Saturday, March 30, 2013

When Learning is the Last Thing on a Student's Mind!

I decided to fast on Fridays for Lent. I have never fasted before, so this was as big deal for me.  I decided that I would eat something in the morning, and then eat at sunset.

I was hungry.

My stomach started growling a little before lunch.Food was on my mind the entire day.  It was hard for me to concentrate on anything but my empty stomach.But here's the difference between myself and some of the kids we teach. I had a meal waiting for me.  I could go to the store, to a restaurant, to a friends, I could eat.

I have always known that it is difficult to learn when you're hungry. I've always known it, but I have never experienced it. In reality, I still can't say I know what it feels like, because I know where my next meal is coming from. I am fortunate enough not to know what it's like to be chronically hungry.

How difficult it must be to sit in a classroom, stomach grumbling. Thank goodness for school breakfast and lunch. I know people feel this is the responsibility of the parents, but what if the parent is not, or can not provide? Should the children suffer? The weekends for these kids must be hell.

I just read an article about how unemployment in a household affects students. It's depressing how  many of our kids deal with issues that we would have difficulty dealing with as adults. Drug-addicted parents, alcoholics, sexual abuse, a myriad of issues.

All children are different. Some can learn in the face of all this, some can't. Some thrive,some shrivel up, and some act out.

If possible, I say we make an attempt to make their classroom life a little better than home. And maybe, just maybe, that will help them learn.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I'm Not Retiring, And You Can't Make Me!

Are you an "old" teacher?
Are you one of those teachers people think they have the right to ask, "When are you going to retire?"

I had that conversation with a 20 something colleague recently.
I wanted to respond to her question by stating, "None of your business.", but I was polite.
I said, "When my mortgage is paid, or I get really, really, tired of this job."
She was persistent.
"That might be soon, the way things are going."
My response, "I love teaching, I love what I do."
She went on.
"Yeah, but... ", I won't bore you with the rest of her sentence , but that's where I ended this inane conversation.

Maybe I'm just being oversensitive, but I believe that just because I am in my 50's.
Just because I have 28 years under my belt.
Just because sometimes I ache where I never ached before.
Does that mean I have to retire?
And no, I don't want out of the classroom.
And no, I don't want to be an assistant principal or a principal.

I love what I do. I love my students. I love teaching!
I detest standardized testing, "fake" PLC's, and the beatdown teaching has been taking from those in the "don't know a damn thing about teaching" department, but I still love my job!

Someone told me that I was asked that because younger teachers are worried about losing their jobs because of budget cuts. So, I should quit my job? Give up my career? Nope, not happening!

I don't know how many years I have left. But as long as I still have the enthusiasm for this job. As long as I can give my kids 100% most of the time. As long as I do my best to stay current, and keep learning, I'm not going anywhere.

I'm not retiring, and you can't make me!:)

photo credit: Philip Taylor PT via photopin cc

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Can We Bring Back Manners?

I wrote this post in 2011, but this week our character trait is manners and t made me think of this post.

Has anyone seen,  "Please", "Thank you", or "Excuse me," ?    I've also put out a Missing Persons for, "I'm sorry" because I think  "My bad" put out a hit on it!

At the beginning of  every school year, I have to teach my students to say "Good Morning" when they walk into the room. If I'm at the door, I have to teach them not to wave or grunt at me, but to actually say, "Good Morning."  The sad part is that it is not just the students who seem to be lacking in this department, but a number of adults as well.

I believe I have enough on my plate that I shouldn't have to teach manners, yet, and still, I do. Throughout the day, behavior I view as common courtesy has to be reinforced, over and over.  When you want something, ask.  If someone is speaking, say excuse me. If you do something accidentally, tell them you're sorry.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.  If you sneeze into the air, you are not, "sneezing on the ground."  You can't interrupt others because you think what you have to say is so much more important.  The list is endless. 

