Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Extraordinary - A Book Review

EXTRAORDINARY I recently read the book Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

I would give this book 5 out of 5. This book is appropriate for a young adult and I really think they would enjoy it. This book deals with peer pressure, loyalty, mother-daughter relationships, honesty, romantic relationships, and friendship. I was so caught up in the story that I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to know more about the situation and it made me very curious. I like the way the main character was developed and feel that she could have been me. I like the whole idea about what is ordinary and what is not. Too many young people feel that they are ordinary and this may help them see that everyone is extraordinary in their own way. I also liked the mixture of fantasy and real life throughout the book. I would recommend using this in a high school library.

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 2

004 (For pictures, click here.)

Our class met at Table Rock State Park in Pickens, SC. We started out in the classroom where Dr. Wagner from Clemson introduced us to rocks and minerals.

Our first activity was to be a rock. As a solid, we moved in place. As a liquid, we moved around. And as a gas, we had to get off the ground (but we really didn’t since we were in a small area). But if I did this with school age students, I think they would enjoy this activity.

Next we were given some minerals and asked to identify them if we could. Then Dr. Wagner identified them for us and explained how we could recognize them. We learned about quartz, feldspar, mica, and amphibole. Feldspar breaks along lines, and has a shiny flat surface at the cleavage. Mica is soft and breaks in sheets. Amphibole is dark colored and has a cleavage. Quartz is light colored and does not show shine at the cleavage.

Next, we learned about the difference of the three types of rocks.

1. Igneous rocks are from lava and then cooled. Examples are granite (continental crust) and basalt (oceanic crust).

2. Sedimentary rocks are layers of particles glued together by fluids from the materials. Examples are sandstone, limestone, conglomerates, and shale.

3. Metamorphic rocks – heat and pressure compress the particles so they are grown together but you can see an organized pattern due to the compression.

Then Dr. Wagner compared the rocks to food so that we could understand the concept of how they were formed.

1. Igneous rocks are like jello. Jello starts out in liquid form and is heated up and then cooled to become solid.

2. Sedimentary rocks are like fudge. At first it is creamy and then it becomes grainy and over a long period of time (about 3 months), it will become crystallized.

3. Metamorphic rocks are like a granola bar that has been stepped on. The layers are squished but they are compressed into an organized pattern.

Then we were given an activity which involved separating some rocks into the three different categories using the information that we were given. Our group had a great discussion on where they should go. Then Dr. Wagner gave us the correct answers and explained why.

In South Carolina, we will find sandstone, limestone, shale, granite, gneiss, schist, and amphibolite.

After lunch we gave a physical representation of the geological timeline. It was interesting to see where most of the geological changes took place on the timeline. This was a great activity to see visually how the earth has developed.

In the afternoon, we took a hike and looked at rocks in the environment. We saw how the rocks break and how it affects the water flow in creeks which in turn affect the rocks. What a great way to take our knowledge we gained in the morning and apply it to a real life situation. This was a great way to show relevance in the lessons and really was more meaningful to me as I saw how the information applied in the real world. I think because I was able to see the rocks in nature and learn how to identify them, I will remember this better than just looking at a textbook or seeing pictures or even handling samples of what they look like.

That was the end of Day 2 and it was wonderful! I’m really enjoying this course and it seems like the others are also. Next week we will be going to King’s Creek and Burrell’s Ford. I can’t wait to see what adventures are in store for us then!

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

Original Image: Table Rock State Park by Pat Hensley

Friday, August 27, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/27/10

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!
Back to School Guide – from Edutopia, “Whether you're new to teaching or a classroom veteran, this resource-packed collection of 10 top new media tips provides fresh ideas and easy-to-use tools to engage your students and make learning more collaborative.”
Constitution Day Resources – “a collection of classroom-ready digital resources, to help schools celebrate Constitution Day” (September 17)
Teachers Connecting – “A place for K-12 teachers to find other teachers for cross-classroom collaboration.”
Free Documentaries – “streams full-length documentary films free of charge, with no registration needed. For several films, we even offer the ability to watch trailers or to download the actual film.”
NumberNut.com – “This site offers an introduction to mathematics and its variety of topics. It's not just for kids, it's for everyone (even if you aren't a number nut).”
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My 10 Favorite Droid Apps

072110DroidIncredible Many of you know that I now have a new cell phone, the Droid Incredible, which I have named Dumbledore. This phone is much smarter than me so I figured the name was appropriate. I have been learning how to use the apps on the phone and have been really enjoying them so I thought I would share with you the ones that I like. If you know of any free apps for the droid that are worth checking out, please share them with me so I can check them out.

