Friday, February 26, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/26/10

tool1 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!

A Math Dictionary for Kids – simple definitions of math terms for students; it is a bright and colorful site

Educational Videos – “ is a site devoted to finding you the best educational videos on the web. We intend to create an environment where students from all ages can learn while watching Educational Videos.”

Geocoded Art - Geocoded Art is a collection of world's greatest landscape, cityscape and seascape paintings. Explore the location of these paintings using Google or Bing Maps.

Math Run – a fun game for kids; the skills get harder each level

Who Pooped? – an interactive game to find out what animal left the poop

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Little Piano Girl – A Book Review

(Disclaimer: I am reviewing this book for The Picnic Basket and I am not being paid for this review. Here is the review that I posted on The Picnic Basket.)THE LITTLE PIANO GIRL

I just finished reading The Little Piano Girl:The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend by Ann Ingalls and Maryann Macdonald • illustrations by Giselle Potter. On a scale of 1 to 5, I definitely give this book a 5. This is a wonderful picture book for children of all ages. The story and the illustrations were excellent.

This book tells the story about Mary Lou Williams. Before this book, I had never heard of her but it made me want to learn more about her. Her story was fascinating.

I can see this book being used in an elementary school classroom. Topics that can be introduced or enriched are reading, vocabulary, art, geography, music, diversity, and history. Pittsburgh and the steel industry could become a lesson. War time and feminism is touched upon and could be discussed further.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Five Stages of Having a Disability

When I read The doormat, the jerk and the lizard brain from Seth's Blog by Seth Godin, his words jumped out at me. He states,

The best reason to be a jerk at work is that of course no one will listen to you or support you or embrace your ideas--you're a jerk.

The best reason to be a doormat at work is that in your effort to get along, to be nice, and to go with the flow, of course you won't be expected to stand up and shout, "follow me" when your ideas might take you in a different direction.

Both extremes are the refuge of the lizard brain, the voice of the resistance. They reward the desire to fit in, not to stand out.”

Last week I went to see the movie “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” and really enjoyed it. I confess that I haven’t read the books yet but they are on my list of things to do. As a special education teacher, I was thrilled to see Percy’s learning disability was recognized. When I read Seth’s Blog, it made me think about how Percy stands out among his peers. I really liked the way Percy’s disability was portrayed as a gift instead of a disability. In the movie, Percy ends up being a hero. Without his gift, he would have been unable to notice the clues. What a thrill I felt for all of my students who have a disability and now they can be viewed in a different light. Suddenly they can feel that it is alright to stand out and not fit in.

So, how do I fight the “lizard brain?” During the year, I watch my students go through the stages of grief (as defined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross) that they haven’t been allowed to go through. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I try to help my students go through these stages and be their support as they move along.

First, I acknowledge the “elephant in the room.” Many of my students have a disability that they really don’t understand. They know there is something wrong because there are all these meetings that surround them but no one has actually talked to them about the specifics in words that they can understand. This whispering in the background or talking above their heads can be a very scary thing and it leads to fear, confusion, and embarrassment. These students think they have a problem that they should be embarrassed about and that it is something they should feel guilty about. When I talk about their disability, many times they are in denial that they have one. They tell me that the reason they are in special education is because they were bad or the teacher was mad at them. I show them testing done and explain the results. Then I explain how it was determined that they needed special education services.

Next, my students are filled with anger. They don’t want this disability and they think the tests lie. Teachers lie. The system lies. Everyone lies according to the student. Yes, it is unfair that they have this disability and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but until they get over this anger, the students can’t move on. It is important to let them get this anger out so that it doesn’t fester like a sore and make matters worse.

Bargaining involves the student’s behavior. Sometimes the students think if they study harder, behave better, or follow directions better, their disability will go away and they will not need special education services any more. That is not the way it works.

Many of my students are followers. When there is trouble around, they are usually the ones to blame and when asked, they usually say they did it because their friends told them to. They wanted to fit in. They wanted to be liked. This was their way of fitting in. I think that is why so many of my students end up with drug and alcohol problems because they think that makes them more like their peers.

I had a student with Down’s syndrome who pulled the fire alarm at school because he hoped that it would get him the attention of the other students. He wanted to stand out and be seen. He wanted to be noticed. Sometimes my students with disabilities feel like they are invisible. No one talks about their disability (I’m sure to protect their feelings), or they are embarrassed about their friend’s disability. Yet, everyone knows there is a problem because it is fact that is hard to hide. So my students act out as a defense mechanism.

We talk about the different behaviors that students exhibit such as following and acting out. I have them identify with the behavior that they exhibit the most. Now that they understand it and why they act this way, we can move on to change.