 I'm not blaming  all parents for  this one,  I'm sure there are many parents who have taught their kids manners, but once they leave the house, they shed them like a snake's skin. Some students are content to go through the school day wrapped in layers of  "it's all about me."  I believe that is where it stems.  We have become a society so enthralled with ourselves, that courtesy is a throw-a-way.  How many times do you watch a television show where the characters are courteous and treat each other with respect? (And don't get me started on what some of my 5th graders are watching!)

As I was about to write this post, a friend of mine posted this link on Facebook,   "25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9"   She must have been reading my mind! :) Here's another article, "Social Skills Kids Need to Succeed."

I know it's not my job, but I do it. My students say thank you to the bus driver when departing from the bus after a field trip.  They say excuse me, when they need to get in front of someone on the line.  They answer, "Yes", and not "What?" when spoken to. And most of all, they say, "I'm sorry". Most of the time they mean it. I witness evidence of my handiwork everyday, and I just hope it ventures beyond my classroom doors.  Manners, so simple, but they make the environment a better place to be for 6 1/2 hours.

I think this was made by a student! We need to remind him calling  people knuckleheads is rude, but otherwise , it works!:)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I'm Going to DisneyWorld!: Vacationing During School!

"Mrs.M, I'm going to Disney World!"
"Fantastic, have a wonderful time! When are you leaving?"
"The week before Spring Break,we are going for a week!"

My mouth opens, and closes, because I can not say what I want to say. One of my students reminded me years ago, "It's not my fault.", and he was right. I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

Believe me. I would love to take a vacation in the middle of the school year. There was the cruise to Panama in November years ago. I wanted to go, but I didn't. Just didn't feel right blowing off a whole week of work. Did not feel right.

This is why I am annoyed, or "pet peeved" by this trend.

  • The child knows they are going 3 weeks in advance. That whole "focus" thing I attempt to get everyone in my room to do ? Gone! From the time they were told, their minds have been in Disney.  They have also told everyone in the class, so how are their peers feeling?

  • How important is their education? Apparently, not very. The message sent is that it is more important to go to Disney when it's cheaper, the cousins are going, or whatever the reason the child is being  pulled from school and into Disney, for a week.

  • I do not teach from worksheets. Do not ask me for a "packet." I actually teach through direct, guided, and independent instruction. Therefore, I will not do "packets". I stopped doing "packets" for vacations a long time ago. (If Internet access is available, parents can take advantage of that)

  • How would you feel if you missed a week of work? I have one word, "overwhelmed"! This is true especially if the child is already struggling. Just think, you go away the week before your week off. Two weeks straight, no school. Think how difficult it is going to be to get that child back on track.
No, I'm not going anywhere until it's time for a break. My kids didn't go anywhere until it was time for a break. Am I being unreasonable?  Isn't that what Winter, Spring, and Summer break are for? 
photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Myth About Digital Natives!

"Mom, can I borrow your camcorder?"

His next question, "Mom,do you have a flash drive?"

A what? :)

My son's Senior Project was due in three days.  My son hates letting me see his work because I automatically shift into teacher mode. My expectations for him are higher than what is expected of him in school. Therefore, he doesn't let me see anything that is required.

So, I was thrilled when he decided to share his PowerPoint presentation about women in combat.  I guess part of it was because he was using my camcorder, and part of it was that he felt, maybe, just maybe, this would be a good time to get my input, being a Senior Project and all.

After he informed me that he was going to interview a few people to gather opinions on his topic, I suggested he use Google forms to create a survey.  He could post the survey using social media and get lots of feedback from hs peers. I told him I would be willing to post it as well, so that he would get a variety of views. (Thanks to all who helped out!).

His initial reaction, "What's Google Forms?"

He has a Gmail account. They can access Google at school, but he didn't know what it was. He had never heard of it. I gave him a quick tutorial on how to create and post. Of course, he caught on quickly, and spent the next hour counting how many people answered, their gender, country ,etc.... He enjoyed using it, and was happy with the results he was able to obtain. I loved watching him interpret the data, ("Mom, you are the only female who said  no"), and make inferences.