1. Pluroid – I love being able to keep up my plurk karma while I am on the road.

2. Twidroyd – easy to use and stay connected to my twitter friends.

3. Facebook – came already on my phone.

4. Easy Phone Tunes – makes my phone into my ipod

5. Evernote – great for sending myself reminders

6. Gesture Search – easy to look up names in my phone book

7. Geo Pointer – gives altitude and gps points for geocaching

8. Grocery IQ – scans bar codes of my favorite groceries so I can add them to my list and I can also type in items.

9. ShopSavvy – great way to do comparison shopping right there in the store

10. Where’s My Droid – able to locate phone even if it is on vibrate by sending a text message from another phone.

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

original image: Droid Incredible by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Special Super Power

flyingIn Super Powers from So You Want To Teach?, Joel asks,

“ if you had one super power, what would it be? How would you use it? Discuss in the comments…”

If I could only have one super power, I would want it to be able to fly like superman.

I love to travel so I would be able to see the world and go anywhere I wanted to go. I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for my luggage on a plane or going through security or worrying about my plane crashing.

I would be able to visit relatives whenever I wanted to because time would not even be an issue.

I could enjoy hiking because I would know that I could go as far as I want and if I got tired, I could just fly back. If someone got hurt, I would be able to fly them home or to a hospital. We wouldn’t have to worry about a shuttle and could do so many more one way hikes.

If we went tubing in the river, I would be able to fly to the beginning and float back to my car.

I would save on gas by not having to worry about using the car.

I would also be able to bring my students on field trips to anywhere in the world and they wouldn’t have to worry about the cost.

I just hope that I wouldn’t be scared of heights…

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

Original image: 'Flying High....'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/66164549@N00/2334005733 by: Keven Law

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Master Naturalist Class Day 1

019 Last week we attended the first day of our Master Naturalist course which meets once a week for twelve weeks. First of all, let me start of by saying that it was awesome and I look forward to the rest of the classes. There are about twenty of us in the class along with the organizers and teachers.

I was impressed with the planning that went into this day because we had a lot of activities with very little empty time to get bored. We moved from one activity to the other but it made the day go by quickly and all of the activities were very helpful.

We were given the following books:

1. Peterson First Guides: Rocks and Minerals

2. Amphibians & Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia

3. Native Trees of the Southeast: An Identification Guide

4. A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina

5. Photographic Atlas of Entomology and Guide to Insect Identification

6. South Carolina Master Naturalist Program Training Manual

7. 3 ring binder with weekly schedule, homework assignments, and articles

8. Waterproof field book (for notes)

9. 10x Coddington Magnifier

We did a lot of different activities that would be great to do in a classroom. Here are some of the activities we did:

1. Identification quiz: We had seven different stations and items were numbered. The stations were skulls, pelts, reptiles, nuts/fruits, rocks, plants/trees, and we had to identify them in 15 minutes and then return to the big group. It was fun to touch the objects. Then we were given a chance to share our answers and find out the correct answers.

2. Identify Trees: We went outside with our guide books and then broke out into groups to identify the tree that we were assigned. We used the key in our book and followed the guidelines. Our group identified the American Holly tree using the guide. Unfortunately one group was attacked by the yellow jackets as their nest was disturbed by the group. They were able to move to a new tree that was assigned. We only spent about 30 minutes doing this because we were learning the process. If I did this with a class, I would probably pick the trees ahead of time and have the key with the highlighted answers to help guide the group in using the key. I learned that I need to learn the terminology in order to use the key effectively.

3. Waiver/Liability and ICE forms: We were given forms to sign in case anyone got hurt. I’m glad that they prepared for this possibility which shows once again how prepared they were.

4. Lunch was provided for the entire group for this first day and that gave us time to get to know one another and process what was learned during the morning.

5. Leave No Trace: Again we were broken up into groups and sent to seven different stations. There was a display at each station and we were to try to figure out the seven principles of Leave No Trace. These principles are:

a. Plan Ahead and Prepare

b. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

c. Dispose of Waste Properly

d. Leave What You Find

e. Minimize Campfire Impacts

f. Respect Wildlife

g. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

6. Hike: We went on a short afternoon hike in the forest and saw a lot of wildflowers and trees along the way. Our leader was very knowledgeable about these things and was able to help us identify them as we walked past them. Even though it was hot and humid, the hike was great to end the day. The rain never started until after we returned to our cars and headed home.

