Thursday, May 31, 2012

Things I’ve Accomplished This Year

successIn Make a List of Good Things You Did This Year Before You Forget Them from I Want to Teach Forever, Mr. D states,

“I suggest that you take some time right around the end of your school year to make your own list.  It should include positive impacts you had on students but also any other successes you've had.”

Mr. D is so right. Too many times we focus on the negatives and what we haven’t done or failed at. Every now and then we need to look at our accomplishments and successes. I thought this was a great idea and decided to list some things I’ve done this year.

1. Become active in the Red Cross and I’m part of a Disaster Action Team (DAT) that is on call every 6 weeks for local disasters.

2. Knit a sweater for myself.

3. Learned to spin on a spinning wheel (and I’m loving it!)

4. Bought a new camera and learning to take better pictures. I joined two Photo A Day groups and it helps me to look at other people’s pictures.

5. Learned to add beads to my knitting.

6. Started to practice a running routine on my treadmill.

7. Enclosed our side porch into a sun room.

8. Tried a new recipe every week to improve my cooking skills.

9. Became a volunteer with school groups at our local state park. I take school groups on hikes in the park.

10. Making prayer shawls and leprosy bandages with my church group for charities.

11. Learned to videocast and I try to do it at least once a month for my blog.

12. Opened my own Etsy store to sell my crafts.

What have you accomplished this year or even lately? Please share. You might inspire others with your accomplishments.

Image: 'Success'

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Get Up and Move

moveI realized that I have been sitting too much. I sit and complain about gaining weight and feeling yucky but I don’t do anything about it. Well now I have a plan. I hope I can stick to it. I might not lose any weight but surely I will be healthier.

I am starting to run on my treadmill instead of just walking. Right now I’m walking/running for 2 miles. I hope to keep increase my running time so that I can run the entire 2 miles and then move the distance up.

I will do some kind of gardening each day for at least an hour. If I’m gardening, I’m not sitting. I’m not stuffing my face in front of the TV. I’m burning calories.

I will drink more water. I hate drinking water. Everyone says I need to drink more.

I will eat a piece of fruit every day. This is usually an apple but now as the weather gets warmer, I see cantaloupe in my future. My hubby loves watermelon so I know that we will be eating more of that.

Every hour that I’m sitting in front of the TV, I will do some squats and toe touches.

I will also do stretches at least once a day.

What kinds of things will you do to be healthier this season? Please share.

Image: 'It takes a long time to grow+young.'

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hidden Treasures

treasureIn Virtual Landfill from Tech Thoughts By Jen, Jennifer

“We, acting much like the “FULLER BRUSH MEN”  of the past, trying to sell educators on the newest, brightest, gotta have new option that they just HAVE to buy into and then a few weeks later….they realize that they never really needed that option in the first place.”

This statement reminded me of all the things that are done school wide that falls by the wayside. I can’t tell you the number of times we met as a faculty to try a writing program, character ed program, professional development program etc. that lasted a year and then nothing. It fizzled out.

Yes, I wonder how much money was spent buying the license for some of these programs and the time and energy wasted trying to implement them. How many times our faculty has groaned and complained throughout the school year. By the next year, the old one is tossed and a new one is introduced.

Part of the reason that many programs don’t last is that it is hard to get everyone on board with this program. If people aren’t willing to give it a try for a year, their negativity is infectious. I actually think some of the things were worthwhile but everyone wouldn’t buy into the program. Many people had different needs and different time restraints so they couldn’t put forth the effort needed to follow the program as it should be done. I feel that when schools introduce new programs they need to make sure that the participants are given the needed time to use it. I remember the school introducing a writing program where we were required to use it in addition to the things we already were required to do. I was able to incorporate it in my lessons as I think it was meant to be but not everyone saw this in the same way. So, they pushed it aside and refused to add it to their lessons or used it sporadically so that it wasn’t successful. The administration sees it isn’t working so they begin hunting for something new and the cycle continues.

Then she requests,

“I would appreciate your comments on WHY you are using the Web presence that you are……why it works for you.
And also thoughts on what we can do to encourage teachers not to abandon their websites, wikis, twitter accounts… quickly as many seem to do.”

