Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just Write

writingIn One Obstacle Down by HappyChyck, she writes,

“With a lack of direction from the state, except for character count (2,000 maximum), and potential modes of writing to be tested (narrative, expository, and argumentative), I did the opposite of worry. I just taught good writing the best way I know how. In fact, I didn't even worry about the exam until the few weeks before, particularly when I realized just how short 2,000 really is. My goodness, in this case, if I taught only to the test, my students would be horrible writers! “

Sometimes we need to just teach good writing.

Lately, I feel like I have been kind of stale in my writing. This feeling has made me almost afraid to write. I guess that is what writer’s block is but it feels horrible. I love writing. The fear of not writing something worth reading stops me in my tracks. What if? What if I can’t think of something good to write? What if it doesn’t make sense? What if people think it’s stupid? What if?

Okay, I take a deep breath and tell myself to just write.

Just write.

Usually that helps me get over my fears. Once I start writing, it all comes back to me. Many people say it is like riding a bike even if I haven’t done it for years. It will come back as if you never stopped.

So I do. I just start jotting down my thoughts. I don’t worry about it all making sense. I can go back and edit it later. But first I need to get my thoughts down. Once I start, it is like a runaway train (boy I’m so full of clich├ęs today!). But it feels good and I feel a sense of relief.

Even if I don’t use what I’ve written as a post, it gives me a jumping off place. I can pick a certain thought and expand on it. I can explore what I’m feeling and share it with others. I can explain in more detail so others can feel what I do. I need to use my senses more so others can understand it better.

I can do this. I’m not a lost cause.

Maybe this is how my students feel. Many have failed over the years and when we criticize them (which of course, we call constructive criticism), they get paralyzed with the same fear. Maybe they just don’t know where to start.

I need to give my students time to just write. They need some time to write their thoughts and feelings no matter how jumbled they may be. It may help their writing. It may help them feel better about their writing. I know it helped me.

Instead of teaching to the test, I need to just teach good writing. Maybe this will help them be more successful in their writing.

Image: 'Words, Post-Election.'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/23561056@N00/3086674683

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SC Public Charter School District

069This was a session presented by Nicole Adams (SC Connections Academy), Pam Sanders (Palmetto State E-cademy) and Donna Strom (SC Virtual Charter School) at the SC Council for Exceptional Children. It really cleared up a lot of myths and I learned a lot of interesting information.

Here are my notes:

1. Total students enrolled are 9,967 with 1077 special education students.

2. There are 8288 virtual students with 884 special education students.

3. This is not a home school.

4. Materials are provided.

5. Free/reduced lunch applications are accepted in order to get Title 1 funding and services.

6. Funded at 75% from the state.

7. This is a virtual school not program that has a total high school curriculum with full time students. Core subjects and related arts including PE are taught.

8. Students receive a state high school diploma (same graduation, attendance, reporting requirements as regular high schools)

9. Students must be enrolled in only one school district (not the virtual and other)

10. Students must be in good standing with residential school district including proof of residency and immunization.

11. Must have internet access (at home or public library or elsewhere)

12. Special Education Teachers are certified, highly qualified, state employees

13. Related services: OT and PT are face to face only; virtual speech cannot be billed to Medicaid

14. IEP meetings online 98% of the time.

15. State testing (HSAP, EOCEP) are face to face in various locations across the state.

My thoughts:

As mentioned in the presentation, this is not a perfect fit for everyone but I like how it is an be alternative for some. I would think being a teacher at a virtual school would be great too! I don’t foresee a lot of in class behavior problems. I do think students would have to be self motivated and responsible to be successful in this. I’m not sure I would want my teenager at home alone without supervision and expect him/her to “attend” school regularly. For a student to be more successful, I would imagine that at least an adult would need to be home to make sure the student fulfills the responsibility of attending virtual school (I mean, they are still “children” in my eyes.)

Do you have virtual schools in your district? How do they work? How successful is the school and/or the students? Please share.

Original Image by Pat Hensley

Monday, February 27, 2012

Legal Resources for Special Education

068I attended this session present by Dr. Laura Mohr. She informed us how to find legal resources for Special Education the internet.