I can’t wait until our next class! We will be meeting at Table Rock State Park. Since our homework was about rocks, minerals, fossils, and other geological information, I bet this day will be spent studying that topic.

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

Original Image: Master Naturalist Learners by Pat Hensley

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Teacher Rocks Contest

MyTeacherRocks I recently received an email about this contest:

“Shoplet.com is sponsoring a back to school contest called, My Teacher Rocks! This is a “no purchase necessary” giveaway. Three winners will be chosen. Each of the three winning teachers will receive a prize of $500 worth of school supplies. The contest is open to all!  Parents, grandparent, students and friends, can all have the opportunity to show their appreciation and creativity. To enter, you simply nominate a teacher, submit a short paragraph explaining why the teacher deserves to win and create an artwork of an APPLE.  The goal is to get as many people as possible to be creative around the theme of an APPLE, including but not limited to drawing, painting, carving or designing an apple. The THREE submissions with the most votes win! The contest is already in effect and is scheduled to end September 6th with the winners being announced September 7th.

This looks worth checking out! If you or your nominee wins, let us know!

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

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/20/10

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!

Bookwink – “Bookwink's mission is to inspire kids to read. Through podcasting and web video, we hope to connect kids in Grades 3 through 8 with books that will make them excited about reading. The videos are approximately 3 minutes long and are updated monthly. Each video booktalk is about a different topic, and additional read-alikes can be found on the Bookwink website. You can look for books by subject, grade level, author or title. We are constantly updating the book lists with our newest favorite books.”

Book Builder – “Use this site to create, share, publish, and read digital books that engage and support diverse learners according to their individual needs, interests, and skills.”

Lure of the Labyrinth – “is a digital game for middle-school pre-algebra students. It includes a wealth of intriguing math-based puzzles wrapped into an exciting narrative game in which students work to find their lost pet - and save the world from monsters! Linked to both national and state mathematics standards, the game gives students a chance to actually think like mathematicians.”

GeoEdu – free, downloadable game to learn geography

STAGE’D – “is a digital toy for creating animated comics.”

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why Should I Become A Teacher?

teaching In “Should I become a teacher?” Paul asks,

“Should I become a teacher?

What is your response? I really need to hear what you would say.”

My answer would be that it depends on what your purpose is. If you want to be a teacher because:

· You want to be in control.

· You get a steady paycheck.

· You heard that teachers only work 9 months out of the year.

· You heard that it was an easy job.

· You couldn’t find a job doing something else.

My answer would be unequivocally no.

If you want to become a teacher because

· You want to help others.

· You want to make a difference.

· You like being around young people.

· You understand learners because you were one and want to help those who learn like you do.

· You want to teach others things that you feel are important for them to know in order to be independent.

· You feel like it is a truly noble profession and one that you want to be part of.

· You want to learn strategies that will help you teach others.

· You like teaching others how to do things.

· You don’t mind working long hours, long days, and usually many days during your summer vacation.

Then my answer is a resounding yes!

How would you answer this? Please share your thoughts.

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

Original image: 'Introduction to monstering'

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Education Buzz Carnival 8/18/10

carnival3 Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Bellringers! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Amateur Radio in the Classroom is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

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

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Getting Requests Granted

Request In Who doesn't get it? from Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson, he states,

“We can offer the very best hammer in the world, but if your principal really needs is a saw, having a great hammer is immaterial. They get ‘it’ that you have a good hammer - it just isn't relevant.

Please stop saying, ‘They just don't get it.’ It may reflect on your lack of empathy and understanding, not your principal's.”

I remember as being head of the department, many times my department would have many requests. At the times, they felt their requests should be met because they were important to their classroom. When department heads met with the principal, we all would share our department requests but not all of them were granted. I learned a lot from these meetings because it gave me an idea of the bigger picture. The principal is gathering information from each department and is making decisions that will have the most positive impact on the greatest number of people. I’m not sure many teachers realize this because they tend to have tunnel vision about their own situation. It was really hard for me to go back to my department and let them know that their requests were denied. In fact, some teachers felt like I was not doing my job because of this and were quite upset. Thankfully the administration supported me and met with these teachers.

