Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bridging Generations

The Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Society held Field Day this weekend and we were lucky enough to participate in it. From the ARRL website, “ARRL Field Day is the largest on-the-air operating event in Amateur Radio. It draws tens of thousands to the airwaves each year, bringing new and experienced hams together for a weekend of fun!”

055 What amazed me was the different age ranges involved in this event. There were elderly people down to very young people engaged in this activity. It made me feel excited for the future. It was great to see the Boy Scouts there with a list of questions and willingness to learn. Some of them sat at the table and really seemed to get involved. Too many times I have seen generations isolated due to age groups and I love attending things where all generations can be involved. I watched ma047ny seasoned ham operators explaining things to younger or inexperienced ham operators. Being new, I was able to ask questions and get answers from people who were readily willing and available to answer them. I was excited to gain information and others seemed excited about sharing their knowledge. We had only planned to stay a few hours on Saturday but ended up spending most of the day and even returned on Sunday. While my husband learned more about the electronics and the antennas, I was learning about how the computer interfaced with the ham radios. Both of us were able to tailor our learning to our interests.

I wish there were more opportunities like this around our community. This event only happens once a year and I wish there were other things like this around. I’m not sure what activities could be held.

Do you have anything like in your community that brings different generations together? If so, pleases

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

Original image: BRARS Field Day by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Upstate Technology Conference 2010 Recap

UTC2010 Last week I attended the Upstate Technology Conference 2010 and enjoyed it. It is a free tech conference that I really believe local teachers should take advantage of because of all that they have to offer. I usually like to present every other year so that every other year I can enjoy learning as well as sharing. This was my year to learn and next year I will send in a proposal to present. I also enjoyed seeing old friends that I haven’t seen in awhile as well as seeing my online friends face to face.

I would like to share some information that I picked up as well as links that were shared that I found worth checking out. So let the fun begin:

I learned how to use Movie Maker and Photostory. Now I can’t wait to see how I can use them in the classroom.

I also learned that I need a remote presenter when I’m presenting so I don’t have to stand right by my computer to change slides. I ordered one yesterday from Amazon for $40.

Fran Bullington’s Using Personal Home Pages to Organize Your Online Life

Heather Loy’s Evernote Presentation Materials

Cathy Jo Nelson’s Using Dropbox

Clean Up by Steven Gould which cleans up the temp files on your computer

Eusing Free Registry Cleaner – “free registry repair software that allows you to safely clean and repair registry problems with a few simple mouse clicks”

Malwarebytes - is a site dedicated to fighting malware. Malwarebytes has developed a variety of tools that can identify and remove malicious software from your computer. When your computer becomes infected, Malwarebytes can provide the needed assistance to remove the infection and restore the machine back to optimum performance.

HueHd webcam – which can be used as a document camera. You can get it on Amazon for abou $20

Purple Math - Helping students gain understanding and self-confidence in algebra

Spelling City – online spelling program, including teaching, tutoring, and games

Discus – South Carolina’s virtual library

Current Codes – promo codes for different online stores

Writing Fix - interactive prompts, lessons, and resources for writing classrooms

I look forward to next year’s conference! Now I have think of what presentation I can do. You can also read about Heather’s reflections on UTC from her point of view at Upstate Technology Conference (UTC) 2010 Reflections, Part 1 from Tech Tips & Timely Tidbits.

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

Original image: Upstate Technology Conference 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

You Have Made a Difference

I found this wonderful song -“You have made a difference…” from Blogush by Paul Bogush. I listened to it and thought it was wonderful. It is a thank you song to teachers and I wanted to share it with you. I think when I get discouraged or wondering if I really made a difference, I will listen to this song.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/25/10

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my 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!

Story Cove –“ Story Cove folktales come from a variety of cultures and places. They share timeless values and simple, universal lessons. The Story Cove format enables children, families and teachers to explore these stories in a variety of ways. As a result, each child is able to develop a more personal understanding of a story while learning about the world. Children will enjoy watching the Movies and exploring the activities and games that are linked to that story. Activities are designed for one-on-one, personal play with interactive puzzles, music fun and hidden pictures. Lesson Plans extend the story elements to explore the original story with projects and activities that require interaction with adults or other members of the family away from the PC.”

Reading Rewards – “Kids accumulate 'RR' Miles on the site, which they can exchange for fun and sometimes silly things on the site: joke of the day, video of the day (always safe, kid-friendly videos our editors find), mini-games, and more. We even have an RR Store where kids can spend their miles and buy real stuff! Parents or other sponsors can contribute to the store and add their very own rewards for their kids. Teachers can set up a group for their class, and track reading progress individually or as a group. Setting a group target is a fun class motivator, and our interactive chart let's everyone see how they're doing!”

