Monday, April 30, 2012

Personal Learning Networks

network(Today’s post is for the letter P in the A-Z challenge.)

Over the past few years I have developed several personal learning networks (PLN). At first I used to call them professional and personal networks but then I realized they were all personal to me.

My resources have been blogs, twitter, plurk and facebook. I also have connected with people on Linked In, Digg, nings, and wikis. Making new friends leads to making more new friends. When I do to online seminars, I start seeing my friends there too which reinforces the connections.

My PLNS include educators, knitters, spinners, and ham radio people. Depending on the mood and the need, I have instant access to new information or help when I need it. I am able to bounce new ideas or get inspiration from my connections.

I also have a PLN in my real life. I go to conferences for educators where I meet some of my online friends in real life. I also have a knitting group that meets weekly. Monthly, our ham radio club meets as well as a monthly meet and greet. I like to use others’ knowledge and expertise when I need help.

I also mentor preservice teachers who are studying to be special ed teachers. In a way, I’m part of their PLN but their new ideas and enthusiasm help me also. I also encourage those interested in electronics or radios to get their ham radio license. Of course everyone who knows me knows that my knitting goes where I go. If I’m sitting, then I’m knitting! I’m willing to talk knitting or spinning with anyone who is interested in that topic.

I think like gardening, I need to develop and nurture these relationships. If I don’t nurture them, they will die an early death. It is not good enough to just make the connections but I need to make them into networks where information can flow both ways.

Thanks to many of you who read this who are part of my PLN. And if you aren’t part of it yet, please contact me so we can connect and help each other!

Image: 'My network'

Friday, April 27, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/27/12

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

A Better Calculator - graphing calculator (L:H; SA:M)

Slatebox - Mindmapping tool (L:G; SA:A)

3DTin - create your own 3D models (L: M, H; SA: A)

Socrative - “Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets.” (L:G; SA: A)

LearnClick - “Take any text, mark the words you want to learn and transforms your text into a cloze deletion test”. (L:G; SA: A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Being Open and Honest

door(Today’s post is for the letter O in the A-Z challenge.)

I have always believed that it was important to be open and honest with my students. At the beginning of the year, I would tell them this and try to be true to my word. Yet, I always had a disclaimer. I told them that I would not discuss any sex, drugs, or illegal activities of any sort. I didn’t feel that I was willing to risk my job in a discussion of these topics in any way.

My students were very curious about my life. Sometimes they would test me and ask me questions that many teachers have lied to them about. Let’s face it, unless you are a pathological liar, students can tell when you are lying or if you are insincere. They ask me if I drink alcohol and I’m honest with them. I drink but I drink in moderation and I won’t drive at all if I had anything to drink. I don’t feel that I am wrong in being honest with them about this because drinking alcohol is not illegal. Some of my colleagues are horrified that I was honest with my students about this. What if they had seen me at a grocery store buying beer or wine? Wouldn’t I be modeling hypocrisy to them?

I think being open and honest with my students is very important. If I don’t want to answer the question, then I just tell them that I feel it is too personal and I will not answer it. I feel that it is important to show them that it is okay not to answer certain questions if I feel uncomfortable answering them. It is much better than lying about my answer!

I feel my students respect me more when they know that I will be open and honest with them.

We have had a lot of important discussions where my students have really shared with me their feelings about having a disability. Many have said that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing this with other teachers because many of their teachers tell the students that they are wrong for feeling this way. Or they are told that things will get better or all they have to do is work harder, study harder, try harder and their disability will disappear. I basically tell them that they have a disability and they need to learn to figure out a way to succeed in life with this disability. I don’t try to ignore the disability or make the students feel like it is their fault they have a disability. I think some of the reasons some teachers lie about dealing with a disability is because they are uncomfortable with disabilities and they don’t understand them.

I think it is so important for teachers to be open and honest with students. If you can’t answer them honestly than be honest enough to say that you don’t feel like you can answer the question. Don’t avoid it or lie. That is the worst thing that you can do.

How do you feel about this in the classroom? Please share.

mage: 'مرگ چون پرواز است'

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


004(Today’s post is for the letter M in the A-Z challenge.)

