Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Creating Fun Lesson Plans

createIn Teachers, Don’t Let eCreativity Die from Success In the Classroom, Sam shares,

I loved taking a boring topic and creating a fun and interesting way to deliver it.”

Unlike Sam, I was never very creative but I loved trying to make boring topics fun to learn too. I also loved when other teachers would give me topic and ask me for suggestions. I think this is a great way to collaborate with others so I encouraged them to do this. It also gave me great ideas in my own classroom and I usually could modify the lessons to accommodate the needs of my students.

Another thing that I loved to do was to know my topics in advance and ask my students for help. Many of my students loved being asked for input and were very creative. I would state in advance that I’m looking for ideas and may not use them at the time but planned on adding their ideas into my “idea toolbox” for future use. Since I didn’t give them any restrictions on ideas, the possibilities were endless and we had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas.

Many times one idea would spark another idea and sometimes it even led to different topics. I started having to record these sessions because I couldn’t write down all their ideas quick enough. We also learned to map ideas and organize them in a way so that they could be used in the future. This was a great lesson for the students to learn how to organize their thoughts for future research papers or essays that they might have to write. But this was a real life situation that made it more meaningful to them.

Two heads are better than one is something my mother used to always tell me. So, what would be better than having a whole class help me with activities to enhance a topic. Sometimes we would do this before a topic is taught or sometimes we would review a topic we just learned and think about additional ideas that would have been great to do.

Students are full of ideas, opinions, and thoughts but sometimes we just have to ask them. Sometimes they think that no one will care or no one will listen. By asking them to help me, I’m showing them that their opinion matters and I care what they think. They in turn are learning to have meaningful conversations and learning to back their opinions with detailed statements.

Do you ever ask your students for help? What topics do you or your students come up with? Have you had any problems or successes doing this? Please share.

Image: 'At the Art Museum'
Found on

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Old Dog

dogIn I'm an Old Dog...from Sioux's Page, Sioux asks,

“Do you consider yourself an old dog or a new one? What sort of things are you trying or planning on trying soon?”

I always thought I was more of a new dog and willing to try new technology and strategies. I usually tried to buy the new stuff out there and was one of the first ones to get them when they hit the market.

This past year I notice that I’m turning more into an old dog.

Finances are more of an issue now than in the past so I tend to be more watchful of the things I buy. I struggle over whether the use of something is cost efficient or not. Since I only work part time now instead of full time, I don’t always have the resources to buy things without willing to risk the outcomes.

I also have had more failures this year than in the past. I’ve bought a few things that I haven’t been able to get to work so I’m more cautious. We bought some security cameras that I’m supposed to be able to connect by wifi and see when we are not at home. But I haven’t been able to get them to work and finally gave up. I know it is user error but the instructions are in a foreign language and there is no tech support.

I have had some technical issues with our computers that I have been unable to sort out and we have limped along this past year. My laptop has had to be restored twice and I don’t know what happened so I can’t keep it from happening again. My hubby’s computer (my old hand me down) is awfully slow and won’t update. I hold my breath every time we have to restart his and pray it will start again. This difficulty has made me more unsure of my ability to do things and now I’m almost afraid to try new stuff.

This reminds me of a time when I was a younger hiker. I was willing to go long distances and never feared that something could happen. Now that I’m older (and thinking I’m much more wiser), I don’t want to go too far, think about what could happen, and fear that I could fall and break some bones. This is limiting my hiking adventures and I hope this upcoming year and I can reverse this trend.

I wish I could regain my confidence and bravery. I was willing to try new stuff and didn’t ever think that I couldn’t do something. I need to change my attitude and get back to being more of a new dog!!

What are you? Are you an old dog or new dog? Please share.

Image: 'DockDog'
Found on

Monday, December 29, 2014

Believe in Yourself As a Teacher

believeIn Believing in All Your Students from Success In the Classroom, Sam shares,

“The most amazing teachers I know believe in all their students.”

This is always such a great thing to see but it also reminded me of something else.

Amazing teachers also believe in themselves.

The most common thing I see among struggling teachers are that they lack self-confidence and lack belief in themselves.

I’m not saying you have to be an egotistical maniac but just believe that you are a great teacher and you want the best for your students.

Believing in yourself doesn’t mean that you won’t make mistakes or that you won’t stumble along the way.

It means that you know that you will be able to get up and go on.

It means you will stop trying to second guess yourself and go ahead and try new things.

It means that you will know how to ask for help if you need it.

It means that you will learn from own mistakes and do better next time.

It means that you won’t stop trying to do better.

It means that your students will learn from your attitude.

It means you won’t give up.

This is also the hardest thing for a teacher to do because most teachers are humble and nurturing. It is hard to believe in themselves. Part of the reason is that many teachers think that believing in themselves means that they know it all and have learned all that they need to know which isn’t true. This is actually the complete opposite.

Believing in yourself means that you are comfortable in your own skin. You accept yourself for what you are along with all the flaws that you have. You strive to be a better teacher but you know your limitations and can work around them. You don’t accept the status quo.

I hope this coming year to find real life examples of teachers who believe in themselves and share them with you. If you know of any, please let me know their names and contact info.

