Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How I Have Changed

change In Reflect With Me from Learning is Growing, Kathy Perret  talked about a prompt used for reflecting and I thought it would be a great way for me to reflect on how I have changed in my thinking. The prompt was,

“I used to think ___, now I think___.”

I used to think that I needed to be a superwoman in order to be a good teacher, now I think I just need to do the best I can and help my students learn. If I don’t know the answers, I need to help them find the answers, which is actually a good way to model learning.

I used to think that I needed to teach the recommended way, now I think I need to teach according to the student’s learning style. Just because I learn best visually does not mean that everyone else does too.

I used to think that I knew more than my students, now I think that sometimes my students can think of a better way of doing something than I can. Giving students a chance to shine is the best way to give them confidence and build trust.

I used to think I knew how to improve a student’s behavior because I knew behavior management techniques, now I think that it is important to get the student’s input as to why the behavior is occurring and what can be done to improve the behavior.

I used to think that I could show that I am a good teacher by spending every moment I could thinking/doing things for my classroom, now I think that I can show that I am a good teacher but using my time effectively and taking time for myself in order to reenergize and motivate myself.

I used to think that if I worked through lunch time I could get caught up with all of my work, now I think that you never really get caught up with work and eating lunch is important to stay healthy physically and emotionally.

I used to think old fashioned ideas needed to be thrown out to let the new ideas in, now I think that many of the old traditional ideas have a lot of merit and are still important in the classroom. These can be revamped and modernized but the basics are still the same.

I used to think that I didn’t have time to connect with other teachers either locally or globally, now I think it is so important to make these connections in order to grow professionally.

I used to think that a lot of the children’s problems were caused by the parents, now I think that many times we don’t what really causes a child’s problem and we don’t always need to know the cause. We just need to move forward and help the child at the point that we are at.

I used to think that all children needed to be in school in order to get the best education, now I think that school is not always the right place for some children.

I used to think of everything in black and white, now I think more in gray. There are always two sides to every story and sometimes the answer isn’t always clear cut. This allows for more possibilities rather than limiting the answer to one specific thing.

Now, how have you changed? Please share.

Image: 'He Has the Momentum'
Found on

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What I’m Into

DSC_0007 In Still Into It from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

“What are you "into" these days?”

Things I’m into lately:

1. Hiking – now that the weather is warming up, we have been doing a lot of hiking. I’m enjoying the spring wildflowers as they emerge. We have seen lots of bears, deer, and a few snakes.
2. Eating better – I am trying to eat healthier and watching my calories. I still fall down the rabbit hole sometimes but not as much as I had been. I hope to continue to lose a few more pounds.
3. Exercising more – I’m still trying to get my 10,000 steps in every day. I’m achieving this usually unless we are traveling all day in the car.
4. Gardening – I spread 34 bales of pine needles in my gardens and did some weeding. I can’t wait to do some more and maybe plant some annuals.
5. Reading classics – I love reading a lot. My friend’s daughter is having to read some classics and I’m trying to read along with her. It is much more fun when you have someone to read with! This is a good way for me to revisit much loved classics that I haven’t read in a long time.
6. Photography – I love taking photos and I’m trying to improve my photography skills. I can tell some improvements from last year so hopefully I will keep doing better.
7. Knitting – It is hard for me to imagine life without knitting. Now I understand my mother more and why she did it along with the satisfaction of creating things. I wish she was still here for me to share how much I love this and exchange ideas and victories.
8. Spinning – I never thought I would enjoy spinning my own yarn. I also love knitting with my handspun and it gives me such great joy when I finish a project made with yarn I created with my own hands. I now own 3 spinning wheels and 3 drop spindles and 1 Turkish spindle.

What are you into lately?

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, April 28, 2014

Connecting in Real Life Can Happen

Social media can make chance connections in real life happen. Many people are afraid of social media and this is a perfect example of why teachers shouldn’t be. These connections are real and can happen. What are the chances that I would have a Facebook friend from another country cross paths with me when I am hundreds of miles from home?

DSC_0003Last week we were in Shenandoah National Park and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. One early morning I was on Facebook when I saw the status of one of my Facebook friends, an educator  from Finland, Mika Vanhanen, saying that he was going to be in Shenandoah National Park that day. I couldn’t wait to tell him that I was there also! So, after some conversation, he wondered if we would have a chance to meet and he found out where his group would be heading for lunch. After discussion with my husband, we decided that instead of hiking that morning, we would head for the town where Mika was having lunch. This was such a great opportunity that I didn’t want to miss it and I’m so thankful that my husband indulges me when these things happen.

Mika was having lunch at the Smithsonian Conservation Biological Institute so we headed there. I was so thrilled to meet an online friend face to face! I also met others from his group from other countries. There were 20 people in the group representing 17 different countries. According to Mika’s Facebook page, he was “invited to join International Visitor Leadership Program. Three weeks and four states, to know about environmental protection.” I was truly honored that he was willing to take some time to meet me in person too!

It was fun meeting people from other countries. It makes the world seem like a smaller place. Hearing the different accents made the conversations interesting and hearing people talk about their own country was fun. When I was asked where I was from, I was reminded that not everyone knows where South Carolina is located. It also made me want to know more about their individual countries. All of these people were here in our country to learn about a common idea such as environmental protection and put aside any differences they might have politically in their own countries.