I continue to blog because it helps me formulate my thoughts and shares my ideas with others. Based upon the comments and emails that I receive, some people find them helpful and encourage me to continue. After 30 years of experience in teaching, I feel it is a way for me to share my failures and successes with new or struggling teachers so that they won’t have to make the same mistakes as I have.

I continue to use Twitter and Plurk and Facebook because it helps me connect with so many others who have the same interests as I do. I am able to learn new things, bounce ideas off of others, or sometimes just vent my frustrations. It is so wonderful to know that there are others out there who understand me. I also love that I have immediate tech support when needed and this has helped me a few times when I have been in a bind.

I think the problem that many people have with abandoning tools is that they find they don’t need them like they thought they would. But sometimes it takes time to really find out if you do or not. That is why I like free trials of software. It gives me time to decide if I want to invest the money into buying the program. Many times I find out that I don’t use it or need it so my money isn’t wasted. Sometimes I find out that the program is the answer to a need I had.

I won’t give up looking and trying things to make my life and my students’ lives better. There are things out there that will help my students be more successful in the classroom and in life. Sometimes I’m adding to the virtual landfill and sometimes I find a hidden treasure.

Do you have a virtual landfill or a collection of hidden treasures? Please share!

Image: 'A Pirate's Life'

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

memorialdayAccording to Wikipedia,

“Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Today I remember those who have served and gave their lives so that I can live freely in this wonderful country. I appreciate all that they have done for me. For the family members who were left behind, I want to say thank you for your sacrifice. Words are not enough to express my gratitude but it is all that I have.

Thank you!

Image: 'Memorial Day Free Download Poster, Graves at+Arlington+National+Cemetery,+American+Flag,+Veterans+Day+Holiday'

Friday, May 25, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/25/12

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 - “Like most people I have lost many hours to Google Earth. As a geographer and teacher I have been trying to find ways to incorporate this tool into the social studies classroom. Several years ago I started making my own Google Earth files. Throughout the past few years my father and I have spent countless hours working through technical issues creating what you see today. There are a few more improvements that still need to be made (when in doubt refresh the browser), but it works and is there for you to enjoy. I offer this tool to all teachers who want to create cool and engaging lessons for their students.” (L: M, H; SA: SS)

Build A Body - Interactive, put the right body parts in the right places on the body, gives information about each body part (L: M, H: SA: S)

Photo Prompts - Great way to use photos to begin a story. (L:A; SA: LA)

The Yuckiest Site On the Internet - from Discovery Kids; “First there was mud. Then there were worms. and now there is Yucky! Test your skills with Whack-A-Roach. All you need to know about barfing, belching and blackheads! Plus mad scientist fun in Yucky Labs!” (L:E; SA:S)

Zopler - “Zopler is a social network where writers, authors and students can easily collaborate on writing stories together as a group.” (L:H; SA: LA)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Before and After

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         When we first moved into our home, I took before pictures. As we have done work on the house over the years, I have taken pictures of it before and after. I love seeing the difference but especially when I look back over the years.

I guess I like to do that with my spinning too. I love taking pictures of the fiber and then after it becomes yarn. After it is finished, I always feel surprised at how it turned out because it seems so different than the beginning fiber.

I love seeing progress. Whether it is in my writing, or my gardening, or my knitting, I love to see progress.

I imagine that my students feel the same way.

As the end of the year approaches, I take the time to meet with each student individually. I love to share the growth that I see in the student. Sometimes they don’t realize it about themselves. I like to ask them if they see any differences in themselves and what they are.

I like to look at myself and think about how I have grown throughout the year. I like to list the new things that I have learned, or things that I have changed about myself.

Change is all about growth. Growing more sure of myself and learning what I need to grow is important. Measuring growth is easier if you have can see before and after.

Meanwhile as I continue to change and grow, I will keep taking those pictures.

How do you document before and after? Please share.

Image: 'The Start'

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bill the Boy Wonder, The Secret Co-Creator of Batman - A Book Review

BillBoyWonder_72ppiI recently read the book BILL:  THE BOY WONDER, THE SECRET CO-CREATOR OF BATMAN by Marc Tyler Nobleman ▪ illustrated by Ty Templeton which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

It is geared for ages 8 and up and looks like a simple picture book. Even though it looks like a simple book, the story was fascinating. It is a nonfiction story about someone that I had never heard of before. The story was so interesting that I couldn’t stop without reading the whole book and I would think students would feel the same way. I think this would be a great book for the classroom and a school library. This book would be great for classroom discussions because there is an activity and discussion guide that goes with it. Themes would include writing, struggling, comics, superheroes, design, plots, teamwork, standing up for yourself, friendships, and investigation. There were opportunities to learn new vocabulary throughout the story.