Image: 'Believe'
Found on

Friday, December 26, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/26/14

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

Open Curriculum – “Standards-aligned + curated lesson plans, activities, exercises, and more for teachers” (L:T; SA:A)

Free Play Music – free music for your projects (L:G; SA:A)

ReadWorks – “ReadWorks is committed to solving the nation's reading comprehension crisis by giving teachers the research-proven tools and support they need to improve the academic achievement of their students. ReadWorks provides research-based units, lessons, and authentic, leveled non-fiction and literary passages directly to educators online,for free, to be shared broadly.” (L:T; SA:A)

LibAdventures – “Explore the places tied to defining moments in literary and art history. Follow the footsteps of the great authors.” (L:G; SA:A

The mighty mathematics of the lever – A TED lesson on using levers (L:G; SA:M, S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014


Merry Christmas to all my family and friends! Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Being Mindful

mindfulIn Future Ready is Overrated from Ideas and Thoughts by Dean Shareski  says,

“I would argue the vast majority of our day is spent on planning ahead or reflecting on the past and not so much on just focusing and enjoying right now.”

And then asks,

“How are you being mindful?”

I am a worry wart. It has been really easy for me to wish for the future or yearn for the past.

My past was filled with easier times when I was a child and had little worries or responsibilities. Of course, at the time, I didn’t appreciate it and wished the future would come sooner. I look back at the time when life was rosy even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I remember good times with family and friends and how I wish things could be the same. Why is change so hard and difficult?

I wished for the future and what was going to happen. I knew if I was 13, or 16, or 21, my life would become perfect! I remember my mother always warning me about not appreciating the present because I worried so much about the future. There were so many times growing up that I wished it was future times because I thought my life would be so much better.

I realize that by constantly looking behind me or always looking ahead, I’m losing the time that is happening around me.

When I start obsessing with the past or the future, I make myself look at a poster on my phone that I made. It just is a blank white background with the question, “Is that more important than what is happening now?” This makes me be mindful to what is going on in my life right now. If I’m with others, then I focus on what is being said or being done. If there is an event happening, then I pay attention to what is going on.

If my thoughts are not affecting my interactions with anything happening at the time, then I allow myself these thoughts of the past or the future.

My goal this year is going to be more mindful. I want to appreciate the here and now.

What do you do to make yourself more mindful? Please share.

Image: 'Lake and Sky - shot from the+train+IMG_4721'
Found on

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Newsletter 2014


It is that time of year again to fill all my family and friends in with our activities for the year. This year was definitely a year to travel!

We took cruises in January on the HAL Ryndham out of Tampa to the Caribbean, June on the Carnival Freedom out of Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean, August on the Carnival Sunshine out of Cape Canaveral to the Caribbean, September on the HAL Maasdam out of Boston to New England and Canada, November on the Carnival Splendor out of Miami to the Caribbean and also the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam out of Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean.

Every April we attend the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg, TN for a week. This involves lots of hiking and outdoor classes. We learned about edible plants and herbs as well as identifying ferns and mosses. We look forward to this each year!

In May we went to Washington DC for a week and had a wonderful time visiting our favorite Smithsonian museums. Then we went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Pat enjoyed buying things and having Don as her Sherpa to lug her purchases around. Don even enjoyed seeing the animal shows and is willing to return next year.

Pat taught her graduate class that she teaches every July and once it was over, we headed north. We spent a week on Long Island with family and went into NYC for three days by the Long Island Railroad. It was great seeing the great nieces and great nephew too! Kids grow up so fast!

After the cruise in the New England and Canada, we got back in the car and drove back up to Nova Scotia for a week to see the Bay of Fundy and drive on the Cabot Trail. After that, we spent a couple of weeks wandering around Maine, NH, VT, and NY looking at the fall foliage. Right before returning home, we went to the NY Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY. Pat’s sister and her friends met them there for the festival. Plus many of Pat’s online friends were there in person so it was a wonderful gathering.

After the last cruise, we arrive back in FL just in time to celebrate Pat’s father’s 95th birthday! We are so grateful to be able to spend time with her dad and stepmom! Unfortunately we both got sick and left early to try to keep from infecting everyone else.

The end of the year finds us at home, resting and recuperating while we think of new adventures for the New Year. We hope this New Year brings you lots of fun and happiness.

Monday, December 22, 2014

You Can Do Better

striveIn The Danger of “Good Enough” from Bud the Teacher  Bud Hunt asks,

“And I wonder what it is that pushes you, me, or anyone to move beyond good enough.  What are the factors and forces, aside from sheer will and determination and downright stubbornness, that will move a person or a group past “good enough” and towards “better than ever” or “continuous improvement” or “let’s nuke this whole thing and start over?”  How do we move organizations, and ourselves, beyond “good enough” in the places and situations where that matters most?”

This reminds me of growing up in a house where it was expected that everyone should do their best. If I came home with a B, my parents wanted to know why I didn’t do enough to get an A. When I got an A-, my parents wanted to know why I didn’t get an A or A+. It was never good enough. If I finally got an A+, I expected lavish praise and instead was told that it was good and expected. It frustrated me a lot when I was in school but now as an adult and a parent, I can see it from my parent’s perspective. They wanted me to do better. They wanted me to do my best and they knew that I was capable of better work and would get lazy. Many times I did work that was just good enough.

Maybe I need to raise my expectations in the classroom. I need to expect my students to do their best and shouldn’t let them get by with just doing what is good enough. But, as a teacher, I get lazy and tired of pushing and shoving my students in the right direction. Yet, isn’t that my job? If I don’t, am I doing my best? It is so much nicer taking the easy road and letting students get by with good enough. Everyone seems happy. The parents are happy their child is passing and the student is happy with getting a passing grade. But is the student living up to their potential? Am I showing the student how much better they can be?