According to The Conservation Fund website,

“You can learn more about the relationship between American youth and nature in America's Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations.” Released in early 2011, the report is part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, which aims to reconnect Americans to nature. A separate Youth Report was produced based on responses gathered during 21 "youth listening sessions." In these sessions young people voiced a strong desire to spend more time outdoors and talked about challenges that made outdoor recreation difficult or inaccessible to them”

Recently I led groups of second and fifth graders on a hike around the lake at our local state park. I was so surprised to see that most of them had never been to this state park and it is right in our own county. Many of our state parks are such a great resource for families and schools!

There are also heritage preserves around out county that I didn’t even know about. I am amazed at the protected areas around me that have wonderful flowers and wildlife to observe.

I remember as a small child having my mother teach me to garden in our back yard. The elderly neighbors even took me to hunt mushrooms. I never learned that skill well enough to pick mushrooms for my own meal but I admire those who are willing to do that.
I love to sit in my own back yard and watch the birds. On my back deck, I have one of those faux clay flower pots (made of Styrofoam) that I have filled with water and include a water lily plus a gold fish. The birds in the area use this for their own private bird bath and it is fascinating to watch them.

Around my yard are several bird feeders that entice the birds to visit. I even found a bird’s nest in my rose bush the other day.

Nature is all around us and we need to open our eyes and ears to experience it!

Original picture by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


magician(Today’s post is for the letter M in the A-Z challenge.)

I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was a little girl. I remember playing school with my dolls and then with my cousins, and then anyone who was willing to play with me. I loved learning of any kind.

I remember thinking that learning was like magic. If you wanted to do something, anything, all you had to do was learn how to do it. There was nothing in the world that you couldn’t do if you were willing to learn it.

Learning to read was like opening the door to the secrets of magic. Reading taught me all of the tricks needed to do to learn anything. I couldn’t believe there were so many books about so many different topics. Now that the internet is available, the topics are endless.

Once I learned to read, I wanted to share this magic with others. I not only wanted to share the magic but I wanted to share the secrets.

I had such a horrible fourth grade teacher that abused her students and from then on, I wanted everyone to know all the secrets of the magic so that they would never have to face failure.

Once I became a teacher, I realized the power I had to share the magic. As I taught each lesson and watched each child understand the concept or skill I was teaching, it was as thrilling as pulling off a magic trick.

But the important thing to share with my students is that they are not just the audience in a magic show. I want each one of them to know that they too could hold the secrets and be the magicians.

Now that I have become a teacher, I realize that teaching is even better than magic. Teaching is so much better than being a magician. Teaching children and changing their lives is even better than pulling a rabbit out of a hat or sawing a person in half!

If you are a teacher, how do you feel about the career path you chose? Please share.

Image: 'Day 167 - The Magician'

Monday, April 23, 2012

Laughter in the Classroom

laughter(Today’s post is for the letter L in the A-Z challenge.)

According to HelpGuide, Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict.”

According to the article, The Stress Management and Health Benefits of Laughter“…laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity.”

I loved reading the Reader’s Digest section called Laughter is the Best Medicine. They always put me in the best mood. I enjoyed them so much that I would collect old Reader’s Digests that belonged to my friend and encourage my students to read them. I would start them off reading Laughter is the Best Medicine and they would usually check out the other stories.

Laughter can turn a crisis into something manageable. This applies to the classroom and also applies to real life.

Many times I have used laughter to diffuse a sensitive situation. But I need to make sure the students and/or the adults know that I am not laughing at them. Using a little humor can relieve the tension and allow people to open up. When stressed, I believe we turn our thoughts inward instead of opening up to new ideas and strategies.

If you have ever watched The Golden Girls, Betty White usually ends up telling a humorous story at a tense time in the story. This usually brings some humorous relief to a dramatic moment. I like to use stories about myself to ease conflict between two of my students or two of my colleagues. Listening to my story telling allows both parties some time to calm down and it also can bring some laughter to the situation.

Before a test, I like to start the class with some silly jokes such as knock knock jokes. If the students don’t laugh at the joke, I can usually get them to laugh at me laughing at the joke. I buy a lot of those scholastic joke books to share with my students. It doesn’t matter what grade the students are in, usually all of them enjoy a silly joke.

Do you use laughter in the classroom? If so, please share.

Image: 'One Dollar, Sir!'