For awhile I see my students get depressed about having a disability. They want to give up. They feel that if they have this disability, why bother. If they have failed up to this point, why keep setting yourself up for failure? Understanding this depression is important. I try to tell my students that it is understandable but it shouldn’t be what shapes their life. That is when I pull out my best motivational speeches and videos and anything else I can drum up. My favorite is always the idea that if a basket ball player never tries to shoot for the basket, he will never score a point. Sometimes we just have to keep trying and never give up. The ones who become rich and famous are the ones who are persistent. I look for literature about kids with disabilities and how they overcome them. Looking at real life personalities who have achieved success also is encouraging. I drag out every possible tool that I can find to help move away from this depression.

Finally, if I’m lucky, before long I will see my students reach the stage of acceptance. At this point, they can talk about their disability and explain it. I have even had some offer to talk to other classes about it in order to make more students aware. Many times bullying and teasing happen because of ignorance. This is one way to fight back. Once the students reach acceptance, they are more open minded to learning. Their minds and energies aren’t fighting against the concept of their disability. Rather than wasting time trying to point a finger of blame, they are able to look forward to the future and what they need to be successful.

As a teacher, it is important to recognize my student’s disability and identify what stage they may be going through. If a student is in the bargaining stage, it is useless to waste time acting as if he is in the acceptance stage. By following this process, I think it will help the student and the teacher have a successful classroom experience.

Original image: 'Young Man Mourning #1' by: Luc De Leeuw

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Challenging Myself and My Students

challenges I have really enjoyed reading the blog by Jessica Watson who is trying to set the record as the youngest person to sail around the world solo non-stop and unassisted. She is only 16 years old but way mature beyond her years. In Almost Around the Cape and Why I am Sailing Around the World?

from Official Jessica Watson Blog, Jessica writes

“When I first dreamt of sailing around the world, the first thing that caught my attention, was curiosity about whether or not it was even something that was achievable. It wasn't so much the action and adrenaline parts that appealed to me, but thinking about all the details and finding ways to minimize the risks. I wanted to challenge myself and achieve something to be proud of. And yes, I wanted to inspire people. I hate that so many dreams never actually become anything more than that, a dream. I'm not saying that everyone should buy a boat and take off around the world, but I hope that by achieving my own dream, I'm showing people that it is possible to reach their own goals, whatever they might be and however big or small.”

I think the thing that fascinates me is that she was willing to challenge herself and give it a try. I wonder what her parents are like and how hard this adventure has been on them. As a parent, we want to shield and protect our children from disappointments and hurts. This adventure goes way beyond your typical disappointments and hurts and could be downright dangerous. Yet, her parents were willing to let her spread her wings and were supportive of her adventurous spirit. This adventure took a lot of planning and coordination among lots of people in order for this to be successful.

I began to compare this adventure to the classroom. As a teacher, I too want to shield my students from failures and struggles. Sometimes I have to step back and let them struggle and face failure in order for them to grow but it is so hard! Sometimes it takes a team of people to plan and coordinate services in order for the student to be successful.

I also think I need to challenge myself at times. I need to challenge myself to look at the big picture and not just the little steps. In an earlier post I talk about breaking things down into little steps but I also need to be aware of the big picture so I don’t get bogged down just in the little steps. I need to beware of tunnel vision which could cause problems. I need to also challenge myself in letting my students grow. I need to not over plan for them but let them talk about what they want to achieve. I need to help them come up with a plan in order to achieve their goals instead of coming up with my plan for them. If they are working on my plan, then they aren’t necessarily achieving their goals but rather mine.

Sometimes my students may need a nudge to look for what challenges them. Like a baby bird that is afraid to leave the nest, they may be afraid to look for these challenges. As long as I let them stay where they are, they are comfy for the time being but they won’t thrive and become the independent person they could be. Many of their dreams don’t come true because they are afraid. I can help them overcome their fear and be their safety net. As they become more comfortable with experiencing new things, they hopefully will need me less and less.

I don’t think that Jessica just jumped in a boat on her own without any knowledge of what she was doing. She had to learn about piloting a boat and navigation as well as a multitude of other skills. This took time and planning so it didn’t happen overnight. I’m sure that she practiced these skills with someone who was experienced before she ever went out on her own. The same thing needs to happen with my students.

I think if I can encourage my students to look for challenges in their lives, face them head on, and try to make their dreams come true, they will be more successful in the future. These successes will help them face their struggles with more confidence.

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

Original image: 'OGC poster' by: Christian Guthier

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tips for Interviewing

interview After reading Interviews Are Like a Game Show  from PrincipalsPage The Blog by Michael Smith, I realized it was time to post some interview tips for those planning on getting a new job or moving to a new school. Here are some tips that I’ve come up with and if you think of any that I might have left out, please feel free to let me know.

Do your research. Know the school that is interviewing you. Know what the school colors and mascot is. Find out the administrators names before you show up for the interview. Check out the school website.

Prepare for possible questions that may be asked. Know your philosophy of teaching. Know how you plan to handle discipline. Know how you will communicate with families and colleagues. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

Avoid showing body piercing and body art. You may like it and your friends might too but employers tend to be on the conservative side and it usually weighs against you.

