Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for March, 2011

“Girls on the Run”

Remember the teacher from Charlie Brown? “Wah, Wah, Wah.”

 I know that’s what my students hear at times when I speak to them, and it can be frustrating.  That’s why I feel that some of our students need someone besides their teacher to get through to them.  A person who says the exact  thing we say 600 times a day, but for some reason, they hear this “other” person.

A colleague signed up for a program called “Girls on the Run.” Their mission is “to educate and prepare girls for a life time of self-respect and healthy living.”  I chose three of my students; one, who had just lost a  loved one, and two who have had “issues” the entire school year.   

The changes began when they were asked to be part of this program, at least for two of them.  The excitement they felt was contagious, I was excited for them!  Permission slips were signed that night and bought in the next day. After the orientation meeting, I was regaled with details about the program and what they would be doing. The behavior of one of them changed drastically after two meetings.  She has, literally, not given me one problem since she joined. The one, who lost a loved one, is excited about life again.

I took my colleague aside to share my excitement, and told her I was still a little worried about one of my chosen girls.  Her attitude really showed no change, it stayed the same, lip poked out, huffs, puffs, eyes rolled. We figured it would just take her a little more time, and hoped for the best.   

The following day, I am not making this up, as we walked down the hallway, this particular student smiled at me, and said, “Mrs. Mims, Mrs. F. told us that we have a negative and positive core, her hands demonstrated her words, “She said to take out the negative core and put in the positive core.”

I said, “Do you plan to do that?”

She responded, “Yes, and if I forget, G. (one of the other girls in the program) will pull it out for me.”   They beamed at each other, heads nodding affirmatively.

There’s also a essay contest sponsored by Secret. All 15 girls in the program agreed to participate in the contest! I willingly offered my help, because win or lose, they are putting themselves out there. One of them told me, she already knows what she’s going to do with the money she wins.:)

 I wish all our kids could have access to programs like this. I realize it won’t work with all of them. But the ones it does reach, it would make such a difference in their lives, and in our classrooms. Imagine the impact these types of programs would have on our students, emotionally, socially, mentally, spiritually, and physically.  All aspects of their life would be challenged to grow.  My girls will run a 5K race with Girls on the Run on June 4. I know they can do it, and I will be there, cheering them on!


Am I in High School Again?

WARNING! This is not an educational post! 🙂  

What is it with adults, that no matter how old we get, it still seems like we’re in high school? You have the popular “kids”, the nerdy”kids”, the outcast, you know what I’m talking about.  Why can’t we give up the cliques and the foolishness with age?  Why must we continue to relive high school?  You’re probably saying it happens everywhere, but should it?  Is this the type of  behavior adults should exhibit in a professional environment?

I gossip at times, but  I try to keep it to a minimum, which is probably why I don’t know half of what’s going on. I mean the part that doesn’t have to do with education, of course.  Maybe these things happen all over the country, and I should just accept it as the norm.

“Secret Happy Hour”, are you serious?

 “Pssst, be quiet”, is whispered, as a colleague passes a group of  teachers in the hallway, ” Not everyone knows about this Happy Hour.” 

 That teacher felt like crap, and no it wasn’t me.:) Or, how about when one teacher stops speaking to her teammate for two days, not only to her teammate, , but to that teacher’s friend, because of a suggestion at a meeting  ! Here’s a good one, one teacher makes an off the cuff, meant to be humourous statement, to another teacher who is considered a friend. By the middle of the day, he is approached about the remark he made!  I ask again, am I in high school? How about teachers on the same team who only share with certain teachers?  I know, it’s kind of crazy to even write about. I guess I was wondering if  the same behavior exists everywhere.  All  I know is , Spring Break is not too far away for me!

What is a PLC? (Professional Learning Communities)

I knew this time would come. It’s presentation time, the punishment for attending the 2011 PLC Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. 🙂 Well, it was worth it. I have continued to use what I have learned and it’s paying off. Step by step, little by little.  Sooooo, this week we have to do an overview of what PLC is. We took a lot of our information from Solution Tree’s HUGE book they gave us at the summit. We COLLABORATED and came up with this Powerpoint. I also created an animated video using GoAnimate using  ideas we got from Dr.Anthony Muhammad. Check it out! And if you like, let me know what you think!

What is a PLC? – told in Powerpoint

(Check out the characters listed in Dr.Muhammad’s “The Quandary” in my animated video, “The PLC Bus”   http://goanimate4schools.com//api/animation/player
Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate4Schools. It’s free and fun!

“Virtually Voki”

Click the Play button.  Don’t you just love it!?