Learning what constitutes good enough or my best was an important lesson for me. I know when I’m giving something my all without anyone judging me. In my heart, I judge myself. I want my students to be able to judge themselves in the same way.

I see this same attitude in teachers. Many teachers just want to do what is good enough and collect their pay check. You know who they are and they know who they are. Even the students know who they are. But the system can’t do anything about them because they aren’t doing anything wrong. They are doing the bare minimum of what is expected. Then maybe it is time to expect more of these teachers. The hard working committed teachers are the ones giving 200% and dread the thought of the system expecting more. But maybe if the system expected more, the work load would be more evenly distributed and the best teachers wouldn’t be giving 200% and getting burned out!

So, in answer to Bud’s question, I am a pretty self-motivated person. I know when I’m not doing my best and it really motivates me to do better. I guess my parents did a good job raising me!

What motivates you to do better? Please share.

Image: 'Striving for success without hard work'
Found on

Friday, December 19, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/19/14

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

Winter Holiday Activities – “Download our free vocabulary word list and conduct a quick and engaging WordWriter project around our Holiday & Wintry Season lesson plan” (L:E; SA:LA)

Stain Solutions – “We have put together a comprehensive list of stain solutions. Each solution contains the supplies you will need and the preferred method for cleaning the stain.” (L:G; SA:A)

Mission Map Quest“Provide as many questions (clues) and answers (locations) as you like to create a virutal 'treasure hunt'. When you are finished you can save the game and share it with others. Players have to use each clue to collect the 'coins' that appear in each of your secret locations.” (L:G; SA:A)

Twister – “The "Twister" template allows you to create fictional "status updates" that can then be printed off for display purposes” (L:G; SA:A)

Try Engineering – “ is a resource for students, their parents, their teachers and their school counselors. This is a portal about engineering and engineering careers, and we hope it will help young people understand better what engineering means, and how an engineering career can be made part of their future.” (L:M, H; SA:M, S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Heart Hurts

pakistanThis week I heard about the school in Pakistan that was attacked. I’m not writing this based on my political views but from my view as a mother and a teacher. My heart hurts. It hurts for the students and the families. It makes me wonder if these people will be filled with bitterness and hatred and perpetuate this violence. I know that I would be angry and I don’t blame them for being angry. But monsters know that the way to get to most people is through children. Will our schools now have a kneejerk reaction and start increasing securing at our schools? Will children be afraid to come to school in fear that someday their school may be attacked? Where does it all end? Doing away with guns is not the answer because as long as there are monsters out there, violence will happen. I don’t have any answers. I just know that my heart hurts. Please keep all children and their families in your thoughts and prayers.

“Caption: The uncle and cousin of injured student Mohammad Baqair comfort him as he mourns the death of his mother, a teacher who was killed in the attack.” – photo from CNN site

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dealing with People Who Squeeze the Life Out of Me

squeezeIn 7 Ways to Keep Others from Squeezing the Life Out of You from Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Victoria A Davis shares ways to know if someone is squeezing the life out of you. This is a great post to get me thinking about my relationships with others and how I deal with them. It also makes me stop and think about how I come across to others.

I know people who squeeze the life out of me and have done it to me but it wasn’t fun or productive. Then I feel like I’ve dug a hole that I can’t get out of but I really can if I stop and think about it. I just hope that I’m not one of the vampires that she mentions.

Then I thought, once I identify the ones that are doing this, what steps can I take to avoid these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Here are some options I have:

If they are family, I need to remember that I can’t change the way they act but I can change my own behavior. I can’t choose my family so I need to accept them for what they are. I need to think about my own actions and what they do to cause me to act this way. Then when they push my buttons, I need to behave differently. I also don’t need to subject myself to having to be around these people unless absolutely necessary. I have tried this recently and it really works for me!

If they are friends that I really want to keep, then I need to talk about this with them. I need to explain how their actions make me feel and how I need to do something differently. This might mean being around them less or it might mean that we need to interact differently but maybe together we can solve the problem.

If they are more like acquaintances rather than friends, then I need to distance myself from them. Sometimes I find their drama entertaining and better than TV but then I realize this drama tends to bring me down. It is better to limit my contact with these people.

If they are coworkers who I have to deal with on a daily basis, I need to try to be more positive around them. Hopefully I can influence them into being more positive people. I might even share that for a new yearly goal, I’m going to work on being more positive and would appreciate their help and support.

For those coworkers that I really can’t get along with, I try to deal with them mostly through email and not in person. This really helps when personality conflicts stand in the way of progress.

Build new friendships with more positive people. I’m not talking about those that think everything is wonderful all of the time (which is impossible!) but the ones who are more positive than negative in their outlook on life. Positive feelings are catching!

What other suggestions do you have? Please share.

Image: 'A tight squeeze Project 365(2) Day 357'
Found on

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Opening Conversations Leave Us Vulnerable

vulnerableIn Daniel Learned ALL about Audiences Yesterday. from The Tempered Radical, Bill Ferriter shared a situation where his students were blogging and a commenter was extremely critical and snarky. Then he asked,

“So why am I bothering to teach my kids about writing for public audiences when those audiences are just as likely to want to tear them down as they are to build them up?  Wouldn't we be better off if we wrote only for audiences that would model the kinds of responsible behaviors that we want our kids to develop?”

Wouldn’t the world be wonderful if everyone was nice, agreed with everything we said and were nonjudgmental? Of course that is a fantasy world and will never happen.