This is exactly why we need to encourage our students to make these connections. By doing this, they will realize how much in common we have with others around the world. Yet, they will learn and celebrate the differences. It can show our students that there are other things that are happening outside of political differences and that people can put aside these differences and get along when working towards a common goal.

This chance encounter renews my interest in someday visiting Finland. I see pictures of the beautiful country and now I have a real life friend who lives there! I see Finland in a totally different way now.

Have you had any chance encounters meeting online friends? Please share!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, April 25, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/25/14

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

Interactive Periodic Table – “learn about the periodic table through this interactive game.” (L:H; SA:S)

Spent – according to Free Technology for Teachers, Spent “is an online game designed to teach players about the challenges of living on minimum wage (or slightly higher) employment. Players begin by selecting a job which will provide the wages they have to survive on for a month. Then throughout the game players are confronted with challenges that they have to handle by making an "either or" choice. After each choice the player's account balance is adjusted. In addition to the change in the player's balance sheet, each choice is followed by an explanation of consequence of the choice made.” (L:H; SA:M, SS)

The Living Wage Calculator – “estimate the cost of living in your community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location.” (L:H; SA:M, SS)

Google Cultural Institute – “Discover exhibits and collections from museums and archives all around the world. Explore cultural treasures in extraordinary detail, from hidden gems to masterpieces.” (L:G; SA:SS)

Stop Disasters – A disaster simulation game (L:M,H; SA:M, S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2014 Day 4

DSC_0154Last week we attended the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2014. Here are my notes from Day 4.
I decided that instead of writing a list of all the plants we saw, I would put them in a spreadsheet and then write the location and notes beside them. This would help me see the big picture instead just a list of a plants and things. You can download the spreadsheet HERE.

Here is the link to Day 4 Pictures HERE.

On Day 4, we began our day with a photography class with Jack Carman and Robert Hutson. We attended this last year and it was so wonderful that we wanted to come back again. In the afternoon we took a Fern Walk with Keith Bowman and saw a ton of ferns!

Things I learned:
1. Landscape – f/22, maximum depth of focus (DOF)
2. Need foreground, mid ground, and background to be interesting.
3. Center of interest needs to be sharp in focus.
4. Fast shutter = 1/500 shutter speed.
5. 1/25 stops motion of water
6. Normal camera settings read as 18% gray. Open up a stop or two so snow appears white.
7. Rules of thirds - put center of interest on intersection
8. Sunrise and sunset – use manual setting; take reading without the sun, then note settings. Turn on manual and set camera to those settings.
9. Be at sunrise 30 minutes before for maximum color conditions.
10. Spider web and dew drops – minimum DOF so no distractions in background.
11. Eyes drawn to white spot on image.
12. Mushrooms – ensure light is on the stems or they look like they are floating on air
13. Put sun at your ack.
14. Wide angle – if aimed slightly upward, causes keystoining
15. Get on level with the flower
16. Individual flowers – at an angle produces more depth
17. Competing centers of interest is hard to look at.
18. Have odd numbers of flowers; small or large groups.
19. With large groups, leave some dead space.
20. Diffused light – use white umbrella
21. Use tripod for stability and DOF
22. Use stick and clothespin for holding something in the wind.
23. Ebony spleenwort has a dark shiny rachis
24. Rattlesnake fern is triangular in structure and dies back in the winter.
25. Grape fern is leathery and evergreen.
26. Rock cap looks like Christmas fern but attacked all over.
27. Walking fern looks like it walks because the tip grows roots and forms a new plant.
28. Hayscented Fern – hairy all over leaves, pinna looks like little steps perpendicular to the rib.
29. Daisy Leaf Moonwart looks like a runty rattlesnake fern.
30. Silvery Glad fern form in clumps and have square pinnules.

Original Photo by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2014 Day 3

Last week we attended the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2014. Here are my notes from Day 3.

I decided that instead of writing a list of all the plants we saw, I would put them in a spreadsheet and then write the location and notes beside them. This would help me see the big picture instead just a list of a plants and things. You can download the spreadsheet HERE.

Here is the link to Day 3 Pictures HERE.

DSC_0044On Day 3 (4/18/14), we began the day with Forest Foods and Pharmacy led by Ila Hatter, Wanda DeWaard, and Brittney Hughes. This is the second year we attended this and it was awesome! I learn so much with this group and they are full of such useful and interesting information. In the afternoon we went on a moss walk led by Keith Bowman who did a great job and was very knowledgeable. I just don’t think I’m ready to go into depth about mosses. I did learn some interesting information about mosses that I would not have known if I hadn’t been on this walk. In the evening we went on a Bat Walk and it was interesting too. Unfortunately the scientists leading it was unable to catch a bat in their net.
In the afternoon we went on the West Prong Trail with leaders: Jeremy Lloyd from Tremont and Chris Fleming from Nashville (along with his wife Sunny). We ended up splitting into two groups and we were with Chris who had a plethora of knowledge about what we were looking at!

