuse is also a good book to use in a classroom of older children. The book deals with the different types of substances that can be abused. It also gives children a way to handle different situations such as being tempted to abuse drugs or if around those who are abusing them.

Children who are facing personal issues like moving, death, or divorce will really find these books to be helpful. The facts are given clear so that a child can understand. This would help parents who are feeling emotional when dealing with these issues along with the child. If this was read together, it could open the lines of communication between the parent and the child.

In addition to the great stories in these books, the illustrations are great too. They would appeal to readers of all ages. There are some humorous ones also to look for as your read along.

If you get a chance to use this in a classroom, I think the lessons you can develop from them will be successful. If you have used this, please let me know what you think.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Carnival of Education 10/7/09

The Educarnival v2 Issue 8 is up on the midway at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Quality Not Quantity is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 10/09/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Kid’s Science Challenge – “is a nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th graders to submit experiments and problems for REAL scientists and engineers to solve. Play science games, watch videos, and enter to win awesome prizes and trips!”

Creative Park – “Canon’s Creative Park for Creative Minds, a free, online resource that can help bring fun, easy craft projects into your classroom. 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! It is a simple and interactive way to help teach students about geography, history, social studies, sciences and more.”

You Can School Program - provides information on the free in-school programs that the (National) Guard offers public and private high schools. The website also features interactive online modules ( that give students a taste of what would be covered in an in-class presentation. Through these online interactive games and exercises, students can learn about helpful life and school skills like budgeting basics, study techniques, test taking skills and health and nutritional awareness.

Manga High – “At Mangahigh, we offer maths education for the networked student who loves games. Instead of ‘force-feeding’ dry maths content with anachronistic textbooks, Mangahigh intrigues and entices students with unique, curriculum-compliant maths casual games, while building competence with our complementary maths eLearning system, Prodigi®. Prodigi® and the maths games work in symphony to introduce mathematical concepts as part of game-play and promote automaticity through repetition. Enthusiastic students find new challenges at Mangahigh, and hone aptitudes that will lead them to exam excellence and success in higher education and beyond.”

Great Museums – collection of 12 videos that enables you to tour some great museums

Original image: 'Hammers' by: Lewis Meyer

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Horrible Wyndham Experience

We are spending a few days with my parents at their Wyndham Time Share in Daytona Beach, FL and had a horrible experience with them. First of all, my parents are giving us this time share but we have no idea how the program works, how to pay the fees, how to make reservations, or anything else about the program.

At 1pm, we had an appointment with the Wyndham people and we were told this was an evaluation of the program and would last 45 minutes plus we would get $75 American Express gift card. We showed up on time to meet with a man named Jimmy. He left us alone in a small room for about 20 minutes while he found our account number and how many points we had. He proceeded to tell us that my parents wasted their money by only buying points every other year and how by just having one week every other year, we might as well just throw our money in the trash and how stupid this was. When I told him I wasn’t prepared to buy more points until I knew more about the program, he jumped down my throat to tell me that he wasn’t trying to sell me more and to get off my high horse. (Now I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable with him.)

Then we moved upstairs to a big room with lots of tables where people were meeting with sales reps. Jimmy told us to ask him questions and we asked how the program works. He told us that he wouldn’t lie to us and that Wyndham had a policy that if anyone lies, they get fired. He told me that they would contact us but I let him know that they didn’t have any contact information so how could they do this. Then he asked me to give him an email address and phone number. We asked for some written information to look at and he let us see a sample directory. Again he left us for about 10 minutes alone and then returned to ask us what questions we had. We asked for a copy of this book and he said before we left, they would give us a gift and a book. He also told us that it would take 2-3 hours to tell us about the program so we needed to wait until someone contacted us and sent us some information and also look at the book we would get when we left. When I asked him for our member number and contract number, he showed it to me and I wrote them down. Then I verified it on another paper he had and he laughed at me and told me that I was too much of a perfectionist and I needed to calm down. (That did not make me feel very happy with him.)

We sat and chatted for about 30 min. when my stepmom asked him if he could find a way to help us stay in the rooms we were in instead of having to move on the third day. He told us to go downstairs to talk to a woman named Rebecca and she would help us. When my dad asked him if Rebecca was down there today, Jimmy told him that she was. Then he asked what country we were from so I told him my father was born in China. At one point in the conversation, he made fun of the Chinese by pulling his eyes to the side so they could be “slanted.” (I was so offended that I was speechless.) At about 2pm, he leaves us alone again, without telling us where he is going or why he is leaving us. At 2:15 he stops by to say thank you, have a nice day.