Togetherville – “Togetherville is a social online community for families where parents create safe online neighborhoods for their kids (under 10) to play and connect with the real-life friends and family they already know and trust. Best of all, it's fun and it's free.”

Make Beliefs – Create your own comic strip. You can write it in English, Spanish, French¸German, Italian, Portuguese or Latin.

ESL Basics – “At ESL Basics, we believe that real-life context is a student's best friend, not a list of terms to memorize. This is why our vocabulary is surrounded by a conversation. This fosters an environment where students aren't just learning one word, they are acquiring language. ESL Basics is structured around a philosophy of student-centered lessons, videos, and usability. We also know that everyone learns better together, so we have created the ability for students to share what they find with their peers through social networks around the globe. ESL Basics: Watch and Learn.”

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Know Where You Are Going

023 I learned an important lesson this week and it was that I shouldn’t depend on others to make sure I end up where I want to go. Okay, let me start at the beginning…

I recently went on a hike with a group of friends and assumed that the leader knew where we were going and how to get there. At about 9am, the group was supposed to leave right from our campsite to hike the trail so when some of us were ready, the leader told us that we would be leaving. He led us up the trail and told us that we just needed to follow the blue blazes to get to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain which was our goal. About a mile into the hike, he decided to turn back and meet the ones who were late and that the five of us just needed to keep following the blue blazes. (Can you tell yet where this is going?)

We came to a trail intersection and took the trail that went up the side of the mountain with the blue blazes. A few miles later we reach close to the top when we meet another hiker resting on the trail. We ask him how close we were to the summit of Standing Indian and he informs us that we can’t get there from this trail. Now we are shocked and find out that we were on the wrong trail to reach this destination. So, we stood there and talked to him for 30 minutes hoping our leader would arrive with the other group but they never did arrive. We finally change our plans and decide that we will do a loop back to the campground on our own since we feel our leader has abandoned us.

We had a nice hike and saw beautiful wildflowers. The only major adventure is when the bees attacked the first one in our group and stung him 14 times. Since I’m highly allergic to many things, we decided to forgo the trail and the bees and forded the creek (even though our socks and boots got wet).

Later that evening when our leader and the rest of the group showed up, we found out that they realized we were on the wrong trail and decided to go up a different trail to the original destination (the summit of Standing Indian). So, our group hiked about 7 miles while the other group ended up doing 12 miles so I’m kind of glad that my group took the wrong trail!

Looking back, I should have taken an active role in looking at the map. I should have verified which trail we were going on and that it actually would enable me to reach the destination. I needed to look at what landmarks would be evident so that I would know I was on the right track. I also needed to know that actual distance that I was embarking on and making the decision that I really wanted to go that far.

Now I hope you aren’t bored with this long story and I will connect it back to education now.

I feel it is important that I do not depend on others to get me to my goal as a teacher. I know that there are many tools and strategies out there that can make me a better teacher but I can’t expect that others will show me the way or even know the way themselves. I need to take an active role in looking for what tools I need to help me reach my goal.

Sometimes I will let someone tell me what I need to do and follow their advice without even making sure that they know what they are talking about. It is so easy just to hope that someone else looked up the resources and assume that they are the expert on the way I should go.

Too many times I have taken the lazy way out and let others do all the work. I let them figure out the best way to get to a certain point and hope that they lead me there. Then when I don’t reach the goal or it is too hard or it takes too long, I am all too ready to place the blame on them instead of me.

This would also be a great lesson to teach our students. I would definitely be the great example of why they should not do the same things that I did!

Have you ever done something like this? Please share your story so I know that I’m not the only one who has fallen in this trap!

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

Original Image: Hiking Trail Sign by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Upstate Technology Conference 2010 Day Two

UTC2010 Today is the second day of the Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, SC. If you have never attended this before and you live locally or don’t mind traveling, this is a conference that you don’t want to miss. There are not many conferences that are free and is actually useful so that is what makes this one so great.

Here are some of the sessions that I’m interested in attending today:

“Free Software and Cool Hardware

Looking for free software? See previewsof tons of software that is free for educators

There's An App for That: Using Web Apps to Organize, Simplify, and Enrich Your Life
Come learn about web applications and 2.0 tools that help educators both streamline and enhance their professional (and personal) lives. See real examples and learn tricks and tips as Cathy, Heather, and Fran take attendees through a tool showcase (including Zamzar, Evernote, Dropbox, and iGoogle). Leave equipped to "organize, simplify, and enrich" your life knowing "there's an app for that!"