Things I learned:
1. Uganes are the fresh, first growth of mixed greens.
2. Cut unfurled Solomon’s seal – parboil and saute in butter.
3. Little blooms called Solomon’s concubines.
4. Stonecrop sedum are edible but not choice; full of water content
5. Sassafras – root for tea; leaves to thicken, when using stem – boil about 15 minutes; steep leave for tea; is a blood thinner, full of iron and antioxidents. Good to “get rid of the mountain punies.”
6. Gray headed coneflower (rudebeckia) - gather 1-1 ½ feet high in spring. Aka Sochan or sochani. Parboil and toss out first water. Then sautee in skillet with fatback; likes wet places, easy to grow and transplant.
7. Longspur violets full of vitamin C. Steep in tea. Can nibble on flowers full of nectar. All violets are edible. European violets have an aroma. If no aroma, no flavor. Good for hematomas. 50 blossoms equal one rutin tablet. (rutin good for capillary health). Rutin needs vitamin C. More vitamin C than an orange.
8. Mullein – leaves for tea (simmer and breathe in steam for congestion), dip stalk in tallow and make a primitive light; yellow flowers in olive oil for 6 weeks for ear drops to help ear aches; bronchodilator so good for asthma, you can drink the tea. Doctrine of signatures – hair on it matches cilia in the lungs; wash and dry it; also used as insulation in moccasins; band aids, toilet paper,
9. Buffalo nut – not edible or medicinal; oil could be used as light; parasitic plant.
10. Dandelion – closes up when rain is coming; good diuretic for time when people preserved meat with salt; more in leaves than flower; gets bitter as they get older but if you use it with a tomato base, it takes care of the bitterness; blossoms have lecithin for fat metabolism; an emulsifier; lecithin lowers triglycerides but won’t work on cholesterol, used in jellies and muffins; more Vitamin A than carrots; domesticated in Italy and France; root makes a coffee; great for urinary tract, liver, or kidney problems; naturally sweet; stem sap can remove warts; make a tincture (fill glass jar with lightly packed leaves, add 100% vodka, label and put in a dark place for 6 weeks. Use 15 drops in water or on the tongue)
11. Roadside Rambles Cookbook has recipes and a USDA list.
12. Rattlesnake Plantain – doesn’t work for snake bite
13. Yucca – flowers in vinegar; used to keep animals out of the yard or as a needle and thread.
14. Partridge berry – roots as a tea for labor, childbirth, or menopause; berries are tasteless but not toxic.
15. Ground cedar – antiseptic; used on baby’s butts for diaper rash
16. Devil’s Walking stick – young shoots can be boiled and eaten
17. Tulip Poplar – make salve or liniment for burns; blossoms full of nectar and taste sweet
18. Mint – antiseptic tea, expectorant, sweeten with a little honey.
19. Medicine tastes bad to get rid of the bad entity inside of you.
20. Galax – illegally harvested to be used as canapĂ© trays.
21. Greenbriar – tender leaves are tasty to eat on the trail; jello in the woods; roots can be boiled or dried and used to thicken broth
22. Wild Strawberries – flavor is strong but fruit is small.
23. Black birch – leaf buds growing off 90 degree angle; commercial source for wintergreen; break and boil in water; used as a low dose of analgesic
24. Wintergreen (teaberry) – boil leave in water; analgesic also, smell before chewing to make sure it isn’t mountain laurel
25. Dogwood – inner bark used for redicing fevers and pain; strong wood used for shuttles in weaving looms, hiking sticks, wedges for splitting wood, axes
26. Sweetgum – find green balls which contain low dose of Tamiflu; smash open with hammer so it opens a little. Put in jar with vodka and make a tincture (15 drops in water and drink like Tamiflu twice a day); Doctrine of Signatures – virus looks like a sweetgum ball.
27. Wood sorrel – used for hemorrhoids; roots are an astringent, make tea and apply on hemorrhoids, after dental surgery, antiseptic
28. Mosses are J shaped on side of trees to slow water down and harvest nutrients.
29. There are 5200 mammal species in the world and 21% of them (1200 species) are bats. 16 species of bats in TNN
30. Bats are beneficial for seed dispersal; pollination of products humans use; and pesticide.

Original Photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2014 Day 2

DSC_0100Last week we attended the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2014. Here are my notes from Day 2.

I decided that instead of writing a list of all the plants we saw, I would put them in a spreadsheet and then write the location and notes beside them. This would help me see the big picture instead just a list of a plants and things. You can download the spreadsheet HERE.

Here is the link to Day 2 Pictures HERE.

On Day 2 (4/17/14), we started the day out at Noah “Bud” Ogle’s Place. We had four leaders: Jim Pringle from Canada, Ed Bostick from Georgia, Emily Gillespie from Asheville, and Pum Gribbs from Thailand. We ended up splitting up in groups and we ended up with Ed.

In the afternoon we went on the West Prong Trail with leaders: Jeremy Lloyd from Tremont and Chris Fleming from Nashville (along with his wife Sunny). We ended up splitting into two groups and we were with Chris who had a plethora of knowledge about what we were looking at!

Things I learned:
1. Dogwood flower is not a flower. The flower is the cluster in the middle.
2. People used to pickle toothwort and use it as a condiment.
3. Hellebore looks like Lady Slipper or ramps and is very poisonous.
4. Yellow trillium smells lemony.
5. Buffalo nut is poisonous. Parasite at the base of oak trees.
6. Tulip poplar wood was used to make houses. Wood would swell in water.
7. Jack in the pulpit can change sexes.
8. Sicklepod is in the mustard family.
9. Brook lettuce is very edible.
10. Monarch butterflies lay eggs in spice bush.
11. Spruce and Fir trees supported each other.
12. Song of the cardinal – “whatcheer”
13. Partridge berry has 2 dimples where the two flowers fused. Looks like a doll face. Leaves in tea were used by women in childbirth.
14. Birch has horizontal lines.
15. Trout lily takes seven years to bloom.
16. Bishop’s cap is usually near foamflower.
17. All mustards have 4 petals in the shape of a cross.
18. Giant chickweed – sepals only go halfway up. Tennessee Chickweed – sepals are as long as the petals.

