Friday, April 29, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 04/29/11

tools2Here 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!

Dinosaur Central – from Discovery Channel; activities and games to learn about dinosaurs

Science Museum – games for students to learn about science

Reach the World’s GeoGames“Reach the World’s GeoGames and the world geography mapping rubric are powerful teaching tools that turn geography instruction into an interactive, assessment tool for the classroom. Players construct an accurate rendition of Planet Earth’s major geographic features, along with a printable map. Easy to set up for the individual student or the entire class.”

American 3D Civil War – “Informing you about 3D models of Civil War related places, buildings, and structures that are featured in Google Earth or created with the Sketchup software.”

StellariumStellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 04/27/11

carnival3Another 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 Be Tough or Be Soft? 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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stylish Award

stylishSioux from Sioux’s Page gave me the Stylish Blogger Award. Now, I have never been called stylish before, so I’m thrilled. Stylish has not been one of the things that have ever been noted about me but I am so honored to win this award. I have been asked to write 7 things about myself and give this award to my readers who write 7 things about themselves! So, if you decide to accept this award, let me know so I can read about you too!

Here are 7 things about me:

1. I love to knit. I have knit a bunch of socks which I find relaxing and fun. Now I am learning to spin my own yarn on a drop spindle. Maybe one day I will have my own spinning wheel. I hope this year to knit some sweaters for myself.
2. I love to travel with my husband. We have been all over the US, Paris, London, China, and Italy so far. I’ve been to 48 out of 50 states. I’m still missing Wisconsin and Hawaii. We hoped to go to Glacier National Park this summer but with the gas prices skyrocketing, we may wait for another year. We would love to visit all of the national parks before we die.
3. We recently joined the Red Cross as volunteers. I am excited about all the opportunities to help others in times of disasters. We are taking all of the training we can get so we will be prepared if they deploy us to a disaster.
4. I have been retired for almost 4 years from teaching and loving every minute of it. I’m able to do all those things I never had time to do when I was working. This includes giving presentations about educational tools, taking classes and learning about new things that interest me, and seeing people I haven’t made time for because I was too busy.
5. My favorite movie is To Kill a Mockingbird with Gregory Peck. I love it so much I was thrilled when we moved to our little town which is a lot like the town in the book.
6. Spring is my favorite season! I love to go hiking in the spring and watch the wildflowers come up for a fresh new start. I love the greenness of everything after a spring rain. I love the way the earth is coming alive!
7. I got my ham radio license (Technician) last June and just passed the test to upgrade it to the General class this month. I am enjoying learning about a new hobby and how it can be used in times of emergencies. Maybe we will be able to incorporate this new hobby with our volunteer work at the Red Cross.

Now, please tell me about you!

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sleeping is Not Acceptable Part 2

sleepingAs I mentioned yesterday, I became involved in another discussion that was recently started by a teacher in my Ravelry (a knitting/crocheting site) forum (Please check out yesterday’s post for my response). She says,

“I’m working on a project so they might get thrown in throughout here) regarding motivating students. Especially in regards to students who A) sleep and/or shut down as a means to dealing with frustration B) lash out (verbally or physically) as a means to dealing with frustration and confusion and C) whether or not you should address these issues to the class or individually.”

Here are some responses from other members of my Ravelry group:

Helen Guate responded:

“I haven’t had too much trouble with kids who actually fall asleep; with the one where it was happening last year, it was clear that the kid wasn’t getting enough sleep. Mom said he insisted on staying up as late as she did, and she never went to bed before 11. They had to leave the house at 5:30 to get to school on time, so there was your answer. I talked to mom about it, as well as the student, but without too much success (he didn’t come back this year). Mom’s inability to set limits with him was a huge issue. Not the same as kids deliberately sleeping as an evasive measure. One student, J, does lie on the floor and also frequently turns his back to the class, and I make him get up/turn around - I tell him to do so, perhaps 100 times a day sometimes. It has improved over the years. He is autistic.

When kids close their eyes (for Deaf students this effectively cuts off all communication) I tap their shoulders, but if they don’t respond there’s not much I can do. This really frustrates me, and I probably don’t always handle it well, but I think the best thing is to wait it out and give natural consequences. I might do an activity that child particularly enjoys and not repeat what they missed while their eyes were closed. This usually improves when their communication improves. FJ always closes his eyes briefly when he is mad, though. I ignore it since it’s just a few seconds.

As far as aggression, I am strict about that with everyone. Whether I deal with it individually or as a class depends on who and how many of the kids are being aggressive. I try to use a combination of approaches. You have to keep everyone safe, so in extreme cases I have restrained kids. If the kid hits frequently (can’t go a few minutes without aggression), I give a certain number of warnings before removing them from the activity, by force if necessary. I know you guys have some rather extreme limits as to whether/how you can touch kids, but I will sit in front of them and hold their hands during a time-out if need be to keep them there. Again, with very extreme cases, I have used a hug-type restraint until the kid calms down. Once the time-out is over, return the kid to the activity. At the same time, praise every little accomplishment. I look for tiny things with the severely aggressive kids - an angry glance with no aggression gets praised; they have controlled themselves. Responding well to something that provoked a tantrum yesterday gets huge praise. When this is a big problem, I set up reward programs, either individually or with the entire class if several kids are aggressive. I do scold kids, and tell them that hitting or whatever is not acceptable, etc. Of course you must keep the scolding appropriate - address the behavior and not the kid, no abusive language, control your tone and volume of voice (signing). If I raise my voice, it should be so the kid gets the message and not as an outlet for my anger.

I take the same approach with bad language, insults, and other inappropriate language, although if a kid is aggressive I am a bit more flexible with this at first - I never allow bad language, but angry outbursts are preferable to aggression and you can get rid of them later. If other kids complain, I explain that X is learning not to hit people now, and will learn to be more respectful later. I’ll never forget when FR was new, and ate extremely messily, G asked me why I let him eat that way. This was hilarious, because when she was new, G had to wear an apron while eating, and still managed to get her uniform filthy somehow! I told G that FR was new, and was learning other things, and we would teach him to eat politely over time. I reminded her that she had been just as messy when she was new. She immediately took a napkin and patiently helped FR to wipe his face, and never again complained about his eating.

