Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beginning of the Great Adventure 2011

001We left our home at 5am and planned on driving pretty far on our first day because usually hubby is hyped up on the first day. Leaving at that time was just perfect because we missed rush hour in all the major cities we went through which means we went further than we expected. We went through Asheville, Knoxville, Nashville, and St. Louis. After 12 hours of driving about 800 miles, we ended up in Columbia, Missouri for the night. When we checked into the Hampton Inn, we met another couple from Simpsonville (about 5 minutes from where we live). Dinner was pretty good at the Cracker Barrel right next door and then we just relaxed the rest of the evening. Tomorrow may be another long drive day.

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

Original Photo of St. Louis by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Traveling Around the USA

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comWe are about to jump in the car and wonder the USA for the summer. I plan on blogging about our trip, sharing pictures, and noting at least one thing that I’ve learned that day. I plan on keeping my Useful Info on Fridays though. If following us along on a virtual tour of the US does not excite you or interest you, please ignore the posts from now until September (other than Fridays). I plan to return to usual educational posts in September.

Hubby is a little worried about me blogging about our trip but he really likes to look at some of my old posts to see what we did and where we stayed at some of these places. We agreed that I could blog and we have lots of people watching our house plus we have the police putting extra patrols on our house. Of course they also like to sit on our side porch to do their paperwork (we live in a very small town) so I’m not as worried as my hubby. But if you live near me and are reading this – please don’t rob my house! We feel sentimental about the junk that is in it (and believe me, most of it is sentimental junk and very little monetary value! LOL)

The following places/cities are on our tentative schedule and we may add some other places if the mood strikes us. If you live in or near any of these places, please let me know and maybe we could arrange a meet up. I love meeting my online friends in person!

· Granby, CO (new)

· Estes Park, CO

· Rocky Mountain National Park (was there 2009 with lots of snow)

· Devils Tower, WY (new)

· Thermopolis, WY (new)

· Cody, WY (was there in 2005 to see the rodeo)

· Yellowstone National Park (was there in 2005)

· Kalispell, MT (new)

· Glacier National Park(new)

· Arco, ID (new)

· Craters of the Moon National Monument (new)

· Moab, UT (was there in 2006, 2009)

· Arches National Park (was there in 2006)

· Kanab, UT (new)

· Grand Canyon National Park (north Rim) (new)

· Bryce Canyon National Park (was there in 2006 and 2009)

· Zion National Park (was there in 2006 and 2009)

· Durango, CO (was there 2009 with lots of snow)

· Sand Dunes National Park (was there in 2009)

· Canon City, CO (new)

· Salina, KS (new)

I’m excited. Can you tell? If you have any “must see” things at any of these places, please let me know so we can add it to our list!

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

Image: 'The Long Road Home'

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Voice Matters

speakIn You’re Allowed from Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech, Dean Shareski refers to an article by Seth Godin and comments,

“Godin's nugget reminded me that we/you are now allowed. Even if you work for some antiquated organization that says you can't participate in is global conversations, you can. Maybe under a pseudonym but your voice matters…”

I think I have always marched to the beat of a different drummer. I remember when I first started teaching (many many years ago!) and the school finances were down the tube. There was a suggestion that we teach for a few days unpaid and many teachers were upset so they planned a big meeting at the local library. Now keep in mind that there are no unions in South Carolina so this meeting was a big thing. I was told by my administrator that I “better not go to this meeting!” Well, like a stubborn child, if you told me not to do something that was a sure fire way to get me to go and I did. It was scary for me because I really didn’t know anyone else who was going and I also felt worried about the consequences of my actions. What if I was the only one who showed up and then I was fired? But, it turned out better than I expected. The room was jam packed and overflowing with disgruntled teachers and amazingly, the district found money to pay us all so the worse did not happen. I learned that many things can happen if enough people feel the same way about a certain issue.

I do feel my voice matters but I think it is important that I don’t name names and slander people. I do not think you should write about specific students or adults which could come back to bite you in the butt if you aren’t careful. I think it is important to voice my opinion but in a way that it relates to me and not other people. I think that is why I write this blog. I try to write from my own experiences and try to show how my actions have impacted my own life. If there is a way that by sharing I can make a difference in your life, then it is worth speaking out.

I also feel that now that I’m retired from the public school system, I am more comfortable with sharing my views and opinions. While I was teaching, blogging was not an option. Computers were just becoming a big deal and the internet in the classroom was still a scary thing.

This pseudonym idea reminds me of Garrison Keillor and the Lake Woebegon stories that I love to listen to and share. Once, we stopped at a Minnesota welcome center when I heard my husband ask the lady for directions to Lake Woebegon. He was crushed when she told him that there was no place and that it was a fictional location made up by the author. So I think it is also important to let my readers know when I am using fictional names and places.