Original Photo by Pat Hensley

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage 2014 Day 1

DSC_0141We attended the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg, TN last week. When we arrived on Tuesday, we had to drive through sleet and snow. We stayed at the Microtel across from the Convention Center. Our room had a small refrigerator, flat screen TV but it smelled terrible! We did go that evening to pick up our registration packet, vote on the photographs in the photo contest, and I bought an event t-shirt.

I decided that instead of writing a list of all the plants we saw, I would put them in a spreadsheet and then write the location and notes beside them. This would help me see the big picture instead just a list of a plants and things. You can download the spreadsheet HERE.

You can see my Day 1 Pictures HERE.

On Day 1 (4/16/14) we started the morning on the Porters Creek Hike which started at the end of Greenbriar Rd. I forgot to get the leaders names but they were really good.

Our afternoon hike was led by Leon Bates (from Chattanooga) and Paul Threadgill (from Maryville College).

Things I learned:
1. Violets can be stemmed or unstemmed.
2. All cemetery headstones in the park face east.
3. Formulas to remember sepals, petals, stamens, ovaries concerning s: Mustard (4, 4,6,2), Buttercup (5,5, many, many), Chickweed (5,5,10,3)
4. Basswood is an indicator species.
5. Cranefly orchid has a purple underside.
6. Yellow birch has a flaky bark.
7. Trillium grandiflorum has a yellow ovary.
8. Partridge berry – the two dimples are from the 2 flowers fused together to form the fruit.
9. Rattlesnake fern or grape fern has vascular cambium; Ray Hicks (storyteller) used to tell people it was a ‘seng pointer fern’ because it pointed to ginseng; Cherokee legend has it that if you had a dream that you were bitten by a rattlesnake, you could use this as medicine.
10. The Buckhorn Inn was a really nice place. We had a wonderful dinner with friends! (Dinner was $35 per person)

Original Photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, April 18, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/18/14

tools1 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

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory - gives data about volcanic activity in Yellowstone National Park. (L:G; SA:S)

Little Bird Tales – “Little Bird Tales was created to help nurture children's creativity and imagination while simultaneously creating one of-a-kind digital stories that can easily be shared. We strive to foster a love for reading, writing, self-expression and creative technology and to make the process easy and fun for students and teachers.” (L:E; SA:LA)

Active Science – “High quality interactive materials cover many science topics in the primary and secondary school curriculum. At secondary level they focus on biology topics linked to treatment of disease.” (L:G; SA:S)

Comics in Education – “devoted to examining the use of visual narrative in the K-12 classroom and beyond. Although schools have seen a rise in the use of graphic novels in recent years, this use is often limited to supporting reluctant or developing readers. The focus of Comics in Education is on showing that understanding, decoding, and making meaning of visual narrative has never been more important than it is today for learners of all ages and abilities.” (L:G; SA:LA)

Art Babble – “showcases high quality art-related video content from more than 50 cultural institutions from around the world. ArtBabble is an energetic place to learn for everybody who loves and has an interest in art and particularly for educators who can use it as a way to support their classroom activities.  ArtBabble brings art content from different places and perspectives together, easily accessed and found.  Created in 2009, the website was conceived, designed, programmed, and launched by a cross-departmental collection of individuals at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.” (L:G; SA:S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Honesty – To Be or Not to Be

honesty In Honesty...Such a Gift from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

“When did you have trouble either delivering honesty or receiving it?”

Honesty is very important to me because trust is also important to me. I can’t trust someone if I don’t think they are able to be honest with me. Once someone is dishonest, there is no way I will ever be able to trust them. To me, honesty and trust go hand in hand. Once I don’t have either one of them, it is like a glass that is broken and can never be fixed to its original state. I really try to be honest at all times because that is how I want others to be with me.

I would rather people be honest with me rather than talk behind my back. It may hurt at the time but it is so much better than the hurt over the long term. This is kind of like ripping a band aid off quickly or so slowly that the pain goes on and on. If they are true friends, I can see that their honesty may be helpful to me and not an act of meanness. When someone asks me, “Do you want me to be honest with you?” The people that are important to me don’t need to ask this. I know that they don’t know me well enough and that their opinion has less value then they think it does.

Now after saying all that, I have to admit that I have major problems with being honest if I know it is going to hurt someone’s feelings. I will do all sorts of avoidance tactics in order to not have to say something that will hurt someone. I try to be prepared with neutral statements that doesn’t make me lie but can be used without hurting another person’s feelings. Things like: “It doesn’t work for me but that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for you!” or “What most important is whether you like it or not.” Usually I can get by with these statements. Now, if I really dislike something and I think it will hurt the person worse by not being totally honest, I will bite the bullet and just come outright and tell them how I feel.

How do you deal with honesty? Please share.

Image: 'Author Unknown Trust is like a piece+of+paper.+Once+it's+crumpled,+it+can't+be+perfect+again'
Found on

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pendleton Place

PendletonPlace Last week we heard Erin Murphy talk to our group about Pendleton Place in Greenville, SC. Back when I was a college student, I remember volunteering at Pendleton Place which was an emergency shelter for children under 11 years old who had been abused. It was a very rewarding experience so I was excited to hear about this place again.