I believe this teacher is doing the right thing with his students by encouraging them to write for public audiences. This is a sample of real life and luckily they have their teacher to help them deal with the situations that come up.
They handled this situation extremely well and I’m sure this comes from the guidance they have had from the teacher. They didn’t retreat with their tail tucked between their legs like a chastened dog only to feel humiliated and bitter. Instead they stood up to the challenge and answered maturely. If the teacher allowed them to retreat, I think it would have sent a wrong message that people shouldn’t question each other and only write for those people that will agree with us.

Instead, they thought about how to answer this comment with maturity that allows a conversation to continue rather than cut it off. They worked together to problem solve an appropriate response to the commenter. Opening conversations always leave us vulnerable and this will happen often to our students in real life. What better way than to show them how to act appropriately while they are in the classroom rather than let them be blindsided when they leave school.

There were so many lessons learned from the situation that I think it was actually a positive event rather than a negative event. Sure, it hurt their feelings, but they were able to see how comments affect others from the writer’s point of view. This will help them be more tactful when they leave comments. This also teaches them that not everyone is nice and how to handle a situation when people aren’t nice or if they disagree.

It is really hard for me when others criticize me or disagree with me. I tend to want to curl up in a ball and lick my wounds. Then I remember that criticism helps me clarify my thoughts. Maybe I didn’t explain myself very well or maybe there is a side that I didn’t think about. Sometimes I believe more strongly that I’m right. Opening conversations make me very vulnerable but I usually come out a better person when it is all finished.

So, I hope Bill continues to encourage his students to write for public audiences. This is real life and what better lesson can we give our students then a lesson that is relevant to today’s world. Good job Bill!

How do you feel about students writing for public audiences? Please share.

Image: 'Lion Lessons: Do it now!!!'
Found on

Monday, December 15, 2014

Decision Makers Need to Be In the Classroom

legislatorLast week I went to a state Council for Exceptional Children’s meeting and heard the discussion about accommodations. The teachers are waiting to hear what tests will be given to their students and then what accommodations that can be given. The district won’t tell them because they are waiting for the state department of education is waiting for the legislators to make decisions. Again, it is the students who lose in these situations. While the bureaucracy plays their political games, students aren’t getting the help that they need.

I don’t have any magical answers or solutions to situations like this. For years I have seen this played out over and over again.

I believe as teachers, we need to get legislators involved in our classrooms. Just as in war time, political players go to the areas where wars are being fought. They get firsthand knowledge of what our soldiers are facing and some of the needs. Well, our war is in the classroom and we need to get these political leaders in our land to see firsthand what is needed for the students.

We can talk with legislators on the state and capitol level all day long. We can write letters and attend rallies to help. But until these legislators spend time in the schools and classrooms for a length of time, they will never understand what teachers and students need.

I have heard several teachers tell me that they tried but didn’t get any response or willingness to be present. My answer to that is to keep trying. Be persistent. Don’t give up. Don’t just invite them to observe but invite them to participate and interact with the students. That will help them get a better picture.

Make a list of three key players and invite them to teach a mini lesson to your classes. Or have them come talk about their position as a law maker and what things they do. You can tie subject areas in to their visit and ask them to explain to your students how they used reading, math, and writing in their everyday lives.

If they don’t accept your invitation this year, then try again next year. Keep offering the invitation and they might feel bad about declining and eventually accept.

Meet with legislators on a regular basis and offer to be available if they need information or input about a certain topic. Legislators need to hear from people who work in the classroom so that they can make informed decisions.

We can’t expect the legislators to come to us. We need to step forward and make this happen. We can’t sit back and complain about the bureaucracy and feel helpless on the sidelines. We need to take action and bring the decision makers into the classroom.

How can you go about involving legislators in your classroom? Please share.

Image: 'Romesha Reception 06'
Found on

Friday, December 12, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/12/14

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

Capital Toss – “Capital Toss is an educational geography game for kids. The object of the game is to match states and countries to their capital cities. There are two modes of play: states and countries. If you get ten correct you get to select a new type of ball toss. If you get three incorrect in a row the game is over. HINT: Check out the map to see the location of the state or country.” (L:E; SA:SS)

Reading Bear – “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)

Sproutster – iPad app; catch raindrops to spell 3 letter words (L:E; SA:LA)

Building Language for Literacy – “Building Language for Literacy is the definitive early literacy program that equips young children with the critical language and literacy skills and experiences they need to build the foundation for success in reading.” (L:E; SA:LA)

Math Trail – combines math and geography skills (L:E; SA:M,SS)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Heading Down the Rabbit Hole

rabbitholeIn The learning monster… from Blogush, Paul Bogush  shares,

“I think somewhere in the last few years I slipped into trying to control their learning.  I wanted to capture their excitement and curiosity by making them do incredible things…and we did.  But at what cost?” 

This is why I try to ask students what they want to learn. Of course at the beginning of the year, they don’t trust me or anyone else. They think this question is a trap. So, I try to work out ways to help them feel comfortable sharing this information.

I try to get them to share things that interest them. I have them work with a partner and their partner has to introduce them to the class by sharing at least 2 things they are interested in. I put a limit on it because they may say that nothing interests them but by giving them a specific number, most can come up with at least 2 things. I keep a list of all the topics to use for lessons later.

A month later as we learn to trust each other, I may ask them to list 2 things that they are good at. I want to know what topics they would be bored with and they are usually quick to tell me what they don’t want to learn about. They feel they know all they need to know about certain topics. I keep a list of these and who gave me the topic. This can be used to have them talk more about these topics in a lesson.