Troubleshooting Technology in the Classroom

Learn some basic troubleshooting techniques that can help out in everyday classroom life when your printer fails, laptop doesn't power on, spyware & more!”

I will share my notes when I get back! Have a great day!

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

Original image: Upstate Technology Conference

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Upstate Technology Conference 2010 Day One

UTC2010 Today begins the Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, SC. I’m so excited because every year I come back with so much information that is useful. I also love connecting with so many people that I talk to all year long so this almost feels like a reunion!

Here are some of the sessions that I’m interested in:

“Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker is free editing software that is already preloaded on most computers. In this workshop you’ll learn how to edit StreamlineSC video clips, including importing video and pictures, adding special effects, text and music.

Don't read to me - A presentation on presentations - version 2.0
This is a totally updated look at how to design great presentations that leave your audiences craving more. Learn how to apply cutting edge research into presentation design and make great presentations that audiences will love.

Assistive technologies for those who learn differently
As part of the consideration of education's rapidly changing, technology-intensive world, Mary will provide: information on new assistive technologies that can help students in the learning process; examples of integration of technology into the classroom; and a list of available assistive technology products. AT addresses student issues of organization and memory, writing, reading, listening and math. About Mary: Mary has presented at several conferences including The Academy of Orton Gillingham Fellows annual conferences, SC Associations of School Librarians state conferences, SC Association of Independent Schools Teachers’ conference, and SC Branch of International Dyslexia Association’s fall conference. She has a BA in education from the University of Kentucky, an MLIS from the University of SC, an M.Ed. in Technology from Lesley University and is designated a SCISA Master Teacher. She has been the librarian / media specialist at Trident Academy in Mount Pleasant for the last nine years where she is piloting an assistive technology program.

Photo Story, Audacity, and Picnik... Oh My!
Bring digital images and audio to life with these three free applications! Photo Story (an easy to use presentation tool), Audacity (a free-cross-platform sound editor), and Picnik (a free online photo editing program) are easy and FREE resources to help you create eye-catching and powerful presentations and lessons like a pro. “

I will share my notes when I get back! Have a great day!

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

Original image: Upstate Technology Conference

Monday, June 21, 2010

Alchemy and Meggy Swann – A Book Review

AlchemyandMeggySwan I recently read the book Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (Note: I am not being paid to give this review).

I would definitely give this book 5 out of 5. The story takes place in London during the Elizabethan era and is about a young girl who has a physical disability and how she survives life during that time. The story starts off right away with an interest grabber and I couldn’t put it down. I think this book would be great to use in a classroom to enhance different types of lessons. It can be used as historical fiction and would lend itself to many discussions in a social studies class. I think the book also uses rich vocabulary to attract a student’s interest as well as lending itself to great vocabulary lessons. I think it also touches on a lesson of social skills in dealing with people who are different and how other people treat them. I like Meggy’s spirit in the story and how she doesn’t give up and let other people’s attitudes determine how she will live her life. In addition to be a great educational tool, it is an uplifting and interesting story. I can easily see this being used on the middle school level and even the high school level in a special education class.

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

Friday, June 18, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/18/10

tools1 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my 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!

SlideMap - “explore the world through Flickr geotagged images”

Tenement Museum – From Ellis Island to Orchard Street. It lets students simulate immigrating to America. They fill out information for a passport and go through the different stages. They even get to see what an apartment was like.

Sciyo – “is a fast-growing open access scientific publisher, enabling barrier-free access to the latest research developments, knowledge and ideas within the field of Science and Technology.”

Fedflix – “ the best movies of the United States Government, from training films to history, from our national parks to the U.S. Fire Academy and the Postal Inspectors, all of these fine flix are available for reuse without any restrictions whatsoever.”

Historypin – “Historypin is a like a digital time machine that allows people to view and share their personal history in a totally new way. It uses Google Maps and Street View technology and hopes to become the largest user-generated archive of the world's historical images and stories. Historypin asks the public to dig out, upload and pin their own old photos, as well as the stories behind them, onto the Historypin map. Uniquely, Historypin lets you layer old images onto modern Street View scenes, giving a series of peaks into the past.”

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Listening

listening I just read this article on LD Online called Crickets, Books, and Bach: Develop a Summer Listening Program by David Gordon. I know that there are a lot of summer reading programs around but what about the students who have difficulty reading? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage them to read but we can also get them to learn about good literature through listening.

Mr. Gordon states,

“Parents should consider assembling a summer listening list, too. When we think of literacy, we tend to think first of reading and writing. That's because for centuries, printed text has been the dominant means of recording and sharing information. Yet for most children, listening is really the first entry point into language—the cornerstone of learning and of cognitive development. In an age when kids are regular users of personal multimedia technologies, the importance of learning to listen and listening to learn is as great as ever.”