It has changed over the years and is no longer an emergency shelter but it has different programs to meet the needs of children in our community. I was very impressed with the different programs. Their mission is “to keep children safe and support families in crisis through prevention, assessment, and intervention.”

The Smith House is a residential program for girls 11 – 21. They are taught functional living skills so they can be successfully independent in society. Even though the girls legally can leave at 18, they can choose to stay until they are 21.

There is also a Family and Child Assessment Center that is a collaboration between Pendleton Place, Department of Social Services, the Hospital System and United way. They provide comprehensive assessments to the children and families entering the foster care system. This means the child, the parents, and the foster parents are all involved so the child can eventually be returned home.

The Family Bridges helps families who are separated because of divorce, separation, abuse or neglect. They give supervised family visitation in a more child friendly atmosphere of a home environment rather than a sterile office environment which also allows for a flexible schedule for working parents. There is also a Safe Exchange program that lets parents exchange children at a neutral location where they don’t even have to come in contact with each other.

Pendleton Place has many volunteer opportunities and encourages you to come visit so you can see how the programs work. You can call 864-467-3650 if you are interested.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Day 20 Flickr

photography On the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook, the twenty day blogging challenge created by Kelly Hines was mentioned and I decided to give it a shot. This is the last prompt for this challenge and I’ve really enjoyed how it made me think about what I read and what I do. So here is the challenge for today:

“What is a website that you can’t live without? Tell about your favorite features and how you use it in your teaching and learning.”

A website that I have used constantly over the past few years is Flickr.

I love taking photos and sharing it with others. For a long time I used the free account with Flickr but then I loaded so many photos that I had to buy the pro account and I’m not sorry that I did. I belong to several different interest groups so the pictures I take may not be of interest to everyone. I like to load my photos into sets and then share the link to that particular set to a certain group.

I also like doing the Photo a Day project and belonging to a couple of groups on Flickr for this. There are some prompts that help me focus in on a specific skill to practice my photography.

I also like looking at the photos for ideas on how to take better photographs. I still need a lot of practice on taking photos from different angles and perspectives.

I also like seeing comments that people make on my photos. They sometimes tell me they like it or can even give me suggestions on how to take it a different way. I like how this site is interactive about the photos.
I can see me continuing to use this site for many years so I hope they never shut it down!
What website can you not live without? Please share!

Image: 'untitled'
Found on

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spartan Up -The Book

Spartan Up – the book, will be released on May 13, 2014.

The Spartan Race has been voted the #1 obstacle race by Outside Magazine and, and Joe is the owner and driving force behind it. This is not a book about racing, but uses the race as a metaphor for life - life is the ultimate obstacle course.

You can hear an audio excerpt from the book:
According to the website:

It’s a manual for the Spartan way of life, including:

§ Finding the will to succeed: The first half of a race you run with your legs; the second half you run with your mind. Turn your pain into an outboard motor to drive you forward.
§ Tossing your cookies: The Cookie Test can teach you how to overcome the need for immediate gratification and help you prosper in the long term.
§ Getting Spartan fit: Survival of the Fittest means training outside the gym for strength, endurance and flexibility for your entire body—and don’t forget those burpees!
§ Moving mountains: Whether metaphorical mountains or the ones on which Spartans race, what you think of as your limitations can actually be a mere starting point for transformation.”

I haven’t read the book yet but I’m looking forward to reading it when it comes out. I like the ideas behind the book and I think the author has some meaningful things to say. He says it is a life strategy book and I think many of my students could get some motivational tips from this too. Maybe this will help energize teachers too. Check out the links that I posted to find out more.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/11/14

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

Reading Bear – “is a fun way to learn to read. We teach over 1,200 vocabulary items. Our 50 presentations cover all the main phonics rules. All free and nonprofit!” (L:E; SA:LA)

Eyes on the Solar System - is a 3-D environment full of real NASA mission data. Explore the cosmos from your computer. Hop on an asteroid. Fly with NASA's Voyager spacecraft. See the entire solar system moving in real time. It's up to you. You control space and time. (L:G; SA:S)

World Science U – free videos and short online science courses.” (L:H; SA:S)

Sketch Toy – no registration, free drawing site (L:G; SA:A)

Science Buddies – great ideas for science fair projects (L:G; SA:S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Favorite Places to Write

writing In A Retreat from Routine from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

What are some of your favorite places to write--or some of your favorite retreat spots--and why are they ideal for you as a writer?”

I don’t really have a special place to write but I usually write on my laptop in my playroom because that is where I spend most of my time. I also like to write early in the morning before my husband wakes up and the routine of life gets in the way of writing. But when we travel, I have been known to write in the car, in the hotel room, or at a campsite. I guess writing is a lot like talking to me and I don’t have a problem with running my mouth or writing words!

Writing isn’t a problem for me but coming with ideas to write about worries me more than writing. I’m worried that I will run out of inspiration but I get a lot of inspiration from the blogs I read, current events that are happening, a book that I read, or situations that I experience. Sometimes I have ideas running rampant in my head and I can’t get them written down fast enough!

Sometimes I have so many great ideas that I’m afraid I will forget them so I started carried a small notebook to write these ideas down. Or I might record an idea on my phone to play back later. When we are hiking and I tend to meditate as we walk in the woods, an idea pops in my head and I’m so afraid I will forget it so I end up telling my husband the idea and ask him to not forget it. If I tell someone something, it helps me to remember.