Dress professionally. What you wear says a lot about you.

Go easy on the fragrances. Your interviewer (like me) may be allergic to fragrances and being cooped up in a room with someone doused in fragrance will usually make the interview short. This also doesn’t weigh in your favor either.

Show up early. If you are late, it is a reflection of your teaching practices and this makes you look pretty irresponsible.

While waiting, look around at plaques and awards. Listen to the atmosphere and how teachers and staff interact.

Don’t use profanity. How you talk makes a big impression on the interviewer.

Ask questions. Ask about the types of students who attend. Find out the economic status of the majority of the students. Find out how many teachers there are in the school.

Tell what makes you unique and above the rest of the other candidates. Explain why you are the best candidate for the job.

Make sure you smile and look happy.

I believe if you try to do these things, you will be more successful in your interview.

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

Original image: 'Job interview' by: Terry Hart

Friday, February 19, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/19/10

021110Tools 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!

President’s Day - In honor of President's Day, History's 8-episode documentary The Presidents is on sale for $0.99 in the iTune's store through February 23rd. The Presidents is a survey of the personal lives and legacies of the remarkable men who have presided over the Oval Office.

Vocab Ahead – “Study Room provides a distraction free environment with over 1000 difficult words explained using Vocabulary Videos and Flash Cards. More vocab videos continuously added. Join us, it's FREE!”

Thinklinkr – create and share outlines online for free

Word It Out – “Simply enter some text and create your word cloud, Customise many settings, Share your word cloud (or keep it secret!), Embed it on your own website”

Nourish Interactive – “is your free one stop resource for fun nutrition games for kids, interactive nutrition tools and tips for parents and health educators to use to promote healthy living for the whole family. Created by nutrition and health care professionals, Nourish Interactive's nutrition education website gives children and families the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Puppy Love and Learning

puppies In My L.O.V.E. Affair with Learning from Angela Maiers Educational Services, Angela shares some great thoughts. She says,

“I love learning. I love being around people who are passionate about their own lifelong journey of learning and teaching. It's contagious.

As I reflect on these past 20 years of working in this great profession of education, and particularly the past few years of worldwide connections I've been fortunate to find due to the blogosphere, I'm excited about learning now more than ever. I strive for at least one WOW each day.”

If you get a chance, please read her whole post because it is truly wonderful!

After reading this, I realized that all my life, I have loved learning too. I love to learn something new. I do know that the older I get, the more I’m willing to take risks to learn something new. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently.” That is how I feel about learning.

There is so much out there that I would love to do! I am starting to make a wish list of things I want to learn. Then I’m doing some research on how I plan to learn this. Thank goodness for the internet! It sure makes learning easier.

I learned how to knit by watching Youtube videos. Then I found a local knitting group that meets once a week and they are a wonderful support system as I learn to create many new things. Finding others who have the same interests is very important, especially at times when I feel frustrated or I need motivation.

I have learned some important things over the years:

1. It’s okay if I don’t learn like everyone else.

2. It’s okay if I struggle and make mistakes.

3. It helps me if I find others who are trying to learn the same things as I am.

4. I don’t have to learn everything all at once.

5. It’s okay to ask for help.

6. It’s okay to laugh at my own mistakes.

7. It’s okay if others doubt me, but I need to have faith in myself.

8. It’s important for me to finish what I have started.

9. Usually things don’t turn out perfectly the first time.

10. It make take a few tries to get things the way I want.

11. It’s okay to make changes if it makes it easier for me.

This made me think about my students. How can I share my love of learning with them? How can I “infect” them with this desire? Maybe I don’t need to “infect” them and maybe they have this desire but don’t know how to show it.

Some of my students do a great job about showing their desire to learn. They remind me of little puppies wagging their tails and shaking all over with excitement when it is time to learn something new. They can’t wait to get the materials and get impatient when they have to listen to directions. They see water and they can’t wait to jump in wholeheartedly, without any reservations.

Then I have others who are very cautious about learning something new. They are the puppies who really want to play in the water but are afraid to dip their paws in because they don’t know what they will find. They don’t want to be hurt or embarrassed but they want to be like the other puppies who are having fun in the water.

Then there are the puppies who are just plain afraid to go near the water and will sit down and refuse to move. These puppies have to be dragged to the water, coaxed into playing and may eventually decide that it isn’t bad at all. But you feel so guilty for forcing them into doing something they don’t want to do. Sometimes forcing them can make it worse and they never want to go near the water again.

I need to reach all of these students. I want them to have a WOW each day like Angela. One of the best ways I know is to model this for the students. I want to put my wow on the board each morning and share with my students about it. I may even ask them to write in their journals about it. Many of my WOWs end up as blog posts because I’m so excited about what I read. If students know this will be expected, they can look for the WOWs during the day so they can talk/write about it the next day. Eventually, it will become natural and they will do this without thinking about it.