I think the way we need to convince administrators or anyone else in fact, is to show how our request can help a great number of people. If we can support our requests with data and examples, an administrator may be more agreeable to granting a request. As a taxpayer, I would want to get more bang for my buck so I’m glad that an administrator is watching out for my tax money in this way.

If I had a request, I would seek out people in other departments and see if I could find a way that they could benefit from my request being granted. It would also let me see how my request would affect them and see it from a different perspective. In fact, it might help make my request even stronger. By collaborating with others, I would be able to add things to my request that might make it seem more advantageous for the whole school.

After I wrote up my request, I would show some data or evidence of how many students it would impact. Maybe I would show the numbers according to grade levels or by classes or even by departments. Whichever I use, I would be able to show the administrator the bigger picture.

If my request gets denied, I would ask the administrator if there was anything that I could have adjusted or added to make it better for the next time I submit it. This feedback would help me with this request as well as others that I might make in the future.

I know that all of this will take time but I believe it would be worth it in the long run. A well thought out plan will be evident when the administrator is trying to make a decision. If a plan has too many unknowns, it is less likely to be granted. Covering all possible avenues would show that this is important to me and that I put a lot of hard work into preparing this proposal. This is not a request submitted impulsively.

Do you have any other suggestions that could help someone requesting something? Please share.

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

Original image: '3D Character and Question Mark'

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Buddy Zooka: In the French Quarter And Beyond - A Book Review

BuddyZookaI recently read the book Buddy Zooka: In the French Quarter And Beyond by Tracey Tangerine which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

I would give this book 5 out of 5. I liked the cover (even though I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!) and I love d the stories in the book. I could see this book being read aloud to children. The main character is a lot of fun and full of adventures. Even the setting is a great place full of adventure and the author describes the place so well that the reader can picture everything happening in the story. I like that the chapters are short enough to keep the reader’s interest. I could see this being a great lead in to talking about geography, social skills, as well as a great vocabulary lesson. The chapters are short enough to stand alone as a separate story and would not be overwhelming for many students. I would also incorporate art with the stories and allow the student’s imagination to run wild. I would definitely recommend this for teachers to use in the classroom.

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

Monday, August 16, 2010

Being Tech Comfy is Not Enough

TechSavvy In Tech Comfy NOT Tech Savvy! from Angela Maiers Educational Services by Angela Maiers, she states,

“Being tech-comfy, however, does not guarantee their proficiencies automatically grow into new and sophisticated literacies or on line competencies as info-sumers, critical thinkers, and savvy participants in a digital space.” 

I saw this during the two graduate classes that I taught this year. All of my students were young teachers or preservice teachers and were well versed in the use of technology. All of them knew how to send text messages and search the internet.

In one class, teachers were doing a type of student teaching and had to reflect on their lessons by blogging. One teacher did not see the importance of blogging and encouraging conversations through an interactive platform. All of them did not have a blog so they had to create one for the first time. I also required them to comment on at least 3 blogs per week. This allowed others to read about the lesson that was taught, see what worked or what didn’t, and what the teacher would change. I think this is a better way of learning then just writing up a reflection on word and turning it in to me. Not everyone in the class agreed with me and one was quite unhappy with this assignment.

I was amazed that even though they felt comfortable with technology, they were only comfortable on their terms. They did not know how to grow professionally and constantly keep up to date with current educational issues by using these tools. By introducing them to blogs and Google Reader, they felt like a new world had opened up for them.

I was also amazed at the reluctance some felt towards learning these tools. Even though they were young, I would have thought I was hearing my grandparents speak. It reminds me of that commercial that advertises some food that children like and the parents do not want them to know that there is a serving of vegetables in it.

Even though they were tech comfy, they were not comfortable with the critical thinking involved in using the technology. This assignment went beyond the basics and involved actual learning and thinking. If an assignment is busy work, it doesn’t seem like it is worth doing. I wanted them to get beyond the busy work and grow professionally. I wanted the learning to be interactive and meaningful.

In the other class, I was able to introduce lots of new tech tools and they were like little sponges soaking it up. My students had never heard of some of these things. Not only did they learn about these tools but also discussed ways that they could use it in the classroom. All of the students were on facebook but that seemed to be the extent of their knowledge of social networking. In this class, I was able to teach teaching strategies as well as introduce them to online tools. No one had showed them many of these tools and their excitement was contagious.