There are so many great things to listen to and maybe my students need a break from struggling with their reading all of the time. My husband loves audio books and podcasts because he is an auditory learner and so are many of my students.

The public library has many books on CDs that students can check out. I know that when we plan on going on a long road trip, we like to listen to books together so we can talk about them. This would be a great family activity for everyone to enjoy as well as build relationships. I really don’t have any favorites but there are some books that are easier for me to listen to rather than read. For example, I will listen to Lillian Jackson Braun books on “The Cat Who…” before I will read the book. For some reason, the voices really draw me in. There are many classics that would be fun to listen to like Treasure Island, Moby Dick or Great Expectations.

There are plenty of podcasts on Itunes that are free also depending on the individual’s interest. My husband likes to listen to science podcasts that are short but interesting. I like to listen to educational, knitting, and gardening podcasts. Of course we like to listen to Prairie Home Companion and NPR’s: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me together.

Do you like to listen to books and podcasts? If so, share your favorites.

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

Original image: 'Groove Salad' by: Sean Malone

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


raisehand In Reflections from Tinkerings, Tim asks,

“What do you do with kids that continually interrupt you in the classroom?”

At the beginning of the year, I state my expectations. One of them (a big one) is Respect Others. By interrupting, we are not respecting others because we are saying that we are more important than them. Sometimes it helps the students when they see it in this way.

Another thing to think about is to try to understand why this student is continually interrupting. Are they doing it for attention or do they really need help? If it is for attention, sometimes it is just a bad habit that they have gotten into. I work very hard on ignoring the student who constantly interrupts (by saying only once that I will not recognize rude people who disrespect others) and make sure that when I pay attention to someone, I say that one of the reasons is because they waited so patiently to be recognized. Many times this takes care of the problem but it make take a week or two of patient and consistent behavior on my part.

Another reason is that sometimes students are forgotten. Have you ever had a student raise their hand and then you tell them you will be with them after you help someone else? Then when you go to help them, they have forgotten their question or you have forgotten who had their hand raised. I found an effective way to deal with this and I was truly amazed to see it work. I cut red and green foam blocks into small squares. Then I glued them together so that red is on one side and the green is on the other. On the red side, I wrote the word, “Help!” and on the green side, I wrote the word, “OK” on it. All of the students got one when they entered the class and had to put it on the corner of their desk. Everyone started with the green showing while I introduced the lesson. When they began their work, they learned to turn it over to the red if they needed help. With a quick glance, I could move around the room helping those who needed help. This also kept me from interrupting someone’s train of thought if they didn’t need help. If someone interrupted me for help, I would tell them they needed to turn their block to red and wait for me or I wouldn’t help them. They learned quickly and it was effective all year long.

Do you have any effective strategies that worked for you? Please share!

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

Original image: 'Hey teacher! I know the answer!'
by: Kevin Dooley

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Don’t Forget the Mediocre Kids!

hiding In Being a teacher from TJ on a Journey, TJ Shay writes,

“A few days ago, I posted this on Facebook, ‘Teacher thought for the day..... If I grew up exactly like my student did, with the same advantages and disadvantages, the same parents, the same life, I would act the same way they do. Sure, as we get older, we can choose the person we want to be. But, until we are 'done' we are a product of our environment and experiences. So, show some extra patience and love to one who seems unlovable...’”

I guess this hit home because when I was in school I always felt like the unlovable one. I was never the popular kid and I wasn’t the smartest. Both of these got lots of attention from the teachers. I also wasn’t the dumbest because this person also got the teacher’s attention. The worst behaved, of course, got lots of attention from the administration. So I guess I equated attention with love. Since I was the mediocre kid who tried very hard to blend into the woodwork, I didn’t get a lot of attention and so I guess I felt unloved.

Then you had the kids who were popular among the students and they got lots of attention from the wannabes. You know these kids, they want to be just like the popular kids. But I wasn’t even in the wannabe circles. There were also kids who liked to rebel against the norm and they got their share of the attention from other students too. Of course, my parents would have killed me if I tried to rebel because they expected me to be a good, quiet girl who does what she is told. Then you had the outcasts who were ridiculed by their fellow classmates. And of course, I wasn’t even strange enough to be considered an outcast. So, once again, I blended into the woodwork, even among my classmates and felt unloved here too.

I’m not saying that I was miserable but I remember feeling like I was always looking in from the outside. I couldn’t have explained it to anyone at the time but I can still remember the feeling as if it was yesterday. I wanted to be popular and smart and loved by the teachers but I knew it wouldn’t happen. I had friends and that helped but I think we bonded together because we all kind of felt the same way.

