Thursday, January 31, 2013

There And Back Again…

006(Mel of Singled Handed Knits was allowing some of her fans be guest writers for her blog. This is what I submitted to her.)

In Happy Chatter Thursday, Mel of Single Handed Knits gave this writing prompt inspired by The Hobbit and I thought I would like to give it a try.

The prompt is : There  And Back Again….

You need not write about the book. What I love best about writing prompts is that they make the best springboard… catapulting you up and away from where you are and somewhere else! Walk closely on the path of Bilbo or wander so far away from it that it really is an Unexpected Journey that you take us on….”

I had a hard time deciding what aspect in my life that this applied to and I realized that instead of just picking one, I would share how it relates to three important parts of my life.

Hiking: When I was a child I loved to walk about outdoors. My parents were not athletic and not outdoorsy at all and did not encourage it at all. After I got married, my hubby and I joined a hiking club and we love hiking with this group. Many of the members are in their 80s and 90s and hiking faster and farther than I can. Our hiking has led us to many new and exciting places. We figure when we can’t go hiking anymore, we will have many memories to share and talk about.

Knitting: When I was a child, my mother tried to teach me knitting but I just couldn’t get the hang of it. I was intimidated by anything crafty because my mother and two sisters were able to do anything. My older sister was an artist and was fantastic at anything she tried to do. My middle sister could sew, crochet, knit or do crafty things just like my mom. I was the brainy one and therefore didn’t have an artistic or crafty bone in my body. My mother would knit my family sweaters every Christmas until the year she died. After I retired, I learned to knit and love it! I think about how proud my mother would be if she could see me now! Knitting now makes me feel closer to her especially when I am missing her.

Teaching: I loved everything about teaching ever since I was a little girl. I played school as soon as I could read and write. When my friends visited, I wanted to play the teacher. Even when I had an abusive teacher in 4th grade, I loved school. But that 4th grade year made me more determined that one day I would become a teacher that students wouldn’t fear. I would help all students who had trouble learning and never make them scared about learning. We didn’t have a lot of money and my parents really couldn’t afford to send me to college but I was again determined to do whatever was necessary to become a teacher. Some years I worked 3 jobs at the same time all summer to pay for the next year of college. It was tough at times but well worth it! I finally became a teacher and worked hard at being the best that I could be. My last year of teaching after 30 years I was chosen as Teacher of the Year and a top 10 finalist out of 5000 teachers in my district. Now I teach on the university level in order to train teachers to be the best that they could be. I hope to make a difference on this level.

So it has been a wonderful journey, there and back again.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fair and Consistent Wins the Race

disciplineIn Focus on the Positive and For Heaven’s Sake, Stop Lecturing! from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam shares,

“Students need to know that there are specific consequences for their poor behavior. Don’t lecture. Don’t give out more than one warning. Don’t ignore the behavior. Don’t spend a lot of time on dealing with the disruption.”

I think the bottom line is that a teacher needs to be fair and consistent at all times, even if it is hard to do.
I have had students that I want to give “one more chance” or I want to let it go because I’m so exhausted. But then I realize if I do this, than my whole discipline plan will go out the window. I will be setting a precedent for future discipline problems because if I let it slide this time, than others will expect the same treatment when it is their “turn.”

Sam states that we shouldn’t ignore behavior but I disagree with this. Many times my students act out to get attention. They are happy with negative attention as much as positive attention. The trick is to know the fine line between ignoring the behavior and addressing the behavior. I believe it all depends on the student. Sometimes it is possible to ignore the behavior and the student stops acting out. But if I ignore the behavior I need to make sure that the other students believe that I have no idea that the behavior is going on. If it is blatant and noticeable, I have to address it so the students can see that I am fair and consistent.

Sometimes students will test to see if you are being fair and consistent. They like to test their limits. When they have had a substitute in other classes, I have heard them talk about how they acted out to see what the sub would do. This shows me that they know what they are doing and why they do it.

I have had younger students tell me that they hate me when I discipline them. As a new teacher, this hurt my feelings because I wanted them to like me but I stuck to my discipline plan. Students have enough friends and I need to be their teacher, not their friend. It is okay for them to not like me. These same students at the end of the year hugged me goodbye. They were able to see that I was being fair and consistent rather than treating different students differently according to who I liked more or less.

How are you fair and consistent in your class? What do you struggle with? Please share.

Image: 'Discipline'
Found on

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Field Trip to Disney

049We recently returned to Disney World and while in line for It’s A Small World, we met a group of 8th graders who were there on a field trip. One boy behind us wanted to talk to a group of his friends in front of us so we offered to let them get ahead of us. But they told us that they just wanted to talk and the guy would get back to his place in line and he did. I was really impressed with how well behaved all of them were and so I started a conversation with them. I hate that I didn’t get their school name or I would email their principal because I was so impressed with them. Not once did I hear any inappropriate language or behavior.

They told me that the whole 8th grade from a NC school came to Disney in 7 buses! (All I could think of was the adults with them and “Bless their hearts!”) I did ask how many bottles of aspirin was brought by the chaperones and all of the kids laughed.

It was interesting to hear that they had “school” for 2 hours each morning and they had a list of “required attractions” that they had to go on. One boy showed me his handout that listed the items and they had to choose one from one group etc. It’s a Small World was actually a requirement. I was impressed how the school made this out to be a fun but educational trip.

As I went to the different attractions, I started thinking about how they could be used for lessons and was thrilled at how many of them could be used as an introduction or enhancement to a lesson. We went to one called the Sum of All Thrills where you can design something and then experience it. My husband and I designed a roller coaster with a loop and corkscrew turns. You had to use a ruler to determine the height and then turn a knob to change the speed. Then you test it on the screen to see if it will work and make adjustments as necessary. When it is done, you get in this simulator and actually experience it virtually. The seats you sit in are on a mechanical arm and you move up, down, around, and even upside down. The cover comes over your head down to your waste and you are watching a screen as if you are really on a roller coaster. It was wonderful!

Of course Epcot is just educational everywhere you turn. The World Showcase has exhibits from different countries so it seems like a permanent World’s Fair. Innovations shows different inventions and learning activities. One was “The Great Piggy Bank Adventure” that talks about sav061ing and investing your money. You actually take this ceramic piggy bank around to the different stations and enter it into the exhibit. At the end the machine weighs your piggy bank to see how much you saved. I think this would be a great learning activity for students!

Animal Kingdom was like a giant zoo with lots of real animals from around the world. There were lots of information about the different animals as well as staff stationed throughout the park to help explain anything and answer questions.

There are tons of learning experiences throughout each park.

I know that in times of bad economies that it is hard to justify field trips but I truly believe they can be so educational. If I couldn’t bring students some places, there are virtual field trips online that would be the next best thing.

What field trips have you taken your students on that have been successful as learning experiences? Please share.

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Monday, January 28, 2013

Warning: Too Good to Be True

006You know the saying, “If it’s too good to be true, than it probably is?” Well, I experience this in real life.

First let me tell you that sometimes when we find good deals, most of the time we are quite happy with the deal. So, when we were at Disney in December, we found a motel called Home Suite Home for $149 for the week. We drove around it and didn’t look bad at all so we thought we would make a reservation for January which I did online. I guess we should have asked to see the room before we decided to book it.

We arrived here on Wednesday around dinner time and check in. I guess when the desk clerks were behind bullet proof glass, which should have been my first clue! Our room was on the third floor and the stairs to it (we never found an elevator) was dirty and dingy with signs all around about no leaving garbage in the stairwell. We got to our room and our keys didn’t work. So we got new keys and then only one of them worked. Once in the room, it looked cheap but what do you want for $25 per night! Then we found out the deadbolt on the door didn’t work so we had to move the table and chair in front of the door. Next I put the heat on because it was getting cold outside (it would get down in the 40s that night) and about 2 minutes later the smoke alarm went off so I had to turn off the heat. When we looked around the room we saw live spiders and webs around the ceiling and corners of the room. There were dead bugs on the headboard of the bed! The bathroom was even dirty! The straw that broke the camel’s back was when we found a little deep hole in the wall beside the painting going into the room next door. It looked towards the mirror that reflected the bed! Needless to say we couldn’t get our stuff together and out of that room quick enough! They gave me our $100 deposit back but insisted on charging us for 1 night which I told them I plan to dispute with the credit card company.

So, I would like to warn everyone: Stay away from Home Suite Home on Hwy 192 (Irlo Bronson Hwy) in Kissimmee, FL!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, January 25, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/25/13

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

Apps Gone Free - “Find great apps without spending a dime! Get high quality paid apps for free each day. Unlike other apps, we offer no paid listings - these are expert-picked top-ranked apps, for FREE!” (L:T; SA:A)

My Homework - A homework app to help students stay organized (L:G; SA:A)

Chogger - “Use our comic builder to draw your own comics, caption photos, take webcam pictures and add speech balloons. Read, rate, and comment on comics made by people from all around the world.” (L:G; SA:A)

Woven Together - weaving traditions of the Pacific North Coast by the National Museum of the American Indian (L:G; SA:A)

EQuiz Show - “Teachers and others can create educational quiz show templates for their classes for free.” (L:T; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ways I Save Money

005In Self proclaimed repurposers ... from Barn on the Web - Daily Happenings, RJ asks,

“So what have you repurposed to save money??”

First of all, let me tell you that RJ is a teenager who lives on a farm in Oklahoma and he is a blogger. I found his blog through a knitting friend and I’m absolutely fascinated by his postings. If you have a chance, I highly recommend subscribing to his blog. You won’t be sorry.

I thought his question was a great one because everyone likes to find ways to save money. Well, mostly everyone. I have to admit that when I was a teenager, I hated the things my parents did to save money and I swore when I became an adult and independent, I would never do things like this! Boy, was I wrong! I know, never say never!

Learning how to save money is an important lesson for my students. Even though they might not think they will use it now in their lives, they may remember some of these lessons when they are older and need to watch their money.

We buy in bulk a lot of things we know we will use and can save more by buying in bulk like toilet paper and rice. We look at unit prices when we shop. We turn down the heat and wear more clothes in the winter. In the summer we turn up the air conditioning or we open windows. We also turn off our hot water heater when we aren’t using it.

I recycle many things around the house. I use old paper shredding machines without the motor as waste baskets. I use huge Rubbermaid tubs as worm composting bins. An old plastic trashcan became a leaf composter. We were given these huge 275 gallon square plastic tubs that we turned into rain barrels and hooked the gutters into them. I use old 5 gal. paint buckets as my water buckets and weeding buckets for gardening. We found a beautiful ceramic butter churn without the top and with a crack in it for near nothing and it is now a waste basket in one of my bathrooms. Things we can’t use go to Goodwill or to someone we know who can use it but we rarely throw away things.

I guess that is why we have so much clutter and we collect things (see Monday’s post on Clutter). I hate to get rid of anything because I keep hoping I will find another use for it.

What do you repurpose? Please share!

Original picture by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Frustrations of a Teacher

frustrationI recently heard from a reader and her email made my heart hurt for her. I wanted to share with you her email and then share my answer below it.

“While I try very hard to take much of your advice to heart, I find it can be very hard... I do not get a lunch break on more days than not. I do not have a planning period. And I find, no matter how organized I get, once I am in the building for an hour (or two, at best), I am no longer organized. (And I am borderline OCD about being clean and organized!!) I take vitamins (and use Airborne), but have been sick more this year than ever in my lifetime. I am exhausted when I get home and should keep up with school on the weekends, but I'm usually too drained to even BEGIN to think about work. (But really - I LOVE my kiddos, my classroom and my job!) 

I do not cry often, and I've cried twice in the past 48 hours over something work-related. I am stressed, frazzled, and frustrated... and it is NOT me! 

How does one continue at this profession without being worn out and worn down daily?! 

My biggest problem as of late is that I have 7 students - all kindergarten and special needs - and 5 of them have what I would consider major behavior issues. One in particular. She is, without a doubt, my difficult child. She came to me in October from a gen ed classroom setting where she was set up, basically, to fail. Mom pushed for the gen ed class, but she was not ready for that... She is diagnosed with Down's Syndrome, as well as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. She came to me kicking, hitting, spitting, biting and pinching grown-ups and her classmates. We've eliminated MUCH of that behavior - although she did slap me in the face last week, which resulted in a flip to red and being sent home. However, she continues to throw herself on the ground, kick over tables, throw chairs and refuse to do a multitude of everyday tasks that even my most stubborn students will do without so much as a flinch. She is also a runner, has to be accompanied by an adult staff EVERYWHERE she goes, and has pica. 

I believe shortly after she came, three of my other formerly well-behaved students (one Autistic, one non-verbal/OHI, and one ODD/CD) began displaying many of her mannerisms. Saying no instead of complying, being very loud and defiant, screaming instead of sitting on the carpet at morning meeting. 

I think my hair is turning grey as  I type. 

Any advice? 

I think the most frustrating part of this entire situation is that I WENT TO SCHOOL FOR THIS. I have a Master's Degree and cannot control my children! I can't imagine how their parents feel, because many of these kiddos display the same behaviors at home. 

Absolutely any help you can give me would be adored.”

First of all, don’t feel alone. Many times I have felt the way you described. Don’t feel like there is anything wrong with the way you feel either. I remember thinking that if I was a “good” teacher, I wouldn’t feel like this but I was wrong. Many of the “good” teachers feel like this but have found ways to deal with these feelings.

I’m also concerned that you don’t have a lunch period. I believe by law that you must have one so I’m not sure if not having one is one that you control or your administration. If the administration hasn’t given you one, you need to get that corrected immediately. If for some reason, you are working through your lunch time, then you need to stop. You need to make yourself stop and give yourself a break for your physical health as well as your mental health. I used to work through lunches and many evenings at home until one day I lost all my hair on my head. After many doctors visits due to this traumatic experience, it was determined that stress caused this. I began exercising and eating right and eventually my hair grew back. I realized that even though I wanted to be the best teacher I could be, letting my health decline was not the way I was going to do this. In fact, it made me a less effective teacher rather than more.

One thing I have done (and still do), is make a list at night of all the things I want to accomplish the next day. Then I prioritize them either by relisting them in order of importance or numbering them. Then the next day I follow that list. I don’t jump around the list unless there is something keeping me from completing a previous item. As I finish each thing, I mark it off. This visual of marked items keep my spirits up. I also gave myself pats on the back for doing a good job.

As for the copying behavior of the other students, I would give extra praise and rewards for times they are not copying her behavior. They may be doing this because they see that her bad behavior is getting her more attention.

Another thing I have done is calling up parents and bragging about their children when they have done something right. The more I did this, the more pleased the parents were and bragged to their children. This made the children get more attention for appropriate behavior and tried harder in class. At times when I was feeling discouraged or frustrated, I would make extra calls like this and the parents appreciating and excitement helped me realize that I was making a difference.

You talk about catching up on weekend but do you have any hobbies outside of school work? I think it is important to find something outside education to give your mind a rest. That is one way that I kept from getting so burned out. Over the years, I have had several hobbies and when I lost interest in one hobby, I found another one.

I know that it will take time for you to figure out a system that works for you. Every year you teach, you will tweak this system until it gets better and better. Eventually you will overcome this general feeling of confusion and frustration. This does not mean that at times you won’t feel this way but you won’t feel it every day you wake up. I know I felt this way every time I moved to a new school and it took me at least a year to settle in.
My last piece of advice is this: Don’t give up! If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be worried. Knowing that you care means a lot but it isn’t enough. You need to take of yourself physically and emotionally.

To my other readers out there, have you ever felt like this teacher? If so, how did you deal with these feelings? Please share.

mage: 'Day 15--Frustration'
Found on

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Episode 20 No Snow!

Music: Yes I Can by Danny O’Flaherty

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Story of Clutter

DiningRoom02In Weeding through the Clutter from Janet Given's Blog,  Janet asks,

“What TWANLOVs are stored away in your closet?  Do you know what dreams keep them there?
Do you struggle with clutter? What stories do you tell yourself about your clutter?

How would you feel floating on the ceiling watching your offspring sort through what you’ve left behind for them to sort through?
I’ve told you my story. I invite you to tell me yours. And, if you’d like me to tell you my sure-fire cure for reducing clutter, just let me know. Better yet, tell me yours.”

I am a Clutter Queen!!

We save everything because you never know when you might need it again. It seems like as soon as I get rid of something, a week later, I’m wishing I still had it. Even some of the old clothes styles are back in style! I find things that I can repurpose for something else and then I’m glad I saved it.

My husband is even worse than I am. My husband likes to collect antiques that he buys at yard sales and flea markets because he says that one day it all will be worth money or if we ever need money, he could sell it at least for what he paid for it. In fact, he has some utility bills from before we were married (over 30 years ago) still saved in the attic. I have no idea why he has them but he refuses to get rid of them. I won’t throw them away without his permission because I don’t want him ever to get rid of anything of mine without permission. So, everything stays.

Our attic is so full of junk…I mean treasures that our ceiling is cracking from the weight. Our contractor has advised to take some stuff out of the attic before it caves in on us. Our shed in the backyard is full so we ended up renting a storage room at a self storage building. In fact, it is so stuffed that if we continue to collect things, we may have to rent another room.

I am always joking that if we ever get a divorce (which I don’t ever foresee happening!), he gets the house and all the storage buildings! That way I won’t have to sort through anything. We even laugh that our kids will have the headache of worrying about all of our collections!

When I retired from teaching public school five years ago, I brought everything home in boxes and kept them in my dining room. I thought that someday I would return to the classroom and all of these things were my favorite materials. But I was wrong. Now that I teach on the university level, I realize how many of my materials have gotten out of date or were in danger of wasting away in my dining room. I ended up giving a lot of my children and young adult novels to teachers who were still in the classroom. I also gave away a lot of materials that could still be used in the classroom and threw away all of the out of date things. I took lots of pictures of my favorite items so I could reminisce about them but not have to worry about all the room they took.

I’m getting better at collecting photos and discarding things I no longer need. My mother handknit or sewed many things for me and they no longer fit, are no longer in style, or just don’t feel nice anymore. I took lots of photos of these and donated them to Goodwill.

Do you have a lot of clutter? Please share how you handle this.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, January 18, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/18/13

tools2Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

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

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

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

Mars 3D - images of Mars (L:G; SA:S)

Nature - Interactives and Games (L:G; SA:S)

Planwise - “a tool that allows you to be confident and understand your future financial goals.” (L:M,H; SA:A)

Wunderlist - simple to do list that syncs across many platforms (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Effective Teaching Attributes

In Seven qualities of highly effective technology trainers from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson shares information from his book: In Seven qualities of highly effective technology trainers from Johnson, Doug. The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide. Jossey-Bass, 2012.

“Here are some attributes of people who can effectively teach others to use technology.”

I took the attributes he mentioned and applied them to the classroom teacher role The attributes he mentions are in bold face type.

  1. blameThe problem is on the desk, not in the chair. When a student is not being successful in the classroom on a consistent basis, I feel it is time to call a meeting of all the stakeholders involved including the student. Even if I feel that the child isn’t trying or studying hard enough or we think the parent is pushing their child enough, I never blame anyone. This does nothing but put everyone on the defensive and my goal is to find a solution. I stress how we are a team and that we need to work towards a common goal - helping the student be successful.
  2. No mouse touching. I need to be patient with the student, the parents, and the other teachers. I might feel that I have the answer but I need to help the others arrive at the same conclusion. If I just tell everyone what I think is the solution, then it becomes my problem and my answer. This keeps it from being a team decision and in fact, I might be wrong. I need to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to give input and allow for a discussion of all suggestions.
  3. Great analogies. I need to make sure that when explaining something, I need to give it in terms that everyone can understand. I need to relate things I’m talking about to real life situations that others can understand.
  4. Clear support materials. I need to make sure that I offer directions in many different ways. I can give directions orally but I need to list the steps visually somewhere for the visual learner to see. I also need to demonstrate the steps necessary and if appropriate, have students imitate my actions so that they can learn by doing.
  5. Knowing what is essential and what is only confusing. Sometimes teachers can give too much information. When I try to show someone how to do something, I don’t need to mix background information or things they can do in the future with the actual steps necessary to accomplish a task. I need to give the background before I go over the steps and maybe another time I can expand how these skills can help in the future.
  6. If it breaks, we’ll fix it. It is scary to learn something new. I need to reassure the learners that they can’t break anything but learning something new. If there is a caution, I need to make them aware of it at the beginning. Then I need to tell them how I will fix it if something happens at that time. Once that plan is shared, usually the learner feels more comfortable with trying new skills.
  7. Perspective. I need to remember how hard it is to learn something new. I need to put my assumptions aside but I also need to make sure that I’m not condescending while teaching others.

The attributes Doug Johnson mentioned really hit home with me. I thought those were good ones that could be applied to many different situations and roles throughout the school environment.

Do you show these attributes? Which ones do you struggle with? Please share.

Image: '[Social Media Week] E se fossero i+Social+Media+ad+usare+Voi?'
Found on

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facing the Obstacles

obstaclesIn Confronting the Brutal Facts of Reality from Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc., Angela Maiers shares,

“Many times I’ve read that people who enjoy success rarely enjoy an obstacle-free ride to the top; they simply learn to overcome whatever challenges they came across. The most successful people are the ones who never believe that they have “won;” they follows Kipling’s admonition that if you ‘meet with Triumph or Disaster, treat these two impostors just the same.’”

This is so true and you can look back through history to know this is true. If you look at people who have become President or other famous people, you will see how each person had individual struggles.

Henry Ford went broke 5 times before he started his Ford Motor Company.

R. H. Macy started several businesses before he started his popular Macy’s department store.

Soichiro Honda was turned down for an engineer’s job by Toyota. While jobless, he worked on scooters at his own home. Eventually he founded the now billion dollar Honda Corporation.

Harland Sanders had his chicken recipe rejected over 1000 times before a restaurant accepted it. Eventually he found Kentucky Fried Chicken.

After our latest visit to Disney, I found out that Walt Disney failed at several ventures before Mickey Mouse became popular.

Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four and didn’t read until he was seven.

Thomas Edison failed over 1000 times before he got the light bulb to work.

Abraham Lincoln lost several elections before he finally got on the road to the Presidency.

Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected 27 times.

Stephen King’s first book Carrie was rejected 30 times when his wife talked him into resubmitting it again.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

These are just some of the things I’ve found and I’m sure there are many. There are probably a lot of local well known people who have their own stories to tell. I think it would be great for students to find and interview local people for their own inspirational stories.

Do you have or know someone who has overcome obstacles to get where they are? Please share.

Image: 'Overcoming obstacles'
Found on

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just 3 Words

honestyIn 3 characteristics of a people builder from Cool Cat Teacher Blog by (Victoria A Davis, Cool Cat Teacher) shared,

“In my Rick Warren devotional today he made a point about being a people builder and that you should do three things if you want to be a people builder:

  • challenging
  • encouraging
  • honest”

Then she asks, “Are you a people builder? If so, how?”

When I read her post, the three words jumped out at me because they are such simple but extremely powerful words to me. These are words that mean a lot to me in my daily life.

I need to be challenged or I get bored. I’m sure students feel the same way. When I’m knitting, I need different stitches or different color changes to keep me interested. When I’m gardening, I need to do more than just weeding to keep me interested. I need to think about the future and plants I want in my garden. I want the challenge of helping my plants live against weather changes and climate concerns. When I’m reading, I don’t want to read the same boring topics over and over. I like to learn new things because the newness of it challenges me. I wonder if that is why some of the awful nursing homes I’ve seen are awful because they don’t challenge the residents there. The good ones are the ones with plenty of activities that challenge the residents on a daily basis.

Encouragement is vital to a rich life. It means a lot for me to get encouragement so I know what it feels like. I try to find sincere ways to encourage others. I try not to only encourage those that are on the same path as me, but those who are going in a different direction. I need to encourage those to follow their dreams. When my children reach adulthood, it was really hard for me to encourage them when they weren’t going in the direction that I wanted them to go in. I really did them a disservice by not being more encouraging. Thankfully they were strong enough to succeed even without my constant encouragement and I’m proud of them. But that experience opened my eyes and made me realize that I need to encourage others not for their final goal but for enduring the journey.

Honesty is probably the most important to me. My former students can tell you that I have no respect for liars. Once that trust is gone, it can never be found again. To me, honesty is like a drinking glass. Once that trust is broken, the glass is broken, and can never be put back in its original form. It will never be strong again. I would rather a student admit to doing wrong, or making a mistake than every lie about it. We can fix a wrong or correct a mistake together but once that lie is there, it is done. I trust most people until I catch them in a lie. Once that happens, I don’t want to be around them or I don’t want them around me. I may have to work with them but I will only do what is necessary and no more. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around dishonesty. My husband and I have absolutely no secrets from each other. My integrity is based on my honesty. People know that what I say is honest and if I made a mistake or misspoke, I will admit it and not cover it up.

I remember one of my principals who I truly respected felt the same way about honesty. I think we had the same values which made my life easier at the work place. I remember one time, that another teacher made a major mistake during testing and as the head of the department, I admitted to my principal that my directions weren’t clear enough. I think the teacher’s actions were due to my own actions. Instead of getting furious with me, he said we needed to fix the problem and we calmly came up with a plan. He told me that he was glad that I admitted to our mistakes rather than trying to sweep it under a rug or blame others because it was much easier to fix at this point. He didn’t hold it against me during the year and I feel like I earned his respect too.

How do these words work in your life? Please share?

Image: 'Philippines III'
Found on

Monday, January 14, 2013

God is in the Rain - A Book Review

GodIsInTheRainI was asked to review the book GOD IS IN THE RAIN by Arleen Naish Jennings. This is the review that I gave the book and I am not being paid to give this review):

This is a really cute young children’s book with adorable illustrations. This came out of a personal fear of storms and the author didn’t want her own child to be afraid like she did. Many of the illustrations were by her own hand.

This book was filled with lots of words to use for vocabulary development including a glossary at the back of the book. The author gives simple definitions for the words which would allow for a lot of discussion between an adult and children. Topics for discussion besides just weather could include safety while playing, seasons, vitamins, the water cycle, different climates, the life cycles of plants, fruit and vegetables, and the color wheel. There is a great explanation about Noah and the ark.
I could see this book in a Sunday school classroom or even a book for a parent to have in the home. The many topics touched upon in this book would be great for family discussions or even in a Sunday school classroom.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/11/13

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

ThinkB4U- “Who doesn't love to chat, text, and post details of their lives online? Just about everybody does, but it's good to think about what you're sharing and its impact on people. And don't forget the invisible audiences - people you never even thought of who can see your stuff now or later - for what you share out there.” (L:G; SA:A)

Block Posters - “create any size wall posters from any size images, totally free to use! Upload an image from your computer and choose how many sheets wide you would like your poster to be once printed (L:T; SA:A)

Lincoln - great resources about Abraham Lincoln; info about the movie also (L:T; SA:SS)

Unused Words - “ is here to extract your language from the pond of habituation it comfortably floats on. As our follower, you will learn a new word every day; you will learn its etymology, different synonyms to it as well as different uses to the word. New and exciting words lead habitual thought patterns in new directions allowing the thinker to breach conventions” (L:M, H; SA:LA)

Wonderville - “It features curriculum-linked resources that will add impact and interest to your lessons.

Use these printable activities, games, videos, word searches, puzzles and comics to make science relevant and meaningful in your classroom. These have been prepared by expert educators working with leading scientists to assure accuracy and usefulness.” (L:E,M; SA:S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lifting Up (Others and Myself)

liftAngela Maiers talked a lot last year about You Matter! And it really meant a lot to me. If you have time read her posts about You Matter! It has been on my mind a lot lately.

It is the beginning of a new year. Everyone seems to be making resolutions. They dream about bettering themselves. They want to be thinner, stronger, healthier, smarter, and the list goes on. People talk about having a word for the year or a theme for the year. I have finally decided on one.

I think my yearlong theme will be Lifting Others and Myself.

I know we talk about how important it is to support others but I think we need to admit that we also need to support ourselves. Sometimes when we lift others up, it helps us lift ourselves us too. There is nothing wrong with working on our own mental health as well as helping lift others.

I will work on making myself thinner and stronger and healthier and smarter. I will give myself pats on the back when I achieve small steps. But I will also encourage others who are trying to do the same thing.

I will stretch my wings and try new things. I will be brave and not chicken out when I want to do something but those little voices in my mind try to discourage me. By doing this, maybe it will help someone else have the courage to try something that they have been wanting to try.

I will encourage others who are doing something different than me. I will be proud of them for trying to do something that I don’t want to do or I have never tried to do. Just because I don’t want to jump out of a plane and sky dive doesn’t mean that I should say negative things to someone else who is wanting to do this.

I will be brave enough to share my thoughts and opinions even if I know no one else agrees with me. I will encourage others to share their thoughts and opinions, even if they differ from mine. Sometimes I keep quiet because I know my opinion isn’t always the same as the other people who are very vocal. Maybe there are others who are quiet like me and need someone to break the ice.

I will listen and learn from others because they may know more than I do. I will offer my knowledge to others but be careful that I don’t come across as a know-it-all. Sometimes we learn best by listening. Once I went to a meeting and it seemed like everyone was so intent on talking and having their say that no one was really listening to what the other person was saying. No wonder we all felt like the meeting was a waste of time when it was over.

Do you lift yourself up in order to lift up others? If so, please share!

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Romina Santos

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kidcarpet - Review

002 (2)(I was recently sent a classroom rug from for review. I am not being paid to write this review.)

I got the ABC Color Blocks Classroom Rug EARTH TONE and it is absolutely beautiful.

Ordering/Shipping: There is a great Variety of designs and colors. It also comes in different sizes to meet the needs of your classroom. It was shipped by UPS right to my door.

Price: It does seem pricey until you compare it with the quality you would get from a local discount store. Sometimes you get what you pay for. When I think about the rug that I’ve had to replace every year due to stains or because it just looks worn and ugly, the price of this would cover those and I think it would last much longer.

Durability: It is much thicker than those that I have bought at Home Depot or Walmart. I think it will last much longer than the ones I have previously bought. It is much thicker and feels like there is more cushion to it.

Care: Easy to clean; stain resistant (I actually spilled food and drink on it to see how easy it was to clean and it was so easy. I definitely look for this when I buy a carpet for my classroom.)

Use in the Classroom: It is heavier than the ones I have bought in other places which means that it doesn’t move around or cause a slipping hazard in the classroom. This rug would be great to teach alphabet skills and incorporate movement in the lesson. Students can make letters on cards with the letters on the rug. Students can take pictures given to them by the teacher and place them on the correct letter for the initial sound the word makes. The teacher can call out a letter to a specific student and have them go stand on the letter (great way to monitor understanding). These are just a few suggestions with the rug that I got. There are so many different designs that can be used for so many different lessons. There are rugs with designs such as music, bugs, art, animals, rhymes, phonics, states, the world, and even the solar system. There were so many great choices that it would hard to pick just one!

So I would have to say that I definitely recommend this carpet for a classroom. As I mentioned, it was pricey but I think in the long run you would likely end up saving money. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Teacher Feature - John Romig

Teacher-FeatureI am featuring a teacher in my blog each month who someone nominates as being a phenomenal teacher. This month’s teacher is John Romig! Congratulations John for being this month’s featured teacher!

JohnRomigST: What school do you teach at?

JR: Dorman High School

ST: What subjects/grade levels do you teach?

JR: 10th-12th Employment Training

ST: How long have you been teaching?

JR: I am in my second year teaching in a traditional school setting. I taught for one year at a postsecondary transition program so three years total.

ST: What has been the hardest thing for you as a teacher?

JR: I would say the hardest thing is holding everything together. No one thing stands out as being especially hard. Lesson plans aren’t super difficult. Making a behavior management plan takes some time and effort but is not impossible. Even the paperwork is manageable if you are properly organized. Throwing and catching anyone of these balls is not hard, but when you start putting all the balls together, I feel like a clown trying to juggle fiery orbs. The hardest thing for me is doing all of it at the same time.

ST: What do you feel is the best thing about teaching?

JR: The best thing about teaching for me is knowing that what I do on a day to day basis matters. Nearly everyone you talk to today has an opinion about education. Some people think education and teachers are the demise of our society and need reform; others think education and teachers are a panacea for all of society’s wrongs. In both opinions the bottom line is teachers and the education they provide matter. Not all occupations go to work with that kind of self-efficacy. There are real-life consequences for what I do every day at work. That kind of pressure is exciting to me.

ST: What is the biggest issue in education that you wish the state or federal government would address and why? 

JR: This was a very difficult question to answer. I could come up with issue 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d each with its own argument for being “the biggest issue.” In my opinion as a new special education teacher, I think the biggest issue is teacher development and teacher retention. There is a “sink or swim” mentality in education with regards to teachers. I guess the opinion is that the good teachers will stick it out and last longer than anyone else, but I believe the statistics showing problems with teacher retention demand a fresh look at how we develop teachers after graduating. When half of all teachers are done with the profession within the first five years, you lack the consistency and experience that older teachers have. I am a young, new teacher, and I will be the first to defend a lot of the “new kids on the block trying to change everything”, but I will be the first one to say that I make certain mistakes as a teacher simply because I am new and inexperienced. I think schools need a better system of developing good teachers.

ST: What piece of advice would you give to a new teacher in order to be successful in the classroom? 

JR: One of the biggest things I heard from current teachers when I was in a teacher preparation program in college was that a lot of the things you learn in college are useless or inapplicable in real-life. It is my experience that this advice couldn’t be further from the truth. In college, you learn the ways things should be done. Yes, teachers are right when they say that many of the things you do during student teaching or other classes are not required when you get a teaching job, but that does not mean that you should give them up all together. Continue writing strong lesson plans, putting time into long range plans, evaluating student progress, and all the other skills you learned in college even if the teachers around you aren’t doing so. You learned those things on college for a reason. There is evidence supporting the things you learned. You will be a better teacher as a result of the extra time you put in, and your students will be better prepared for independent life as a result.

ST: If money was no object, what would you want for your classroom?

JR: I would want a set of iPads for every student in my class to use during instruction. Nearly all jobs now require a certain level of technological proficiency. I think in some ways we are still teaching students the same way we did in the 70s and 80s, and the jobs available have changed. I would also want students to be able to take the iPads home to help facilitate communication with low-income parents.

ST: If you could have anybody in the world visit your class, who would it be?

JR: I thought about this question for a long time also. I could invite my students’ parents and say, “This is the behavior I am talking about.” I could invite my past college professors, and ask, “Why didn’t you teach me about this?” I could invite a hip hop star who raps about quitting school when he actually has a college degree and have him tell my students, “I lied. I stayed in school, and you need to also.” I didn’t want to give a political answer, but in the end, the one person that kept coming to mind is Dr. Mick Zais, the South Carolina School Superintendent. I have immense respect for Dr. Zais’s military service to our country, and I don’t want to disrespect him in any way. But when it comes to teacher evaluations in relation to education reform, he is sadly misguided—dangerously so, in my opinion. His proposed teacher evaluation has several dangerous unintended consequences for teachers of students with disabilities and the students with disabilities themselves. Respectfully, Dr. Zais has never spent a day as a teacher or administrator of a public school. I would like him to spend a day in my class and see what so many teachers are concerned about with his new system. For more information about the proposed teacher evaluation system, you can go to my blog article here.

ST: Is there something special or unique that you do in your classroom? Is so, please share.

JR: My students are pursuing an occupational diploma. To practice employment skills in a real-life situation, we operate a coffee and smoothie shop during the three student lunch periods. Three days per week my students spend my entire class in the smoothie shop. The other two days we are in the classroom practicing and working on skills that are more appropriate for the classroom. We raise money for things like Special Olympics field trips, special student events, and we recently purchased a small set of iPads for the classroom.

If you want to nominate a teacher for me to feature in the upcoming months, please email me (successfulteaching at gmail dot com) their name, school, and contact info. Please consider helping me recognize teachers who sometimes don’t get the recognition that they deserve!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, January 7, 2013

Library Censorship is Disappointing

In this recent article Greenville librarian says decision to ban graphic novel wasn't made lightly, I was very disappointed in this librarian’s actions. She has decided to ban the graphic novel “Neonomicon" by Alan Moore.

I haven’t ever read this graphic novel but apparently a committee of library employees reviewed the novel and decided that the book should be kept. This librarian decides to overrule the committee and ban it anyway. She states that it was disgusting but doesn’t say it was pornographic or obscene. I feel that if one person makes this decision, it is blatant censorship.

I find it interesting that the library has several copies of Fifty Shades of Gray which some people might definitely consider pornographic or obscene. I haven’t read that book but not because it has been removed from the library but because I choose not to read it. I am an adult and I made this decision from reading reviews and hearing about it from other people. I don’t think it should be removed from the shelves because adults have the right to make this decision.

I’m afraid if we took out every book that one person found “disgusting,” we might not have very many books in the library.

During this time when less and less people are using libraries, I don’t think we should start censoring books that someone thinks is disgusting.

I resent the fact that one person can make this kind of decision. If it isn’t appropriate for children, then it needs to be categorized differently. Let adults decide if they want to read it or not but don’t make that decision for me.

What kind of message are we sending to our students? We are saying that as adults, we are unable to decide what we want to read and we need someone, who obviously thinks she is better than us, to make this decision for us. We are saying that if someone thinks someone else’s writing is disgusting, then no one should ever read it. How do we teach critical thinking this way? Do we want our students to become robots and only read what we decide is worthy of reading? (I’m sure I read many books that others might not think is worthy of reading.) Isn’t that a form of propaganda? We don’t want them to read anything that might be disgusting so they can measure good writing next to it? How will they know what is bad or good if we only show them what someone deems as a worthy book?

I don’t have the answers to all of the questions but I sure don’t believe that censorship is the way to go. I am very disappointed that my library would act this way.

What do you think? Do you think the librarian acted in the appropriate way? Please share.

Image: 'Against Banned Books (Please Spread This Pic+&+The+Text)'
Found on

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cell Phone Considerations

GalaxyI need your opinion:

I am thinking of buying a new cell phone ((4G Samasung Galaxy SIII for $199) and giving my hubby my old Droid Incredible. This would also involve changing my plan. I need to know if you think it is worth doing or not.

Here is what I have:

Droid incredible (unlimited data which I use about .2G last month), text msg, 450 min. unlimited Verizon to Verizon), Ipad (3G data plan which I used 3G last month). I pay $127 per month. I used about a total of 3.2G of data last month. I also pay $50 per month for a landline.

New plan:

Unlimited min. and unlimited texting, 4G of data for all devices, my phone and Ipad can be used as hotspots. This would cost me $146 per month and I would get rid of my landline.
I’m just worried about giving up my unlimited data plan on my cell phone that I don’t use much but I would be adding an extra G on my Ipad which I use a lot.

Are there other options I should consider?

What do you think?? Help!

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 1/4/12

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

Blubbr - “You can play trivs in different categories, from celebs and music to sport and education.
Create trivs about the things you are passionate about;” Great to make up your own interactive quizzes (L:T; SA:A)

Detexting - “Introducing detext, a mobile app for Android devices that automatically restricts texting, phone calls, and other driver distractions when the phone is in a moving vehicle.” (L:T; SA:A)

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

Gooru - “Teachers and students can use Gooru to search for rich collections of multimedia resources, digital textbooks, videos,games and quizzes created by educators in the Gooru community.” (L:G; SA:A)

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

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Let’s Fight Burnout!

BurnoutIn Charmelle: Trying to Avoid Burnout, Part Two from Reality 101: CEC's blog for new teachers, Charmelle gives tips to help with stress.

They were a great list and I thought I would add my two cents in and maybe add a tip or two.

Find a hobby. Find something outside of education that catches your interest. It might take some investigation and trial and error but look for it and don’t give up. You might try several things and decide it isn’t for you. Try something else. You don’t have to have this hobby for the rest of your life! It isn’t like marriage! When you get tired of it, move on to something else.

Nurture your friendships. Don’t take them for granted. These people can end up being a great support system.

Don’t take your family for granted. When stressed, sometimes people take out their frustrations on their family because they know their family loves them. Step back and realize that these people are your best support system. Appreciate them and let them know that you appreciate them. Go out of your way to show them that you aren’t taking them for granted.

Do something nice for someone else. When I feel stressed and do something kind (possibly a random act of kindness), it makes me feel good. It takes my mind off of myself and I can bask in the good feelings for a little while.

Of course, as Chantelle mentioned, exercise. It doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. It can just be plain walking. When I was really stressed one year, a colleague offered to walk with me three times a week during my planning period. It really helped. It helped to walk and it helped to talk.

Find balance. If your whole world is consumed with what you are doing for your class, you need to stop. You need to find balance. You need to set aside an hour or two for something fun. You need to set aside some time for family and friends. Spending every minute doing school work will not make you a better teacher. It will make you a tired cranky one. (Trust me, I know! I have seen myself end up this way!)

What other suggestions do you have to avoid burnout? Please share.

Image: 'Extreme fatigue'
Found on

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Plans for the New Year

goalsFor the year:
1. I want to spin the alpaca fiber that I processed with some wool.
2. I want to knit a sweater.
3. I want to dye yarn.
4. I want to spruce up my gardens this year.
5. I won’t commit to more to more than I can handle.
6. I will find something good in each day.
7. I will learn archery.
8. I will nurture old friendships.
9. I will lose at least 20 lbs. this year.

1. I will eat healthy.
2. I will exercise.
3. I will stretch.
4. I will read my bible.
5. I will do something that I have been avoiding.
6. I will contact a friend and let them know I am thinking of them.
7. I will be happy.

I plan on putting my daily plan on a sticky note and have it on my bathroom mirror so I will see it each morning. I will also have it on a “sticky note” on my computer screen so I see it during the day. Hopefully by reviewing these each day, I will have an easier time accomplishing what I want. I will have a spreadsheet for each day and I plan to rate each day on a scale of 0-7 (0 for doing nothing and 7 for doing all) how well I am doing. Hopefully by seeing this, I will be able to stick to my daily plan better.

What are your plans for 2013? How do you plan to achieve them?

Image: 'Where you're going...'
Found on

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!


Happy New Year to all my family and Friends! I hope 2013 brings you lots of love and laughter.

I am looking forward to this year and all the goodness that it will bring! May it bring you lots of happiness and opportunities for good memories!

Image: 'THE YEAR AFTER (la fine del mondo+è+solo+rimandata...)'
Found on