Friday, December 30, 2011

Top Ten of 2011

ListAs I look back on this year, I decided to name the top ten things in my life for this year. These are not in any order of importance but just in the order as they came to my mind. I see these top ten things as the many blessings that have occurred in my life this year.

1. Traveled out west for 62 days. Glad to be able to travel with my hubby to wonderful places.
2. Celebrated another birthday. I’m so glad to be alive!
3. Connected with new and old friends online and in person. It’s important to nurture new and old friendships.
4. Attended the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg. I loved learning new things! Having a new set of binoculars that look close up really helps.
5. Bought a spinning wheel and became better at spinning my own yarn. I never would have thought that would be spinning on a spinning wheel.
6. Visited 20 national parks and monuments. I’m so glad I live in such a wonderful country!
7. Took over managing our rental properties. We sure are saving lots of money by handling this on our own.
8. Tried new recipes and improved my cooking skills. I’m learning that cooking can be fun.
9. Improved my knitting including 2 cardigans, mittens (cables on one and fair isle on the other.) I am trying to stretch my wings and learn new skills.
10. On my 4th year of writing this blog. I’m amazed to see that I continue to write and after four years I still have so much to say!

What top things have occurred in your life this year? Please share!

Image: 'list-taker'

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Goals Review

GoalsHere were my goals and results for 2011:

1. Be more positive about tough situations. Many times I try to come across this way to others but I want to feel this way in my heart too. I need to not let others drag me down when I am in a tough situation (usually of my own making) and look at the positive side of things. (Result: I did a pretty good job of this and think others saw the result also.)

2. Make someone smile every day. If we all did that, maybe the world would be a happier place. (Result: I believe I achieved this also. I started each morning by greeting everyone cheerfully!)

3. Lose 30 lbs. I have gained 1)0 lbs. since last year and all of my clothes are too tight. This increasing in weight has got to stop or I will be so big, when I die, they won’t have a coffin big enough to bury me in! (Result: Failure. In fact, I might even weigh more now than I did in January.)

4. Learn to bake bread. I like to try a new skill every year and this is what I plan to give a try. My sister bakes wonderful things and some of my friends do also so maybe I can do it too. (Result: Failure. I didn’t have a lot of time to do this.)

5. Knit a sweater for myself. I have seen so many patterns but then I get intimidated by it all. Last year I stuck to mostly socks so this year I will try a sweater. I have 12 months to get it done so surely I can do it. (Result: I actually finished 2 cardigans for myself this year!)

Overall, I think I did okay with my goals. I accomplished 60% of my goals and will try to do better next year.

How did you do this year?

Image: 'Goals'

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Everglades National Park

118Last week we went to Everglades National Park and had a great time (of course we usually have a great time wherever we go!)

We saw a lot of wildlife there:

1. Wood Stork (on the endangered species list since 1984)

2. vultures

3. Purple Gallinules

4. Ibis

5. Blue heron

6. Anhinga

7. Alligators

8. Crocodiles

9. Green Anole

10. Turtles

11. Manatees

12. Florida gar

13. Blue gill

14. Bass

15. Red shouldered hawk

16. osprey

In the afternoon we took a tour of the Nike Missile Site which was really interesting. It was amazing to see the technology used in the 60s and 70s. It was hard to imagine that many times the fate of the world were in the hands of such young men. The man in charge of the whole site was only 24. The ranger, Kirk Singer, was an awesome tour guide! He was actually out in Yellowstone when we were there this summer. He even knew another ranger that I’m friends with.

Things I Learned:

1. Bring my own lunch and snacks for a day in the park.

2. Bring lots of water because it was hot outside.

3. This park can be done in 2 or 3 days.

4. Use the bathroom at the visitor center before going on the Missile tour because there were no facilities during the tour.