Some lessons can be individually designed so each student can learn more about what they are interested in. Sometimes I can make a list of 5 topics and have students check off the top 3 that interest them and then I have them learn in small groups. I might think the topic is worth having the whole class learn more about it but work on individual assessments.

I think it is important to allow students input into the topics that are taught. If I have to teach a specific subject area, I may chose topics within that subject and let students have some choices about the topics. Then I can bring all of these topics together at the end for a big conclusion.

Just because I am given standards of some kind, there is no reason that I can’t adapt them to fit my class’s individual needs and interests. The more input that the students have in the decision making process, the more vested they will be in learning. When they feel they are getting something useful out of the learning, the more engaged they will be. Isn’t that the way most of us feel?

How do you involve the student’s in their own learning? Please share.

Image: 'Down the Rabbit Hole'
Found on

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lifting Others Up

liftIt is December and a time for joy and happiness but sometimes I look around and see a lot of jealousy and envy. This time of the year can be stressful enough without sniping at each other.

When my husband first became a judge, we were thrilled. When I recorded a message on our answering machine we told people to leave a message for the Judge or the Judge’s wife. We were told not to give our names on our answering machine for safety reasons. Since everyone who had our number knew us, we thought it would be cute. Instead I had a close friend who felt that I was throwing our status in her face every time she called but I didn’t mean for it to seem that way. Our friendship fell apart and I didn’t realize how much until something happened and I confided in her hoping for her support. Instead she told me she was glad I was miserable and that I deserved it for bragging that husband was a judge! I was totally shocked and it put a huge crack in our friendship. In no way did I ever mean to offend anyone by doing that!

Since then I am very cautious about telling anyone what my husband did for fear that others would see it as bragging. When I won any awards or was recognized for anything, I was afraid to feel happy and proud for fear that others would think I was too proud. Now I look back at that and resent that I felt that way. I should have been able to celebrate freely and have friends who understood this too. Maybe it was my fault for not sharing these feelings and let time go by. The only feelings I can control are the ones that belong to me and no one else’s. Since I didn’t do that at the time, I hope to help others see this before it is too late.

When I look back I realized that rather than tearing each other down, we should have been lifting each other up. When my family, friends, and colleagues do something or have something happen in their lives, I should celebrate with them and be proud of them. I should never make them feel embarrassed for a job well done.

I hope when times get stressful, I can put aside any jealousy and envy and lift my friends up. I want to be able to look them in the eye and say, “A job well done!” It doesn’t matter if I have to do this every day, every week, or every month. It is worth the good feeling I get for doing this.

How do you lift others up when times are stressful? Please share.

Image: 'Soar (lock)'
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

HAL Nieuw Amsterdam 2014 Part 2

This is a continuation of our cruise. We spent 2 weeks on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam.This week we went to Half Moon Cay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Key West. Our captain is Captain Bas van Dreumel and he was born in the Netherlands. Our cruise director is Jeremy Hale.

Here is the link to our pictures!

Day 1 Embarkation

DSC_0001It was really nice to watch everyone scrambling around with their carry on luggage waiting to get off the ship and knowing that we didn’t have to. We ate breakfast in the dining room and then went out on the deck to look out at the port. I was able to do some reading and knitting before we had to report to the show room at 9:30. They scan our cards as if we left the ship so they could have a zero count of passengers for customs. No one ever asked for our passports and about 10am, we were allowed to leave. I also booked an 8 hour tour for Cozumel since we would be there almost 13 hours. After that we sat on the lido deck and listened to the band. During that time we watched the drummer throw a tantrum, pack up his cymbals and leave during the set. The leader told him that he couldn’t leave because they had to finish the set but he left anyway. A little while later he came back. After the life boat drill we went to see the movie Expendables 3 which was pretty good with big name actors. We met new people at our table for dinner – Joe and his three adult daughters, Danielle, Sharon, and Michelle. Joe and Michelle live in New Jersey and Danielle and Sharon live in San Diego.

Day 2 Half Moon Cay

We got up early and had breakfast in the dining room while we waited for information about the tenders. Around 9am, the captain announced the wind was too strong and the water too rough for the tenders so he was cancelling the day at this port. So, we sat out on the deck and read until it was time for the movie. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy which we enjoyed. By then it was time for lunch. After lunch we sat out on the deck for a while but the wind was so strong that it was too cold for us so we went to our cabin to watch TV. The water was really rough in the afternoon and we were rocking and rolling the whole time. After dinner we went to see the comedian Brian Bradley.

Day 3 At Sea

DSC_0008After breakfast we sat on the deck and read until time for the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet in the Crow’s Nest bar. Then at 11:30 we were invited to the Indonesian lunch for people on the Collector’s Voyage. We really didn’t enjoy the food at all but enjoyed talking to a couple from Newcastle, England. After lunch we went to the movie theater to see Lucy which was interesting but not bad. Then we went to the lido deck to find some real food for lunch. In the afternoon we sat on the deck and read. It was formal night at dinner and then we went to the show called It Takes 2 with the ship’s singers and dancers.

Day 4 Grand Cayman

DSC_0019We decided to get off the ship around 8:30 and walk around Grand Cayman instead of going to the beach. We walked to the Penny Black (stamp shop) but it didn’t open until 10:30. We got back on the ship around 11am. After lunch we went to see the movie Magic in the Moonlight which was a very slow movie. A lot of people fell asleep and even snored through the movie. After the movie we sat out on the deck for a couple of hours and read. We had a nice dinner but we didn’t go to the show.