I believe that as the students become more comfortable with this, it might actually encourage the cautious and reluctant students to be more open. I think this would be a successful way of encouraging their love of learning so they can find ways to improve their lives in and out of the classroom.

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

Original image: 'the rest of the family' by: Paul Moody

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Creativity and Health

creativity In Creativity Can Keep You Healthy, the article states that

Creativity is important for a number of reasons, including:

· It's fun and enjoyable. Doing things that you like reduces stress and improves overall well-being.

· It stimulates the brain. Creativity sharpens the brain, which can stem the advance of dementia in old age. The more new things you learn, the more use the brain gets — and the sharper it will remain. It's often recommended that seniors learn new skills and challenge themselves with new opportunities, but this recommendation is appropriate for any age.

· It boosts self-confidence. Trying new things can improve self-confidence and make you a more interesting person.”

When I was growing up, creativity was not encouraged. Following directions and doing what others did was important. Even when I was doing projects, I knew it was important that it should be like other people’s projects. It needed to be colorful, impressive, and brilliant like I thought everyone else’s was. Or at least that is always how I thought it should be.

But now I realize that I didn’t know how to be creative. No one taught me. Maybe many people believe that you are born with this talent but I don’t think I was. I saw others were talented with creativity but I don’t think I was. I think a lot has to do with right and left brain strengths but does that mean that I shouldn’t try to be creative? It is very hard for me to think outside the box but I don’t think it is impossible. I think this is a skill that if practiced, could be something that is fun, stimulating, and even help make people feel good about themselves.

No one ever encouraged me to be creative and I wondered if that is how I treat my students. I don’t just mean students in the public school but also students in my grad classes. I need to focus on helping others learn creativity. I need to get my students’ input on what they think creativity means. Seeing it from their perspective can also stimulate new ideas.

Many times we give a project and then we tell them that we want them to be “creative.” But what does that mean? I think that means different things to each of us. When I ask my students to do this, I think I need to let them know my definition of creative. Does it mean I want it colorful? Or do I want it to be chock full of ideas? Or do I want it to be unique? Or do I want it to be all of these things? I would develop a rubric that would guide the students in their creativity but also doesn’t stifle them into conformity.

This reminds me of times when I assign written work and the students always ask me how many pages it needs to be or how many words do I expect. Is this creativity? It is to me if their thoughts are unique. But for me the number of pages or words doesn’t mean that much. I would definitely have minimum standards but I would make sure they understand that the sky’s the limit!

I also think we can build on the creativity of others. Just because they use their creativity to reach a certain point, what keeps me from starting that point and moving forward? This constant striving for new things stimulates the part of me that wants to be creative.

If creativity stimulates the brain and relieves stress, why don’t I encourage it more with my students? Not only why, but how can I do it more. I need to give my students opportunities where they can be creative by themselves or with others. Collaborating with others could also lend itself to a support system and take some of the scariness out of the process. Yet, it is also important that this collaboration doesn’t become one sided where the stronger person contributes most and the weaker person is just along for the ride.

I believe that creativity is definitely important to helping a student be successful. As an educator, I need to find ways to develop this skill and encourage my students to practice this as often as possible.

Original image: 'arrive' by: Alice / Cornelia Kopp

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Henry Perry Books – A Book Review

HenryPerry I recently met with Betsy Wolf from Readable & Relevant Press to toss around some ideas. It was really great to meet someone with such great enthusiasm and desire to help others. I love connecting with others and she contacted me because I taught her daughter one summer at Furman University, which goes to show you that you never know what connections will lead you to others. I even got some books from her which I would like to let you know about.

The books she gave me were easy to read books about issues that young adults face and written on a fourth or fifth grade level. One book was called Henry Perry Gets a Job which was an excellent resource for those needing a job. Click here for a sneak preview. It gives a lot of information about interviewing. The part that really grabbed me was at the beginning when Henry loses his job because the plant closed down. It deals with the feelings he is experiencing which many people can relate to with our economic situation. I think it tells people that it is okay to feel this way and that you are not alone. I think this would be a great book to use in the classroom because it gives great tips for students and it would be a great way to start discussions about different topics dealing with getting a job.

The other book she gave me was The Devil in Henry Perry’s Cousin which deals with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Again this would be a great book for a teacher to use in the classroom. It would be a great way to introduce a unit on Addiction. It talks about person’s actions while addicted to drugs and alcohol and it talks about the effect it has on people who care about him. At the end of the book there is a question and answer section which would be great for a class discussion.

These books are also available in Spanish.

I think these books would be great to use in a classroom but I don’t think I would give it to my high school special education students to carry around because I think they would be embarrassed by it. I did mention to Betsy that if she wrote more books for the classroom, I would recommend more paragraphs so that it looks more like other student’s books. If you are looking for something like these topics for your classroom, I would recommend these books to use together with the students because the topics are so meaningful and relevant.