Friday, April 20, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/20/12

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

Exploratorium -the museum of science, art and human perception” (L:G; SA: S, FA)

Electric Circuits - fun interactive to learn about electric circuits (L:M; SA:S)

Novels on Location - look at a google map and see where different novels are set (L:H: SA: LA)

Circus Physics - “The Big Apple Circus' jugglers, clowns and high-flying acrobats provide an entertaining and engaging way to introduce basic physics concepts to high school students. Eight videos feature footage from the series and interviews with the performers to illustrate the laws of physics at work. For deeper exploration, each video has  a corresponding Study Guide for students and an Activity Guide for teachers, as well as raw video clips of performances which can be used for analysis in the classroom.” (L:H; SA:S)

Math Rap-Pi - “Rhyme 'N Learn produces clean rap songs about math and science. They've just released a new song, "Don't Let Pi Make Ya Cry." In this new song students are introduced to the function of Pi.” (L:H; SA:M)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 19, 2012


kindness(Today’s post is for the letter K in the A-Z challenge.)

There is not enough kindness in the world today. Too many times we have excuses not to be kind to others but when I think about it, I realize that I have no excuse not to be kind to anyone.

Kindness isn’t a give and take action. Kindness is all giving without any expectation of return. Kindness needs to be done because it is the right thing to do and not because we think others owe it to us in return. I think many people have gotten out of practice and need to make a conscious effort to be kind to others. With this practice, it may become a natural action where you don’t even have to think about it.

Kindness comes in many forms. It may just be a simple smile to someone. Or it may be a compliment on what they are wearing or what they are doing. This makes us notice others more.

I remember riding on a subway in NY where no one wants to give anyone eye contact. It is a way to try to make yourself invisible and hope no one notices you. I was the student in the class who wouldn’t make eye contact with the teacher and would often line my head up exactly behind the person in front of me so that I wouldn’t be noticed. The reason I did this was because I was afraid I would make a mistake and be ridiculed by either the teacher or my peers. Maybe if the teacher had been kind enough to see me after class and really hear my concerns, we would have been able to work through this behavior.

Kindness may be just listening to someone else. Many people just want someone to listen to them.

I remember meeting with an irate parent. Instead of defending myself or the school, I just let her rant and rave. After a while, she started to wind down and calm down. At the end, she thanked me for listening because no one had ever taken the time to just listen to her concerns and frustrations. Once she got that out of her system, we were able to work towards a solution to the problem. She no longer wanted to sue the school or the district. She longer felt like an adversary and finally felt like she could be part of the team now.

I remember a teenager in my class just needed someone to listen to him without making any judgments. He might have made some harsh statements about others but eventually came around and realized they were rash. He just needed to get all of his anger out of his system. He was frustrated with his disability and he felt like no one understood him. Once he could get that anger out and calm down, we were able to figure out ways to help him be more successful in the classroom.

I complimented a complete stranger in the store on her beautiful knit sweater. As a knitter, I’m always looking at knit items and wondering if it is possible for me to replicate something like that. She looked surprised and then thanked me. A few minutes later she came up to me and let me know that she was having a horrible day and those were the first nice words anyone had said to her all day long.

We never know what our students are dealing with at home or in their other classes. We don’t know how they are really feeling inside. In just a few minutes, our kindness can really make a difference. Kindness may seem like a small thing to the person giving it but it could have a really big effect on the person receiving it.

So, I challenge you to show a little kindness to someone today, whether it is a family member, someone in your work place, or even a complete stranger. Then tomorrow, do it to two people. And then each day try to double it until you no longer think about it. Hopefully you will have developed a wonderful habit that others will want to copy!

Image: 'The kindness of strangers'