With younger or more sensitive kids, I often turn their chair around instead of removing them completely from the group. I also do this with E, who can’t stand up or walk on her own. This is amazingly effective with some kids, and will have them begging to be brought back into the activity in no time. It also has the advantage of me being able to continue working with the other kids while I supervise the timed-out kid. If the kid continues to lash out, obviously turning the chair around isn’t enough, but it has worked well for me in some difficult cases, including L, by far the most aggressive kid I have worked with at this school. Sometimes it can be used at a later stage when the child’s behavior has improved. I swear L used to learn twice as much while in a time-out than any other time! He would stand there, watching us and repeating all the signs, etc. I could never get him to do that at other times. Although I didn’t speak directly to him or involve him in the activity, I would sit so he could see me, since as I said he paid more attention then.

We all know to use good behavioral techniques through all this, of course. Be consistent - I have rules for myself even if I don’t share them with the kid: three warnings about hitting and then a time out. Ask the kid to participate three times and then turn their chair around. I usually use three - it’s easy to remember and I think reasonable both for the kid and for me. Apply the rules ruthlessly; this helps prevent your anger/emotions from interfering and teaches the kid what to expect from you and that you are fair.

I also try to teach them alternatives, according to their needs. The autistic kids often need very basic coaching - you are angry. Tell G to stop. Tell me that L hit you, don’t hit him back. Sometimes you have to give them the exact words they can use at first. “You can’t call me a &$#@. Say: ”I’m mad and I don’t want to color.” Respond to such appropriate communication - give them an alternative to coloring, or offer a preferred activity after they color a certain amount. They need to see that communication works. When very aggressive kids threaten to hit or begin to hit and don’t follow through, I praise the lack of violence and prompt them with acceptable alternative to the threat.

I have also found that communication skills (specifically lack of them) and aggression go hand in hand with most of my kids. While not all SPED kids have language deficits, I do think that in many cases there is a problem there, even if it’s just not knowing how to express strong emotions. Kids who can’t express basic needs will either draw into themselves or lash out. So I really focus on language development with any kid with aggession problems.

I think being strict/demanding is good for the kids, but can’t be the only persona you present to them. Even with the most rebellious kid, you have to try to keep things mostly positive. They are still doing some things right and need to know you see that. They also need to know you care for them, so they need affection as much as (maybe more than) the other kids. Try to remove situations that provoke them. Don’t seat them next to kids that annoy them or other aggressive kids. Teach the other kids to be respectful to them, if that’s an issue. Basic common sense things like that help too.”

Mama79hi responded,

“I have a lot of sleepiness in my class. Sometimes it’s because of the meds and when they start kicking in, sometimes the kid isn’t getting enough sleep at home, sometimes it’s because they’re little and it’s nap time in the afternoon (this happens mostly at the beginning of the school year when they are first coming to a full day program with no nap) I talk to parents about meds etc and to our nurse. If it’s just tiredness I talk to parents about that. There have been stories like the mother worked in a group home and left early or stayed out all night leaving a much older brother to watch my kid and the older brother just didn’t get them up in time for school or didn’t bother to mess with getting them to bed early the night before. It isn’t going to help me or them at all to fuss at them for falling asleep- usually not their fault.

DH used to teach high school-reg ed before he was a principal. If someone fell asleep in his class he’d bang on their desk! lol

Aggression- if it’s bad like trying to hit/bite/etc someone else, I usually remove them from class for time-out but sometimes it’s so bad I remove the rest of the class or have my para take the rest of the class somewhere while I stay in the room with the one throwing chairs around until they calm down. I had a little girl 5 years ago who was tiny but threw 15 heavy metal kid chairs around the room. I believe because of things she did and said that she had been being abused and I guess it was her only way of acting on her frustration. There’s always a reason for their behavior somewhere in there.

Still I agree with Helen and mostly do the same things she does with regards to these behaviors.
I use a lot of different rewards and change up the reward systems often because my kids need that. I have on a few occasions had to restrain a kid in time-out, or take a kid’s hand and make him pick up the toys he was playing with and threw across the room. They have to see that in the end they must do what you require.
Verbal- I don’t put up with any bad language and I am very careful not to ever say anything like a curse word (in school or not- if I let myself use curse words I might slip at school some day :-)

If my kids say things they usually are imitating what they heard at home or on tv. I just say we don’t say things like that in school. I try not to make a big deal about it so they don’t think, “ooh that word makes the teacher mad, I think I’ll use it again!” something like that. If you draw too much attention to that they might just use it more often to get a rise out of you.

I learned when I started with the kindergarten (5 years ago) that I do have to give them words sometimes like Helen said. I have to tell them the things they can say and sometimes model it for them. Like, “JS- you are mad, tell C you are mad. But JS, C just needs that piece of knex for his motorcycle. Now C, tell JS why you need that toy/piece of knex. Now JS, may C have that? Ok C, tell JS thank you for giving you that piece.” This goes on pretty much all during playtime. It’s my major justification for having such long playtime (other than the awful schedule I have this year with virtually 1 hour of instruction time all day). They simply don’t know how to tell others why they are doing things sometimes.”

Tinaprice answers,

“I’d agree with Helen and Karen. Be consistent and clear is the key. I too remove children for time out, (I use the turned around chair as well, hate sending children out of the teaching and learning zone) after 3 warnings. I also intervene and restrain when this is called for, when a child is not safe. We are trained in restraint procedure and do this in pairs if possible, with a third person observing. You have to be so careful as it is very easy to asphyxiate a small child if you do things incorrectly. We always make a record afterward in a special bound and numbered book and tell the parents before the end of the day what has gone on.

I also rely heavily on Assertive Discipline, using the ‘I need you to….’ wait/repeat phrase (until you get the response you want, then thank). For this I will go as far as 5 repetitions, counting down on my fingers so that the child can see how far I am prepared to go. They usually move on 4 reps!

However I think the most important thing for me is that when things are over, even if I am cross and flustered, I try to show the child that it is OK now, and we can move on together. I sometimes talk about the past, in the way Helen mentions, trying to get the child to see that I am always on their side and that they are moving forward. This is a very positive move and helps the child to know you are still in a positive relationship with them.

What is very interesting to me is finding out why the children behave in these ways. Pat suggests discussion with parents and again this is critical for me. The chaos and unhappiness that some of my children experience is shocking to me! It leads me to make sure that they have firm, caring, kindness as well as teaching when they are with me. I think a problem for some mainstream teachers is that they have an idea of home life that is at considerable variance with their pupils’ experience and this leads to a mis-match of expectations.