5. The end of the world as we knew it was a lot closer than we think.

6. Alligators live in fresh water and crocodiles live in salt water.

Have you ever been to the Everglades? What was your favorite part? Please share.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Restaurant Service in a Nutshell

restaurantWhat is considered good service in a restaurant? I tell my students that they need to offer good service if they work in a restaurant but I’m not sure I defined what that means. Maybe good service to me might not mean the same for everyone else. I can tell you though that the better the service, the better the tip that I leave is much higher.
My husband and I go out to eat a lot. Probably more than the average person so I think I have seen all types of service. Sometimes there are many things that affect how much I enjoy my visit to a certain restaurant and I think all of these things affect my tip (even though it probably should not).
If you are a host/hostess:
1. I should be acknowledged when I walk in. If they can’t seat me right away, at least let me know that you see me and will seat me shortly.
2. Ask my preference as to a table or a booth.
3. Don’t seat me at a place if there is trash under or around that table.
4. If there are plenty of tables, don’t seat me right next to another occupied table. This may be convenient for the server but not enjoyable for the guest.
If you are a server:
1. Acknowledge that you see me even if you can’t get to me right away.
2. Introduce yourself and act welcoming like you are glad I am there. I don’t like when you make me feel unwelcome or that you are doing me a favor by waiting on me. Without me, you don’t have a job so essentially I’m doing you a favor by being there.
3. Don’t take too long to get my drink order so I can look at the menu while you get my drink. Usually I come in and I’m thirsty.
4. Always make sure that my drink is not empty. Don’t ask me if I need a refill. Just bring me one! If my glass is empty, I need a refill.
5. When you bring my food, check and make sure that everything looks right. Ask me if I need anything else. Don’t just ask these questions and then turn before I can answer. Wait for me to answer.
6. Keep your eye on me every once in awhile to see if I need anything. Don’t ask me every 2 minutes if I need anything because then you are interrupting our conversation which is annoying.
7. Ask me if I’m done before you take away my plates. I do not want you to touch my plates if I am still eating or using the plate.
8. Some people eat faster than others. Don’t bring the check until all of the people are done eating unless someone asks for it. Bringing the check before people are done makes them feel rushed. Rushed people do not leave good tips.
9. Let me know if you take the payment or if I have to go somewhere to pay. I hate having to guess what to do. If I have a question about my bill, offer to check it even if you think I’m wrong. Then go check it because I may be right.
10. Thank me for being there. Invite me to return again (remember, I’m job security! The more customers, the more the business needs to keep you.)
These are my suggestions for good service. Do you have any others to suggest? Please share.
Image: 'untitled'

Monday, December 26, 2011

Shaping the Future of Education

I was notified by Allie Wester about “a live webcast with education reform leader, Geoffrey Canada. His keynote address, “Leading the Way: How Innovative Leaders Can Change the Future of Education,” a Capella University Inspire Ideas event, will be LIVE on Wednesday, December 28 at 3pm PT/6pm ET at:” She even offered to donate to my blog for posting this but when I checked it out; it didn’t matter if she donated or not because it seemed like a cool event to check out so I decided to blog about it anyway.

Below is the information that I got from the website. It is free either to go see this in person in Orlando, FL or via Livestream.

How innovative leaders can change the future of education
Join Capella for an inspiring discussion on shaping the future of education. The event features a keynote presentation by Mr. Canada, followed by continued discussion of these critical issues with expert leaders in the field.
The event is is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. Guests are welcome. 
See the event live in Orlando or catch it anywhere via the livestream

With the U.S. getting only average marks for its public education, many would argue that we're simply not doing enough to support our children—and our future1.
But every one of us has the power to make a difference. Just ask Geoffrey Canada, an education reform leader whose ground-breaking work has set a precedent for movements nationwide.
Learn more and join in this inspiring discussion as Mr. Canada shares his experiences, followed by continued discussion with key education thought leaders.
1 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report.

For more than 25 years, he's been a passionate and innovative advocate for education reform, most notably through his contributions to the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Through his visionary leadership, HCZ has helped thousands of disadvantaged children and families gain access to high-quality education and support resources that empower them to succeed.
His bold ideas and transformational work have garnered national attention. He's been:
  • Named one of 2011's TIME 100, The World's Most Influential People, by Time Magazine.
  • Featured in the documentary, Waiting for Superman.
  • Named one of "America's Best Leaders" by US News & World report.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/23/11

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!