I would definitely give this book a 5 out of 5!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Camping Trip 5/18-20/12

001For more pictures, click HERE.

We had a wonderful camping trip this past weekend. Seventeen of us camped at Brown Mountain Beach Resort near Morganton, NC. It is in the Wilson Creek Wilderness area. When we arrived, we found the perfect spot along the river to set up our tent. We even decided to take our Tahoe with 4WD instead of our Prius and I’m glad we did.

On Friday afternoon, we hiked to two overlooks which was absolutely beautiful. The hikes were moderate but well worth the effort. We passed the ruins of a town called Mortimer along the river bank that had been demolished after 2 flash floods. The town ended up moving and becoming the town of Lenoir.

That night we had a birthday party around the campfire to celebrate Bill’s 70th birthday. Then there was a huge poster made with a picture of Bill bending over and his backside facing the camera. So, we played “Pin the tail on Bill.” Fun was had by all!

On Saturday, while 10 others did a really tough 8 mile hike to 2 waterfalls, my hubby and I decided to drive around in the area. We went into Lenoir and I was able to find a yarn shop. Then we came back to the campground along some beautiful dirt roads. My hubby accidentally drove over a long snake and when I looked in my mirror, he was coming straight up off the road looking for the thing that caused him pain. I bet he was two feet up in the air! We didn’t go back though because there was nothing we could do. We did see beautiful flowers: Goatsbeard, fire pink, star chickweed, and beardtongue.

On Sunday it was time to pack up and head for home. We had a great time and I look forward to next year’s gathering!

Things I learned:

1. I’m really out of shape!

2. Bring a couple of gallons of my own water because the campground well water could be a little strange.

3. I really enjoy camping chairs that have foot rests attached.

4. It is fun to camp with a group. Everyone has different interests and stories to share.

5. Camping with a group is a great way to learn new tips or get new ideas for camping and hiking.

6. Reheating pasta for dinner is hard over a camp stove. It wants to stick to the pan.

7. Nobody else gets up at 5am like I do so every morning it was up to me to get the campfire going.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, May 21, 2012


allergiesAccording to the Center for Disease Control, “40-50 million people in the US are affected by allergies.”

At this time of year, allergies are making people miserable. Unfortunately the pollen season this year is terrible.

During this time, my nose runs or I sneezing and sniffling which makes people think I have some contagious disease. I almost hate to go out in public because I feel so miserable. Even when I take allergy pills, it relieves some of the symptoms but they aren’t gone completely.

Besides the normal things in nature that set off my allergies, strong perfumes will set me off too. This really causes a problem in restaurants, airplanes and even church. In fact, when I was in the choir, the director had to ask other members to tone down their perfumes because it was causing problems with others as well as me.

I remember growing up and having to deal with this situation in school. Many of my peers were very interested in trying out different perfumes which is normal for teenagers. Since my teachers never had problems (it seemed) with allergies, this was never addressed. I just suffered every year and blew my nose constantly in class. As you can imagine, many of my classmates made fun of me.

Since I had to experience situations like this, I am very sensitive to those in my classroom who may suffer from allergies. I ask that all perfumes and lotions are applied before or after students are in my classroom but not within the room. We have discussions about allergies to certain things including food allergies. Some of my students had never heard of allergies or even imagined that others suffered from it.

So, I ask that any teacher out there consider the things in your classroom that may cause a student to suffer. The student may not bring it to your attention because they feel bad enough. Knowing that someone cares about them and is willing to help with go a long way to making a student feel that they matter.

Have you experienced allergies in the classroom? If so, how have you handled it? Please share?