Here are my notes from this session:

South Carolina Department of Education
· Click on Agency >Accountability>Exceptional Children>IDEA
· Announcements about events or information for public dissemination
· SC Special Education Advisory Council
· Grants Information and forms
· Fiscal Monitoring
· Self=assessment Information(Districts)/Indicators
· Parent Resources for Professional Development
· Response to Intervention Guidelines Manual
· Medical Homebound Instruction- Guide for Parents and School Districts (not homebased!)
· Guidelines for Seclusion and Restraint
· State REgulaion Information
· Transition
· District Profiles - Data reporting
· Dispute Resolution Information
· Publications
· Child Find Material
· Testing Accommodations Manual
· Administration and Professional Qualifications, Duties, and Workloads - Regulation No. R 43-205
· Required Credentials for Professional Staff Members in the Instructional Programs in SC’s Public School
· FAQs such as serving students with disabilities in charter schools, alternative schools and adult education

Medicaid:
Education Agency Provider Manual
Medicaid Bulletins

Federal Government - US Department of Education

· “One Stop Shop” for resources related to IDEA and it’s implementation. Go to Building the Legacy, IDEA 201
· Guidance documents and FAQs on topics such as alternative assessments, discipline, IEPs, Evaluations and reevaluations, diproportionality, monitoring, procedural safeguards, and secondary transition issues.
· Training Modules on IDEA 2004
· The Federal Register - after a law is passed
· Learning Port - national online library of professional development resources

Other Resources

· Council For Exceptional Children
· Council of Administrators of Special Education
· National Association of School Psychologists
· LD Online
· NICHCY
· Pro-parents
· Family Connection
· Protection and Advocacy

Do you have any other legal resources that you think are useful? Please share!

Original Image by Pat Hensley

Friday, February 24, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/24/12

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

Comic Master - Create your own short graphic novel (L: G; SA: A)

The Human Heart - “This interactive infographic explains the anatomy and function of the human heart. Find out how the blood flows through the different chambers and valves, and visualize the blood flow using the scroll bar.” (L: G; SA: S)

Lawrence Hall of Science - “In these interactives, use your hands, feet, eyes, ears, brain, imagination and cool tools to experiment, design, test and discover amazing things about the world around you. It's science and it's fun!” (L: E,M; SA: S)

Video Game Design - “Welcome to this online resource for video game design in the classroom. My hope is that my own sharing out of our science-based video game design project will inspire you to consider doing the same for your students, moving them from the role of "player" into the role of "creator."  The main project overview for our gaming unit available for download, if you need inspiration. (see below). There is also a resource page with links and more downloads.” (L: H; SA: A)

Weather Games - from NOAA (L: E, SA: S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Self Advocacy and Student Led IEPs

064I attended this session presented by Dr. Tracy West and Mrs. Jenny Johansson.

Here are the notes from this session:

1. Self-advocacy refers to an individual’s ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his or her own interests, desires, needs, and rights. It involves making informed decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions. (VanReusen et al; 1994)
2. Self Advocates know themselves, know what they need, and know how to get it.
3. Sometimes there are obstacles to getting students to be self advocates. These may be our own beliefs/fears or the parents’ beliefs/fears.
4. Mrs. Johansson’s student, William, modeled how he would present his IEP. He had an IEP with a PowerPoint presentation and shared his information.
5. Certain slides had a little symbol/code that signaled to William when the teacher would present that slide.
6. William’s parents were very pleased with the results of this kind of IEP meeting. They felt their son had improved tremendously by learning to be a self advocate.
7. Preparing for their IEP meetings was a year long process. A red binder was kept for each student to add information that may be needed to make their presentation.

My thoughts:

I have had student led IEPs for many years and I think they were more effective than having the teacher lead them. They were a lot of work to prepare for but well worth the effort. The parents and teachers seemed to be more engaged and interactive in these meetings. I was able to incorporate many of our standards into this project throughout the year. I’m glad to see that more and more teachers are doing this.

Do you do this? If so, please share any suggestions with us! 

Original Image by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Developing Leadership Skills in Special Education

022This was another session presented by Dr. Laura Mohr of Mohr Educational Associates at the SC Council for Exceptional Children and it was very informative.

Here are my notes from this session:

Management focuses on :
1. Maintaining existing relationships
2. Maintaining existing order or comfort zone
3. Using tradition ways of doing things
4. Doing what people think they want
5. Working harder and longer but not smarter

Leadership focuses on:
1. Taking risks
2. Charting the course for anew direction
3. Creating visions
4. Changing way people think about what is desirable
5. Creating excitement about working with children
6. Building new relationships and structures
7. Changing existing cultures

Schools expect administrators to be managers and not leaders.

C’s of Leadership (from The 21 Indispensable Quality of a Leader by John Maxwell):
1. Character
2. Charisma
3. Commitment
4. Communication
5. Competence
6. Courage

Boss vs. Leader:
1. Boss drives people; Leader coaches them
2. Boss depends on authority; Leader depends on good will
3. Boss says I; Leader says we
4. Boss fixes the blame for a breakdown; Leader fixes the breakdown
5. Boss knows how it is done; Leader shows how
6. Boss says Go; Leader says Let’s Go.

