Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Those Who Have Gone Before Me

In Life Lesson #4 From Camel’s Hump from Janet Given's Blog, Janet Givens asks,

“ What places in your life have been made easier because of those who had gone before you? “

When I was growing up, my older sisters used to tell me how easy I had it. They had forged the way for me with my parents. My parents had to tell with their teenage angst and dating so they knew what to expect when I came along. All that teenage rebellion from my sisters had helped negotiate expectations so when I came along, I didn’t have to fight so much for what I wanted.

This past year I went to my first knitting retreat. At first I was nervous and excited but I didn’t know what to expect. Through monthly video chats, I was able to meet other retreat attendees and get to know them before the retreat. I was also able to ask questions and learn more about what to expect and this really helped me when I got to the retreat. I didn’t feel like I was all alone because I had already “met” these people online.

I also like to read books written by teachers that tell about their experiences in the classroom or listen to other teachers tell about things that had happened in their classroom. This helps me know what others have dealt with and how they handled it. By reading these situations, I am able to think about how I would handle it if I was in the same situation. I feel like I’m doing “fire drills” of different situations so that I’m prepared in case I ever have to face the same thing.

Another thing that I don’t thing we do enough of is about dealing with parents. I think it is important to share about how we relate with parents.  I know we tell new teachers that they should do this and how often but I’m not sure we actually say how to do this. So, I like to ask other teachers about what they say to parents in different situations. How do they handle an irate parent? How do they share good things about their students? How do they handle a conflict with the parent? These are important tactics that might help me if I’m ever in the same situation.

I also like to talk to other teachers who may have taught the same concept or skill that I’m planning to teach. They might be able to share the things that really worked well or things that didn’t. They might have a specific activity that they are willing to share with me. This was the best thing about waiting in line for the copier and I could ask teachers about what lesson they were preparing to teach. One time a science teacher and I were talking about a unit that we both taught and she invited my class to join her class for a guest speaker. She also shared some of her materials with me to use for my lesson.

I think it is important to realize that others with experience may have valuable information to  help me. These don’t have to be just veteran teachers but may be new teachers who have taught a certain concept or skill that I haven’t taught yet.

How has others with more experience helped you? Please share.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


In Life Lesson #2 From Camel’s Hump from Janet Given's Blog, Janet Givens asks,

“What’s your position on rules?

I grew with parents who saw things in black and white and so I was pretty literal when dealing with the rules. I believed I had to follow the rules exactly or else. I’m not sure what I thought or else was other than losing my parent’s love. Now that I’m an adult looking back, I should have realized that was the one thing that I never had to worry about.

Then when I went away to college and I was on my own, I enjoyed testing the limits and getting right on the edge of the rules. I enjoyed the freedom and learning that rules were not necessarily a straight line but had a stretch of gray area in the middle. I tended to go 10 miles over the speed limit and thinking the odds were good that I wouldn’t get a ticket. I stayed out partying with my friends since I didn’t live at home and the world did not fall apart. I was happy with an occasional B grade and didn’t beat myself over the idea of not getting all As. (I confess to really only getting one B but I felt like that was pretty rebellious!).

Then I became a teacher and worked with students from different backgrounds. These students were living a life that I never imagined. Yet, they were surviving the best way they could. Suddenly the rules were so black or white or even gray. There were rules about dealing with students that somehow went against reasonable common sense. We were told that if students owed money to the cafeteria for more than 5 days, we couldn’t loan them any more money. I just couldn’t comprehend going hungry and bought many students a lunch with my own money. I was told not to give students my home number but when I found out that their parents couldn’t read or write, who else could they call for help with their homework?

Then I became a mother. I remember all those things my mother said to me that I swore I would never say. The phrase “never say never” really applies to real life! I can hear myself repeating many of the things she said to me. I was told by many people the “right” way to raise children and tried to be the perfect wife and the perfect mother by doing all the perfect things. That is the “rule” about mothering right? Needless to say, this never happened and I found that I had to do what was right for our family.

So, now I think I see rules as depending on the circumstances. If the rules are laws and by breaking them, I would end up in jail, I will definitely follow the rules. If the rules are just guidance from others, then I need to work out the best rules that work for me and those involved. But I think it took experience to get to this point and I don’t see how I could have skipped the steps to get here.

