Writing my way through the school year!

Archive for August, 2011

“Word of Mouth” Teacher Tech Tools and Resources!

You know how it works. I tell my friend, she tells her friend, and so on and so on, and pretty soon everyone knows about that party on campus! Well, I don’t have a party to tell you about, I just want to share a few tools and resources, I “discovered” and am very excited about. And for my readers who are wondering, “She just found out about that?”, maybe you can share ideas of how you have been using them in your classroom. Showoffs! ūüôā

Audiopal – ¬†This one I got from a blogger named Porter Palmer. Her post is, ¬†“Favorite Things:Audiopal. Thanks Porter! This is so cool! As soon as I found it, as with most Web 2.0 tools, I put it to use. ¬†It’s a FREE website audio player. Here’s what attracted me, it’s free, you can embed it, I can record by phone (which I did), mic, MP3 upload, or text to speech. Check it out!

ClassDojo¬†– This site was shared in an Edmodo community. As a matter of fact ClassDojo¬†has their own community within Edmodo. I asked one of the creators why I had never heard of it, he said they were pretty new. Well, the word is out, people are all ¬†” aTwitter” (get it?) about it! In a nutshell, class management that is simple and fun! With this site, you can award and reward behavior right away! You have to see it in order to understand how it works, but it’s worth taking a look!
TypeWith.me   A tweet from HPTeach Exchange led me to this one. It was posted on the Teacher Experience Exchange website. Another resource I did not know existed. TypeWithme provides real time collaboration on a document , has chat, can be exported as a document  of your choice, a slider shows revisions that have been  made, no account or sign up required. Here is a simple tutorial to help you understand how it works.
TubeChop¬†– I checked it out yesterday after seeing it mentioned in a tweet, again, from HPTeachExchange. ¬†It’s just what it says, it chops videos in order to enable you to show ¬†the part of the video you choose. If you’re interested, watch this tutorial.

A number of Teacher Resource sites have also been brought to my attention. I don’t think we can ever have too many places where we can get new ideas. ¬†TeacherTime123, TeacherCast.net, and ¬†USATodayEducation.

If you have “discovered” anything new, do us a favor and post the link. Thanks!

“Hide Nothing, Show All!” The Way Our Students Dress for School!

While waiting for my car alarm to be fixed, my hubby and I walked over to the Old Country Buffet for breakfast. ¬†While we were enjoying our meal, I people watched. When I yelled, “Ewww!”, my husband looked up, wondering if I had ingested something other than food. ¬†However, my loud comment did not stem from my food, ¬†it was from the view of a woman’s buttocks as she rose from her seat. Not just the crack, but the whole top of her butt! Why did I have to see that? Why wasn’t she wearing a belt? Yuck!

It brought to mind, how over the past few years, ¬†the words “Pull up your pants” (male and female), or “pull up your shirt” (females) have been spoken by me, repeatedly, to the students in my class. ¬†The sad part is, I teach 10 -12 year olds. My boys come to school without a belt, holding their pants up as they walk , and the girls, well, their blouses are low enough to show all. The male 5th grade teacher had a time last year with a little girl who dressed, and looked, like a woman. She wore makeup, and ¬†a tight, low-cut, blouse, practically every day. He finally got to the point where he kept T-shirts in the room, and made her wear them.

I’ve tried talking to parents, especially about my girls. Most of the time, they became ¬†defensive, sometimes even irate. They felt that I had no right to tell them how to dress their children. I had conversations with my girls, asking them to look at the way I dress. I told my boys the origin of wearing no belts, the sagging pants, but nothing seemed to work! ¬†I know they won’t go back to the way I dressed when I was a child, but seriously?

I drop my son at his high school every morning, I can not describe the sights I see every day! The boys’ boxer shorts, girls in booty shorts, or low-cut pants, ¬†midriff¬†blouses, and what seems to be the staple, low-cut, tight blouses. I feel sorry for the male middle and high school teachers, especially when it’s warm. And no, I am not saying anything negative or implying that the male teachers are pervs. ¬†But who wants that in their face every day? ¬†My son’s school, like mine, does has a dress code, but it is rarely enforced.

We seem to have become a society of “hide nothing, show all”, whether we’re young or old. ¬†I recently read an a blog post about lingerie for little girls. SMH

Is it a problem in other countries?

