Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

PADMosaicThis year has been a year with lots of good happenings, some sad, the loss of some good friends, but lots of great memories. I participated in the Photo A Day project again this year and I think it helped me take better photos.

Goodbye 2012. It was nice knowing you but I’m ready for 2013 now. I ready for more fun, lots more adventures, making new friends, learning new things, and just enjoying life!

Hope to see you there!

Original Photos by Pat Hensley

Friday, December 28, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/28/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Stop Bullying - “ provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent andrespond to bullying.” (L:G; SA: A )

Educational Resources -200 Free Kids Educational Resources: Video Lessons, Apps, Books, Websites & More (L: T; SA: A )

Aesop’s Fables Interactive Book - “The Aesop for Children interactive book is designed to be enjoyed by readers of any age. The book contains over 140 classic fables, accompanied by beautiful illustrations and interactive animations.” (L:G; SA: A )

US Electoral Compass - “a radial representation of the variation in US electoral priorities by state. Using data from Twitter and online news websites, Brandwatch measured the proportion of Tweets and press discussions concerning each of 30 policy areas. Every topic was then assigned a percentage score for news articles or Tweets about each presidential candidate, and all 30 were ranked according to the proportion of discussions they featured in. Select a state and date range to filter the data, and move your cursor over a figure for more information. Policy areas are ranked on the right.” (L:H; SA: SS )

My Homework - an app to “track your homework, tests, projects and lessons.” (L:H; SA: A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fun Family Time

I had to share some pictures of my Christmas. I’m so thankful that we are able to be together with my parents during this time. My father is 93 and my stepmom is 88 and both are spry as ever! My father gave me a few cooking lessons during our visit.







Original photos by Pat Hensley

Year in Reflection

reflectionAs the year ends, I am looking at my goals that I set at the beginning of the year and realize that I didn’t do too well this year achieving what I hoped for.

Goals for 2012

1. I will put on a cheerful face every day and be thankful for the life I have. My positive outlook will affect anyone who comes in contact with me.

2. I will lose weight. I need to lose 30 lbs. I will exercise at least three times a week.

3. I will eat better. I plan on decreasing my sugar intake and only have it on the weekends. I will eat pasta only once a week.

4. I will work on promoting my Etsy store and sell more of my knitting items. I love knitting but I’m being overwhelmed with all my knitting items that are filling my office.

5. I will be more flexible and not stress out about having a schedule for every little thing. And when the schedule is changed suddenly, I will take a deep breath, adapt, and accomplish what needs to be done without whining or getting mad.


I did a great job with #1 and I think it helped keep me healthy for the year. I don’t think I was really sick (staying in bed sick) all year long. I think I take better care of myself when I’m happy and I worked on being happy all year.

I also did a better job with #5. When I was flexible and went with the flow, I was not so stressed out. In fact, I gave myself permission to enjoy the changes. It was a relief to look back and see that sudden changes actually worked out to make something better and more exciting.


#2 - Not only did I not lose 30 lbs. but I gained 5 more!

#3 - I didn’t do well with eating better this year. I stuffed my face! I ate lots of pasta whenever I could get my hands on it! I just love the stuff. Then we were on trips and I used that as an excuse why I couldn’t eat sensibly. When we went on 2 cruises, I used the excuse I wanted my money’s worth and kept eating at the food trough!

#4 - I didn’t do much with my Etsy store this year. I’m thinking of not offering my knitted stuff but instead offering handspun yarn. I am going to give my knitted stuff as gifts instead.

While I reflect that I only achieved 40% of what I set out to do this year, I’m still happy that I achieved some of my goals. I think part of the reason for my failure was that I didn’t reflect on my progress often enough. I think I need to see these goals every week or every month. I think for this coming year, I will have them out someplace where I can see them every day like on a “sticky note” on my computer screen. I need to hold myself accountable more often instead of just at the end of the year.

How has your year been? Please share.

Image: 'Reflections'
Found on

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Image: 'Joy'
Found on

Monday, December 24, 2012

The End of the World

DoomsdayWell, Friday was supposed to be the end of the world. But if you are reading this, we are still here. I’m still overweight and needing to exercise. I’m still here to enjoy life and live it to the fullest. I’m still here to learn how to do new things and make new friends. I’m still here to nurture the friendships that I already have. I’m still here to love my family and feel their love in return. I’m still here and I’m glad.

My mother always believed that the end of the world happened when we die. That is the end. No one can predict the end of the world or when it will happen to anyone. She always told me to quit worrying about what will happen and enjoy what is happening now. She always said I worried too much. I trust my mother and believe her. She is not in this world any more but I feel she is in heaven right now nodding her head and glad that I believe and understand her.

For this reason, I feel that I have to live my life the best that I can. I can’t worry about what if. I can plan for the future which is different than worrying about it. I can be proactive rather than reactive. I can take necessary steps in case we lose power for a month or for some disaster that might happen, but I won’t let it take control of my life.

I look at some of the doomsday preppers and I feel like they are missing out on the joy of life. They are living in fear and that is sad to me. They seem to spend every minute thinking about the terrible thing that might happen. I think it is good to prepare for a problem but not become so obsessed with it that you can’t enjoy the simple things that exist now. If something happens and I won’t have all the good things that I have now, then I’m going to enjoy them while I have them!

I also feel this is where balance comes into my life. I love my electronics (laptop, cell phone, iPad) but I also love knitting (which uses no electricity and goodness knows, I have enough yarn in my stash to knit for a few years without running out of yarn! ) and reading books (the real ones). We love camping in our tent so I’m set for a shelter. We are thinking of taking up archery as a new hobby which if we ever get good enough, we could hunt for food. But right now I want to learn archery for fun. If the fun helps for survival later on, that is an added bonus.

How do you feel about doomsday prepping? Do you do some preparations? If so, what do you do? Please share.

Image: 'Time'
Found on

Friday, December 21, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/21/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Cargo Bot - fun free game for the Ipad (L:G; SA: A)

Go to the Head of the Solar System - a fun game asking questions about the solar system (L:E; SA: S)

Trading Card Creator - “The Trading Card tool gives students an alternative way to demonstrate their literacy knowledge and skill when writing about popular culture texts or real world examples. This interactive allows students to create their own trading card about a real or fictional person, place, object, event, or abstract concept.These cards are can be used with any type of book students are reading or subjects that they are studying, and make for an excellent prewriting exercise for students who are writing narrative stories and need to consider characters, setting, and plot. Specific prompts guide student through the various types of cards, expanding students' thinking from the basic information and description of the topic to making personal connections to the subject.” (L:G; SA: A)

We the Jury - “Have fun deciding a tough case while learning about what jurors discuss in the deliberation room. Choose from different civil cases, analyze evidence, weigh testimony, and use the right arguments to reach a fair and impartial verdict.” (L:H; SA: SS )

The Worst Jobs in History - “These activities can be used as stand-alone lessons, homework assignments or as part of a broader unit on "Was life Good or Bad during this particular period?". The worksheet has basic activities for a 30 minute lesson, and extension tasks that could be followed up later.” (L:M, H; SA: A )

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lessons Learned at Disney World

121712For the past week, we have been enjoying Disney World because we bought an annual pass which allows us unlimited access to all four parks. I just wanted to share some things that I learned this week.