I feel it is important to me to voice my opinion about policies and laws that I don’t agree with but I try to explain why. I also think blogging about it helps clarify my thoughts so I can share my opinion with lawmakers and hopefully persuade them to rethink their actions. Sharing my views also helps me find like-minded people who agree with me so that I don’t feel so isolated with my thoughts. It also helps me find people who disagree with me so that I can either make myself clearer or possibly change my own views for the better.

So, you see, I really think my voice matters, and so does yours! Don’t be afraid. There are many of us out here who want to hear what you think!

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

Image: 'This is not a social media megaphone'

Monday, June 27, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 6/22/11

carnival4Another 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 Celebrating Uniqueness 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

Friday, June 24, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/24/11

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!
Stencyl – make flash games for free; download required; I haven’t tried this but I’m betting there are some students out there that would enjoy exploring this to make their own games. It doesn’t require coding skills and involves a drag and drop method.
Healthline Body Mapsis an interactive visual search tool that allows users to explore the human body in 3-D. With easy-to-use navigation, users can search multiple layers of the human anatomy, view systems and organs down to their smallest parts, and understand in detail how the human body works.”
Grain Chain – “Find out how grains are grown and harvested, what happens to them before they reach your plate, and why they're so good for you! Investigate healthy eating and meal planning, or go behind the scenes of the flour, grain and baking industry.”
Succeeding with Science – Science resources organized by age for teachers; “These resources are produced for teachers by teachers. As teaching aids, they are designed to fit precisely into the curriculum and are produced to high standards of innovation and good practice.”
Cloud Canvas – “CloudCanvas enables creative people to make digital art, design and other rich media right in the web browser. No plugins are required.”
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original Image: Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Teaching Old Dogs

In Adopt vs. adapt from Seth's Blog, Seth Godin states, 

“An early adopter seeks out new ideas and makes them work. An adapter, on the other hand, puts up with what he has to, begrudgingly.”

As I pondered this post, I thought about last week’s technology conference that I presented at and how people reacted. When I gave a presentation on QR codes, I had a packed room.  
I’m not sure I agree that an adapter begrudgingly learns. There were some older people in the class and most of them had smartphones. 

When I started the session, I put up a poll that took a live poll by text messages and posted live results. Many of the people in the class didn’t even know how to send a text message. Luckily I had a few people who did know how to do this and helped me show others how to take this poll. 39% of 31 people had no knowledge or experience with QR codes, 11% heard of them, 28% knew how to read them and 22% knew how to create and read them. 

The people who were in this session chose to learn about QR codes. The people at this conference chose to be there. I don’t feel that anything was done begrudgingly because these people seemed really interested in finding out about what QR codes were and how to use them. 

I believe that many adapters are the initial risk takers. Sometimes even I am an adapter where I let others try something new first. If I see they like it and this new thing becomes popular, I might want to learn more about it. Many times I have tried to learn something new only to find out that it was a waste of time. Sometimes it is tiring to have this keep happening. 

Throughout the two days I heard many people talk about how some “newbies” haven’t heard of a lot of tools that have been out for a few years. But the more important thing to notice is that these “newbies” were interested in hearing about these tools now! It has taken some time but they are ready to learn about them. Just like we talk about students in our own classrooms learning at their own pace, sometimes even teachers need to learn at their own pace. The more I think about I, the more excited I am for these teachers (whatever their age may be) and how they are interested in learning about some new tools. 

When I prepared for this session, I never thought about people not knowing how to send a text message. Many didn’t know how to download an application on their phone or how to open it once they got it. I believe this session taught more than I bargained for! 

At the end of the session, it seemed as if people were thrilled to learn how to use their phones and about QR codes. I hope by showing them ways to use QR codes in the schools and classrooms, it might have helped them be an adapter even if they hadn’t started out as an adopter. I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks! All in all, this was a successful lesson!

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How Full is Your Bucket? Notes

bucketI have just finished the book How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton. The website with more information is found at I thought The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket was very powerful!

