Monday, December 31, 2012

Five Favorite Posts of 2012! Happy New Year!


 This is my 2nd year of Diary of a Public School Teacher! Yeah!(First on Wordpress, now Blogger)
And to think,when I first started blogging I wondered whether I would have enough to write about. :)
Thank you for joining me on this journey.
I have shared a lot, learned a lot, and met a lot of great people!
Please follow me into 2013, and I gladly welcome any new travelers!

What year is not complete without the "Top of ..."?

So, here are the top 5 according to my pageviews:

And of course you are free to read any posts not on this list! Enjoy the new year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dear Standardized Testing...

Standardized Testing

Update 2018: And yet here we are 5 years later, still overtesting our students for the sake of "accountability." Love Obama to death, but he just gave testing another name. And now ESSA, let the states decide! What did we do before standardized testing? Here's another thought. Why do we differentiate instruction, but give a standardized test?

Dear Standardized Testing,
I hate you. Yes, I know I wasn't raised that way. My Mom told me that hate was a strong word, and that I shouldn't use it. But there is no other word strong enough for the way I feel about you.

Why, you ask? You are only doing your job, you say? You hold teachers accountable? Make sure that they are doing their jobs well? Not allowing us to slack off the way those powerful teachers' unions allow us to?

I am going to say something to you that I would never say to a child or a fellow human being. You are worthless.  There is no reason for you to exist. You do nothing to enhance the education of our children. In fact, all you do is damage the good we have done. You have sucked the life from teaching.

You have sucked teach out of teacher, learn out of learner, educate out of educator, and most of all joy out of joyful.  The joy of watching the light come on when something clicks.  The joy of hands on projects. The joy of reading for reading's sake! The joy of watching learning happen. No joy can come from filling in bubbles. Nor can it come from worksheet after worksheet of comprehension strategies. Have you ever watched students sit for hours as they struggle to complete you? Watch as they fidget, stretch, sleep, cry, vomit, from the stress you create? You have created the "teach to the test" teacher. You have driven thousands of experienced teachers out of education. You have ruined what it means to teach.

My principal wants to honor you with a pep rally. She said there's nothing we can do about the test taking, so let's get our students hyped about taking these tests. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think a pep rally is going to make students perform well. If I get them hyped, they are hyped about the pep rally, not about you. Once they sit down in front of those computers, even those who do well, do you think visions of the pep rally are floating through their minds, or how awful you are?

I know you chuckle as you read this because you have friends in high places.  Friends with billions of dollars who yield you like a sword, cutting down schools, demoralizing teachers, breaking up unions. You and your friends tear down public schools,build up charter schools, and destroy neighborhood schools without a thought to those you so vehemently vow to protect, our children.You chuckle because you feel that you are safe, because after all, we are just teachers.

But you and your buddy, Education Reform, better watch your backs! Teachers are waking up to your scam! Dedicated educators, parents, and non-educators know you are a farce and are fighting against you! Diane Ravitich, Sabrina Stevens, Chris Guerrieri, Teachers Laugh, Parents And Kids Against Standarized Testing, and so many others are coming after you! They will not be silenced! We write blogs, participate in letter-writing campaigns, post on Facebook, anything we can do to get others to wake up to this sham you are perpetrating!

Be afraid Standardized Testing, be very afraid. We are coming for you.
                                                                               An educator who cares

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The "Charlie Brown" Syndrome:Cure with Video Supplements!

In "Charlie Brown" cartoons, the teacher was non-existent. All you heard was "Wah, wah,wah.  I believe that's what our students hear at times. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else. Sometimes you just have to see it. I have three  sources I use as my go-to's.

Learnzillion:  I am a recent convert to Learnzillion, but I have used it religiously since I learned about it.  Learnzillion describes itself as high quality lessons you can use today, I agree. The lessons have become an integral part of reinforcing the concepts I teach. 
Their lessons are designed by a Dream Team  composed of teachers nationwide.I don't flip my classroom, but this is a great resource for those who do. 
You can find, and watch, narrated lessons, (by grade level, domain, and standard), assign lessons that are aligned with the Common Core (Math and ELA), track mastery, and make a home-school connection. You have the choice to give the students a login code or assign lessons/quizzes. Teachers can also download the lesson slides. 
Every time, I visit the site they have added new features(High School Math)! I used to assign videos via Edmodo and the Login code, but now I take advantage of their student logins. My students watch the videos, practice, and can also take quizzes. My parents have also taken advantage of the videos, using it to help their kids. Excellent resource!

Studyjams: This is a Scholastic site for Math and Science concepts. It's described as kids helping kids, teaching and helping one another. The videos are informative and engaging thanks to the Studyjam crew.Use the search bar to find the concepts you are teaching. My students not only enjoy them, but they learn from them. Depending on the video, they offer slide shows, guided practice, a chance for them to test their knowledge, key vocabulary, and related jams. You can even print some of the work. Add in "Did You Know?", "Hot Topic", and "Most Popular" you have an amazing, engaging, resource!