Finally I think we fail to use uncontaminated praise. If someone does something well if is better to say, ‘You are doing that well, good job’ and not embark upon a dissertation about their failure to do this so well in the past. Who would want to hear that? If someone says something genuinely positive to me, I remember it for ages and it makes me feel so good about myself. That is what I want for my children. The number of times I have caught the eye of the class teacher and made the ‘hush!’ gesture. If we got the children to think ‘School! I can do this! I am good here!’ we would win so many battles so easily!”

Readingteacher adds:

"I have not had too many intense situations so far. I have had students put their heads down in refusing to cooperate. I let them know that this is their choice and that there are natural consequences to the situation. The student can choose to do their work now, or later on during their free time (recess or after school) I give warnings first such as….EC this is your job now, the expectation is for you to write three sentences ….. I give the students time to process and make the correct choice. If they do, I will say…Thank you for choosing the right choice or something to that effect. If the student does not cooperate they are supposed to go the buddy room, where the teacher in that room will process with that student when he/she gets a moment. (I try not to let this get that far.) Some of my students do not understand that process. It works better for general ed. students. My students are more concrete in their understanding, so my requests are explicit and the consequences are as well. With that said, there are many times when I have to change up what I was going to teach to make it work for the student. I give them choices within the daily tasks so they have the need for control fulfilled. I will tell them, this is what we need to do…what do you want to do first? I might have choices within the choices too. When students have no control in their environment, I try to give them some control with our environment. It validates who they are and allows them to say, “I make a difference and it’s OK.” So I try my best to be proactive with the behaviors I deal with instead of being reactive. I am not perfect, but I try."
Do you have anything you want to add or respond to? Please join in the conversation!

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

Original image: 'Hard work can hurt' by: Dave C

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sleeping is Not Acceptable Part 1

sleepingI became involved in another discussion that was recently started by a teacher in my Ravelry (a knitting/crocheting site) forum. She says, 

“I’m working on a project so they might get thrown in throughout here) regarding motivating students. Especially in regards to students who A) sleep and/or shut down as a means to dealing with frustration B) lash out (verbally or physically) as a means to dealing with frustration and confusion and C) whether or not you should address these issues to the class or individually.”

Here is my response:

I have had students like this and these are things I've done:
1. Call home and talk to the parents about the problem.
2. Announce to class that anyone sleeping will be asked to stand up. If they refuse you will call home or refer them to an administrator. (I mention that I will be doing this to the parents and to the administrators so they can back me up if the student refuses.) I give one warning to the student before I ask the person to stand up if they are sleeping.
3. Meet with the student and have the student help me find ways to keep engaged. There may be a problem that makes the student feel depressed that is causing this behavior. Or the student may be frustrated and you can think of ways to help the student.

One year I had a freshman who slept a lot in my class. I had him stand up and I called home (but mom was always unavailable), but nothing helped. I kept meeting with the student privately until finally he was tired of my “badgering” and told me that his mom had moved 300 miles away to start a new job. He lived alone with his 18 year old brother who was expelled from school. This brother was having nightly parties that involved drugs and alcohol. My student was told not to tell anyone this story because they would all get in trouble. I explained to him that it was my job to protect him from this situation and that I had to report it. I think by this time, he wanted me to report it because he couldn’t take any more. If I hadn’t been persistent, I might never have found out the truth.

Another high school student I had was always falling asleep in my class. I felt he was being rude and defiant so I called home. I was so shocked when the mother was not surprised. She told me that he worked a full time 3rd shift job at the mill and was only in school because I told him how important it was to finish. She didn’t feel that school was important and had encouraged him to quit. She said her and her husband worked full time at the mill and they never finished school so she didn’t think it was important. They had bought a new pontoon boat and my student had to work so he could pay his share. She said that if he was falling asleep, then it was my own fault! I was speechless.

Needless to say, this changed my whole attitude about the student. I met with him privately and we talked about the problem. I understood that he was exhausted and he appreciated that I cared. I knew he was trying but I couldn’t allow sleeping in my class. He agreed to stand up when he was falling asleep. He also would be allowed to go get a drink of water or use the restroom to throw water on his face. I agreed that if he finished his work, he would be allowed to go to the nurse’s station and take a short nap on the cots there if they were empty. (Approval by the nurse was also given for this).

We worked it out and he actually graduated high school a few years later. He has been back to visit with me a few years later and told me that because he graduated, he was actually promoted at the mill and his parents realized that I was right for encouraging him to finish school. I have also taught his younger brother and sister and the parents were right there encouraging them to finish school with me. I appreciated that the parents were willing to change their attitudes when they saw how education can truly change their children’s lives.
I’m not saying this is the case in every sleeping case but sometimes there are circumstances I don’t know about. When I see a child sleeping in class on a regular basis, I need to play investigator and see if there is more to the story than just tiredness or frustration. If the reason for sleeping is laziness, or refusing to go to bed at a reasonable hour, or staying up all night on the phone or computer, then it is time to get tough and refuse to back down. But if we dig for information, sometimes we find out there is more than meets the eye. We can find solutions so that the student can be more successful in the classroom.

What do you do with a student who habitually sleeps in class?

(Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of this post showing some responses from others in my Ravelry group!)

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'Hard work can hurt' by: Dave C

Friday, April 22, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/22/11

tools2Here 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!

Dinosphere – activities and games to learn about dinosaurs

Nature Images – Ken Thomas has put up all his photos and images in public domain.

Thought Boxes – “a simple tool that helps to organize your thoughts so you can make things happen.”

Through the Wild Web Woods this is a game for children to learn how to be safe on the internet.

Pet Fundango – “It's easy to incorporate your small animal into your everyday teaching. The following lesson plans, appropriate for grades K-6, were developed by experienced teachers who know kids and small animals.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 21, 2011


unpluggedAfter reading Will You Unwire for a Day? Please issue the challenge and take our survey. from Cool Cat Teacher Blog, (Victoria A Davis, Cool Cat Teacher), states,

“We are looking for people and students who are willing to UNWIRE for a day. That's right. One whole day! Now, if you need to use technology for work/school that is ok. But, besides that we want your cell phone off, your xbox off, and even your TV off for a day.

Are you and your students willing to take the challenge?
Why or why not? Either way we want you to fill out our survey!

They would like as many people as possible to take the challenge and fill out their survey between now and next Monday at 8:15 am Eastern.

If you're NOT willing - go ahead and fill out the survey. If you are willing, come back and fill out this survey AFTER you have completed the challenge! (even if you fail) What do you think your students will say?”