Besides uniforms, what solutions does your school have for this problem?

Make it Your Mission to Mentor!

About a week ago, the new principal¬†sent an email asking the staff to take a look at¬†a list¬†of teachers who had signed¬†up to host practicum¬†and student teachers the year before.¬† I dutifully checked the list, and saw my name. The last few years, I have mentored practicum students and¬† student teachers. I thought about all the work involved in mentoring these students, and began to respond with a “Please remove my name from the list.”¬† Just as I was about to hit “send”, I thought about how selfish it would be.¬† I have 27 years of experience to offer someone who is new to this profession, and because I believe it’s too much work, I won’t do it? I deleted the email I had written.

We have to mentor.¬† We can’t complain about new teachers ¬†if we’re not willing to offer our experience to them, especially if we are good at what we do. We all know there is a huge divide between what is taught in a college classroom, and what happens in a “real live” classroom.¬† If we’re not willing to guide our newbies over that chasm, who will?¬†¬†¬†Whether you believe yourself to be¬† a fair, good, great, fantastic, or¬†extraordinary teacher,¬†you have something to offer. There will always be something you can¬†share with¬†that teacher that joins you for a couple of hours, or a couple of weeks.¬† Some “trick” or lesson ¬†they learn from you, ¬†that they can use when they get their own classrooms. They might even¬†learn that teaching is not what they want to do. ¬†I loved my student teacher, he made me the type of teacher that I am today.

At the end of the school year, we had a 5th grade celebration.¬† At the end of the ceremony, a man approached me and introduced himself.¬† He was¬†related, I don’t remember how,¬†to¬†a woman who was one of my student teachers about two years ago.¬† He told me that while she was student teaching, she would¬†discuss all¬†the new things she was learning in my classroom.¬† She was currently¬†teaching, and doing well, and¬†he thanked me. Wow! We don’t always know the impact we have on others, but we do.

The other day, while at a friend’s house, I met a young woman who is going to start teaching this year.¬† I sat and listened to¬†the frustrations she was already experiencing, and offered my advice.¬†¬†Before I left, I gave her my information, and told her to contact me if she needed help. Share your experience, pay it forward, and help mold they type of teachers we want in our classrooms!

My PLN Is My Education BFF!

My PLN¬†(Professional Learning Network) is my Education BFF¬†(Best Friend Forever)! That’s how I feel about my PLN!¬† It is not easy to teach in isolation, but I did, ¬†for many years.¬† No more! I have surrounded myself with educators from all over the world and I, and my students, ¬†have profited educationally, from my actions.

I have learned more in the last year since I discovered, and joined a number of  Professional Learning Networks and/or Communities,  then I have in my 27 years of teaching. No exaggeration!!

What should a PLN provide?  Here are what, I believe, are   important aspects of a good PLN:

  1. Your opinion matters!¬† Sometimes people get caught up in listening to ‘experts” and we forget that we are all experts in this field. We all have something to add.
  2. You get feedback, whether you ask a question, state an opinion, or provide information. (Not all the time, but at some point)
  3. Collaborate with people who share a common interest.
  4. It provides a forum for active, current, relevant,  discussions. (My favorite part)
  5. They are willing to share. (Otherwise, what’s the point of being in a PLN?)
  6. You gain relevant information that is useful.

I am a part of many, many,  PLNs, but I have my favorites!

Edmodo communities¬†– You have to join Edmodo¬†in order to join the communities. A plethora of information in every subject! Just a bunch of teachers, online, talking and sharing information. Have a question?¬† It will be answered. ¬†It is very rare that I see a question or comment posted where a teacher does not get at least one response.¬† You can share links, blogs, files, projects,¬†etc…, and then place them in your Edmdodo library so that you don’t lose it.

Linkedin– It’s not just for networking, even though that’s a great aspect of it. I am a part of a number of groups on Linkedin. Edubloggers, Elementary School Teachers of America, Teacher’s Lounge, and last, but not least, Technology Integration in Education. Not only do we share information, but the discussions generated in these groups are lively and informative! This is another PLN where if you¬†need ¬†advice, guidance,¬†or ¬†ideas, ¬†plenty of teachers will jump in to help!

what a great teaching idea!¬† This group is pretty new and it is on FB. They are now at 1,000 members in a few weeks! The name says it all, teachers who have great teaching ideas that they are willing to share. It’s on FB, so you can add links, posts, videos,etc…, which makes it very easy to share those great teaching ideas!