Brainpop: I am fortunate. For the past two years, I have had access to Brainpop due to the astuteness of my administrators who were willing to subscribe. What's not to like about Brainpop? Tim and Moby are so cool! The videos, in every subject, are short, but informative. There are related activities, quizzes, experiments, FYI sections, and Q & A's. I pick and choose what I use according to the topic.You are able to join the community of Brainpop Educators and take advantage of all they have to offer. And my favorite, Gameup! Games that are aligned with some of the concepts being taught in the videos.nI


Sunday, December 23, 2012

What About Me, Mrs. M?:He's Not the Child He Could Have Been!

After a trying morning with one of my students, I approached his desk. In a quiet voice, I let him know that I was disappointed in the behavior he had been exhibiting. At least I thought I was being quiet. I forgot that my students can hear everything I say when I am NOT talking to them.

One of the boys in my class leaned over to me and said, "What about me, Mrs.M? What about me?", I smiled inwardly. No, I grinned inwardly. You know why? Because this kid, this kid that leaned over, looking, asking, for my approval about his behavior, is that kid.

You know the one, The one at the beginning of the year, other teachers ask, "You have ___________?" They shake their heads, tell you horror stories, and/or sprinkle holy water on you. 

It's funny, because I seemed to get it from all sides about this one. People telling me how horrible he was or how horrible he could be. After the first two weeks his Mom approached me and asked how he was doing. I told her that I loved him. She looked at me as if I was insane. She shook her head, "You wait, she said, he is something else." 

He started acting out about the third week. I took him aside and he began to explain how he had not taken his medication. I told him his meds are his personal business, but with or without them, he is going to behave in an appropriate manner.

A former teacher approached me. "How's ____________________?". I responded, "I love him." She laughed. "But you know when he's not on his meds..." I stopped her. "I'm going to tell you what I told him, his meds are his business. His behavior will be appropriate with or without them." That ended that conversation.

I do love him, he is a joy to have in my classroom. When he started he was gruff. He didn't smile much, and he exuded the " Oh, my gosh, do I have to be here?" attitude every chance he got. But, I noticed he loved a challenge, he was curious, and he was a leader. I worked on him, not by yelling, not by asking him if he were on his meds every single morning, not by kicking him out of the classroom at the first sign of disruption, but by playing to his strengths.

Is he the perfect angel of a child now? By no means. But he isn't the child he could have been. We have signals we use when he begins to get out of control. He takes a 5 minute timeout, or gives me one, in a buddy teacher's room. He comes back after 5 minutes, ready to work, settled. Sometimes, I have to take a "woosah" before I address him. And yeah, some days, I call his name 20 -30 times, but it's all good. : ) He and I understand that, and we work together.

The other day, I had to pick up the snack in the cafeteria, while my class waited in the hallway outside the cafeteria door. Guess who I chose to "watch" my students? Fellow teachers who have experienced him said, "That's a good idea." I play to his strengths, not his weaknesses.

He is a joy. And this kid. This kid who could have been so many "not-so-good" things, is now a kid who cares about what I think of him. What a difference that makes. Wow!

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Days of Christmas: Teacher's Edition!

This is sung to the tune of " The Twelve Days of Christmas."

On the first day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
A classroom and my very own key

On the second day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the third day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the fourth day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the fifth day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the sixth day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
6 versions of Bloom’s
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the seventh day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
7 days of PD
6 versions of Bloom’s
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the eighth day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
8 days of testing
7 days of PD
6 versions of Bloom’s
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the ninth day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
9 Teacher’s Editions
8 books on Common Core
7 days of PD
6 versions of Bloom’s
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the tenth day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
10 Common Core websites
9 Teacher’s Editions
8 days of testing
7 days of PD
6 versions of Bloom’s
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the eleventh day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
11 pats on the back
10 Common Core websites
9 Teacher’s Editions
8 days of testing
7 days of PD
6 versions of Bloom’s
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My principal gave to me
12(x2) rowdy students
11 pats on the back
10 Common Core websites
9 Teacher’s Editions
8 days of testing
7 days of PD
6 versions of Bloom’s
5 desktop PC’s
4 desks to choose from
3 dry erasers
2 lesson planners
And a classroom with my very own key

photo credit: via photopin cc

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Cried for Connecticut

I wanted to cry. When the teacher across the hall told me, I wanted to cry.  I couldn't. I had 23 kids in my room, immersed in trying to build a container that would keep an ice cube frozen. They were working. Full of life, joy, and curiosity. Something a crazed gunman had just taken from 20 children. Something he had taken from 7 adults.

When someone says, "How are your kids?" I tend to say, "Which ones?" Meaning my kids I gave birth to or my kids in my class. I am sure I am not the only teacher who feels this way. They are our kids. And no matter what they take us through, just like our kids, we want to keep them safe. We want them in an environment where they, and their loved ones, know they are loved and cared for. But he took that away from them yesterday. Just as others have done before.

It's obvious from reading the articles each time this happens, that teachers are Mama and Papa bears when it comes to protecting their students.  The school took the proper precautions to keep the school safe, no one can blame the school. I hope no one does. How do we protect our students from a gun? How do we protect our students from a crazy with a thirst for his or her perceived vengeance? How do we stop the senselessness of it all?

