Monday, May 31, 2010

I Learn Something Every Day

Last week we drove up on the spur of the moment towards the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. We have talked for a few years about going camping and hiking up there and decided that this was the perfect time. We wanted to get up there before the holiday because we thought it would only get more crowded after the holiday. On the way up there, I called the Charit Creek Lodge to see if we could get reservations for the next day and they had openings.

I’ve been a little apprehensive about staying at the lodge because I had never been there before and I knew that we would have to share a cabin with strangers. But my hubby really wanted to do this so I went along with it (the things you do for love!).

006We arrive at the Big South Fork Bandy Visitor Center. W  e met the nicest guys there at the visitor center who told us about the park and also about the animals there. They had a great educational display with skulls and pelts of different animals. We ended up spending the night at the Bandy Creek Campground (site 13A) which was up on a hill overlooking a nice field. We had hoped to see some deer b010ut we never saw any. But, we did get to see a bear on the road as we returned to the campground after dinner. Thankfully we had our new tent because a thunderstorm arrived and we were able to sit in our tent with a glass of wine as the thunderstorm passed by.

031The next day we packed up the tent and headed to the lo dge. Since we were early, we hiked in Pickett State Park to the natural bridge and Hazard cave. Then we had to drive along a gravel road to the trailhead and then hike 2 miles in to the lodge. When we arrived, we were told that we had the cabin all to ourselves for the night which was a relief. We ate some lunch and then hiked around the area before returning to our cabin. The mosquitoes were really bad and kept attacking Don so we spent time out on the screened in porch until dinner.

062At dinner we met 2 other couples from southern Indian a and so there were just six of us for dinner. It was really cozy and we enjoyed visiting with these people and exchanging stories. They had the cabin next to us. After dinner we returned to our cabin and enjoyed our bottle of wine before heading to bed. During the night Don got cold and had to get another blanket but I didn’t.

The next morning, I was up early and got to watch the sun rise. Then we had breakfast at 8am with the other two couples. It was really nice meeting them and hope our paths cross again someday. After breakfast we headed back to our car and drove around but then headed towards Blue Heron Mining 081Community. There was a nice mining museum and hike in that area. After leaving there, we headed towards Cumberland Gap and hoped that we could hike there the next day but the road was closed. So, we decided to head for home.

As every day turns out, this whole trip was a wonderful learning experience. Here are some things that I learned:

1. Not everything has to be planned.

2. People like to tell the good things about where they live.

3. Wild animals may be all around us and we just have to stop and take time to look.

4. Thunderstorms can be scary and exciting.

5. Sometimes we dread things because we worry that it will be a bad experience and then it turns out alright.

6. Worrying about what might happen can sometimes be a waste of time.

7. It is fun to meet new people.

8. Plans need to be flexible in case things don’t go the way you expect.

What have you learned today?

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/28/10

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!

The Science of Music – “Explore the science of music with us, through these online exhibits, movies, and questions. Along the way, you can compose, mix, dance, drum, experiment, and above all…listen.”

Physics Central – “With PhysicsCentral, we communicate the excitement and importance of physics to everyone. We invite you to visit our site every week to find out how physics is part of your world. We'll answer your questions on how things work and keep you informed with daily updates on physics in the news. We'll describe the latest research and the people who are doing it and, if you want more, where to go on the web.”

Teachers’ Pet – great resources to use with children age 3-11 years old; free printable stuff

Passport to Summer Reading – by Barnes and Noble, Kids read 8 books and track them, includes a parent and an educator kit, kids can get a free book off the list when they turn in their passport to Barnes and Noble.

AutoMotivator – create your own motivational poster

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Learning is Not Intuitive

In On Balance Kevin Jarrett states,

“It made me realize that many times I have assumed that my high school students knew how to do something. Then they would look at me with this blank glazed-over look in their eyes and I knew I was in trouble. “

I have also seen my students enter my room with an assignment from another teacher. They were told to do research and write a report on a certain topic. For my students, they have no idea where to begin. Usually they go to the library and someone hands them a book on that topic. Then they start copying paragraphs from the book. They might see a picture that interests them and so they copy a paragraph near that picture. They jump around the book copying paragraphs until they have the assigned length. Yet they are stunned when they receive a failing grade for their report.

The problem is that no one told them where to start! Yes, maybe they were taught in third grade how to write a report but every year, different teachers use different criteria to evaluate these things. Yet, many assume that the students know and understand this criteria.

I find that using rubrics is the best way for me to share my expectations with the students. I want them to know what I’m looking for before they begin the work. Too many times I have worked on an assignment for a teacher only to find out halfway that I was moving in the wrong direction and had to start all over. Not only was I discouraged but I was frustrated by the waste of time that I had already put in. Rubrics also help me organize my own thoughts and criteria before I give an assignment. I have also seen too many teachers give busy work to students with no thought about assessing the finished project and believe me, students can pick up on this quickly. If they see the teacher doesn’t care, why should they put thought and effort into it either?