Competencies for Special Education Administration:
Council for Exceptional Children has a CEC Knowledge and Skill Base for All Beginning Special Education Administrators

1. Leadership
2. Planning and Improving Curriculum & Instruction
3. Policy & Procedures
4. Community Relations
5. Personnel Practices
6. Fiscal Management

My thoughts:

The administrators that I have worked under have been most effective when they were leaders and not bosses. Sometimes they have had to be bosses though so I believe a mixture of both is necessary. I hope as a teacher that I can be a leader in my classroom and as a role model for my colleagues.

What do you feel makes a good leader? Please share!

Original Image by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Successful Supervision of Paraeducators in Special Education

008I attended this session presented by Dr. Laura Mohr of Mohr Educational Associates at the SC Council for Exceptional Children conference this past weekend and really thought this was an awesome presentation. I don’t think teachers get enough training about supervising Paraeducators. I’m not sure that there is a course in college that covers this at all. When I was a brand new teacher, I was hired for a self contained class and suddenly had a paraeducator. Not only didn’t I have any clue about being a teacher, but all of a sudden I’m a supervisor! I’m really glad to see presentations like this because I see a real need for them.

Here are my notes from this session:

Para means “along side of.”

A paraeducator is one who works with and under the supervision of a professional educator.

Research on Teacher’s Supervision and Training of Paraeducators:
1. “Frequency of meetings” is single indicator of quality supervision.
2. Length of teaching experience did not predict supervisory skills.
3. Formal education plus inservice training predicted supervisory skills.
4. Teachers didn’t want to supervise even though they valued help of Paraeducators.
5. Teachers were reluctant to supervise because they didn’t do written plans or hold sit-down meetings, yet were dissatisfied with communication between Paraeducators and themselves.
6. Teachers reported they had scheduled no time to plan.
7. 30% of teachers reported they never had “face to face” with Paraeducators.

Supervision requires “face to face” contact, planning for and with the paraeducator.

Teacher Competencies for Paraeducator Supervision:
1. Communicating with Paraeducators
2. Planning and scheduling with Paraeducators
3. Providing instructional support
4. Managing the work of Paraeducators
5. Providing on-the-job training
6. Delegating appropriate tasks

Professional Roles of the Teacher
1. Assessment
2. Planning
3. Instructing/Managing
4. Collaborating and Consulting
5. Supervising Paraeducators

Paraeducator Roles
1. Assist and contribute in these ways:
2. Collect student data/chart frequency of behaviors for teacher to use in assessment and decision making
3. Provide instructional support as directed by teacher
4. Manage student behavior according to teacher plans
5. Modify and adapt instructional materials based on directions from special and/or general ed teachers
6. Assist with clerical/housekeeping tasks, organizing and maintaining the environment and personal care

Paraeducator Competencies:
Council for Exceptional Children has a CEC Knowledge and Skill Base for All Beginning Special Education Paraeducators
1. Foundations of Exceptional Children
2. Development and Characteristics of Learners
3. Individual Learning Differences
4. Instructional Strategies
5. Learning Environments and Social Interactions
6. Language
7. Instructional Planning
8. Assessment

Handouts included:
1. Educator and Paraeducator Communication Inventory
2. Schedule and information Planning for the paraeducator
3. Educator/Paraeducator Planning (Duties for staff)
4. Work Style Preferences
5. Problem Solving Vignette
6. Educator and Paraeducator: Complementary Roles
7. Paraeducator - Student Support Plan

My thoughts:

I thought this was an excellent session! I will use this information to share with others and also use it in my graduate class. I think the more training given to teachers, the more successful the students will be.

What suggestions do you have with working with a paraeducator? Please share!

Original Image by Pat Hensley

Monday, February 20, 2012

South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children Conference 2012

032
South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children Conference 2012
This past weekend I attended the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children Conference 2012 in Columbia, SC.

 If you would like to see the pictures I took, please click HERE.

The theme for the conference was “Meet Us in the Middle.”

I was very excited that the person I nominated, Amanda Walkup, won the 2012 Exceptional Educator of the Year award.

The sessions I attended were:
· Successful Supervision of Paraeducators for Teachers and Administrators
· Developing Leadership Skills in Special Education for Current or Aspiring Leaders
· Self Advocacy and Student Led IEPs
· Legal Resources in Special Education
· Virtual High School Programs: What are they and how do they work?

During the next 2 weeks, I will be sharing my notes from these sessions. I hope you will find them useful.
I had a good time at the conference seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Attending conferences like this help me get new ideas, learn new strategies, and network with other educators. If at all possible, I encourage others to attend conferences like this to get re-energized. I believe the more I do these things, the more successful I will be in the classroom.