Then I went on to a university far away from home, where no one knew me. I knew this was my chance to start new and create a new me. I really wanted to change the way I felt and how others saw me. But I really didn’t do this because it wasn’t in me. I finally realized that I was the person I was and needed to accept myself before others could.

These feelings and awareness and acceptance also helped me be a better teacher. I realized there were a lot of students out there just like me. This was my chance to make a difference. I spent my career looking for these students. I wanted to find the ones who didn’t stand out, who was the most popular, the most trouble, the smartest, the most in need of help and find the ones who thought they blended in with the woodwork. This was my chance to make a difference.

I like to think that I found some of these students and I made an impact in their lives. I hope that other teachers will remember these students when doling out the attention and praise. It really is important even if a student doesn’t show it.

Do you do this? If so, what are some things you do to include this kind of student into your circle of attention?

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

Original image: 'Sure no one can see me' by: Adele

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sharing the Joy of Outdoors

025I had the fun of hiking the other day with two tenth graders. They were so delightful to talk to and it brought back great memories about why I love teaching. They were full of excitement and wonder about everything they saw. They were happy and smiling and their joy spilled over to everyone they were near. How I wish I could bottle this energy and happiness and sell it to other people.

I think sometimes we can be rejuvenated just by being around young people. No judgments were made and I think all of us “old people” enjoyed being around them.

My friend Linda is the one who brought these girls to our hike and one of them was her granddaughter. What a great way to share the joy of outdoors! It is also a good way to nurture a relationship away from TVs and telephones. And the girls did not seem to resent being there so I don’t think they were forced to do this.

As we hiked, it was fun to hear them talk and fill the forest with laughter. Too many times we forget what it is like to be young again. When I hear adults complain about young people and their attitudes, I will mention what I experienced. Too many times we let these negative attitudes and thoughts crowd out the good experiences.

Have you had a great experience to share?

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

Original Photo: Don and teens by Pat Hensley

Friday, June 11, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/11/10

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my 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!

Timesavers for Teachers – “TIMESAVERS for TEACHERS specializes in printable, often-used classroom forms, report card comments, spelling activities, practical teacher tools, worksheets and downloadable teaching materials designed to save teachers valuable time.”

Ology – this is a really cool web site for kids created by the American Museum of Natural History.

The Elements Song – song about the elements in the periodic table

The Biochemists Songbook mp3 files - songs about different science processes

The Tale of Despereaux – a story where you (or someone you know) is part of the story

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 10, 2010


smores As we have been doing a lot of camping lately with campfires, I have been reminded about times when I was growing up and toasting marshmallows with my family. We always made s’mores and they were so yummy. I’m sure most of you know what a s’more is but in case you don’t, here is the description. You toast your marshmallow over a campfire and then make a sandwich with it, chocolate squares and graham crackers. After you eat it, you want s’more!

Now, I’ve eaten toasted marshmallows and chocolate and graham crackers. But when they are eaten separately, they have a totally different taste than when they are eaten together. It takes all three of these things together to really make your taste buds go into overdrive.

Then I began to think about how this relates to the classroom. What ingredients are needed for our students to want “s’more”? I think having all the right ingredients make a difference but what are they? I think an effective teacher, a willing student, and the right environment are necessary to get the right combination.

But what makes me an effective teacher? I need to be willing to learn throughout my career. This means learning new techniques and tools as well as learning the true and tried ways that have worked in the past. I need to use my time out of the classroom in a way that rejuvenates me and recharges my batteries. This might mean that on the weekends I do things that may seem selfish to others but necessary for my own piece of mind. It might mean that during the summers, I take classes that I want to take but never had the time. I might take classes that can help me in the classroom but they might also be classes that have nothing to do with the classroom. But when I’m in the classroom, I’m always looking at what is in the best interest of the student and not me. I feel that once I stop doing this, I am not an effective teacher.

How do I make a student willing to learn? I need to give the student opportunities to succeed. I know that if I’m always failing at something and don’t feel there is any hope, I will give up. I need to be the advocate, and sometimes cheerleader, for the student. When the student struggles and seems frustrated, I need to look for ways to help the student overcome the obstacles. I want my student to feel like he/she is never alone and knows that I’m going to be there to help when needed. I need to help the student forget about the failures of the past and be willing to start with a fresh new start. By being the proper role model, I can show the student how wonderful it is to learn and that this is a lifelong process that I am still involved in.

How can I control the environment? I might not be able to change the school policies but I can make my classroom inviting. There is McCall’s Hospice House nearby which cares for people in their end stage of life. I haven’t been there yet but plan to go there soon to visit a friend. My pastor mentioned that it is an extremely positive place with lots of windows, cheery staff, bright colors and positive attitudes all around. What a delightful place this sounds like. I want my classroom to be seen in the same way and not as a dark and rigid place of learning. I want to be “user friendly” that makes people glad to be there.