I tried to convince him to use Sliderocket, instead of Powerpoint, but to no avail.  Even when I told him I could show him how to upload his powerpoint, he still wouldn't budge. I did manage to get him to upload his presentation and video onto Drive, but he held on to that flash drive with a death grip.

He presented, using the flash drive. Started with his survey, went into his Powerpoint, and ended with the videotaped interviews. Apparently, they were impressed because he passed one of the panelists in the hallway the next day, was told how great it was, and that he had passed. (Yeah!)

My point is we can't assume that our students are adept at using and integrating technology. Yes, they can figure out how to use a Smartphone, can text at the speed of light, download an app in the blink of an eye.

But I think it is our duty to do more than that.  They have to be able to research, investigate, and create using these tools, not just post a status and watch a video.  And more importantly, I believe it is our duty as educators, to provide these opportunites.

If my 5th graders know about Google forms, why shouldn't my 12th grader?

Digital? Definitely! Natives? Not even close!

photo credit: molotalk via photopin cc

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Math WorkSheets Land:A Different Kind of Worksheet!

This morning I noticed I was being followed, (on Twitter), by Julia Leonard of MathWorksheetsLand.

I cringed. I am not a fan of worksheets. I especially detest Math worksheets with 20 or more problems written in nice, neat descending rows, daring you to complete them all. Of course, if you know what you are doing, piece of cake. If you don't, it's a jumble of meaningless numbers. My motto is, if you can't do one, you can't do 20!

I decided to check out the site anyway, and I am glad I did. (I think what got me were the corny kid jokes in  her Twitter feed, my kids and I love jokes.:)) I was pleasantly surprised. As you can see in the image above,the site is divided so that the material you are looking for can be easily accessed. The one that caught my eye was "Core Aligned" because that's the big push in my district.

I checked out a few worksheets(PDF),on decimals. There are worksheets for each standard. Look at the image below and see what you get when you click on a standard. I love the guided lesson worksheets. I can easily use the worksheet as an Exit or Entrance ticket. Oh, and there are also answer keys.

You can subscribe to the newsletter so you know when new sheets come out. And, she takes requests!The best thing of all, this is FREE! Even if you have an aversion to worksheets as I do, I think you will like what Ms. Leonard has to offer!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Do I Do That? Teachers in Public!

At the end of the day, one of my students approached me.

"Mrs.M, my mom and I went to a restaurant last night,and we were sitting by three teachers.  They were talking about their students and saying mean things.  They were calling them stupid, weird, and ugly."

I told her that it's unfortunate that she had to hear that. I told her that I talk to my husband about them, but never using those words. And I would certainly not talk about them in public in that manner.

But, on the drive home, I started thinking, "Do I do that?"

Am I guilty of talking about my students in public in a negative way?  When my colleague and I head out to Happy Hour after a trying week, am I conscious of what I am saying?  Am I conscious of the woman with her 8 year old child sitting next to us, as we let off steam?

Did that little girl approach her teacher on Monday and repeat our conversation?

This really made me stop and think. Yes, we are off. But, is a teacher ever really off? When your kids run into you after school, or on the weekend, you know you are still their teacher.

It just gave me pause.  And I promised myself I will be a lot more careful of what I say around others. And If I really feel the need to vent, I'll whisper. :)

photo credit: Maga Soto via photopin cc

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

They Say That School is a Bad Mother...I'm Talkin About Garfield High!

Well, we can dig it!

I admire the teachers of Garfield High so much! What they have done, are still doing is amazing! Not only amazing, but very brave. In the scheme of things, everyone might not see what they are doing as heroic.

However, as an educator, in this economy, in this toxic environment, the fact that these teachers stood up, and against, standardized testing by saying, "No, we won't!" is heroic in my eyes!