It’s an avatar that has so many uses in your classroom.  Voki for Education allows you and your students to ” create personalized speaking avatars and use them in your blog, profile, and email messages.”  What I love about Voki is that it is a tech tool that is so simple to use. I had so much fun customizing my avatars, I played with the hair, eyes, skin tone, accessories, and even makeup! Adding a voice is as easy as making a phone call, text-to-speech,  recording with a microphone, or uploading an audio file. They also give you a vast assortment of backgrounds,and you can even download your own. (I found this out from my students)

And believe me, you are not on your own. Voki for Education wants to make sure that you use Voki  in a productive manner. Their website  offers  a Teacher’s Corner, a Voki Community, and even a Lesson Plan Database to help get you started. I already used it for a lesson that I was asked to add to the database. I have used it on our class blog, used it to remind students about upcoming events, we created avatars and posted them on Edmodo to our Cali pen pals, and we used them for our African-American History projects.(See an example below) What a way to change a project that had become tedious for the students.  They worked on it at home and in school, and there’s not one student who did not participate! And of course, you can use it with any topic.

I know there is so much more I can do with Voki, the possibilities are virtually endless!

“Oprah Winfrey” Voki  history project

Parent Accountability: LETTER TO A PARENT #2

Dear Parent,

What possessed you to make the decision you made today? About a  week ago, I handed out test folders in the  morning to avoid  the chaos of handing the folders out at  3pm dismissal.  Everyone, including your daughter, was asked, if they were missing anything.  Everyone responded, including your daughter, that they had everything.  Three days later, when it was time to collect the folders, your daughter claimed that she did not receive a checklist  . She didn’t say it nicely either. Now she could have taken the initiative and asked you to sign the tests, but that’s not something I would really expect from your child.

Today, I reminded my students with missing folders, that during recess, they would call their parents, and give a friendly reminder to sign their checklist and return the folder.  Every child, but yours, accepted this responsibility. Your child became very snippy, told me she never got one, and how unfair it was. Oh well! This is how it works in our classroom.

However, while I was outside with the other students at recess, your daughter convinced the indoor teacher to let her call you. She called you, sobbing, (as you know, she can produce tears on demand),  telling you how unfair I am. She was heard to wail that I was not being fair at all!  And what did you do?  D id you tell her that you will deal with this at home?  Did you fuss at her for making a non-emergency phone call from school?  Did you ask to speak to the teacher? Did you tell her life is unfair,ask her to  hang up the phone, and deal with it like a responsible 5th grader? NO!  You came to the school and picked her up!!!!  

Two hours before the end of school! She missed a crucial math lesson.(Remember the conversation we had at conferences about her struggles with math, and I asked you to stop picking her up 20 minutes early just  so that you could avoid sitting  in the student  pick-up line?) When you came to pick her up, did you notice the smug, satisfied, look on her face?

But, don’t worry, she will be held accountable by me, even as you cater to her every whim.  She will learn that in our classroom there are rules to be followed, and consequences.  She will learn that Daddy and Mommy will not always be able to pick her up.  I will be glad to do this favor for you. You can thank me later.

Parents: Enabling Your Child Isn’t Helping Him

Mistakes Happen!

We’ve all made them.  But I have  a  way to handle my mistakes in the classroom.  A quick, and sincere, apology.   I have learned that an apology  is indeed  the quickest remedy for  a mistake. An example.   I used to become belligerent when my students would say  they handed in work, and I couldn’t find it. A tug of war of , “Yes, I did” and “No, you did not!” would ensue.  I would rifle through my belongings, mumbling  incoherently, and then, lo and behold, their work would appear.   Looking sheepish, I would state, “Never mind, I found it.”, unwilling to relinquish my imagined power. 

 “Oh, no, what would happen if I admitted I was wrong?”   Would my room become an  unmanageable,  madhouse because, gasp, I admitted a mistake?  It was as if,   because I was the teacher, I should not, and could not,  be wrong.  Many times a teacher’s ego is so fragile, that they fear,  admitting a mistake, would undermine their authority. Or their ego fills the room, leaving little or no room, for humility.

I gave up on that idea a long time ago. I realized that admitting to a mistake, and then apologizing,  helped my students realize that I am at least partially human.:)  They kill me when they say, “She’s the teacher, she can’t make a mistake.”    I always correct this fallacy, as I thank the student who corrected me. “I am not perfect, I make mistakes, and I learn from them.”  When I’m wrong, I admit it. And not once have I been given a smug look of satisfaction,accompanied by that “Huh, don’t you feel stupid?” look.  My students always respond with a gracious, “Ok”. 

 Emulation is the highest form of flattery, I want my students to emulate my willingness to admit when I have  made a mistake, and to have the decency to apologize.

Admitting error clears the score and proves you wiser than before.”
Arthur Guiterman

ProjectPLN  Issue # 8 – The Mistake Issue

Getting Animated with GoAnimate4Schools!

I spent part of my Saturday playing around with this site. I discovered GoAnimate a while ago, but with so many things going on, I lost track of it. Basically, it is a site where students and teachers can create animations.  They not only have state of the art animation tools, but, they also have a Lesson  gallery where teachers can view  animations created by other teachers or students.  I like it because it is so easy to use, really.  There is a tutorial on the page to get you started. Each student can have their own account, which can be monitored. I haven’t used it with my students yet, but I am looking forward to it. If anyone has used it, and has any ideas they can share, I would appreciate it!