Now, you may be thinking that this only works for students in K-12 but it also works on the college level. I think rubrics help on any level and can really be instrumental in the success of the learner. I also started to see that if I couldn’t come up with a rubric for an assignment, I had to take a long hard look at the assignment and what I hoped to achieve.

I start off by writing down what I want to grade the student on. I make this list out and then decide on the main ones that I feel are essential and delete the ones that I think are not. Once I determine what is important for the student to achieve, I decide on the rating scale that will determine the grade. Once I decide what scale I am going to use, I give specifics for what will constitute each number. This takes a lot of time on the front end but it sure makes grading easier when I get the finished product. It also makes grading less subjective and easier for the student to understand where the mistakes were made.

If the student sees where the mistakes were made, then it is easier for the student to correct these mistakes and work towards more success. And isn’t that what I hope for the student to do?

Do you use rubrics? If so, what steps to you go through to develop one? Do you feel they are useful and why or why not?

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

Original image: 'Research Paper on Microsoft' by: Alexis Cordova

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lost the Joy

boa In Squeezing the joy out of a thing , the author asks,

Have you ever gone and accidentally squeezed the joy out of something your students were enjoying doing by making it a way too learning oriented task instead of a simple life-experiential language experience?  Ever brought something into the classroom which completely bombed because it was your passion, not your learners”

This made me stop and think. I’m not sure if I’ve done it to others but I sure have had this happen to me so I know exactly what it feels like.

I remember wanting to learn how to knit when I was little and my mother showing me. She was very rigid about all the “rules” that I had to follow. I had to hold the needles a certain way. I had to hold the yarn a certain way. If I made mistakes, I had to rip it out and start all over. I never was able to finish anything because I was so frustrated by that time that I just hated it all! I never did learn to knit while my mother was alive.

Then I taught myself to knit. I watched youtube videos and still made lots of mistakes. I found an online support system which I felt I controlled by choosing what I read, what advice I followed, and what I ignored. I joined a weekly knitting group that is full of people who encouraged and helped me. I started to finish projects even though there were mistakes. But I learned from my mistakes and started to get better at knitting. With each finished project, I gained confidence to try something new, something harder, or something different. I knew there were people out there willing to help me if I needed it. I knew there were people out there that didn’t care if I made any mistakes.

I loved my mother but that was definitely not the way to inspire and motivate me to learn knitting.

I hope when I am teaching my students that I can encourage them to finish a project. I want them to see the mistakes they made and learn from them but not discourage them so much that they do not want to learn.

I have had students learn a skill in another class but not understand it. When they asked me for help, I would explain it the best way that I could. Sometimes this really helped the student and they immediately understood what the other teacher was trying to get across. Then they asked why the other teacher couldn’t have explained it so easily to them. That is an opening for a great teaching moment. Students need to learn that just like all students learn differently, all teachers teach differently. One teaching style doesn’t make one style better than the other. What does make the difference is how the student reacts to that learning style.

As I mentioned earlier, my mother was not able to teach me to knit. Yet, she was able to teach my older sister how to knit, crochet, and sew. My sister can practically do anything that my mother taught her and even more. Her success with the things that my mother taught her encouraged her to learn more. I, in turn, have always been very cautious and leery about learning anything that is somewhat connected to what my mother tried to teach me.

So, my mother was not a bad teacher. I just had a different learning style than my sister.

This also happens in the classroom. I do not want to be the one to take the joy of learning away from my students. I need to make sure that my teaching style does not totally conflict with the student’s learning style. And I don’t think it is the student’s job to change their learning style but it is the teacher’s job to find the teaching style that will help the student be successful.

So, have you ever squeezed the joy out of learning for someone? Or has someone done this to you? If so, please share your story with me!

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

Original image: 'Anaconda y boa constrictor' by: Pierre Pouliquin

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Anything is Possible

sailboat I have been following the Official Jessica Watson Blog and read Life Back on Land.

Jessica Watson is a 16 year old girl who has sailed around the world alone. I have been drawn to reading her blog entries because I have admired her courage and determination. This past week, she finally arrived home and has been sharing about the fanfare that she has been receiving. But in this entry, she writes,
“But more than anything, I love hearing about other people’s dreams and how my voyage has showed them that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”

I think I have felt that way as I followed her blog. I have been amazed how she handled difficulties and bad weather and repairs and a multitude of other obstacles with faith and belief that she could conquer anything.

This is the kind of feelings that I hope to impart in my students with my words, actions, and teaching.

I hope that people who read my blog or meet me in person feels like after being around me, that anything is possible. I hope I encourage students to dream and work towards a dream. I want to help students figure what they need to do to achieve their dream.

I don’t want to discourage them or make them feel like their dreams don’t count. I learned the hard way with my own children that they could not live the dreams that I wanted them to dream. They had to live their own.