I know for the past year I have emphasized the use of the tools but I think I will spend more time focusing on the way these tools are important in the classroom. I need to move past teaching the basics and start getting to the heart of the subject. I need to start presentations with the whys and then talk about critical thinking skills. I need to move past the tech comfy stage and get them to the tech savvy stage.

How do you move your students up to this point? Do you have specific activities you do? Please share if you do.

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

Original image: 'iphone 1G'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/30008272@N00/707543617 by: david pham

Friday, August 13, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/13/10

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!

Video ANT – online tool that takes web-based videos and lets you annotate it. I think this would be great for students to use as the class watches the video.

My Wonderful World – great resources to help teachers teach geography in the classroom

BJ Pinchbeck’s Homework Helper – great resources to help with many different subjects

Whyville – “Welcome! Whyville is a virtual world geared for teen and pre-teen girls and boys. Whyville's millions of registered "citizens" come from all over to learn, create, and have fun together. Whyville is their world. Whyville has places to go, things to do, and of course, people to see. Whyville has its own newspaper, its own Senators, its own beach, museum, City Hall and town square, its own suburbia, and even its own economy - citizens earn "clams" by playing educational games. And much, much, much more!”

Book Adventure – “Book Adventure is a FREE reading motivation program for children in grades K-8. Children create their own book lists from over 7,000 recommended titles, take multiple choice quizzes on the books they've read, and earn points and prizes for their literary successes. Book Adventure was created by and is maintained by Sylvan Learning.”

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Welcoming New Students

welcome In Out of My Element from Informania by Fran Bullington, she asks,
“What else can we do to put our patrons at ease and help them feel not only welcomed, but at home in our media center?”
Our students will start in our district next week and teachers start this week. This had me thinking about what I could do to help students feel welcomed and at home in my classroom.
I think it is scary for anyone to start a new situation and new classes can overwhelm many students. I think by acknowledging this for the students can go a long way. Many teenagers would rather die than admit this but knowing that the teacher understands may help them feel better.
I think it is important for students to know who I am and a little of my background. This goes a long way to establishing a rapport with them. I let them know that I love hiking and many times throughout the year, I share my hiking adventures with them. In the same light, I show interest in what my students like to do. I had one student who loved skateboarding and he shared pictures and videos with me. By doing things like this, I was able to show my students that I cared about them and that being a teacher wasn’t all about the paycheck.
I like for students to tell me about any brothers or sisters they have and where in the line they are. Are they the youngest, oldest, or the only child? Sometimes that tells me a lot in how I will deal with them throughout the year.
I also go over the layout of the school. Even though some of the students don’t need this, the new ones do and some may need it but be too embarrassed to ask. I explain where the restrooms are in each hall as well as the library, cafeteria, main office, and administrators offices. I keep a map posted in the room so I can refer to it if necessary.
I talk about the different people and their names that the students may see frequently. If pictures are available, I even show them pictures from the yearbook. I remember going a whole year one time and not having any idea what the principal looked like!
I also go over routine procedures for everyone. This includes paying any school fees, cafeteria lines (I enlist the help of those who have attended previously). There are many things we take for granted that everyone knows and I remember when I was a 10th grader at a new school and didn’t know a lot of these things. I didn’t want to ask anyone so I tried to watch what everyone else was doing and muddled through but it was an anxious time for me.
Usually the first week of school is very chaotic and the daily bell schedule is adjusted. Homerooms are longer and classes are shorter so I post the bell schedule on the board for students (and myself) to refer to often. I also encourage students to find me if they become confused and can’t figure out where to go. Knowing that I can be a safety net goes a long way into giving new students some comfort.
What do you do to welcome new students to your classroom? Please share!
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'India - Sights & Culture - 027 - Chalk & flower welcome drawings'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/56796376@N00/2225262197 by: McKay Savage

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Military Recruiters Dilemma

military We hold an annual event for 300-400 juniors and seniors to look at opportunities for after graduating high school. This is a big “transition” event for our students who are getting special education services. Yet, even though they receive these services, most of them will earn a high school diploma and many will go on to college. Some are very interested in going into the military. We really would like military recruiters to be there but last year they wouldn’t come and I was told that they were told not to be there. So, this year I thought I could contact commanding officers and hopefully persuade them to allow the recruiters to attend.