I wish I could be as brave as they are. I realize we each have our own level of bravery,of courage. I proudly pasted my sticker on my bumper. And no, I don't turn my car around,so that is hidden from the view of those entering the building. :)

We have our anonymous heroes, like Mr.Mell, who created the bumper sticker. People who are afraid of retribution because, face it, most of us need our jobs. Yet, even with that fear, they work anonymously to do what's right for our kids.

There are so many out there bravely fighting for our students and our schools, Opt Out of the State Test, Teachers Laugh, Diane Ravitch, Sabrina Stevens, the list is endless!

Our children are suffering because of the state tests. Low income neighborhoods are losing schools based on test scores. Teachers are teaching to the test. We are losing music, art, recess, all the "other" things that create a well-rounded human being.

Thanks Garfield High,for bringing this fight into the light, for having the courage. We all have to step up and be brave in some way, shape, or form. Even if it is just a bumper sticker. :)

That Garfield High is a bad mother
Shut your mouth!
But, I'm talking about Garfield
Well, we can dig it!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Top 3 Posts of February 2013!

"I Apologize" An Open Letter to My Students!
I am sorry.
I am sorry that, yet again, I am placing another test (or assessment if you like using big words) on your desk. I  am sorry that I am, again, forcing you to take another test.
Yes, I know this is the 3rd test in a week, but you don't understand.
In order to meet your needs, I have to collect data. Lots and lots of data. So much data in fact that I will never be able to look at it, especially since I have 25 of you sitting in my room.
But I have to do it...READ MORE

If You're Happy and You Know It...! Happy Students = Happy Teachers!
About a week ago, I was feeling pretty frustrated with this whole teaching thing. I was worrying whether or not the way I was feeling physically, had to do with the stress of my job.

And then I received an email that put a huge smile on my face. Now, keep in mind, the thing that put a huge smile on my face is not something that everyone would get excited and happy about. Understand too, that I am VERY passionate about edtech!...READ MORE

Fairy Tale Jeopardy! JeopardyLabs:This is Not Powerpoint!
When I created my Fairytale Jeopardy, I used a PowerPoint template. (And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that).  The hard part for me was keeping score. The kids and I would get all mixed up. It was a hot mess! :)

Thanks to all my faithful readers! 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

You Catch More Flies with Honey! Lesson ReLearned!

It's funny because I wrote this post in March 2012, and ended the title with the words, "lesson learned". I guess I forgot the lesson.

The good part is that I remembered, and applied it. :)

A little girl in my Book Club had been driving me crazy! She was only with me for 30 minutes, but she truly got under my skin. She walked into my room as if I was the worst thing that could happen to her. She had an attitude that was defiant. She refused to read, wouldn't join in discussions,etc..

And instead of  avoiding a power struggle with her, the sensible thing to do, I engaged her. Yes, I know, I should know better. She wasn't going to get the best of me, oh no! I was going to make her change her attitude because I was the TEACHER!

One day, we began reading our new books. The kids had to watch the book  trailer and then write their predictions on an index card, which then became their bookmark. ( I used Symbaloo to post the book trailers.) At the end of the story, they would be able to see if their predictions were correct.

I stood  next to her a s I spoke. All the kids were excited about the new books. Not her. Her lip was out with a sullen expression on her face. And then I did something small that made a huge difference. I turned to her, handed her the index cards, and said, "J, will hand out the index cards.' J, please make sure everyone gets one."

She got up, handed out the cards, and made sure everyone got one. Sullen expression, gone.  She watched the trailer, wrote on her index card, and read. Yes, she actually read.

Things went well between us after that. She read. She participated. She became enjoyable, and I'd guess, she felt the same way about me.:)

"And I know no matter how much honey you put on that spoon, there are the kids who will ...not change one iota.  But, sometimes, the honey works, sometimes you catch more flies.:)"