Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hottest Posts of Successful Teaching

These are the hottest posts of Successful Teaching since 2007 and people are still reading them. I hope to revisit them in the upcoming year to see if I need to update them. Stay tuned for the updates to these posts if you are interested in them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Writing Expectations

I learned to write and taught writing myself using the five-paragraph essay as a means of structuring writing.

As I read this I thought about my own writing and how I learned over the years. Most of it was trial and error because teachers had their own requirements.

Of course I knew that I had to begin with an opening statement, details, and closing statement but there were a lot of different extras that each teacher expected. Some teachers expected so many paragraphs or sentences or words but didn’t always tell me. They assumed that we knew what they wanted. This resulted in lower grades than I liked until I learned what they wanted. If I knew what was expected by each teacher, I believe my grades would have been higher and I would have felt more successful in classes that required writing.

Many times I will have my students write about a topic and expect them to write well but maybe these students were taught how to write in different ways. Sometimes students who are in classes where the teacher doesn’t care too much about the writing procedure may write carelessly and get away with it. Bad habits are hard to break. Maybe the students learned how to write well but if they don’t practice the skill, they forget a lot. Maybe other teachers do not expect the same level that I do so students get away with poor writing and it becomes their standard writing procedure.

The next writing assignment I give, I will give more detailed expectations. This might help the students be more successful with their writing and make it easier for me to read their writing.

Some of my requirements will include:

·      Name (I can’t tell you how many papers I get with no names on it)
·      Topic/Title (It helps get my mind in the right frame of what to expect)
·      Opening statement
·      Closing statement
·      Correct grammar (Use the grammar check on the word processor if needed)
·      Correct spelling (Use the spellcheck on the word processor if needed)
·      Number of paragraphs/sentences/words
·      Details must support the opening statement
·      Closing statement must summarize the paragraph.
·      Overall meaning must make sense (You wouldn’t believe how many times I wish I had said this!)
·      Proofread work. (I confess to not doing this as often as I should and it should be done ALL of the time.)

What do you require when you have students turn in a writing assignment? Please share. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Giving to Children

Yet they are entering largely uncharted waters with a charity effort of such scale. They have not yet detailed how the money will be spent and the pace at which the money will be given out indicates they plan to take their time.

I think this is a commendable action to take but I hope that the money is actually used how they intend for it to be used. I wish that someday I could be in the position to do something like this. 

It scares me when I see this and think of how much of the money will be wasted on the trickle-down process. A lot of it will be spent on administration costs and other fees. I picture the money at the top of the tree and children at the bottom of the tree. All of the branches at near the top are like hands from others who want a piece of the share before it ever reaches the bottom where it was intended.

I see that his wife is a pediatrician and I hope that she will be a hands-on philanthropist and not just an armchair one.

I see this attitude shift when I see teachers who become administrators and then move on to school boards. They get so far removed from the classroom that they lose sight of what it is actually like to work with the children. Things that look good on paper, TV, or the public spotlight look good but not all of these things actually are effective in the real situations.

When I mentioned my concerns to my husband, he asked me how could it be done. How could the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative make the money actually reach the ones that it is intended for? This initiative will focus on health and education. 

I would like to see teachers submit proposals for research-based practices that would work in their classroom. Maybe they don’t have the money for the materials and equipment to follow through with this strategy.  Some of the situations may not even call for tons of money but the money would have to be used for the items in the proposal (proof of purchase and documentation of student progress would have to be sent in).  Maybe there would be a limit to the number of proposals sent in each year. But I think the proposals should be sent to a committee representing the Initiative and chosen from them. The less administrative steps involved, the less loss of revenue would occur during the process.  As a former teacher, I would love to be on this committee and inspired by the ideas of practicing teachers who love their students so much that they are willing to take the time and energy to try to advocate for their needs.

I’m not sure this is the best way but it was the first one that I could think of.  Do you have any other ideas on how the charity could be implemented? Please share.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Beautiful Moments

In For the Teacher Desperate for Hope from, Petals of Joy wants others to share:

So tell me, dear friends, tell me of the beautiful moments you’ve witnessed as a teacher.”

I have been lucky enough to have many beautiful moments in the classroom and these moments are what sustains me when I frustrated and disappointed with administration and paperwork.

·      The moment students understand what I’m trying to explain.
·      The joy of learning to read something.
·      The smile of satisfaction when students are able to answer a question I ask.
·      The students’ reactions when they receive a passing grade (because they have failed so much before my class.)
·      The students’ amazement when they realize their hard work has paid off.
·      The parents’ joy when I call them to tell them their child is succeeding in my class.
·      When I received a dozen red roses at graduation from a student who learned to read in my class.
·      A former student brought his newly bought truck to my house to show me that he had a good job and was able to pay his own bills.
·      The hugs from students when I have helped them with a problem from another class.
·      Attending former student’s bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers.
·      Keeping in touch with former students who graduated from school and meeting them for lunch.
·      Seeing a student from 20 years ago and she tells me that she still keeps our class motto written on a piece of paper in her wallet. It sustained her during the tough times in her life. (Class Motto: I am a Born Winner!)
·      Seeing my student with emotional disabilities graduate from my class, go on to get his GED, and become a pastor of a church.