When I get home, I like to open up a word document for each idea and give it a title. Then I save these in an “unfinished” folder to come back to when I’m ready to write. Depending on the mood I’m in when I’m ready to write, I can choose the document that appeals to me.

So, now I ask my readers, what are some of your favorite places to write?

Image: 'Be seeing you'
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Lesson On Yak

yak If you are like me and old(er), you are probably singing that song that goes “yakety yak, don’t talk back!” But this isn’t about talking back. Instead, it is about yak fiber and spinning it into yarn. I recently told some friends of mine who have climbed Mt. Everest that I was spinning yak fiber and realized that I didn’t know very much about yaks. I know the fiber I am spinning is quite soft but Ron seemed to think it was quite coarse and scratchy. So I decided to do some research about them and their fiber. I got a lot of this information from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius.

Yaks are hairy animals that resemble cows and are found in the Himalayan Mountains. Their down is used for wool and the outer hairs are used for rope and rugs. Their milk is used like we drink cow’s milk and they are also eaten for meat. Yaks are used as farm animals and for sports such as racing and polo.

White yaks produce more fiber than dark ones but there are more dark yaks than white ones so dark fiber is more common.

Yaks have different layers of fiber. They have a long coarse outercoat that is used to make ropes for tents, bags, or rugs. There is a midrange layer also that is used in clothes that are waterproof and warm. Then there is the undercoat that has elasticity and bounce and can be almost as fine as cashmere and qiviut.

The down can be combed out before shearing or the whole coat can be shorn and then everything sorted later.

Fleece weight can vary a lot. Down yields anywhere from 7 ounces to 2 pounds.

So now I’m spinning some grayish yak/merino blended fiber and I love it because it is so soft. I’m going to make a 2 ply yarn with it but I’m not sure what I will make with the finished yarn yet.

Have you ever spun or knit with yak? Please share your experience if you have!

Image: 'Tibet-5812 - Yak at Yundrok Yumtso Lake'
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Progress Not Perfection

Progress I am in the process of trying to lose weight and eat healthy. But I’m at a plateau right now in my weight and I’m a little discouraged. Today I listened to The Jillian Michaels podcast and heard the episode on Setbacks where she talks about how I need to focus on progress and not perfection. This really hit home for me because I had 19 days in a row of 10000+ steps per day. But this Friday I couldn’t do it. Then on Saturday I had 21000+ steps but couldn’t do it on Sunday. This discouraged me and I felt like a failure. After listening to this episode, it hit me. I did 19 days straight of 10000+ steps! That is amazing! This time last year I couldn’t imagine even getting 5000 steps per day! I’m discouraged that I got down 20 pounds and gained back 5 but in the big picture, I’m still 15 pounds lighter than I was last January! Thinking about my progress has truly motivated me again and I was able to run for an hour today on my treadmill.

I imagine this is how my students feel. Many times I review some information and they have forgotten it. I know I taught it and that they even knew it the day before or even the week before but today they just don’t have a clue. I’m frustrated and I know they feel the same way. To combat this frustration, I need to remind them (and myself) of the progress that they have made. I can’t let them focus on the couple of steps backward when I can help them see how much forward progress they have made.

If I can’t show them any progress, I need to reevaluate the goals I have helped them set. Maybe the goals aren’t realistic. Have I incorporated enough small goals that are achievable or have I set them up for failure?

It might be good to keep records of the progress so that they can be charted. Nothing motivates me more when I can produce data to show my own progress. Instead of seeing the individual ups and downs, I can look at the chart and see the trend that is showing an upward movement in my weight loss. I can see an positive trend towards my overall eating habits where I’m eating less calories because I’m also eating healthier. I can see a positive movement in my overall activity level because I can see that I’m burning more calories.

I need to think about what data I want to help my students keep track of. It might be behavior data or skills data. Behavior data such as how long the student can be quiet without interrupting others, touching others, talking out can be recorded on a tally sheet and then put into an excel spreadsheet. Reading skills such as the decoding words correctly per a certain amount of words, spelling words spelled correctly, comprehension questions answered correctly. Depending on the age of the student, they might be able to record the data in a spreadsheet themselves. It is easy to turn this data into a chart on a weekly, monthly, and semester basis. These charts are great to bring to parent conferences!

I also believe that sharing this progress with parents helps them also focus on progress rather than perfection. I have had parents zone in on one negative thing that is mentioned in a conference rather than comment at all on the progress that the student has made. Now I appreciate the parents supporting me with the problem but after this is dealt with, I need to bring the conversation back to the positive motion the student has made. By only dealing with the negative, I am expecting perfection from the student which would mean I’m setting the student up for failure. By showing progress, the parents can also see that the student is putting forth effort for improvement.

So, by looking at my own life and focusing on progress and not perfection, I can model this mindset for others.

Do you focus on progress and not perfection? Share your progress!

Image: 'Business success of a businessman'
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Smithsonian and ePals Launch 2014 Junior Folklorist Challenge

FolkloristChallenge This challenge is for kids 8-18 globally to explore and share cultural traditions and learn professional folklorist investigation, interview and reporting skills.

ePals Corporation, an education media company and Global Learning Network, announced the launch of its inaugural Junior Folklorist Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The challenge is one of several planned activities stemming from the ePals-Smithsonian partnership, which is designed to extend the global reach and student learning opportunities around the Center's annual June-July Washington D.C.-based Folklife Festival. Now open to kids eight to 18 worldwide, the challenge asks participants to examine a local or regional tradition through the eyes of a community tradition bearer and create a video, podcast or slide show to share the story.

