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!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

#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...

"Technology" is not something you can pick up or put down, it's not a solid object. That is what frustrates me so much about people who are "anti-tech". It makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs every time someone says to me, "See, I used the Smartboard today, I used technology."

Or, after typing an entire paragraph on a web page, it's deleted, and the person yells, "See, that's why I don't use technology!"

Technology is not a subject!!!  It is a tool that is not going away. It's not something extra that you add to a lesson, it's just part of your lesson. You know, the way you use the textbook. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the question, "What if it doesn't work?" So does that mean that we shouldn't use it? What isn't going to work? The Internet? The computers? Tagxedo?

Yes, there is a chance any one of those things might not work, but there is a greater chance they might. And what an experience that would be for those who use it! It reminds me of when my principal, who asked us to think outside of the box after a tech conference, asked me to put my Sliderocket presentation on a flash drive because the "Internet" might not work that day.The "Internet" worked just fine.

When I was thinking of a way for my kids to creatively describe themselves, I chose Tagxedo as a way to do that. While planning my lesson, I did not begin with, "How can I use Tagxedo today?" When I want to connect with students in another state or country, I use Wallwisher, Edmodo, Twitter, etc... because it's a way to connect beside pen and paper.  When I want my students to share their thoughts simultaneously about the novel I am reading aloud, "Today's Meet" is a wonderful tool. And, I don't only use the Smartboard during observations, just to prove that I am using "technology", because that's what "they" want to see.

All the wonderful things I do with my class is not done to "show off". It's because it engages my students and makes teaching enjoyable. And yes, I do have a life. There are so many great ideas I get from so many different people in my PLN, so there's no need to spend every waking hour trying to find them on my own.

We have to let go of this fear of the unknown , the fear of change. We have to remember that we should be lifelong learners, and not be scared to share our knowledge, even in a way that might not be comfortable for us!

photo credit: ~Aphrodite via photopin cc

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Fungagement" Is Necessary in Our Classrooms!

The video below was shown at our workshop by the presenter, John Kuglin , in May 2012.
 I think it is so appropriate. What happens when you take the same old thing and make it fun? 
What happens when educators find another way to engage our students? 
And just because something is fun, it doesn't mean it is not useful. 
Let's "fungage" our students, let them enjoy learning. 
I'm not saying 24 hour party in your room,  I'm talking about educational "fun".
It's a different generation, and no matter how much we debate this point, we have to meet them where and how they are.
One thing parents kept saying to me at Open House after seeing the photos of their students, and listening to my presentation, is that my class was exciting!
That's what I try to do everyday, provide enthusiasm for learning!
It doesn't happen all the time, but more often than not, that's what is taking place in my classroom. :)

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photo pin cc

Monday, September 10, 2012

In Defense of the Teacher's 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.

My former principal suggested a meeting, I agreed.  I loved my principal as a person, but as an administrator, well... I told him I was bringing my union rep. He told me I didn't need her, it was just a small meeting.  I ignored him. I explained the woman's behavior to my union rep and we agreed that if she became offensive, I would excuse myself from the meeting.

The meeting took place with my principal, the parent, myself and my rep. Thank goodness for my rep. She was there to make sure that, at that time, this single parent of two boys, would not lose her job because of this woman and her false accusations.  She was there to make sure that what occurred in that meeting was documented properly.  She was there to make sure that I was not verbally, or physically abused.

The principal said his piece, and asked the parent to respond. She stuck her finger towards my face, and said  "You have an attitude and you need to fix it!" I got up and walked out.  My union rep said she threatened to get her lawyers.  My union rep told her to go ahead. That was the end of that.

What would have been the outcome if I did not have union support?

 I started thinking about the power of my union after I read an article written by an NEA member. But, it wasn't the article that struck me, it was the myriad of negative comments about the union that followed the article. What did the union do to these people to make them so...so harsh?

Unions = power, and I don't see anything wrong with that. Unions = power, and that is what scares many politicians that are fighting to get rid of them. It's not the teachers' union vs. teachers vs.children, as some might have us believe. We are not helpless sheep being led by the nose by the big,bad, unions. The teachers' union represents us, each of our voices raised as one, providing the chance to be heard!

I was listening to two DJs comment on the Chicago strike. One of them, the daughter of a teacher, the other, a DJ.  He thought the teachers should go back for the "greater good" of the students. He should read this article.  The teacher's daughter let him have it, "teachers don't do this for the money, but they deserve to get paid for what they do!" Amen! Thousands of teachers are on strike, a decision I am sure their union did not come to lightly.