Here are some notes and quotes from the book
  • “Everyone has an invisible bucket. We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing-and at our worst when they are empty. Everyone also has an invisible dipper. In each interaction, we can use our dipper either to fill or to dip from others’ buckets. Whenever we choose to fill others’ buckets, we in turn fill our own.” (Chapter 1)
  • “The most enjoyable part of spreading positivity for Ken is to ‘watch the energy move through the network’ once he sets it in motion.” (Chapter 2)
  • “According to the US Department of Labor, the number-one reason people leave their jobs is because they ‘do not feel appreciated.’” (Chapter 2)
  • “9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they’re around positive people.” (Chapter 3)
  • “…negative emotions can be harmful to your health and might even shorten your life span.” (Chapter 3)
  • “The magic ratio: 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction” (Chapter 3)
  • “If you want people to understand that you value their contributions and that they are important, the recognition and praise you provide must have meaning that is specific to each individual.” (Chapter 5)
  • “Five strategies for Increasing Positive Emotions: Prevent bucket dipping, Shine a light on what is right, Make best friends, Give unexpectedly, Reverse the Golden Rule.” (Chapter 6)
  • “…try to catch yourself in the act of bucket dipping – then stop it.” (strategy 1)
  • “Each interaction gives us a chance to shine a light on what’s right – and fill a bucket.” (strategy 2)
  • “…your best approach is to fill a person’s bucket in your very first interaction.” (strategy 3)
  • “Expected gifts do fill our buckets, but for some reason, receiving things unexpectedly fills our buckets just a little more.” (strategy 4)
  • “…bucket filling must be specific to the individual.” (strategy 5)
It was truly a wonderful book and I would highly recommend that every teacher read it. I can see this helping in the classroom with how we deal with students. By filling their buckets, we can make a difference in students’ lives as well as our own.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Upstate Technology Conference 2011

Last week I attended the Upstate Technology Conference in my school district and the theme was “What’s Your Vision?” I look forward to this conference every year because it is local and it is free. What a wonderful thing for the school district to host and allow educators from all surrounding areas to participate. This year I gave a presentation on QR codes but I also attended some sessions where I learned new information about something. Below are the notes that I took from some of the sessions.

1.      Don’t Read to me: A presentation on presentations by Chris Craft
a.       Things that drive me crazy- we were able to have a conversation with others and then share the things that drive us crazy about some presentations
b.      People reading slides affects the brain negatively (It drives me crazy when people read every word of every bullet on every slide!!)
c.       Black background/white text is very effective (important for people who are colorblind)
d. is real time survey (I used this in my presentation and it was awesome!)
e.       Heat/AC can affect the audience
f.       Limited Working memory/Limitless Virtual Long term memory – connections help long term memory
g.      Remember how it made me feel but not what it was about.
h.      Attitude of the presenter – stick to the time or end early
i.        Ummm are very distracting – slow down and rehearse
j.        Consider different people’s learning styles
k.      Rather than intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, consider “expectancy value theory” – students who feel there is some value to what they are learning will be motivated to learn. (relevance is important!)

2.      Using Livebinders to Organize and Collaborate by Hope Chapman
a.       Live Binders (
b.      Save links
c.       Update text
d.      Bookmarking tool
e.       Share with students
f.       Keep resources organized
g.      Share with other teachers
h.      Interactive sites
i.        Videos
j.        Type your own text
k.      Multiple layouts for your text and links
l.        Teachers control, organize, can access anywhere there is internet

3.      Keynote Speaker – Brad Fountain
I went to an overflow room to watch the Keynote on a live stream. Unfortunately they had lots of technical difficulties getting it to stream and found empty seats in the auditorium for people. But I didn’t want to walk in the auditorium after the presentation had already started so I stayed in the library. Eventually they got the live stream working but the buffering affected the sound and I had trouble focusing on the speaker. I have already missed the whole beginning and it was hard to jump into the middle of the presentation.

4.      Harness the Power of Cell Phones by Tamra Cox
a.       75% of all kids age 12-17 own a cell phone
b.      50% of middle and high school students own a smart phone
c.       Children under 12 are the fastest growing segment
d.      Almost 60% of teens txt in class
e.       Within 5 years, every k-12 student in America will use a mobile handheld device on
f.       Classroom management: Put your cell phones on the corner of your desk
g.      Pros: flexibility, calendars, affordable, students have them, portable, anywhere anytime learning, reach underserved children, personalized learning experience, student’s choice in device
h.      Cons: some students don’t have one, distraction, potential for cheating, privacy concerns, health concerns, teacher and admin attitudes
i.        Lesson Ideas:
                                                              i.      calculator,
                                                            ii.      Voki,
                                                          iii.      text a question to Cha Cha,  (translate, definition, ask questions),
                                                          iv.      Google SMS ((translate, definition, ask questions),
                                                            v.      set up acct. on StudyBoost and then quiz as txt msg,
                                                          vi.      timers,
                                                        vii.      alarms,
                                                      viii.      qr codes,
                                                          ix.      flickr,
                                                            x.      ipadio,
                                                          xi.      blogger,
                                                        xii.      broadtexter
j.        Apps for Teacher
                                                              i.      Hot seat
                                                            ii.      Roll call
                                                          iii.      Dropbox
                                                          iv.      Google app
                                                            v.      Grade pad
                                                          vi.      Mobile mouse pro
                                                        vii.      Ischedule – need to buy it
                                                      viii.      Evernote

