Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is It the Right Time?

time Recently I got a discouraged email from a friend who is unhappy at her current position and has been offered a position in a different district starting immediately and didn’t know what to do. I have another friend who is extremely unhappy with her position and says that if she isn’t offered a different position, she may quit teaching permanently. I have another friend who is leaving teaching to start her own catering business.

Earlier this month I read What Would Make Me Leave the Profession

from Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs by K who talks about leaving the classroom. Read the post to see what reasons K would leave.

These conversations made me think about working in a place/position where I’m unhappy. I think life is too short to stay in a situation that makes me miserable unless I knew it was only temporary. I have transferred from three schools during my public school career and each time I left because the Principal expected me to lie. Above all things, I need to be true to myself and losing my integrity for the sake of a job was not worth it to me. I was lucky enough that when I was unhappy with a situation or position, I worked at finding solutions to my problems because I wanted to stay at that school. I looked for people to support me and help me find the solutions necessary to make it a win-win situation for everyone. But I never could find a solution to lying.

At the beginning of my career, one principal wanted me to lie because he was stressed out and couldn’t stand up to fighting for the truth. He felt that I was still so new at my job (I had been there three years) that I would do whatever he asked if I wanted to keep my job. Needless to say, I needed a principal with some backbone and leadership skills so I moved on.

The next school I was at was a move from elementary school to high school but I enjoyed this switch more than I expected. I thought that I would give it a year and if I didn’t like it, I could always move to somewhere else. Unfortunately the principal that hired me moved on to greener pastures after a year. The new principal had different ideas and management styles but I could live with that. Until he told me that I had to lie to a group of parents about something being my fault even though I had proof that it was his fault and not mine. He stated that if I didn’t lie, it would be a sign of insubordination. Even though I had been there for six years, I decided it was time to send out feelers for openings elsewhere. Within hours, I was offered a job in another high school in a different district and got a higher salary.

The next school I was at was wonderful and I stayed there for eleven years and two principals. The last principal wanted me to lie in court. I loved this school and my colleagues but I was not going to jail because the school would come out looking bad. In fact, the student was right and I was being called in as a character witness. The principal wanted me to lie about the student and not say that he was wonderful, well behaved, polite, straight A up until this small act of rebellion. He had his hair shaved into a Mohawk and refused to shave it off as requested by the administration. Then when he used some profanity on the bus, the school had him arrested because he was 18. All of the other students on the bus admitted to using profanity but no one else was arrested or received any disciplinary action. When I explained to the judge in his chambers that I needed a note to cover my absence from school because I felt I would need documentation after my court statement, the judge was quite upset and actually called my principal and reprimanded him for trying to intimidate a witness. In fact, the words “contempt of court” came up in the conversation. Needless to say, it was time to move on again.

Now I was truly crushed because I thought that school would be the one I stayed in until I retired. I loved the kids, the parents, my colleagues, my courses and everything else about it even though I drove almost an hour one way to work.

Yet I was truly lucky because another high school really wanted me at their school (especially since I had won the state special ed teacher of the year award the year before). This school went out of the way to see how beneficial it would be if I taught there and anything I asked for was worked out. I truly felt this was a dream come true and I stayed there for 7 years before I retired. What I had thought was a nightmare at first became a Godsend. I had great students, great classes, great colleagues, and was only 15 minutes from my home. Sure, it wasn’t perfect because nothing ever is. It had its rough times and tough situations but nothing that I couldn’t live with.

So as spring arrives, and contract tensions arise, many teachers are wondering if they should transfer or quit. I think it is important to ask many questions first.

1. What would you gain from a new situation?

2. What would you lose?

3. What is the worst thing that could happen?

4. Could you live with the worst thing happening?

5. What do you really want?

6. If you found out that you only had five years left to live, how would this decision affect you?

7. I really think it is important to remember that life is too short to be miserable. But is your situation temporary or permanent?

8. Are there solutions that could take place that would make your current situation better for you? Have you talked to anyone about making these solutions?

If there are no solutions and you are truly unhappy, it is time to seriously think about finding a new position or school. Unhappiness is like an infection and will be evident to your students, their parents, your colleagues, your administration and nothing beneficial will come from this unless you take action. It is scary to move into a new and unknown situation but you owe it to yourself to have a successful career that makes you happy.

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

Original image: 'SAF#2' by: Roberto Ferrari

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sometimes Conversations Just Happen

conversation In Not the answers I am looking for from Learn Me Good by Mister Teacher, he talks about the wild answers he gets for some questions asked. If you get a chance to read his whole post, it will make you smile.

His whole post reminded me of conversations in my own classroom and how my students would go off on a tangent and totally miss the point of what I was trying to make. Here are some examples.

I taught the novel Scarlet Letter using illustrated classics and my students loved these books. We read it as a play with different students playing different parts. When it was their character’s turn to speak, they would read their part. Here is part of the conversation as I remember it:

Me: Does anyone know what the letter A stood for? (Please do not use any profanity. It did not stand for THAT.)