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

Original Image: Cover of HENRY PERRY Gets a Job

Monday, February 15, 2010

Does My Job Define Me?

money I was listening to a podcast the other day where the speaker was saying that she does her job just to pay her bills. She doesn’t like to talk much about it and tries to forget about it when she is not there at the job.

Then I began to think about how much I talk about teaching. I talk about it with other teachers and people in the education world but I also talk about it with non educators. I have been known to get in a conversation about education while I have been in line at the grocery store or to pay my taxes. I love to talk about my job. In fact, my hubby thinks I would talk to the wall about education if I couldn’t find someone else to listen.

There is no way that I could just leave my job at the door when I leave. It is not easy to turn the teacher mode off like an on or off switch. Many nights I have talked about the problems in the classroom with my husband and he has been able to give me a different perspective which helped me solve many problems. Many times I have discovered ideas for great lessons on the weekends and holidays. When I’m shopping, I may see something that would be a great tool to use in my classroom so my mind is always on alert for these things.

I’m not saying that I let teaching overshadow the other parts of my life. I know that there needs to be balance in my life. I have a wonderful family and exciting hobbies and interests so I don’t get burned out with teaching.

Maybe it is because I love teaching. Maybe the person who just “does the job to pay the bills” doesn’t love her job. I don’t know but I don’t think I want to teach that way. I don’t want someone like that teaching my own children. I don’t even like the thought of someone like that teaching other people’s children.

So, I guess I would recommend that if you feel that way, maybe you need to find another job that you enjoy. I’m not saying that any job will be happy land all of the time but life is too short to feel this way about a career. I think if I felt this way about my job more often than I didn’t, it is time to look elsewhere. I don’t think this attitude will lend itself to a successful career or even a successful life.

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

Original image: 'Money' by: Andrew Magill

Friday, February 12, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/12/10

tool1 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!

Wild Music – from Free Technology for Teachers, Rob Byrne says, “is a fun and educational website on which students can learn about sounds commonly heard in nature.”

MathTV – math tutorials that are free

Database of Award Winning Literature - DAWCL has over 7,000 records from 84 awards across six English-speaking countries (United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, and Ireland). Click the link Explanation of Awards above to see a list of awards, their countries, and a brief explanation. Each book is indexed to some degree so users can find it using the form search or the keyword search. As I read a book, I index it more fully. Naturally, DAWCL is always a work in progress, so results will change with the addition of new awards, award-winners, and my reading/indexing habits. See the Developments Log for more detail.

Museum of Online Museums – Interesting collection of museums

AudioOwl – “Your source for free audio books. Download one in mp3, iPod and iTunes format today!

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

Original Image: by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter Olympics 2010

olympics Winter Olympics are here again and I’m kind of excited. No, I’m not an athlete and really into sports but I’m entering a thing called Ravelympics at the same time the Olympics are taking place. Now I’m sure you are asking what the heck that is so let me explain!

For some of you who follow me, you know that my newest obsession has been knitting. I joined this site called Ravelry which is an awesome place for fiber crafters. I have learned so much from meeting other knitters on this site who have answered my questions and inspired me. It is kind of a knitting PLN for me as opposed from my education PLN.

Well, on Ravelry, there is a big event coming up called Ravelympics which begins tomorrow night when the opening ceremony takes place. Everyone wanted to join will be casting on a project at that time. There is a list of “events” that you enter which involves different techniques/skills to make your project and then you post your finished project by Feb. 28. Those that finish will win prizes which are badges for your blog, avatar, etc. The most important rule of this event is to challenge yourself!

So I am going to try out a new skill that I learned in order to make a hat that I’ve been wanting. I’m really excited and willing to give it a try.

This had me thinking about doing something with students. What a great way to get them out of their doldrums right now. It is cold here in the northern hemisphere and instinct wants me to bundle up, hole up, and stay warm. When I challenge myself, I’m opening up and taking a risk. But if I do something along with the Olympics, I’m only committing myself to 2 weeks and that makes it doable.

I think it would be good to challenge students to think about something they could do to challenge themselves for the next 2 weeks. Maybe have them right their goal down. Have some sort of prize for all of the ones who finish it like a new pencil, pen, stickers, candy or even a certificate.

It would be a great way to incorporate social skills and have students encourage each other. Just like people who clap for the athletes when they finish an event, students can pat each other on the back when they see the person working towards their goal.

I think this would be a successful thing to do along with the Winter Olympics. Do you have any suggestions for challenges that students can do for two weeks? If so, let me know.

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

Original image: 'Vancouver 2010 Logo' by: Frank Boosman

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nip It In the Bud

bud In Student Teaching Day 4 from Outside Looking In by Scott Shelhart, he talks about his experiences in student teaching and states,

“Another valuable tool for my toolbox; correct small issues before they become unmanageable.”

I realized that this applies to so much in my life.

This even applies to my car and how it runs. If I hear a small problem and I don’t fix it, it may cause bigger and costlier problems down the road.