5.      iPads and Your Classroom by Russ Conrath
a.       Free and Low Cost Apps for iPads: needs and Apple cord or HDMI cable)
b.      Oregon Trail – 99 cents
c.       Keynote remote - $9.99
d.      Garageband
e.       Moon Globe
f.       Dragon Diction
g.      US History Challenge

I enjoyed the sessions I attended but I also enjoyed networking with others. Some of these people I only see once a year at this conference and some of these people are new friends now. One night we were able to go out to dinner (and I dragged my hubby along! He likes meeting my friends though, so it wasn’t a hardship for him).

If you live anywhere near Greenville, SC, please consider attending or presenting at this conference next year. It is well worth the time and energy.

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

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tribute to My Father

armyYesterday was Father’s Day and I wanted to share with you my relationship with my father. You see, I am a “daddy’s little girl” and have been all my life. As the youngest of three daughters, I tended to be spoiled by my family, especially my father. My father is going to be 92 this year and still going strong.

While I was going through school, my father was the sole provider for our family of five. He worked six days a week and had Wednesdays off. Every day we all had dinner together (cooked by my father) before he left to go to work as a MaĆ®tre’d in a Chinese restaurant. Every Wednesday he would drive me to my accordion lesson before we had dinner. On Saturdays we would go grocery shopping together. These were special times because I had my father all to myself. Once a year my father would have a week off for vacation and he would usually drive our family to South Carolina to visit relatives.

I remember the only time my father “spanked” me. When I was a small child around four years old, I put my hand in my father’s pocket to get money because he refused to give me any. He unbuckled his belt and slapped my hand with the little flap that came out of the buckle. I’m sure it wasn’t hard but it hurt my feelings so bad that I cried for days. He never had to “spank” me again; a look was all it took.

My father taught me by example that working hard was something to be proud of. If you wanted something, you needed to work for it and the pride you felt by earning it was a great feeling. He also taught me that honesty and integrity was something that you needed to protect and never lose. I don’t remember my father ever lecturing me about these values but he always showed me by his actions. I knew I did the right things by the smile that appeared on his face when I made the right choices. I also knew I never wanted to disappoint him or make him feel ashamed of me.

007I’m so proud of my father for the things that he accomplished in his life and the things he continues to do. He is always willing to help others and makes others feel good about being around him. I love to hear the stories of his life when he was a child, when he was in the military, and when he was a young man. His stories are magical and exciting!

So, this blog post is a tribute to my father.

Thanks Pa for being my dad!

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

Original picture taken by unknown but given to me by my father.

Original picture: Florida December 2010 taken by Pat Hensley

Friday, June 17, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/17/11

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!

Zondle - “you can play your topic in lots of different games, making it much more fun and the learning much more effective. There are hundreds of topics on zondle and so thousands of possible combinations of topic and games. On zondle you can play exactly what you want to learn in games you like to play.”

Real World Math: using google earth in the math curriculum “Concept lessons will use Google Earth to present math topics, such as rates or scientific notation in unique ways. Project-Based Learning activities will include lessons that will require the collaborative efforts of students in pairs or groups.  These lessons may be of a longer duration and require additional outsource materials. Measurement lessons will make extensive use of the ruler tool in Google Earth to accomplish problem solving activities. Exploratory lessons will follow non-traditional math topics such as fractals, topology, or modern geometry. Space lessons will utilize Google’s Moon, Mars, and Sky for activities in Math and other subject areas.”

SpiderScribe “is an online mind mapping and brainstorming tool.”

Encalc – “is an online scientific calculator. Key features include the ability to handle units and dimensional analysis, to perform symbolic algebra and calculus, to define variables, and to lookup values from its large database of physical constants. Integration, differentiation, parentheses and scientific formulas are also supported.’

Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 free download; “provides a set of mathematical tools that help students get school work done quickly and easily. With Microsoft Mathematics, students can learn to solve equations step-by-step while gaining a better understanding of fundamental concepts in pre-algebra, algebra, trigonometry, physics, chemistry, and calculus. Microsoft Mathematics includes a full-featured graphing calculator that’s designed to work just like a handheld calculator. Additional math tools help you evaluate triangles, convert from one system of units to another, and solve systems of equations.

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unveiling the Mystery of QR Codes

Yesterday I gave a presentation on Unveiling the Mystery of QR Codes. Here is a taped version of the presentation. I hope you find this useful. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Below the presentation are some links I mentioned that you might find useful.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First Aid/CPR

CPRMy husband and I recently took a first aid/CPR class with the Red Cross. I have taken this course many times ever since I graduated high school (many many years). I was surprised how the details keep changing.