So, how do you feel about rules? Please share.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Whistling Women – Book Review

I recently read the book Whistling Women by Kelly Romo. This is the review of this book (I am not being paid to give this review).

I liked that this book was set during the 1935 World’s Fair, which peaked my interest. It was also interesting how a nudist colony was a major focus throughout the book. I also found it interesting how the characters were developed throughout the story and how I changed my opinion about them after reading the story. The story revolves around two adult estranged sisters and their relationship, two young sisters and their relationship with each other and their parents. I found it interesting and couldn’t seem to put the book down.

I do not feel this would be an appropriate book in a school library or curriculum even though I liked the book and found it interesting. Themes in the book include alcoholism, nudity, death, rape, relationships, and religion.  Due to these adult themes, I think this book is more geared to adults than school aged children.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 9/25/15

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

EdTech Terms – “Search for language, definitions, and resources that define 21st century learning.” (L:G; SA:A)

RefMeThe free tool to create citations, reference lists and bibliographies in any format.” (L:H; SA:A)

How misused modifiers can hurt your writing – “Modifiers are words, phrases, and clauses that add information about other parts of a sentence—which is usually helpful. But when modifiers aren’t linked clearly enough to the words they’re actually referring to, they can create unintentional ambiguity. Emma Bryce navigates the sticky world of misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers.” (L:H; SA:LA)

Every Kid in A Park“…fourth graders and their families could discover our wildlife, resources, and history” (L:E; SA:A)

Zoomlets you record videoconferences  (L:G; SA:A)

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Being Brave

In If You Never Try to Be Brave, It Certainly Won’t Happen from Bud the Teacher, Bud Hunt shares,

“It pains me that the climate in schools is so risk-averse and so anti-teacher that teachers who are really good at what they do are also hesitant to lean in to something different – for so many reasons.


If you don’t ever face the scary things, you can’t ever work on being brave.  And being brave, even just a little bit and even just a little of the time, is so important."

Let’s face it, veteran teachers have been burned enough that it can be scary trying something new.
Sometimes our school decided to try a new strategy school wide. This means incorporating it in my lesson plans and showing that I’m using it and how I’m using it. By doing this, I’m spending a lot of time changing how I teach and what I do. I take time to get vested in this and willing to give it my all. What frustrates me at the end of the year is that many other teachers haven’t bothered trying this and then the school just drops this new strategy and it disappears. When this happens over and over again, I feel like why should I even bother!

Sometimes I have a great idea and I really want to try something new. Yet, I know that there will be many who shake their head at my ideas and try to discourage me. There may be some that laugh at me and some how will tell me that I’m wasting my time.

But I’m not willing to give up and throw in the towel. I want to try and keep on trying. I want to be brave enough to try something new. What is the worst thing that can happen? That it won’t work. I don’t think that by trying new strategies or techniques, that I will harm my students.

Many students have told me that they have respected me more because I was willing to keep trying to find ways to help them instead of giving up. When they see that I’m not willing to give up, it helps them to keep on trying. I tell them that I can relate to their frustration because I’m trying right along side them and that we will support each other. They see me as a role model and are willing to work at things even though they are difficult.

I think when our students see the teacher afraid to try or are willing to give up, I am sending the wrong message that everything is hopeless. To me, this is more damaging then failing. I explain to my students that we have to keep trying different things until we find the key that will open up their understanding but if we never try, and then we know we will never find the key. At least by trying, there is hope. With hope, you have everything.

How do you show your bravery in your class? What impact does it have on your students? Please share.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Carnival Fascination – September 2015

Last week we cruised on the Carnival Fascination. The captain was Gianluca Longhin, the chief engineer was Valter Rossi, the Hotel Director was Pavol Drimaj, and the Cruise Director was Robin Gardner. It was only a 4-day cruise so we didn’t expect too much from it. We usually don’t have as good a time during the shorter cruises as we do the longer ones. Boy, were we wrong!

9/17/15 - On embarkation day, we left home at 5am and got to the Jacksonville port (Jaxport) around 10:30am. By the time we dropped off our luggage and parked ($15/day), we were able to go through security and check in which took about 10 minutes. We sat for about 10 minutes and then got right on the ship. We went towards our cabin (E177) but the doors were closed so we went up to the Lido deck (Deck 10) for some lunch. We were so surprised to run into Baris, whom we met on other cruises, and is now the maitre’d in the Sensation Dining Room! It was wonderful to see him again. A little while later he came back and showed us pictures of his little girl and then his wife Fatma (the food and beverage manager) came by to see us. It was so great to see some people we knew. Then we also saw Jogi who is the maitre’d in the Imagination dining room (which was where we had dinner at table 368 at 6pm).