Cultural traditions students might explore range from dance, games and handicrafts to cooking, storytelling, customs, distinctive jobs, and more. Comprehensive supporting materials reinforce real world folklorist skills by defining terms, providing examples, tips, and organizational tools, and walking students through professional interview and story-shaping processes. Participants also have access to Smithsonian professional folklorists.

"The challenge is designed to inspire students and promote critical thinking through in-the-field research  that explores the richness of local traditions and unique stories of tradition bearers," says ePals CEO, Katya Andresen.  "ePals is delighted to join forces with the Smithsonian to offer this original and exciting challenge for students around the globe."

Accompanying teacher or parent materials include lesson plans, global collaboration opportunities, a standards-alignment chart and scoring rubric.  The process reinforces a range of 21st-century skills, including the use of digital technologies, and U.S. and international social studies, language, and interdisciplinary curriculum standards. 

"The junior folklorist challenge invites children to see their communities in new ways and to actively participate in preserving traditions for later generations," says Michael Atwood Mason, director of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. "We believe this collaboration will extend the reach of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and engage millions of students in cultural heritage around the world."

The challenge deadline is May 26, 2014, with winners chosen by a panel of Smithsonian and ePals judges. Among the prizes for  student winners whose entries best demonstrate the folklorist process of investigation and reporting are a publishing opportunity in ePals Media's Faces magazine, digital video cameras, box sets from the Smithsonian Folkways collection, and more. For details and a submission form, visit: .

Friday, April 4, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 4/4/14

tools1 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

Science of Baseball – math and science involved in the game of baseball (L:G; SA:A)

Google World Wonders Project - Street View imagery of famous natural and man-made landmarks (L:G; SA:A)

Google Maps Gallery - collection of maps depicting all kinds of data. (L:G; SA:A)

Online Personal Finance Game“Developed for middle school and high school students, this online game gives your students the chance to learn important personal finance skills as they play and compete against fellow classmates.” (L:M,H; SA:M,C)

Slackmath – “uses QR codes (Quick Read codes) to YouTube video solutions for each problem on each PDF worksheet: Perfect for students to practice and get immediate feedback while studying on their own or in a classroom setting geared towards the individual learner.” (L:H; SA:M)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dealing with Focusing Problems

focus Recently a friend of mine asked me for some suggestions for her children who are having some focusing problems. Here are some ideas that I came up with. These are not in any particular order of importance but just a list of ideas as they came to me.

When we are talking about focusing and attention span, teachers sometimes confuse this with managing information. To me, that is mixing apples with oranges. These things deal more with managing your attention than managing the material. Of course, if you can manage your attention, the managing the material will be a byproduct. In education, it is important that a student learns to focus on important information for an appropriate amount of time in order to maximize learning (and pass tests, of course!)

Sometimes paying attention for long periods of time depends on the interest in the subject. Of course, the more interested I am in the subject the better I pay attention. Of course there are times that even though I am very interested in the subject, I just can’t seem to focus. I love hearing the sermons at church but I usually have trouble focusing when I am listening to others. I have found a strategy that works for me such as knitting while I am listening. This enables me to focus on the speaker. Students need to find a strategy that works for them which may be doodling, playing with a squishy object in their hands, or standing up at the back of the room.

I also believe that we build up our ability to pay attention, just like I do when I am practicing running. When I started out, I did short periods of running and then gradually increased my time. Eventually I was able to run for an hour without stopping. I think this interval training could be used to help people work up to training on focusing. First get a baseline on how long students can pay attention without being distracted but do this several times so you can get an average. Then try to increase slowly but it is important to explain this to the students so they can actively work towards this increase. Allow students to chart their progress so they can see their accomplishment (which is pretty motivating for some). Take breaks. Many small breaks are better than one long break.

Sometimes students will process too little or too much information. They are so overwhelmed with all the information that it is hard to decide what is important and what are supporting details to that important fact. Consider reducing the work if it is just copying or busy work. If there are a lot of questions, break them up into smaller segments and give the student one segment at a time so it isn’t overwhelming.

Group like problems together. Have the students look through the problems first and mark the ones that require the same skill. Then do them all first. Then go through and mark the others that have the same skill and do them next. For example, mark all of the problems that require addition and do them first. Then do the ones for subtraction. This helps the student focus on one skill at a time rather than going back and forth.

Sometimes the students are easily distracted and then it is hard to focus back on to the task at hand. I know that when I am working on a project, it is hard to stop and then come back to it. I’ve either lost my momentum or I can’t remember where I stopped at. This can be very discouraging and I can lose the motivation to continue or finish what I’m working on. Consider earphones students to block out distracting noises. I had my students listen to instrumental music that I chose for them. Sometimes they would submit music for me to approve of and if it was soft quieting music I allowed it.

Special seating may help. Sitting near the adult may help them focus. Many times my students were put in the front of the room to help curb their behavior but actually sitting in the very back row so that they could get up and stand for a few minutes if they got antsy was more beneficial for them. They didn’t distract others and they were able to move around.

Break an activity into a sequence and write this down so the student can refer to this when needed. Everything has an order to it but we are so used to doing things, we take this for granted. Not every student learns this automatically and has to be taught the steps. As the student learns the steps, the visual can be slowly taken away.

Help the student identify the important information. Have them learn to ask who, what, when, why and how questions. Have them look for the main idea. The more practice they have doing this, the easier this will be.