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jealousy in the School

jealousy(Today’s post is for the letter J in the A-Z challenge.)
Jealousy is characterized as a green eyed monster. I have seen where jealousy can ruin the moral of a school but I’m not talking about the student’s behavior. Instead I’m referring to the teachers in the building. Too many people seem to be worried about what another teacher is doing or saying or getting.
Here are some jealous statements I’ve heard over the years and how I feel about them.
I do more work than that teacher! - I’m not sure that I can accurately judge how much work another person does. Plus I don’t know how much that teacher does outside of the school building on their own time. I need to worry about my own work and not others.
She never does her assigned duty but I always do mine! - This is something that the administration needs to deal with and not me. I need to focus on doing my job and not spend energy worrying about other people not doing their job. Now if their lack of responsibility affects my ability to do my job, I need to go to the administration and let them know this.
She leaves early or comes in late and nothing is ever done! - I don’t know what kind of agreements have been made with the administration. Again, this is none of my business and I need to focus on my own punctuality and not others.
No wonder her students like her! She lets them run wild! - As long as her students are not distracting mine, I will not worry about her classroom behavior. I don’t know if that is part of the assignment or if that is her teaching style. Obviously that is not mine and I can only control my own behavior and not hers.
She never has to turn in her paperwork in on time like I do. - This is another area for the administration to handle. I don’t know if this has or has not been addressed with her already and what the consequences may be. She might not be sharing the whole story with me. Again I need to focus on turning in my paperwork in a timely fashion so I can feel proud of the job that I am doing.
She always gets picked to be on committees but I don’t. - She might have more expertise than I do in certain areas. Or she request for placement on certain committees. If I want to be on a committee, I need to be proactive and talk with the administration about adding me to that committee. If I don’t share my interest, I can’t expect the administration to read my mind.
She is given permission to do activities that I am not allowed to do with my students! - I don’t know what rationale she has for doing these activities. If she has shown a learning value and the administration agrees, then that is between them and not me. Maybe I need to look at my own reasons for why I want to do the activity.
The administration is always spending money on her class but not mine! - This teacher may have gone to the administration before and asked for things that were promised when there was money for them. I don’t know what was agreed on between them but it is not my business. I need to address this to the administration if I have some things needed for the classroom. Certain money may be earmarked for certain things and not for what I’m requesting. The administration may find money in a different place for things that I need or at least know about my needs for future budget planning.
These are just some of the jealous statements that I’ve heard in the workplace. Addressing things like this in a general fashion with my students may help them be more successful in their own workplace.
What have you heard and how do you handle these things? Please share!
Image: 'Iconic Emotions: Jealous'

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

IQ and Labels

IQ(Today’s post is for the letter I in the A-Z challenge.)
IQ isn’t all it is cracked up to be. It also seems like it isn’t as prevalent as it was when I was growing up and even when I went to college. Or maybe it is but they call it something different now. It scares me when I hear some teachers talk about some students in relation to their IQ. For some reason in my classroom, IQ never really matched with who was a good student, who studied harder, who was better behaved, who learned easier than others, who was more motivated, or even who liked to learn.
Years ago, I had this teenage girl in my high school class that had been tested and because of her IQ and other factors; she was classified as having a learning disability. For years she was assigned to a self contained class with other students who also had learning disabilities. She learned job skills along with improving her reading, math and writing skills. Her willingness to try and not give up really helped her go further than her family expected. In fact, many times her grades were better than some of the others in the class. Then it was time for her 3 year reevaluation and testing was required. All of a sudden, her IQ was much lower and she was switched to a class for students with mental disabilities. These students learned more functional skills rather than academic skills and were much lower academically than what this girl was used to. Within the year, she ended up pregnant and dropped out of school. I was so disappointed and angry because I felt like the school placed too much emphasis on this girl’s IQ rather than what her needs were.
Now fast forward through time, in another self contained class where students of all different disabilities were grouped together. Again, students had to be classified with a specific disability (it sure helps get federal funding) but I didn’t focus on their labels as much as I did on their needs. I had this girl who was classified with a mental disability because of her IQ but she probably was the sharpest student in my class. She loved a challenge and worked hard to grow in her knowledge and skills. She always completed her assignments, did her homework, and came for extra help if she needed it. Often times, I would hear her encourage other students, help them with their work, and even fuss at the others if they weren’t doing what they should. On a field trip, I could always trust her to remind me when someone needed to get their medicine or if we needed to be at a certain place at a certain time. She was a joy to teach! She also taught me that it was more important to teach to a student’s needs rather than to their IQ.
Many times when my students were assigned general ed classes, I would have that teacher come running to my room and try to explain why my student should not be there. Without even meeting the students, all that was seen were IQ scores and labels of their disability. I hope with better knowledge and understanding that general ed teachers can look beyond these factors and look at the individual student. I am not asking that the curriculum be watered down for my students but that a teacher is willing to make accommodations and let my student try. Sometimes we need to have higher expectations for our students and help them rise to the occasion rather than to lower our expectations and not help our students grow.
How do you see IQ, labels, and teaching fit together? Please share!
Image: 'the principles of the divine'

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happiness is…

happiness(Today’s post is for the letter H in the A-Z challenge.)