Even with my health, sometimes I choose to ignore health problems that only get worse. My toothache has turned into an abscess tooth. My back pain has turned into a kidney infection. It is the little things that I ignore that cause me the most pain.

When I am knitting, any mistake I make early on that I don’t see or I choose to ignore, may make the final result lopsided. One tiny mistake can cause all sorts of havoc later on. It is much easier to knit something by fixing the mistake when it is a small issue. Maybe I’m also a perfectionist and if I know there is a problem, I need to fix it rather than just pretend it isn’t there.

This same thing applies in my classroom. If there is some misbehavior, I need to decide whether to ignore it or address it. Usually I try to ignore it for a couple of times. Once it continues though, it could become a habit for the student so I need to address it as soon as possible. I need to stop the misbehavior before it blooms and spreads more seeds. If I allow this misbehavior to continue, not only will this student get worse but other students will think that it is allowed and they will start acting this way.

I usually start out by talking to the student. Sometimes the student doesn’t realize the behavior occurs and how others may perceive it. Sometimes there is a reason behind the behavior and just by talking about it, the behavior will stop. I might be able to give the student some suggestions for alternate behavior to get the results to work. I explain that if the behavior continues, I will call home. This is not an empty threat but rather another alternative to arrive at a solution.

If it continues, I need to follow through with what I said and call home. If I don’t call home, then my words and actions are meaningless. I call the parents or guardians with the student right beside me. By having us all there while we discuss the problem keeps the story from changing later on due to different perspectives. I want us all to work as a team to help the student be successful. I am not trying to get the student in trouble but want us to work together to solve this problem.

Most important is that when I’m talking to the parents, I need to make sure that I can talk calmly and objectively. I need to make sure that I’m not taking the student’s behavior personally. Once I do that, I cannot help solve the problem and become part of the problem instead.

Let’s face it, the student will probably blame and accuse me of not being fair or picking on this student. This is just the nature of the beast (I mean student). I know that I am not being unfair or picking on this student so I need to get beyond this. I need to address the behavior and how to stop it.

I also need to look at my own actions though and see if there is any way that I can change how I respond to the misbehavior. My response may be reinforcement for this behavior and by changing how I respond can also change how the student acts.

I admit there are times that I don’t want to address it. There are even times I really don’t want to call the parents. Yet, I know that in order for me to be effective, I need to follow through. Following through is so important when dealing with misbehavior. It shows that I am consistent with what I say. If I don’t follow through with what I say, than anything I say becomes ineffective and useless.

Nipping misbehavior in the bud is important for helping a student be more successful, not just in the classroom, but also in life.

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

Original image: '" To love someone is to see a miracle invisible to others. "' by: Parvin

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Being an Elementary School Teacher – A Free ebook

teacher I recently received an email from Jill Randolph who works with, a website providing over 50,000 reference pages of real-world information on careers, communities, and colleges to our 10 million annual visitors. She told me about a free ebook that “provides a candid, real-world perspective on the elementary teaching profession via interviews with 25 teachers from grades 1 through 5, across a variety of disciplines including reading specialists, PE, and music teachers, to name a few. The book offers advice, tips, best and worst parts of the job, as well as words of wisdom, inspiration and caution from working teachers.” She also provided me with a press release about this ebook.

I thought this sounded interesting so I went to the website to check it out. I was quite pleasantly surprised by what I saw there. In the 64 pages, I found:

· A summary of findings from interviews with real elementary school teachers

· Practical tips and advice

· The best and the worst parts of the job

· Words of inspiration balanced with cautionary notes

· What teachers say about working with children, interacting with parents, standardized testing and more.

· Full transcripts of all interviews

To download the free ebook, click on this link ( 

If there is anyone out there that is thinking of being an elementary school teacher, this will probably be very enlightening. For those who are already teachers, it is also exciting to read about how others perceive the teaching profession. I think there should be something like this for every profession!

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

Original image: 'Reading Aloud to Children' by: Judy Baxter

Monday, February 8, 2010

Break It Down Into Steps

steps In Jennifer: Real-Life Learning from CEC Blog, the author states

“I am teaching, it is usually easy to break down topics into bite-sized pieces that my students can understand. Reading, for example, is relatively simple to break down once I recognize which sounds or blends are giving them trouble. And math is fun because, once I figure out which step is challenging them, I can pull out that one step and come up with all sorts of games and activities to focus on it until my students are ready to pick up the math program where they left off.”

When I teach my procedures course to teachers, I really try to stress the importance of task analysis. I think over the years, we learn things ourselves by breaking things down into steps automatically. We have learned this behavior an tend to forget that our students have not reached the same point in life as we have.

I believe that every new skill can be broken down into steps. We follow a certain procedure no matter what we do. Everything has its own recipe.