1. Bring a water bottle that you can refill at water fountains.

2. Granola bars or other high energy snacks would be good to have. Sunscreen if you burn easily too.

3. Pick a designated spot to meet in case your party gets separated. We never had to go there but it is good to have a plan just in case.

4. Go to local Walmart and buy your Disney souvenirs there.

5. Look for a hotel on Hwy 192 which is near Disney.

Epcot -

1. We went to ride the major rides as soon as we got there.

2. First though, we went and got a Fastpass for a future ride. Then we rode the ride and could ride it again. Soarin and Test Track were the big rides there. There are still many of the same rides and shows that were here from 20 years ago.

3. Of course the World Showcase is always interesting to learn about other countries.

4. Buy 1 meal and split it between 2 people because the portions are large.

5. Buy a bottle of soda outside the restaurant because you get more for your money in a bottle than in a cup filled with ice.

Animal Kingdom -

1. The first thing we rode on was the roller coaster at Expedition Everest - legend of the Forbidden Mountain. There was an excellent display of information about climbing Mt. Everest. It was very educational.

2. I saw a lot of live animals. The safari ride was amazing!

3. We also enjoyed taking the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. We looked through a glass window at a lot of insects and spiders. The staff person there gave explanations about each animal in their cases. She explained a lot about the tarantulas and how they breed. We also learned about Walking Sticks and Katydid. There was a button on the wall that would allow you to talk to her and ask questions.

4. The best thing I think here was the show Finding Nemo - The Musical. It was an awesome show and if you ever have a chance to see it, it is worth the time. My husband who is not a fan of musicals really enjoyed this.

Hollywood Studios -

1. We had a good time here and it brought back a lot of memories. The last time we were here was about 20 years ago and it was interesting how many of the shows were the same.

2. Rockin’ Roller Coaster with Aerosmith and Hollywood Tower of Terror were the major rides for us here.

3. Toy Story was a busy interactive ride so getting a Fastpass helped rather than waiting in line for over an hour.

4. The Lights Motors Action! Stunt show was awesome.

5. Lunch at the Commissary was reasonable.

6. Beauty and the Beast was a great show.

Magic Kingdom -

1. if we only had time for 1 park, this would be the one we would go to.

2. Space Mountain, People Mover, and the Carousel of Progress will always be memorable.

3. It was just fun to walk around and see the different characters.

4. The New Fantasyland opened up this month and we were disappointed. There wasn’t much there because it is still under construction. The crowd was outrageous and the line for The Little Mermaid was two hours long so we got a Fastpass and came back later. The Fastpass for this ride was a 15 minute walk from the ride and this caused the crowd to make a bottleneck jam. The Belle ride was broken all day and we never got to go to that.

5. The castle of course was beautiful all day long whether in broad daylight or at night when it was lit up.

6. Tall Tale Inn and Café - in Frontierland; Taco Salad where beef comes in a tortilla bowl. Then you go to the salad bar and fill it will lots of good toppings.

Have you been to Disney World? If so, what other advice would you give? Please share.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Am I Safe?

Siberian/Amur Tiger - Panthera tigris altaicaAfter what happened in Connecticut last week, I hear myself wondering, “Am I Safe?” Then my other thought is to what I can do to make myself safer.

Last week we were at Disney World and my husband thought that if someone wanted to hurt a group of people this would be a place for it.

We made sure that we picked a spot to meet up in case we got separated (my husband refuses to have a cell phone). We usually do this when we go to busy places.

I notice that I look into people’s faces more. When we stood in long lines, I would talk to the people in front of us and behind us.

I try to smile at people that we pass.

I’m not sure I make a difference, but I think that these are little things that I can do. I try to let others know they matter.

When we go into the stores, I try to make eye contact with others. I try to be polite and apologize if I bump into someone.

It is by doing the little things that help me feel a little safer. I’m not going to rely on others to make me feel safe. I’m going to be proactive and think about what I can do for myself. Maybe I’m deceiving myself in this way but I feel better by doing something.

I know that I’m not going to let acts of violence keep me from interacting with others. The fear is not going to keep me from reaching out to others. This anger is not going to cause me to lash out and blame others.

I’m going to interact more. I’m going to reach out more!

What kinds of things do you do to make yourself feel safer? Please share.

Image: 'Siberian/Amur Tiger - Panthera tigris altaica'
Found on

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hensley Happenings

(Here is our annual letter that I send to family and friends near Christmas time. I’m posting it here too for family and friends that I don’t have their email address. I’m hoping that they will see this letter here and pass it on to other family members!)

Hello everyone! We have had a busy year this year. We didn’t do as much traveling as we would have liked but we did get some traveling in. Maybe next year will be a better traveling year for us.

Home: We did a lot of improvements on our home. When we found out we had roof damage due to a hail storm (which must have happened when we were traveling), we decided to close in our side porch when we replaced the entire roof. My side porch is now a beautiful sun room with windows all around. It is my newest favorite room in the house! We also decided to replace all 25 windows in our home that were is pretty need of repair. We could either scrape and reglaze each little pane in the window and then paint them or replace them with windows we would never need to paint. So, we did just that. So for a few months, our house looked like a major construction zone but it was well worth.

Health: During the time of our renovations, Don had extreme back pain and for the first time I had to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Finally we were referred to a physical therapist that specialized in spinal injuries. Apparently at some time (we think probably our car wreck in 2000), Don’s ribs were jammed into his back bone. This made the muscles spasm and try to compensate for the lack of flexibility in his rib cage. The therapist was able to manually dig the ribs out (yes, this was a weekly episode of torture and pain but it was well worth the results!). Now Don is able to sleep on his back for the first time in about 40 years and he is able to sleep without sleeping pills. Apparently his “sleep disorder” was really due to extreme back pain that he had been living with for years. Pat’s health has been great which is good so we could focus on getting Don back to 100%. She just wants to lose about 30 lbs which would make her extremely happy.

Retirement Life: As we finish our fifth year of retirement we love it! Pat is really involved in knitting and spinning. In fact we bought a new Sidekick spinning wheel in November. People are starting to commission some knitting from her and she also has an online Etsy store. Don is still enjoying his postcard and stamp collection. Pat is also teaching graduate classes in Special Education for Furman University in the summers. Don has recently joined the Board of Directors for Springbrook Hospital.