Like Jessica, I love to hear about other people’s dreams and how they accomplished it. If you have a story, please share. Thanks for reading!

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

Original image: 'Lorain sunset' by: Rona Proudfoot

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jail School Bus or Bust?

schoolbus In the article Choice Bus Aimed At Reducing Drop Out Rates, it states that a school bus has been renovated so that “The bus is half-school bus and half-prison cell and is designed to show young people the power of education.”

I’m not sure this is the best way to use our money.

Yes, I agree we need to send the message that education will benefit students and that dropping out is not the thing to do.

But I’m not sure that the students will get the message just from this school bus. I think there are better ways we can use money.

We could fund programs that teach students a skill, a trade that they can use in real life. I can see that a positive outcome can be shown from spending money in this way. It could be documented when students get a job using the skills they learned. By following up with the student, it can be shown that the student made a career choice.

Yet, by showing the students a jail cell, how can the effect be documented in the future?

Maybe we are making jails and the penal system too common place for students. Maybe kids are being desensitized to this so it just doesn’t mean as much.

I remember having the fear of the unknown and it kept me from doing things that I shouldn’t. I knew my mother never said things she didn’t mean and if she told me that I would regret it if I did something, the fear of what would happen kept me from doing it.

Now kids see the jail as a place to sleep and get three square meals (and many kids don’t have that). They also know that there is a weight room for inmates (so why pay all that money to join a health spa!). They don’t realize the ramifications of being locked in and being told what to do every minute of the day (they feel like they exist that way anyway between home and school so what’s the difference?). We need to stop romantizing the way these students see jail.

These students see way too many movies about how wonderful it is to be an ex-con and how gangs are just like being on a baseball team. Money should be focused on steering our students in a different direction and boycotting movies like this. It is time for society to stand up and take responsibility by putting companies that promote this behavior and thoughts out of business.

No, I think we need to go back to putting fear of the unknown into our students. We don’t need to show them what the inside of a jail cell looks at. We don’t need to share specifics about life in prison with them. They just need to hear that it is the worst possible place in the world to be and how much they want to avoid going there. We want to do whatever is necessary to keep from doing things that will land them there.

We don’t need to waste money with building a bus that looks like a jail cell and paying for all that gasoline going around the state. We need programs that will help students survive in today’s world. We need to teach them skills that will keep them out of jail. We need to focus on showing them how to stay out of jail and not assume that they already know how to do this.

I feel the sentiment is nice but is that really what we need to waste our money on? Will it really help reduce the number of drop outs? Isn’t there a better way to spend our money and achieve these results? What do you think?

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/21/10

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!

State Rank on Taxes – from MSN Money; see where your state stands against other states with taxes on gas, cigarettes, beer, and sales.

ZooBurst - ZooBurst is a digital storytelling tool that is designed to let anyone easily create their own customized 3D pop-up books.

Stop Bullying Now – “Welcome to the Stop Bullying Now! Campaign. You can learn all about bullying and what you can do to stop it. Take a look around and you’ll find games and cartoon Webisodes that help you Take a Stand. Lend a Hand. Stop Bullying Now!” (Sorry this link no longer works)

World History – “Create your own biography timeline and map, add your ancestors and view them on a historical map. Interactive Maps, Timelines, Videos, Geocoded Photos, and Museum Artifacts await you on”

Bubba Brain – academic games for all levels from elementary to college level
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is College the Answer?


In the article Plan B: Skip College from the New York Times, Mr. Steinberg writes,

“A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.”

This struck home to me for some reason.

Over the past 30 years, I have seen us telling students that college is the be-all and end-all to everything. We (meaning the education system) has told them that they can’t get anywhere without a college degree. Then we have changed “vocational career centers” to “career and technology centers” which encourage only college bound students to attend. I still wonder who in the world is teaching young people about carpentry, brick masonry, electricity, auto mechanics etc. The need for people with these skills is still out there but people can’t really learn these skills until after they graduate or if they quit school.

I also think that colleges have raised tuition until it feels like only the elite get to have a college education. I have friends who really need tuition help but because their parents make too much money, they can’t get financial aid, yet their parents do not make enough to pay tuition. How frustrating that must be! I hear this same story time and time again. Of course, if the tuition wasn’t so high, more students would be able to afford it but I’m not sure that is what colleges want.

We started a state lottery years ago which was supposed to help students pay for college. Isn’t amazing with the extra financial help going to students that the colleges decided to raise tuition! So again, there doesn’t seem to be a positive benefit from this lottery. It became just another political game in the scheme of things.

In today’s economy, with many people losing their jobs and less jobs out there, why in the world would someone want to spend all this money for college? I never thought I would see a day when teachers would be laid off, but that day is here. When that happens, it is time for drastic measures.