Museum of Obsolete Objects – great fun to look at things I have used in the past; students may enjoy this tremendously
123s ABCs Handwriting Fun – Droid App, Finger Tracing™ Flashcards Zaner-Bloser© Print Style; Trace the letter, hear the letter. Shake to erase & try again!
Where in the World? A Google Earth Puzzle – “We're challenging you to figure out where in the world each of the images below is taken. North is not always up in these pictures, and, apart from a bit of contrast, they are unaltered images provided by Google and its mapping partners. So I invite you to have a look at the images below, make your guesses, and see your score at the end. Good luck!”
Search E-Books – great search engine just for finding ebooks
Famigo Sandbox“create a kid safe environment on your Android device in seconds”
Original Image: Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!


This Sunday is Christmas so I wanted to take this time to wish you a Merry Christmas. As I think about my many blessings, I think of how I’m blessed to be able to write this blog and share my thoughts. I’m blessed that you are interested enough to read them! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and leave comments! I hope this time is filled with good health and happiness for you!

Image: 'Merry Christmas, Love & Peace for All+Flickr's+Friends'

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

10 Tips for Surviving Economy Woes

depressionAs we explore the tourist areas of Kissimmee, FL, we are amazed at how dismal things look here. We were just here two years ago and what a difference it seems like. Many restaurants are shut down. Even hotels are boarded up. It looks like it is dying. This is usually the busy time when we come here and there are tons of traffic and long lines everywhere. When we go into restaurants, there are usually only two to three tables occupied. The servers tell us that business is terrible and they are barely making any money. We walked around Old Town and it was more like a ghost town. Years ago, I remember it as a booming hot spot. When we have gone hunting for antique stores, many of them have closed down because most people do not have the luxury of spending money on their “wants” and have to concentrate on their “needs.”

This is a good time to talk to students about the economy. Many of them have family members who have lost their jobs and looking for work. It would be a good time to study the era of the The Great Depression. Discuss how people survived during those times. Discuss what we have learned from history.

Here are some things that I learned that I would share with my students. They are not in any order of importance because I feel all of them are important.

1. Don’t waste things. Recycle and reuse as much as possible.
2. Grow your own vegetables. Learn how to preserve them for later use.
3. Learn a skill that can be traded for things that you may need.
4. Be frugal in your spending.
5. Lower your thermostats in the winter and raise them in the summer. Conserve on energy and lower your power bills.
6. Clip coupons.
7. Look for sales. Ask yourself if you really need to buy something.
8. Make a list of errands you need to run. Prioritize and do them all at one time rather than running back and forth. This will save on gas.
9. Use the internet or call to check on prices. Compare prices at different stores for big items before you buy.
10. Save your money and buy when you have money. Avoid buying on credit or rent to own.

What would you tell your students? How do you save money? Please share!

Image: 'Classic photo of a distress sale --+Great+Depression+$100+will+buy+this+car'

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 12/14/11

carnival1Another 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. I was listed as one of her favorite bloggers. She is one of mine too. You might want to check out her other favorite bloggers too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!
Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kissimmee, FL 12/12-12/19

Ahhh, Florida… sun and warmth!

We stayed at the Wyndham Cypress Palms which was a nice place. Since Don had broken his rib right before we left for FL, we decided not to go to any theme parks since he couldn’t ride any of the roller coasters. We did a lot of exploring and shopping.

We found some antique stores which made my hubby happy. The funny thing is that I am the one who has been finding treasures. I have been looking for baskets to put my balls of yarn in to display around the house. I think it will look much better than those gray Rubbermaid tubs I have them in.