Once the student can identify the main idea, ask them to look for supporting details for that main idea. If the page can be written on, have them underline or mark the main idea in one color. Then have them underline or mark the supporting details in another color.

Have students use technology such as books on tape/CD or whatever reading device they have. This enables them to control how much information they get at one time. These devices allow children to control how much information is presented at one time. If they need something repeated, it allows them control of this also.

Have the student practice telling you what they have read. The student can put this down in writing, or record it. The student can also draw pictures to go along with the summary.

A student also might have trouble finding relevance in the information they are learning. If there is a disconnect to this new information to why they are learning it, it will be hard for the student to focus on the material. Help students come up with connections for the new information as it relates to their life.

Have students repeat the directions. Depending on the age of the student, don’t expect them to repeat or remember too many directions at one time (I’m an old lady and I can’t remember too many directions at one time!). Write these directions down so they can refer to these when needed.

Let students know about a change in scheduling that may be coming up so they have time to adjust from one situation to another. Don’t spring changes on them suddenly. Keep a daily schedule available for the students to refer to. Sometimes students are worried about what is going to happen next and can’t focus on what they are doing right now.

These are just some suggestions. Do you have any others? Please share.

Image: 'Are you ready???'
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day 19 My Students Have Grit


On the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook, the twenty day blogging challenge created by Kelly Hines was mentioned and I decided to give it a shot. So here is the challenge for today:

“Share a topic/idea from class this week. What’s one thing you did with students this week that you will (or will not) do again? Why?”

I think a great topic to teach in class is about Grit.

In the article "True Grit: The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach it, Vicki Davis talks about students having/needing grit. Then she asks,

“Can you teach grit?”

First of all, what do I think grit is? No, I’m not talking about the breakfast food served in the south. I’m talking about toughness in a person. For me, when I think of this, I picture John Wayne sitting on a horse. For me, grit is fighting to overcome obstacles.

I think many people actually have grit but it is hidden. They are taught at a young age to hide this grit. Focus is made to conform and to fit in. We are taught this from our teachers and our parents. Then when we get older, we are actually taught this by our peers. Eventually we learn to hide it even more when we get to the workplace because we want to keep our jobs.

Many people don’t realize what we need to do to overcome our personal obstacles. The main reason is that others don’t walk in our shoes. We feel that letting others know about our struggles is a sign of weakness so we don’t share about our struggles.

Most of my students with disabilities are the strongest people in the world and they don’t know it. They have spent so much time feeling beaten down and feeling bad because they don’t always fit the norm. Yet, they have faced and overcome more obstacles than most people will ever face in their life time. These students don’t give up. They persevere and continue to face uphill battles every day of their lives. Their struggles don’t end when they graduate high school but takes on a whole new life of its own.

I think it is important for many of us to give ourselves a pat on the back and recognize the hardships we have overcome to get where we are. We are really the only ones who know all about ourselves. Many times we push the hard times behind us because we don’t want to remember all the hard times. It is actually the hard times that define us and make us who we are.

So, I think the bottom line is that I don’t believe we need to teach it. I think we need to teach our students to recognize it. It is already out there but we just don’t know it. We don’t celebrate it and we should.

I believe that is the people who have grit are going to be the real survivors in the world. Not the ones who are beaten down easily or follow others without thinking about the consequences. Grit can’t be taught because it already exists.

Image: 'Why yes, yes that is John Wayne'
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Monthly Review of Goals from March

Goals March was a cold month and I’m glad it is over! I hope that spring weather will grace us with its presence in April. Now I want to share how I’m doing with my goals to this point. All of my goals can be found here.

Yearly goals:

  1. Try at least 12 new recipes (one per month). – We have done a lot of traveling this month so I didn’t do a lot of cooking this month.
    1. January – Quinoa Meatballs
    2. February – Mushroom Lasagna
    3. March – Chicken Quesadilla
  2. Reach my target weight by the end of the year. – Loss of 1 lb. this month
  3. Knit a Fair Isle vest. (not started yet)
  4. Learn to chain ply some handspun yarn. (not started yet)
  5. Dye yarn and fiber. (not started yet)
  6. Spin my camel, yak, and cashmere fiber. Amended to add: or try different techniques
    1. January - spun camel/merino/silk blend fiber in
    2. March – tried drafting back when spinning instead of my usual short forward draft. This made my yarn turn out much loftier.

Daily/Weekly/Monthly goals:

  1. Daily - Read the bible and keep a log so I can tell how I am doing. – I’ve read it every day in January, February, and March
  2. Daily - Do strength exercises for 30 minutes each day. – I have done this every day.
  3. Weekly - Walk at least 10,000 steps for 4 days every week. (4.3 miles per day for 4 days/120.4 miles per month)
    1. a. January – 159.01 miles (avg. 5.1 miles per day)
    2. February – 130.27 miles (avg. 4.7 miles per day)
    3. March – 161.13 miles (avg. avg. 5.2 miles per day)
  4. Weekly - Keep a journal and write down 5 things that I’m thankful for. – Every Sunday I take time to jot down the 5 things.
  5. Monthly - Read one non-fiction book every month.
    1. January - Life in Stitches by Rachel Herron.
    2. February – The Spinners Book of Yarn Design by Sarah Anderson
    3. March – To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink

This month was much better! I made my new recipe at the beginning of the month. I also worked out harder and watched my calories better this month.

Image: 'Goals
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