Wouldn’t now be a good time to teach students a skill that they could barter with (I’m only talking about legal ones!)? I have noticed a lot of people lately trading services. This will be an advantage for survival during bad economic times. When money is scarce, but there is advantage to having a skill that someone else can benefit from. And if they have some skill that you could use, it would be beneficial for you to have something they need.

I can see that in the future, we will see more bartering for services until this economy turns around. Until that turn around comes, we need to prepare our students for the future that they will actually experience and not the future that we would like for them to experience. I agree that it is time to look at alternatives to college. What do you think?

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

Original image: 'Cambridge Backs at Dawn' by: Alex Brown

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Allergies and Disabilities

sneeze Now that spring has arrived, I have had my allergies attack me in full force. I have this happen every spring and fall but every time it happens, I am surprised. I don’t understand why I should be surprised after fifty years of this and you would think that I would be used to it. But every year, I guess that I am hopeful that it will disappear.

I guess that many of my students think this way also. They have had disabilities most of their life and when school starts, they are hopeful that this year will be different. This one will be easier than the past. This one will be that special year that everything clicks. And then it happens. The same thing kicks them in the seat of the pants and they are overwhelmed with disappointment.

Some of the things that I love to do are hiking and camping. But with my allergies, if I forget to take some preventative antihistamines, my nose will start running, my eyes water, and I can’t breathe. The next day my eyes will be swollen shut and I will be itchy all over. Yet, I still hike and camp. I won’t give up and I won’t give in to this miserable condition that affects my life.

I imagine that some of my students feel the same way. Some of them love to learn. Yet trying to learn causes them frustration and trouble in their lives. Yet, some of them won’t give up or give in to this frustration.

I have had many people tell me that I should avoid the outdoors and hiking because it makes me so miserable. My allergies affect my life and they can’t imagine fighting this just because I love to hike. My family hates to see me hurting and miserable when this happens.

Many people have discouraged my students and told them that they need to give up. They have been told that they won’t be able to accomplish anything or be anything that they want. Their disabilities affect their life and many relatives want to protect them from hurt and disappointment.

I won’t give up hiking and camping outdoors because I love it. I believe that even though I experience tough times, I’m a better person for the experience. I have learned many things that I wouldn’t have learned if I hid away and avoided things that made me feel miserable.

I hope to encourage my students in the same way. Yes, they will be hurt and disappointed at times. Yes, they may even feel miserable. But they will also feel joy and excitement and so many other wonderful feelings. The positives will outweigh the negatives if they stick with it. If they really love something, they shouldn’t let other people discourage them and keep them from their dream.

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

Original image: '231 of 365: Open Season' by: Lis Ferla

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Greenville Chautauqua

chautauqua Last week I went to a Chautauqua performance by Caroline McIntyre who portrayed Mary Draper Ingles. As usual, it was a stunning performance and I’m so glad I went. I remember reading the book Follow the River years ago and this really brought the story to life for me. Mary Draper Ingles was kidnapped by the Shawnee Indians in 1755 but managed to escape and travel over 600 miles by foot to return home.

Chautauqua (pronounced Shuh-Talk-wa) is an interactive theater. Performers portray famous characters and talk to the audience. After their talk, they answer questions in the characters own words.

Every year the Board of Directors plan a theme for the year and have a huge event in June. This year is the “American Imagination.” During June 18-23, there will be talks by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, and Dr. Seuss. You can find out more by going to the Greenville Chautauqua web site.

What really impresses me is that these events are so educational and FREE! It is truly a family event and even brings community members together.

I am so thankful that there is this group of people that are willing to do this for others. It takes lots of planning and arranging, not to mention all of the research and practice by the performers. When I see these, I am always amazed at how a small group of people can have such a huge impact on so many people. After I leave, I always feel so inspired by them.

Even though the main event happens in June, there have been some scattered performances throughout the year so I encourage you to follow along. There are also discussion series where people can gather to talk about these characters.

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

Original Image from the Greenville Chautauqua web site.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tribute to my Dear Friend, Grace

Today is a sad day for me because my good friend, Grace Kaufman, is being buried today in New Jersey. I’m not sure how old she was but I know she was in her 80s and I was lucky to call her my friend.

CarnivalLiberty1webWe met on a cruise in 1999. I remember this because it was the first cruise I took that I really enjoyed and it was on the Carnival Triumph. We took a 10 day cruise in the southern Caribbean. Actually, I met Grace in the ship’s store while we were looking for some reading glasses for my husband who accidentally left his at home. We were so surprised to find out that we were seated at the same dinner table that night and would enjoy each other’s company for the next 10 days. Isn’t it amazing how you can meet someone and know instantly that you would be friends? That is how I felt about Grace. We instantly hit it off and even though there was an age difference, it didn’t matter.

When I told her that I was a teacher, she mentioned how she had taught some too but now she was a travel agent. Over the years, I sought her advice a lot about traveling around the world and even around the US. She willingly told us about things we should not miss and things we should be cautious about.