T: Angry – ‘cause I sure would be angry if I had to wear a letter.

S: But the football team wears letters on their jackets for the school name – so was A the name of the school they went to?

K: No, A stands for adultery and it means she fooled around

E: My momma fooled around and my daddy beat her up! Then he went to jail!

T: My daddy was in jail too but he did drugs

S: I wouldn’t let no guy beat me up, I’d beat him up first

K: My momma left my daddy ‘cause he fooled around

E: My mommy never visited my daddy in jail

T: I heard the food was bad in jail

Well, I guess you get the picture…

Another time I wanted to talk about the careers that my students could have if they studied hard.  I wanted them to see that they had many options open to them if they just work towards a goal. For example, they can be a landscaper, a sales clerk, a receptionist, a cook, or even a filing clerk in an office.  Here is how the conversation ended up.

S: I want to work in a doctor’s office

T: You just want to know who got a disease!

E: My daddy got a disease and he had to have shots because he had a lot of girlfriends.

K: If you have a disease, I don’t want you cooking for me!

S: I like the pretty uniforms they wear!

T: But then you gotta wash it. Maybe you should work in a laudromat!

K: Can you get diseases if you work there.

T: You don’t even know how to wash clothes!

Which then brought me to the realization that I had a whole different set of problems besides careers to deal with. I needed to do more functional living skills with them in order for them to take a more serious look at their future.

Whenever I had a class discussion, I never knew what twists and turns it would take but sometimes it was a lot of fun. Sometimes I let these conversations just flow around me because they always made me smile. Sometimes the statements were sad and the students just had to let the ugliness out of them in order to leave room for some goodness. I didn’t do this often but sometimes it just had to happen. Sometimes we had to have these discussions in order for the learning discussions to be successful.

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

Original image: 'Age of Conversation Book' by: Gaurav Mishra

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Dream Team

DreamTeam I recently read Who's On Your Dream Team?

from Angela Maiers Educational Services by Angela Maiers

“I have speaking to students lately of the importance of creating a personal "Dream Team" of individuals that influence your thinking and who's behaviors you would seek to emulate.

From Albert Einstein to my grandfather, these individuals have given me insight, creative energy, and clarity.  My "Dream Team" serves to help me be the best teacher, mother, friend, and learner that I can be.”

This made me think about who I would want on my Dream Team so here they are:

My husband – because he keeps me grounded. He is my common sense that my brain lacks.

Henry Winkler aka Fonzie – I met him when he was the keynote speaker at our Council for Exceptional Children conference and he was awesome. He knows firsthand how the students who don’t fit in feel and he would give me a reality check when I would need it.

Steven Spielburg – He would help me use special effects to make my lessons really stand out. Wouldn’t it be great for him to make my lessons out to be a production! With his skills, he would definitely help me keep my students engaged.

Bill and Melinda Gates – They would help me fund all the projects that I would want to do and help me see projects as a big picture. Sometimes I have tunnel vision instead of being a visionary. I don’t think they would have been as successful if they hadn’t had a vision for the future.

Mother Theresa – to help me remember that compassion and giving is really important. She was such a giving person and never seemed to think about herself. Sometimes I can be very selfish and only think of myself. She would help balance my egocentric ways.

Danny O’Flaherty – my favorite Celtic balladeer who would keep music in my life because music really makes a difference everywhere.

Martha Stewart – to help my creative side come out

Rachel Ray – because someone would need to feed my Dream Team! Besides she is so perky and lively that she would keep me in good spirits.

Dumbledore (from Harry Potter) – because he has wisdom and magic and sometimes I need a lot of both of these things.

If you have the time, I challenge you to answer this question: What 10 people would you want on your dream team? Feel free to answer in a comment or leave a link to your blog post about this. I’d love to see who I might have missed on my Dream Team.

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

Original image: 'Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept' by: Scott Maxwell

Friday, March 26, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom

004 (2) 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!

Historical Scene Investigation – “was designed for social studies teachers who need a strong pedagogical mechanism for bringing primary sources into their classroom.” These would be great lessons in the classroom.

Digital Storytelling in the Classroom – Educator Guide

Wacky Web Tales – mad libs for grades 3 and above

Books Should Be Free – free audio books in mp3, ipod, and itunes formats

The Map as History – “The largest on-line collection of animated historical maps. For students: a learning tool to increase comprehension and retention. For teachers: a ready-made teaching tool to add visual impact.”

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Presidents – Review and Giveaway!

Presidents I have always been fascinated with learning about the Presidents. As we have traveled around the country, we have decided to visit all of the Presidential Libraries before we die. There are thirteen libraries run by the National Archives and so far we have been to eight of them. We have also been to Wilson and Lincoln’s libraries which are not run by the National Archives.

As I learn more about the president’s personal lives and beliefs besides the usual things you learn from the history books, they become more real to me. I see a side of them that I’ve never seen before. It also makes me more aware of the growth of our country as different leaders helped shape the government to what it is today.