We walked around until the muster drill, which took a very long time, and then we unpacked. We were supposed to leave at 4pm but we didn’t pull out of the port until around 5 and it took forever for us to get out to sea. It was fun to watch us go under the Jacksonville Bridge! Before we knew it, it was time to get ready and go to dinner. We were at a table for 10 but only 2 other couples showed up. They were Rita and David from Hilton Head and Morris and Nancy from Georgia. We all seemed to have a good time. After that, we went to the Welcome Aboard show but we were too tired to go to the comedy show.

9/18/15 - On the next day we sat out on the back of the Lido deck after breakfast in the dining room. We were supposed to arrive in Freeport at noon but the captain announced due to high winds and head currents, we would be an hour late. At 1pm we got off the ship and walked around the port but then decided to take the taxi ($10 pp round trip) to Port Lucaya. We walked around the casino and shops and got a couple of Coronas (2 for $5) before heading back to the ship. I was surprised how hot I was! We got back to the ship at 4pm and it started to rain just as we got back on the ship. We stopped at the Grill for a hamburger and fries before going to the cabin and getting ready for dinner. I found out that there was no dryer in our cabin. I need to make sure I pack mine for the other cruises, just in case. It was elegant night and another couple joined us. They were Sheila Brewton and Jimmy Clark from Georgia. We went to the show Motor City that we enjoyed hearing Motown hits and then went to bed.

9/19/15 - The third day we arrived in Nassau around 8am. We ate breakfast in the dining room and had a wonderful combination omelet. After breakfast we went into town to find stamps for our postcards. First we stopped near a government house and asked someone where the post office is and were told that the post office was closed on Saturdays. I had even forgotten that it was Saturday! He suggested that we go to the pharmacy that suggested we go to a souvenir shop that suggested we go to a t-shirt shop that suggested we go to a souvenir shop that suggested we go to an ice cream shop that suggested we go to the hotel (which was also Don’s suggestion). So, we ended up at the Hilton where I got some stamps and was able to mail it there. Then we walked some more around town before going back to the ship for lunch. We sat on the back deck, which was our favorite area and relaxed. Eventually we went back to cabin and napped and watched TV until dinner. Dinner was fun and then we went to see the comedy show (Kelly Terranova) which we really enjoyed. Then we walked around the ship before bedtime.

9/210/15 - Today was a sea day and we just relaxed. We went to the dining room for brunch where I got my steak and eggs for breakfast. We also got Bloody Marys with our drink coupons. Later in the day we walked on the track and then relaxed on the ship. In the afternoon we went to afternoon tea and then saw The Hasbro Show in the main showroom.  It didn’t take us long to pack our suitcases and then we realized we didn’t have any tags so I went to guest services and was told that I didn’t need any tags if we were doing self assist. We walked around the ship until dinnertime and after dinner we went to the comedy club again to see Kelly Terranova. This show was different than the night before. When we returned tot our cabin, our cabin steward had just slipped our luggage tags under our door.

9/21/15 – We arrived back in Jacksonville around 7am. We had to meet in the library at 7:45 to get off the ship so we had breakfast at the Lido deck at 6:30. We got off the ship at 8am and was in our car by 8:15. This port was fabulous for getting on and off the ship. We got home around 2pm.

Things I Learned:

1.     It is really great to see old friends on the ship when we arrive and they really made this cruise special.
2.     We really enjoy eating breakfast in the dining room.
3.     Not all ships have hair dryers in the cabins.
4.     Check what day you are in a port because some post offices are closed on the weekend.
5.     Usually hotels have stamps for postcards and will let you mail it there.
6.     Even though we had been to these ports many times, we still enjoy getting out and walking around the town.
7.     I really love the steak and eggs breakfast at brunch.