Happiness is:

1. Having a room full of smiling students.
2. Having a school where teachers are happy to be there.
3. Having a supportive administration.
4. Having colleagues who are willing to listen to me whine and still like me.
5. Having parents who back me up when needed.
6. Having a good laugh after hearing silly knock knock jokes from my students.
7. Having a good day when I can tell that my students have “gotten” the concept that I was teaching.
8. Having enough funding to be effective in my classroom.
9. Having enough energy to do all the things I want to do.
10. Having good health and not catching every little bug that students share so nicely.
11. Having parents and students appreciate my hard work.
12. Having things turn out just like I hoped.
13. Having all the right materials on hand to do something that I want to do.
14. Having my work done ahead of time instead of feeling I’m behind in my work.
15. Having people offer to help me without needing to be asked.
16. Having time off to re-energize.
17. Having a husband who is willing to go with me when I spend lots of time doing school stuff.
1.    18Having a hobby that helps relieve stress.
2.     19. Having people visit my blog, read it and even leave comments on them!
3.     20. Being featured on Teacher’s Resources Online! (Thank you to OnlineCollegesUSA!)

What makes you happy? Please share!

Image: 'Felicità '

Friday, April 13, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/13/12

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

Developing Good Credit Habits - “In this module, students will discover the secrets to developing good credit habits and learn how long it can take to pay off a credit card balance. The objectives are to pay off credit card debt, maintain a good credit rating by making payments on time and accumulate as many consumer goods and services as possible without running up credit card debt.” (L:M,H; SA: SS, M)

Spelling Wizard - great way to learn spelling words. (L:E; SA:LA)

Alphabetimals - fun way to see words written in animal art (L:E; SA:LA)

Gooru - “an online study tool that allows you to explore and study over 2,600 standards-aligned and personalized study guides. Study guides cover fifth grade through high school math and science topics, and resources include digital textbooks, animations, instructor videos and more. All resources are vetted and organized by teachers or Gooru’s content experts, so you don’t have to sort through the mess of subpar educational resources available online yourself.” (L:G; SA: M, S)

Mission US - “Mission US is a multimedia project that immerses players in U.S. history content through free interactive games.” (L:M,H ; SA:SS)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Importance of Geography

011Yesterday I watched them move a house in my neighborhood. It was fascinating and took hours. Another fascinating thing was that everyone in our little town must have come to watch this event. People brought blankets and chairs. During lunch time, families had picnics while they watched the progress. I was able to see neighbors and friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and catch up on latest happenings. The other amazing thing is that this house is only being moved 2 blocks away.
I started thinking about my students and how many had dreams of going places. Unfortunately many of my students had never been out of our county and had no idea what was out there outside of their own little world. Many of my students remembered studying our state and the other counties in our state but since they never used this information, a lot of it just became a distant memory.
So, I took my students on a trip to Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, NC. It was a Saturday trip and not school sanctioned. Most of my students carpooled with each other and even parents were invited to join us. It was thrilling to see many of my inner city students see mountains up close for the first time. When we hiked up the mountain at the Sandburg’s home, we talked about topography and land features. My students were able to see in real life what I was trying to teach them.
Since my husband and I love to travel, we took lots of pictures as we drove through different states. When I had my students memorize the names of the 50 states and actually locate them on the US map, it was helpful to show them pictures of the different states. It even helped them remember it better when they saw my husband and me in the picture. I enjoyed reliving the memories and they enjoyed seeing us on our travels.
When I teach current events, many different countries are mentioned and we find them on the map. Then we try to figure out the distance in miles and flying time from where we are located. It also helps to learn what the local time is compared to our local time.
Without this sense of geography, many of the things I was teaching didn’t seem to mean much to my students. Once they had a point of reference, it made learning so much easier.
It is a shame that they have stopped teaching a course in geography. Now they have incorporated it in with other Social Studies courses but I don’t believe that is enough. I’m not sure the students get enough exposure to geography in addition to all of the other content information they need to learn.
What do you think about how geography is taught in schools? How do you use teach it? Please share.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Freedom to be Flexible