What beautiful moments have you experienced as a teacher? Please share.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday. I hope this holiday season brings you great joy and that you are surrounded with love and laughter!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Newsletter

Merry Christmas to all of my family and friends!

It is that time of the year again when we like to look back and see what we have accomplished this past year.

We are still Master Naturalists and volunteered to lead hikes for second graders at the state park. It is so much fun to see nature through a child’s eyes.

In April we went to the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg which is an event we look forward to each year. We sign up for hikes and learn so much about plants, ferns, fungus and photography from the different teachers. Every year I learn something new!

In May we went to Maryland for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Of course I bought lots of yarn and fiber. Don enjoys looking at the sheep and goats and it is always fun to watch the sheepherding dogs’ demonstration.

We also did a lot of camping this year in our Casita travel trailer. We tried a different campground in the Smoky Mountains National Park each week and came home on the weekends.

In June we went north to Ohio (Air Force Museum), Indiana (to visit friends we met on a cruise), Michigan (Ford Library, meet up with knitting friends), Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan), Sault St. Marie (Michigan/Canada border to see the Locks), Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan), Chicago (sightseeing for a week. Was there when the Blackhawks won the Stanley cup and the city had a big celebration rally for them), Wisconsin (tried cheese curds for the first time and loved them!), Mall of America (Minnesota), and the a knitting retreat in Rochester Minnesota.

July is always busy because Pat teaches for a graduate course for Furman every year. Don organizes his postcards and stamp collection while she is working. Work that needs to be done on the house usually happens during this time.

Fall begins our travel season again. September we went on a cruise out of Jacksonville, FL. October we went on a cruise out of Port Canaveral. November we went on a cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale and December we went on a cruise out of Miami. The December cruise was extra fun because we celebrated our daughter’s 40th birthday on the cruise and it was our son-in-law’s first time on a boat.

December was also special because we celebrated Pat’s father’s 96th birthday and friends and family from around the world sent him cards and presents.

We hope this Christmas brings you great joy and happiness. We may not see you in person often but know that you are in our thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Learning from the Holidays

“What have you learned about writing or life from the holidays?”

·      Holidays are stressful!
·      I can’t pick my family members.
·      I don’t have to buy gifts. My time means a lot to some people.
·      Watch my purse.
·      Smile more.
·      I can always try harder.
·      Enjoy myself and stop putting so much pressure on myself.
·      Remember the reason for the holiday.
·      Holidays are a good reason to appreciate those I care about.
·      I don’t know how many more holidays I will have with my father who is 96.
·      I enjoy Christmas lights and more is better.
·      I like Christmas music but I don’t like hearing it on the radio before Thanksgiving.
·      I like watching Christmas movies

What have you learned from the holidays? Please share!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Return to Christmas - Book Review

I recently read Return to Christmas by Kathi Macias.  I got this book from Netgalley and I am not being paid for this review.

I really enjoyed this book, which brought home the struggles that many military veterans face. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is something the main character struggles with and tries to hide. Since he came home, Chet is having a hard time dealing with his life, looking for employment, and relationships.

This book would be appropriate for high school students and even open up a lot of discussion about PTSD. There may be some students who have family members dealing with this and may help them understand it better. It would be a great topic for further research and discussion in the classroom.

I would recommend this for a classroom bookshelf or in the school library.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Carnival Breeze 2015

Last week we cruised on the Carnival Breeze out of Miami. Our daughter Dyanna and son-in-law Earl went with us. Our cabin number was 8334 and we hat late dinner seating at table 536.

We left Lantana around 8am and had breakfast before heading to the port. At 10:45 we arrived at the port and parked our car. We went in the door and immediately we were separated at the security gate. We went through and started walking away when we were called back for them to search our bags and I couldn’t believe there was a big question about my knitting needles! Finally they let us go. Getting on the ship was so unorganized and chaotic. Around noon we were told to line up and get on the ship but then we went one way only to be turned around another way. Diamond members were let on the ship about the same time as everyone else. One lady was told to take the stairs when another lady told her to take the escalator. We had lunch around 12:15 and then wandered around the ship. At 4pm we had our lifeboat drill and our station met in the lower dining room. After the drill we sat out on the deck and watched the ship pull out. After that we walked around before getting ready to dress for dinner. After dinner we wanted to go to the Welcome Aboard show but we were all too tired so we went to bed.

12/14/15: At Sea
We had a lovely day at sea yesterday. We ate steak and eggs and cheesecake for breakfast. Then we walked a few miles around the track to burn off calories. After that we went to the food demo and we ate so many samples that I couldn’t eat lunch. At 1pm we had the meet and greet with our Facebook group and then I took a little nap. At 4pm we had cocktails with the Captain and lot of free cocktails! I was so excited to take photos with the Captain and Wee Jimmy (the cruise director!). Wee Jimmy was so personable and I felt like I had known him for a long time. He showed me all these lovely photos of his wife and his babies (dogs and cats). We went to the comedy show to see Jaylyn Bishop at 7:30 and it was really good. Dinner was prime rib and lobster so I ate so much that by 9:30pm I was ready for bed!