Now we have been there for over an hour and we are freezing in this cold room. My 90 year old dad is shivering and he is miserable. Finally at 2:30 (90 minutes from when we arrived), I go to an office where this man is working on a computer and ask him if someone has forgotten us. He goes and gets someone who said he knew about us but he was busy. Then they send us to a room to pick up the gift we were promised. When I ask about the book that Jimmy said we would get, they said there weren’t any books and I had to call a 1-800 number to get one myself. Now we are pretty upset because we sat there for 90 min. and still had no idea how this program worked. We asked several time for Jimmy’s supervisor because obviously Jimmy lied to us but the man refused to get anyone. When my husband said he would complain to the real estate commission and the attorney general’s office about this, the man said that was a waste of time because they couldn’t do anything. We finally left because I didn’t want my father to get upset and have another stroke. Then to top it off, we go to see Rebecca about our room, and we are told that today was her day off ! (Jimmy lied again! Does this mean he will get fired?)

Needless to say, this is not the end of it. I will be contacting some people when I get home. Maybe I am unreasonable and it won’t change the way I was treated, but maybe it will help other people. There was no excuse for the way we were treated. Not to mention that I am paying for a program that I totally do not understand and they refuse to explain it to me but I know they will insist on getting their money each year!

Thanks for listening to me rant. Usually I am easily impressed and needless to say, I’m not impressed with Wyndham. Usually we stay at Hilton and Hampton Inn hotels and now I see why. We have never been treated this way at other hotels. If this hadn’t been a gift, I don’t think I would have bought into this time share. If you are thinking about it, all I can say is run to the nearest door and escape while you can.

Original image: 'YARGHHH!' by: William A. Clark

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Importance of Involving Parents

In Engaging Parents for Improved Student Success from's Education Blog, David Flatley states,

“Parents are universally accepted as a child’s first teacher. It’s intuitive, and we usually know it from our own experience. Schools that embrace this reality and recognize the important role parents play in their child’s education are better able to create curriculum and build relationships with parents that have a profound effect on a child’s journey through school.”

When I read this, I wanted to stand up and cheer. I am amazed when I talk to many teachers that they just don’t seem to understand the importance of parents as a way to be successful in the classroom. I want to scream, “Parents are on the same team! We work for the same goal! Hello, people but without the parents we would not have a job!”

When I teach my grad courses I always talk about the importance of communicating with the parents on a regular basis, developing a rapport, and getting to know the family. As I talk, I see their eyes glaze over and they tune me out. The ones that don’t tune me out are quick to give me all the excuses about why this can’t be done. I know it can because I did it for 30 years! I think the issue is more of not wanting to rather than not being able to.

I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again in future blog posts but the parents were a big part of my program. They gave me support and even guidance when it came to working with their child. Let’s face it, they know their child more than I do and know what works and what doesn’t at home, so why not apply a lot of the same principles in the classroom? Why do I want to reinvent the wheel? If there was problem, I felt proud when a parent was able to call me to discuss the problem rather than involving the administration and making the problem become a complicated situation. Usually between us, we were able to solve the problem.
I want to share a Facebook message from a parent of a student that I had many years ago. The student is now a preacher and recently went to Israel on a trip (I am so proud of him!). The parent wrote to me,

"Not meaning to be mushy but YOU made me stronger and YOU made my son .successful and strong....If he gets knocked down , he just gets up and keeps on going...
You not only taught him the three R's but YOU TAUGHT HIM HOW TO BE A SURVIVOR...and he is one!"

(Thank you so much Jeanie! Your words mean the world to me and so does your family!)

I’m not sure this parent realizes how much she had taught me the years her son was in my class. She never gave up. She never gave up on her son or me. Whenever I talked to her, she was constantly telling me how much she appreciated me and giving me a pep talk when I was feeling discouraged. It was a joy to pick up the phone and talk to her about her son. It wasn’t always a bed of roses but I felt like I was not alone in her son’s struggle to learn. I’m hoping that he felt the same way because we attacked his learning problems with a team approach (the student, his mom, and I were a team and we were going to win!). My student sometimes got discouraged and so did I and so did his mom. Luckily all three of us didn’t get this way at the same time and we helped each other up during these times. This parent had so much faith in my ability to help her son learn and so much faith that her son would learn that I was determined not to let her down.