What conferences do you attend that help you be more successful? Please share.

Original Image by Pat Hensley

Friday, February 17, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/17/12

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

The Space Place - Lots of great learning fun about space. There is information and games to play. There is also a parent and educator page. (L: E; SA: S)

Virtual Keyboard - Make your own music with this keyboard (L: A; SA: FA)

Online Geography Game - ‘Online games and simulations for use in the geography classroom” (L: M, H; SA: SS)

Interactive Biology - Making learning biology fun with videos, lecture videos and quizzes (L: H; SA: S)

MeeGenius - free ebooks for kids (L: E; SA: LA)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Let the Sunshine In

sunshineIn I Like Teaching You from siobhan curious: classroom as microcosm, Siobhan Curious shares,

“Whenever I’m writing final notes to students, I need to acknowledge the enjoyment those students have given me.”

It is winter time here, and cold, and sometimes the skies are dreary. Valentine’s Day is now over and many are either experiencing the sugar rush from all the candy or dealing with the disappointment of a lonely day past.

This is a good time to think about the positive. No matter what anyone says, everyone loves to be on the receiving end of a positive thing.

I need to bring a little sunshine in the classroom and there are any ways that I can do this. Here are some things that I can do:

1. Start each class with a smile. It helps create the tone for the class that day.

2. Greet each student at the door with a handshake. I think this helps both of us feel good about ourselves.

3. Tell students how much I enjoy being there and teaching them. (I need to forget about the most annoying student or the things that aren’t going right in my classroom at this time. I need to remember why I went into teaching to begin with and share my gladness.)

4. Find something positive to say to each student at some point during the week. I can find at least one thing if not more to say to someone that is positive.

5. Decide not to be negative and say negative things that day. This is a conscious effort and can also be a great model for the students. Sometimes I even let them know that is my goal.

6. I will think of ways that I can help someone else even though they didn’t ask for my help. Sometimes just by helping others, I feel better.

7. Write positive statements on papers that I grade and return.

8. Call parents and brag about the student. This really gets a lot of mileage and the return is exponential!

9. Let colleagues know how much I enjoy working with them. Give an example of how they inspire or motivate me to be a better teacher.

10. Share positive stories that have impacted my life. Hopefully one of these stories will impact others too.

What suggestions do you have to bring sunshine into the classroom? Please share!

Image: 'El sol!'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/44126975@N00/420415554

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Handle Success

WhitneyIn It Seems Easier to Be a Great Person After Death Than Before. from PrincipalsPage The Blog, Michael Smith talks about the death of Whitney Houston and mentions,

“An adult’s life (for a variety of reasons) has a traumatic effect on their children.  You can just see the kids being set up for a more complicated life than any of us can imagine.”

I remember hearing her songs and watching her in the movie The Bodyguard and I loved her. She was beautiful and had a beautiful voice. As she went through the trouble of her marriage to Bobby Brown and her fight with drugs, I felt sorry for her. Here was someone who, in my eyes, had the world, and she didn’t seem happy. What a waste of a wonderful career and magnificent talent. Now she is dead and what good was all that fame and fortune?

Maybe that is something we need to teach our students. Fame and fortune isn’t all cracked up to what it seems to be.

The head varsity basketball coach used to be my paraprofessional for a few years. I was able to listen in as he talked to many of the basketball players during the day. It impressed me that he was trying to get them to realize that basketball fame did not happen to every basketball player so it was important not to put all their eggs in one basket. He encouraged them to study and work hard in their classes. After talking about possible injuries in the future, he mentioned how important it was to have a backup plan. Some parents even got upset about this because of course, they wanted their child to be a famous star!

I realize now that we prepare our students to some of the what-ifs for the future but we never prepare them for the what-if if they do well. Here are some of the things I think I need to do better:

· Learn to say no. When you are tired or overwhelmed, it is time to stop and reflect. You might choose to go forward or you might not but don’t rush into decision making. I have always felt that rush decisions don’t get me anywhere.

· Learn to make wise decisions. Look at the pros and cons to your options. Choose the best one that meets your needs but don’t let others talk you into something. Many people are looking out for their own best interests and not yours. If necessary, find an impartial person who won’t benefit from your decision one way or the other and ask for their input.

Learn how to invest money. Too many famous people seem to squander their money or trust the wrong people who squander their money. They need to learn and understand investments so that they can be in control.

· Learn how to spend money wisely. Too many famous people don’t budget their money so that it lasts longer. I have read of many movie stars who go bankrupt because their agents or family have spent all their money.

· Learn to manage time. When I watch interviews with successful people, it seems like the ones with the problems are usually the ones who can’t seem to manage their time. They let others control their time and it is important that a person is in charge of their own time and not others.