I am going to give it a try. I think I won’t have a problem and if I do, it will tell me how I’m too attached to my devices than I should be. I sometimes use my computer and cell phone as a distraction from doing a lot of other things. As I sit here and write this post, I think of all the other things I should be doing. I should be folding laundry and vacuuming the house and washing bathrooms. But using the computer is much more fun!

Here is the list of things I can do if I am disconnected. (I will compare this list to the actual list of thing I do on that day).

1. Knit

2. Read

3. Vaccuum

4. Declutter

5. Wash bathrooms

6. Fold clothes

7. Bake

8. Garden

9. Hike

10. Visit friends

Are you willing to take this challenge? If so, please let me know how you did!

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

Original image: 'Unplugged' by: Nigel Marshall

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Staying on the Right Path

thinkerAfter reading Philosophy of Education.... on one page from Outside Looking In by Scott Shelhart, I decided to share with you my philosophy of teaching that I turned in on my Teacher of the Year application in 2007. I think it is important to write out and review my philosophy at least once a year. By doing this, I can see if I still believe in the same things and that I’m doing what I believe in. It keeps me on the right trail and helps me not to stray off the path.

If I can improve a student’s self concept, I firmly believe it will help them learn. Many students have such a negative opinion of themselves that it is severely detrimental to their learning. They feel that they shouldn’t even bother trying because they will fail anyway. Over the years, they have convinced themselves that they cannot achieve success because this is the message they have gotten from their friends, parents, and even teachers. It should be obvious that we need to focus on a student’s strength more than his weaknesses. By building on a foundation of strength, we can strive to overcome the weaknesses. Every student in my class must write “I’m a born winner.” on their paper before they turn it in or the paper will not be accepted. Since I teach many of these students for four years, students begin to change their perception of themselves. I also set up small situations where the student will be successful. Once the student begins to see some success, the student begins to try and little steps become bigger steps. At the end of every year, I have my students fill out an evaluation about my class, curriculum, and procedures. Many feel that writing a class motto has really helped improve their self esteem.

It is crucial that we connect our teaching to real life situations. If students can understand how the skill relates to a real life situation, they can better understand the importance of learning that skill. Often students don’t comprehend why they need to learn a skill or feel that it is just “busy” work, designed to occupy their time. A “big picture” approach is required to help demonstrate how each skill learned is a step towards success. By such incremental achievement, students feel they will be able to use their new knowledge in their own lives, and hence, they are more eager to learn new skills. Implementation of such an approach could decrease the dropout rate of high school students.

Every student and parent has my home and classroom phone number in case they need to contact me. Most parents want the best for their child but cannot always be as involved in their child’s education as they would like to be. I call every student’s parent at least every two weeks to inform them about what we are doing in class and answer any questions. I may call to brag about the student or express my concern and parents appreciate the contact. If I have a behavior problem with a student, I immediately call the parent so the three of us can work out the problem. Students know that I really care about them and this helps them work harder in my class. My monthly newsletter also helps keep the lines of communication open.

Each negative cycle should be broken with a positive one. When I brag on students to their parents, the parents praise the student, who in turn works even harder for me. In the spring I invite the students and their parents to my home for a hot dog lunch and we play games. I also invite former students and parents to give support to my current students and parents. Students need to see that there is life outside the special education class and that they can lead normal lives. Parents are able to exchange ideas and concerns about the future. The parents, students, and I make up a small community and we need to work closely together to ensure the success of the student.

Functional life skills are crucial for all of my students. Many of my students come from single parent homes or where both parents are working. Parents do not have the time to teach students some of the basic skills they will need in life like balancing a checkbook, budgeting, cooking, or sewing. Even socialization skills are necessary for students to function on a job as well as in society. My classes are portrayed as a company and students receive a “salary” for their work. Instead of a discipline plan, we have “job duties” which spell out the expectations for the class. Using their salary, students may pay for privileges or fines for failure to comply with company rules. Students may be docked pay for tardiness to work or leaving work early. In this manner, students can relate functional life skills to real life situations. Students also learn to appreciate that they sometimes have to do things that they might not do willingly in order to take an active part in society. Teachers must take an active part in teaching these skills and acting as good role models for our students.

Convincing students that “an error is not a terror” is another important philosophy. Perfection is not a requirement to success and even teachers make mistakes. Many of my students fear making mistakes to the point they are even afraid to try. Not knowing an answer is not the end of the world provided one is really trying. Knowing the answer is not as important as knowing how to go about finding it. That is the key to learning. As teachers, we need to encourage students of all ages to be curious and seek answers to their questions. We need to teach them how to find the answers in appropriate ways and how to avoid dead ends in their quest for knowledge, a quest that should continue even after they end their school career.

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

Original image: 'Thinker Close Up' by: Todd Martin

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wanted: Good Service and Product Knowledge

serviceI have to share an interesting experience which will make you realize how desperately we need to train our students that good customer service and knowledge of a product are extremely important. This is very important to businesses during these serious economic times when businesses are competing for the few dollars that people have.

My Proform treadmill finally died last week and is irreparable. I’ve had it for about 10 years and used it regularly. Since I have a service contract on it with Sears, I was given a credit to buy a new treadmill. Shopping for a new treadmill is worse than buying a car! I seriously thought about just giving up and losing the credit that was awarded to me.

I went to Sears to look at the treadmills available and all of the Proforms there were cheap and pretty flimsy. When I got home, I found that Sears Online had Proforms that were much sturdier so I called up the store to see if they could order it for me and then I would buy it from the store. I was told no that I had to buy one from the store.

So, we go back out to the store to look at some more and then we find a Nordic Track C900 that looks much sturdier than the cheap, flimsy Proforms on display. Of course, the incline on the display model was broke and the salesman didn’t know much about it or why it wasn’t working. It was on about a 5% incline but the display showed it was on a 0% incline. He didn’t know much about any of the treadmills other than ringing it up and taking our money. So we are back to the drawing board. I decided that since we had a service contract, we could risk getting one like this and if the incline didn’t work, we would just get it fixed.

When I get home, I called the Sears store just to find out how much a Nordic Track service contract cost, he told me that it was about $354 for 5 years and he thought 3 years might be $250. When I asked him if there was a site online that I could read about it to get exact prices, he told me no. I asked if there was a brochure and he said he thought there might be. Then I asked if he could look at it and tell me the cost, he replied that he wasn’t near one so he couldn’t help me.

Next I call the Sears contract number and find out that if we get a Nordic Track, the service contract cost would be refunded because Sears does not work on Nordic Tracks. I have had wonderful service through Sears so this disappointed me about losing them if we buy a Nordic Track. When I told the lady about finding a Proform online that we liked, she told me that there was no problem ordering for me, and it would be delivered to my house. Then an installer would come install it and remove my old one. This was a totally different story than the one the store person told me. So now I’m back to looking at Proforms.