Day 5 Cozumel

DSC_0060They changed our meeting time for our tour from 10:20 to 10:45. I think because many people missed their tour yesterday. We went on an 8 hour tour to the Tulum Ruins. First we got on a ferry to Playa del Carmen. We should have known it would be rough when they were passing out plastic barf bags and within minutes people were barfing because the crossing was so rough! From there we had an hour long bus ride to the ruins. They stopped at a shop along the way for 30 minutes which was not listed in the tour write up. Then we felt really ripped off when they insisted that we take the $2 shuttle at the ruins because it was a really long walk and they needed to be able to control our big group. One couple refused and walked the short walk and was there before all of the group arrived on the second shuttle. There were 60 ruins and we spent 3 hours wandering around there before we got back to the bus to Playa del Carmen. The ruins were really pretty and right along the coast line. The breeze was glorious and kept it from being hot and miserable. We walked around Playa del Carmen before meeting at 6:30 to take the ferry ride back to Cozumel. The ride back to Cozumel was much smoother than earlier. When we got back to the ship we had to go eat at the Any Time Dining in the dining room because they closed the assigned seating in order to have a Mexican fiesta on the Lido deck.

Day 6 At Sea

After breakfast we sat out on the deck and relaxed and read until lunch time. After lunch we went to hear the Island Magic Steel Band concert which was outstanding. After the concert we walked 3 miles on the deck and then had a snack. By then we watched TV in our cabin and took a nap before getting ready for formal night at dinner.

Day 7 Key West

DSC_0007We got off the ship and took the shuttle to town. Then we walked around town. It was nice and warm and sunny. We walked from Mallory Square to the Southernmost point in the USA. Then we walked back to the entrance to the naval base to get on the shuttle back to the ship. Don was not feeling well and got overheated so he felt miserable. We returned to the ship in time for lunch and then sat out on the deck watching some naval training. We also packed our suitcases and got ready for getting off the ship tomorrow. Then Don napped in the afternoon.

Day 8 Debarkation

After I ate breakfast (Don was sick with a head cold), I came back to the cabin and we packed up last minute stuff. Then we just waited in the cabin until they called our color tag and number. We requested to get off between 8:45-9:15. We got off the ship around 8:45 and my parents picked us up. The longest line was after we got our luggage and had to stand in line to go through customs.

Things I Learned

1. They change the serving utensils at the buffet every 20 minutes with clean ones.

2. It is nice to know we have been to a port previously so we weren’t so disappointed when the port was cancelled.

3. I don’t seem to like Indonesian food.

4. Go to the upstairs on the ferry when going over to Playa del Carmen where they open the windows and less people barf.

5. Don’t take the $2 shuttle at the Tulum ruins.

6. I would not take the ship’s tour to Tulum for $125 per person. (We got it at half price because I won a prize at one of the shows).

7. We don’t like Any Time Dining.

8. Eating lemons can help vertigo.

9. Bring the national park pass when getting off in US ports.

Original photos by Pat Hensley

Monday, December 8, 2014

Happy Birthday to My Dad


My father turned 95 on December 7th. He was born in 1919 and has seen many changes in our world. I’m so thankful to have him around and in fairly good health for a 95 year old. He and my stepmom live independently in their own house. They go to the senior center every week (sometimes more than once a week) to play pool and bingo. When we visit we love to play this card game called Scat with them. I love to hear my father tell stories about growing up or when he was in China. Even though I have heard some of them before, I love to hear them over and over again.

So, Happy Birthday Pa! I love you!

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Friday, December 5, 2014

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 12/5/14

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

Interactive Weather Maker – “sing our Interactive Weather Maker, you'll be able to turn a sunny day into a windy day. Or create a rainy day. And if you create the correct conditions, you can make a blizzard - complete with a whiteout!” (L:G; SA:S)

The Railroad Journey and the Industrial Revolution – YouTube video; “In which John Green teaches you about railroads, and some of the ways they changed the world, and how they were a sort of microcosm for the Industrial Revolution as a whole.”

Space Hopper – “Study the place shown in the photograph. Where is it on the big map? Try interacting with the image or slideshow to look for more information about the location. Find the location on the map and click the red dot to make your choice, then check your answer. Remember that there are clues to help you.” (L:G; SA:SS)

Where is? – a geography game; you are given a location and you have to find it on the map. You are given points for how close you come to the location. (L:G; SA:SS)

Analyze Candy Using Chromatography “Use forensic science to analyze different types of candy.” (L:E,M; SA:S)

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Reasons I Love to Travel

DSC_0020Over the past few months, we have done a lot of traveling and I’ve had people ask me why we travel so much. Travel is so exciting to me and it is like being in a real life classroom. In this “classroom,” I am learning something new every day! When I see children on my travels, I marvel how lucky they are to be able to learn firsthand knowledge about other people, places, customs, religions and so much more. I think this knowledge helps children learn to be more tolerant of things that are different than what they are used to. It helps them see life from different perspectives. This is a great way for children to learn communication skills which not only include talking but listening patiently to others.

When I was a child, my parents couldn’t afford to travel much because of time and money. My father worked six days a week and my mother didn’t work. Now that I can afford to travel and have the time, the world is an exciting place.

I love to meet new people! Whether we are on a cruise ship or a road trip, we have been lucky enough to meet new people from all walks of life. I have become friends with many and kept in touch with those that have crossed paths with me.

I learn new things every day. In conversations with others, there is someone who will tell me something that I didn’t know. Everyone has different experiences and may have traveled some place I haven’t been so I love for them to share what they would recommend if I ever visit the same place.