After finishing this course, I understand why people should retake this course every few years or when their certificate runs out. It seems as research is done, they find ways to make this better.

It seems much easier to understand now than when I took this more than 30 years ago.
I also think it should be a required course to take in high school. It is such a wonderful course and may save many lives as more and more people are educated and trained to do this.

We learned about CPR and the AED also. Most businesses have an AED and by learning how to use it, it took the scariness out of it.

I truly believe if an emergency came up involving cardiac arrest or first aid, I am much better prepared to handle it now that I have this training than before. Knowledge is a powerful tool.

If you haven’t taken this course or need refreshing, I highly recommend that you contact your local Red Cross office to find out where and when the course is given.

What other courses do you think are important? Please share.

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

Original image: 'SBS fire drill #1771'

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tell Me Why

leopardMy husband told me that he liked books and movies that explained to him “why.” He wanted to know why things worked or why he should do certain things or why things happened. If teachers told students the “why” about things, he believes that he would have been a better student.

The more I thought about this, the more it makes sense. As a teacher, I am always telling others that our lessons must be relevant to the students. By this I mean that I need to explain, show, or demonstrate to the students why the lesson I am teaching is so important for them to learn.

Even now when I’m looking for new teaching strategies or new tools, I want to know why. I want to know why it works, as well as how it works. This tells me whether it is worth learning or not. Knowing the “why” tells me if it will make a difference in my life and/or the student’s life.

I am reading the book Life by the Numbers by Keith Devlin. This is the companion book to the PBS series "Life by the Numbers" and it gives examples of the versatility of math as a tool for understanding just about everything.

Math was used to figure out how does a leopard get its spots. A scientist drafted his own scientific version of Rudyard Kipling’s bedtime story.

US Skaters were able to perform fantastic feats thanks to research done by mathematicians.

Math involves patterns that occur all around us! These patterns are in science and music if we look closely. Math is even used in special effects for movies, arts, and advertising. Even in nature, lots of math can be found! Of course there is lots of math used in gambling and sports.

I think this book would be a great book to inspire students to learn math skills. No matter what their interests might be, I think you would be able to find how math is used. Maybe students could even do a project to show how math is used in whatever topic interests them.

I truly believe if we can show students why they need to learn something, there will be more of a desire to learn. This learning will be more meaningful and interesting for all.

What do you use to inspire and motivate students to learn math? Please share.

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

Original image: 'Deadly Beauty' by: Jessy CE

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Anxieties

anxietyAs our summer season arrives, everyone gets excited as the end of the school year finally comes. But I notice that some of my students are not as excited as the others. Of course, they act like they are and they grumble like the others but I can tell that the light isn’t as bright as the others.

For many of them, they know that the summer brings lots of uncertainties. Suddenly there will be no schedule, no routines, and many times nothing that they can count on. That includes regular meals, adult figures and even friends. During these times of closeness with other family members, emotions seem more magnified with no escape of school in sight.

Sometimes the social interactions with their peers only happen when they are at school. Many have the responsibility in the summer of having to care for their younger brothers and sisters.

Before my students leave, I ask them to call me once a week to let me know that they are okay. I don’t want to read about them in the papers for any reason unless it is something positive. Unless I am on vacation, I will call them if I don’t hear from them some time during the summer. Many look relieved to know that I will care about them even when we aren’t in class.

Some students don’t know when they are supposed to return to school or even if they will return to the same school. I let them know that I will call them the week before school starts so they will know what is happening.

For some of them, I actually sit down with them and help them plan a tentative schedule for them while they are home each day. Just putting some things down on paper seem to help relieve some of the anxiety they are feeling. I also print out a calendar for each month and fill out important things for them to do or remember. During these times, I am able to tell which students need this more than others. I also take the time to touch base with the parents to see if there is anything they would like to add to their child’s daily schedule and share with them their child’s anxiety.

So even though I’m extremely excited about getting time off or going on a vacation, I need to remember that others may not be feeling the same thing. I need to make sure I’m sensitive to those who can’t afford a vacation because their parents might be out of work or money is tight for other reasons. I can help these students look for positives about the summer and maybe even look for something to look forward to.

Do you have students like this? If so, how do you help them? Please share!

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

Original image: 'Day 223 / 365 - Dread' by: Jason Rogers

Friday, June 10, 2011

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

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!