flexible(Today’s post is for the letter F in the A-Z challenge.)
I understand that we have state and federal standards. I understand that we need to make sure that all teachers are accountable and that our students are learning the most they can.
But students are not robots.
I don’t care how many times I talk to non-educators; I have to keep repeating that all students are different.
I agree that all students can learn.
Yet, I believe that all students do learn differently and at different paces.
That is what makes all of us individuals.
I believe that my husband is the smartest man I know but he learns completely differently than I do. He also learns at a different pace than I do. In fact, it is always interesting when we take the same class and we each have a different perspective about what we have learned.
I also think more educators see this in their classrooms than we actually know about. But many have their hands tied by these rigid standards that they are evaluated by. These standards don’t just apply to the teacher but also to the student that they teach to. When we are dealing with human beings, I believe it is impossible that everyone is the same.
I think our classrooms would be more effective if we let good teachers have the freedom to be flexible. Good teachers need to evaluate their own strengths and the strengths of their students. Using this information, teachers can teach more effectively and efficiently.
When I am having construction done on my house, I trust that the contractor and the construction crew know what they are doing. I don’t try to micromanage the crew every step of the way. When I go to the dentist, I trust that the dentist and his staff will do what needs to be done on my teeth. The same goes for my doctors that keep me healthy. When I go to a restaurant, I trust that the employees there will do what needs to be done to prepare and serve my meal. I don’t go in and inspect the kitchen and test the staff. I trust that the health department and employer have taken care of those items. At some point, society, the administrators, and the taxpayers need to trust teachers to do the job that they were trained to do. I admit that there are some teachers who are no good teachers but if administrators did their job the way they were trained to do, they could get rid of these teachers.
Are you allowed flexibility in your job? If so, in what ways? If not, what kind of flexibility would you like more of? Please share.
Image: 'Flexible'

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


examples(Today’s post is for the letter E in the A-Z challenge.)

Using examples is an extremely effective strategy to use in any classroom.

When I am explaining a new skill or a new tool, students seem to retain the ideas better when I can show them real life examples of how it is used.

It doesn’t matter if the student is in public school or if the student is an adult; all seem to learn better when they are given examples.

Sometimes it is easier to visualize how something is done or how it is used when people can see an example of it. This helps a student who is a visual or auditory learner because they can see how it is done while the explanation is given.

Also repetitive examples reinforce the learning. Sometimes one example might not be clear to me but several examples help me clarify what is being taught.

There are many instances in the real world where examples are given. Look at the picture attached to this post. Even though they give written instructions for inserting a card into a card reader, they have included visual examples of how to do this. This is great for someone who does not comprehend the written instructions or doesn’t speak the language.

Writing in my blog is a great example of writing and reflection. I think it also is an example of clarifying my thoughts and philosophy as well as sharing with others.

Do you use examples? What skills do you teach and use examples with them? Please share.

Image: 'UI: How to handle reading credit cards…'

Monday, April 9, 2012

Driving out the Darkness

darkness(Today’s post is for the letter D in the A-Z challenge.)
I believe that teaching my students how to learn is helping them drive away the darkness.
Many of my high school students were beaten down and frustrated by the time they got to me. I always felt like they believed they were in the land of darkness without any light. Many of them had extremely low self concepts and were biding their time until they were of age to quit school. They saw no reason to even try any more. Many of my students were objects of ridicule by their peers and were often bullied. Even some of their parents felt their children were just lazy or plain stupid.
That is why I introduced the class motto: I am a born winner! I felt that every person is born with a purpose and God doesn’t plan on them being losers. I asked every student to write that on their papers they turned in. I asked them to say that sentence aloud when asked. The class repeated it over and over again. It was time to turn their perceptions around. I needed them to start to believe it.
I started giving them work that was not baby work but I knew that they could be successful at. This built up their confidence levels. The more they were able to do, I slowly increased the difficulty. At times they wanted to slide back into self defeat but I wouldn’t let them. I pushed them over and over again. Slowly they began to realize how capable they were.
When we began to study a novel that students in the general classes were studying, they were amazed at what they could do. Of course, we read the novel together slower than they did in other classes but the discussions were very similar. My students were able to participate in some of the conversations at lunch that mentioned this novel. Suddenly they were on the same playing field as their peers.
Slowly my students began to stand straighter and hold their heads up higher. Slowly they realized that they were capable of so much more than others expected. Slowly they stopped allowing others to bully them and stood up for themselves. Slowly they began to see the light at the end of the tunnel and darkness was receding.
Suddenly they began to believe!
Many times over the past few years, I have come across former students who still remember our class motto. Some of them showed me that they have written it down and even still carry it in their wallets today. Some have even mentioned how it has helped them through difficult times of their adulthood. I’m so proud of them!
Do you have a class motto? If so, please share.
Image: 'Tunnel View... [Explored]'