Original photo by Pat Hensley

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Looking at Leftovers

In Cruft from Blue Skunk Blog, Doug Johnson  shares,

“Cruft is jargon for anything that is left over, redundant and getting in the way. It is used particularly for superseded and unused technical and electronic hardware and useless, superfluous or dysfunctional elements in computer software. Wikipedia

Then he asks,

“As educators move files from local drives to cloud-based application, are they moving a lot of cruft as well? And does all that gunk make finding and using the good stuff more difficult. Any suggestions for identifying and managing the cruft in your virtual life?”

I am really bad about collecting things in real life and in my virtual life. It is hard for me to let go of things because I’m afraid that I might need it again some day. Slowly I’m running out of space in my home for all the things I want to keep. This past year I decided that if something has sentimental value but no monetary value, I am going to take a few pictures and then let it go.  So far, I am doing pretty well with that but sometimes I need more time.

Then I realize that I take a lot of pictures and those take a lot of room on hard drives. I have 2 external hard drives full of pictures already. But sometimes I like going back and looking at some. Some of them even document some events that I had forgotten.

Some of the stuff on my hard drive are duplicates of other files. I have run back ups of data and then I’m afraid that I might lose some files so I keep duplicates of the files. Then I realize that if this hard drive dies, I will lose all of the files including the duplicates so I’ve started to weed through the duplicates.

I am also creating more folders so that I will be able to find files easier. Sometimes I get lazy and just dump files in a basic “general” folder with intentions of going back and reorganizing them into other folders. Of course, time goes by and it doesn’t get done. I’m going to plan a file check once a week and spend 1 hour of going through files and getting rid of ones that are no longer important. I plan on setting a timer because I tend to get too involved and I can end up spending too much time doing this. It may take a longer overall time but this way I won’t get overwhelmed.

How do you handle your cruft? Please share.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Challenge Me

In What is Challenge? From  Lisa's Lingo, Lisa Parisi shares a conversation that she had with her daughter. She shares, 

“After we spoke for a while, I realized she and I weren't talking about the same thing and that made me realize that many teachers probably think the way she does. In her school world, challenge means work.  More challenge means more rigorous work.  I used to think this way.  If a child was getting all 100s on tests, give that child more work.” 

This reminded me of classes that I took in high school and college. The ones that I learned the most were the ones that challenged me not the ones that I seemed to breeze through. When I talk about being challenged, I don’t mean that I got bad grades and the ones that I breezed through don’t mean that I just got all As.

When I think of the word “challenge” I think of something that makes me think. It might make me feel uncomfortable or uneasy. Or it doesn’t come about easily. When I am finished, the final product makes me feel proud of my effort.

When I write something and I have to think about communicating what I want to say clearly, I am constantly reviewing and revising. I’m not just writing down the first think I think about and hope that someone else will understand it. When I reread what I have written, sometimes it doesn’t come across the way I want it to so I have to rewrite it. After careful deliberation, I will revise and hopefully write my position clearer.

When I am knitting, I like to follow a pattern that isn’t so easy that it is boring. I might have to reread the directions to understand it or follow a chart that makes me focus. Sometimes I might even have to ask someone for help or clarification. Sometimes that finished product looks more difficult that it actually was to make and it is fun to see other people’s reactions to this.

When I am creating something new, I enjoy following sequenced directions in order to end up with a cool finished product. This might entail following a recipe or just written directions but it makes me focus and interpret what is meant. It is not something that I could do blindfolded or in my sleep.

When learning about something that happened in history, I like to wonder why it happened the way it did. What caused it and what were the major results? I like to think about the major players that were involved and their importance.

When I read a book, I like to think about the characters and what I like or dislike about them the most. I like to think about the situation they are in and wonder if I would handle them the same way. Sometimes I wonder if something were handled a different way, would the results be different. If I could change the ending, what would I have done? Then I think about whether I would recommend the book to others and on what age level and why.

All of these instances are a challenge to me. I wonder if some of the assignments I give my students create the same kind of challenge for my students. I think the main thing I want my students to answer is the “why” question. I want them to know why they think the way they do or do the things they do. If they are just following others, then that reason is not good enough. Students need to learn to think for themselves but I’m not sure that as teachers, we give them enough opportunities. They are expected to recite information they learned and not question decisions that concern them. They don’t even know how to ask the right questions.

I want to challenge my students. I plan to have more open discussions and have them answer the “why” questions more than just the “what” and the “how” questions. I want more than just regurgitated information.

Do you challenge your students? If so, please share.