12/15/15: Montego Bay
We had breakfast in the dining room and the service was not very good. They served my poached eggs on the raisin English muffin that I asked for on the side. Plus, it was very slow so we will probably eat breakfast on the Lido deck tomorrow. We arrived at Montego Bay around 9am and got off the ship. We walked around the kiosks in the port and then walked outside the gate to get a picture of the ship. My daughter found the souvenirs she wanted (Jamaican coffee, shot glasses, and an ashtray.) Then we went back to the ship because there wasn’t anything else to do there other than pay a lot of money for a cab to go somewhere else. I took pictures of the cab prices. Security made us turn on our phones and cameras. Then we stopped for some pizza before going to relax on the deck. After lunch we went back to the room to watch movies on TV and take a nap. After dinner we went to the show Viva Variety that was the hypnotist and we really dislike that show. But I didn’t know what the show was (because I didn’t read the program) and I dragged my whole family there so we all stayed.

12/16/15: Grand Cayman
We had a lovely day at Grand Cayman. We got off the ship at 7am and arrived at the beach around 7:45 before it got crowded. We spent a couple of hours snorkeling while my son-in-law watched our stuff. He wore blue jeans and enjoyed sitting in the shade watching us since he doesn’t swim. Then we enjoyed a bucket of beer (4 for $20) before heading back to town. The cab fare was $5 per person one way to and from the Public Beach (Calico Jack’s). The cab fare to Royal Beach was $4 but you had to pay $2 entrance fee. After doing some souvenir shopping, we came back to the ship around 12:30 for lunch. Then we relaxed until dinner, which was elegant night.

12/17/15: Cozumel
We had a lovely day in Cozumel yesterday! We got off the ship at 10am and took a cab ride downtown ($8 for 4 people). Then we walked around before stopping for a beer in this shop while a rain shower came by. The Coronas was $1.50 each.  Then we walked some more before going to the Megastore to buy some Pepsi for me to bring back to the ship. On the way through the Duty Free shops, we had an incident with one of the sales persons. He wouldn’t let me take a photo of the liquor and the price and then wouldn’t let me get his name (which was Marco). When we went to ask at the Guest Services desk, the person there was pretty rude to us. Then we walked out on the deck to watch people almost get left behind when the ship was leaving. When we got back to our cabin, our clean laundry was waiting for us.

12/18/15: At Sea
We had a nice day at sea. I ate too much at breakfast and we walked an hour on the track. Then I sat and relaxed while hubby walked another 30 minutes. Then we packed up our suitcases before going to the Questions for the Cruise Director event. After that I got ready to go to the Platinum/Diamond party. My daughter Dyanna went with me and then Don and I went to the comedy show to see Tommy Drake. He was okay nothing fabulous. After that we listened to the music in the Ocean Lounge until dinner. During dinner they announced that we were diverting to Key West for a medical emergency but later they announced that the person was responding well to medicine and instead of going to Key West, we would continue to Miami. I never got a letter informing me about what time breakfast is served tomorrow so I called Guest Services. I was told 7:30 and when I asked the man what do people do for breakfast if they are getting off the ship at 7; he had to go ask someone. Then he came back and said it opened at 6am. They don’t seem to know what they are doing.

12/19/15: Debarkation
Getting off the ship went much smoother than getting on. We had breakfast at 6am and we met Dyanna and Earl by the elevators. Then we all went to the Lobby Atrium to wait for them to let us off the ship. At 8am, the 4 of us were the first ones off the ship.

This was an okay cruise. I’m glad we were able to cruise with Dyanna and Earl since this was their first cruise. We have noticed how service has really gone downhill from when we first started cruising with Carnival. Service in dining room is extremely slow. They used to put the napkins in your lap and they didn’t this time consistently. They reached across guests to pass plates and pour drinks. I was missing forks for several courses of the meal several times. The Guest Services desk guy was extremely rude. The food was not up to the usual standards but it was still okay. It was a lot of fun meeting up with the Facebook group and seeing people we recognized throughout the cruise.

Things I Learned:
1. We were told that the chocolate mints on the pillow at night were discontinued in order to pay for the accordion player and violinists and other entertainment. 
2. The crew can only work 14 hours at a time and must be given 10 hours off with 6 hours of uninterrupted time for sleep. 
3. Sitting outside in the early mornings away from the Lido deck kept me from overeating at breakfast. 
4. We don’t like Jamaica at all. 
5. We like the lower floors better than the higher floors. 
6. The beach at Grand Cayman was nice. 
7. People walking through the halls after 10pm and before 7am need to lower their voices! 

 Original photo by Pat Hensley