Friday, April 6, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/6/12

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

Share What You Are Reading - “Have you ever read a book that was so amazing you told all your friends "you've GOT to read this!"? Here's your opportunity to share with other students what you are reading and to discover new books based on other kids' recommendations.” (L:E; SA: LA)

QR Voice - make a QR code from a voice message (L:G; SA:A)

Percentage Calculator - “a tool that lets you do a simple calculation: how many percent of X is Y? The tool is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is fill in two fields and the third one will be calculated for you.” (L:M,H; S:M)

Frozen Planet -Click on the image below to start exploring the Arctic and Antarctic. You can access geographic information provided by Arctic and Antarctic experts, watch videos of the wildlife in each region, and see important historical events as people explore the polar regions.” (L:H; SA:S)

Who Wants a Pizza? - “A fun way to learn about fractions!” (L:E; SA:M)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Courage and Collaboration

courage(Today’s post is for the letter C in the A-Z challenge.)

Teaching takes courage.

It takes courage to think that I know something that is worthy enough to share with others.

It takes courage to realize that I have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life.

It takes courage to be willing to show others that I also make mistakes.

It takes courage to admit that I don’t know everything about anything.

It takes courage to show that I am still learning.

It takes courage to collaborate with others.

When I first became a teacher, I was terrified. I wanted to teach so badly but I was so scared. It takes time to build up confidence so I’m glad I gave myself time. I had to allow myself to make mistakes but also collect successes. I still get scared now but I know it is well worth the effort.

Collaborating involves relying on other people.

Collaborating involves making you vulnerable to others.

Collaborating involves giving up complete control over everything.

Collaborating involves using other people’s strengths.

Collaborating involves team building.

Collaborating involves brain storming.

Collaborating involves keeping an open mind and believing that anything is possible.

I always was a control freak. I like to be in charge of my classroom and what takes place. Collaborating with others involves giving up some of this control. Teamwork takes lots of give and take in order to be successful. When I began collaborating with others, I was surprised and thrilled in how it opened up the world to me. I was inspired and motivated by others. Suddenly, I realized that I was not all alone and I didn’t have to be all alone. I no longer felt isolated. My ideas blossomed into real projects. Students were more engaged and successful in my classroom.

Image: 'courage in persecution'

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Education Buzz Carnival 4/4/12


Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Bellringers! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Nice People Live Longer is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Teaching Basics

(Today’s post is for the letter B in the A-Z challenge.)

basicsIn Things They Should Teach In School from siobhan curious: classroom as microcosm, Siobhan Curious talks about buying a new house and shares,

“But there are some simple and not-so-simple things that most of us are going to have to do in life that we don’t learn about in school…

What else should be taught in school, but isn’t, at least in the schools you’ve attended?  Things that immediately come to my mind: meditation, cell phone etiquette (etiquette in general, for that matter) and how to counsel a troubled friend.  What do you wish you knew that no one ever taught you?”

I think we need to teach how to balance a checkbook. I know that I have taught this in my special ed classes but not all special ed teachers teach this. I know that it is touched upon in economics classes but actual balancing seems to be a low priority. I am amazed at how many adults I talk to who still don’t know how to balance their own checkbooks.

We also talk a lot about identity theft but not what to do if it happens to you. Preparing a list of phone numbers, addresses, and information before something happens is important. Knowing the procedures to follow in case it does happen is another important thing to learn.

How to use the Better Business Bureau to check on companies before you use their services would be a useful skill for everyone to learn. It can save you a lot of trouble later on and it is free.

Pricing items from different stores in order to get the best prices would save someone a lot of money. Using Consumer Reports magazine is something we research when we are going to buy any big items.

Another basic skill is counting change. Too often we rely on calculators and computers to tell us what change we need to receive when we buy something. Have you ever gone into the store where the cash register breaks or they lose power? The sales clerk is usually in state of panic when they have to give change so I usually have to help them count my change back.