MinyinLand – “Welcome to MinyanLand, home of Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear. In our cool little town you get to play games and make friends, while you learn about earning, saving, spending and giving. Remember, MinyanLand is free for everyone to use! Everyone starts out in MinyanLand with $50,000 in MinyanMoney and a Condo worth $50,000. You can visit the ATM in the Bank of MinyanLand to invest your money. Come back daily to see if your balance has gone up or down -- just like in the real world! You can also earn more MinyanMoney by doing real-life chores your parents assign you called Virtual Allowance.”

Compare and Contrast Map – a template to help students plan for writing an essay comparing and contrasting things.

ESOL Courses – “Practise your English skills using our free interactive listening lessons, reading exercises, quizzes and games.”

Toporopa – Quiz games about Europe

Boom Writer- “Students begin by reading the start of a story written by an accomplished author. They then write what they want to be the next part of the story. Next, students read the work of other competitors and vote on what they think is the best next part of the story. Once a winner is identified and that piece is added to the story, the students write from that point to create what they want to be the next new part. This process continues until the story is complete, and the new book is ready to be published and its contributing authors unveiled!”; free for schools

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gift Giving

giftsIn The disingenuous story that we keep seeing from Stop Trying to Inspire Me, Tom tells us,
“EdWeek linked to this story from the Phoenix, AZ Fox affiliate.  Unfortunately, it's not a very detailed story and the anchors seem to be trying to goad the teacher they interview into admitting that teachers try and solicit their students and their parents for cash at the end of the year.”
Wait! Gifts? Maybe I missed something all these years!! I was supposed to get gifts! Darn, I missed that lesson in my college classes!!
Seriously though, I don’t know if it is because of what I taught or where I taught, I never expected gifts. Many of my students could not afford lunch so I never expected gifts. In fact, before Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, I would help them create gifts that didn’t cost them anything. We made coupon books for their parents promising them things to be done around the home. They used their art skills to create masterpieces for the recipients.
Maybe because I didn’t make them feel like I was doing anything special. I always had the approach that we were a team (including their parents) and we were trying to reach the finish line in a race. It didn’t matter when you finished, just that you finished.
My students were constantly showing me that they appreciated my hard work and patience so I didn’t feel like I needed a special gift at the end of the year. Parents continuously thanked me over the phone when I talked to them and I in turn told them that I appreciated them for the patience and continued support. I never felt like I wasn’t appreciated if I didn’t get a gift. Seeing a smile on a student’s face when they accomplished a task or learned a new skill was the perfect gift for me. I guess I never needed anything more. Hearing the excitement in a parent’s voice when they learned that their child actually has made progress instead of getting in trouble gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishement!
At the end of the school year, I would have a gathering at my house where we would cook hotdogs and serve chips and cookies to my students and their parents. Before the gathering, I taught them how to play croquet and everyone had a good time playing this in my back yard. This was a great time for all of us to appreciate each other!
What makes you feel appreciated in your classroom? Do your students give you gifts? Do you give them gifts?
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'happy christmas everybody!' by: Luise

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Learning and Golf

006This past Monday my husband and I volunteered to work at the Bi Lo Charity Golf Classic. They raised over $4 million dollars this year for different organizations. Golfers who hit a hole in one could win a brand new Lexus and those who were closest to the pin at certain holes would win a prize too.

I don’t play golf and have never been to a tournament before so this was a great experience (I love having new experiences!). I also learned a lot from this new experience so it made the whole day worthwhile.

First, I had never been to this golf community and golf course (Cliffs of Glassy, Landrum, SC) which I have heard about over the years. It is a pretty exclusive community and I’ve heard stories of how beautiful it was. When we arrived at the gates, we learned that the golf course was actually 4 miles up the mountain. On the way up the mountain we saw a bobcat cross the road. I’m a sucker for wildlife!

We were assigned to be hole watchers at Hole 13 (which I found out later was the signature hole of the whole golf course). On one side, there was beautiful landscaping all around with boulders, trees, and flowers all around. We were able to set up our lawn chairs in the shade as we “worked.” On the other was the edge of the mountain with an awesome view for miles away. Many golfers stopped to take pictures when they arrived at this hole and I offered to take many group shots for them.

I learned a lot about golf and thought about how it could apply to learning. Here is what I learned:

1. A mulligan is an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard. It is a “do over.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our students were allowed a mulligan? And what about teachers who flub an observation? Or even a lesson that didn’t go over well with students? There are lots of opportunities in our classrooms that would benefit from a mulligan.