What do you think are the main ingredients for s’mores in education? Please share your thoughts.

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

Original image: 'S'Mores!' by: Kate Sumbler

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Plans for the Summer

summer Now, I know summer officially begins in another week or so but as soon as school is out, I consider it summer.

Summer is my busy time. Since I retired from teaching in public school, I now teach on the university level in the summer. This is my time for teaching teachers. I love teaching so much that I felt that by sharing my knowledge and expertise with other teachers, it is a way to pass it on. Of course, the best time to teach teachers is during the summer when they aren’t focused on their own classrooms as well as real life.

So, I need to get busy with planning my lessons!

One course that I’m teaching is a practicum where I will supervise 5 teachers and about 20 special education students. I will observe the teachers and evaluate lesson plans. I really enjoyed doing this last year and one of the comments on my evaluation was that the teacher/student learned more in this course than any other course. I believe the reason is that he was able to bring together all that he had learned and actually apply it. It was a real life situation.

The other course is a Procedures course which will be a hybrid course of online and face to face. There weren’t enough students to meet daily face to face so the university wants me to teach it as a tutorial where we only meet five times. But I need to make it as rigorous as if we meet face to face every day. This will be a challenge. I’m hoping to record some presentations on slideshare and post them on the wiki as part of their weekly assignments. As you can tell, I’m still working on them.

I’m also planning on doing more hiking and camping than we did last year. I really missed it but we did a lot of road traveling. This year we plan to stay closer to home and remember why we love living where we do.

We recently got our ham radio license so I am going to learn more about ham radios and how to use them. I’m wondering if they have a place in the classroom and how a lesson can be working in with it. This will take some looking into and I will let you know how it goes.

I plan to do a lot more yard work and gardening. I’ve put off a few years some things that need to be done. This is a good time for me to do it. We planted tomato plants earlier than we did last year so hopefully we will be able to enjoy them longer. I hope to freeze some to use in the winter too. We also have a ton of figs coming in and I hope to freeze some of them too.

Of course when all my teacher friends are working, I really miss them. Now that summer is here, my friends can come out and play! I’m excited about scheduling some lunches so we can catch up on what’s been happening.

In a couple of weeks there is the Upstate Technology Conference and I will get to visit with some of my online friends in person. I look forward to the 2 day event and learning lots of new stuff. I’m not presenting this year so I can attend more sessions. I might present next year though.

So, what do you have planned for the summer? I have big plans but we will see how it all pans out!

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

Original image: 'party in the sky' by: Dene' Miles

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trying to Understand

team In Things I Will Never Understand from TJ on a Journey, TJ Shay states,

“Our job is to TEACH and if the learning doesn't take, we reteach. Blame doesn't do anyone any good. Many times, in my career, I have talked to a student and tried to get to the bottom of why they are acting the way they are....if you haven't done it, you would be amazed at what a difference that can make. Failure of a student is often a direct result of failure as a teacher/parent/adult.” And also, When people are clearly wrong, why don't they just say they are, apologize, and move on?”

Reading this made me want to cheer. Here is a teacher who really “gets it”! Too many times I’m in the company of a group of teachers who want to stand around and complain about the students, the parents, the school, the district or the system. Of course there are plenty of non-teachers who hear this too and it is no wonder that they have no faith in our system. I once had a principal who told me that I shouldn’t waste time blaming people and use my time and energy into working to solve the problem. I really have tried to stick to this philosophy and wish others could too.

I also feel that teachers waste too much time being negative about education in general. We need to start being cheerleaders for our profession. We need to stop focusing on the failures of our students and whose fault it is. Instead we need to say that we have this problem and let’s work towards fixing it. Let’s talk about the things that are going right in other schools and see how we can apply them to our own schools. By networking with other schools and looking for good things that are working, maybe we can turn around our own schools. We need to start collaborating with other districts, states, and even countries to find out strategies that are working. If we just keep doing the same things that we know don’t work, how can we expect to see any success? Why don’t we admit that what we are doing isn’t working and move on? Instead people stand around and blame those who pushed for implementation of things that didn’t work but I don’t see how this will help us. Sure, we may try things and they won’t work but we need to keep trying.

TJ also asks, Why is it that in a school district, we are not all on the same team?”