I found one similar at Academy Sports that I plan to look at since I like to see it with my own eyes. When I asked over the phone if they offered a service contract, the man asked, “You mean they come out and fix it?” When I told him yes, he recited the warranty that came with the treadmill and I asked again about the service contract. Finally he said that he didn’t think they offered any but he didn’t really know. Okay…

So now I finally decided on one to order online, I called back the toll free number for it to be ordered. Then I'm told that for some unknown reason, it is not allowing them to order it. Even though it says it is in stock, Sears says it is not in their system. Now I'm back at square one...again!

Since Sears and Academy Sports had salespeople who were totally useless, it made me realize that this is the caliber of people businesses are putting out on the floor. They are probably being paid little and trained even less.

I truly believe that if we give better service and train people to know their products, businesses would sell more products. Customers would be happier with companies and companies would have pride in what they sell. Maybe all they care about is the profit now but without good customer service and a product they can sell, these businesses will eventually lose the battle.

If I did not have a service contract with Sears, I probably would have given up by now and done without a treadmill. I have had to do the research on my own and if I did not have the time, I would have just stopped looking. Is this what businesses want consumers to do? If so, they need to stop whining when their profits go down!

It is never too early to teach good customer service. I expect salespeople to be friendly (without being annoying), available for help (not texting on cell phone or talking to other salespeople), and willing to find information for me if they don’t know it. Manners are important and all of students should practice this in the classroom with adults and their peers. Role playing different situations would train older students what to do if someone comes to their business and needs help. I think you can teach general good customer service that would apply to any business. Then when they get a job, the employee can focus on learning about the product and not learning the basics.

What do you think?

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

Original image: 'Customer service' by: Alan Cleaver

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fine Line Between Friend and Teacher

horizon to horizon, memory written on the windLast week I was asked by a student teacher,

“How do you know where/how to draw the line between “friend” and “teacher”? I realized while reading the comments on your blog, I do lean towards that fatal first year teacher mistake of trying too hard to win over the students. So how do I know when I need to peddle back a little on the getting to know the students and move forward as a model and teacher for the students?”

I thought this was a great question that needs to be revisited often! In fact, whenever I see a teacher accused of a sex crime with a student, I think of this topic. When I see the news, I don’t know if the teacher is guilty or not, but once it is out in public, everyone assumes the teacher is guilty. If the teacher is guilty, I hope they burn him/her at the stake. I always think that if the teacher is not guilty, the teacher did not show good sense in his/her actions to prevent this situation. Too many times teachers try to be friends with students and when a student gets angry with the teacher, it could lead to this kind of situation. I’m not saying all students would do that but it is in a teacher’s best interest to assume this for all students. After I put in all that work for training to become a teacher, I would not want to risk anything in losing it all because of poor judgment.

Here is my laundry list of things I try to do:

1. The most important thing you can do is to make sure you never put yourself in any position where a student can make allegations against you and you do not have a witness to prove you did nothing wrong.

2. I am never alone with a student in a room with the door closed. The door always stays open at all times. I do not drive students alone anywhere in my car.

3. I remind myself that students are just children. They can be your best friend one moment and hate you the next. For this reason, I need to be their teacher and not their friend. Unfortunately, their immaturity will cause them to try to stab you in the back if the opportunity presents itself.

4. I do not joke with students about things concerning drugs, alcohol, or sex.

5. I do not show partiality for one student over others. This includes giving presents to one and not others.

6. I used to hug my students a lot years ago but now I restrain myself because it can be misconstrued. I do a lot of high fives, thumbs up, pats on the back or fist bumps.

7. When I was younger and closer in age to my students, I looked more in their age range (before I became an old lady). I was flattered when some of the boys would have a crush on me but I needed to make sure that I did not encourage that. I would talk about my boyfriend or husband going shopping or sightseeing together. I might even show pictures of us together. Since I attended athletic events, I would make sure I would introduce my boyfriend/husband to students. For some reason, this helped dim the crush tremendously and put us back on teacher footing.

8. I would not discuss with my students about parties or inappropriate social events (for students to attend). I needed to remember that I was a role model for my students. These stories may be shared with colleagues (but still be wary of discussing too much of your personal life with colleagues unless you are very close) but not with students.

9. If the student gets too familiar with you, you need to address it and not hope it will go away. You need to make sure that you have an administrator with you when you address it. This is why you need to make sure you never put yourself in any position where a student can accuse you of anything. A student can become embarrassed and angry and try to retaliate.

Now even though I have given all these warning, I don’t mean to scare you. I also do things to show that I care without putting myself or my career at risk.

1. I listen to them if they are troubled. I may take them out in the hall to listen to them or if they stay after class, I listen to them (but the classroom door stays open at all times.)

2. If there is a problem that needs more action besides listening, I either involve a guidance counselor or administrator.

3. I call home often and praise their good behavior.

4. I do share fun personal stories that are not inappropriate with the entire class.

5. I am firm, fair and consistent with my students when dealing with discipline. It might hurt that they are mad at me but I remind myself that this is important for their future.

6. I remind myself that I am preparing my students for their future in the real world. How would an employer act towards this student if they were not doing their job (besides firing them)?

7. I insist on being treated with respect as their teacher and not their friend. I do not allow students to call me by my first name or joke with me the way they do with their friends. They will appreciate these limits in the long run.

If you are a veteran teacher, what other advice can you give for drawing the line? Please leave comments! Thanks!

Original image: 'horizon to horizon, memory written on the wind' by: Robert S. Donovan

Friday, April 15, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/15/11

tools1Here 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!

Manga High – free, math games and teachers who register there classes can monitor statistics of their students progress

Flubaroo – uses google docs and is “ a free tool that helps you quickly grade multiple-choice or fill-in-blank assignments.” It also “Computes average assignment score. Computes average score per question, and flags low-scoring questions. Shows you a grade distribution graph. Gives you the option to email each student their grade, and an answer key.”

Comic Builder – at Lego City; build your own comic strip by dragging and dropping.

Learn A Language – “hundreds of free language-learning lessons, games, and activities.”

Music Games and Quizzes – from Music Tech Teacher’s site; “play over 130 elementary quizzes, puzzles and games about music. Music Information and Theory pages below will help you learn the names of music notes, rhythms, terms and the names of famous musicianand composers.”