I continued through the day with a heavy heart. I did not discuss what had happened with my students, I know Morning Meeting will be filled with questions. I know my students will wonder if I can keep them safe.  They will wonder if it can happen here, at our school. What do I tell them?

I cried for Connecticut. For the children and adults who had their lives stolen. For the parents and loved ones who have lost their child. For the survivors, who will be traumatized for a very long time. My prayers and my thoughts are with them. We have to find a way to keep our kids safe. To make school a place they can go, and you know they will come back.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's the Point of Being "Smarter" Than a 5th Grader?

I used to play the game, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?", on my Iphone. But than I realized that I really didn't have enough hours in the day, and quickly gave it up.

However, I do know how it works. And if you provide me with any device that can grant me access to the Internet, than I can defiantly state that, "Yes, I am smarter than a 5th grader!"

And therein lies my point.  If to be smarter means that I have the ability to regurgitate information that a 5th grader is supposed to know, then that doesn't make me smart. If the premise is that a 5th grader is smarter than me, because he or she can upchuck information at any given moment, than it's a ridiculous premise! 

What is smart? Who decides who is "smart", and who isn't? 

Every Tuesday, I drive across the street to the daycare , and read to 4 and 5 year olds. I had a new student the other day. Before she could sit down, she began to inform me about how smart she was. She knew everything.(Her words, not mine)

 I don't blame her for this perception of herself.   I am sure there are a number of people in her life who tell her this. What makes her smart? Judging from our conversation as we read the book, I am sure this little girl has been exposed to more experiences than most of her peers. Does that make them dumb?

I always tell my students that none of them is smarter than the other. I tell them that none of them are dumb, slow, or stupid. Those words are thrown around so carelessly. I tell my students, "You have to put the work in."

I reiterate this concept repeatedly to all my students, and it has amazing results. I let them know that some things come easy to some, and to others it doesn't. But, if it doesn't, than you have to work at reaching your goal, whether it's solving a multi step problem, answering questions on a comprehension test, or writing legibly. And just because it takes you longer, it doesn't make you dumb.

I have a student who struggles with math. I know she thinks of herself as dumb when it comes to math. It does not come easy to her. I told her that she had to put the work in. And she did. She takes notes, she watches videos, and her mom helps at home. Her mom and I have both noticed how her level of confidence has risen, which has allowed her to shed the "I am dumb in math" image of herself.

During parent-teacher conferences, I was showing a parent her child's grades. A slip of my hand, allowed a parent to catch a glimpse of another child's grades. She asked me why her son didn't have grades like that. I explained to her that we couldn't compare her child to another child, (politely of course), and that the only person I wanted to focus on was her child. Unfortunately, she  felt that her child wasn't smart, because he didn't have the same grades as the other student. What an unfair misconception!

When we classify our students as smart we tend to give them access to many more opportunities than we do our "not smart" kids. I wonder why that new Chinese immersion program for kindergartners was not offered to our school? I wonder if our school was not considered because our "population" doesn't come to mind as being "smart" enough. How many times have I, and I'm sure you've heard it too, teachers decide beforehand, what their students can or can not do, because they feel their kids are not "smart" enough.

If you place those children who are not considered smart in challenging situations, you would be surprised at how well they excel. Maybe they aren't the top reader in the class, maybe they struggle to solve math problems that others can do in less than a minute, does this make them dumb? Do they always have to be unsuccessful?

We need to give our students a chance to feel successful. Let's get away from handing out worksheets. Move away from multiple choice, and the filling in of bubbles. Create opportunities for our students to learn, not regurgitate information that could easily be accessed on Google or Bing.

My job is not to make my students smarter than a 5th grader. My job is to teach my students that, if they put the work in,  they can be successful as well, even if it does take a little longer.

photo credit: TZA via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mystery Skype!:Connecting Our Classrooms One Skype at a Time!

Update: Classroom Spotlight of my class doing a 2016 Mystery Skype.

My students and I had our first Mystery Skype with Ms.Young's, (@flourishingkids), class from the state of ____________________. I can't tell you, that's the mystery. :)

The Mystery Skype project is when each class tries to determine where the other class is located. The benefits of this activity are endless, global connections, geography, integrating tech, communicating effectively, the list is endless!

I participated in Mystery Skype last year, but this one was different.  I decided to take advantage of the links Ms.Young emailed, and let my students choose Skype jobs. What a difference in the quality of the Skype! My students worked so hard, and I was extremely proud of them.

I incorporated the following jobs. The Inquirers, who came up with the questions in advance. A photgrapher, a videographer, a Tweeter, and a couple of students on Today's Meet (backchanneling).  The researchers, who took their job very seriously, on Google Earth, and using actual atlases. They did an excellent job of passing on information to the Answerers. 

Did everything go smoothly? Of course not! :) My class decided to answer altogether, instead of letting the Answerers answer. They got some of the geographical information wrong, but quickly corrected themselves.My photgrapher took about a million pictures, some of them of the same thing. And two of my more "outspoken" students attempted to argue with each other in the middle of the Skype. (A 5 minute time out in a buddy teacher's room took care of that situation). At one point we asked questions when it wasn't our turn. But you know what, it was all good! We had a great time and learned a lot.