Image: 'My Life Right Now'

Friday, May 18, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/18/12

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

Tutpup - “Tutpup is a free education web site aimed at children aged 5 to 14. Our aim is to provide simple, fun, competitive games that help children learn and gain confidence with Maths, English and other basic skills and knowledge.” (L:E; SA: G)

Chronozoom - “ChronoZoom is an open source community project dedicated to visualizing the history of everything to bridge the gap between the humanities and sciences using the story of Big History to easily understand all this information. This project has been funded and supported by Microsoft Research Connections in collaboration with University California at Berkeley and Moscow State University. You can browse through history on ChronoZoom to find data in the form of articles, images, video, sound, and other multimedia. ChronoZoom links a wealth of information from five major regimes that unifies all historical knowledge collectively known as Big History.” (L:H; SA: G)

My Garbology - “interactive online game and resource center about the importance of waste conservation” (L:A; SA: S)

Planet Quest - interactives from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (L:H; SA: S)

What About Me? -“Social media users know that discovery is half the fun. With What about Me? you can capture a snapshot of your social media life and create your own colorful image, full of clues and facts about one of the most fascinating subjects in the world — you!” (L:H; SA: A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yes I Can! Award Winner

Alex05This year we were excited to learn that one of the Yes I Can! Award winners was from our own area. His name is Alex Staarman from Simpsonville, SC. He won the award in the area of Academics.

According to the Council for Exceptional Children website, “The Yes I Can! Awards honor children and youth with disabilities who excel. Thousands of children and youth have been recognized since the program’s inception in 1982.”

Also according to the website:

Alex04“Alex, 18, conquers the social and academic hurdles of his disabilities and flourishes as a model employee at his local grocery store job. His work ethic and determination have been a great driver of his success while taking honors and advanced placement courses, as well as working part time at the store.”

You can read more about Alex from the press release.

We are so proud of you Alex!

Alex09(Thanks to his mom, Debbie Staarman, for sharing these pictures with me!)

Original photos courtesy of Debbie Staarman

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Zen of Teaching

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

According to Wikipedia, Zen “favors direct understanding through insight and meditation.” I see the Zen of teaching as direct understanding through knowledge and reflection.

I think the reason that I felt so happy with teaching is because I found my rhythm. I figured out what I needed and what my student needed and everything fell into place. Sure, I had to make adjustments and learn new things along with my students but that was part of the rhythm. Here are some thoughts that helped me (some may be clich├ęs but they still helped me).

1. Stop fighting the system all the time and use my energy to help myself and my students to cope with regulations that seem misguided.

2. Look for the fun in learning and help others find it too.

3. Look for the positive things that are happening around me.

4. Share victories with others. Too often everyone seems to like sharing the negative and it is easy to get into that same practice.

5. Find others who enjoy teaching and learning and surround myself with these people.

6. Avoid negative thinking people.

7. Trust my instincts. If some strategy I am using doesn’t feel right, the odds are that it won’t help my students either.

8. Listen to my students. Many times they know what they need but don’t feel like anyone is listening to them.

9. Try to see the big picture. This helps me understand why the administration sometimes makes the decisions that they do.

10. Look for ways to make things better.

11. Share victories with others. Too often everyone seems to like sharing the negative and it is easy to get into that same practice.

12. Remember the joy of teaching someone something new.

13. Enjoy the feeling when someone understands the new concept I am teaching them.

14. Be willing to look at something in a different way and not get stuck in doing things only one way.

15. Stop having tunnel vision and being egocentric. Remember the world is bigger than I think but closer than I know.

What thoughts have helped you enjoy teaching? Please share!

Image: 'A soft summer night in the marsh'

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yearly Reflections

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

As the end of the school year looms closer, I would highly recommend everyone do a reflection about their year. This is the best way to grow each year and as a teacher, I never stop learning. Each year I learn more about myself, about my students, about the way I teach and also about the way that I shouldn’t teach. Each year as I grow, I need to adjust my way of thinking and my way of teaching. Each year when I learn new strategies, I need to see how I can apply them to my teaching in order to be more successful in the classroom.

1. Here are some questions that I ask myself each year (sometimes halfway through the year too):

2. What are the successful happenings of the year?

3. What made them successful?

4. What things did not work this year and why?

5. What things would I do differently?

6. What things did the students enjoy the most and why?

7. What things did the students not enjoy and why?

8. What new strategies did I learn this year?

9. How did I apply them to my teaching this year?

10. How can I use them next year?

11. What were my strengths this year?

12. What were my weaknesses?

13. How can I improve my teaching skills next year?

14. What teachers do I need to observe who seem more successful with their students than me?

15. What is something I want to learn for next year?

By keeping a journal each year of these answers, I’m actually able to see the growth that I am making. It is also motivating to me when I can see how far that I have come from when I first started keeping this journal.