When I called the Navy recruiter here in Greenville, SC, I had a terrible experience. When I requested the commanding officer’s name, the phone call was passed to Officer Dobbs. Officer Dobbs kept asking me how he could help me and his voice kept rising. I tried to tell him that all I wanted was the commanding officer’s name and then was going to ask how I could contact this person but he refused to tell me. I couldn’t understand what I did that caused him to yell at me. When I asked him if he would give me this person’s name, he loudly stated that he would not. When I hesitated and told him that I guess I could find this information from someone else, he said fine and hung up on me.

I really didn’t want a big fuss about this but now this really concerns me. As a citizen and a taxpayer I am shocked and appalled that I was treated this way. I didn’t know that asking this information was classified information and it concerns me that there isn’t any accountability or a chain of command for recruiters. What does a person do if there is a problem with a recruiter or the office? My husband was in the navy years ago and was always told to give the name of the commanding officer is asked and he was even shocked at how I was treated. I worry about recommending students to consider the military as an option if this is how an average citizen is treated.

What started out as a simple request (or maybe it just seemed like it was to me) has turned into an issue that really concerns me.

Since this has happened, I have emailed lots of people in the military when I could find an email address. I even went so far as to comment on the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff’s facebook page. I was given the contact info of an office in Raleigh, NC but when I called, I was told that most everyone was on the road traveling for the week so I will give it a try this week. I was also contacted by someone in Atlanta that actually gave me a name of someone in Raleigh to call which was helpful.

I was told by one person that due to homeland security issues that is why I was not told the commanding officer’s name. How in the world does asking for someone’s boss become a security issue? It kind of makes me feel like we live in a Nazi state instead of a democracy. If there is no chain of command that I can go through, then they are basically tell me that if I don’t like something, too bad. Yet, they are willing to take my tax money to pay for whatever they want. I can’t imagine someone walking into my classroom and stating that I can’t tell them the name of my principal, or superintendent of education because it would make the school unsafe!

The thing that worries me most is that this was just the Navy that I contacted. I am dreading the thought of still having to contact the Army, Air Force, Marines, and National Guard! Then part of me really resents the fact that I am dreading this because our military should be something that we are proud of. I should not have to be afraid of contacting them. What message is the military sending out?

In the future, I am going to try to get my whole request in before the officer I talk to feels threatened in any way. But I feel it is important to contact someone in command instead of just talking to the lowest man on the totem pole or I will end up with the same results as last year and not have any recruiters at our event. If you have any suggestions or names of people that I could call, please feel free to give me your suggestions.

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

Original image: 'First Phasers'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46042146@N00/1065156117 by: Randy Robertson

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reflections on Teaching

thinking Each year when I teach the practicum, I have my teachers reflect on their lessons and teaching practices. I decided that I need to do the same thing. In their reflections, I ask them to summarize their lessons, tell what worked and what didn’t work, and then what they would do differently. So here is my reflections about my class:


I taught a practicum that involved 5 teachers teaching 19 students with special needs. Teachers are those getting their master’s degree in special education and this course was the last course of their program. They were applying all that they learned in their master’s program. The students, ages 6-14, had learning disabilities, emotional disabilities or autism. During the four week program, students were taught reading, writing, math, and social skills. I was able to observe and evaluate their lesson plans and lessons. Teachers needed to assess the students in order to teach them according to their level. At the end of each week, parents were given a written report about their child and the last week, they were given a detailed report including teacher recommendations.

What worked:

· I think the combination of teachers that I paired in each classroom worked well. Plus, the only male teacher taught the older students who were all boys.

· Each teacher was responsible for the four students but could also teach group lessons.

· I am glad that I contacted the teachers in May before school let out so that they could prepare in advance for their classes. I felt like

· I was able to be a resource for the teachers and due to my experience, give them valuable suggestions and advice.

· I developed a program survey for the parents to fill out in order to make our program better.

What didn’t work:

I think everything worked well but I think things could be done differently so they can be even better.

Changes I would make:

· The first day would be without students so we can talk, plan, and collaborate without any students there.

· I would have the teachers call students’ parents if the students are absent.

· I would buy a playground ball, jump rope, and chalk.

· I would have the teachers make 2 copies of their reports (one for the parents and one for the file) so I did not have to do that.

· I would have teachers turn in assessments measures, results, amd summary for each student at the end of the first week.

· I would have teachers give each student their final report during the final ceremony so we can applaud the student’s hard work.

If I think of any other changes I would make, I can always add them to this post. I will plan on referring to this before I start the program again next summer.