· Learn to plan for the what-ifs. What if they are no longer successful? What if they are injured? Who will take care of them? How will they pay their bills when money isn’t coming in?

· Be a real person. Don’t let popularity or fame go to your head. I know that some of the successful people that I have had contact with and remember are the ones who were real people. They didn’t put on airs or act like they were better than me. They didn’t seem to brag or show off because they had a lot of money.

· Watch out for those people who offer you drugs and other things to help you get through the day. That leads to nowhere but a dead-end. There are many examples of people who died to early in their promising career.

What advice would you give your students about achieving success in the future? Please share.

Image: 'Whitney Houston in New Jersey 1986'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55734758@N00/2309670833

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Things That Should Kick the Bucket Before I Do

bucketIn 9+ things that will disappear in our lifetime from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson lists 9 things that will disappear in our lifetimes from K-12 education. Then he asks,

“What's on your list of things that will (or should) disappear from your school before you kick the bucket?”

Of course, I couldn’t resist so here are my answers:

1. Lecture type teaching - I hope that students will learn by collaborating doing some kind of project based learning where the teacher is more of a facilitator than a lecturer. I hope there is more active learning rather than passive learning.

2. Teacher vs. Parent mentality - I hope that eventually teachers and parents can work as a team to help students be more successful. Many parents are discouraged from being a part of the school and I hope this will change.

3. Excessive paperwork - I can’t begin to tell you how much data I am asked to input into a computer only to be asked at the end of the year to fill out a paper report on the same data. There is way too much paper being used in schools!

4. Fear of being sued - Too many times I am told that things can’t be done because of liability possibilities. I think people sue others for things that could be settled easily out of court.

5. Fear of cell phone use - many students have smartphones now and can be used as a great tool in the classroom. Unfortunately many teachers still don’t have these and don’t know how to use them.

6. Homebased instruction with a tutor - I hope that students who are at home due to some discipline reason will have to attend classes using Skype or some kind of technology from home. They will not be allowed to watch TV and have fun because they are suspended but rather still have to participate in class only from a different venue.

7. Expecting students to fit the mold - All students are different and should be recognized and applauded for their individuality. Instead of teaching special ed students with individualized learning, allow all students to be taught this way. Maybe once we stop expecting all students to be the same, students can learn more tolerance for those who are different.

What things would you add to this list? Please share!

Image: 'bucket'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/16215823@N06/4227534087

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day

valentineValentine’s Day is tomorrow and my husband and I talk about all the commercialism surrounding this “Day of Love.” While in line at the store, the lady in front of me and I talked about how expensive Valentine’s Day presents have become (yes, I talk to just about anyone who talks back to me!).

I started to think about ways to give a present without costing too much money. Here are some of the ideas that I came up with.

1. Make your own Valentine’s Day card. There are lots of samples on line for cute sayings. Use candy hearts with sayings on them and glue them in place of a written word.

2. Make your own coupon for a chore that the other person hate’s doing and offer to do it yourself. Or in your homemade card, list the things you plan to do for that person today.

3. If the other person has a hubby, find ways to enjoy the hobby with them for the day. My husband loves model trains so I offer to take him to the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer, NC (which is free).

4. Make someone breakfast in bed.

5. Find some items around the house that symbolize why you love this person. Put it in a basket or container with a list of what each one is and what it symbolizes.

Here are some sites that I found with crafting ideas:

Making Friends Valentine’s Day Crafts

Kaboose’s Valentine’s Day Crafts

Martha Stewart’s Valentine’s Day Crafts

Family Fun Valentine’s Day Crafts

Do you have any other ideas? Please share!

Image: 'Vintage Valentine's day Postcard'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/66974474@N00/356517644

Friday, February 10, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/17/12

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

Doodle for Google 2012 - “Welcome to Doodle 4 Google, a contest where we invite students in the United States to use their artistic talents to think big and redesign Google’s homepage logo for millions to see. This year we ask students to exercise their creative imaginations around the theme, "If I could travel in time, I'd visit…" One lucky student artist will see their artwork appear on the Google homepage and take home some cool prizes--and as a special bonus, the winning artwork will appear on a limited edition of Crayola's iconic 64 box!” (L: G; SA:A)

Find The Best - “At FindTheBest, we present you with the facts — stripped of any marketing influence — so that you can make quick and informed decisions. We present the facts in easy-to-use tables with smart filters, so that you can decide what is best.” (L: G; SA:A)

NASA Lunar Electric Rover App for iPhone and iPod Touch - “Welcome to the NASA Lunar Electric Rover (LER) Simulator. You don’t need a driver’s license, but you still need to buckle up as the LER Simulator gives you a glimpse of what it might be like to support the activities of a functioning Lunar Outpost. Get busy. You never know if your skills here will become a major part of the NASA Astronaut application process in the future. “(L: M, H; SA:S)