One great way to learn more about the presidents has been watching the DVD set - The Presidents: The Lives and Legacies of the 43 Leaders of the United States. which is on sale at the History Channel site for $19.99. This included 3 DVDs covering different presidents.

A&E Home Entertainment sent me the documentary to review and I was delighted! I highly recommend this set of DVDs for teaching US History. First of all the sound and video quality was excellent. My husband usually had trouble watching DVDs because there is a lot of background noise/music that drowns out the narrators but this was not the case. There wasn’t a lot of distracting background noise so it was easy to focus on the speakers. Not only was the sound clear but the material was really interesting. A lot of the information was shared in an interesting way and not long, drawn out and boring. I also like the way they threw in interesting tidbits of information that we don’t usually hear about when learning history. The information on each President was short enough to be interesting but long enough to be informative. I like the way I was able to put historical events in a timeline according to what President was in office.

I really believe this would be a great way to introduce history lessons. You could plan a whole year of lessons just using this DVD set. Each week could begin with a different President and the events that occurred during his term. What a great way for students to do some project based learning!

If you don’t want to watch them on DVD, you can download episodes right off of iTunes. This link goes directly to The Presidents in iTunes:

Thanks to A&E Home Entertainment for giving me another set of these DVDs to give away to one of my blog readers! In order to be entered into the drawing to win this, all you have to do donate a dollar or more using the donate button on the side bar. Donations will help defray the mailing costs. I will randomly pick a winner from the donors. The deadline will be April 14 at midnight Eastern Time and the winner will be announced on April 15th. Please pass the word around to anyone you think might be interested in winning this 3 DVD set on The Presidents.

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Want to Learn!

beaver I’m so excited! My husband has helped feed my learning habit and agreed to take the Master Naturalist course with me in the fall. Of course, this is right up his alley so there was no reason not to agree. He loves to watch the Discovery channel and learn all that real life stuff.

Our class will include “…understanding the underlying geology, specific inhabitants (birds, plants, mammals, etc.), ecology and the impacts of humans on the landscape including how we conserve our amazing natural environments” Most classes will be held outside in natural areas so there will be loads of hands on experiences. After we are done, we are expected to serve at least 30 volunteer hours in activities such as “… assisting in a nature outreach program at a park, museum, nature center or school; assisting a scientist collecting bird census data; collecting data on water quality or many others.”

I participate in trail maintenance on the hiking trails and hope to incorporate a lot of this knowledge in that. I’m hoping to mix my knowledge with my love of hiking and hope to find ways to find volunteer opportunities in this way.

I can see such a potential with sharing the information I will learn with students. I hope to visit schools and give some naturalist programs to classrooms. I’m also thinking of creating some online videos that could be used in the classroom too.

There is so much that I don’t know about nature and I’m trying to think of ways that I could learn this information if I hadn’t planned on taking this class. I don’t see this class as the end of my learning and look forward to expanding the knowledge that I get.

Since it was a beautiful weekend, my husband and I went hiking with my hiking club. We hiked up to Tamassee Knob in SC and it was a beautiful way to celebrate the beginning of spring. As we walked, we enjoyed seeing the wildflowers as they began blooming. While we were eating lunch we watched a huge fire happening across the way but we had no idea what was on fire or why. I only know it was huge because we could see huge flames and they looked huge even though we were miles away. Someone in our group did call the police to report it but they didn’t seem too concerned but at least it was reported. After lunch we bushwhacked (got off the trail) back to the car using GPS and compass which was exciting. One of the spots we walked through was an area obviously inhabited by beavers because you could see their work.

The reason I brought up my hike was that this opened up so many topics that I want to know more about. I want to know more about the wildflowers and how to identify the ones I couldn’t name. I would like to know how to read maps better so I could have seen where the wildfire was located. I would like to know how to use a GPS and a compass better. I would like to know more about beavers and other forest animals. There is so much out there I want to learn!

I wonder if this is how my students feel. I wonder if I instill this thirst for knowledge in them. I hope that the new ideas that I introduce them to make them want to learn more or branch out to similar topics. Not only do I want to learn but I want my students to want to learn! I want them to have a successful experience with learning and will do all within my power to give them this experience.

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

Original image: 'Happy Beaver' by: Steve

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big Night for Salamanders – 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.)

BigNight I just read Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein • illustrated by Carol Benioff 

On a scale of 1 to 5, I definitely give this book a 5.

This story is about a family who looks forward to the Big Night when the spotted salamanders begin their annual migration from the forest to vernal pools. It tells how the family tries to help the salamanders travel safely to their destination. It brings awareness to this event that I never thought about.

It is a great picture book for elementary school students and the illustrations are awesome. They are bright and colorful which would appeal to all students. The story is heartwarming also. I felt this book gave great information about salamanders because it included the “Life Cycle of the Spotted Salamander” at the end of the story as well as information about the Big Night and Vernal Pools. There was a great glossary at the end also which would be good to use to improve vocabulary. This book would be great to use in a science lesson as well as a reading lesson. I could easily see this being used in special education classrooms as well as general education classes.