004I found a yarn shop on KnitMap so we just had to go check it out. The owner, Cathy, of Needlecraft World was so welcoming and nice. There were some friendly ladies knitting at the back table and I ended up having a nice conversation with them. Finally my hubby went to the car to read a book. I was never made to feel as if I was interrupting them or that I was an outsider and bothering them (which has 006happened to me in other stores). Cathy was helping a lady do a drop stitch shawl and since I have never seen this, I ended up staying and getting an “impromptu” lesson. It was fantastic! Of course I ended up buying a magazine and a large bottle of Eucalan with lavender. I will definitely return to this store when we come back for a visit! Maybe next time I will bring my knitting and join this wonderful group! There was also a nice selection of sock yarn that interested me but I didn’t buy any this time.

On Thursday we drove to Tampa to have lunch with Carolyn and her husband. Carolyn used to work for my husband years ago. When her husband passed away, she moved to FL and we haven’t seen her in years.

On Friday, we drove to Winter Park and Mt. Dora. We looked for antique stores. On the way, we saw a bald eagle catch his meal and land right where our car was passing. It was really cool!

Sometimes it is good to get away and see how the rest of the world is doing!

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Friday, December 16, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/16/11

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!

History World Timelines – Search the web through timelines

BCHydro – interactive journey about clean energy, interactive game about energy

Math Workout – Droid app, “Keep your mind healthy, test your mental math and exercise your brain once a day.”

Brain Boosters – great selection of brain games!

Big Cats – “This collection of selected videos, activities, and case studies give students a clear view of the biology and threats to big cats and their significance in maintaining healthy ecosystems”

Original Image: Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Wind of Life - A Book Review

WindofLifeI recently read the book The Wind of Life by Oliver Neubert.

Mr. Neubert contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review this book and I agreed. I explained that I would be very honest about it, good or bad and he was accepted that. This is the review that I gave the book  and I am not being paid to give this review.

This book is the first book in the Wind of Life series. When I first started reading the book, I wasn’t sure if I would like it. Sometimes when I read fantasy books, I need to be in the mood. Boy was I surprised! I couldn’t put it down. Right from the beginning, it caught my interest and I with each paragraph, I wanted to know more. I like the way the characters were developed and the more I read, the more I learned about each character.

This book was about a fourteen year old boy, Timo, who lived with those on the mountain who could fly. Those that could not fly lived in a different place and never the two should meet! These two races hated each other. Maybe it was the thought of people who could fly that intrigued me. I mean, who never wished they could fly? Timo has to use his gift to bring the two races together.

I think this would be a great book to use in the upper elementary or middle school classroom and have in a school library. It would be great to use for a variety of topics. Themes from the book could include diversity, tolerance, perseverance, mystery, solving problems, friendship, loyalty, stubbornness, adventure. This would lead to great classroom discussions.

This was only book one. Now I have to find Book Two.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Teaching Students to Speak Out

speakIn Leaders today and tomorrow from Generation YES Blog, Sylvia Martinez states,

“Great leadership is inclusive leadership, yet the largest stakeholder group in schools is often forgotten — students.”

This is so important and I think so many adults forget this. What about the students? Why are they often times forgotten or ignored?

Many times I meet with students and ask them questions like:
1. What do you think?
2. What works for you?
3. How can we solve this problem?

Most of the time, I am given a blank stare and no answers. They are either stunned that I would even ask them for input or they are afraid to give their input.

I have had students tell me that no one has ever asked them this or that they believe that no one really cares. Even if they give the answers, they feel that no one really listens to them.

How many times has adults said the same thing about their administration? Or even about the government? Have these students just grown into adults and remain the same silent stakeholders?

I need to teach my students to speak out. I need to teach them to ask questions and question things that they don’t understand or believe. I need them to find their voices.

Many times my students don’t even know the questions they should ask. By modeling, I can show them how to come up with the questions and how to ask them in appropriate ways.

I need to show my students how to be proactive without appearing aggressive. They need to understand and believe that they should have a say in their future and things that will affect them.

I started by explaining the IEP process to my students and then explaining their individual IEP. By encouraging them to run their own IEP meetings, I am allowing them to have some control. I am giving them opportunities to talk and explain why they feel things are important to them. They are able to share things they thing will work for them. Sometimes we have to trust them by letting them have control over some of the things that affect them.