I thank my union for my pension, the hours I work,(although I mess that up every time I work from home or stay late), my salary, my contract, auto and home insurance discounts, and yes, my $1.00 off Coldstone Creamery ice cream. :) You get my drift.

Are they perfect?  No, because they are composed of people, and people are not perfect. But I believe that most of them do the best they can to protect us, to be that voice for all of us, to be our David in the face of the multitudes of Goliath, (parent, principal, or politician), we face each day we walk into our schools.

photo credit: br5ad via photo pin cc

Friday, September 7, 2012

Popular Posts of August 2012!

And the top 5 are:

Fabulous Phone Call!: Go Ahead, Make Their Day!

While attending the 2011 PLC summit, one of the presenters told us about an experience he had while watching Family Feud. The question was, “What is the reason your child’s teacher is calling your house?” Not one of the “right” answers were positive, not one! Two of the answers were, “Your kid is failing” and "Your kid skipped school”. These answers only served to reinforce the stereotype of parent/teacher communication; we’re the bearers of bad news. 

After reading numerous articles and tweets over the past year, I am getting an idea. An idea, that may be a misconception on my part. Is there a belief that teachers who are passionate about tweeting and/or blogging, are considered "better" teachers??? Are we considered "better" than the ones who don't?

I resolve to:
  1. treat all students fairly, regardless of race, gender, age, behavior, a parent's nasty attitude, the comments from last year's teachers, or seemingly lack of interest in learning 
  2. to realize that all children can learn, but not always at the same pace
stop using sarcasm as a disciplinary tool, no matter how effective it may seem. 
I remember when I began using Discovery Education. It was years ago, and I was excited because they had great videos per United Streaming,  that I could show my students!
Well, Discovery Ed has come a long way baby, and it's not just about videos anymore! 

I found FotoBabble in The Alice Mercer Daily. The one I made below will be embedded on our class blog and Edmodo. My students will create one as well. I will use their Fotobabbles to produce a slideshow. They can also post them on their blogs on Kidblog. A great way to get my students feet wet with the tech I will be using in my classroom!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Matt Damon’s Speech to Teachers at SOS Rally

I love this speech! I wonder how many politicians have heard it ?

 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.

 I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.

 And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am ... can be tested.

 I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.

 Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, ‘My kid ain’t taking that. It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’ That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that.

 I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

 I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

 I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.

 This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.

 So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. ... Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

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.

So while eavesdropping,listening, I heard a conversation between a man, who was sitting with his son, and the waiter:
Man(American): What's your name?
Waiter(not American)responded with his name.
Man: Good. You have an easy name. Most of the waiters on this ship have difficult names.
Waiter smiles and walks away.

I wonder what the waiter would have said if he did not have to remain professional? I know what I wanted to say.
"Hey you, do you realize that everyone in the world does not have "American sounding" names and that there's nothing wrong with that?
Do you realize that your name is probably "funny sounding" in another country?
Do you realize what lesson you have just taught your son?
Do you realize you just insulted the waiters on the ship because you feel they don't have names that you can easily pronounce? Well, shame on their parents for making life difficult for you!

I attended the Edmodocon conference the other day. As soon as the Australian presenter started speaking, complaints were made that she was speaking too fast. Do Americans have any idea how fast we speak?
Some Australians at the conference were offended. The presenter apologized for speaking too fast, and jokingly said she had a "funny" accent. Why did she apologize? She was speaking with an Australian accent. Just as they made an effort to understand others, we should have done the same.

I say all this to say, this is why I make sure my students are global learners. This is why I take advantage of Quadblogging, Skype in the Classroom, pen pals, and my Twitter PLN. Last year, my students read blog posts of kids from New Zealand, Australia, and England. Talk about knocking down classroom walls!

I know as my students get older, they can change. But for right now, I want to them to understand that Delaware is not all there is. The USA is not all there is. There is an entire world out there where people do not speak "funny", they just have different accents. That there are cultures that are completely different from ours. Their names, food, and customs are different, but at the same time, we have a lot in common.

I am going to do my best so that my students do not become the "Ugly American", but instead be the American that understands that the world is full of people who are different from us, but that it does not make us better than them. Hopefully, what they learn now, meeting other students all over the world and country, will allow them to be open-minded, fair, non-judgmental citizens of the world.

 photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photo pin cc