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Owl Watch

MollyI recently found out about a live cam on an owl box belonging to Molly and McGee. Molly laid 6 eggs and everyone was watching for the eggs to hatch. I didn’t think I would be this into watching it but once I got started, I can’t stop because of the anticipation. McGee brings Molly food and bonds with her each day as we watch. If you get a chance, check it out! There is an infrared camera set up so we can see them when it is dark out so basically it is a 24 hour reality show.

The interesting thing was the other day when Carlos was interviewed by a local TV station and I heard his story. He is retired and does not do this professionally. In fact, it was his grandson who helped him research this and helped him set it up. Since he only did it for himself and close friends and family to see, he was quite surprised when this thing went viral. I think there are almost 1 million viewers who have seen Molly and McGee now. Carlos and his wife Donna have the owl box in their yard and are learning right along with us. I think Carlos said he spent about $5000 for this whole set up and now there is someone who is even selling t-shirts and coffee mugs.

The other day while I was watching, Carlos had a 4th grade class skyped in and they were asking Carlos all kinds of questions about Molly and McGee. These were great questions and even I learned so much just by watching. While we were all watching during the question and answer session, Molly decided to eat a rabbit which was fascinating/disgusting but I’m sure the kids loved it. What a great real life experience for them. I have noticed that there is a schedule now where other classes are scheduled to Skype in also.

I have embedded the live show below but if you go to the Ustream page, you will also have the chat there. Links have been disabled to keep it safe for children who are there and there are also moderators who are great about kicking out people who try to say inappropriate things. I believe Carlos set this up so parents and teachers can feel their children will be safe if they watch this show. I highly recommend this and hope you have a chance to see it too.

Live streaming video by UstreamPosted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/19/10

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!

Time for Time – Resource for teaching students how to tell time.

Puzzles – These puzzles can be played online or downloaded.

Zimmer Twins – “is a fun way to incorporate technology into the classroom. Watch your students expand their vocabulary, practice proper writing habits, and become junior movie producers all at the same time!” There are even lesson plans included.

NASA eclips – “NASA eClips™ are short, relevant educational video segments. These videos inspire and engage students, helping them see real world connections.”

Neat Chat – adfree chat room that can be used for a backchannel in the classroom.

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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why Reading Is Important

reading In Encountering the Other: How Literature Will Save the World from siobhan curious: classroom as microcosm by Siobhan Curious, she says,

“…I asked, ‘Why do we read?  What are books for?  If the novel goes the way of live theater – a medium appealing to only a small, relatively rarefied segment of the population – what, if anything, will be lost?  What can a novel do for us that other art forms can’t?’”

This also sparked a great conversation with my 5 year old great niece is just beginning her school career. When I asked her what subjects she liked, she mentioned art and music but when I mentioned reading, she said it was okay. For me, okay is not good enough. I want her to LOVE reading. I want her to want to read more and read better and read for the love of reading. She couldn’t understand my passion about this and asked why.

I tried to explain that reading lets me pretend I am other people and can do all sorts of things that I can’t do on my own. It opens my mind to imagination and makes the impossible possible. I can be a super hero with special powers or I can be in exotic places that I never thought I could be. I can also be an ordinary person doing ordinary things that I don’t have the courage to do at this time. Stories like this can help me get that courage to grow and try new things.

Reading can help me learn new things and gain information. There is so much information out there in the world and at my fingertips. Reading can help me get this information and apply it to my life.

Reading tells me about places I have never been before. I can learn about the people living there, their culture, their food, and their government as well as so much more. Sometimes reading about these places makes me want to visit there in the future.

Reading helps improve my writing. When I read different types of literature, I am also learning about different writing styles. Certain styles may appeal to me while others don’t. Without this exploration, I would not know the different options available.

Reading helps me make critical decisions. Reading can help me find information about certain topics so I can make informed decisions on my own rather than someone telling me what to do.

Reading can connect me with others. I might read blogs, twitter messages, text messages, or things like email messages that bring me closer to others. Without some knowledge of the written word, it would be hard to send my own messages for others to read because it wouldn’t make any sense.

Sometimes reading can just be plain fun. I like to read to escape. I might be under stress or overworked and find reading can help me relax. It lets me get away in my mind.

Yes, reading is important to me and I hope that you too feel it is important. I think reading is important in order to be successful in school as well as in life. So, come on and join me. Grab a book and start reading!

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

Original image: 'I Want to Live' by: Jay Ryness

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere – A Book Review

sky is everywhere (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.)

I just finished reading The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give this book a 3.

This book is about a girl whose sister died and how she handles her grief. While dealing with her grief, she is also dealing with relationships with a new boy at school, her sister’s boyfriend, her best friend, and her grandmother. I too lost my older sister when I was in high school so I understood the strong feelings of loss in the book and could relate a lot to many of the situations. During this traumatic time, relationship lines get blurry and confusing. It was a very sad and moving story though and well worth reading.