NASA Moonbase Alpha Simulation - “In Moonbase Alpha, you assume the exciting role of an astronaut working to further human expansion and research. Returning from a research expedition, you witness a meteorite impact that cripples the life support capability of the settlement. With precious minutes ticking away, you and your team must repair and replace equipment in order to restore the oxygen production to the settlement.” (L: H; SA: S, C)

Presidential Candidate Research - “Using C-SPAN’s Campaign 2012 Application, students will research and evaluate the Presidential Candidates’ positions on key policy issues. Through watching clips of candidate speeches, students will determine the candidates’ position on the economy, foreign policy, health care, immigration, and more. Then, students will compare and contrast the candidates’ views with their own view.” (L: H, SA: SS)

Original Image by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Teaching Takes Courage

courageIn The Courage to Teach from Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc., Angela Maiers states,

“The heart of teaching is the teaching of the heart. In order to teach, we need courage to overcome our fears. Consider and reflect on the following statements of courage.

I have the courage to…

I remember when I first started my student teaching. It suddenly hit me. What was I doing? Did I honestly think that I had anything in me to teach others? Was this a vision of grandeur? Maybe a power hungry moment? Then I had to be bold, gather my courage, and begin my teaching career.

It takes courage to know that as a teacher, I have a great influence on someone else’s life. It may be a good one or it could be a terrible one but I have that power in me to affect someone else for the rest of their life. I need to be able to find the right words and questions that will help them live productive adult lives.

It also takes courage to know that I don’t know everything. It is alright if I learn some new things from my students. It is alright to even let my students know that I don’t know everything. It takes courage to learn new things and open up to possible failures. My students will learn that I am making an effort to learn and they will also learn from me how I handle the results. If I fail, will I try again or will I give up. It takes courage to have my students observe my behavior and learn from it.

It takes courage to not always be in control. Sometimes it is good for students to learn control but have me there as a safety net in case something goes wrong. I remember when I had my first student teacher in my class and how hard it was to let him have control. I wanted to jump in and keep him from making mistakes but I realized that was how he was going to learn and remember not to do it again. When my children were little, I wanted to do the same things but it wasn’t healthy for them and it wasn’t right. The same works in my classroom. It is really hard for me because I know I am such a control freak!

Connecting with others online has really caused me to think about my beliefs and practices. I read many blogs and have built up my personal/professional learning network. I have learned new things that are really exciting! I’ve also learned things that I didn’t agree with or wasn’t my cup of tea. I believe this connecting has helped me grow so much in my personal and my professional life. But I have to admit, connecting was scary and hard for me. I’m pretty shy and scared of messing up. But slowly and with the help of my new “friends,” I have gotten more comfortable with connecting and sharing. Blogging was really scary for me when I started this almost five years ago. I was putting out my personal thoughts and ideas. I didn’t know if anyone would read them, or care. And then what if they disagreed with me or thought what I said was stupid? I bit the bullet and got up my courage to do it anyway and I’m glad I did.

I have many different hobbies and interests but I’m always thinking about the connection of them with teaching/learning. I love to hike, garden, travel, read, and knit but there are so many ways that I can connect them with my teaching which I also love.

Having the courage to teach has taught me that I do matter. I matter to the students I teach. By realizing that I matter to them, helps me realize how much they matter to me. They influence my life in many ways as much as I hope to influence their lives.

What do you think about Angela’s statements? Please share in your comments or write your own blog post (but please leave the link in the comments so I can read it).

Image: 'Courage'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28430474@N05/6338621319

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Using Available Tools

toolsIn She Isn’t Using Technology —from Tech Thoughts By Jen, Jennifer tells about a teacher at her school.

“She is a good teacher — NOT because she uses technology — but because she uses her resources.  Any and all — to make her classroom a great place to be!”

When I talk to some teachers, they are quick to let me know that they aren’t “into technology.” I am always amazed at how defensive they become when I mention some resources that I found online. I love to find resources and ideas online but I also get ideas from other places too. Sometimes I do more research online to find out a more detailed explanation about a new idea.

Teachers don’t have to “use technology” to be a great teacher. But I believe that teachers do need to know about resources that are available to be more effective. One of the resources is using technology. My students use technology and if they feel I am so out of touch with technology, I believe that they will think everything I am trying to teach them is obsolete too. I’m not saying that I need to know everything about technology, because I have learned a lot from my students. I don’t want to say I’m not “into technology” which can be interpreted to mean I really don’t care to learn about it. What if our students said the same thing about my teaching?