I have seen this too many times in my school. We need to get past the ego trips if we are going to be successful. There was so much competition between teachers and departments that instead of pulling together, we were pulling apart. Part of the reason I feel is that there was not enough communication. Our school was like a small society where rumors abound and some people got information that others didn’t. Of course this made some people feel more powerful than others and they hoarded this information like it was gold. When others see this, they tend to react with fear and don’t think decisions through. I guess it is human nature to act this way but we need to get on the same page. Can you imagine an athletic team playing this way? I can just imagine one of the players getting the ball and hiding it so the other team players can’t see who has it. What chaos that would be!

So, I guess I should stop complaining and look for the positives.

One way to combat the negative talk would be to ask the complainer about how to solve the problem. I think we need to turn the conversations around to more positive notes. Start to talk about solutions and good things we see elsewhere that we could try. If more and more people start doing this, maybe we can break the cycle of negative talk. It may take time but someone has to take the first steps.

As for team building, I believe there needs to be better communication. Of course this needs to come from the top. The leadership needs to keep those in the system better informed. If everyone has the same information, than we can focus on working towards a common goal instead of feeding our own egos.

What do you think? Please share your ideas and comments!

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

Original image: 'Circle of friends' by: Beat K√ľng

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Year Teacher Needs Help

help In HELP!!!!! New Teacher Wants To Regain Control from So You Want To Teach?, Joel asks for suggestions to the following dilemma:

“I am in my first year as a Special Education teacher. My class is out of control. Kids are yelling at each other. Nobody is focused on their work. I am yelling and screaming and they are talking back and yelling back at me. Everybody is trying to help me out. Some say I need to be more positive, some say I need to be stronger and more strict. I do not know what to do. As a group, they are against me. The situation is very confrontational. I can not stop them going crazy. The kids know it. They are going crazy but they do not care. Some kids even have a lot of fun of it. they want the class go crazy so I can get fired. Please help. I am seriously thinking resignation because I do not think I can turn the classroom around since I can not change the nature of some of the students.”

The two suggestions that I gave were:

One thing that worked for me was what I called “The Chain of Success” that involved paper chains. I told the class that I would put a check mark on the board each time they were so noisy I couldn’t teach or so rude that I couldn’t teach (etc). If they got less than a certain number of checks (don’t start off too strict because you want them to be successful but don’t start off to lenient or they won’t improve) on the board per hr. or class period, we would add a paper chain to the chain that began on the ceiling hanging down. When it reached the floor, the whole class would get a reward (homework pass, or educational movie or whatever you think the class would like). The kids started monitoring themselves so they could get a paper chain added. Be consistent though and don’t put a check up for the behavior on one day and not the next. Be clear about what positive behaviors you are looking for.

Also another thing that worked for me was to find something positive to say about a student and call home to brag on them. The next day, ask that student if the parents told them what you said and if not, tell that student what you said. Try to call the parents every two weeks to brag on them. If a student asks why you haven’t called home, ask that student to help you find something positive to tell the parents. The parents love this and brag on the student and then the student comes to class and tries harder. It breaks the negative cycle that they are used to.

You can also read Joel’s post to see what other comments were made. Do you have any suggestions you would give?

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

Original image: 'Aaahhh!!!' by: Emergency Brake

Friday, June 4, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/4/10

tools1 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my 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!

Teacher Training Videos – “These videos were created for teachers to help them to incorporate technology into their teaching. Just click and a video will open and take you through how to use that technology.”

National Body Challenge – Educators Toolkit

Trackclass – “TrackClass helps you get your school work organized. From reminders to notes to assignments and grades, you'll be on top of your studies!”

TeacherTube: Inclusion – great video on how a class included a student who had leukemia

GoogleLit Trip – “This site is an experiment in teaching great literature in a very different way. Using Google Earth, students discover where in the world the greatest road trip stories of all time took place... and so much more!”

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shoelaces for Teachers Campaign

SHOELACEFLER_1 I recently got an email from Laurie Murphy about the “Shoelaces for Teachers Campaign”. She writes the following message:

“Members of the Shoelaces for Teachers campaign are collecting shoelaces in honor of educators who work hard every day to help students to have a better future.  These teachers understand the true meaning of education and put the needs of students ahead of politics and savory sound-bites.  

However, teachers could not succeed if not for the support of the community.  Therefore, shoelaces are also being collected in honor of people who are speaking up on behalf of education-people who demand that teachers receive the support needed to do their job and who insist that public education remains adequately funded and available to all. They also understand that, while some aspects of education (such as creativity, independent thinking, engagement and compassion) cannot be easily measured, they represent some of education’s greatest achievements.

When combined, all of these shoelaces become a “virtual march” in the name of education. 

The string of collected shoelaces will be measured and revealed during the world premiere broadcast of the documentary "I Just Keep Going" on July 30, 2010 on Ustreamtv.  The stories of several of our honored teachers and supporters will be featured as part of this documentary.  