I learn a lot about different cultures. Many times we will meet people from other countries and I’m fascinated to learn about the way of life in other countries. This is so much better than reading about it or watching a movie. Traveling is a good way to learn different customs. We may have eat some meals with people from other countries and have great conversations about foods and eating styles. On one cruise we had dinner every night with a family from the UK and they were fascinated how we cut food with our fork in the left hand and then switched to the right in order to eat. They said they got in trouble for doing that when growing up and I got in trouble for not doing that when I was growing up.

It is a great way to learn about the different money used in each country. It is also a great way to use math skills to find out the exchange rate and then translate local prices into prices that I am used to seeing.

Do you travel? What do you like about traveling? Please share.

Original picture by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Monthly Review of Goals from November

GoalsNovember was another travel month. We took 2 cruises for a total of 3 weeks (one week was in December). All of my goals can be found here.

Yearly goals:

  1. Try at least 12 new recipes (one per month).
    1. January – Quinoa Meatballs
    2. February – Mushroom Lasagna
    3. March – Chicken Quesadilla
    4. April – Grilled Asian Chicken
    5. May – Simple Green Smoothie
    6. June - Barbecue Ribs with my father’s secret barbecue sauce. This is the first time I’ve made ribs.
    7. July РThe plant engineer at the school gave me loads of squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. So, I diced up some chicken and saut̩ed it with the diced up squash, zucchini, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. I added oyster sauce and soy sauce too. It came out really tasty.
    8. August – Fantastic Meatloaf from the Trim Healthy Mama book. I tried several new recipes from this book. Some were good and others were just okay.
    9. September – I didn’t cook at all because we were traveling all month.
    10. October – I didn’t cook anything new since we weren’t home much.
    11. November – I got a new Vitamix so I tried out several smoothie recipes from the Vitamix recipe book and from
  2. Reach my target weight by the end of the year. – I gained more weight this month due to eating too much on cruises. I’m way up on the scale now.
  3. Knit a Fair Isle vest. – I am still working on this when I’m home and enjoying it/
  4. Learn to chain ply some handspun yarn. (I finished this in July and I’m glad I tried it. I think I overplied the final yarn though. I need to learn to treadle slower so it doesn’t twist so tightly and kink up on itself.) – Started a new Loop batt and will try this again.
  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.
    3. April – Spun my yak/merino fiber

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, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November.
  2. Daily - Do strength exercises for 30 minutes each day. – I have done this when we have been home but not so much when we are cruising.
  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.5.2 miles per day)
    4. April – 166.86 (avg. 5.5 miles per day)
    5. May - 144.34 miles (avg. 4.7 miles per day)
    6. June - 139.99 miles (avg. 4.67 miles per day)
    7. July - 117.02 miles (avg. 3.77 miles per day)
    8. August – 139.24 miles (avg. 4.5 miles per day)
    9. September – 148.8 miles (avg. 5 miles per day)
    10. October - 108.2 miles (3.5 avg. miles per day) – this has been my lowest mileage all year so far
    11. November – 119.29miles (avg. 4 miles per day)
  4. Weekly - Keep a journal and write down 5 things that I’m thankful for – I need to do better with this and haven’t done it much in November. I know I have so much to be thankful for but I’m just lazy about writing it down.
  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
    4. April – David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
    5. May – The Biography of Shirley Jones
    6. June – Spartan Up by Joe De Sena
    7. July – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
    8. August – The Little Book Shop of Stone Gap by Wendy Welch
    9. September – Wild by Cheryl Strayed
    10. October – Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney
    11. November - Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm

I really have not done well with my eating and my weight. I’m very disappointed in myself this year because I had such high hopes for reaching my target weight. My knitting has been going well and so has my reading though.

Image: 'Goals
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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

HAL Nieuw Amsterdam 2014 Part 1

I know that this may shock you but we went on another cruise last week. We got on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam out of Ft. Lauderdale. My parents took us to the port and will pick us up. Our captain is Captain Bas van Dreumel and he was born in the Netherlands. Our cruise director is Jeremy.

Here is the link to our pictures!

Day 1 Embarkation
We got to the port around 10am and checked in immediately. We sat and talked to another couple from cruise critic (Barbara and Bayard) who recognized my shirt that I mentioned I would be wearing. We got on the ship around 11:30am and went immediately to our cabin. We were concerned because they switched our cabin from an interior 1115 to an ocean view 1081 which was a handicapped cabin. There is no couch but the bathroom is a walk in shower. They say it was an upgrade but we aren’t sure it was an upgrade since we really like the couch. The drapes are also motorized and we can’t figure out how to open or close them. Since we haven’t seen our cabin steward yet, it is a mystery. We have great dinner mates – Mike and Debbie from Indiana and Ron and Andrea from Vancouver. For the first time ever, Andrea influenced us to having 2 desserts so everyone got 2 desserts except Mike. After dinner we went to see the movie Begin Again with Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo. It was a strange movie.

Day 2 At Sea

We had a busy day at sea. Before breakfast we walked 3 miles. After breakfast we walked some more. At 11am, I went to the cruise critic meet and greet while Don went to the cooking demo. After that it was time for lunch and we ate lunch with the four people from the day before (Gigi, Shep, Myra and Allen). After lunch we rested until the 3pm Indonesian Tea which was nice and then we went to see the movie Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise which was entertaining. Again, the movie theater was packed! After that we rested until it was time to get ready for formal night at dinner. After dinner we went to the show NYC which was okay.