I have used technology to find other resources to help me in the classroom. Connecting with others, I have found a Skype Author network where authors can “come” into the classroom and talk to students. By searching the web, I have found great lessons to use in the classroom. When I want to do something and want to learn, I have watched YouTube videos to learn how to do this. When I needed an answer to a question, I have posted it on Twitter and Plurk and received lots of help from others, almost immediately.

I don’t feel that I necessarily need to use technology in the classroom to be more effective. But I feel I need to know how to find information and connect with others by using technology. I feel it is an important part of my personal and professional development. It is necessary for me to grow as a person and a professional. I feel it is important for me to get “into technology” to find out the resources that are available out there for me to be a better teacher.

Image: 'Clever Wall Mural in Yellow Springs, Ohio'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22834654@N04/2499663609

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don’t Blame Me

blameIn Don’t Blame School Officials if Your Child Chooses to Look at Porn on His Laptop from Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Wesley Fryer tells about a news story where a parent is upset that her child accessed pornography on a school laptop. He also states,

“Responsibility for teen behavior when it comes to life online as well as offline lies primarily with the STUDENT.”

I wanted to jump up and cheer! Too much of society today wants to always blame someone else for a person’s behavior. The only behavior I can control is my own. The same goes for everyone else. Yes, outside things can influence my behavior but the ultimate responsibility comes back to me.

Years ago, I was a cheerleader coach. My head cheerleader had gotten pregnant of her senior year right smack in the middle of basketball season. She did not conceive during school hours or during any event where she was a cheerleader. This means in no way was I around or in charge of the cheerleaders. Yet, when some of the parents (high school and upcoming middle school student parents) found out, everyone wanted my resignation. They wanted me to resign not just as a cheerleader coach but as a teacher! How was I to blame for the poor choices that this girl made? Needless to say, I did not resign from either position.

My own children have made choices that I felt were bad. As a parent, I can teach them values and appropriate behavior but I can’t guarantee that they will always make the right choices. They will make mistakes. I made mistakes. In fact, many times, I still do. But I can’t blame anyone for the mistakes except myself. My behavior is determined by the choices that I make.

I also taught my children and my own students that there are consequences for the choices that they make. Some consequences may be good and some may be bad. But the responsibility falls back on them.

When the school teaches students to drive, students are given a tool of transportation. This tool can take them to libraries, museums, schools, and so many other educational places when they get in their own car. It also can take them to porn shops, illegal drug drops, and other inappropriate or other illegal places. The choice is one that the person, as a driver, makes when behind the wheel. If a student gets a ticket or is arrested outside of school hours while driving, the school should not be blamed because of these bad choices.

When I teach students, I am giving them information and knowledge to use in their lives outside of school. I also teach how to use this information and knowledge appropriately. But I cannot and will not monitor every minute of their lives once I do this. That is part of growing up.

This student had the laptop taken away and suffered consequences. Once the parent began blaming the school for this student’s behavior, the student stopped being responsible for his own behavior. I feel parents that do this will have a bumpy road in the future. The student has now learned a new behavior - “Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault.”

What do you think? Please share.

Image: 'preemptive finger pointing poster'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/54289096@N00/317919851

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dream Big

DreamsIn Rightsizing your passion from Seth's Blog, Seth Godin states,

“If you’re short on passion, it might be because your goals are too small or the fear is too big.”

This is so true!

When I was young, I always wanted to be a teacher. That was my big dream! As I got older, I realized that my father made less money than most of my friends’ parents who had 2 working parents. When I decided which college I wanted to go to was a private university out of state, I knew that there was no way I could afford to go there. But I decided to dream big. I worked hard and acted as if that was where I would go and do whatever it took to get there. When I applied to the university, I could only afford to apply to one place so I sent in my application with the belief that I would be accepted. I decided to worry about finances after I got accepted. Then I was accepted through “Early Admissions” and decided that the finances would work out. I applied for financial aid and some federal loans and scholarships. All were given to me so I actually got to attend my dream university! Every year, I worked hard to earn money and keep up my grades so I could return the next year. It was hard but I dreamed the big dream and it happened.

I could have listened to those naysayers who told me that private schools were too expensive. I was also told that there was no way I could financially attend. I was told that there was no way I would get any loans (my father didn’t make enough money to repay it) or scholarships (I wasn’t as smart as my classmates) to attend this school. But I was determined! I declared my emancipation from my parents and was able to obtain loans. I studied harder to make sure my grades were good enough to earn scholarships. My mother used to tell me that “where there is a will, there is a way.” I believed her.