For those of you starting back to school, what changes do you plan to make in order to make this year better for you?

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

Original image: 'thinking'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/83476873@N00/110993877 by: Gal

Monday, August 9, 2010

AT Blog Carnival 8/6/10

carnival2 The AT Blog Carnival is now up and included is my post on New Cell Phones and Teaching. This carnival is dedicated to advice so come on and see what advice can help you!

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Friday, August 6, 2010

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 8/6/10

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!

Smart Kit – game puzzles, and riddles for kids of all ages

USGS Multimedia Gallery – Maps, Imagery, and Publications from the USGS

Simple Diagrams – a tool to create simple diagrams

Free SFX – free sound effects library

Moonbase Alpha – from NASA, simulation/role playing game where players become astronauts

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

Original image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Education Buzz Carnival 8/4/10

carnival1 The first edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Bellringers! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Silly Questions is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

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

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

How the iPhone Can Help You Be a Better Teacher

A teacher equipped with an iPhone and the right applications is an educational force to be reckoned with. Not only will your smart phone be a tool for organization and communication, it will also help you expand your knowledge and dive into your imagination. Listed below are ten of the best iPhone applications for teachers out there. Explore and use them in your classroom, and soon enough, you’ll be wondering how you ever managed teaching and living without them.

1. Educate: Plan your class schedules, keep track of student progress, and communicate with all your students at once with this easy-to-use application. Educate looks to help teachers organize their time and efforts by being the ultimate teacher’s tool for success.

2. Teacher’s Aid: If you run out of ideas for what to do in your classroom, Teacher’s Aid has your back. Browse through the variety of creative ideas in this application. From icebreakers to workshops, you will have a phone filled with ways to engage and educate your students.

3. Date Wheel: Be on top of all your personal and professional appointments and assignments. The Date Wheel will tell you how much time - months, days, and even hours - until you or your students need to finish a task. With this application, you can remind students about an upcoming deadline from the moment they ask or it crosses your mind.

4. QuickVoice: Sometimes it only takes a moment for an idea to cross your mind, so why not try capturing these ideas with QuickVoice, a recorder that will allow you to make voice notes. You can also record memos, plans, and even lectures on this application.

5. Mocha VNC Lite: Transferring files between your home and work computer can sometimes leave you without a greatly needed file that you are dying to show to your students or are hoping to elaborate upon in the middle of the night. But installing the Mocha VNC Lite application will get you remote access to both of these computers wherever you go.

6. Teacher’s Pick: Are you tired of calling on the same students? Do you want to give other students a chance to speak up? Well think about investing in Teacher’s Pick, an application that will help you choose students randomly. You even have the option of inactivating students (if they are absent or have been chosen too often) so that you can pick students that have yet to participate.

7. Behavior Journal: Create the best progress reports of your students with the Behavior Journal. You can jot down quick notes on things that happen in the classroom. These little reports will help you remember how well students did each semester. The Behavior Journal will even create an analysis, filled with charts, if it recognizes any patterns of behavior with certain students.

8. Stanza: Read up on all the latest written material out there. Stanza makes it cinch for you to read digital books, journals, newspapers, and magazines on your handy-dandy iPhone. With your busy schedule, Stanza is giving you time to read by being accessible anywhere, anytime.

9. Wikipanion: Ever at a loss of what your students are talking about? Are they dishing about hip things that you would like to be more in tune with? With this application, you have Wikipedia on your side. You are only a few clicks away to being in the know of student conversations.

10. Did You Know?: Start of each school day with an interesting fact from the Did You Know application. Serious and funny facts can greet students as they walk into the doors of your classroom. Having this daily tradition will brighten up the atmosphere and get students to start talking and asking questions.

Estela Go is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on obtaining an online teaching degree for Guide to Online Schools.

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

Original image: 'iPhone'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/83542829@N00/2830319467 by: William Hook

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Teaching Patience

fishing As I drove to work today, I heard a conversation on the radio between two DJs. One asked the other if it was the dog days of summer and the other one said that she didn’t know but would look it up immediately and tell the answer.

That made me realize how often we expect the answer to our questions immediately. If we don’t know the answer, we want someone to tell it to us or we need to be able to find the answer immediately. Before I got my smart phone, I would carry around a notepad to write down things that I wanted to look up when I got on the internet.

I worry about this instant demand for information. I think it is great that we encourage our students to crave knowledge and want more but is having information instantly accessible a good thing? Are they also being trained to have a bad habit?