The only problem I had about the story was the references to sex. Maybe because I live in the Bible belt and I can see many conservative parents objecting to this book in schools. References to premarital sex and teenage pregnancy were glossed over. I’m not sure these sexual references were necessary for the plot of the book. I could see readers enjoying this if they read it on their own but I do not see this being used as a classroom tool.

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dating Skills and More

dating Are we ready to deal with our students and their dating habits?

In Kathy: Are WE ready for Our Students to Date?

from CEC Blog, Kathy states,

“As educators, we have to teach what dating behavior is appropriate in public. I think we often have to fill in the sex education gap that may exist in our students’ home life. This is a tough area that I have just begun to explore. “

This brings back memories of when 15 year old student, A. called me one evening around 11pm, crying on the phone. She had been on a date with her boyfriend and told her that if she loved him, she would have sex with him. She remembered things I had said in class and refused him, so he broke up with her. I tried to reassure her that if he loved her, he would not be giving her ultimatums like that. Of course my husband is now in the background having a “heart attack” because I’m talking about sex to one of my students! I encourage her to talk to her mom but she is afraid mom will never let her date again. Finally I convince her to let me talk with her mom, which I do the next day. We have a great talk and then both of us talk with my student so all ended up well.

Now I can hear some of you saying that this isn’t my job but if my students trust me and confide in me, I feel it is my job. Like Kathy says, I have to teach my students about dating behavior.

I don’t get in the nitty gritty about sex or birth control but I do have my class do a project to see how their lives will change with a baby. We do research and figure out the cost of giving birth, infant care, all the way up to graduating high school. Many of the figures are estimated but I think it gives a realistic picture about the costs.

I also have my class create a budget according to their dream lives. I have them figure out if they will be married or single, how many children they will have, what kind of car they will drive, and what kind of house they will live in. They figure out the yearly cost to live the way they like and then they job hunt in the classified to find a job that will pay for this way of life. Many of them get a huge reality check when this happens. They find out that they need to do better in school or change their expectations. One little girl looked up in shock and said that she would be living in a cardboard box if she didn’t do better!

We also talk about dating procedures from where to go on a date, asking a girl out on a date, accepting a date, logistics of a date, making reservations, what to wear, tipping, how to act, and even ending a date. Of course the more experienced students like to give their input and we get to discuss recent behaviors. Sometimes we even get to do some role playing which helps out the shy students.

As an adult, I think we take a lot of these situations for granted. With today’s economy and cost of things going up, it is really hard for teens to date. Brainstorming as a class would be a great way for discussion and ideas for those who are having trouble. If everyone talks about cost saving ideas, it won’t be so bad as if only one person thinks it.

I think lessons in dating behavior would not only be successful but also appreciated by the students in my class.

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

Original image: 'Dating for Domokuns' by: Isaac Hsieh

Monday, March 15, 2010

School Lunch Memories

school lunch In 3/15 Fun Monday Signup -- School Lunch Memories from Summit Musings by Faye, she challenges,

“So your assignment for March 15 is to share your memories of school lunches. What kind of school did you attend--public, private, parochial? Did you bring lunch from home or buy in the school cafeteria? What did your lunch look like? Who prepared it? Who did you have lunch with? Was this a happy part of the school day? What did you do during lunch time other than eat your PB & J sandwich?”

Check out her post to see who else took this challenge.

I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day of my twelve years in public school. I really disliked school food and standing in lines which was perfect because I loved PB & J sandwiches. As soon as I was old enough, I made my own sandwiches and my parents would just shake their heads at me. Of course, now that I look back, I think I was encouraged to bring my own lunch because we really couldn’t afford the school lunches. Of course when I got into high school, I would buy chips in the cafeteria to eat with my sandwiches but that was about it. I really think my PB & J sandwiches are what kept me so healthy and helped me have perfect attendance.

During my senior year of high school, we were allowed to leave campus during the hour lunch period as long as we had our lunch permit (which meant they had our parent’s permission on file in the office for us to leave campus) and we returned in time for our next class. Of course, as overprotected as I was, was never allowed by my parents to leave campus but that didn’t stop me from leaving with my best friend, Bunny. She had a purple VW bug and we would go to her house near the school to eat our lunch or go to the park and sit around the lake. The only problem we had was the one day it snowed while we were in her house eating lunch. When it was time to return to school, her car was snowed in and we had to dig it out and push it on the road to get it going. That definitely got my adrenaline going at the time, especially since I had never cut a class before and I hoped this was not going to be my first time! Those were wonderful lunches.

What school lunch memories do you have?

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

Original image: '11:12 AM-Lunchroom Cook and Server' by: Judy Baxter

Friday, March 12, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/12/10

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!

EyePlorer – a graphical knowledge engine that shows relationships between terms; it was a lot of fun to play with

Volcano Above the Clouds – “join a scientific expedition to the glacier-capped summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain”; great links to videos, teacher’s guide, and slideshows

Artpad – a lot of fun for drawing and making your own sketches. I enjoyed playing with it.