What other basic skills would you suggest? Please share.

Image: '#193 eggs, milk, bread'

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Apologize With Grace

(Today’s post is for the letter A in the A-Z challenge.)

Recently I had some awful experiences with customer service. After thinking about what could have been done differently, I realized that we don’t really teach our students how to apologize. We expect them to apologize when they do wrong and I’m sure that as small children, they learned to say they were sorry. But as adults, customers expect a little more than those simple two words.

We called this gutter company for a sales person to come out and give us an estimate. He called and arranged to come out at 1pm the next day. He finally showed up at 1:30 but never called to say he was running late or even apologized for being late. Then he rambled on about things we weren’t  interested in as well as trying to show a video of how gutters were made that we didn’t want to see. I think that I was feeling so ticked off at him before he arrived that his whole sales pitch was wasted. If he couldn’t be punctual or even apologize for our inconvenience, I knew we wouldn’t be doing any business with him. (Plus his estimate was $4000 higher than the previous guy!)

Then this week, I needed my treadmill repaired. Since we have a four year maintenance contract with Nordic Track, I called them to send someone out. They said they would and ordered some parts that they thought would be needed. This man calls us about 3 days later and asks if the parts are in. When told no, he said he would call next week but he never did. Two weeks later I finally had to call the company to ask them to send someone out again. Finally he calls me back and says it would be a week before he could come out but we arranged for him to come at 7pm. He doesn’t arrive until 7:30, but like the gutter man, no call to say he is running late or any apology for being late!

Now the last situation that happened was in a restaurant. We usually get the same meal at this restaurant and the entrée usually comes out before we finish our salad. Well, this day, we got our salad and never got our drinks until I had to flag our server down. Then 15 minutes after we were finished with our salads, the server glances at us and asks, “You didn’t get your meals yet?” After checking in the kitchen, she returns and asks me, “Are you sure you didn’t get your meal?” What?! Of course I’m sure! Did she think I threw the dirty plates and silverware in my purse? I assured her that we did not get our food. Then she goes in the kitchen and comes back with the apology and says, “I’m so sorry. It is the kitchen’s fault. They stamped the ticket saying you got the food. I don’t know where it went. Someone must have gotten the wrong dish. It really isn’t my fault. It’s the kitchen’s fault!” and on and on and on. Eventually the manager did give us one of our meals for free (which we didn’t ask for).

Now in each of these cases, the apology (or no apology) stunk! It made me realize that even though I have stressed good customer service to my students, I had never really taught them how to apologize gracefully.
Here are some tips that I would give my students:

If you are going to be late, call at least 10 minutes before your expected arrival and let the customer know you will be late and your expected time of arrival. Ask if this will be okay or if your appointment needs to be rescheduled. Do not give long winded excuses about why you are running late because the customer is not interested.

If a problem occurs, apologize for the problem. Do not blame other people or give long winded excuses about why the problem occurred. Apologize and then explain how you will fix the problem. That is what customers want to hear.

I would have students role play different situations where they would need to do this. Some students might suggest other customer situations to role play where an apology is needed.

I think by learning how to apologize with grace will help students be more successful with customer service.
Do you teach students how to apologize? If so, what do you teach them and how?

Image: 'Sorry!'

Monday, April 2, 2012

A-Z Challenge

alphabetIn Beautiful Things (The A-Z Blogging Challenge)
from Reflection on things fantastic by Man O' Clay, he challenges,

“And so April will be dedicated to this challenge; the challenge to post every day, and the challenge to see beauty in what is all around us. It's there, let's look together!”

I decided to modify this challenge a little for me and go from A-Z on education topics but only post on my usual Monday - Thursday schedule.

I’m not sure what I will write about but here are some topics that interested me:

Basics, Behavior
Collaboration, Connecting
Darkness, Deliberate, Destiny
Examples, Excellence
Freedom, Flexibility
Gates, Grandstanding, Gentle
Happiness, Helping
Limits, Laughter
Management, Measurement
Natural, Navigation
Patience, Photography
Sharing, Schedules
Tolerance, Teamwork
Yaw, Yes
Zealous, Zesty

If you have any suggestions for topics for a specific letter, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Image: 'Alphabet 02'