When we had guessed each others state, which by the way is an amazing feeling for our kids, Ms.Young suggested our kids ask questions about each other(i.e. What do you like to do for fun?) I readily agreed, and the kids enjoyed this part of our interaction as well.

After viewing a tutorial on Google Maps, I set up a Mystery Skype map that we will use whenever we Skype with another class.I then embedded the map on a page of our Class Weebly page.

There are many ways to participate in a Mystery Skype:

We are preparing for our 2nd Mystery Skype on Thursday with Mr. Yetter's class (@coachyetter), and my students are hyped! Try it and you will see, there's no mystery as to why this is a wonderful learning experience for all!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Who Doesn't Love Shopping? Adding and Subtracting Large Numbers!

Adding and Subtracting Large Numbers
Hmmmm...How can I make adding and subtracting large numbers fun? What do I love almost as much as new technology? Shopping of course! And my students loved it as well!

A Document, Computer, and a Calculator
I told my students I was giving them $10,000 to spend on the students in our school.  They could buy them anything they wanted.  I gave them a blank shopping list, and let them go! I let them use a calculator because they are proficient in adding and subtracting large numbers. I only asked that they find the difference between $10,000, and their remaining money, without a calculator.

The Conversation
It was interesting to listen to my students as they worked. Many different concepts came into play. The first was about what they should purchase, and which websites to go to to get it. They also discussed how many of each item to buy, sales, discounts, and whether the item was something kids would want. They discussed shipping costs, not only the amount it would cost, but also which method they should use. They played with the numbers, figuring out what to do if they went over $10,000. One team went over and looked over the sheet and made a decision on which item to eliminate.

This lesson was  a lot of fun, it fit right in with the spirit of giving, and gave my students the opportunity to learn more than how to add and subtract large numbers.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Bullying Teacher:Can the Damage They Cause Be Fixed?

My car was hit the other day. I'm not worried about it. I was fine. My insurance will cover the damages and my car will be fixed.

The damage to my car caused an "education connection". It made me think about that kid who is being bullied by their teacher or teachers and no one knows. We have all seen videos of the extreme cases where teachers are bullying kids.

But what about the student who is bullied every day and it's not recorded? These poor kids are subject to whatever abuse that the small minded,big bully, teacher can throw at them.

I knew a team of bullying teachers. You know how it is when a group of students seem to feed off each other? That's what it was like with these teachers. They would sit around the table like witches around a cauldron, their mean-spiritedness providing the ingredients for their potion of mean. They would discuss how they would treat particular students,(You know bullies always know who to pick on), with unbelievable relish. They didn't hit them, or get in their face, they were just mean. It seemed like they were vying with each other to see who could make that child's life more miserable.

Their poor students couldn't catch a break, because whatever class they were switched to, that team teacher was ready to dish out her own brand of bully. The sad part was that when one of the teachers was replaced in the hope of breaking up the Bully Dream Team, the replacement seemed to drink from the Kool-Aid.

The parents would complain. Teachers would complain, but nothing really seemed to change.

Teachers bully. I am sure you know one, two, or three. It doesn't have to be physical, it doesn't have to be that intense. But that day in, day out, ridicule, non-supportive, demeaning attitude can damage a child. It can leave them feeling powerless, hopeless, and suffering from low self-esteem. Can the damage be fixed? Do these students carry that scar around with them forever? Does it become baggage, hidden away , but heavy nonetheless?

What can we do when our colleagues are bullies? What can we do to prevent the damage that may be done to our students?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Teacher Accused!:When He Said/She Said Turns Ugly!

I learned about it by accident. I approached my principal about another child and she asked me not to get upset. I wondered why a simple response to a question about a situation with a student, could possibly upset me. And that's when she told me what a student had accused me of. I really think I was in shock, because I nodded, said, "What?", listened to what she was saying, and returned to the workshop I was attending.

As the day went on, what she said began to sink in. By the time I got home, and shared what was said with my husband, I was furious! How could this not be taken seriously? How could she not let me know? Why would this child say this? I immediately emailed my principal and told her that this would have to be handled.

That Monday, I was told that my computer would be confiscated, and scanned by the district and the police. You can't hide anything on computers. I told them to take it, clear my name. Do anything they had to do to prove that what he said wasn't true. And then I burst into tears. This could not be happening. After 28 years, this could not be happening! The words of a vindictive child had turned my life into a nightmare.They tried to comfort me by saying that they knew this was making me uncomfortable, but I wasn't uncomfortable, I was angry!

His grandparents went to the police. They said they knew he was lying, but "just in case". Everyone said they knew he was lying, but there was nothing that could be done. They had to follow protocol.

Every day I kept wondering if I would leave my building, and find a horde of reporters standing outside the school door, making me the latest victim of "Guilty, until proven innocent." Wondering if my career would be ruined, or if I could possibly go to jail because this...child, thought his words were a great tool to use against me. I worried that he would tell the other students, they would tell their parents, and what would they think of me?