2. How to drive a golf cart. Even though no one asked us if we could drive a golf cart (It looked pretty simple and since people assumed we could, we didn’t dare say we couldn’t!) we jumped in the golf cart assigned to us. Then we were told to go to hole 13 but we didn’t have a map so someone pointed us in the direction we should go. When we pulled over to let someone else lead so we could follow, our cart just stopped working. We had to get the golf pro when we thought the cart was broken only to find out that we had knocked it into neutral. How embarrassing! By this time, we had lost our leader and was left to hunt for hole 13. Eventually we found a groundskeeper, who seeing the panic in our eyes, offered to show us where the hole was if we wanted to follow his golf cart. Sometimes we assume our students know how to use a tool because it is so easy for us. Then we assume they know how to reach the goals we set without giving them the appropriate instructions or maps.

3. Captain’s Choice is a tournament format in which all players in a group (foursome or otherwise) hit a shot from the tee, and each subsequent location, always playing from the position of the best or preferred ball until the ball is holed. At first I wondered why they were picking up balls and moved them. When I once played, my score was about 48 strokes and that was just on the first hole!! This makes much better sense and keeps the game going. Wouldn’t it be great to work this way in the classroom especially if we saw our student’s getting frustrated with trying over and over again and just needed a little support?

4. How golfers “read” the course. I watched many squat down and really observe the ups and downs of the green. Wouldn’t it be great if we could teach kids how to read social situations and the ups and downs of interactions!

5. Etiquette on the golf course. There are dos and don’ts on the golf course that is expected from all but we had never really been on a golf course (except once 30 years ago). We had to put our cell phones on silent and we whispered when people were on the green. Golf carts stopped nearby when people were near the hole. Sometimes we expect our students to know simple rules of etiquette but because they come from different types of environments and cultures, we need to review these rules so everyone can be on the same page.

6. Appreciation of nature was held by all. Every group that arrived at our hole remarked about the beauty of the land and the view. Everyone remarked about how lucky we were to be stationed at this hole. Since I didn’t really know what the other holes looked like, I was happy that others told us that we were in the best spot. I wonder how our students would feel if we told them this about the classes they were in and how it would affect them.

Maybe playing golf is really a lot like learning in the classroom in more ways than one. If you play golf, can you add other instances that would also apply?

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

Original photo ‘Hole 13’ by Patricia Hensley

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Should I Dress?

workIn Professional Dress For Teachers – Sending an Important Message from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam asks

“What do you think? Is how we dress for work significant? Does it matter? Do kids really care? Should there be a teacher dress code? How would you define professional dress?”

This week I worked at a charity golf tournament and was given some dress code information. No blue jeans allowed but white, khaki, or blue slacks/capris/shorts are allowed. Ladies were warned not to wear their shorts too short. Even on a golf course there are requirements!

I think what you wear to work is very important. There are appropriate dress for different kinds of occupations. Doctors and Nurses wear their kind of clothes. Construction workers wear the clothes that work best for their kind of work.

Teachers have a certain dress that they should wear

I started off teaching in a self contained class for students with emotional disabilities. I was told to wear tshirts and blue jeans which I did for 3 years. Then I switched to high school where no blue jeans or tshirts were allowed. What a difference it made. It made a difference in how I felt about myself and also how the students saw me.

I felt more confident and self assured. I felt better about myself and what I was hoping to do by teaching. I wanted to make a difference and I felt I was now in a position to do so. I think by changing how I dressed was a step in the right direction. By dressing professionally I was also showing that I respect myself and I expect others to respect me also.

Now students saw me as a role model. By dressing this way, I was making an impression on what students thought and how they saw the world. They could see that there are different ways to dress for different types of situations.

When I helped my students get a job at a local fast food restaurant, there was a requirement that boy’s pants had to be pulled up and they had to wear a belt around their pants. At first my boys were resistant to this dress code but they complied. As soon as they got their first pay check and saw what their actions resulted in, I never had a problem with sagging pants any more.

Even dressing for the prom requires something different than every day dress. Students have an opportunity to dress in formal clothes. This is actually a wonderful learning experience for teenagers. Not only do they learn how to dress for a different situation but they also learn social skills for this.

I really feel it is a shame that employers need to tell teachers that they need to dress professionally. I think it falls in the same category as having to tell an employee to arrive to work on time, be prepared to work, and do their job correctly. None of this should have to be said. I think when teachers need to be told these things; it really demeans the teaching profession. By needing to be told this, others get the message that we don’t care about what we do.

For me, dressing professionally means dressing in nice business clothes. I would not wear these clothes to do yard work or play. It involves wearing nice pants/tops or dresses that I don’t normally wear to hang around the house. It is clothes that make people look at me and say I value and respect my profession.

How do you feel about dressing professionally? Please share.

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

Original image: 'Working from home FUTAB'

Monday, June 6, 2011

Giving Up Control

controlIn Crazy Talk on Control in Schools from The Tempered Radical, Bill Ferriter states,

There are still a TON of teachers who are threatened by the idea of turning over control to their students.”