What questions do you think I should add to this? Do you do something like this? What procedure do you follow to monitor your yearly reflections? Please share.

Image: 'vertical sunset 2'

Monday, May 14, 2012

Examination Tips

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

An examination is a nice long word for tests. I hate tests. I hate giving tests and I hate taking tests. I really have test anxiety and even though I know that I know the material, when I take a test, I freeze. I know that I have students who feel the same way.

Whenever possible I try to assign projects to evaluate that students know the material. For some reason, the word project is easier to handle than the word test. Plus I think projects are just more fun and I’ll all for fun!

But tests or examinations are a way of life. Many teachers love to give tests. When you want to drive a car, you have to pass a test. Employers sometimes give tests to see if their employees have the knowledge that is needed for a certain skill.

So, I try to help my students cope with taking tests. Besides studying well (learning to study is a different topic!) But there are different tips that could be helpful when taking a test.

Before going into a test, it is very important to get a good night’s sleep and have a good breakfast. Then I give myself a pep talk. I try to remind myself that the test doesn’t determine what kind of person I am. That after the test, the sun will still come up tomorrow. If I fail, it is not the end of the world. I then make sure that I have all the materials I need to take the test such as a calculator if allowed and extra pencils so I’m not wasting time getting up to sharpen a pencil. Before the test, I will glance over the materials one last time. Either I know it or I don’t.

When I am taking the test, I will answer all of the questions I can immediately answer. The ones I have trouble with I will skip and then come back to later. When I come back to them, I think about other questions that I answered that might help me answer these. If I am still having problems, I might underline key words that might help jog my memory. If there are multiple choice questions, I rule out the answers that I know are wrong and then look at what is left and try to reason out the best answer.

When I am done with the test, I go back through each question and make sure that I didn’t leave anything blank. I find that many of my students are careless and turn in a test where they forgot to answer a question. Sometimes I make them put their initials by each question after they verify it isn’t blank. This makes them actually look at the question to make sure it gets answered.

Hopefully these tips help my students be more successful when taking tests. Do you have any suggestions to add? Please share.

Image: 'Getting the Most Out of Multiple-choice Questions'

Friday, May 11, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/11/12

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

WikipediaMaze - “Wikipedia maze is a game based on the popular Wikipedia website. The concept is simple; Starting with a particular topic try and navigate to the designated end topic in as few clicks as possible following only links to other topics. Users have the opportunity to earn points from either solving or creating puzzles. When certain benchmarks are reached users are awarded badges to show off their achievements.” (L:H; SA: G)

Cyberchase Math Games -“ CYBERCHASE, the award-winning, research-based adventure series and website, helps kids develop strong math and problem-solving skills. Explore this site for ways to help your favorite kids get the most out of math! Designed for kids ages 8 to 12 and packed with mystery, humor, and action.” (L:E; SA: M)

Cookie Learning Games - “At cookie, child experts and educators design interactive online games for kids. Our learning games for kids help in building skills needed for success in school. While playing our fun educational games, kids learn to read with phonics, build skills in math, language, social studies, science and much more. Our educational videos encourage children to keep learning, even after school hours.” (L:E; SA: G)

The Dino Database - “The database contains detailed information on hundreds of dinosaurs and dinosaur related topics. Beginners and experts alike will love the detail contained within…Learn which dinosaur was the heaviest, tallest, and shortest. See how many movies Hollywood has produced about dinosaurs over the years. Compare your theories with those of paleontologists on varied subjects including extinction, life spans, and intelligence. Dive on in and immerse yourself in a wealth of knowledge about these giants that roamed the earth so long ago!” (L:A; SA: S)

Piktochart - create your own infographic (L:A; SA: G)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 10, 2012