All these teachers who are not making parents a major player in their classroom are really missing the boat. When you feel things are just not right in the classroom or as good as you know it should be, I wonder if you are involving the parents enough.

I have visited a number of charter schools and the ones I have been to seem to really involve the parents. One of them makes parent involvement a requirement in order for the student to attend that school. Obviously the administration and the faculty have a strong interaction with the parents and I have noticed that these charter schools seem to be very successful. I’m sure the parent factor is not the only reason for their success but I’m feel it plays a big part.

If you haven’t made parents a major player on your team, I suggest doing so right away. I know that they played a big part in my class being successful.

Original image: 'Silhouette of a family of five' by: Robert Crum

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Going Into Educator Mode

I Still Have My Teacher Voice. This is more of a personal story than being very helpful I guess but maybe you will enjoy the story.
We recently took a cruise in the Caribbean where there were some teenagers on the ship. I’m not sure why they weren’t in school or who they were with. On one ship, there was a curfew where anyone under 18 could not be unsupervised around the ship after 2am. Well, on this ship, there was no curfew but I really didn’t see any problems so it really wasn’t an issue. As some of you know, I get up at 5am every day so I would take my lap top to the Lido deck and stay out of the cabin so my husband could sleep peacefully. On this one morning, these two teenage boys wanted lemonade and were quite upset they couldn’t get any. Then they proceeded to use profanity loudly at a crew member to show their displeasure. After that they approached me asking for a cigarette.

I felt that once they spoke to me, they became fair game. I unconsciously went into teacher mode and proceeded to scold them for their actions and their profanity. I didn’t scream at them or talk disrespectfully to them, but I told them that they offended me and that I really don’t think that their parents would approve of their behavior. If they wanted to be treated like adults, then they should act like adults. I told them that there was no excuse for using profanity and talking to a crew member that way since he was only doing his job. I’m glad they were smart enough to stand there, look embarrassed, and tell me that they were sorry. Then they quietly walked away and out the door. When I saw them a little while later sitting around the pool, they were talking quietly (without any cigarettes.)

I felt proud that I still had it in me! Of course I have seen this happen a few times where older people just shake their heads and move away quietly. I think as adults we have a responsibility to the younger generation to guide them. I saw this as an opportunity to do what was needed. I know I risked the chance that they could blow up at me but I’ve handled worse than that in the classroom. By talking with them, I felt that I made a difference. I felt this was a way to model a way of handling conflict.

Have you ever been out in a public area and gone into educator mode? If so, please share your story. I think once you have it in your blood, you can’t help yourself.

Original image: 'Media Centre, 22-12-2006' by: David Jones

Monday, October 5, 2009

Am I Supposed To Be An Entertainer?

In Let's Make A Deal! from Teacher Food , Mike Rush states,

“Our students are so uninterested in the experiences we give them that they are the most excited when what we give them is time away.” He is talking about how his students want to have “free time.”

I have heard so many teachers tell me during my career that they are not entertainers and they shouldn’t be expected to entertain. These are the same teachers that I’ve observed teaching page by page out of the book and speaking in monotone for the entire class period.

I agree that we shouldn’t be entertainers but I don’t think that it is asking too much for us to be interesting enough to engage the students. I do not want to be the type of teacher that I myself would hate to listen to. If I was in a class like I mentioned above, I would be totally bored and hate the subject. Is this what I want my for my students? Or my own children?

When I walked into a classroom at the beginning of the year, I could “feel” the attitudes of my students flying off of them. If these feelings could talk, these are some of the things I would hear:

· You can’t teach me anything!
· This is so boring!
· Why am I here?
· What a dork (nerd, jerk, add your own words)!
· This is so stupid!
· I don’t even need this course but they put me in this.
· How am I going to last the year with this person!