Her husband, Jerry and she were a wealth of knowledge and interesting stories about the whole world. We just enjoyed listening to them over the ten days and hated to see our trip end. In fact we took a shore excursion with them to Virgin Gorda and the Baths. Since the walk was hard for Grace to do, we stayed with them as we arrived and then Grace decided that she would sit in the store and read a book while the rest of us enjoyed exploring around the beach and rocks.

When we returned home from that cruise, we wanted to stay in touch with them so I emailed Grace and asked about a trip to China that we were planning. She was so wonderful and offered to set the whole trip up for us and I’m so glad she did because she took care of little details that we never thought of! Over time, she booked some more cruises for us and we stayed in touch on a weekly basis (if not more). I was able to share with her news about my family and she did too. When I was discouraged or irritated, she always knew the right words to make me feel better.

On our visits to see family in New York, we would always try to plan a visit to New Jersey to visit Grace and Jerry. They even invited us to stay with them for a few days which we really enjoyed. We were able to take the train into New York City and then back to their house. Luckily we were able to reciprocate the visit when one time they took Amtrak to Atlanta for a travel agent event. Then we picked them up and took them to Helen, GA for dinner before returning back to our home. The plan was for them to get on the train in Greenville to return home but the train was delayed for hours so they spent the night with us. They kept trying to tell us that they would stay at the train station (which was in a really scary part of our town) all night waiting for the train but we couldn’t let them do that so they stayed in our guest room for the night.

We were so lucky to be able to join Grace and Jerry on the Carnival Liberty in Italy in 2005. It was a magical trip and being with them made it even more special. There were special events that they were invited to and they made sure that we were included which they really didn’t have to do. When we arrived in Cannes, France, Grace had worked out for us to have a private driver to take us to Monaco. I think she always worried about us going off on our own and missing the ship (which we have never done and hope to never do!). Yet, it was kind of nice to have someone worrying about us like this.

Over time, Grace’s health declined and she was unable to use her computer anymore. When she fell one time, she had to go to a rehab place to get well and get physical therapy so I tried to send her a letter often so she would know we were thinking of her. When she returned home, I tried to write letters and call but now I wish I had done it more often. We had hoped that we would be able to sail with them again but her health didn’t let her do this so whenever we took a cruise, I called her from the ship the day we boarded and then again when we returned home. I think she really enjoyed hearing all the details about our trip.

When we went to visit my parents in West Palm Beach, Grace and Jerry would usually be celebrating the Jewish holidays in Miami with their daughter. One time, my parents came with us to visit them which was special because my parents had heard a lot about my special friends. Another time we joined their whole family on a trip to Parrot Jungle which was a lot of fun. It was fun to meet Grace’s children and grandchildren too.

I can’t begin to tell you how much she meant to us. She reminded me so much of my mother who passed away over 20 years ago so I guess I was able to tell her everything and anything. I’m so grateful to her family for sharing her with me. I am so thankful that her daughter was willing to let me know when Grace was hospitalized or in bad health. I can only imagine what they thought when I started barging in on their mother’s life but they graciously allowed me to be included.

I have some precious memories of Grace in our life and I will always miss her.

Goodbye Grace! We will miss you dearly!

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

(crossposted on The Life of Loonyhiker)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/14/10

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!

Life on Minimum Wage – simulation game designed by Mr. Byrne; “is a simulation I designed for students to recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win (prize not determined yet) at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent. All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one "business" slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also affected. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town's economy.”

PayScale – offers a cost of living calculator; “Whether you’re planning for an upcoming move or just curious about the cost of living in other cities, the PayScale Cost of Living Calculator is the place to begin your research (or daydreaming). Just enter your salary and job title as well as your current location and the city where you’re considering a move. Not only will we show you the cost of living difference, but we’ll let you know how much you need to make in the new location to maintain your current standard of living. Get started!”

Canvas Mol - 3D, interactive, rotating models of simple and complex molecules.

Engineering Interact – “is a new and exciting free educational resource for primary school children aged 9 to 11. Information about real world applications and cutting edge research motivates children and introduces them to the exciting subject of engineering.”

Today’s Document - Every day, a primary source document is highlighted.  Supplemental materials are a click away.

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Carnival of Educators 5/12/10

carnival2 The Carnival of Educators is up on the midway at I Want To Teach Forever. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article That Kid Could Be the Great Kid is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

You can submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Educators using this carnival submission form.  Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blogs Worth Taking a Look At…

valelapenadesdercdeinte Thanks so much to Sabrina for listing me as one of the “Blogs Worth Taking a Look At” on her blog – Sabrina’s Blog.

“This is a new initiative in the ELT blogosphere at the moment. If someone tags you in their list of 10 recommended teaching blogs, you then prepare your own list of 10 other blogs you would be willing to recommend, paste the logo above into your post and link back to the person/blog that initially tagged you.”