I could have had smaller dreams like just going to college instead of the university that I had my heart set on. I could have gotten small jobs to financially afford a local community college. I could have settled on less. Instead I had the passion to dream the big dream. In dreaming the big dream, I think you have to believe that it can happen and not let others pull you away from that belief.

Sure, I could have failed and not achieved my big dream. But what was the worst that could happen? I would have to attend a small community college near home (not going to college was not an option at all). So, I had nothing to lose and only everything to gain to dream big.

I’m not saying that it is okay to dream big and hope it falls in your lap. I’m saying that you should dream big and then work to make that dream come true. It can happen.

Image: 'Big League Dreams'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/94833286@N00/497607116

Friday, February 3, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/3/12

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

Cursive Handwriting Practice - Paragraphs - “Make a title for your handwriting worksheet in Step 1 below. Then go to Step 2 and type several sentences to make your paragraph. Watch words appear in dot trace letters as you type. You can then modify letter size, color and line color for a professional Cursive practice writing exercise!” (L: E; SA: LA)

Road to the White House - “Using C-SPAN’s Campaign 2012 website, students will explore the Election Process in the United States. They will examine the role of early campaigning, caucuses and primaries, the conventions, the debates, Election Day, continuing through to Inauguration Day. Then, students will evaluate the United States’ election process to determine whether they believe our system is appropriate in choosing the president or whether they think it should be altered.” (L: H; SA: SS)

Planet Ebook - “Classic literature for download as free eBooks” (L: H; SA: LA)

The Chronicles of Narnia - the book is read to listeners in a free audio podcast (L: E; SA: LA)

TechSmith’s Hub for Experimental Innovation - “Welcome to TechSmith Labs – the home for temporary trials, wacky experiments, and maybe TechSmith's next best thing. Check below for our latest experiments and let us know what you think! Input from our customers is what makes every TechSmith project great; just don't get too attached. While these experiments may be cool, keep in mind that they're experiments – they may morph into other ideas, turn into products, or discreetly disappear forever.” (L: H; SA: S)

Original image by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Writing Goals

goalsI know that I might have written about this before but I am writing about it again because some people need a refresher on how to write goals. You wouldn’t believe how many times I have had to have people rewrite goals because they just don’t get it. When I was in college, it was drummed in my head so much that even after 30 years; I still remember how to write them. This came in handy for work and personal goals.

Goals need to be behavioral, observable, and measureable.

First I need to identify the behavior that I want to target. For example, I want to lose weight so I plan on walking on my treadmill. This is a behavior that can be observed.

Now I plan on walking 60 minutes on my treadmill for a minimum of 3 times a week. That is measurable. I can keep a chart on the times I walk.

So, my goal would be written as:

I will walk 60 minutes on my treadmill at least 3 times a week.

Words like “try”, “seem”, “improve” sound great but they are not observable or measurable. It seems like some teachers don’t want to make a solid commitment and think that if they use these vague words, they won’t seem like a failure if they don’t succeed. But these types of words can no show success because even though they seem positive, they are concrete. Goals need to have action words. These words show an action that I can see someone do.

The big thing that many leave off is the criteria that make it measurable. This tells me how much. How many times will the person do something? How often will it be done? Examples can be: 4 out of 5 times, 80% of the time, 10 times without errors etc. I see the result as a mathematical number that can be charted.

I have used goals like these for my students IEPs. In my teacher evaluations, I have used goals like this for my yearly evaluations. In my personal life, I have used goals like this to help me achieve things that I wanted to do. Not only do teachers need to be able to make goals like this, but we need to teach students how to do this. This is something that they will do later in their life with many different things.

What kind of goals do you write and how do you write them? Please share.

Image: 'Goals'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/68131855@N00/739519564

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Message to My New Teacher

studentIn What I want my teachers to know about me from Life is not a race to be first finished, Allanahk shares,

“At the end of last year I asked my Year Four students to record their thoughts on an open Google Presentation.
What were the five things that they wanted their new teacher in Year Five to know about them?”

Then she asked how we would answer this question and I thought I would give it a try.

1. I am a visual learner. Sure you can lecture and talk, but I need to see it visually to capture it in mind, process it, and retain it.
2. I pay attention better if I can keep moving. I like to knit while I listen so my mind doesn’t wander.
3. I need my learning to be relevant to my life. I need to know why I need to learn this and how it will apply to my life.
4. After about 30 minutes of sitting and listening, I need a break. I need to process what you have told me and I need to move my body around. If I don’t move, my brain seems to turn off. So, if I get up and move to the back of the room, please don’t be offended.
5. Sometimes I get hit by the shy bug. It is hard for me to ask questions or give comments in a group. If we could have a backchannel of some sort, it would really help me participate.

How would you answer?

Image: 'the professor is six minutes late'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/55779593@N00/127023370