They need to find out what they believe in and why. When they see injustices or have someone question their values, they need to be able to speak out. They need to defend their beliefs and their rights when necessary. This will be helpful if they are ever faced with bullying. By speaking out, they will become stronger individuals, not in physical strength but in mind.

I need to teach my students self advocacy. They need this not only in the classroom, and in the workplace but in every aspect of their lives.

How do you teach your students to speak out? Please share.

Image: 'Speak out!'

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Most Precious Gift

giftIn The Most Precious Gift from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

”What is the sweetest gift you ever got--from a child or an adult?”

I have received many sweet gifts over the years. Many of my students have shown their appreciation in ways that were so heartwarming to me so I don’t think I can pick out the sweetest. .
Of course, I have gotten lots of gifts at Christmas and at the end of the year but I think many of these were bought by parents who were showing their appreciation too. I can share a story about the first memorable gift I ever got from a student.

It was my first year teaching high school and I met my student I will call G. G could not read when I met him that year and he was so frustrated. I talked to him mom and assured her that I would do everything in my power to help him learn to read. By working together, the two of us would have him reading when he graduated. She informed me that his former teacher would not let her help and I informed her that was hogwash! I would need her help tremendously if we were going to help G succeed.

At the end of every year, I compiled materials for G and him mom to work on in the summer so he didn’t lose ground. Back then, official extended school year didn’t exist. All during the summer the two of them would work on the materials and bring them to my house for corrections. This went on for 3 years until his senior year and both mom and I were thrilled with the progress G had made.

At graduation, I was so proud of him for his perseverance and accomplishments. After graduation, I went to take pictures of my students in their gowns and G was waiting for me. In his hands was a long box that he presented to me. He had given me a dozen long stem red roses! And with tears in his eyes, he looked at me and simply said, “Thank you for everything!” Then his mom told me that this was G’s own idea and he had bought them with his own money!

Over the years we have kept in touch. He went on to attend the local Literacy Association so he can get better at his reading. He even got a full time job with benefits! When he bought his first new truck, he brought it by my house to show me! When he got married, his mom invited me to meet his new wife who would continue to help him if needed. I was so proud of G!

G and his family was my first lesson in how much a student’s success was really a team effort! It is a lesson that I never forgot.

So what was the sweetest gift you ever got? Please share!

Image: 'Surprise'

Monday, December 12, 2011

Behavior Accountability

timeoutIn When Apologies are Empty from ksquirkyteacher, ksquirkyteacher states,

“If there is one thing I would like to instill in my students this year it is this: an apology means nothing unless it is backed up by an attempt to fix the situation.”

This post had me thinking about how I make my students accountable for their actions. I realized that sometimes my students go through the motions of apologizing because that is how they were taught but they aren’t always sincere about it. Sometimes they don’t even really understand or believe that they did anything wrong.

During early years of training, I remember observing some students were sent to time-out (sitting facing a wall for about 5 minutes). Then they were asked to tell what they did wrong and to describe how they will act differently next time. If they wouldn’t answer, they returned to the time-out chair. After the second time, they either answered or they truly didn’t know what they did wrong or how to correct their actions. I thought this was an excellent way to debrief a student!

I have used this method over and over through the years and it was has really been effective. Before any situation arises, I inform parents of my discipline procedure and explain that they will be involved if the student refuses to go to time-out. At first students wanted to argue and refuse to go to time-out which usually results in an immediate call to the parents. Once the students know the routine and that I will be consistent, they usually have no problems with the procedure.

This time-out gives students and me time to calm down and get perspective. When I talk to students about their actions, we usually can calmly discuss it. This is not a time to discuss if the student was right or wrong. The two questions I ask are a) what did you do to result in your removal from the group? b) How can this be avoided next time?

I also use this same technique if students are so uncontrollable that they need to be sent to the office. I work it out with the administration that before they can be returned to the classroom, they need to fill out a form answering the same two questions. When they return to my class, they need to bring that form with them.