The worst part was my "visit" to the precinct for my statement. I sat in that room of stark, blank, walls, wondering how I could possibly be there, and not in my classroom. I thought of all the shows my husband watches, and tried not to look scared or shaken, for fear that I would be mistaken for a criminal.

Knowing that there was a camera recording my every move, was terrifying, and I held my hands clasped tightly on the table, waiting for the detective's return. When the detective stated, "This is a criminal investigation", my heart stopped. During the interview, I burst into tears, praying that it wouldn't be mistaken as an admission of guilt.

It's over. I was exonerated. His lies were not well thought-out, and were easily proven  false. The sad part is that he is back in the school, although not in my class. Nothing has changed with him. If anything, he is more arrogant than ever.

I think I did very well going on with life as usual. Knowing I was innocent had a lot to do with that. My students didn't have a clue, or at least never said anything to me.

I needed to share this.

I am truly blessed to have had so many people who never doubted me. The district people I dealt with, my colleagues, and my friends. So many people said, "I am sorry you have to go through this", letting me know they cared. This is an experience I would not wish on any innocent person, and I am glad it is over.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Symbaloo, Do You?

I have always heard people talk about it, but never really bothered to check it out.
Our presenter at a tech workshop, John Kuglin, introduced it to me, and I LOVE it!
Here's one that  I started. Still have a lot more sites to add to it!
I also have one that I embedded on my Class web page with the tech sites we use in the classroom. You can add videos, documents, forms, whatever your heart desires. AND, it's all in one place!
Imagine the possibilities!:)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Top Three Popular Posts of October 2012!

Top Three Popular Post from October 2012! Enjoy!

Ain't Too Proud to Beg? Parent/Teacher Communication!

I attend the same church as one of  my students' parents. I know her mom very well.  After service she made, I guess what she thought was a joke, and said, "I have never had a teacher email the parents as much as you do! I asked my mom if you have a life?"
I didn't think it was funny...

Morning Meeting Moments Create Critical Thinkers!

I use two sites that promote critical thinking: BrainPop andWonderopolis

Every morning we begin our day with Morning Meeting. I have really come to enjoy Morning Meeting, it gives me a chance to bond with my students...

Some "Truths" About Teaching!

Since I'm not at work because of Hurricane Sandy, it gave me some time to peruse Pinterest, and I came across this poster. I think it's funny.:)
It also made me think about some of the "truths" about teaching, especially if someone is choosing to go into this profession now. So, here are my "truths." ...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hey AR,(Accelerated Reader):I Have A Bone to Pick With You!

Dear Accelerated Reader,

Can I call you AR?

I have a bone to pick with you!
I don't know about other schools, or classrooms, but you are sucking the joy out of reading in my classroom.
Ok, well, it's not really you, but it's what you stand for. It's also what others have made of you. So, I guess it's not all your fault.

I get it. You want our students to read, and you want them to read on their level. You want them to read so much that they become better readers. You do this by making them take a test, which then decides what books they are able to read. And once they read the book, they take a quiz.

In our school, they read to get points. They get points to get in a Club. When they get in the Club, they get recognized, and they get the chance to attend ice cream socials, parties, etc.... The class with the most points or the highest average wins a pizza party. Hey if it gets them to read, right?

Not really. You know what I have noticed year after year?  The same kids attend ice cream socials, parties, etc...  The same kids end up in the Platinum Club, or they get to be the ones to smash the pie in a teachers' face. Last year, my students said, "What's the use Mrs.M? We know K is going to win." Of course, I tried to change their minds, but you know who won last year.

And the worst part?
Student: Mrs. M, I need you to have a lady to lady talk with Ms.L.
Me: Why?
Student: She is not letting me go out to Recess until I am in an AR Club.
Come on! I know we all like to win, but making kids miss Recess so they can get in the club, and your class can win the pizza party? See what you've driven our teachers to?

Trust me, AR, my goal and yours are the same. We both want our children to read. We want our children to enjoy reading, we just have different methods. I prefer events like The Global Read Aloud, which embraces the joy of reading, but also connects students all over the world, who share that joy.

I also send home a notebook and ask my students to read at least 15 minutes a day, and respond in writing 3 days out of the week. Listening to some of them share their responses, I have seen how much they have grown, how they are relating to the books they are reading. How much they enjoy reading them.

Of course, if there is an AR quiz, they are allowed to take it. Win-win, right? :)

I'm sorry AR, I am not a big fan. One of my students has read three chapter books and somehow feels it was a waste of time. You know why? There wasn't a matching AR quiz for any of them. So, I ask you, is this any way to get kids to love  reading?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Problem of the Week(POTW):It's Not Just Math!

He ran across the room and yelled, "I got it!
Poking at his head, he said, "I used my brain and I got it!"
What did he get?
He had just solved the Problem of the Week. :)

I decided to use the Problem of the Week (POTW) more diligently this year, and it's a decision I do not regret.  At least once or twice a week, my students form groups, (it changes between assigned and random), and they attempt to solve the POTW. Sometimes they get it, and sometimes they don't. But, that's not what matters.