Here is a list of Blogs that I would recommend. These are about education and sometimes just humorous but sometimes they are both. There are twelve here because I couldn’t bear to leave one of them off and they are listed in alphabetical order.

Angela Maiers Educational Services



Education on the Plate

Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable


If Only I Had Super Powers

Learn Me Good

Online Sapiens

Principals Page – The Blog

The Chronicles of a Veteran Kindergarten Teacher

TJ on a Journey

Hope you enjoy these!

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

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Be The Beat

Heart I was recently sent this press release about Be the Beat and thought it was worth sending it out to my readers. I think this is a great site to check out and use in the classroom. If you have time, please check out the links!

Association’s Campaign Inspires Teens to Use CPR, AEDs to Save Lives

Be the Beat, the American Heart Association’s new online cardiac arrest awareness campaign, teaches 12- to 15-year-olds fun ways to learn the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). Video games, interactive quizzes and 100-beat-per-minute songs can help teach teens and tweens what to do if someone collapses in sudden cardiac arrest.

At, users will find:

§ The Basics: Three instructional videos that demonstrate conventional CPR with breaths, Hands-OnlyTM CPR and how to use an AED.

§ The Heart Trek Experience: Virtual tour through a 3-D animated version of the heart in which participants earn points by playing video games and taking interactive quizzes.

§ The World of Hearts: Users create unique avatars, track and compare their scores in the Heart Track Experience with other users and view profiles and testimonies of other participants.

§ Music Playlist: A downloadable playlist of 100-beat-per-minute songs (100 beats per minute is the correct rate for chest compressions during CPR).

§ Stuff: Free printable stickers, T-shirt decals and stationery, and free downloadable widgets and wallpapers.

The Web site also features a section for teachers and administrators who want to implement a CPR/AED education program in their schools. Free downloadable lesson plans and templates for creating and sustaining an in-school emergency response plan are included in the teacher/administrator portion of the site,

“Be the Beat is helping to create the next generation of lifesavers by empowering teens and tweens to act when they see someone suddenly collapse,” said Michael Sayre, M.D., chair of the American Heart Association’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee. “Sadly, far too many people are dying from cardiac arrest – we want this campaign to inspire people to help save lives.”

During a cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops beating normally and the victim collapses into unconsciousness.  Oxygen-rich blood stops circulating.  Without quick action, such as immediate CPR, a victim of cardiac arrest can die within four to six minutes.

Every day, nearly 800 Americans suffer sudden cardiac arrest at home, at work or in other public locations, and less than eight percent of them survive to hospital discharge, according to the American Heart Association.  However, studies show providing CPR can more than double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.  But less than one-third of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims receive that help.

By increasing the number of people who know how to respond properly to sudden cardiac arrest, Be the Beat will help increase the odds of bystander CPR and AED use and give more cardiac arrest victims a better chance at life.

Be the Beat is funded by a $1 million grant from the Medtronic Foundation.

For more information on the youth awareness campaign, visit

American Heart Association: Founded in 1924, we’re the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases — America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers — we fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit

Medtronic and the Medtronic Foundation: Medtronic, Inc. (, headquartered in Minneapolis, is the global leader in medical technology – alleviating pain, restoring health, and extending life for millions of people around the world. The Medtronic Foundation is committed to improving the health of people and communities. Its grant making is focused in three areas: health, education and community. Through the Be the Beat Web site, the Medtronic Foundation is providing $1,000 grants for school staff to help fund CPR and AED training outreach programs within their school or community.

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

Original Image from the American Heart Association web site

Monday, May 10, 2010

It’s Nice to Be Appreciated

appreciation Last week was teacher appreciation week and I hope you felt appreciated.

I have worked in two school districts where Teacher Appreciation Week was a big event. At one school, the PTA had parents sign up to fix us baskets for Christmas and to give us stuff for Teacher Appreciation Week. I know that I truly appreciated all the thought and hard work that went into this. At one school, we were asked to fill out a questionnaire at the beginning of the school year about our likes, dislikes, collections, etc. for parents to use for Christmas and Teacher Appreciation Week. Then parents were asked to pick a teacher to “adopt.” I felt that this started off the year with a wonderful tone. It said to me that these parents already appreciated me and I hope that I could live up to their expectations. When I received my gifts, I always felt that some parent went way beyond what they should have when I got them.

Then I realized that I needed to bestow these same good feelings on to my students. I needed to let them know how much I appreciated them. I really do. I guess I love teaching so much that without my students, I wouldn’t be a teacher. I needed them as much as they needed me!

I appreciated

· That they came to school.

· That they needed me.

· That sometimes they don’t know as much as they think they do.

· That they make me feel good.

· That I learned a lot from them too.

· They made me look at the funny side of things when I forgot to do that.

· That they have a different perspective than I do.

· That after a weekend or holiday, they seemed to be glad to see me.