Amazing Space – “Reveal the beauty and wonder of the cosmos to your students with this comprehensive listing of all of our interactive activities, graphic organizers, science content reading selections, and more. A description, suggestions for using the resource in the classroom, and related materials accompany each tool.”

Zhura – free online screenwriting software

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

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What I Want My Students to Know

graduation In What you need to know when you’re done with high school from Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? by Scott, he states he was challenged,

“to identify the Top Ten Things Every Graduating High School Student Know or Understand.”

I thought this would be a great exercise in thinking about what I would want my special education students to know when they graduated. Here is my list.

1. Know where to go for information or help.

2. Know that it is okay to say “I don’t know” without feeling stupid or inadequate.

3. Find something you love to do and fit it into your career. It helps if you love what you are doing.

4. If you never try, you will never succeed at anything. You might stumble along the way but that is normal.

5. Your interests may change over the years and that is okay. You can enjoy doing different things and at times, you might like one activity more than another.

6. Develop a support system.

7. Learning is a life time activity and that when you graduate, the learning doesn’t end.

8. You will make mistakes but do not let them take over your life. Mistakes are not what make you the person you are but it is how you deal with these mistakes that make you stronger. Your actions show others what kind of person you are.

9. Be honest. Integrity is important. Once you lose it, it is almost impossible to ever get back. People trust those with integrity. Once you lose that trust, it is like a glass that is broken and never can be put back the way it was.

10. Most of all, believe in yourself

What would you want your students to know?

Original image: 'LuMaxArt Graduation Concept' by: Scott Maxwell

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teachers Need to Act Like Teachers

conflict In Middle School Drama  from Happy Chyck Wonders by HappyChyck, she stated

“One of the things I dislike about teaching middle school is that sometimes the teachers start acting like the students they teach.”

I realized how true that statement is true but not just for middle school but every school I’ve taught at. I am going to mention a few things that I noticed and keep in mind that I’m not saying ALL teachers are like this but MANY do. I don’t think they are this way to students but more towards each other.

They can be clique-y. If you have ever started at a new school, you can recognize the “packs” and that they do not include you in their little group. Some of them won’t go out of the way to help you. These are the people that I avoid.

They can be mean. They can roll their eyes at you or talk to you in a condescending way. They might blame problems on you because you are new. They laugh at your input claiming you don’t know what you are talking about. I do not let these people discourage me and will continue to give input when asked because I have as much right as they do.

They talk behind each other’s backs. I always worry when I hear someone telling me negative stuff about another teacher because it makes me wonder what they are saying about me. I try to follow the rule about “if I have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

They love to hear that another teacher got into trouble. I can usually hear people whispering in corners when another teacher gets in trouble. Even the students pick up on this and the story can grow out of proportion.

They can squabble like children. As department chair, I’ve gotten dragged into conflicts between teachers many times. Since my department was special education, there were many conflicts between the general ed teacher and the special ed teacher. My administration handled these conflicts by requiring them to talk to the department chair before approaching the administration. I hope I was good at my job because it rarely ever went further than me. Usually the conflicts developed all because of a misunderstanding.

Worst of all, a few of them act like a hormonal teenager. There are way too many stories in the news about teachers having sex with their students! What in the world were they thinking? There is absolutely no excuse for this behavior at all and I really can’t imagine how they justify their own behavior. When everyone finds out about it, it brings down the morale of the entire school. The public looks down on the school and the entire teaching profession.

This all leads me to my point of “Teachers need to act like teachers!” We need to recognize the behaviors we may be exhibiting and that our students are watching us like hawks. They watch our behavior and learn from this. We need to be modeling the right way to act instead of lowering ourselves to their level. I think if we act more like we should, our entire school environment would be more successful and the public might be more supportive of education.

I realize this isn’t the only problems in the education system but it would help steer us in the right direction. I don’t believe that just by acting the way we should will make the public love us but maybe it will help improve how they see us.

Original image: 'Impala' by: Arno Meintjes

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

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mockingbird – A Book Review

Mockingbird (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.)

I just finished reading Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine coming April 15, 2010! • Penguin Books for Young Readers • Middle-grade fiction • Ages 10 and up

On a scale of 1 to 5, I definitely give this book a 5.

This book is a story told by a young girl, Caitlin, with Asperger’s syndrome. The reader gets to see the world from her point of view which is truly enlightening. She has to deal with the death of her older brother (who helped her navigate the social world) and the grief her and her father face while dealing with everyday life.

I think this is a great book for middle and high school students to read as well as teachers who don’t really understand Asperger’s syndrome. I also think it would be great for high school students who have Asperger’s syndrome to read this with their teacher and have discussions about the social skills throughout the book. Throughout the story, Caitlin’s brother shares coping strategies on social skills that would really be relevant in the classroom. I could even see a Service Learning class on the high school level reading this book and developing a project with special needs students in their own school. There are so many different activities that this book can be integrated in and explored. This book teaches tolerance and understanding of people who are special. I highly recommend it as reading for teachers!