(Today’s post is for the letter W in the A-Z challenge.)
According to the Free Dictionary, waffling is “A popular synonym for indecision.”
When I first became a teacher, I was not very confident or sure of myself. Even though there were lots of politics going on, I didn’t want to take any side because I was afraid of how it would affect my job. If people asked me of my opinion, I would waffle. I was the Queen of Waffling!
Now that I’m older, I have become more confident in myself and in my teaching. I definitely have an opinion about pretty much everything and anything. I think my husband wishes I didn’t!
I look back now to my beginning years as a teacher and I wish that I did not spend so much time waffling. I don’t think that people respect you as much if you waffle. Even if people don’t agree with you, at least you have an opinion and stand up for what you believe in.
I admire those who can do this. In fact, I tend to listen more to people who know exactly how they feel and are willing to share their opinions. I tend to move people who waffle to the back seat in my mind. I realize that in the past, people probably did the same to me.
So, if you are a beginning teacher, I want to encourage you to think about what you believe in. Be willing to share your ideas and thoughts. Be willing to stand up for what you think. Don’t waffle in your thoughts and become a wallflower. Don’t blend into the woodwork. Stand out and be seen. It will help you in the long run. People will see you as a leader. They will listen to you more readily and possibly see the value in what you say.
Along with all of this, I would add one caveat. Be willing to listen too. Listening is not waffling. Be willing to change your stand if someone can convince you that you are wrong. Be willing to state that your views have changed because of someone else’s point of view. Be willing to share what changed your mind.
These actions will help you be more successful in your classroom and in your life. It is a great example to set for students.
Image: 'waffle'

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


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

“Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor” - William Cowper

I try to put variety in my life which helps keep me out of ruts and bored with things. Sticking with one thing may work for others but I like have a variety of hobbies to keep me entertained.

In spring through fall seasons, I like to garden. I love to plant flowers and watch them flower. When my vegetables bear fruit, I feel like I have helped create a miracle. Unfortunately with this comes the weeding which I really don’t enjoy but is necessary for beautiful flowers and vegetables

When I am hot and tired of gardening, I can come in my house and either read or play on my computer. I have to confess that when I get on my computer, time slips away from me. I can easily spend hours on the computer without noticing the time. I love connecting with others whether it is personal or professional. I love learning and by reading and researching on the computer I feel so connected with the world around me.

I also love knitting and spinning my own yarn. This is a great activity for the evening when it is too dark to garden or it is too cold for gardening. Most of my winter is spent knitting and spinning in the evenings. I love creating things with my own hands.

When I am in need of activity, I love hiking. I love being out in nature and seeing the world around me. I am able to hike in any season of the year and each place looks so totally different at different times of the year. Hiking helps me relax and keeps me in shape so I try to do this on a regular basis.

Now my husband and I have gotten involved in some more activities. We have become Master Naturalists where we can help in the park system. Also, we have become Red Cross volunteers to help with disaster relief.

As a teacher, I needed outside hobbies to help relieve stress. Variety is so important to keep me from getting burned out. The variety also helps me from getting burned out with any specific hobby.

What outside things are you involved in? How does it affect your life? Please share.

Image: 'dressing room'

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


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

Understanding is a big part of my life. Every day I think I am looking for an understanding.

I need to understand who I am, what I stand for, and what I believe in. This is what makes me, me.

I also need to understand why I do things. Everything has a purpose. Every person has a motive or an agenda even if they don’t want to admit it. By understanding why I want to do something can help me prioritize what I do. Sometimes my need to do certain things is not as important as others.

I need to understand other people. I use their words, tone of voice, and body language to determine not just what they say but what they mean. I am such a visual learner that seeing someone else is very important to me when communicating. I think that is why I don’t like using the phone that much. Since I started using Skype, it has made using a phone so much more enjoyable for me.

I need to understand that other people may not place the same importance on certain things as I do. It is frustrating when people don’t move in the same direction or speed as I do.

I need to understand why other people do certain things. I like to people watch when we get in big crowds and imagine the life of the people I see. I try to imagine their background and what motivates them to wear certain clothes or act in a certain way.

Looking at all the things that I need to understand, I realize that my students need to understand a lot more than just the information that I am teaching them. In order for them to comprehend and retain what is important, they need to understand how it relates to their lives.

My students need to learn the steps to a new skill. They need to understand each step in order to repeat it. Without this understanding, they won’t be able to build on it to learn new steps.

Understanding takes many different shapes. As a teacher, I need to find the shape that each student needs. Not all of my students understand in the same way so finding a way to help them may be a mystery that needs to be solved. I guess, this mystery is what makes teaching exciting to me.