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 4/13/11

carnival3Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at the Steve Spangler Blog! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on To Dream the Impossible Dream 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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Scouting for Others

suitcaseIn Our Journeys from Reinventing Project-Based Learning, Jane Krauss asks,

“Think about a topic of your current professional learning.
What kind of traveler are you?
Armchair tourist: Curious from afar, need to know more
Tenderfoot: Setting out on that first journey, ready to try new things
Explorer: Used to stepping out, ready for new frontiers
Scout: A seasoned traveler who can show others the way”

I’m a Scout!

I loved this travel metaphor and I realized that it described my career as a teacher. I have been each of these kinds of travelers throughout my career. I also think it is important to see where we are in our career and where we can go from there. I guess I’m always looking ahead. I don’t feel that my career will ever end because being a teacher is what I am. Even though I retired, I’m not ready to give up my interest in education. I feel that I have invested a lot of time and energy into getting to where I am now and if I turn my back on it all, I would have wasted that time and energy.

So, I continue to blog and use Plurk and Twitter to stay connected. I speak to groups and organizations about education topics. I also am an adjunct instructor at the local university. I tell many of my friends that I no longer see education as a way for get a paycheck but as a hobby that I can enjoy. It is amazing how freeing this attitude makes me feel!

My husband and I love to travel and have been to many places around our country and some places out of our country. When we talk to others, they like to ask for advice on places to see and things to do. They also want to know what pitfalls to avoid.

In this same way, I feel I can do the same thing for less experienced teachers. I like to show them my favorite strategies and lessons. By sharing with them some of my teaching mishaps, I’m showing them the pitfalls to avoid in teaching. I am able to look at all the enjoyable aspects of my teaching career that I can share with others.

Sometimes for a novice traveler, the way can be scary. Sometimes experienced travelers forget how unsure and uncertain the way can be. We forget the little things. Not just the bad little things but the good little things too. When I meet up with a novice traveler, I get to remember and relive the good little things that happened and it makes me feel good. It keeps me from taking for granted the way things are now. In this same way, novice teachers are as important as experienced teachers and we all need to remember that.

So now I ask you, what kind of traveler are you? Please share.

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

Original image: 'suitcase' by: Sarah Macmillan

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Everyone Gets to Play

baseballIn The Visually Impaired Kid in the Outfield from Special Education Law Blog, Jim Gerl writes,

“My Dad organized a league so that I could play.  Pretty cool, huh?  He was the coach of our team.  One of the rules he established was that anybody who came to the practices and followed the rules got to play in the games.  It seemed fair.”

This made me think about my classroom and the students in the class. In my special education class, my students had good attendance. I didn’t usually have the truancy problem that many of my colleagues had. Since some of the students rode the special education bus, they were less likely to be absent. Other students were driven to school by their parents so they tended to be at school regularly.

Coming to school regularly was just like showing up for practices and playing in the game. I needed to make sure that I gave each student the attention that they deserved. I heard other teachers commenting about students who slept in their class or did not participate and the teachers just ignored them. I feel this is just another way of not letting them play the game. I need to engage these students in learning the best way that I can.

Many of my students told me that when they are in general education classes, they are treated like they are invisible. Since many times my students would have the wrong answers, they did not try very hard in these classes. Even though many teachers felt like they were being sensitive to my students by not calling on them, my students felt like they were being excluded. When I heard about this, I decided it was time to call a meeting. Both sides needed to communicate better in order for my students to be more successful.

When I called the meeting, I explained the situation from both sides to all of the participants as best as I could. Then I would let each side expand on my explanation if they needed to. Since the students didn’t tell how they felt to the teachers, how could the teachers know this? And since the teachers felt like they had been doing the right thing, how could they know that the students felt invisible?

Now that everything was out in the open, we needed to discuss what to do about this. We needed to come up with a plan of action for the student. Input from the student was very important at this stage so the student wouldn’t feel invisible during the planning. First we needed to find out why the student had difficulty learning the material and see if we could come up with strategies to help the student. We also needed to help the teacher find ways to assess the student’s knowledge and still be sensitive to the student’s disability. The teacher needed to be commended for trying to be sensitive to the student and not be put on the defensive.
I think this communication and team planning would really help the student be successful in the classroom. Once everything is out in the open, everyone would be able to be a team player. Since the student and the teacher “show up for practice,” it is only fair that both get to play the game!

How would you handle this situation? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'Ball Impact. UNF Baseball vs. Florida Gulf Coast University'

Monday, April 11, 2011

Be Tough or Be Soft?

softieRecently a student teacher asked this question,

“Anyway, I’m really tired of hearing how I don’t know anything or that it could be worse when I’m done with student teaching. I know this, I need help to prepare for when I’m on my own. Also, I’m ever so tired of hearing that these students are a waste or are worthless…I know it’s not meant in all sincerity but there is some there…it hurts me to hear it.
Am I just a bleeding heart as I’ve so often been called? Do I need to toughen up? I know this is a rough area I’m working in, but I still believe these kids deserve a little more compassion. I think that small steps should be celebrated not condemned for not happening sooner.”

I think that is why student teacher’s are so important! You bring the necessary fresh air to a school. Many experienced teachers forget the excitement and thrill of becoming a teacher and get stale. Think about going to Disney World for the 20th time and then going with a child who has never been there before. Things look very different through a child’s eyes. I do know that my student teachers have been taken advantage by my students who give lots of excuses for why they didn’t or couldn’t do something and you do need to stand tough with them in order to help them be more successful. I also think many experienced teachers tease new teachers because they have been conned or hurt so many times and this is the way of trying to warn the newer teachers.

The more I thought about this I also think that experienced teachers are trying to do tough love and prepare you for possible hard times in the future. Too many new teachers get out on their own and then cry that no one told them how hard it would be. Many are disillusioned and leave the teaching field. I feel they are telling the truth because the first five years are going to be hard but once you learn your own system and what works or doesn’t work for you, the easier it will get.

I think your compassion will help the students see you as a caring person and that is never wrong. But don’t let them take advantage of you and don’t try to be their friend. I have seen too many young teachers work too hard to be friends with their students and things can go very wrong that way. Students have enough friends but not enough good teachers.

After seeing how many of my students lived or the relationships they had with their families, my heart just broke for them. Yet instead of all of us wallowing in self pity, I needed to teach my students how to overcome the obstacles in their lives. Sometimes getting tough and pushing them was more effective than hugging and consoling. By working with them so closely, I needed to learn which times to push and which times to comfort and I believe only experience will help you learn that.