When I am teaching a new skill, I write these steps down and post them in the classroom. Before I post them, I actually get someone else to review them. Sometimes I leave out a step because my actions are automatic again. If I can’t find someone else to review them, I sit down and follow each step listed exactly as it is written. It is amazing what I miss or don’t explain clearly when I do this.

When I am teaching I explain each step. Then I actually model how I follow each step to complete the assignment. Then I will get an example that we all can do together following each step. Finally I let them do it on their own. When they have a problem, I have them explain to me what they did following each step. Usually their problem comes from missing a step. When they can see what they did wrong, it is easier for them to get it right the next time.

If I write these steps on some kind of poster paper, I can put them up around the room. The students like to refer back to these when they need to. As the year progresses, and we need room, the early procedures are usually ingrained and can be removed.

Sometimes I like to get a student who is more ahead of the others and may already know how to do a certain skill. I will ask that student to come up with the steps. After reviewing and editing the steps with the students, I may even let the student be the “teacher” for that skill. Many of my students enjoy learning from a peer. At the time, that peer-teacher may be able to explain something easier to the others than I could because that person is seeing this from a different perspective.

By breaking things down into steps, I am helping my students be successful. As long as they follow the steps necessary, they should reach the natural outcome. With practice, these steps become automatic and they don’t even have to think about it anymore. These new skills become the steps to other new skills and all these skills together will lead to success.

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

Original image: 'Barnard Castle' by: Peter Caspiolay

Friday, February 5, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/5/10

tools2 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!

Journey North Mystery Class: A study of sunlight and the seasons - In this global game of hide-and-seek, students search to uncover the secret locations of ten "mystery" sites hiding around the Earth. To guide the investigation, they track changes in day length at the mystery sites and at their hometown, and use other "clues" along the way. As they take this inspiring journey, students unlock the essential questions behind the reasons for seasons and the dramatic changes in day length that result. Mystery Class starts in early February but you can get ready now.

Cool Science Fair Guide – guide by Tim Holt’s wife; free if downloaded from his site

Mathwords - An interactive math dictionary with enough math words, math terms, math formulas, pictures, diagrams, tables, and examples to satisfy your inner math geek.

ActiveScience – “Delve into the different sections on this resource and you will find a variety of science activities and information. There is something for everyone - from age 5 years upwards, including parents and teachers. All modules are based on educational recommendations from various sources and therefore have intrinsic educational value...For younger children, the activities are based on games to help them learn about the topics. For both questions and feedback in 'Humans and Animals', the text is presented in simple form and can also be heard. For older children, the games are more challenging and some are supported by downloadable databases for independent study. Worksheets and information for parents and teachers complete the picture. All modules have been designed to be easy to use and yet be thought-provoking.”

Ad Decoder – “Learning about the messages behind the ads will help you understand the differences between real vs. ideal and know the truth will help you craft a positive self-image!”

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

Original image “Tools” by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Furman Grad Courses

lecturehall I will be teaching Special Education grad courses for Furman again this summer. I’ve been asked to teach the Practica for LD/EBD from July 12-August 6 (deadline to enroll is in May). I will also be teaching EDEX 741 Procedures for Teaching Individuals with Exceptional Learning Needs I: pre-k through Grade 5. Since the enrollment is low, it will be a hybrid kind of course where we will only meet face to face 4-5 times probably after 4:30pm. I will post my lectures and assignments online. If we get more students enrolled, it may become a class that meets daily but right now it will be a hybrid kind of course.

I’m really excited about teaching both courses. I will be able to share my knowledge of different technology as well as universal design for learning in addition to all of the other wonderful topics.

If you need either one of these courses, please consider signing up. I’d love to have you in my class! For more information, click here for Graduate Studies in Education. You might have to ask specifically for the course that I’m teaching because I haven’t seen it on the schedule yet.

Original image: 'lecture hall' by: Kai Schreiber

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Keep It Simple

simple I don’t know who invented the acronym KISS meaning “Keep It Simple, Stupid” (I like to change the last S to Silly because it sounds nicer) but I really need to keep reminding myself of this. When I read the post, Simplicity In Life: Tying Up Loose Ends And Eliminating Stress

from So You Want To Teach? by Joel, it brought the reminder up front again. He states,

“Whatever the case, we all have unfinished business in our lives. These things can cause incredible amounts of stress when we think about them. They can cause even more when we ignore them for a while hoping they’ll go away. But they rarely do.”

Sometimes I over-think something until I am making no sense at all. It doesn’t matter if my problem is about education or about knitting. When I get bogged down with thinking, my brain seems to shut down. I can only imagine what this is like for my students who do not have all the life experience that I have (at this ripe old age!).