What things do you need to understand in your life? What do you think students need to understand in order to be successful? Please share!

Image: 'Understanding'

Monday, May 7, 2012

Teaching as a Profession

(Today’s post is for the letter T in the A-Z challenge.)

teachingIn Why I NEVER Recommend Teaching as a Profession from The Tempered Radical, Bill Ferriter states,

“I came to pretty startling realization this week, y'all:  If I had it to do all over again, I'm pretty darn sure that I wouldn't choose teaching as a profession.”

When I read statements like this, it makes me sad. But it also made me look back at my career to decide if I agreed or disagreed with this. I’m happy to announce that I disagree with this totally.

Yes, there have been tough times in my teaching career and times when I have been utterly frustrated and depressed. But looking back at my whole career, if I had a chance to do it again, I definitely would. I might make some changes to the way I did things and also the attitude I had at certain times but overall, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The main reason why I say this is because I made a difference. No, I didn’t make a lot of money and no, I didn’t receive a lot of gratitude but I know I changed some lives for the better.

I don’t feel that I wasted any year in such a way that my students did not learn something or benefit from my teaching or knowledge.

The exciting thing for me is when I meet a former student and they let me know how something I said or did impacted their lives that they are living now. It gives me a secret thrill to realize that I may not be famous or rich but I have left a tiny mark on the future. These are the little “marks” that I know about and who knows how many other “marks” are out there that I don’t know about (and I hope they are mostly positive!).

I have always wanted to be a teacher ever since I was a little girl. I worked towards this dream and accomplished it. I realized that just becoming a teacher wasn’t the end of my dream but just the beginning. Every year I wanted to be a better teacher who was effective and able to change lives for the better.

It saddens me to see people think they want to be a teacher but want to be one for all the wrong reasons. Some think it is a way to get into coaching or some think it is an “easy” job. Some don’t realize how labor intensive teaching is, not to mention emotionally draining at times. I see many former teachers going into retail businesses or waiting on tables because they make more money or they don’t have to do so much paperwork.

I tend to think that any career that a person goes into is going to be labor intensive and emotionally draining if it is done right. This person puts 100% or more into being great at what they plan to do. I believe in that saying that “you get out of it what you put into it” and maybe that is why I loved teaching. Those who reluctantly put themselves into something won’t reap the same benefits as someone who willingly puts their everything into it.

I’m not saying that teaching is for everyone. I’m just saying that I am glad I went into teaching and have never regretted a minute of doing so.

If you are a teacher, would you do it over again? Why or why not? Please share.

Image: 'Teaching is not Rocket Science'

Friday, May 4, 2012

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 5/4/12

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

Electrocity - “ElectroCity is an online computer game that simulates, in a very simplified way, energy management in New Zealand. ElectroCity allows players to create their own city and explore different approaches to energy and the environment. It is educational and fun.” (L:M, H ; SA: S )

HumanLine - “ is a visual library related to our civilization's history, art and science. Our dream is to collect as many visual material as we can and contribute to the preservation of the world's heritage.” (L: G ; SA: A )

Hydro to Home - “Join us on the interactive journey of clean energy. Learn how all the rain and snow that falls in our province is harnessed as energy, how it makes its way to our homes and ultimately how it powers our lifestyles.” (L: G ; SA: S )

Engineering Interact - “Interactive science and engineering for 9-11 year olds” (L: E ; SA: S )

Wide World Science: Lizard Project! - “We are excited to present the very first "Youngzine Live!" series by Aaron Reedy. Aaron and the rest of the team are working on a National Geographic funded Lizard Project and are passionate about bringing science from the field to classrooms.” (L:E, M; SA: S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Joy of Simplicity

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

In 7 Steps to KISS the Spring (Reclaim balance when your life is crazy) by, Victoria A Davis, Cool Cat Teacher, gives great steps to keeping life simple. Check out her whole post to get the full benefit of her ideas. She is one of my favorite bloggers that I follow (not creepy stalking kind of follow but fan-girly hero worship type of follow because she has such valuable ideas and information to share). She asked her sister for some advice on not being overwhelmed and her advice was to

"Keep it Simple, Sister."

I thought this was great advice that I need to keep reminding myself to do.