How did I show my students that I appreciate them?

I told them often that I appreciate them. Of course they rolled their eyes. I mean, they are teenagers! But I know that they were uncomfortable with this and weren’t used to hearing an adult tell them this. They didn’t know how to handle this or what to say. Maybe with practice, they would get better at this.

I told them often why I appreciated them so much. If they don’t know why, how can they go on repeating the behaviors that I like? In fact, many of them were not even aware that their behavior may have had an impact on me.

I called their parents/guardians and told them how much I appreciated them and why. Too many of these parents/guardians only hear the negatives about their child. I felt like I had been giving them a Christmas present!

At the end of the year, I had a Student Appreciation Lunch at my house on a Saturday. In fact, I mentioned this at the beginning of the school year and many of my students did not think it would really happen. All of my students and their parents were invited. I had a simple lunch of hot dogs, chips, cookies, and a cake for everyone. I also invited former students and their parents (yes, I still keep in touch with many of them!). Then I had an awards ceremony. All of the students got a certificate praising them about something special that they did during the school year. After lunch, we played croquet in my back yard (which all of my students learned to do about a month before the lunch). It was a wonderful day and my former students always told me that this was the highlight of the year.

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

Original image: 'Teacher appreciation' by: Rebecca Johnston

Friday, May 7, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/7/10

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!

Learn Your Tables – great resource for students to learn their multiplication tables

America on the Move – interactive site from the Smithsonian Institute; “See how we got here. Transportation transformed America. Choose from these three interconnected routes to explore how transportation shaped our lives, landscapes, culture, and communities.”

Science posters – from NASA; free download

Sepia Town – “lets you view and share thousands of mapped historical images from around the globe”

2010 US Census – in Google Earth; youtube video

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Staying Focused

focusAfter reading If Only Time Really Was an Issue   from The Thinking Stick, Jeff writes,

“You choose how to spend your time, just like everyone else in the world. You choose whether or not you ‘have time’ to learn a new skill, read that book, or be on Facebook for 3 hours a night.”

As a teacher, I set the tone for my classroom. My students watch me to see how I manage not only my classroom, but my life.

When I complain about how tired I am because I stayed up late (watching TV, hanging out with friends, grading papers), I am modeling for my students that a good night’s rest is not important.

When I complain about other teachers, I am modeling for my students that I am not a team player. I am not looking for the good in my colleagues.

If I gossip about others, then I am teaching my students it is okay to spread stories about others.

When I complain about needing more time, then I am showing my students how to make excuses.

If I avoid learning new things by whining about how hard it is or that I don’t have enough time, then I am showing my students that they don’t need to try hard either.

As Jeff states, I choose how to spend my time. If I’m tired, angry, or unhappy, then it is my own fault. I can’t change others but I can change myself. If I have run out of time to do something, it is because I chose not to use my time more wisely or I overcommitted myself. Again, it was a decision that I had to make and I can’t blame it on anyone else but myself.

I need to make a list of things that are important to me and prioritize them. I need to make absolutely sure that these things are done.

Then I need to include in the list, things that need to be done and prioritize them. I need to tackle each one and work towards completing my goal.

Last, I need to include things in the list that I want to do but don’t really have to have it done.

I think it is important to reward myself for achieving some of my goals. I may reward myself by doing something I want to do before continuing with the have-to-dos.

Having a list helps me stay focused. Before doing something, I try to put it in words. I start out by saying, “I choose to …” If I can’t put the action in these words and feel good about it, then I know that I’m not doing what I need to be doing. This verbal affirmation of my actions also helps me stay focused. It also helps me not waste time blaming anything on people or events or situations. By taking ownership of my actions, I take the responsibility of the outcome.

How do you stay focused on what you need to do?

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

Original image: 'road trip journal' by: Andrew

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Visitor in the Classroom

knock After reading Blogging About Listening In The Classroom from The Chronicles of a Veteran Kindergarten Teacher, she writes about crickets overtaking her classroom. If you get a chance to read her story, it is a good one and guaranteed to make you smile, if not outright laugh!

I am reminded about an incident like this in my classroom.

I have always told my students how much I value them and feel like they are family once they enter my classroom. Maybe I go too far with this because one day, one of my high school students decided to share part of his after-school family with his in-school family. Like the Kindergarten teacher, I didn’t listen as well as I should have listened. I heard the kids whispering and laughing but I was busy. I had paperwork to complete before I started the lesson. I had an upcoming IEP meeting that was in the back of my mind. I had a couple of problems with students in other classes that I needed to take of as soon as possible. So, needless to say, when the student said he had something to show us, I told him to sit down and I would let him do that in a few minutes. I’m just glad I delayed this and didn’t just tell him to go ahead.