Day 3 Grand Turk

DSCF1357We had a great day at the beach! I’m glad we brought our water shoes though because the beach was rocky under water. We saw a lot of fish and a couple of sea urchins. It was about 90F and sunny. After swimming in the morning, we came back to the ship for lunch and rest. In the afternoon we went to happy hour in the Crow’s Nest before dinner. After dinner we saw the show Recycled Percussion who was on America’s Got Talent and we really enjoyed it.

Day 4 San Juan

After breakfast we went to the theater and saw the movie Jersey Boys. We arrived in San Juan around 1pm we ate lunch before we got off the ship. Then we just walked around town. Don visited his favorite thrift store. We came back to the ship in time for dinner and then went to the show.
Day 5 St. Thomas
DSCF1411We had a wonderful day at Coki Beach. The cab ride was $10 per person each way (about a 30 minute drive) and then we rented a chair for $5 per person. The umbrella was $10 but we didn’t get it and didn’t need it. We had two buckets of Corona while we were there (6 beers for $18). We got there around 9am and left at 2pm. The snorkeling was great there and Don enjoyed feeding dog biscuits to the fish. We also met a nice couple from Washington DC who was staying there on the island for a week. They ended up renting snorkeling gear after hearing how much fun we were having. The cab ride back was an adventure and when the cab driver went through a “road closed” sign and almost got hit by another car, it kind of got my blood pumping. But we avoided the accident and got back to the ship safely. We had a late lunch when we got back and took a nice long nap until dinner.
Day 6 At Sea
We had an early breakfast and then walked for 30 minutes. After that we went to see the movie Trust Me which was a stupid movie. Then we had time to walk some more before our Mariner luncheon where we got our souvenir tiles. After lunch we had a 3pm Collector’s Voyage (14 days) meeting where we won a door prize for 50% off any excursion in any port next week. We tried the Crow’s Nest for happy hour but it was packed with trivia players. Then we tried the Ocean Bar but never could get served even though we were the only ones there. Finally we went to the Explorer’s Lounge and had margaritas. After that we rested until dinner and then went to the show, Cantare which had the 4 male vocalists singing. They were pretty good.
Day 7 Half Moon Cay
DSCF1537We had breakfast on the Lido deck and then waited for the announcement to board the tenders. We didn’t get off the ship until 9:40 and arrived on Half Moon Cay around 10am. We walked around the island and decided that it was too windy and cool to go swimming. So, we returned to the ship around 11:30 in time for lunch. After lunch we went to the movies to see Wish I Was Here starring Kate Hudson which was a tear jerker. I don’t know why they choose depressing movies for a cruise ship! After that we went to afternoon tea and then walked for about 40 minutes on the deck. It was really windy outside! Then we watched football on TV until dinner.

Things I Learned
1. Handicapped rooms on a cruise ship may not have a couch.
2. All handicapped rooms are not always bigger and better.
3. The drapes are controlled by a switch.
4. Hemingway had cats with six toes.
5. Martinis that are shaken are diluted but if they are stirred, the ice makes it cold and not diluted.
6. There is no guest laundry on the Nieuw Amsterdam.
7. There are a lot of homeless people in Mongolia.
8. Having to take a tender to an island is not fun.
9. Whoever picks out movies for Holland America ships has weird tastes.
Original photos by Pat Hensley

Monday, December 1, 2014

Raise the Bar

In Expect More from Actualization, Walter shares, 

“Are there letdowns? Of course. Disappointment is just the difference between where you set the bar and where you find your footing. It’s necessary…a gut check that helps you reassess and recommit to do better. It’s not based on what anyone else does…it’s defined by you and the standards to which you hold yourself. If you’re never disappointed, you’re not expecting enough.”

Many times I would have to show tough love to my students with special needs. Yes, I felt bad that they had disabilities but unless I helped them cope with them and figure out a way to navigate the world, they would never rise to their potential.

I’ve been in IEP meetings where I was told that I expect too much from my students. But I believe there are some basic things that all students can learn regardless of having a disability or not. I think that all students can learn to respect others, be honest, and do the best that they can.

If I keep telling students that they can’t do better because they have a disability, then they may never know their full potential. I need to expect more and help my students achieve more.

Maybe that means I need to expect more from myself. I need to do more than just the bare minimum. I need to expect to give my best to help others give their best.

I’m always reminded of a general education teacher who had two of my low functioning students assigned to her Broadcast Journalism class. When she found out, she rushed to my room and insisted that they be removed because they couldn’t do the things in her class. As my students’ advocate, I insisted that they stay in the class and that we work together to find things for them to do that were possible. Thankfully, this teacher was willing to work with me and make this a positive experience for our students. We were both amazed how much they could actually do and do well. One boy was on the school TV network and gave the weather each morning on the news show. The other boy worked the camera and organized equipment. The rest of the students responded well to them because of the teacher’s attitude and it was a fabulous year for all of the students. In fact, it went so well that the teacher requested these students for the Advanced Broadcast Journalism class the next year.

Since we raised the bar and expected more of these students, they rose to the occasion. They tried things that they never would have attempted before. The more they did successfully, the more we asked of them. If you could only see the happiness that was reflected on their faces. For once, people didn’t focus on what they couldn’t do but rather helped them learn the things they could do!

I think the bar was raised for the students and also for the teachers and students. It was a great lesson for everyone to expect more of ourselves and others.

Have you raised the bar on something and had it turn out well? Please share.

Image: 'Limbo?'
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