What matters is what comes from the attempt to solve this problem.  Of course, the Math is important. It's not a bunch of numbers on a worksheet. It's a problem, with real world applications that they have to solve. You want to talk about rigor? There's lots of "brain hurt" going on in my classroom as my students attempt to solve the problem.They have to read, and understand, what the problem is asking them. They have to decide what mathematical skills they are going to use to solve the problem.  They have to work together, listen to, and respect, each other's ideas. They learn the meaning of the adage, "If at first you don't succeed...

I get great joy walking around my room and listening in on the conversations. I am serious, joy. It is wonderful to walk around, by the video chairs, at the back table, (the lucky person ensconced in the "teacher's" chair), the area by the sink and lockers, (I have carpet squares), and listen to them work on the problem. They have learned to use me as a guide, not the person with the answers. Their mission is to solve this problem, and they are serious!

Here's a little history about Problem of the week:(provided byJohn Galbraith)
POTW started in January 2011.  The Centre for Education in Mathematics
and Computing (CEMC) out of the Faculty of Mathematics at the University
of Waterloo has long been known for providing excellent contests and
supporting resources.  But there was a belief that we could involve more
students in regular problem solving (whether or not they participate in
of our contests).  So part of our mandate is to provide resources for
teachers and students that promote mathematics and problem solving.

The great part is that any student or teacher can subscribe to the Problem of the Week. Take advantage of this wonderfully, powerful, resource!

I receive an email once a week with two attached documents. One is the answer to the previous POTW. And one is the latest POTW. My colleagues and I have a good time trying to figure them out ourselves before the answers arrive.

That student I mentioned above, he is a kid with low self-esteem. He's bright, but was not working to potential.Somewhere along the way, he was allowed to believe that minimum effort is all that is required, and if it's hard, quit. Not in my room!:)

 The day he solved the POTW, he proclaimed his news to  teachers in the hallway, the lunchroom, the office, he was so proud!  The Problem of the Week, it's not just math.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some "Truths" About Teaching!

Since I'm not at work because of Hurricane Sandy, it gave me some time to peruse Pinterest, and I came across this poster. I think it's funny.:)
It also made me think about some of the "truths" about teaching, especially if someone is choosing to go into this profession now. So, here are my "truths."

  • You can not go to the bathroom whenever you want. You will have to either hold it, or get someone to watch your class. Depending on how desperate you are, you will either run to the Teacher's bathroom, or use the student one. (I never use the student one unless there are no kids)
  • You will be thrown into a classroom and told to teach. Nowadays though, you don't have to worry too much, because they tell you what to teach, how long to teach it ("I hate you pacing guide!"), and when to teach it. Oh, and lest I forget, what to say while you are teaching it. ("Script, please!")
  • You will be unindated with paperwork. Tons and tons of paperwork. You will have to fill out attendance, field trip, DPAS, you name it, you fill it out. At least now, you fill it out electronically.
  • You will be judged by a walkthrough (in my district, it's 5 minutes), and/or an observation by your principal. The 45 minutes they spend in your room will determine whether you can teach, or not. If they really think you're horrible, then they will be in your room constantly looking for what you are doing wrong. (And don't get on an improvement plan, I've heard those are nightmares!)
  • You will attend endless, meaningless, workshops and staff meetings. We have a meeting every time I blink my eyes. PLC, Achievement Team, Curriculum Club, Committee, I can't go on. It's as if they think we will gather together and drink, instead of using that time to do something constructive in our classrooms.
  • Lunch will be on the go, unless you are fortunate to be at a school where lunch is an hour. (I used to work at a school like that.) By the time you get the kids to the lunchroom, or get ready for the rest of the day, your lunch period is over, done, gone!
  • Everyone is not going to like you. Parents, students, administration, or even other teachers. ("Que sera, sera.")
  • Another "new" thing will be thrown at you at least once a month. And do not believe the hype, "It's something you already do." Really? Then why the need to hold me captive, at yet another workshop or meeting, to tell me about it if I am already doing it?
  • Get ready to dig in your pocket. I always say I am not, but I always do. Every. single. year. I know I shouldn't, but....
  • No one understands what you do, but another teacher.
  • Some days you will just want to quit.
BUT... here are  positive "truths" about teaching!
  • Every day is a new and exciting day! Each day brings its own rewards and I am never bored.
  • You do make a difference. Even if it is one child, you have made a difference.
  • Teaching  can make you laugh, cry, or just plain, infuriate you, but it will most definitely bring you many warm and fuzzy, moments.
  • You get to see the look on a child's face when they "get it." ("Priceless!")
  • You come into contact with some wonderful people. Whether it's students, parents, administration, or your local (or worldwide) PLN!(Professional Learning Network)
  • Depending on  how you teach, it can be a lot of fun! 
  • It is an honorable profession. A profession that, no matter how much I gripe, I am proud to be a part of! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Is It Something I Said?: What We Say...What They Hear!