Travel: This year we have gone to Gatlinburg a couple of times. Once we headed to New England and only made it as far as Virginia when we decided to go home. We just got back from 2 cruises in the Caribbean aboard the Carnival Dream. We will be in Orlando for a week going to Universal studios, checking out antique stores, and visiting friends who live in the area. Then we will spend the rest of the year with my parents in southern Florida.

That’s about all we have been doing this year! I hope this finds you and your family happy and healthy! Hopefully this new year will bring you a lot of love and laughter.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Image: 'Merry Christmas Earth Wallpaper'
Found on

Monday, December 17, 2012

When Tragedy Strikes

griefI don’t think we will ever be able to make sense of the tragic death of 28 people, 20 of them children.

My heart just hurts for the families of those killed and also for the family of the killer.

I wanted to share a message that I got the other day because I thought this was an example of moving past the paralysis of grief:

“This yarn shop is near the elementary school where the tragedy in Newton happened today.  If you would like to send something to help those affected, here is the information for you to donate to.

Our hearts are with those lost in today's tragedy in Newtown. To all of the mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, and the entire community of Sandy Hook, we are thinking of you and stand with you.

This is just in the beginning stages, but we'd like to organize a donation effort for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School. We'd like to collect KNITTED/CROCHETED STUFFED ANIMALS/TOYS and deliver them to the little ones in Newtown, CT to try to offer comfort during this unimaginably tragic & confusing time.

If you have a pattern, feel free to use it. If you need suggestions, Ravelry has plenty of free patterns. Here is a link

If you're not a member, join. It's free and you won't regret it. Use scrap yarn! Use different colors of leftovers! Do whatever you can! Thank you so much for your contribution, and again, our thoughts are with you, Sandy Hook. ♥

Knitting/crocheting community-come together to support our community.

Drop off or
The Yarn Barn
1666 Litchfield Turnpike
Woodbridge, CT 06525
Call (203)389-5117 with any questions.”

Image: 'Candles'
Found on

Friday, December 14, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/14/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Sproutster HD - Ipad app; like FreeRice, it donates money from advertising to the UN to buy rice; “a game from Dreamkind, an award-winning entertainment studio focused on raising money for children’s charities worldwide. You need to help Sproutster grow rice to feed your friends in different countries around the world. You must catch falling letters in your bucket to spell 3-5 letter words. When you catch 10 words and a sun drop, your rice plant grows to its full size and you can feed all your friends in that country. You and Sproutster then move on to a new adventure in another country. As you move from country to country, the rain falls faster and the game becomes more challenging. You travel to India, Egypt, Japan, China and many other countries. By the time you have reached your 10th country, it is pouring letters, and you must help Sproutster catch the letters you need, while dodging the ones you don’t.” (L: G; SA: A)

Hangout Quest - “Explore popular museums as you race against others in a quest to track down famous works of art!” (L: H; SA: SS)

Integers Rap - great rap to learn integers (L:E, M; SA: M)

Geoboard - “The Geoboard is a tool for exploring a variety of mathematical topics introduced in the elementary and middle grades. Learners stretch bands around the pegs to form line segments and polygons and make discoveries about perimeter, area, angles, congruence, fractions, and more.” (L:E, M; SA: M)

Living Wage Calculator - “ estimate the cost of living in your community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location.” (L:H; SA: A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bah Humbug!

XmasShoppingAs we shopped in the store the other day, I kind of hated going out in the traffic and fighting the maddening crowds. Then having to stand in the long lines and just feeling impatient really got me out of the holiday spirit.

Suddenly I made a conscious effort to change my attitude. First off, I was thankful that I had a car so I could get out in the traffic. Crowds meant that people were spending money and hopefully helping the economy. Long lines were a good way to slow down the pace a little and get perspective.

I started to listen to the sounds around me and noticed some things:

I heard people’s excitement as they looked at the beautiful decorations that were offered.

I heard people discussing what gifts to get for family members and friends. While discussing, sometimes a cute story would pop up about a specific person.

I saw people greet friends they haven’t seen in a while but saw them while out shopping.

I heard Christmas music and noticed some people singing along without even knowing they were doing so.

I heard children talking happily about Santa and what they hoped they would get for Christmas.

I started remembering some wonderful Christmas memories.

I remember the Christmas Eve candlelight service my family went to every year at midnight. My parents were not big church goers, and since my dad worked every Christmas Eve, my mom would go with us to this service. It always made me feel humble and thankful for my life. I remember that any friends that I was angry with, this night we always made up and hugged each other at church.

I remember going out with my church youth group and caroling at shut-ins homes. It was so much fun and it warmed my heart. Usually people would give us cookies. Then we would return to the church for some hot chocolate to warm us.

I remember going ice skating on a nearby outdoor lake (once the fire dept. declared it safe) and hearing the Christmas music in the background. It was so cold but it was fun! There was usually a Christmas tree set up on the ice.

I remember waiting for my father to come home from work about 1am, and opening our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t wait for him to come home!

I remember my parents sleeping in on Christmas Day while I got up and played with my toys near the Christmas tree in the morning.

I remember wonderful family dinners we had on Christmas Day. I didn’t realize at the time at how lucky I was to have such a loving family.

I remember helping my mother send out Christmas cards. She had a book with a list of people and addresses and we would go through each one. A check went by their name if we received card from them.

So, now that I look at this differently, going out shopping in the traffic and crowds has been a good thing. These old memories and new ones being made have put me in the Christmas spirit again.

So, hurry up Santa! I can’t wait for Christmas to come!

So, what Christmas memories do you have? Please share.

Image: 'Christmas lights'
Found on

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Episode 19 Holiday Season

Yes I Can by Danny O’Flaherty from his Secret Garden CD. :


Virtual Tourist  ( “Real travel tips, reviews and photos from real people who have actually been there and done that; and this is what makes the travel content on VirtualTourist so useful.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Job of Being a Student

behaviorIn Help Wanted, An Effective Behavior Management System for High School Students

from CEC Blog, John talks about wanting a behavior management system for his class. He asks,

“My question now is how can the students earn these rewards? Should students earn reinforcers on a weekly basis, daily basis or monthly basis? Should I make “prices” for the reinforcers that the students have to earn points towards (token economy system)? My only stipulation for a behavior system is no stickers. Any system that requires stickers will be rejected. My classmates during my undergraduate years can attest to the fact that I have a thing against stickers in my classroom. So stickers aside, I’m open to any and all suggestions.”

In my high school self contained occupational diploma class, I used a token economy system. I started the year off explaining that my class was more than a class. It was a job. They were given a document explaining their job duties and the salary that they would receive for each class. Along with the salary, there would be fines and bonuses. Throughout the year, they would be able to spend their “money” and certain goods and privileges which were also spelled out for them.