We would be honored to include a shoelace representing you and your ongoing efforts in our campaign.  We would also encourage you to submit other shoelaces on behalf of other educators who have made a difference in the lives of students or who have worked hard to improve our educational system.  We encourage you to write your name on the shoelace you submit (or on an enclosed piece of paper).  We also would ask that you submit the name of other people being honored, should you submit additional laces.

Shoelaces may be old, new, plain, or creatively decorated. That part is entirely up to you!

Shoelaces should be mailed to: Laurie Murphy, 6414 Foster Road, Sebring, FL 33875. 

The Shoelaces for Teachers Campaign is sponsored by the SOS Million Teacher March, an organization made of up teachers, parents, students, and other concerned citizens who are rallying together in support of education. To learn more about the Shoelaces for Teachers Campaign or the SOS Million Teacher March, please visit us at  Should you have any questions or wish to discuss this further, feel free to contact me by telephone at (863) 386-4806 or by email at”

So please send your shoelaces in!

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

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Every Child Is Creative (They Just Need a Little Help)

How many times have you heard the criticism, “He doesn’t have a creative bone in his body”? Have you ever wondered how it is that these supposed experts are able to make such a bold claim? Creativity, by its very nature, is difficult to define, categorize, or quantify because it is totally subjective. And yet, almost anyone can tell the difference between an idea that is inventive and one that has been done a million times. So while you may at first be stumped when it comes time to expand the young minds of your students and inspire them to innovate, you can start by taking a closer look at what motivates them (and you).
Every child is different. Their interests vary and it takes time to figure out what might motivate one or another. And while any curriculum requires that children learn certain things, the way you teach your lessons, and how you choose to engage your students in the subject matter, could have a huge effect on how much they learn and retain. If your goal is to get them thinking outside the box, the simplest way to start is by using some common sense. What are you really trying to teach students? What is at the heart of every lesson, from math and science to reading and writing? You want to prepare your students not only for their exams and for the next grade level, but also for life. All learning, at its core, is designed to help kids develop the knowledge and skills they will need to function beyond their schooling. So begin with practical applications

Are you teaching them about the Civil War? Have them take on the persona of members of the Union and the Confederacy, then discuss the problems they are facing with the war. This will allow them to get into the head space of another person, one whose challenges were vastly different from the ones they face today. Understanding history, from a personal perspective, will make it a lot more interesting and easy to remember. You’re also allowing them to express their own feelings and ideas through a character, a creative expression that will help them grow mentally and emotionally. You can also change up delivery methods for reports. Instead of having students write reports and read them to the class, they can create a video, a song, a blog, or represent their ideas pictorially. All of these activities will access and engage various areas of the brain, expanding their ability to think in different ways.

Another way to foster creativity is through a change of venue. While you may not have the resources to take your students on regular outings, you can still work outside the restrictions of a classroom. Move all the desks to the wall and have students sit in a circle for class discussions. Or take it outside when the weather is nice so kids can enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and open space. If you’re studying the rotation of the planets, bring out some sidewalk chalk to mark the path that different planets will take. Then have the kids walk it out. They’re sure to appreciate the lesson a lot more when it involves multiple sensory inputs. Just be sure that every student gets involved.

Finally, get feedback. Go straight to the source and ask the kids what they like and dislike about different lessons. You can use their comments constructively to help you determine new and interesting ways to teach other lessons. Spicing up your class by trying something new, incorporating their interests, and allowing them to participate in the process is only going to improve their ability to navigate the world in creative ways. You want them to be flexible, innovative, and confident, so take the time to really listen to them. Everyone has the potential to be creative if their unique talents are adequately nurtured.

Alexis Montgomery is a content writer for Online Universities, where you can browse through various online degree programs to find a college that suits your needs.

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: A Book Review

willgrayson I recently read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. It is young adult novel about two boys who have the same name and meet in real life. The story is told from each boy’s perspective and deals with teen relationships, homosexuality, and underage drinking.

Here is the review that I wrote on the Picnic Basket:

“I would have to rate this book 1 out of 5. In the area that I live in, I believe parents and school administrators would not allow this book in the school library. The sexual content and the language are too strong for students in this area. It also seemed to encourage underage drinking and fake IDs. I'm not sure that I would want my students reading this because it would bring up discussions that are not allowed in my classroom.”

I believe if this was in a school library, parents would definitely have a problem with this. I could see this becoming a huge headache for administrators. I know that these issues exist and are out there but I’m not sure I would want to discuss them in a classroom. I live in the conservative south and I don’t feel that the public would be very approving of this book in our schools.

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