And of course, Twitter, where¬†I have made many, many, connections. I use Twitter more as a “get information” and “meet other teachers” ¬†source.¬† I know there are teachers¬† who participate¬†in “edchats”, which provides a venue on any and all topics in education. And just like the other PLNs, it is a huge source of information, ideas, and discussion.

I also subscribe to Education sites, like Education Week, so that I can stay current with what’s going on in our field.

And let’s not forget your school and¬†district PLN/PLC!

You don’t need all¬†the PLNs I mentioned above,¬†especially if you are new to teaching, but just like a best friend, it’s nice to have at least ¬†one to turn to when you need help!

SS and Science, the “Cinderella” Subjects!

I am now blogging in my sleep. I know it’s time for the new school year, because half of my dream¬†¬†was spent in a classroom where I¬† was used an innovative¬†method to teach about Bolivia. (And no, ¬†I don’t teach Bolivia, so ???) Anyway, just before I woke up, my conscious mind said something to the effect of, “Write about SS and Science not being important, blah, blah,blah, the rest was a haze.

¬†I use “Cinderella” in the sense of the traditional fairy tales, the step sisters¬†(in this case Reading and Math), get all the attention, and¬† poor Cinderella gets none. (in this case two Cinderellas, SS and Science.) It irks me because a lot of critical thinking is done during Social Studies and Science, and it¬†seems that we have abandoned them¬†due to the pressure of standardized testing.¬†¬†It’s not really an issue of, ” let’s make sure our kids can read and do math,” it’s ” let’s make sure our students can pass the standardized tests in reading and math.” Teachers are¬† Cinderella’s Dad who passed away, and the¬†“powers that be” are ¬†the evil stepmother, just looking out for her kids!

When NCLB was introduced, we were forced to stop teaching Social Studies and Science when testing time came around. We eliminated the blocks that were set aside for SS and Science, and created double blocks of reading and math. I was furious,¬†¬†I ¬†felt it was a disservice to my kids. Here’s the “funny” part, now our students are taking a standardized test in science in the 5th grade on K – 5 science!¬† But wait, science wasn’t a priority, so it really wasn’t taught, so can you guess how our students scored on the science tests? (And let’s not get started on why we are ‘testing” science?!)

In my early years of teaching, I was forced to teach using “units’. I was up in arms!¬†¬† My initial reaction was, “How am I going to include reading and math,¬†while I teach ¬†science or social studies, it can’t be done!”¬† Well, at this point in my career, I don’t know any other way to teach, all subjects are intertwined. So, it’s difficult for me to¬†understand this need to drop SS and Science, and “just” teach Reading and Math.¬† How can you teach these subjects, and not have reading and math be a part of each? How can you teach Reading and Math, and not have SS and Science be included?

I love teaching SS and Science, especially since it gives my “low’ kids a chance to shine! They don’t have to read at a 5th grade level to figure out how to separate a mixture, or to produce a Glog¬†depicting the Civil War. Involvement in social studies and science creates critical thinkers.

We have to choose.¬† We either want critical thinkers or we want bubble fillers. We can’t have both. SS and Science need to attend the ball, ¬†just as much as reading and math!

Happy New (School) Year! I Resolve…

I wrote this post in¬†January 2011, but I believe it fits for the new school year as well! I think I will post them in my room near my desk as a reminder.¬†Sometimes after a day with some of these kids, you forget your resolutions! ūüôā Have a wonderful 2011-2012!

I resolve to:

  1. ¬†treat all¬† students fairly, regardless of race, gender, age, ¬†behavior, parent’s nasty attitude, desire to be educated, or lack of interest in learning
  2. believe that all children can learn, even if¬†I have taught the same material 55 different ways.(It’s going to click at some point)
  3. stop using sarcasm as a disciplinary tool, no matter how effective it may seem.
  4.  speak in a quiet, even,tone, even when yelling seems to be the best option. (It never is!)
  5. realize that I could be the only good thing that happens in¬†a student’s day
  6. grade papers in a timely manner, even though their test scores may make me question my teaching ability.
  7. ¬†meet all deadlines, and if I’m late, don’t make any sorry ¬†excuses.
  8. not gossip about my colleagues, the students, administration,etc… (Especially with a new principal this year!)
  9. share with my colleagues, we are not in competition with each other. (Using a PLC, I have become so much better at sharing))
  10. use technology to engage my 21st century students
  11. continue to be passionate about my job, and if I’m not retire.:)

Are there any resolutions you would add?