Students didn’t actually get any real money or even fake money. I used an excel spreadsheet that became a weekly accounting sheet for each student.When students arrived in my class, they were given a folder with their name on it. Inside the folder were any assignments, notes, for them along with this accounting sheet. At the end of class (or classes), they would turn in this folder to me. Each day I tallied up accumulated earnings for the day along with any fines, or bonuses. Usually fines and bonuses were recorded immediately rather than at the end of the day. When a student spent money, this was also recorded on the sheet. The fines were recorded right on the sheet so it was a good way to record behavior problems. At the end of the week, the sheet was collected and filed and a new sheet was given the next week. I also explained my system to the administration because sometimes my students would talk about their “money” outside of class and I didn’t want anyone to misunderstand what we were doing.

Some students did not buy in to this program at first but once they saw classmates buying things or getting rewards, they tended to join in. This usually took no more than two weeks. Sometimes I would throw out bonuses if the whole class did (whatever). At the end of each nine weeks, I would do something special if all of the students had a certain amount of money still in their account. After checking with the administration, if all of the students had $400 in their account, I would buy the class a pizza or cake or something mutually agreed upon. Near the end of the nine weeks, some students would pressure others to do their homework, behave, or do whatever to earn as much salary as possible.

The funny part was that at times, many students didn’t want to spend their money. They were so proud of accumulating tons of money (even though they knew it wasn’t real!). They would gloat about their earnings! In fact, they were so proud of it, that at times we shared the accounting sheets at parent conferences.

The negative aspect to this is that at first, it takes a lot of teacher time and organization. It takes time to write their names on each sheet and put them in folders for the first day of the week. It takes time to tally each sheet at the end of the day. And it takes time to file these at the end of the week. I usually wrote names on all of the sheets for the one week and then made 9 copies of each for the following weeks. That helps at the beginning of the week.

The positive aspect of this is that it really works. I used this kind of system for over 20 years and my students responded well to it. The key is being consistent. Students need to know that I will follow through and keep the record going. When they see that I won’t let the system fall to the wayside and let them have privileges even thought they didn’t have enough money, they will work harder.

Using this system, I rarely had behavior problems in my class. I have written less than 30 referrals for students in my own class in over 30 years of teaching.

If you are interested in seeing my list of job duties or my accounting sheet, please email me at successfulteaching at gmail dot com.

Do you use some kind of successful behavior management system? Please share the details!

Image: 'Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)'
Found on

Monday, December 10, 2012

For the Love of Rubrics

rubricIn Evaluation Rubrics from siobhan curious: classroom as microcosm, Siobhan Curious asks,

Teachers: Do you use rubrics to evaluate your students’ work?  How do you structure them?  Do they help you?  Do they help your students?”

Have I ever mentioned that I love rubrics? I think it is an awesome way to evaluate my students. Rubrics are a way to make evaluating more equal. I feel that I am evaluating everyone based on the same criteria. It is not absolutely objective but I think it is the best way to make evaluating the most objective.

There a couple of things that I feel are important about rubrics.

First, they need to be developed in the planning stage of the lesson plan. I need to think about what I want my students to learn from the lesson and what I want them to do to show that they master the skills. From there, I develop the criteria in my rubric. This is what I will use to judge mastery. Then I decide the point scale for each criteria and what does each point determine. I like to use a 3 point scale. 3 showing mastery consistently, 2 shows mastery most of the time, 1 shows mastery sometimes and of course 0 means no mastery.

Next, once I am happy with the rubric and I’m sure that this is what I plan to use for evaluation, I share it with the students. When I explain the assignment and get to the part about how it will be evaluated, I give the students a copy of the rubric. This is a guideline for them to follow as they complete the assignment. It also allows them to self check that they have completed all the steps. I also explain to them that the evidence needs to be clear enough for me to give them credit and I shouldn’t have to hunt or assume that they mean something. Whenever I take a class, I really like when the instructor gives me a rubric in advance.

When I’m evaluating the finished products, I use the rubric so that I’m looking at each piece of work with the same criteria. I’m measuring everything with the same “ruler” and it takes a lot of guesswork out of the picture. I make sure I save the finished rubrics for each student.

When I return these evaluations to the students, I allow students with passing grades to have a “conference” with me if they need it. If their grade is below passing, they are required to have a conference with me. I explain to students if they can show me that I missed some piece of clear evidence and did not mark it on the rubric, I will be glad to change the score.

Rubrics have been instrumental in helping defuse situations where there were some conflict. I had a parent conference because a parent was upset that their child failed an assignment. Of course the parent did not see the rubric and I was able to produce a copy of the rubric that the student received. After explaining the assignment and how the student had a copy of the rubric before starting the assignment, the parent was able to have a better idea on how I graded the work. Some parents even asked that I email the rubric at the beginning of the assignment to them which is fine with me.

I have noticed that with the use of rubrics, my students were more successful. They knew what was expected of them in advance. I also feel that many of my students did not feel that I was being partial to one student over another when I was following the rubric. It made students more accountable and less emotional when they received their grades.

So, do you use rubrics? How do you develop them? Do you feel it has helped you in the classroom? Has it helped your students? Please share.

Image: 'PBL Rubric'
Found on

Friday, December 7, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/7/12

tools2(Side note: I want to wish my father a happy 93rd birthday today! I love you!)

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Fact Monster - facts about all different topics (L:G; SA: A)

Virtual Tourist - “Real travel tips, reviews and photos from real people who have actually been there and done that; and this is what makes the travel content on VirtualTourist so useful.” (L:T; SA: A)

History World Timelines - “search the web through timelines” (L:G; SA: A)

Rumble Blocks - “This game is designed to teach children ages 4-11 how to build and identify stable structures.   In the game, players must build towers by manipulating a series of blocks in order to help a friendly alien creature get to its spaceship so it can return to home.” (L: E; SA: A)

Venice Backstage - great video about “how does the “Venice system” work? How do the tides in the lagoon behave? How are the canals formed? And the embankments? What’s under the buildings? Venice Backstage, a project conceived by Insula spa, the operative arm of the City for urban maintenance, is about what happens behind the curtains, to make the fragile beauty of this fantastic city easier to appreciate.” (L: M,H; SA: SS, S )

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Random Acts of Goodness

kindnessIn Random Acts of Kindness from Learning is Growing,  Kathy Perret asks,

“What can you do to spread Random Acts of Kindness? Here are some “You’ve Been RAK’ed” cards to help get you started. Yet, no card is necessarily needed when doing a Random Act of Kindness!

What will you do today?

Go out and spread some cheer! Let’s keep making the world a better place! Pay it forward!”

KnitPurlGurlThis had me thinking about a member of the online knitting community who sadly passed away suddenly on November 27, 2012. She leaves behind a husband and 2 young children. Karrie Steinmetz was a designer, blogger, and a video podcaster also known as KnitPurlGurl on Ravelry. She will be dearly missed by all.

The reason I thought of Karrie was that about a month or two ago, she started Random Act of Pattern Tuesday. She encourages knitters and crafters to gift a pattern randomly to others. She did this out of the goodness of her heart and others picked up the challenge to do the same.