Shouldn’t we be also teaching patience? I remember hearing that “Good things come to those who wait” or “Patience is a virtue.”

Sometimes I need to look at the information and prioritize. Is getting that information the most important thing I need at the moment or can that be put to the side for a later time? Will finding this information help me continue working to finish my assignment or will it distract me and keep me from finishing what I need to do. Is this information what I really need or just something I want to know. We need to teach our students to ask the same kind of questions. Many times I procrastinate from doing what I should be doing and find myself looking for other information that I find more interesting. This is not a good habit to feed into.

Sometimes our impulsive students need to learn patience over many years and in fact, the teacher must have patience in teaching this type of student. I see this in a classroom where students seem to need help and want teachers to stop whatever they are doing and leave the person they are helping in order to help this student demanding attention. My students almost forget that they need to wait their turn.

One way that I have tried to combat this instant demand for help is by giving all of the students “help blocks.” These are small squares of foam – red on one side and green on the other. All of the students turn it to green on the corner of their desk at the beginning of the class. When they need help, they turn it over to red. The teacher may be helping someone else and when it is time to help the next person, the teacher will look for the red blocks. This is a good way for the student to know that he won’t be forgotten and that he can go on and do something else while he is waiting. After the teacher helps the student, the block is turned back over to green. This has worked wonderfully in my classroom and has kept students more engaged in their work and less distracted by seeking attention.

What are some of the things you have done to help your students learn to be patient? Do you think that we have trained them to be impatient? If you have any tips to share, please leave a comment!

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

Original image: 'Casting into the Blue'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/21784565@N04/3930440452 by: John Ryan

The Best School Year Ever

SYWTT I was asked to write a guest post on This Will Be the Best School Year ever and it is posted on So You Want To Teach. I hope you take a moment to check out my post over there and that you also stop and read some of his articles. It is a great blog with lots of good info and ideas. Please leave a comment either there or here if you would like to join in the conversation! Hope to see you there.

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

OriginalImage: header on So You Want To Teach blog

Monday, August 2, 2010

Teaching Magic

magic When hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail, I have heard so many stories about trail magic. This is where people do nice things for others with no expectation of payment or obligations from the receiving party. So many hikers who receive this magic are truly grateful and tell others about their experience. The object of trail magic is to pass it on. Whenever we get a chance, we try to perform our own trail magic as a way of banking this for the future because we never know when we may need help on the trail. We may bring packs of hot chocolate or ramen noodles near a trail head and pass it on to hikers crossing the road. One time we picked up a group of hikers and drove them to a nearby campground before taking one of them to the doctor. Near Fontana Dam, we picked up a mother and son and drove them to a campground in the area. The most exciting opportunity is when we picked up a hiker off the trail because he had been bitten by a rattlesnake. After contacting Shenandoah Park rangers, they had met up with us and ended up taking him by helicopter to the hospital. There are so many other times we have had the opportunity to perform trail magic and it becomes addictive.

With our new hobby of amateur radio, we are seeing the same kind of thing. Joining a local club was a wonderful thing and the club members have been over backwards helping us. People have lent us equipment to use until we find and buy what we need. Others come over to our house to help with antennas and climbing all over our roof without hesitation. In turn, we have gone to someone’s antenna party in order to pay it forward. We are also lending an extra antenna to someone who is new and needs it.

Now, I bet you are wondering where in the world I am going with this!

I realized that just like trail magic and radio magic, that teaching magic is important too. It made me realize how many teachers have been out there that helped me through the years of teaching. I remember when I was a new teacher and had no idea how to begin, another teacher took me under her wing and walked me step by step through what I needed to set up my classroom. Over the years, she was always there when I needed her. During my first week at another school, I was overwhelmed with all that was required as well as an impromptu IEP meeting. This teacher whom I didn’t even know, told me not to worry about my afternoon duty because she would do it for me so I could do what I needed to do. So many teachers have been willing to listen to me rant or whine (depending on the circumstance) or offered advice and help when needed. I loved collaborating with other teachers and joining forces because I felt it really helped make my lessons stronger.

What kind of teaching magic have you seen? Have you received this magic? If so, please share your story. If you have given it, please share that too.

I think we need to make sure that teaching magic is happening!

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

Original image: 'The Magic of Disney'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/95572727@N00/459418289 by: Trey Ratcliff