Finally, I noticed the whispering was louder and the worried glances in my direction alerted me to something. I guess it is that innate alarm that most teachers have and they can sniff out trouble like no one else can. I put all thoughts aside and my heart started beating faster. Glancing around the room, I tried to zero in on the problem. Immediately my eyes settled on the student who requested an audience. So I walked quickly to his desk when I noticed a burlap bag on the floor beside him. It was tied with rope around the top.

Then I noticed something in the bag moved! It didn’t just move slightly. I mean, the whole bag moved! I, of course, moved too; backwards away from the bag!

Everyone got quiet and watched my face and then watched the bag. It looked as if they were watching a tennis match.

Finally, when I found my voice, I asked my student what was in the bag. He informed me that it was his pet snake, Harry. Luckily I taught in a portable because I got the student to take Harry outside the classroom and using my cell phone, we phoned someone at home to come get Harry. The administration never knew about our visitor that day (but did some time after) and unfortunately for my student, he never got to share Harry with the class.

Maybe you think that was wrong of me, but I am afraid of snakes. I imagined many terrible things in those minutes waiting for a parent to arrive. I pictured Harry escaping. I pictured Harry biting other students. I pictured some students fainting. I pictured what students would be discussing at the dinner table that day.

What a day! Have you had any surprise visitors in your classroom?

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

Original image: 'knock three times' by: darwin Bell

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It’s Not About You

you In David Byrne is angry with me from Seth's Blog, Seth Godin writes,

“The next time you're sure someone is angry with you, perhaps it's worth considering that you might be mistaken. Perhaps that customer or prospect or boss has better things to do than being angry with you. Each of us has a huge agenda, and while it's comforting for some to jump to the conclusion that we've offended, it's far more likely that the person you're talking with merely has something else going on.

In a digital age, our cues for social or marketing missteps might be mistuned. Sometimes, believe it or not, it's not (always) about us. (On the other hand, and just as often, people are annoyed and don't have a clue...)”

During certain times of the year, many teachers are under stress (and sometimes it seems like it is all year long!). Some teachers get stressed out during testing. Special education teachers get stressed out during IEP season. Many get stressed out during holidays. Music teachers get stressed out before a big musical event. Yearbook teachers get stressed before deadlines and yearbook distribution. The end of the year can also be a major stressor. Let’s face it, there are many reasons to get stressed out.

When this happens, teachers tend to snap at each other.

I have mentioned before that sometimes teachers act like the students they teach. I have had to listen to many teenage girls who were crying because their friend was mad at them. When I sat both of them down, I found out that the friend was not mad and had no idea why the girl thought this way. This has also happened with teachers. As head of the department, I have had to act as a mediator between two teachers. It all started as a misunderstanding and one teacher felt that the other was “mad” at her. (I really tried hard not to roll my eyes!).

I have had a principal snap at me before and I wondered what I had done wrong to make him angry. Then later, when I approached him warily, he acted like nothing was wrong. In fact, I don’t think he had any clue that he had snapped at me. Maybe I perceived it in a wrong way. When I mentioned it to him (he was a great communicator and I had no problem sharing things like this with him), he told me that he didn’t think that he had been angry with me but he might have been angry or worried about something else and didn’t realize that he spoke sharply to me.

I think the best way to handle this is to talk to that person. I have always felt that communication was the key.

Sometimes we perceive things one way only to find out that in reality, the opposite was true. But the only way to feel better is to get it out in the open. If I walk around with hurt feelings about something, it only festers like a bad sore. In fact, it will only get worse.

I just need to realize, as Seth Godin says, “it’s not always about me!

Have you ever felt this way? How did you handle it?

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

Original image: 'Dave Wants You' by: Chris Owens

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mother’s Day Activities

mother Mother’s Day is coming on May 9, 2010 and it’s time to plan what your students will give their mothers as a special gift. I thought I would share some of the things that I’ve done over the years.

Poem using the letters for the word MOTHER

Create a wordle with all of the reasons that the child loves his/her mother. Then print it off and let the student glue it to construction paper.

Make a small booklet. Each page the students can draw or write things they like to do with their mother.

Make a coupon book. Each coupon can be something the student can do for mom.

Pencil holder using juice cans. Have the student cover it is with bits of colored tissue paper so it looks like a mosaic. Or they can use different colored yarn to decorate the outside.

Flowers in a pot. Students can make pots out of newsprint by rolling the paper and tucking in the bottom. You can start flowers from seeds or plant a seedling in it. Since it is already May, I would suggest a seedling but maybe you can get some seeds to start if you do this immediately. Then mom can plant the entire plant and pot in the ground.

Dough ornaments. There are lots of dough recipes online. Have students shape an ornament. After it is baked, they can paint it. These ornaments can be a paperweight, key holder, hat holder, or many other items.

Silhouette drawing of the student on the front of a card.

Use popsicle sticks to make a recipe box. Let the student decorate the box.

Other great ideas and directions at Kaboose

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

Original image: 'Danielle & Lilliyan' by: Bob Whitehead