On the Tuesday after we all heard the sad news about Karrie, many patterns were gifted in memory of her. It was fascinating to watch all the love being spread and it really helped ease the pain and sorrow of losing such a giving caring person.

Karrie took this idea of Random Act of Kindness to heart and incorporated it in with what she loved to do.

Some people I have mentioned this to have told me that they have a hard time thinking of something special to do that would be considered kind and not weird. The thing is that being kind does not have to be something special. It can be something small or simple but someone out there will appreciate the kindness in whatever form it may come. Kindness doesn’t mean that someone has to spend a lot of money or time. It might be holding the door for someone or helping someone elderly with something.

Maybe people need to think of what they love to do and think of how they can do something kind for someone who loves to do the same thing. Or maybe using this talent or love and do it for someone who can’t do the same thing.

Here are some examples:

Photography: If you love taking photos, maybe you can offer to take a photo of someone who doesn’t have a camera or doesn’t usually take photos of them and offer to send it to someone they care about.

Knitting: Make something for someone (person or animal). Gift a pattern or yarn to someone.

Sewing: Offer to repair something that someone needs fixed. Sew buttons on for an elderly person who has arthritis and can’t do this.

Gardening: Offer to weed or plant something for someone.

Handyman: Offer to change light bulbs or smoke detector batteries for someone elderly. Clean out gutters for an elderly person.

Writing: Send note cards to people who you know are shut in or you haven’t seen in a long time. Send an anonymous note to someone whose garden looks pretty in the spring and summer or house looks nicely decorated for a holiday.

Helper: Volunteer at a local nursing home or soup kitchen for a day. Ask an elderly person if they need anything lifted or moved in their house.

Do you do random acts of kindness? If so, what are some of the things that you do? Please share.

Image: 'Random Acts'
Found on

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Security Scare

scaredRecently I received an alert from our campus security about a typed anonymous note that was found in the library. It gave a scenario of violence on campus. The local law enforcement was notified and everyone was on alert. Without knowing if it was a fantasy or hoax, the school had to take it seriously and investigate it.

After investigation, it was found that this note was part of a class assignment that was misplaced in the library.

As educators, we need to prepare our students for possible situations but we need to think about all of the what-ifs. After seeing what happened in this real life situation, I would like to make some suggestions that would keep this from happening.

1. Be prepared that if someone should observe a simulation or find some paperwork for the simulation, that it is clearly marked that it is a simulation. Many times on TV they will have a running line saying that this is just a simulation.

2. Notify administration or department heads about a simulation that you want to do.

3. Prepare students for the simulation and make sure that any paperwork is clearly labeled “Simulation.” Educate them on how anything not labeled and found would be taken as a serious threat, would involve law enforcement, and could have legal repercussions.

4. At a staff/faculty meeting or through an email, you might want to alert the faculty and staff that you are doing a simulation like this.

Have you done any kind of disaster simulation in your class or school? What suggestions would you add to this? Please share.

Image: 'Run!'
Found on

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Carnival Dream 11/24/12

Last week we went on another cruise and headed to the western Caribbean. We stayed on the Carnival Dream one more week with Captain Antonio Marchetti, Chief Engineer Walter Ambrogini, Hotel Director Donato Becce, and Cruise Director Jaime Dee who in a meeting last week . Here is a journal about that week:

Day 1 Embarkation

When we got back on the ship, of course our new sail and sign cards didn’t work. They told us to come back at noon to get new cards issued which we did but then they told me to come back at 12:30. We went to the pasta bar for lunch and then I went to get in line to get assigned a table for dinner (they had us for any time dining which we didn’t want!) Then we sat on the serenity deck in the sun before going back to our cabin for an afternoon nap and football games. We went to dinner at the same table we had last week. Our table mates never joined us so maybe next week!

Day 2 At Sea

003We had another relaxing day at sea. We sat on the deck for awhile to enjoy the fresh air and attended a detox and weight loss seminar which was just a sales pitch. For lunch we went to the Punchliner brunch where I had filet mignon and caramelized cheesecake along with my margarita. After lunch we walked around the ship and then sat out in the sun for a little while again and I worked on my socks. In the late afternoon we took another nap. At 7:30 we met with the captain and the senior officers for cocktail hour. I even got a picture with the captain! After dinner, we went to the show “Get Ready” which was pretty good.

Day 3 Cozumel

036After breakfast in the dining room, we headed to Cozumel. We walked about 3.5 miles into town but the breeze was lovely and it wasn’t too hot. When we reached town we went into the grocery store to look around. When I was going to get in line to buy a diet pepsi and lifesavers, I had to ask if they took US Dollars which they did but I didn’t know which line to get in. A nun stopped to help me and took my arm to guide me into the right line. I guess she could tell I had no clue what I was doing. I also walked into a fabric store and found yarn for sale but I didn’t buy any. All of the yarn (mostly Red Heart) was behind the counter on shelves and well guarded. The tons of buttons were in a glass case and well guarded too. We spent the day shopping and had some beer at Ambar. We also saw Andreas in front of the jewelry store. He is an elderly man we met years ago who has had a bleeding ulcer. He looked healthier this time we saw him. He came to our table and brought some sapphires to show me. The one I liked was $450 but he would sell it to me for $200. Needless to say, I left Cozumel without them. We returned around 3pm and had lunch on the ship. Then it was time for a nap. The show was at 7pm before dinner for us and featured the active comedy of Thien Fu (juggler) who was pretty good!

Day 4 Belize

034This port is our least favorite and you have to tender to get ashore so we stayed on the ship. We spent the day being lazy. We did walk laps around the ship in the morning. Then we sat out on the deck in different places in between eating. It was a fun day actually. We never did go down the slide because we just weren’t in the mood for it. I was able to finish my pair of socks and now am continuing to work on my leprosy bandage. I probably will get the one I’ve been working on finished this week now that it is the only project I’m working on. I am ready to get to work again on my sweater (which was left behind in the car) and I really miss my spinning. After dinner we went to the show Dancing in the Street which showed break dancing and acrobatics as well as singing and dancing.

Day 5 Honduras

014We arrived in Roatan around 9am. It was overcast so we brought our rain coats. First we checked out the cab prices to town. It was going to cost us $30 per person round trip to go to West End which was a 25 minute ride so we decided we didn’t want to go there for $60. So we walked to Mahogany Beach. There were some people snorkeling but since rain was coming, we decided not to do that. While we were looking at the colorful fish in the water, it began to rain so we headed back to the ship for lunch. I enjoyed the pasta bar! After lunch we went back to the stateroom for a nap. Before dinner we walked laps around the ship for about an hour. There was no show after dinner so we had an early night.