Sometimes I bog myself down with all the details. I make lists, lots of lists! I have lists that list the lists. I spend lots of time reviewing and checking off items from my list. Then I stress out about what I may have forgotten to list. If I add things to my list, I have to go to the original spreadsheet on my computer to edit the master list so I will have it next time. I spend all day agonizing over the lists and wonder why in the world I even want to go anywhere!

Suddenly I realized that I was getting too wrapped up in the lists! This week we decided to go tent camping at our local state park. Of course I had my list and I decided to pack the car on Sunday but only spending an hour doing that. After that, I stopped and made myself do something that I enjoyed doing. That afternoon, I reviewed the list again and gave myself an hour to do what else needed to be done. That time in between gave my brain time to rest and keep me from stressing out. I was able to pack calmly and actually enjoy the thought of going camping.

My husband is so much more laid back about traveling than I am. He has no lists and waits for the last minute to pack his suitcase. His theory is that if he forgot anything, he could go buy it as long as we have our money and/or a credit card. He keeps things very simple and seems to enjoy himself a lot more.

On a daily basis, I have decided not to bog down on too many stressful things. As Vicki suggested, I am keeping a list of must-do items on my calendar. Each day I have assigned specific chores to do in the house. After I accomplish that one thing, I am done with my chores. Over a 2 week period, I have my whole house clean and start the routine over. Since there is just the two of us living here, we really don’t have a dirty house. It is more cluttered than dirty. This gives me more time in the day to do the things I enjoy without feeling any guilt. It really is working out well.

So, if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, try to spread out the things that overwhelm you. Do you really have to get everything done right now? Can you do the routine things on specific days instead of all at once? List the things that you have to do (immediate one time things along with routine things). Have a calendar at hand and see if you can schedule these to be done over time rather than right now. Sometimes if you have a visual of when things need to be done, it can help you see that things are not as bad as you thought.

Once you get your life simplified, you can share this strategy with students. Many students are pushed into seeing the urgency of everything. Sometimes they get overwhelmed that they feel paralyzed (even I have felt that way before). Wouldn’t it be great if they learned to simplify their lives too at an early age?

What do you do to simplify your life? Please share?

Image: '8/52 - Simplicity'

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Love and Haight - A Book Review

LOVE&HAIGHT(Today’s post is for the letter R for Review in the A-Z challenge.)

I recently read the book LOVE & HAIGHT by Susan Carlton which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

It is definitely a YA book. I'm not sure the subject matter would be appropriate in a school library but I think it would be okay in a public library. It seems as if drugs and abortions are a main focus in the book and it would come up as a topic of discussion (and the parents of our students are just not ready for that to happen in a school setting). I grew up during this time and drugs and abortion was not the only thing about 60s that was memorable but this book will make young people think that is all there was to that era.

I would give this book a 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


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

I try my best to encourage my students to ask questions. I may not know the answer but I will help them find the answer if I don’t know it. I have a chance to learn something too!

When I was growing up, I was told it was rude to ask questions. My parents expected me to do what was asked without asking why so I had a hard time in school with questions. I was terrified to ask a question and was willing to not understand. I was under the impression that teachers would consider me rude or insubordinate if I asked questions even though they encouraged it.

With my own background in mind, I try to remember that some of my students may feel the same way. So, when planning a lesson, I try to come up with questions that they might ask and plan on answering them. I even go over the questions as well as the answers when I’m reviewing a lesson. I might even tell them that these questions might be on a quiz or a test which helps some of them focus more on what I am saying.

There are also the students who won’t ask a question because they are afraid of looking “dumb” in front of their peers. I want to encourage these students to ask questions and I have to find a way to encourage them without scaring them. I sometimes meet with them one on one so they can ask questions. I ask questions so I can check out if they understand what I am telling them. Sometimes this helps them having to ask the question first. I also monitor what they are doing so I can see which steps they don’t understand.

Because of the way that I was brought up, not only didn’t I know how to ask questions but I didn’t know how to form the questions. So, not only should we encourage students to ask questions but teach them how to ask questions and what questions to ask.

Even today when I go to seminars, I try to observe questioning techniques. I also listen to the types of questions that are asked and how they are worded. It shows me how certain questions lead to certain understandings. This helps me guide questioning in my own classroom.

How do you encourage students to be more successful in asking questions? Please share?

Image: 'questions'