Many times my special ed students have a lot of trouble understanding their behavior. I can’t just assume that they know what they did wrong and how to change it. That is why I discuss this with them and help guide them to pinpointing exactly what they did wrong. I also help guide them to learning the appropriate way to act.

For example, one of my students offends another student and this results in name calling, yelling, and aggressive behavior. I remove that student to time-out. When we discuss the behavior, he doesn’t understand how his being “honest” was a reason for him being disciplined. That gives me a chance to talk about other people’s feeling and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Usually after some reasoning and discussion, the student understands that his behavior was not appropriate and how to correct this behavior.

What discipline technique works for you? Please share!

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

Image: 'time out'

Friday, December 9, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/9/11

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!

Math Chimp – “We collect free online math games and organize them by the common core standards. We're glad you've come to play cool math games here... they're free and always will be!”

Life on Minimum Wage – interactive simulation from Free Technology for Teachers (Mr. Byrne)

Web Rangers – online activities about the US National Parks for children

Math Open Reference – good geometry resource

The Great Energy Challenge – from National Geographic; great information about energy!

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

Original Image: Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Looking Down Memory Lane

In The Power of Your Voice from Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech, Dean Shareski shared a tweet:


I’ve been actively interacting with others online for about 5 years and have made meaningful friendships with many educators! I started with reading educator blogs, then joined twitter, plurk, and eventually facebook. This was a lot of fun to look back and relive some memories!

At our district technology conference that is held every summer, I was able to meet many of my online friends who live in my state. That was so exciting for me! It was also thrilling to meet the 2 keynote speakers (David Jakes -@davidjakes and Ewan McIntosh- @ewanmcintosh) who I had “met” on Twitter! I felt like I was meeting famous celebrities! Now every year, I look forward to meeting all my friends in person!

163YolandaPatIn 2007, our cruise ship stopped in Puerto Rico and we met Yolanda Carrisquillo and her husband. Yolanda was a digital scrapbooking friend I met online.

Then in 2008 at the Council for Exceptional Children convention in Boston, I met Christina Southard in person. I was thrilled to meet someone that I knew online at a conference we were both attending in another state!

136On a trip out west in 2009, we stopped in Hutchinson, KS where I met my Kansas friends. It was thrilling to put 032409PlurkBuddies2out on Twitter and Plurk that where we would be eating dinner and have people show up to meet us! Ever since then, my husband became a true believer in social networking!

041109MegandMeWhen we reached Oregon in 2009, we met another online scrapbooking friend Meg Beverly and her children. It was fun to explore the beach with them and find “treasures!”
We also met Diane Cordell (@dmcordell) and her husband when we traveled through upstate NY in 2009. When she came for a library conference in Charlotte, NC, we offered to pick her up at the airport so we could spend some time with her.

AlanPatThis year, Alan Levine (@cogdog) came down to SC on his adventure across the country so we were able to spend some time with him. When I mentioned to him that if he had time, we would love to meet him, I never imagined that he would really want to. For some reason I was awestruck that he was willing to come meet us!
So, I guess the bottom line is: Don’t say to me “come visit us” or “I would love to meet you” if you really don’t mean it! :)

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

Original Images from Pat Hensley

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Teachers You Don’t Want To Meet

boringAfter reading Ten Knitters You Meet In Hell by Franklin Habit, I thought about the teachers that I have crossed across in the classroom that have caused my skin to crawl. I used the same titles he did because they were awesome titles but I give you a description of that teacher in the classroom.

The Divine Presence: She knows everything but wants to keep it a secret so she is the only one who has this information. She doesn’t want to share her knowledge but expects you to know that she is great guru. She expects you to worship the ground she walks on because she is the most experienced and most knowledgeable above everyone else. She doesn’t work well with others and doesn’t believe in collaboration! And she knows more than the administration but just doesn’t understand why they don’t acknowledge this to the whole faculty!