Day 6 Costa Maya

041It was raining when we arrived in Costa Maya but by the time we got off the ship at 8am, it had stopped. We walked around the shops in the port and decided to walk outside the port. We kept walking along this pretty roadway and before we knew it, we had walked about 3.5 miles to Mahajual (the little town we really like). The cab ride cost $3 there and $2 back to the ship. We got to one point in our walk where this sketchy guy got behind us and we walked faster to the intersection away from him. We also saw the military guys patrolling with their assault rifles. When we reached town, we walked along the shops and I saw a lady crocheting a baby blanket so I had to stop and talk to her. She moved there with her husband and 4 kids from Utah this past January. I bought some earrings from her and we talked about yarn. She says it is really hard to get any yarn here but when they come to the states, she stocks up on yarn. I told her that if we come back on a cruise, I will bring her some yarn. We stopped at the YaYa bar and had 5 beers for $10. After that we walked around because Don was feeling sick. I think the sun came out and got him overheated. We went back to the bar and sat in the shade so he could have another beer and he felt better. We found a cab and took it back to the ship. I went up to the pasta bar for lunch and then we sat out on the deck. Before you knew it, it was time for the ship to pull out. They kept calling 4 names and we eventually left at 2:30 instead of 2:00. I’m not sure those 4 people ever showed up. We watched from the covered deck as we pulled away from the dock and sat out on the deck for awhile when Don noticed an ugly cloud ahead of us. Just as we got ready to leave, we heard people screaming from the open decks as the rain began to pour down! We ended up going to our cabin for a nap before dinner.

Day 7 At Sea

014We didn’t do much today. In the morning I went to a towel folding class and learned to make a dog and an elephant. We went to the Q & A talk by the cruise director to talk about how the crew’s life on a cruise ship is like. Then we went to the dining room for brunch and it was awful! We sat with 2 nice ladies who ordered their free cocktail and I ordered a diet coke. We never got them until after we were done eating and had to complain twice. I guess because I complained, I never got served my dessert. I also sat on the deck and watched podcasts while Don exercised. In the afternoon we went to the Marriage Show again and I enjoy that. After that I packed my suitcase and we watched TV while we waited for them to deliver the liquor that we bought. When I asked about 6pm, I was told they would deliver at 7pm. Then 7:30pm. At 8pm I checked with the cabin steward and there was no liquor. This meant we couldn’t pack Don’s suitcase. Don got angry because we hadn’t packed so we could put our suitcases in the hall before dinner. This meant that after dinner we had to miss the show so we could pack. Don was so upset that he could hardly eat dinner. When we got back to the room, the liquor was there and we packed but by then it was too late to go to the show so we went to bed.


We met in the Crimson Lounge at 7:15. By 7:20 we were escorted off the ship and got our luggage. A shuttle was waiting for us to take us back to the Hampton Inn. We were in our car on the road and headed for home by 8am.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Essential Role of the Behavioral Analyst for Autistic Children

(Today’s post is written by guest writer, Laura Seale.)

clip_image002If you are studying towards a degree in special education, there is a need for trained professionals in the Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA. Applied Behavior Analysis (often termed Applied Behavioral Analysis) is a field of study and research that has extensive scientific basis for success in treating behavioral issues in children and adults, including autism. Autism can run on a spectrum from very mild (usually diagnosed as Asperger’s Syndrome) to very serious issues, with low-functioning autism. Some children struggle to develop speech or can only use one sense at a time.

Applied Behavior Analysis offers hope for individual autism sufferers and their families to develop creative ways that each person can work with their disability to function effectively as possible in the world. Now that more is known about autism, including the spectrum of severity of symptoms, this has highlighted the increasing importance of tailoring treatment to each individual case. Unlike with a traditional illness, in which symptoms can be similar between sufferers, even symptoms within family members with autism can be dissimilar. Learn why more families are adding a behavior analyst to their child’s treatment team and how you can be a part of this evolving career tract.

Board Certification

Before you can work in the field as a behavior analyst, you will need to have the proper credentials. Your first step will be to get the adequate education, which often means studying towards an education or a special education degree and earning your teaching certificate. There are different levels of certification for bachelor’s degree and master’s degree candidates that are outlined on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) website. From here, the next step is to become board certified as a behavior analyst. While varying states handle the issue differently and to date there is no uniform consensus, becoming a board certified behavior analyst is the best and quickest way to ensure you will not later hit obstacles in your career because you never took this step.

Because the BACB is a respected nonprofit organization that administers the only recognized certification program for behavior analysts, whether you plan to start your own consulting business or work within a school district or private practice group, obtaining your board certification showcases your credentials and preparation. In fact, it can elevate you above other behavior analysts who lack this valuable credential.

Understand Your Role

Once you have earned your board certification, your next step is to understand how you will fit in with a team that is supporting an autistic child as well as their family members. Because often the family members are the least skilled at managing their autistic child’s symptoms but the first line of support for that child, applying your behavior analysis skills with an autistic child will be involved in analyzing the family dynamic and the behavior of family members. In addition to this, you will be developing strategies specific to how that child behaves as well. For instance, if the autistic child throws a temper tantrum, the family may have grown accustomed to responding in a certain way, even if way is not entirely useful. The whole family will enter into a period of behavior modification and education to learn how to best function as a family, while still supporting the autistic child.

A Behavior Analyst is Part of a Team

In this capacity, you may find yourself working in a team setting with the child, the parents and siblings. You may also find yourself in a classroom situation with the child’s regular teachers. You may even be in administration, with a child’s private therapist and physicians along with other professionals and supportive persons. Your behavior analysis skills may be applied to studying and completing homework, communicating through words and behavior, paying attention and retaining information, socializing with others, teaching basic life skills and helping the child transition into higher grades or even a part-time job as they get older. In this way, as a behavior analyst, you can play an essential role in supporting autistic children and their families in ways that were unheard of just a few years ago.

Image provided by Lance Neilson from Flickr’s Creative Commons

About the Author: Laura Seale is studying to be a special education teacher. She has worked with several students with autism during the past few years; following her graduation, she will be working toward her PA teaching certification.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/30/12

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!

Note: Each resource is labeled with a level and subject area to make it easier to use.