I received an email from a parent the other day. It wasn't a hostile email. It was written in a polite tone. It was just a parent trying to find out what was going on in my classroom regarding his daughter. If this happened with my kids, I probably would have written an email like it as well. I also really appreciated the fact that this parent sent the email to me, instead of going straight to my principal.

The email went something like this: "K" was very upset last night. She told her mother that you said to her "I don't know how you passed fourth grade. Can you tell me why you would say this?"

 Well,when I read this email, my jaw dropped, and I immediately responded to the Dad.(I know you're supposed to wait, but I wasn't angry) I told him I would love to have a face to face conference because this was the second time his daughter told them something that was not true. But more than that, I wanted these parents, who are wonderful, supportive, parents, to be able to look me in the face, as I told them that those words never, ever, came out of my mouth.

 Later in the day, I pulled the child aside and asked her about it. She said, "Remember when you were helping me? You said, "I don't know how you ever passed fourth grade!" Now, I know there are teachers who say this, and worse, to their students. And, I don't want you to believe that  I am some kind of teacher saint. But, I would never, ever, say that to a child. Ever. That kind of teacher, I am not.

 But, she believed I said it. She is new, so at the time I was helping her, maybe I asked if they taught that concept in the 4th grade, or something to that effect, really bothered me.

 Later in the week, I took another a student aside and had the "You need to get organized" talk with him. I explained to him that he is going to middle school and he needs to be organized because he will switch classes in middle school. I helped him set up his materials and was satisfied with what we had accomplished in getting him together.

 As we left for the day, something made me think of the student I mentioned in the beginning of this post and  I took the "disorganized" student aside. I said, "Do you understand what I was saying to you earlier?" He replied, "Yes." I said, "What did I say?" He replied, "If I don't get organized, I am never going to get anywhere."

 Wow! Needless to say, I had to have a quick talk to get rid of that misconception! What I said, and what he heard were two different things. I was talking about middle school, and he took it as a life lesson, and a negative one at that.

 I realize I have to be very careful with the words I choose with my students. And more than that, I need to make sure that we are on the same page. I will make sure that my students understand the true meaning of what I am saying to them, and don't take my words the wrong way. It's like that game of telephone where the message gets misconstrued along the way. I don't want that in my classroom, I want a clear and open line, where they hear what I say, and understand what I mean.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Letter to President Obama! October 17, 2012!:Write the President!

 “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.”

Your words Mr.President, your words. I wrote your quote in a blog post in May 2011. Yet, nothing has changed. As a matter of fact, I believe it is worse!

Last year, my students took the standardized test four times, four times! The saddest part of all that testing? The fourth time did not count if they scored lower than they did the third time.  Imagine your children sitting down four times a year to take standardized tests in Reading and Math? And let's not forget Science and Social Studies. Next year, they are adding Writing. Each test is composed of approximately 50 questions. And the best part? They get to see if they passed or failed with the click of a key.

Mr.President, what do you think happens to instruction when students are being tested? It comes to a complete halt. Days are wasted, instruction is not given or received, we are in testing mode. What do you think teachers do who are worried about their evaluations being tied to their student's test scores? They "teach to the test." And if I read your quote correctly, you are vehemently against the very notion!

I have taught for 28 years, and I long for the days when the students could enjoy learning. When recess, music,art, and gym were not taken away so that students could stay cooped up in their rooms learning how to "beat" these tests.  When I was not questioned about the "extras" I do in my room because it's doesn't relate to a test-taking skill.

I feel disheartened when I read about testing companies making billions of dollars, billions! Meanwhile thousands of teachers come out-of-pocket or search for grants to purchase things for their classroom. I thought we were here for the kids. I thought they were what was important. I thought they mattered.

Don't make your words, just words. Make them mean something!

 Let's get rid of standardized testing! Allow teachers to make decisions! I want to teach Mr.President, not test! What are you going to do about it?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Morning Meeting Moments Create Critical Thinkers!

I use two sites that promote critical thinking: BrainPop and Wonderopolis

Every morning we begin our day with Morning Meeting. I have really come to enjoy Morning Meeting, it gives me a chance to bond with my students.
This year, I've added two elements, Brainpop and Wonderopolis. Their widgets are embedded on our class web page.
After the greeting and sharing of the message, we begin with the BrainPop Joke of the Day. When we first started, my students would call out literal answers, they weren't really thinking. Now, they take their time and think about possible related answers. 

In the beginning they couldn't figure out the joke, even when I showed them the answer.  But now when they're stuck, and I show the answer, I hear a collective "Ohhhhhh", and then a student volunteers to explain the joke to those that didn't "get it."  After that, I always hear, "Can we see another joke?" 

Alas, we have a limited amount of time, so we have to move on. After sharing, and a quick activity, we view the Wonder of the Day. They look forward to the videos, and it always leads to animated conversation. The videos make them think. They do what they're supposed to, make them wonder.

Our goal is to get our students to think. I appreciate the fact that Brainpop and Wonderopolis make it quick, easy, and fun!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ain't Too Proud to Beg? Parent/Teacher Communication!