I realized that when I read this, my best lessons in the classrooms were the ones that I didn’t have total control.

Of course I had control of the basic classroom rules like come prepared, respect others etc. but when the actual learning was taking place, I didn’t have control. I knew where I wanted them to end up but I didn’t necessarily have control on the process of getting there. It was kind of like taking a journey to a specific destination but some took different modes of transportation and different routes to get there.

I started the lesson by explaining the purpose of the lesson and the goals and objectives to accomplish. Then as a class, we discussed ways that I would be able to assess that they achieved what I expected of them. Sometimes it was hard for them to come up ways so I would offer suggestions that would be used if no one came up with others. This usually sparked some ideas and once the ball gets rolling, the ideas pour out.

Once the students know where they are going, they start deciding how they want to proceed forward. This is a great way to learn problem solving and can be used for anything they do in life. By doing this, they are using skills they already know and also practicing skills they have recently learned. The more they do this, the easier this will become.

It is important for them to learn that sometimes the route they choose may need to be altered or even rerouted. It is important in problem solving to learn how to be flexible. This experience will help them from melting down when faced with roadblocks or obstacles that may delay them in reaching the final goal. Instead of stopping in frustration, I would be able to help them or even their own peers may be able to offer viable suggestions to continue. This is another lesson that will be used throughout their life: asking for help. Many times students have learned that asking for help is a sign of failure, but I try to show them that it is a sign of collaboration, determination, and persistence that should be encouraged.

Sometimes this type of learning could even lead to other avenues of learning. I would actually have a “parking lot” to list other topics that students were interested in learning about at a later time. Just knowing that there were other topics they were interested in learning about in the future was encouraging for many students who usually had no interest in learning in the past.

Since the students’ learning may take off in different directions with many possibilities, it is impossible for me to control all that takes place. When I first tried this, it was scary. But once I saw how much more my students were engaged, it really made sense to me. In this way, students had invested in their own learning and were more motivated to reach the final goal, which I had intended for them to reach.

I saw that I still had control over the topic, goals and objectives as well as final say over the process but the students felt like they had some controls too. By allowing them to control some things, I was showing that I trusted them too. This trust is something most students are not willing to abuse once they are given it.

Do you give up control in your classroom? If so, please share. If you don’t, please share why you don’t.

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

Original image: 'Control!' by: Faramarz Hashemi

Friday, June 3, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 6/3/11

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!

Made in the Cloud 2011 Video Contest – “Enter the Made in the Cloud Video Contest! We want to see what you can do to help others learn something through a short video made using online tools. You've got until mid-August, when an audience at the 21st Century Learning Symposium conference in Port Huron, Michigan, will choose a winner.”

Invitation to World Literature – “This multimedia series, Invitation to World Literature, offers you a passport to this rich heritage via thirteen works from a range of eras, places, cultures, languages, and traditions. These are books that we hope spark your interest, or satisfy long-standing curiosity about things you wished you had read, or introduce works that are new to you, opening up a world of connections and experiences.”

National Jukebox - The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives.

Letter Generator –helps students learn and write their own letters.

ISS Astro Viewer – shows the current position of the International Space Station

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Learning

summerAs the summer arrives in full blast (the past 2 days have been in the high 90s and this will continue for at least another week), I have seen other people post on their blogs about Summer Learning. I thought it would be a good idea to jot ideas down for my own learning that will be going on.

Community Gardening – I am going to try to go help out at the community garden at least once a week if we are not traveling. I learn something new every time I go there.

Reading – I plan to try to read at least a few nonfiction books because I get in the rut of reading fiction books way too much. I have joined a Plurk book group and we are going to read How Full is Your Bucket by Tom Rath

Upstate Technology Conference – I will be doing a couple of presentations on QR codes at the local tech conference. I look forward to all that I will learn at this conference also!

Travel – We are hoping to drive to Glacier National Park and I have never been there before. We hope to visit all the national parks before we die so this would be one more off our list. I also hope to go through Wisconsin because I have never been to that state before and it would leave Hawaii as the only state I have left to see in order to have marked all 50 states off my list.

Second Life – I hope to make better use of Second Life with learning. I have neglected my learning from this source but I really enjoy it when I take the time to go there.

Knitting – I hope to continue my growth in knitting and learning new skills. I feel it keeps my mind sharp and I really find it relaxing and enjoyable.

Mandarin – I need to continue to practice my Mandarin that I have been learning over the past 3 years. When I take too much time between classes, I tend to lose a lot of my learning and I will try to spend at least 30 minutes every day to review my lessons.

Of course my daily learning will take place from reading the blogs that I have subscribed to as well as free online sessions that I join.

What learning do you plan to do this summer?

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

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