Levels: E: Elementary; M: Middle; H: High; G: General, all levels; SN: Special Needs; T: Teachers

Subject Areas: LA: Language Arts, English, Reading, Writing; M: Math; S: Science; Health; SS: Social Studies, Current Events; FA: Fine Arts; Music, Art, Drama; FL: Foreign Language; PE: Physical Ed; C: Career; A: All

Picture Book Maker - Have students make their own picture books. (L:LA; SA: A)

English Attack! - “Learn with fun, fast-paced exercises based on video clips and photo albums. Practice what you learn with games. Make friends from around the world, and communicate with them in English.” (L:LA ; SA: A )

World of Tales - “Whether a student, a parent or a teacher, here you can take a magical journey, filled with adventure, or just remember what it feels like to be a kid again. There is a little something for everyone among these pages, starting with the classic fairy tale stories by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault, going on to the morally edifying fables of Aesop and Jean de La Fontaine, and ending with the wisdom, gathered by the people: the folktales from different parts of the world.” (L:LA ; SA: A)

Study SC - “a website that provides online content to support South Carolina-specific curriculum standards.  StudySC, created by the South Carolina State Library, makes available a student-friendly environment arranged by grade level and by subject area where students can find the information they need fast. This site is loaded with South Carolina-specific web resources for K-12 homework help, projects, and more. StudySC will also provide teachers with lesson plans and other content to support classroom activities. From artist biographies to Native American tribes and Civil War timelines, get it all at StudySC.” (L:G ; SA:A )

Infrared Zoo - “Infrared light shows us the heat radiated by the world around us. By viewing animals with a thermal infrared camera, we can actually "see" the differences between warm and cold-blooded animals. Infrared also allows us to study how well feathers, fur and blubber insulate animals. As you tour this "Infrared Zoo", see what new information you can gather about the animals here that you would not get from a visible light picture. If you would like to learn more about infrared light and the infrared universe visit Cool Cosmos. Enjoy your tour!”

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fighting the Holiday Doldrums

boredomI loved reading the book The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster to my students. When we got to the section on The Doldrums, my students never heard of this word before. We discussed how the word meant a feeling of boredom or depression and many of my special education students shared that this is how they felt during holiday vacations. Many even confessed to having behavior problems because they were bored.

I began to think about how we can be advocates for these students and also help parents by giving parents suggestions for this time. Here is a list of things I suggest to parents:

1. Have a written schedule for each day even if it is your usual routine. Visual schedules help my students feel grounded.

2. Plan an activity each day for the student to look forward to.

3. Start new traditions during this time and share old memories of holidays

4. Give the students one or two choices to do something so they feel they have some control over their lives.

5. Discuss with the student ways to handle boredom, anger, etc. before it happens. Try to find a signal to let the student recognize that their behavior is escalating.

Some activities could be:

· Drawing paper, crayons or colored paper for art work.

· Use old CDs and make an animal. Check out these examples.

· Bake cookies.

· Bake something to give to the local police dept. or fire dept. to show appreciation.

· Watch a holiday movie together.

· Play a board game together.

· Visit a nursing home to cheer the elderly.

· Volunteer at a soup kitchen.

· Create a story book and illustrate it. Donate it to a children’s center.

· Create an animal using Styrofoam balls, yarn, pipe cleaners, glue, uncooked macaroni.

Do you have any fun activities parents could do with their children during the holidays? Please share.

Image: '2007_088_01'

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Carnival Dream 11/17/12

Last week we went on a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. Here is a journal of the week:

Day 1 - Embarkation
We spent the night at the Hampton Inn in Cocoa Beach. For $125, we got a night in the hotel (king bed with sofa), free breakfast, free shuttle to and from the port, and free parking. It is a wonderful deal! When I woke up, it was pouring down rain but by the time we finished breakfast, the sun was out and the temperature was wonderful so we walked on the beach. At 10:30, we met in the lobby for the shuttle. When we arrived at the port, we went right in to check in and boarded the ship. By 11am, we were eating lunch on the Lido deck. We walked around and had fun reminiscing about the last time we were on the ship. Our cabin was 7228. Finally we had a bucket of beer and watched people. I tried to switch our dinner time to early seating but the ship is full and the Maître’d couldn’t change us so we had dinner at 8:15 in the Scarlet dining room (upper level – table 679). We are at a table for 4 and met a wonderful couple from Louisville, KY. They are about our age and we had so much in common. I’m kind of glad we didn’t change our dinner time now. We laughed most of the dinner. After dinner we walked along the promenade deck and Don bought 4 bottles of Stolichnaya vodka for $40. I tried to talk him into the Grey Goose (in memory of Kay) but he didn’t buy it…yet. Looking forward to our time on this ship because we are already having fun!

Day 2 - Nassau
022After breakfast in the dining room, we decided to walk around Nassau. We had thought about staying on the ship because we had been there so many times, but decided we needed the exercise. We met up with this young couple from another ship who had never been there before and they asked us what they should see. When I told them to go see the Queen’s Staircase, they ended up going with us (safety in numbers I guess) and we enjoyed talking to them along the way. I think we walked about 5-6 miles all day (just guessing). I think we left behind a couple in this port because they kept calling their names and we left 15 minutes later than usual. Before dinner we took a little nap and then had formal night. We really are enjoying our table mates, Lori and Al. Al is from Palestine/Jordan area and Lori is from Kansas. It was interesting to hear Al talk about his culture and religion (Muslim) and how it relates to the Chinese culture. It was about 10pm when we finished dinner so we called it a day.

Day 3 At Sea

105When we weren’t sitting around relaxing, we were sleeping or eating! We did go to the cooking demonstration which I always enjoy. Then we went to the show before dinner and heard Jerome Dabney sing Motown. It was another delightful dinner talking and laughing with Al and Lori. I love learning about another culture and we learned about Muslim death and funerals. Also about how much responsibility the oldest male has if the father is dead. On the way out we met a couple from the UK (Sally and Graham) who lived in Greer but just moved to Tampa. After dinner we went to the comedy show and the comedian was John Wesley Austin who was good but I was up way past my bedtime and was quite tired.

Day 4 St. Thomas

059At 11am, we arrived in St. Thomas. We did a shore excursion to St. John’s and Trunk Bay yesterday ($75 per person). Island time was 1 hr. ahead of ship’s time. This involved about a ½ mile walk to a boat and then a 40 min. boat ride to St. John’s. Then we got on a bus that took us to Trunk Bay. After a 15 minute orientation and rule talk, we had about 90 min. of snorkeling along the underwater trail. After about 30 min., Don had enough snorkeling so we bought a couple of beers and bags of chips. We left there about 3:30 and got back to the boat dock around 3:45 when it started to pour down rain. They made us wait until 4:45 before they left. We got back to St. Thomas about 5:30 (4:30 ship time) so we had 2 hours before we left but we were too tired to do anything else. Since we missed lunch, we were hungry and headed back to the ship. Dinner at night was a wonderful time and we laughed the whole time!

Day 5 St. Maarten

011We spent yesterday at the beach and drank too much beer all day. We found the Caribbean Blend restaurant where we usually hang out. We rented 2 chairs, an umbrella, and 2 floats for $20. A bucket of 5 beers was $10. I didn’t realize that Corona had about an ounce more in the bottle than Carib. Heineken was sold in those small 7 oz. bottles so we avoided them. The water was rougher than usual so we didn’t spend too much time in the water. About 4pm, we were back on the ship. Dinner was another wonderful time and we laughed the entire time!