Vaguerella: She is always late to her classroom and never can find the worksheets that she planned on handing out. Her lesson plans (if she has any) are buried underneath the papers on her desk. She has an objective for the lesson but can’t seem to remember what it was. And the papers that she graded last night but promised to return them last week are at home on the table. Oh well, you can get them at another time. Oh, but you will be tested on this stuff probably tomorrow. So, if she can’t find what she needs, it is a good day for her to tell stories about her personal life, even if it doesn’t pertain to the lesson. Oh, and if a colleague needs some forms, information, or materials, that person will get it…some time…someday…but probably not today.

The Four-Minute Egg: The teacher gives the lesson in the first four minutes of class. The rest of the time, you are expected to practice. Even if you mastered the skill, you still have to work out the 100 problems that you are given. When the teacher sees you understand it and have gotten the first 10 problems correct, you are told to go on and do the rest of them. If you are finished, copy by hand all of the notes on the board because practicing penmanship is good for you.

Burnt Toast: The same lesson has been taught for the past 10 years. The pictures show outdated styles and you can’t get past the pictures to pay attention to the lesson. No new technology is used to teach this lesson because teaching it the same way means the teacher doesn’t have to plan anything new (or learn anything new). The teacher even seems bored with this lesson and recites the lesson in a monotone voice! Look around the classroom and you will probably see a few kids taking a nap!

The Prison Matron: The lesson is choreographed right down to every minute. No breaks or pencil sharpening. Don’t ask questions because that throws the timetable off. If you don’t understand, you will have to come on your own time and not throw off the class schedule. Don’t ask for any special treatment and if you are sick, you better make sure you have all the notes, and homework done even if you are in the hospital having surgery! Who cares if you are under anesthesia! Everyone will be assessed the same way. No alternate assessment or meeting anyone’s needs. This isn’t Burger King! You don’t get it your way!

Have you ever met these teachers? Do you know of any others that I missed? Please share!

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

Image: 'Boring'

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scored - A Book Review

scored-coverI recently read the book SCORED by Lauren McLaughlin which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

This seemed like a modern day 1984 book and I loved it. This book would be great for middle school and high school students to read. I think it would be a great class novel because it lends itself to many great discussions. Topics could include: dystopia, Big Brother, scoring, relationships, academics, scholarships, peer pressure, and loyalty. I’m sure that students would be able to come up with more. I also think this book would interest boys as well as girls and causes both to think deeper into what ifs. I would highly recommend this for a classroom or a school library.

I would give this book 5 out of 5.

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

Visiting Tennessee 11/28 -12/4

We arrived in Tennessee in the pouring rain but we didn’t let that stop us. We spent the first day shopping at outlet stores and looking for bargains.

The next day we had dinner with two friends that we had met on a cruise last January. This is the second time we had met up with them and we had a great time! I’m so glad we stay connected through Facebook.

045One day we drove to Knoxville and Maryville where I found some yarn stores and antique stores. On the way back, we decided to see if the roads were open in the Smoky Mountain National Park since they were closed that morning from the snow. They were open and the views were spectacular. Icicles on the rocks shone as we drove by. Trees were coated in ice and snow. It was a beautiful winter wonderland. What a perfect way to end the day.

004One day we drove to the Bush Beans Plant in Chestnut Hill, TN. After eating a fabulous lunch at the Family Café, we went to their visitor center. After watching a movie about how it all got started, we walked through the museum with wonderful exhibits. As we were leaving, we even got to meet Duke (the dog who wants to sell the secret recipe). I would highly recommend this place which is great free entertainment.

Then we stopped at the Smoky Mountain Knife Works. I have never seen a bigger knife collection than what was here. There was so much to see that we will have to go back to finish looking around. The store had tons of neat stuff to look at too.

When the weather warmed up and the sun came out, we finally got to do some hiking. We went to Laurel Falls and enjoyed the scenery. You can see so much more in the winter when the foliage is not blocking your way. We had a great time! Then we stopped for soft serve ice cream at Cades Cove before doing the 11 mile loop road. I was surprised that we only saw a few deer but we saw a lot of turkeys. Unfortunately we didn’t see any bears.

Well, that ends our week in Tennessee. We had a great time!