I like to keep them off balanced and not be anything like they expect. Over the first couple of weeks, I ask their opinions and input. I talk about lessons that I think are interesting and ask for their help in coming up with activities. I also ask them about topics that they are interested in learning about. Then I try to come up with activities to teach these topics and still meet my goals and objectives as well as state standards. If the students have something vested in their learning, I think they will put more energy into learning. Maybe you can’t veer off the required topics given by the administration. Then it is time to lay it out on the line with the students and have them help with the planning of the topics. If students feel they have some control, I don’t hit so much resistance to the work.

Usually by the end of 3 months, my students are energized about learning. They still say the token responses but they don’t have the power behind the words. I usually have students who start talking about new topics and ways we could learn more about them. Some students actually collaborate with each other and try to come up with new approaches. I ask them to write out their proposal so we can look at it together. This helps them think the ideas through as well working to make their thoughts clear enough to communicate. I ask them to write in their proposal what the topic they want to learn more about, give a reason (which could just be that they find it interesting), and some activities that will help the class learn about it. Then when we discuss it as a class, we might brainstorm more activities that the writer did not think about and we add it to the list. I take these activities and choose the ones that I think are appropriate and fine tune them so they are learning skills that I meet my school/class goals and objectives. It is really not hard for me to adapt these lessons to include reading, writing, math, history, science, and art or music. The students actually look for ways for me to incorporate them in the topic because they know that I have to justify teaching them this topic if an administrator walks in. These students feel like they are included in the planning process.

Since the students helped plan these future units, I do not hear as much grumbling about the work they need to do. Sometimes the activities are divided according to different ability levels and different interests. Then they love to share their results with the class as a whole.

My students didn’t ask for much free time because they were doing many things they wanted. I guess this was more like a compromise than making a deal. They understood that we had a job to do but if they could do it in a way that was more interesting to them, it would help them feel better about it. This strategy has really been successful in my classroom.

Original image: 'Soffio di vita' by: Andrea Nissolino

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Educarnival v2 Issue 7

The Educarnival v2 Issue7 is up on the midway at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article On the Playground is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 10/2/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Clean up the Classroom with Clorox® - classroom activities and tips for teachers

Blogs, Wikis, Doc: Which one is right for you? – great comparison of the three tools

Museum of Humor - lesson plans that are fun for both you and your students, free printable worksheets, puzzles and other cool stuff, and lots of information on using humor in the classroom.

Fablevision posters – free motivational posters

Gotofreebie – “ makes it easy to find and share the hottest freebies, free stuff and free samples. GotoFreebie offers useful and quality free samples and giveaways on everything from baby and healthcare products to games and music.”

Original image: 'The Toolbox is Organized!' by: Dan Thompson

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are We Experts?

In Learner experts or Content experts? from Technology Teacher, fivbert begins by asking,

“Should teachers be Experts in Knowledge of their Subject Matter or Experts in How to Teach Students?”

and finishes by stating,

“Teachers should be facilitators of learning, Information Facilitators, not just Information Dispensers.”

This reminded me of the many times that my students thought (and expected) that I knew everything about anything. Many were shocked when I could look them in the eye and actually tell them that I didn’t know the answer. I also was quick to say that they asked a good question and that I was interested in knowing the answer so I would guide them towards finding the answer. Do you remember that old story about “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I always feel like that when I can show a student how to find an answer to their question.

I think it is important that students know that we aren’t experts. Some teachers have an ego problem (or maybe an inferiority complex?) and refuse to tell students they don’t know an answer.

Now after saying all that above, I believe that my answer to fivbert would be that we need both. Just like there are doctors who are general practitioners, there are other doctors who are specialists. If I need brain surgery, I would hope that I could find an “expert” in this field rather than just going to a “facilitator.” I am so glad to know that because there are so many different educators with different interests, students are able to have both.

I’m not saying that as educators we shouldn’t know what we are teaching or that everyone should be experts. I think teachers need to have basic knowledge about their subject area but wouldn’t it be great to be able to help individual students travel on different journeys in order to meet their needs. I think it is important for us to teach students how to learn as well as have the information we are giving them. By having basic information, they will be able to grow and move forward.

I also think if a student is interested in a specific subject, it is good that there are teachers who specialize in these subjects. These teachers will be the one who can quench a student’s thirst for more information about a topic and stimulate discussion and deeper thought. I see this as fine tuning a student’s education.

If educators who are facilitators and those who are experts work together to meet the needs of students, I believe students will be successful in life.

Original image: 'Trust us, we're expert' Paolo Massa