Day 6 At Sea-Thanksgiving

004We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent most of the day being lazy and just hanging out. We did go to the Marriage game where 3 couples (newlyweds, a couple married 25 years, and a couple married 51 years) tried to answer questions and match each other. Most of the day was spent reading, knitting, and eating. They had turkey at Thanksgiving but Don said it wasn’t very good so I’m glad I ordered the filet mignon. After dinner we went to the show and right before the finale they had technical problems and lost power. It took a few minutes to reset everything and finish the show.

Day 7 At Sea

002Most of the day was spent relaxing. I sat on the deck while Don went walking on the track. We went to the dining room around 10am for the Punchliner Brunch so we could use our free drink coupons. It was weird to drink margaritas at 10am (but it had to be 5:00 somewhere!).Don ordered the hen which he said was delicious and I ordered the filet mignon. I expected it to look like a breakfast steak but it was a huge thick piece of steak and it was delicious too! Later we went out to the deck again and enjoy the sun. I was able to finish the heels on my 2 socks and now working on the leg. In the afternoon we packed our suitcases and watched football on TV. We found one of our cabin stewards to ask him to take our luggage in the morning to the new cabin but he said he couldn’t because he was leaving the ship too in the morning. I asked about the other cabin steward and he told us that that guy left the ship in St. Thomas! Then he suggested we put our luggage outside the cabin so it can be taken off the ship and they would bring it back on but we knew that information was wrong. If the luggage was taken off the ship, we would probably never see them again! In the morning we will try to find the new cabin stewards for this cabin and see what we can work out. I finally decided to buy a new bracelet for $25. After dinner we checked to see if the liquor we bought arrived but it hadn’t so we had to track it down. Apparently they hold it until our cruise ends next week but they never told us. That was frustrating.

I was up about 5am and watched us pull into Port Canaveral about 5:30. It was cool to watch the front cam on the TV and the port webcam on the internet to see us pull in. We went for breakfast in the dining room at 7am and had to meet our escort at 9:30am. I was a little stressed out about our luggage though so we went to our new cabin and found the steward to ask if we could bring our suitcases to the cabin. He called his supervisor and said that would be fine so once we got the luggage situated, we were happier. Then we sat in the lobby until after 10am before they finally escorted us off the ship. They didn’t seem to know what they were doing. We ended up at the end of the line at customs (and last time, we went right through in front of everyone). Then they brought us back to the ship.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Recipe for Blogging

tec_cecweb_211x200Teaching Exceptional Children is published by Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and comes out 6 times a year. It is an excellent magazine with great ideas and strategies to use in the classroom. You must be a member of CEC to get this magazine but it is worth the cost of the membership to get such quality publications. If you are not a member, you might ask someone in your special education department if they are a member and see if you can borrow this magazine or you might check with the local library or local university library.

In the November/December 2012 issue, there is an article on “Digital Access - Using Blogs to Support Adolescent Writers with Learning Disabilities” by Sarah R. Jones.

I really liked this article because it was written by a teacher for other teachers. This is a strategy that she has used in the classroom and it was successful. Why reinvent the wheel? If there are teachers out there sharing ideas with others, why not use it! Of course I would tweak this to fit the needs of my classroom but the concepts would definitely work.

Here are some notes that I’ve taken from this article.
1. The author explains blogs and why to use them in the classroom for teachers who don’t understand the concept.
2. The author gives a procedure to follow; a step by step recipe for success.
3. This article is well written and easy to understand.
4. The author doesn’t just stop at the end of the writing process. She explains how commenting is an essential part of blogging.
5. There is also the factor of maintaining a blog.
If you are considering having your class start blogging, this is an excellent article to start with.

Monday, November 26, 2012

From a Teacher's Point of View: Life Lessons One Can Learn from Teaching

learning(Today’s post is written by Aileen Pablo. She is part of the team behind Open Colleges and InformED, one of Australia’s leading providers of Open Learning and distance education. When not working, Aileen blogs about education and career. She is often invited as a speaker in Personality Development Seminars in the Philippines. If you are interested in featuring her works in your blog, you can find her on Google+. )

“Why in the world would you want to be a teacher?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten questions like that, from friends, family, and strangers alike. Usually they’re not quite as direct and flabbergasted as I’m making them seem in that quote (they have to at least try to be polite), but that’s what they mean when they ask. My answer is always the same: I like learning.

Most people interpret that as my way of saying that I like helping my students to learn things. While that’s certainly true, it isn’t what I mean at all. In teaching, I’ve discovered a profession where I feel like I learn new things about myself and how the world works on an almost daily basis, and that kind of learning is an addiction I just don’t know how I could give up.

Normally I don’t talk a lot about these lessons I’ve learned with people asking that question, because I feel like asking it in the first place makes it unlikely that they’ll really understand what I’m saying. But I always enjoy talking with other teachers about it because they immediately get what I mean. Here are just a few things I’ve learned – and re-learned – about life over the years from teaching.

Parents and culture are oh-so-important. You always hear how parents have to be more involved in their children’s education and so on and so forth, but it doesn’t really hit home until you have a 16-year-old pregnant student ask what’s wrong with you that you don’t already have a baby. After all, her 33-year-old mother is already a grandma because her older sister had her first baby last year and the whole family was so excited. Aren’t babies just the best?

Naturally, my explanation that I’ve been busy with college and a career and finding the right guy didn’t seem to make sense to her. Why would I choose that over having a baby? Clearly, this is something she’s heard quite a bit growing up, but instead of feeling sad for her – she’s quite happy, at least for the moment – I silently thank my own parents for the way they raised me.

I am not nearly as strong as I think I am. When I first got into teaching, I was quite proud of my educational accomplishments. Coming from a poor family, I graduated near the top of my high school class and was the first person to go to college. Then, I graduated early even though I had to work the entire time I was in school.

My first year, I taught a student who was brilliant, but who I often caught sleeping in class. Despite this, he always aced every test and turned in his work on time, but it bothered me so much that I often hounded him because I felt like he was skating by due to his intelligence and not really trying.

One day, I found him in a panic after school and asked what was wrong. After a bit of prodding, he said that his ride bailed on him and he had to get to work, so I offered to take him. When we pulled up to his workplace, I asked if he was going to be able to get a ride home and he said he couldn’t think that far ahead – he was still hoping to get a ride to his next job.

Naturally I was floored. Here was this kid at the top of my class working part time jobs until 2 in the morning and then somehow managing to sit through English Lit and Pre-Calculus. And I had been harassing him.

Worse, I learned over the next few months that he was pretty much doing it all without the help of his parents, who didn’t even seem to know that he was still going to school, much less that he was doing well enough to graduate and have his pick of colleges. All they cared about was that he was working enough to bring in money for the family.

It was at that point that I realized I would never be able to do what he was doing. If I had been forced to essentially work a full-time job at 17, it would have been the end of my school career, because I would have made the “adult” decision to choose my survival over my education. Thankfully, that was never something I had to deal with, but it really opened my eyes to the fact that every kid has a unique story, and you can’t just try to fit them into a box.

Image: 'Student and Teacher'