In order to get the hang of it,  I took one of the ideas from my posts, and made a short video. So cool!
GoAnimate4Schools.com: Give Students a Fresh Start! by Lisa Mims
Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate4Schools. It’s free and fun!

Why I Teach!

There is always a moment when something happens in the classroom that makes you realize why you teach! Sometimes, after dealing with parents, administration, parents, people who want to take away collective bargaining, you get fed up, and you forget.  But every once in a while, it happens.  That moment when you choke up, and say, “This is why.”  Now, what happens may be a small thing to others, they don’t understand your experience.

In a previous post, “They Did Not Choose Their Parents“, I talked about a student who was out every Monday, and I would fuss at him. After attending the 2011 PLC Summit, I made adjustments, and yes, he was out again another Monday. I did not fuss, as a matter of fact, I gave him time to catch up, and was very patient.

The other day, in honor of Women’s History Month, my kids posted on their blogs, “A Woman I Admire.”  “R” came to me and said, “Mrs.M, is it okay if I write about you?”

I smiled and said, “Sure” You know I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

This is what he wrote:  A woman I admire is my teacher Mrs.M. The reason I admire Mrs.M is that she is a wonderful teacher and she never gives up on us. Another reason I  admire  her is that she knows that you can do well and she inspires you to do well in school. So that’s some reasons I admire Mrs.M.

I wrote:  Thank you R.  I am so proud of the way you have turned yourself around! You are a bright, wonderful, young man, keep up the good work!

He responded:  Thank you Mrs.M  for saying that about me your a (sic) really great teach.

Need I say more?  That is why I teach!

Fabulous Phone Call!A Positive Message!

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! An example of some of the answers were, “Your kid is failing” or “Your kid skipped school”. It reinforced the stereotype of parent/teacher communication; we’re the bearers of bad news. About a year ago, we had an idea forced on us by our principal, and it’s an idea I actually grew to like. We were forced, every Friday, to call a parent or two, and let them know something fabulous about their child. It’s called a Fabulous Phone Call. It’s not time-consuming, and there’s no out-of pocket expense. It’s exactly what it says, a phone call to a parent, telling them how wonderful their child has been. I try to choose a child who is always fabulous, they deserve praise too, and a child who was struggling to be fabulous. It’s not all about academics either. Maybe the student showed improvement in behavior, grasped a concept, or helped a friend. There are so many benefits to the Fabulous Phone call, the most important being that it provides teachers a chance to create positive communication with our parents. I usually begin my phone calls like this, “Hello, this is Mrs.M; your child is not in trouble.” I try to get that in before, “What did he/she do?”  Afterwards, we have an enjoyable conversation about their child, and it usually ends with many, many, thanks from the parent. I keep the phone call positive at all times. Monday Morning, I place a “Fabulous Phone Call” coupon on the child’s desk, which says, “Congratulations, you have received a fabulous phone call!” I also ask whether they were notified about the phone call. Who knew a simple phone call could bring such joy?Pick a day, any day, and make a Fabulous phone call to one of your students’ parents, and destroy those negative stereotypes!

Power of Positivity: The Friday 5 – A principal documents the power of a positive phone call!

fabulous phone call coupon

“Today Was One of Those Days!” Woosah!

Today was one of those days!  I had to take a deep breath, and  exhale, “Woosah.” (For those who don’t know, I got that from the movie  “Bad Boys” with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.)  It works for me, because it stops me from saying something I have no business saying to someone else’s child!  My students were so crazy today with the level of “it’s all about me”.   All the “this is what I want to do, and who cares  what you say!” No, they didn’t actually say those words, but the body language, attitude, lips poked out, made me stop during Math.

I said,” I have to stop for a Public Service announcement.”  This is not meant for all of you, as a matter of fact, it’s not meant for most of you.” Seriously.  And yes, I know, I was not using my class time wisely, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.  I proceeded to explain to them that when they get home, they can Tweet, Facebook, text, or call each other and vent about me all they want, but while they were sitting  in our classroom, they would keep their negative  attitudes to themselves, especially since it was intefering with me teaching and them learning!”  Yes, they took me there!  I didn’t have any other problems for the remainder of the day, thank goodness!

Sometimes, they do that to you. I love them all, but sometimes I just want to shake them, and let them know, that I  have too many bodies in the room to cater to each and every one of their idiosyncrasies. Especially when it’s more than two or three of them at a time. Well, they’re 5th graders, and I know puberty is rearing its ugly head, and the hormones are beating each other up inside those little bodies.  So, I’ll just continue to take a deep breath, inhale, extend my arms to the sky, arm down, and exhale, “Woosah!”:)

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