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

Monday, March 8, 2010

Are We Listening?

ears I watched an old episode of West Wing today and the priest told a story to the President. It is a story I’ve heard before but I still love hearing it. Here is one version of the story.

A man hears on the radio that a huge flood is coming and everyone is warned to evacuate. He says that he believes in God and since God loves him, God will save him.

The flood waters come and flood the house so much that the man has to climb out on his roof. A boat comes by and the people try to get the man to get in the boat to be saved. But the man refuses. He says that he believes in God and since God loves him, God will save him.

As the waters continue to rise, the man climbs to the top of the chimney to keep from drowning. A helicopter arrives and the pilot tells the man that he will drop a ladder for the man to get in the helicopter but the man again refuses. He says that he believes in God and since God loves him, God will save him.

The man ends up drowning.

When the man arrives in heaven, he angrily says to God, “I believed in you so why didn’t you save me?”

God responds, “I sent you a radio message, a boat, and a helicopter. You wouldn’t listen.”

Now I’m sure you are wondering what this story has to do with education but I think it says a lot about it.

The economy stinks. Money is tight. Schools have to tighten their belts and cut out a lot of extras. Teachers are getting laid off or furloughed. Cutbacks are happening everywhere. Everyone is running around asking, “What are we going to do?”

I think districts have tons of resources all around them that is available during these difficult times. They just need to wake up and use them!

I was saddened when I saw a colleague post on Plurk that Skype is blocked in his district and he has been unable to convince them to unblock it. This is such a valuable free resource that districts need to embrace and use. It can connect them to authors, other educators, or even professionals who could offer professional development to a small or large group.

There are lots of free professional development events online that are available. Many of these opportunities can be taken advantage of while they are happening or many of them are recorded and can be viewed at a later date. If school districts can’t attend many of these professional development events, why not get groups together to view some of the sessions and discuss them? A variety of recorded sessions can be offered, and people can get in groups to view the session that is relevant to them and then have a discussion. For example, there is K12Online Conference, Educon, or Classrom2.0. I have attended sessions at all of these virtually and watched recorded sessions and feel they are very relevant to education today.

Teachers should be encouraged to connect with colleagues in their district or state or even other countries. These connections go a long way in helping teachers learn new strategies and techniques to use in the classroom. Social networking is a great way for teachers to connect. There are many ways that would be an excellent and free way for teachers to connect. Using Twitter and Plurk has been instrumental in my growth as a teacher.

Collaboration is important for teachers and students and can be done at no cost to the district. The use of Wikis is a great way to collaborate and there are different platforms for wikis depending on personal preferences. Google has all sorts of tools that can be used to connect, create, and collaborate.

With all of these free tools out there, I wonder if we need to ask ourselves if we are really listening. Are we being open enough to use the tools that are available to us or are we hiding behind fear or ignorance that keeps us from using them?

What is/are your favorite free tool(s) that you would recommend to a school district? How do you use it and how has it made a difference?

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

Original image: 'What did you say???' by: Keven Law

Friday, March 5, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 3/5/10

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!

100 Video Sites Every Educator Should Bookmarkgreat list of video sites that you might want to check out

A Pictorial History of US Currency – Interesting look as to how US currency has changed over time

CSI: Web Adventures - Analyze forensic data and test your skills in this online game. This educational experience was carefully designed by experts at Rice University to maximize student learning.

Team maker – a great tool to use if you are working with groups and need to place people in random groups

The Alice Project – “Over 6 weeks, Mr. Long challenged 57 students to analyze Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — via their copies of The Annotated Alice — by publishing their questions & reflections in real-time on a very global scale.  All student progress was transparently shared with anyone who visited project blogs.”

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Leading Others Down the Right Path

path In Ready For A Walk? from Tech Thoughts By Jen by JenW , she writes,

“A few days ago, while chatting with my friend, Ryan Bretag (, I was questioning him on how he was able to persuade his teachers, his staff, his co-workers to follow him. I wanted to know….I needed to know… he was leading.

His response stopped me in my tracks.

they aren’t walking with me. I’m walking with them & they were walking before me. I just bring a diff perspective 4 that journey
9:12 PM Feb 26th via web in reply to jenwagner


This was an “aha” moment for me too!

I don’t always have to lead in order to learn.

The thought of leading scares me. What if I lead and people actually follow? What if I take the wrong path and lead people down a road to nowhere? What if the path I’m taking is actually the wrong path?

I think that is why I read so many blogs and interact on social networks. I think these connections and interactions actually help me find my way. Maybe all of us are trying to find our way together?

By discussing topics and sharing opinions, the surroundings get less fuzzy and get more in focus. The more I interact with others (not necessarily agreeing but bouncing thoughts around), the clearer things get for me. As I learn to leave comments, it gets easier for me (and maybe some of the authors would rather I go away). Yet it feels almost liberating to be part of the conversation. It starts to actually feel good and not so scary.

Then I realize that maybe we can go down the path together. And if it is the wrong path, it is alright to turn around. It is alright to talk together some more to arrive at a different conclusion.