I attend the same church as one of  my students' parents. I know her mom very well.  After service she made, I guess what she thought was a joke, and said, "I have never had a teacher email the parents as much as you do! I asked my mom if you have a life?"
I didn't think it was funny.

I told her that I have a life, it doesn't take me that long to send an email, and that I had only sent three emails that month. I guess I answered a bit tersely because she hastened to let me know how much she appreciated the fact that I kept in touch with my parents.

On the other hand, at Open House a parent applauded the fact that I used technology to keep in touch with the parents. (email, webpage, Remind101, Edmodo...) She welcomed the choice to be involved in her child's life, and was so thankful that I took the time to give her that option. I had a number of parents last year who felt the same way.

However, I was disappointed by the response to my latest "updates" email. I didn't get any more parents to join  Remind101, and only two of my parents read and commented on their child's blog. When I look at the names of the 8 parents who have joined Remind101, or the ones that commented on their child's blog, I am not surprised. And no, their kids are not all super bright, some are struggling. But their parents are involved and want to stay in touch.  I hope that  there will be more responses, and my email is not lost, forgotten, or deleted.

How do I get more parents involved? I think I am doing all the right things. I email them, have a class website, the parent code is available on Edmodo, I make positive phone calls, and have enabled Remind101, what else can I do? Is there anything else I can do?
Or do I need to get a life? :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Top 5 Popular Posts from September 2012!

Here are the Top 5 posts from September all in one place! Enjoy!

Standardized Testing Stole Our Day!

I planned in advance and completely forgot that we were having the standardized Math test today! Bummer!
Wonderful plans put on hold....

This is what my students and I lost today because Standardized testing took a day from us...

#Why I Don't Use Technology: Anti-Tech Teachers Lament Has No Standing!

The conversation went something like this:
Teacher: Do you know he suggested using Tagxedo at Reading Night?
Me: What a wonderful idea!
Teacher: I don't see why they want to use technology. (said with disdain)
Me: Why not? The kids and parents would have a good time.
Teacher: What if it doesn't work? What if it doesn't print? Then what are we supposed to do?
Me: What do you mean doesn't work? It's really easy to use.
And the conversation continued...

Matt Damon's Speech to Teachers at SOS Rally

 I  flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

 I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

In Defense of the Teachers Union: My Union is OK With Me!
She said I caused her daughter to have an asthma attack. She went to the principal and her child's teacher, told them I was "uppity", and that she was going to cause problems for me. She walked into my classroom and started yelling, and I had to have her removed.This occurred about 2005.

Global Learning: Helping to Prevent "The Ugly American" Stereotype!

"I have a nosy wife".

My husband and I were sitting in the Windjammer Cafe on the Royal Carribean's Explorer of the Seas.
And I was doing what I usually do when I am around a large number of people. In between conversing with my hubby, I listen to conversations taking place around me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Standardized Testing Stole Our Days!

I planned in advance and completely forgot that we were having the standardized Math test today! Bummer!
Wonderful plans put on hold....

This is what my students and I lost today because Standardized testing took a day from us...

  • The chance to read an article on Tweentribune and post comments and/or leave a comment on our Quadblogging friends website.
  • Sharing laughter over the Brainpop Joke of the Day and viewing/discussing the video offered on Wonderopolis.
  • Reinforcing the concept of multiplication clusters, which they struggled with. Having the students who were ready, create, solve, and post their original story problems using GoAnimate.
  • Reading "The Lemonade War" out loud, and discussing and sharing our thoughts using Today's Meet.
  • Having students work on their Reading Choice board activities.
  • A rousing game of competitive "Vocabulary Word Biz."(Created with Word Biz in the Smartboard gallery)
  • Wondering and noticing about the constitutional rules for who can occupy an office. And I am especially bummed that we didn't get a chance to discuss candidates and issues so that we could play with  Adomatic:Create Your Own Campaign tomorrow! :(
  • And I really, really, wanted to hear the stories about the aliens landing on our school's parking lot. We started yesterday, and I burst out laughing when I read this, "After the alien burst in, we could hear Mr.A across the hall screaming like a girl." Had to show it to him.:)

Well, I guess I wasn't doing any "real" teaching anyway, seeing as how Multiple Choice was not an option in any of my lessons planned for the day.

But on the bright side, here's what I took from Standardized testing:
  • tired feet, because God forbid, I get caught sitting.
  • catching one of my students nodding out over the computer (Rarely happens when I'm teaching)
  • the joy of telling my students, "I can't help you." 
  • the ecstasy of watching my "babies" struggle, knowing I couldn't do anything about it
  • Looking forward to lunch/recess as I never have before.
  • the crappy feeling from trying to alleviate the pain of failing grades flashing before their eyes after they hit "Submit"(at least the ones who passed felt good)Now they don't even know whether they passed or not.
And think about the  days lost as teachers "teach to the test" in order not to lose their jobs? Or the programs stolen, Music, Art, PE, even Recess, in order to pack in more "learning"?
All this so that I can be held accountable for a student's test scores?  Who can I hold accountable for what was taken from us today, and every day since NCLB? Which no longer exists,but testing does!