So, don’t give up on us veteran teachers. Remember that you have a perspective that even we can learn from. You are necessary to remind us why we went into teaching and how important our job is. For that, I thank you and all student teachers.

For all you veteran teachers, what do you think?

Original image: 'WWII Hoover Advertisement'

Friday, April 8, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/8/11

tools2Here 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!

Diagramly – free diagram drawing program

National Financial Capability Challenge – “is an awards program designed to increase the financial knowledge and capability of high school aged youth across the United States so they can take control over their financial futures. It challenges high school teachers and other educators to teach the basics of personal finance to their students, and rewards students, educators, schools, and states for their participation and their success. Educators and top-scoring students will receive award certificates, and schools and states with the highest participation rates will earn special distinction.”

International Childrens Digital Library – “The mission of the International Children's Digital Library Foundation (ICDL Foundation) is to support the world's children in becoming effective members of the global community - who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas -- by making the best in children's literature available online free of charge.”

Seussville – “is the place for children of all ages to play and learn with Dr. Seuss’s wonderfully whimsical books and classic characters. The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and all of the Dr. Seuss books leap to life through interactive games and activities that will enrich each child’s reading experience.”

Magnetic Poetry – Make your own poetry or read others using their “magnetic words.” A lot of fun and easy to use.

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is Your Family Safe and Well?

redcrossRecently my husband and I have signed up to be Red Cross volunteers here in the United States. This involves attending training seminars and online courses which are very informative on a personal level as well as on a volunteer level. This past week we attended a training session called Safe and Well Linking Overview which introduced us to the Safe and Well website which was created after the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

According to the website:

“After a disaster, letting your family and friends know that you are safe and well can bring your loved ones great peace of mind. This website is designed to help make that communication easier. 

Register Yourself as “Safe and Well”
Click on the “List Myself as Safe and Well” button to register yourself on the site.

Search for Loved Ones
Concerned family and friends can search the list of those who have registered themselves as “safe and well” by clicking on the “Search Registrants” button. The results of a successful search will display a loved one’s first name, last name and a brief message.”

I thought this whole concept was so wonderful that I couldn’t wait to share it with my family members. My husband and I have registered on this site already. My elderly parents live in southern Florida and I’m always worried about them even more during hurricane season. With their permission, I registered them on this site also. Even though they don’t have a computer, if they had to go to a Red Cross shelter, they can tell the volunteers to go to their status and update it for them. My sister and her family who live in New York are also going to register on the site because memories of 9/11 are still in the back of their minds.

To register on this site, you need to give your name, address, phone number and birth date but this information is not shared with anyone when they search for you. You also check which message you want to share with others. The people who search for you must know your name (exactly as you have entered it) and either your phone number or your address in order to find you. When your file is located, only your name, your status, any personal message you post, and the date you entered the current information are all the information that is shown on the screen.

I want to thank the Red Cross for developing this site and encouraging people to register for it and for training volunteers how to use it also. I think this site will help ease many people’s minds during times when they are under extreme stress.

I hope you will check this site out and share it with your families and with your students. I think the more people that are aware of this central location for finding people during a disaster situation, the easier it will be to reunite family members or at least know how they are doing at the time.

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

Original image: 'Join American Red Cross 1939' by: Jussi

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

There Are Other Ways

detourWhen I first started teaching high school, many of my students attended the vocational center. They learned a trade such as welding, building construction, agricultural science, automotive repair, automotive body work, and brick masonry. Even though my students did not earn a high school diploma, many of them learned a skill that enabled them to become employed after they graduated from high school. These skills helped them find a career doing the things they loved to do. That is what everyone should hope to do with their life.

When I transferred to another school, my students wanted to learn skills that let them work with their hands and I thought the vocational center was the perfect place for them. Unfortunately I found out that we no longer have a vocational center and now it is a career and technology center. Many of the courses had tests for licensure that my students would have difficulty passing. So, needless to say, many of my students were not welcome here.

It was so disappointing to me from a teacher’s point of view and from the student’s point of view. But I decided rather than wasting energy complaining about it, I needed to find another way. My main goal was trying to teach my students the skills they wanted to learn.

I first invited speakers to come talk to the class about their jobs using these skills. We asked what prerequisites the students needed before they could get a job like this. Then my students asked how they could learn how to do these skills. Some of the speakers actually took down information and invited the students to their shops to look around. Many required a minimum age of 18 because of liability. Some of my students ended up spending free time observing and learning and eventually found jobs with these companies when they became of age. All of this was important networking for my students and they needed someone to teach them how to network.

When the class wanted to learn basic woodworking, we decided to build some birdhouses. Somebody donated the wood and we bought some inexpensive saws for cutting. We also had sandpaper, nails, screws, and paint for the birdhouses. One of the parents came in and held a class on building these birdhouses. We ended up making a bunch of them and donating them to nursing homes.

When one of my students was interested in learning how to install a car radio, I was unable to find anyone who could teach him. Finally one of my students mentioned that he knew how to do this and would be glad to show him how to install one if there was a car and a radio they could work on. Luckily I had an old car with a broken radio and I bought a new radio at a flea market. After getting permission from the administration for them to work on my car in the parking lot, I let them go for it. What is the worse that could happen? They couldn’t hurt the radio already in the car because it was already broken. The only problem was that I didn’t give them a note and left them alone to work on the car. In a little while, there was a knock on my portable door and there were my students with a policeman. He had driven by and thought the kids were stealing my radio! They tried to tell him that I gave them permission but he didn’t believe it because no one would ever do this! Imagine his surprise when I told him it was true. Then I went on to complain about why we were doing this and he was unaware of the dilemma my students faced. . He offered to find other adults who might be interested in coming to my class to help train my students (another great networking opportunity!).

These are just a few examples of how I tried to find another way. I didn’t accept that my students could not be trained and tried to think outside the box. I brainstormed and talked to others, including other students. Anyone who would listen was welcome to give me advice and it really helped. It was up to me not to give up on my students and to let them give up on themselves.

Pushing forward in this way helped my students be more successful in the classroom and in life. I hope it taught them not to give up and look for another way to reach their goals.

Have you had to find another way of doing something? If so, please share!

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

Original image: 'Detour ---->' by: Joshua Davis

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Parents as Teachers

parentingIn Do Parents Make Better Teachers? from Apace of Change, damian asks,

“…how has having children of your own influenced your professional practice?”