This is why it is so important to comment on blogs I read. This is why I try to interact with people on Plurk, Twitter, and Facebook. I used to lurk but when I lurked, I wasn’t moving. It was like standing in the path and watching the people pass me by. The more I interact, the more I’m moving. Moving is much better than standing still. I can’t learn anything by standing still.

This is also an important skill for students to learn in my classroom.

How many students have looked down when I call on someone to answer? Which student is the one that always declines to answer? Who doesn’t want to offer any input in the discussion? These are the students who are standing still. They aren’t moving forwards or backwards. If they don’t move, they can't achieve any success. Movement, whether forward or back, will be a learning experience. This is the only way anyone can be successful in school and out.

Now I ask you, do you leave comments? Do you interact with other educators? Or are you just standing still? Now is the time to make an effort to move. Even if you don’t leave a comment on this post, I challenge you to read other blogs out there and find one that you can comment on. Don’t be stagnant. Take a chance and make a move!

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

Original image: 'Magic Path' by: Cindy Seigle

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Teaching in Lima, Peru

I have a young friend who is a teacher in Lima, Peru. I feel so thrilled when I read her letters and her blog. You see, I’ve seen her grow up over the years from a youngster into this amazing young woman because her aunt is my next door neighbor. I was also thrilled to see her become a teacher and watch at all the wonderful things she has experienced in her teaching. They are building a new school because enrollment is growing (isn’t that a wonderful thing!) but it is slow and frustrating. Here is a link to the Carlton’s blog showing some of their church’s construction. It gives you an idea of what the area looks like. EmilysClass

Through her teaching, she is able to help others become successful in their lives and I want to support her efforts. When she sent this letter asking for help getting supplies, I felt that I would ask my friends to also help support her efforts if they could. So here is the information that she sent me and if you are looking for someone to support, I’d appreciate if you could help her.

“I am sending you a list of things that I will need for the classroom. If the Lord lays it on your heart to help with any of these things, please send the amount indicated marked with "Emily Snodgrass" to Colonial Hills Baptist Church, 525 Taylors Road, Taylors, SC 29687 *AND send me an e-mail letting me know how you will be helping.”

Emily Snodgrass

La Molina Christian Schools

Lima, Peru
emsnod83 (at) hotmail (dot)com

List of supplies needed:
List of supplies needed:
3 boxes of Zip-lock bags : $4 each
4 large plastic containers with lids : $15 each
2 large cushions for the reading corner : $20 each
Different prizes for achievement: about $40
Transformer for electric pencil sharpener (that was given to me by the school!): $20
2 rolls of contact paper to cover books: $5 each
Miscellaneous other supplies that I’m sure I’m forgetting! :) $ ?

Thanks for any help you can give this young teacher!

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

Original Image: Students by Emily Snodgrass

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Assistive Technology

technology Last week we had a Council for Exceptional Children Chapter 877 meeting and the topic was Assistive Technology. If you are interested in seeing the recording of the meeting, please click here. It was really interesting and I got new links for resources which I will be posting on my Assistive Technology Wiki. If you have any great links that I should add to it, please send them to me either as a comment on this blog or email it to me at successfulteaching (at) gmail (dot) com.

As I look at Assistive Technology, I see it going hand in hand with Universal Design for Learning so there may be links for both on this wiki. There are some items that will cost money and there are also some that are free. In my classroom, I was always looking for the free things but my district did buy WYNN and Test Talker, which I used often. Both of these were instrumental in improving my student’s achievement.

I think using Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology if necessary is what is needed in order for all students to be successful.

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

Original image: '2009 Apple Workstation (Top)' by: Raul Gonzalo

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Role of the New Teacher

teacher Last week I received this Twitter message:

emapey2 @loonyhiker Hi Pat!! Teachers as Masters Learners, What do you think is the role of the new teacher???

He referred to the post, Teachers as Master Learners by Will Richardson. In the post, the author writes,

“…we teach kids to learn. We can’t teach kids to learn unless we are learners ourselves, and our understanding of learning has to encompass the rich, passion-based interactions that take place in these social learning spaces online.”

I think a new teacher has many roles. Here are some that I thought of but they aren’t in any order of importance. They are more in the order as they came to my mind. If you have any you think I left off, please let me know.

1. Bring in knowledge of new instructional strategies.

2. Be willing to learn from more experienced teachers.

3. Continue to fine tune their art of teaching.

4. Develop a Personal/Professional Learning network online and face to face.

5. Bring a zest for teaching and learning to the environment.

6. Be willing to share current research with others.

7. Stay current with what research is out there by connecting with others.

8. Ask questions when they are confused or don’t understand something.

9. Seek support when they are discouraged. Don’t be afraid to share these feelings because every teacher has them.

10. Don’t volunteer to do too many things (because it is hard for a new teacher to say no).

I think new teachers bring so many new ideas and techniques to a school that it would be a waste not to take advantage of this. With the energy and excitement of new teachers, I think they breathe fresh air into a school. I love when new teachers come to a school because their wonderful attitude can be quite contagious and help a school be more successful.

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

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