PhotoPeach Makes an Old Lesson Juicy!

I attended a DEN workshop(Discovery Education Network) weeks ago. I always love professional development where I can take away at least one thing I didn’t know. I took away more than one thing, but I am going to share this one, PhotoPeach as a quiz! When Cynthia Brown shared this little tidbit, I knew immediately what I was going to do with it!

At the beginning of each school year, I want my students to learn about me, just as I learn about them. So, I post a brief biography about myself on our class Edublogs page, and then I have my students fill out a question sheet answering the questions. Yawn! Well, actually, until I learned about PhotoPeach, it served it’s purpose. The kids had fun with it, but now…

I uploaded a lot of pictures on Photo Peach, (appropriate of course), of different people, places, and things in my life that I hope will generate discussion about…me. I then created a “quiz” based on those pictures. Hopefully, this video/quiz will get my students talking about…me. The quiz provides the correct answer before it moves on, so they know the “answer”, and they don’t get frustrated.

I want my students to feel comfortable and safe in my room, and knowing a bit about who I am as a human, not just a teacher, should do this. I embedded the video/quiz on Kidblog, and when they are done they could write their first blog post sharing their perceptions of me.

I also intend to encourage them to create their own “Getting to Know You” quizzes at home, so that we can share them with their peers. The great part is that it can be shared using FB, Twitter, email, embedded,and/or downloaded. A little of this, a little of that, and Voila!, I just spiced up that “same old lesson!”

I embedded it on our class blog. Check it out and please let me know what you think! “Getting to Know Mrs. M” video/quiz”

You Think They Don’t Know? Grouping Readers By Ability…

I don’t care what you call your Reading  group, they know. You can come up with the cutest, funniest, adorable names you’d like, they know.  In my building, our students are divided into the Red, Blue, and Green groups, and they know. How could they not know? When the Red students have to leave the room every day to meet with the interventionist, what do you think the other kids are thinking?  When the Green group’s homework is different from the Blue and Red group, they know. When the Red Leveled Reader has a larger font and fewer words, they know.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice in the manner of grouping, it  is mandatory in my district.

 I was reading an  email that listed the discussions posted in my LinkedIn Teacher’s Lounge group, and  this caught my eye,  “School Forces Children to Wear Different Coloured Uniforms Based on Ability”.  Seriously? I had other things I could be doing, but this was a must-read. What could be the rationale for this? How demoralizing! The students are divided into different buildings at the age of 11. The brightest students wear purple uniforms , the other kids wear blue.

 But isn’t that what we do with Reading groups?   When I was a kid in New York, I went to the ” Gifted” school, and after that I was always in the “Gifted” classes. I don’t remember feeling superior to anyone else, but how did the other children feel about me and the other “gifted” children? How did they feel about themselves compared to us? If we were “gifted”, what were they?

 I always attempt to sugarcoat it for those students who have to leave the room. “Well, you’re just going to get extra help so that you can become a better reader” or some inane statement like that. I usually get the, “I know I’m a dummy and can’t read” look when I make these statements.  I believe they feel that’s how I think of them.  Many of them become so invested in moving “up’ a group, are disheartened when they don’t, and they give up, remaining in the same group, year after year.

In order to combat the grouping, I like to give assignments where the students can work on their own level. The assignments or projects require higher-order level thinking, but each child adds their own spin to it. Same project or assignment to all students, and guess what?  Blue and Red students can do work that exceeds the work of the Green group. But, day after day,  I have to go back to calling the groups, by color,  and it begins again.

I read somewhere, I wish I could remember where, that our society needs a work force. Everyone can not be brilliant, because someone has to clean the toilets, sweep, etc. They felt this is why we separate our children, and create a class system  within our schools based on a child’s reading ability.

 I am glad that I am participating in  the Global Read Aloud project this year! My entire class will read “Tuck Everlasting”. I have a class set of books, funded by  DonorsChoose.org, so each of my students will have their own book. And no matter what “color” my students are , they will all participate in the fun we have with this book!

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