I look back to when I first started teaching and I’m almost embarrassed as to my thoughts and philosophies at the time. I was young and fresh out of college. I was unmarried but I was going to change the world because I had all the answers (or so I thought at the time). I knew how to solve my students’ problems and I knew I could help them be all that I thought they should be.

I sometimes wonder how obnoxious my fellow colleagues must have thought I was. Maybe they thought I was idealistic but maybe they thought I was a know-it-all too. How many actually avoided me and my “perfect” thoughts?

When I saw parents with their children during family events, or PTA meetings, or even conferences, I would think that they didn’t discipline their children in the way I thought they should or that I would raise my children much differently if I were that parent! I had taken those psychology courses in college as well as those child development courses in order to know the perfect way to manage and change behavior of children. I had read all the required textbooks and even gotten an A in all the required courses in order to become a teacher.

Oh my!

Then I got married and became a parent.

Life looked much different on the other side of the fence.

Parenting is hard. Managing and changing behavior does not happen like they talk about in those textbooks and in those courses. All of those situations were hypothetical. But real life is so much different. In real life, you are dealing with emotions that cannot be conveyed in hypothetical situations.

As a parent, I learned to be patient and consistent. Before this, I thought that students should respond immediately to my requests but in real life, that may or may not happen. I need to stand firm and be consistent in my behavior management strategies but in real life, when dealing with emotions, this is much harder to do than in those hypothetical situations.

As a parent I learned to fight the battles that were worth fighting. Before this, I thought every battle should be fought in order to show the students who was in control. I think in those hypothetical situations, I was learning how to become the one in control and the way they teach this is to make every battle important.

As a parent I learned that caring and sincerity is vital to having relationships with children. They will see right through you if you are fake. During my training, I don’t think they stress this as much as the mechanical motions I needed to learn in order to become a teacher. In today’s society, a teacher needs to worry about touching students (even if it is innocent) or saying the wrong things that could be misconstrued. As a parent I know the fine line and understand better how not to cross it. I think maturity has helped me decide where that line is.

As a parent I learned that I don’t have to be a child’s friend. They have enough friends. They need someone to guide them when necessary and to be there to support them when they need support. I don’t think a student’s friend is mature enough at this point to be that person.

So, yes, I believe being a parent has totally influenced my professional practice. I think being a parent has helped improve my teaching skills.

Yet, I think my ideas and beliefs were okay even when I was an unmarried teacher. I believe that if I was that far off the mark, my colleagues would have been there to rein me in and give me a reality check.

At this time in my life (when I sheepishly look back on those times), I would like to thank all of my colleagues who tolerated my idealistic thoughts and behavior at the time because I believed I was right. I appreciate their patience and tolerance while I thought I could change the world single handedly.

I think as my thought and beliefs changed over the years, my earlier thoughts and beliefs helped build the foundation I needed in order to become successful in my teaching career.

If you are a parent who is a teacher, how would you answer this question? If you aren’t a parent, do you think it would make a difference to your current way of teaching?

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

Original image: 'Fatherhood, By Robert Scoble' by: Thomas Hawk

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Class Sentence

PrintI just finished reading What if it is that simple… from Blogush by Paul Bogush. He talks about a survey where students were asked if anyone would miss them if they were absent and almost everyone marked no. He decided to build an environment to ensure this did not happen. Then he asks,

“I would like to throw it back to you…what is “the sentence” for your class?  I am trying to figure out what mine would be.  I am thinking of adding that question to the end of the year evaluation I give to the kids.  Right now based on past evaluations and emails,  I would go with “A safe place to be yourself.”  I have been preparing my session for NELMS entitled “First Day of School.”  In it I am reproducing my first day.  In the beginning I talk about my room as being a different place, a special place.  One in which you can be yourself, and are all connected.  I can kind of picture a bumper sticker with that sentence hanging above my door in the fall.”

I have mentioned this before but I think it is worthy of mentioning again. My class sentence has been:

I am a born winner!

On the first day of class, my students are introduced to this sentence and told it is the most important thing they will learn all year. I feel that every person on this earth was a winner as soon as they were born. We struggled during birth to come into this world and it was a cold and scary place, compared to where we spent the previous 9 or so months. We were born to succeed but along the way people, feelings, and thoughts grow into obstacles that keep us from this success. It is this major thought that we need to keep in the front of our minds whenever we confront an obstacle.

Many of my high school special ed students are worn down emotionally and mentally by the time they reached my class. They needed this reminder of who they were and what they were capable of and it was my job to do the reminding!

I made a poster of this sentence for every wall in the classroom so that whichever way they may be facing at any time, they could see this sentence.

Any paper that was turned in for a grade had to have this written on their paper or I wouldn’t accept it.

Throughout the class, I may randomly ask a student what our class motto was and it they replied, “I am a born winner!” they received a reward.

Soon I began to see my students walking with more confidence. They began to lift their heads up with pride. They began to believe in what they were saying (because they knew it was the truth).

Other teachers even began to notice the difference. These students began to make an effort in their classes and even asked for help. Some teachers mentioned that they noticed this sentence on papers the student turned in during their class. I was so glad to see this idea spilling out into their lives and not just in my class.

This small sentence began to make a difference.

Even years later, it warms my heart when I hear from former students who tell me they still use this sentence in their lives. It makes me feel good that this one little sentence could make a difference after all these years and I’m glad that they realized it was useful in their lives even after they left school.

Then it makes me want to tell everyone I know that this doesn’t just apply to my students but to everyone in the world. I want my friends and family to know that I see them as born winners too.

Even people that I come in contact for a short period of time like salespeople, receptionists, acquaintances, are all born winners even if they don’t come across that way at the time. Even born winners can have a bad day so when I come across someone disagreeable or who irritates me, I need to remember that they too are born winners.

So, what sentence do you use? If you don’t use one, what one would you like to use?

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

Original image: 'Sentience Structure'
by: Alex Eylar

Friday, April 1, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/1/11

tools2Here 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!

QuizGeo – “allows you to create and play quizzes based on geography using Google Maps. This can include anything from locating all of the countries in the world to locating all of the playground equipment at your local park or school. Since you place the questions on the map you can decide how large of an area your quiz will encompass.”

Phrays – “A game in which each player tries to write a sentence best illustrating the meaning of the word of the day.”

Icebreaker Tags – design your own name tags including an icebreaker question. You can do one individually for yourself or make tags for an event

Chemistry Games – “These eight online games teach you the chemical elements, periodic table, and more.”

Toasted Cheese – Writing prompts on a monthly calendar

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley