Monday, September 30, 2013

Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child - A Book Review

Middle Child I recently sent the book Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child by Maria T. Lennon and asked to review it. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

The title intrigued me and I think it would catch the interest of many middle school or high school students. The story is told from the viewpoint of Charlie, a middle school age girl who was kicked out of one school and now must attend a new school. She faces a lot of challenges and learns that you can’t hide from the past. Trying to make new friends, she has to decide what her values are and what she stands for. It was so interesting that I didn’t want to put the book down until I knew how the story would end up.

This would be a great book to use in the classroom as a class novel or as an individual read for a book report. There are many topics that would lead to interesting discussions such as: peer relationships, sibling relationships, jealousy, character development, expulsion from school, fitting in, making new friends, honesty, sticking up for what is right, tolerance, bullying, and trust.

If you are looking for a book to read in class, I would definitely check this one out!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 09/27/13

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

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

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

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

Rewordify - is powerful, free, online reading comprehension and vocabulary development software. It helps people understand difficult English faster, and helps them learn words in new ways. (L:G; SA:A)

Examtime - “ExamTime is changing the way students learn by providing free study tools for students and teachers. ExamTime has been developed to help students make studying more than just a mind exercise. It can be a “do” activity.” (L:G; SA:A) – Boost your vocabulary in different languages. (L:G; SA:LA, FL)

Volunteer Spot – “VolunteerSpot is the leading FREE volunteer management software that's so easy, anyone can use it! A simple online sign up sheet makes organizing everyone easier and faster. VolunteerSpot's free volunteer scheduling software lets organizers quickly set up volunteer needs in an online calendar and invite volunteers to sign up from their computer or smart phone. Use it for anything including service projects, school carnivals and walkathons, class parties, swim meets, tournaments, charity races, Scout campouts, parent teacher conference scheduling, and more! Automatic reminders help volunteers keep their commitments and easy online calendar editing, reporting, and messaging saves organizers more time and energy so they can do more good!” (L:T; SA:A)

Edmonton Corn Maze – through Google Maps, take a virtual tour through the corn maze (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Advice to a Kindergarten Teacher

Kindergarten I recently got an email from someone asking what advice I would give to a new kindergarten teacher and thought I would write it as a post instead of an individual email. I made a list of things as I thought of them and not in the order of importance.

1. Take your multivitamin to stay healthy.

2. Exercise regularly. This will help you have the stamina and endurance to keep up with the little ones.

3. Dress comfortably but professionally.

4. Enjoy learning along with them through their eyes. Remember that learning can be fun!

5. Remember that what you say and how you act can have a big impact on these students.

6. Encourage them to spread their wings and try new things.

7. Teach them that following directions is very important in order to be able to learn new things.

8. Help them find their learning style. Some may do better with listening and others may need to see it visually. Some may do better by actually doing it.

9. Invite speakers in to tell about what they do for a living: firemen, policemen, lunchroom ladies, garbage men etc.

10. Remember that there is more to life than worksheets!

11. Incorporate lots of activity in with the learning. I know some teachers who taught math skills while doing exercises at the same time.

12. Have the students use all of their five senses whenever possible.

13. Give them lots of opportunities to try different things.

14. Let them make choices whenever possible such choosing 1 out of 2 or 3 activities.

15. Teach students to respect each other. It’s never too early to learn this.

16. Keep in touch with parents on a regular basis and say positive things as much as possible.

17. Don’t judge parents too harshly on what the students says or does. Usually the truth is not what it seems. Do investigation before making judgments.

18. Be sincere and show the students that you care.

19. It’s okay if the student is mad at you. They have enough friends and need you as a teacher.

20. Remember that there will be some bad days but usually the good days outweigh the bad ones. When you see the student grasp a concept and get excited about learning, it makes it all worth it!

What advice would you add? Please share!

Image: 'hands'

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Enjoying the Silence

silentIn The Sound of Silence: How you can pursue greatness in the still morning from Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Vicki Davis shares,

“The more you work with kids, the more you need this time alone…When is the last time you've listened to silence?”

I get up early and I love this quiet time because it is peaceful. It lets my thoughts settle down instead of always racing. I can feel my heart beat settle into a calm rhythm. My breathing is calm and relaxed. My mind is open to new ideas. I feel good about myself and the upcoming day.

As much as I love my time with people, I cherish my alone time early in the morning. I think that is why I get up so early. I have time to reflect on my day, organize my thoughts and the things I want to do. There are no distractions (other than the ones I allow in my thoughts). I try to make my list of things I want to accomplish during the day and then number them in priority. I also like to think about the day before and give myself a pat on the back for getting things done that needed to be done. I also think about what didn’t get done so I can add it to the list today. Sometimes I accomplish a lot on the list and other times I don’t but that is okay as long as the important things get done.

Sometimes I will get inspired with new ideas because the silence allows the possibilities to run wild. I’m not crowded with other noises and voices distracting me. The possibilities are endless in this silence and I can’t wait to write them down. Later, I may wonder what I was even thinking of but at this time, there is nothing that is impossible.

Silence can be a great comforter. It allows me to feel contentment. I realize how blessed I am for all the good things in my life. I am filled with gratitude for all the people who are my friends and family. I have time to think about all the things that I don’t have time for during my busy day. And I remind myself that…

Life is good.

How do you feel about silence? How do you use it in your life? Please share.

Image: 'Serenity'
Found on

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall Allergies

RagweedI don’t know if you are suffering like I am but fall allergies have hit. The news says that fall allergy season can be just as bad as the spring. I don’t feel up to snuff but I don’t feel terrible. I sound worse than I feel but I don’t feel 100%. Of course, I still have responsibilities and obligations to fill that can’t be put aside.

This makes me wonder how many of my students are going through the same things. How many of them aren’t bad enough to miss class but just don’t feel wonderful? How many really know the answer but they don’t feel in the mood to answer or think about finding the answer in their brains.

How do you fight this allergy season? What can I do to make the students feel better or survive this season? How can I fight it too and still keep up the quality of teaching that I can feel proud of.

I don’t know the answers to all of these questions but I know I have them. I guess right now I feel so miserable that all I have are questions. I hope I feel better tomorrow.

If you or your students are suffering from allergies, I hope you survive this season too. But remember to take pity on those others who are suffering too.

mage: 'Yellow
Found on

Monday, September 23, 2013

A New Computer

laptopHaving my three year old laptop die on me was like losing my best friend suddenly! I had no clue that it was going to die. It was working fine earlier in the day and that night when I turned it on, the light came on and then it went out. Nothing I did could convince it to come back to life. When I got home, I used my husband’s laptop to search for a solution. After 6 hours of searching and trying all that was suggested, I gave up. It was dead.

The next day we went out and hunted for a new laptop for me. I had done my research, checked out consumer reports, read reviews online and hoped for the best. I came home with another Toshiba Satellite because they have been good for me.

Luckily my husband was able to salvage the hard drive from my old friend and we put it in a case so now I also have another external hard drive. I was able to transfer all of my files onto my new computer. Thank goodness.

Of course I preach to others about backing up their computers but I wasn’t sure if I backed mine up last week or the week before. I was kicking myself because I couldn’t even remember what programs I had on my computer! Why is it that it is so easy to warn others but I don’t follow my own advice?!

I am going to make a list each month of the programs I have on my computer. Plus I will back up my computer once a week. I promise!

Remember to back up your computer and back it up often!! You won’t regret it! I wish I listened to myself more often!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 9/20/13

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

Charts Bin - “ChartsBin is a web-based data visualization tool that will allow everyone to quickly and easily create rich interactive visualizations with their own data.” (L:G; SA:A)

Global Bookshelf - “Ever wish you could find a story that would connect you to the trip you were planning? Maybe you’ve tried to find books and stories about your dream destination, but…

· You’re looking for a specific type of book, from a specific region, and just can’t find it…

· You don’t have time in your crazy schedule to sift through book after book after book that isn’t what you’re looking for…

· You can’t find a resource that lists books by country or region of the world…

· You want to read small, personal, stories and don’t know where to look to find them…

· Whenever you search for books about a place all that returns is guidebooks…

Then The Global Bookshelf is for you!” (L:G; SA:A)

Zoos and Animals - take a virtual tour of zoos through Google Maps Street View (L:G; SA:A)

Overcoming Obstacles - “When faced with a bump in the road, sometimes we forget we have a choice: overcome the obstacle or let it overcome you. Steven Claunch, who was born without fingers on his right hand and with one leg shorter than the other and has excelled in basketball nonetheless, explains why obstacles can provide an opportunity to both inspire others and develop character.” (L:G; SA:A)

DIY! - “DIY is a place for kids to share what they do, meet others who love the same skills, and be awesome. The big idea is that anyone can become anything just by trying – we all learn by doing. With skills each of us can build our world.” (L:G; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 9/20/13

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

ClassMint - “Classmint is an interactive study notes service rooted in research-proven scientific techniques that help to learn faster and apply learned knowledge.” (L:G; SA:A)

Into the Outdoors - “Simply EXPLORE THE SIX SCIENCE CATEGORIES to search for your topics of interest. There’s plenty to choose from and more coming online each month. When you open a TOPIC PAGE, you’ll find a number of online, classroom and teaching tools that are easy and ready to use with your students.: (L:G; SA:S)

Information is Beautiful - “distilling the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams.” (L:G; SA:A)

Eye on Idioms - practice with 7 idioms (L:E; SA:LA)

Math eGlossary - from Glencoe (L:M,H; SA:M)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Classroom Assumptions

impactIn 10 Teacher Assumptions for a Successful Classroom from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers,Sam shares 10 teacher assumptions for a successful classroom. If you have a chance, head on over there to read his list. He also asks,

Is there another assumption that I should add to the list?”

This had me thinking of other assumptions that lead to a successful classroom.

School is nothing like it was when I was in school. Students are more mature physically and emotionally than I ever was at their age. Students have access to more entertainment media than when I was their age. Students have experienced more of the world due to exposure to news media. I can’t expect them to react to life the way I did.

Assume that all parents care. Too many times I hear teachers talk about parents who don’t care or monitor children the way they should. I don’t think it means that they don’t care. It may mean that their life is so overwhelming that they are just trying to survive. It may mean they are working three jobs to pay the bills. Maybe it means that they don’t know how to handle a situation and tries to ignore it, hoping it will disappear. In 30 years, I’ve never actually met a parent who truly didn’t care.

Assume that all students really want to succeed. Too many times I hear teachers say that the kids don’t care. They don’t try. They are lazy. Maybe the students are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. Maybe the students have failed so many times that they lack the energy to keep on fighting. Maybe they don’t know how to fight to succeed. But I believe that every student wants to be successful.

Assume that you can make a difference in everyone’s life. This can be positive or negative depending on your own attitude. What I say and how I say it will have an impact on every person I cross paths with. I may never see the outcome but I will have made a difference no matter how small it may be. I need to think before I react and say something I shouldn’t or didn’t mean to say.

Assume that students’ actions speak louder than words. Students can say angry words or lie or push your buttons. But look at the actions that go with the words. Is the student defensive? What is the student defending? Why is the student acting this way? Sometimes we need to look past the words and not let them make us react. Look beyond the words. Look at the behavior.

Assume that teachers’ actions speak louder than words. Students know when a teacher is sincere or just paying lip service. They watch our every action and see if we are walking the walk or just talking the talk. Students want to see if we are standing behind the words we are saying. We need to be role models for them. If we preach about appropriate behavior, then we better not be exhibiting inappropriate behavior. Don’t tell them not to smoke and the see them outside of the school setting while we are smoking a cigarette. They know when we are being hypocritical and they lose respect for us.

What assumptions would you add? Please share.

Image: 'Water drop'
Found on

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What’s the Purpose?

The power of purposeIn Why are you working on that?  From Dangerously Irrelevant , Scott McLeod shares, 

“I’m astounded at how often my children do things for class without understanding the bigger reasons behind WHY they’re doing those things.”

Too many times I see students doing things and have no idea why they are doing it. Is it no wonder that they can’t learn certain concepts or if they do learn it, they don’t retain anything they learn.

Many times I believe that some teachers don’t understand why they teach the way they do. They may be doing it because they are told to or that is the way they were trained to do. Maybe they never asked why when they were being trained or maybe they don’t remember.

I have started taking a closer look at the things I teach and why I teach them. I also look at how I teach certain things.

I look at what I am teaching and make sure that I can explain to my class why they are needing to know these things. Some of the things may be needed when they take the test to be licensed to teach. Some of the information may be strategies and resources they will need when they teach. Some of the things may be for general knowledge that they may need some day. One reason may be that I’m required to teach certain information by the administration and this needs to be shared with the students also. I feel that if I can’t come up with a good reason for why I’m teaching this, then I need to think about whether I’m wasting everyone’s time by teaching it.

I am also taking a closer look at how I teach certain concepts. What is the purpose for the way that I’m teaching this? Is there a better way? I have started modeling some strategies to use in the classroom with my university class. They can see firsthand how this strategy is used rather than just hearing me explain it.

Do you reflect on your teaching practices and their purposes? How do you evaluate them? Please share.

Image: 'The power of purpose'
Found on

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Advice for First Year Teachers

scaredIn Meeting My “First Year Self” from A Relief Teacher's Journey,Michael Graffin shares some strategies and resources to survive the first year of teaching. He gives some advice that he wished someone had told him. I totally agree with everything he has mentioned and wanted to add a few more things of advice to what he mentions. Please check out his post and read the advice he gives too.

Keep a Journal: I really wish someone had told me to keep a journal of my years of teaching. I kept one the first year and then life got in the way. Now that I look back of my 30 years in the public school, I really wish I had kept a journal every year.

Prevent burn out in advance: I know that most teachers get burned out after five years. If you know this in advance, look for ways to avoid it. Get a life outside of school. Learn a new hobby. Have an outside interest.

Learn something from your students: Look for something new that you didn’t know before. This makes every day a brand new start. Learning from my students was invigorating and exciting. It might be a lesson in behavior or it might be a lesson in new technology. Knowing that every day is a new learning experience can keep you on your toes.

Exercise: Do some kind of regular exercise at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes even if it is only getting out and walking. This helps keep a positive attitude in your life. When you are feeling down, exercise. When you are feeling frustrated, exercise. When you are feeling exhausted, exercise. When you are feeling great, exercise.

Don’t Give Up: Sometimes it is easier to give up than to plug on. But don’t. I remember hearing someone tell me that when I reached the end of my rope, to tie another know in it. Remember all the hard work you put into training for this career and the reason you went into it. Eventually you will get into a rhythm and it will be easier and you will end up enjoying it. Too many people give up before they reach this stage.

Ask for Help: As a new teacher, you feel like you are already in a fishbowl and everyone is just watching you and waiting for you to fail. Actually the opposite is true. Everyone is just waiting for you to ask for help. They are waiting to catch you when you fall. They don’t want to offer help in case you see it as their lack of faith in what you can do. When you don’t know something or you need support, ask for it. There are people out there who want to be there for you.

What other advice would you give to new teachers? Please share.

Image: '154/365 They're Coming To Get+You.'
Found on

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tell Others They Matter

YouMatterAngela Maiers has a wonderful campaign called Choose 2 Matter! that has influenced many people around the world. Please take the time to check it out. On her blog, she shared Where Mattering is on the Schedule! where a vice principal of a school is getting people in his school to fill out a form to let others know they matter.

This in turn inspired me to do the same on my campus with my students. I think we get in the habit of kidding with people and making mock insults, that we forget how to say good things about people. I’m hoping I will see differently through my little “experiment.”

I made up a form that I want to use in my university class. Students are invited to note someone who did something noticeable and I will email them with the message. All I need is this person’s name, their email address, and a message. It is up to sender to decide whether they want to give their name or not. I will be interested in seeing how many of my students use this and how often they will use it. When that person (who doesn’t have to be in my class or even a university student) gets the message, they will be invited to use the form to notice someone else.

If you are interested in sending a message to someone, please fill out this form: You Matter!

Take time to let someone know that they matter!

Image: 'You can soar no matter your size'
Found on

Friday, September 13, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 9/13/13

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

Map A List - visualize your lists by creating a map using your Google spreadsheets (L:G; SA:SS)

Fakebook - “create a profile page for a fictional or historical character” (L:G; SA:A)

Chew or Die - “Chew Or Die is a food challenge app that encourages users to make small changes to their daily food choices. Regularly eat pepperoni pizza for lunch? How about trying veggies on top instead? Ok,you’ve got that down… now why not dare your Facebook friends to out-veggie your pizza?” (L:G; SA:S)

Zinn Education Project - “The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the use of Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and other materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The website offers more than 100 free, downloadable lessons and articles organized by theme, time period, and reading level.” (L:M,H; SA:SS)

World Geography Games - An assortment of games (L:G; SA:SS)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Others Matter to Me

hugsIn Where Mattering is on the Schedule! From Angela Maiers, Speaker, Educator, Writer , Angela Maiers shares about a school in Rhode Island where teachers and students can fill out a form so others can know their actions matter. She shared a form developed by Tim Chace from that Rhode Island School that he used and it was fabulous.

I thought about how great it would be to use this form for people at my university. In fact, I think it would be a great inspiration for people all over, and not just in my school. I will have to work on this or maybe I will contact this administrator and see if I can use it for my purpose.

Then she asked, “Do the people in your life know that they matter to you?”

I am going to work harder at this because I haven’t done a good job with this. Of course I tell my husband this every day because I mean it and he is right there in my life every day. I started thinking about family members who live very far from me and how I don’t let them know this often enough.

I also have friends that are dear to me but I’m not sure that I let them know this. We don’t get to see each other much because we all are busy with our own lives and I realize I need to stop from the craziness and make a conscious effort to do this. I rarely see them but they are in my thoughts often. This of course doesn’t convey to them how much they matter to me or how much their friendship means to me.

In fact, I believe this is going to be one of my goals for next year that I will work hard on. Of course I will start now but I want to make it a regular behavior that becomes a good habit. My monthly review of my goals is really helping me make certain actions into good habits.

I need to do a better job. I need to make sure that I do this before it is too late because it is always easy to put things off until tomorrow. I need to start thinking, “Why wait until tomorrow? Do it now.”

Have you let the people in your life know that they matter to you? If so, how? Please share.

Image: 'Hug'
Found on

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where do Complaints Go?

complaintRecently I had a situation with United Parcel Service (UPS) where I was sent an email from UPS My Choice saying that they would deliver a package between 12 and 4pm on a Thursday. Since I needed to sign for it, it was important that I was there to receive the package. I arrived home at 11:15 to find a note stating that they tried to deliver the package but no one was home. It also stated that they would return on Friday but no time given so I guess I could expect it any time in a 24 hour period!

When I called customer service from the number on the website, I was given an option to pick it up at the distribution center which is an hour away from my home. I was frustrated by the email that was sent and stated if I had known it was going to be delivered earlier, I would have planned to be there. I asked who I could file a complaint with and was told there was no such person. They told me that the email system (UPS My Choice) had nothing to do with the delivery system which I found extremely contradictory. Then I asked to speak to the person in charge of the deliveries and the person kept telling me that there was no one. I finally asked to speak to a supervisor who talked to me after I was on hold for 15 minutes. She told me the same type of story and I asked to speak to her supervisor. After another long hold, I talked to the third person who told me that there was no one in charge of the company for me to file a complaint with and that there were no regulatory agencies over them. She suggested I send an email to customer service on the website. This was the same customer service department that I was currently talking to on the phone. Finally after 40 minutes of trying to find who to file a complaint with, I hung up. I did file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and sent a letter to the Board of Directors.

It would have made sense for this person at UPS to ask for my contact information to give to a supervisor and have someone call me within the next few days. Instead they wanted to deny any kind of complaint process. I find it hard to believe a company that big would not have some way for customers to file a complaint. But maybe I’m wrong.

Now, I know you are wondering, what in the world does that have to do with education!

Many times parents and students are unhappy and want to go talk to the administrators when things don’t go the way they hope for. I try to keep the lines of communication open so they know the process for complaining and who to go to if they don’t achieve the results they need. I ask them to first come to me to see if we can resolve the problem and then tell that what steps are available if that doesn’t happen. This saves a lot of time and aggravation for the parents, for me, and for my administration. Many times it is a simple problem that I can address quickly.

For example, I had a parent of a student with Down syndrome who was very upset about something that happened in class. She could have easily called the main office and scheduled an appointment with an administrator which may have taken days. The administrator would follow up with me which may have taken more days. By the time the problem was resolved, it would have taken too much time or the type of problem it was. Instead the parent called me at home and let me know she was upset. We discussed the problem and when I told her my side of the story (which was different than the student’s story), we got the problem resolved. I understood why the mom was upset and didn’t deny that she had a right to be mad. I asked for help in avoiding this situation in the future and she appreciated that. This problem was dealt with and resolved immediately instead of being blown out of proportion.

What process do you have for handling complaints? Do you deal with them or do you send all of them to the administrator? Please share.

Image: 'Complaint Squircle'
Found on

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What Would You Grab?

OldWhiteHorseRd4Last week my husband and I responded to a few house fires for the Red Cross. We help clients who have been burned out of their homes and try to give them some emergency relief. One of the important things we ask for is identification with proof of address. Sometimes clients have their driver’s license or can show some kind of mail with their name and address on it.

On the news you hear about flooding and mudslides in areas and how people have to evacuate. One family on the side of the mountain was going to lose their home because of all the rain. They were allowed to go in and get the valuables they could grab.

This made me think of things that I would grab if we had a house fire. I realized that I keep my purse with my wallet in my office and if we had a fire in the middle of the night, I might not be able to get to it. So, now my purse will be in the bedroom close at hand. I also thought that I would make a copy of my driver’s license and keep it in my car glove compartment. While thinking of these things, my husband and I thought we would make a list and keep it handy of things we must have if we have time to grab things. We would need my husband’s medication and his wallet. I would want to grab our cell phones, iPad, and laptops if I had time. I would want to grab so many things because I think everything I own is valuable to me. Otherwise, why would I have it?! Not only do I have things that are worth money but I have so many things that hold memories.

I also thought about the classroom and what I would need to grab if the school had a fire. At one school we had an evacuation bag hanging by the door. This bag had the class roster, emergency procedures (in case a substitute is there), a pen and pencil, some paper, bandaids, and rubber gloves. I would also grab a grade book and my purse but other than that, I think I would be okay. I put a lot of my files in dropbox online so I don’t have to worry about my computer or flash drive.

What would you grab in case of an emergency? Do you have a list or a bag? Please share.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, September 9, 2013

The DEN Fall VirtCon

DENFallVirtConI registered to attend The DEN Fall Virtcon put on by Discovery! Maybe I will see you there!

“The DEN Fall Virtual Conference is a free professional development event for educators to learn about the most effective ways to integrate digital media into their instructional practices. It is unique because of its blended environment. The sessions will be broadcast online, but you can attend either from your own home or at one of the many face-to- face (F2F) events around the world. By attending an event in your area, you get that buzz that can only be experienced by being face to face with others.”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 9/6/13

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

Nova Labs - “NOVA Labs is a new digital platform where "citizen scientists" can actively participate in the scientific process. From predicting solar storms and designing renewable energy systems to tracking cloud movements and learning cybersecurity strategies, NOVA Labs participants can take part in real-world investigations by visualizing, analyzing, and sharing the same data that scientists use.” (L: M,H; SA:S)

MapStory - “MapStory empowers a global community to organize knowledge about the world spatially and temporally. With MapStory, people of all kinds turn into Storytellers who can create, share, and collaborate on MapStories and ultimately improve our understanding of global dynamics, worldwide, over the course of history.” (L:G; SA:SS)

The Whiz Times - “News, Enrichment and Entertainment with tons of interactivity and engagement –especially produced for tweens!” (L:M, H; SA:G)

Elephant Voices - “Identifying elephants isn't difficult, but it requires using powers of observation and it takes a bit of practice. There are many different characteristics that you can use to identify an elephant: sex; body size; shape; length and configuration of the tusks; size and shape of the ears; ear venation patterns; notches, tears, holes in the ears. ElephantVoices has developed eight educational modules explaining how to recognize these characteristics, which have been used in the Mara Elephants Who's Who database.” (L:M,H; SA:S)

Submrge - Search or browse for Games or Activities, and learn how games are or could be included in classroom activities.

Each game page includes important information for teachers, like benefits of play, educational issues for discussion, easily accessible game information, and activities related to the game on Submrge. (L:T; SA:A)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What is Normal?

normalWhat is normal? Who gets to decide?

I’ve heard this saying on a few podcasts lately and I don’t know who the creator was, but here it is:
"Normal is just a setting a washing machine."

That saying has been going around and around in my head and I’m loving it!

As a teacher of students with special needs, I have seen a lot of children feel as if they were not normal because they were different. They see normal as fitting in, being like everyone else, and not standing out as different. These students want to be “normal.”

Some teachers see a lot of students as normal in the same way. They want all of their students to fit in with what they expect. They want all students to take the same tests and succeed in the same way. They want all of their students to behave in the same cookie cutter fashion and if they don’t, then they see these students as not being normal.

I think I would do a major disservice to my students if I expect them to be “normal” and just like everyone else. I want to honor their uniqueness and help them be proud of their differences.

If they don’t learn like everyone else, I want them to feel that is okay as long as we figure out a way for them to learn that fits them. I have to help them find the learning style that works for them and encourage them to use this so they can get the most out of learning. Instead of trying to fit them in a mold, I need to give them tools to use because they don’t fit in a mold.

If they don’t show how they understand and can apply their learning the way others do, that is okay too. As long as they are able in some way to show me that they understand and can apply what they have learned. I need to give them opportunities to show me how they do this.

I need to stop trying to make all of my students normal and respect them for who they are.
I need to remember that normal is just a setting on a washing machine.

How do you help your students feel comfortable in their uniqueness? Please share.

Image: 'There's Always One'
Found on

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Field Experience

field experienceThis semester I’m sending 22 undergraduates out to a setting serving school-age students with special needs. For some of these students, this may be their first exposure to school-age students with special needs. Of course I have an official letter that goes to the classroom teaching thanking them for allowing my students in the classroom. I also suggest some activities but these are not required such as:

  • Assist with varied classroom activities (e.g. read stories, assist at centers, assist individuals),
  • Assist classroom teacher with instructional activities,
  • Prepare materials for instruction under the direction of the teacher,
  • Review and reinforce lessons introduced by the teacher with individual students and small groups,
  • Attend a field trip with the class,
  • Assist with physical needs of students,
  • Escort students to and from classroom,
  • Assist students at lunch
  • Assist with cleanup activities,
  • Learn and follow all classroom/behavior management programs as set by the teacher,
  • Any other related activities that will assist the teacher with the instructional program and give the student practical experience
But in my mind and heart, I want to say things such as:
  • Show what a joy it is to be a teacher.
  • Show how a teacher can make a difference by the little things that are done.
  • Show how important it is to be organized in the classroom.
  • Show how having a classroom management plan can make your life easier.
  • Show how vital it is to be prepared.
  • Show how much collaboration with colleagues make teaching more effective.
  • Show how a teacher needs to make every student feel valued.
  • Show why teaching can be the greatest profession in the world!
Maybe I will share these with the students and have them look for these things while they are in the classroom. I think some of them are a little scared and nervous but if they go in with a positive outlook, it might help them make this a better experience.

I’m hoping that some of them will be glad they are in our education program. I’m hoping that some of them will eventually become great teachers. I’m hoping that some of them will make a difference in some child’s life. I hope that this experience will be worthwhile and inspiring!

Image: 'Tutoring Center'
Found on

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monthly Review of Goals from August

GoalsBoy, did August fly by! It is hard to believe that it is September already. It is time to review my goals and see how I did last month. All of my goals can be found here. The ones that are in bold are ones that I have already accomplished.

For the year:

1. I want to spin the alpaca fiber that I processed with some wool. ( I accomplished this!)

2. I want to knit a sweater. (I have knit a couple already and I’m getting ready to start on the Gnarled Oak cardigan from the Coastal Knits Book.)

3. I want to dye yarn. (Still haven’t done this yet but I’m getting closer to being in the mood!)

4. I want to spruce up my gardens this year. (I have been going out and doing some weeding when it hasn’t been raining.)

5. I won’t commit to more to more than I can handle. (I realize that my life has been a lot less stressful since I’ve been sticking to this goal.)

6. I will find something good in each day. (This is really helping me have a good attitude when I go to bed and I think it helps me sleep better.)

7. I will learn archery. (I found another groupon coupon for archery lessons for two and hopefully will make an appointment in September.)

8. I will nurture old friendships. (I had a mini reunion with my niece and her family at Myrtle Beach. I haven’t seen them in person in about 5 years.)

9. I will lose at least 20 lbs. this year. (I have lost 20 pounds since January! I’m so excited! Now everything I lose is like icing on the cake!)


1. I will eat healthy. (This healthy eating has helped me lose weight! I am also down to size 8 from a size 10 in my clothes.)

2. I will exercise. (I have been walking on the treadmill and walking in the park regularly. I have been getting 10,000 steps almost every day and now I’ve bumped it up to 15,000 steps.)

3. I will stretch. (I stretch and do strength exercises for 20 minutes each day.)

4. I will read my bible. (I’ve been doing this but need to do it more regularly.)

5. I will do something that I have been avoiding. (This goal has helped me get a lot of things done around the house.)

6. I will contact a friend and let them know I am thinking of them. (Every day I try to send an email or message through Facebook.)

7. I will be happy. (Consciously thinking this helps me start each day with a smile.)

I am very pleased with my progress this year. This monthly accountability has really made a difference and I will plan on doing this again next year.

Have you reviewed your goals or resolutions you made at the beginning of the year? How are you doing? If you haven’t achieved something yet, don’t give up. Just begin now.

Image: 'La Jolla Goal Wall'
Found on

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!

LaborDayToday is the Labor Day holiday here in the United States.

According to The Department of Labor:

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. The first Monday in September was chosen as the official holiday in 1884. 23 states adopted the holiday by 1894. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making it a legal holiday in District of Columbia and the territories.

Image: 'Beauty Balloons'
Found on