Things I Learned this Week:

1. Don’t let the weather stop you from doing things.

2. Ask local people about things to see and do in their area. Many people enjoy telling you about the great things you don’t find out about at the visitor centers or online.

3. Winter is actually a great time to go hiking. The views are so beautiful and you can see a lot of different things that you can’t see in the summer.

Original image by Pat Hensley

Friday, December 2, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/2/11

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!

The Wild Classroom – videos and podcasts to use in the classroom

The World at 7 Billion – find out where you stand against the other 7 Billion in the world.

Kerbel Space Program – “Kerbal Space Program is a multi-genre game where the player can create his own space program. In KSP, you must build a space-worthy craft, capable of flying it's crew out into space, without killing them.At your disposal is a collection of parts, which must be assembled to create a functional ship. Each part has it's own function and will affect the way a ship flies (or doesn't).So strap yourself in, and get ready to try some Rocket Science!”

Reading Bear – “teaches children to read by introducing phonics principles painlessly and systematically, while teaching new vocabulary.”

Cite This For Me – “is a free generator tool designed to help students prepare their whole bibliography or reference list quickly and easily. It uses the Harvard referencing style, one of the most common referencing styles in academia.”

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

Original Image: Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Keep On Doing What Works

determinationIn Ripped Game Pants and the School Improvement Dance from Cool Cat Teacher Blog , Vicki Davis writes,

“We need to focus on fixing what is wrong about our individual schools and leave what is right. Just help improve what is right.”

She gives great examples of ways that the school changes things that are already working and messes things up. Rather than fixing anything that is broken, it is creating more broken things.

This had me thinking about my own experiences in school.

In my classroom, I had a token economy system that was extremely effective and I used it for over 20 years. It never got old or outdated and worked at every school and every age student that I worked with. I’m glad that no one ever tried to get me to change this. No one told me that “they don’t do this anymore” or maybe they did and I didn’t listen. I did make changes to the system so that they met the needs of the students but the basic program was the same every year. Students earned a “salary” for the work they did in their job as a student. With their “money,” they could buy things that were meaningful to them. Yet like in real life, there were deductions in pay for certain negative behaviors and there were also bonuses for positive behaviors. The students saw the how this related to the future and responded well to it.

I individualized math and reading lessons for my students according to their needs. I still met the standards that were required by the state but the students were able to work at their own pace and accomplish so much more. Many times I would teach a group lesson but the individual activities and assessments were geared to each student. Other teachers wanted to know how I was so successful in my classroom so they would come observe me. After seeing all that I do, they would walk away stating that it was too much work. Then some teachers started to come up to me privately asking me to stop what I was doing because I was “making them look bad!” Boy, was I shocked! No way was I going to stop doing what was working in my classroom. Luckily no administration at any school tried to stop me either.

Next door to me was another teacher who could not control her classroom. She would change her behavior plan practically every two weeks. At the end of the day, she would come to my class and tell me that her plan wasn’t working and the next thing I would know, it was changed. She never let the plan go on long enough to let the students get used to it. Without having consistency, the students never knew what to expect so the result was constant chaos.

Sometimes I feel that this is what is happening in schools. We would have a big meeting and told that we would be doing a new program schoolwide. Then it was never implemented or followed through so it fell to the wayside. If we had a program that was implemented, it never lasted more than a year. This happened so many times that when we were called to a faculty meeting to discuss a new program, we would roll our eyes and guess how long it would last. It became a constant joke and no one took new programs too seriously. The problem is that maybe one of them might have been effective but we would never know.

Then if we did get a program that everyone liked and was effective, along the powers that be come along and introduce something new to replace what we had. It was truly frustrating so everyone was afraid to invest too much time and energy into any one program.

So I want to encourage you to stand up for things that work. Don’t let them fall to the wayside. If something is working, then we need to stand up for them and insist that we keep on doing what works. Many times I hear teachers say that no one is listening to them. Then we need to make them listen. We need to keep talking and make ourselves be heard. Maybe no one is listening because we give up too easily.

What things have you tried that works but was told to change? What were you told to change but kept doing it because it worked? Please share!

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

Image: 'Determination'