Many times I have to let the problem go and move on to something else. Moving away from the problem helps the solution come into focus. Sometimes I might even have to sleep on it. When I relax, the solution may slip into my brain more easily. But how many times have I told my students that they have to keep at the problem until they solve it? How many times do I expect my students to complete an assignment without caring that they have hit a road block. Somehow in my lessons, I need to incorporate possible down time for this possible situation. This may be a vital skill they learn that they can use later in their lives. By insisting that they solve the problems right now, I build up a level of frustration and possibly a feeling of failure where they just give up. I want to bolster them up to where they feel capable of solving problems and may even come up with a solution that I had not thought of.

Sometimes it just helps to talk about it. When I have a problem, I sometimes record my problem as if I’m telling someone a story. Then I can listen to it the next day and try to see it from a different perspective. When I do this, the solution may be so obvious that I am surprised I didn’t see it so clearly the first time.

I need to encourage my students to seek out others for assistance. That is the real world. When I have a problem on my job, the boss doesn’t say that I need to figure out what I need all by myself and to not ask anyone else for help. Instead, the boss expects me to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. That is why it is important to teach our students collaboration. They don’t automatically know how to work with others. It is not instinct. Students need to learn “collaboration etiquette.” They need to learn how to work with others, ask the right questions and to give credit to the ones who helped. I really don’t like working with others who take all the credit for the work when I may have been instrumental in getting the job done. When I feel like that, I usually don’t try to help that person again. These are things that I need to teach my students.

Sometimes, to be successful, it only takes a KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly!)

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

Original image: 'one blue marble' by: darwin Bell

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Do! (A Book Review)

Do Do! by Gita Wolf, Ramesh Hengadi, and Shantaram Dhadpe

(I am not being paid to give this review. – PH)

This book is a beautiful picture book for young children published by Tara Books.

I would give this book a 4 out of 5 only because it was very aromatic and as a person with allergies, I had a hard time going through the book. This picture book would be great as a way to teach verbs in the classroom. The pictures were delightfully made and really get the meaning of the verbs across to the reader. The entire book was made by hand and is full of texture, color, and even smell. This would also be a great book to use for introducing other cultures and other places around the world. I think this would also be a great way to teach students to create their own books with other words not in this book. As their vocabulary grows, the students would be able to add pages to their books and share it with others.

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

Monday, February 1, 2010

Customer Service

hands In Hands Up, not Hands Out. from PrincipalsPage The Blog by Michael Smith, he says,

“In this age of cutbacks, I think you will see teachers, administrators, and school employees doing even more than usual.”

When I went to an office today, I also saw a wonderful poster about customer service. It said “Always give the customer more than they expect.”

Both of these made me reflect on how much we do in the classroom. We are not just teachers but many times we act as a nurturer, nurse, mediator, and entertainer, just to mention a few things. I used to always complain that the more I do, the more people expect from me.

Customer service is the hardest thing I tried to teach my high school students before they went to a jobsite. It is hard to explain how sometimes, the simplest things you do for others can really go a long way.

The same thing goes for the classroom too. Sometimes it isn’t our job to do things but when I go out of the way, seeing the pleasure on a student’s face or the look of gratitude on a colleague’s face makes it all worthwhile. Many times I have been the lucky recipient of nice things back and I truly believe that what goes around comes around. Often, I have to ask for help or a favor from others and it is much easier if I know that I have done things for others.

I’m not saying that everyone is grateful for my help all of the time or if they even notice that I’ve gone out of my way. Sometimes I feel bitter and resentful when I feel as if I’m the one doing all the giving and others seem to do all of the taking. Yes, I get discouraged like others about this but in the long run, the scale has been on the positive side than the other.

You might disagree but I also believe that it is okay to toot your own horn when necessary. How will people know all of the things that you do if you don’t tell them. I don’t mean to brag about it in a snarky kind of way but it is okay for others to know about your actions and how much you accomplished. This may pay off later when you are asking for something or if you need something. Somewhere in the conversation you can bring up things you have done to benefit this person or the people that this person serves.

I feel like if we all had this attitude of giving, we would be a better place. And what a wonderful role model we could be for our students. It seems like I spend a lot of time telling my students about the things they should do but I wonder if I am showing them with my actions as well as my words.

I have called students’ homes in order to share with parents about all the wonderful activities we are doing in the classroom. Monthly newsletters are a great way to share this information with families as well and I make sure my administration gets a copy of this newsletter too. This information is also listed on my web page in case family or friends of the family are interested in these activities. If something special is happening with my class, I may invite the school board to the event and even if they don’t come to it, they are aware of something happening. Some of them might even email a special note to my class about it. If I’ve had an elected official speak to the class, I always invite my administrators to stop in and welcome them which seem to be appreciated by both parties.

These may seem like little things to you but I find it is the little things that matter. I don’t have to have some great big declaration or gala to let others know about the extra things that I do. Yet, I don’t have to let them go unnoticed. If it ever comes down to choosing me over someone else for possible job cuts, I think the extra things I do will help sway the decision making process to my side. The extra things may be what it takes for me to be successful in my career as well as helping my students be successful.

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

Original image: 'I wanna hold your hand' by: Josep MÂȘ Rosell