Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mother has problems with Bilingual Pre-K

I was going through my google reader when this story came up. At first I was taken back by the title, but after reading the story I realized that the issue of immigration and making english the official language, coming up again.
What's the point in having an english speaking pre-k if the majority of students are bilingual? It is a numbers game, and you can't please everyone, but you at least try to do the best that you can.
What this story doesn't bring up, is that having bilingual pre-k centers does help build the learners into developing their primary language, which, as they grow older, will help them ease into the english language. You can not simply put a native speaker into an esl program, unless they have developed a strong foundation to build on. Which is exactly what this district is doing. Hmmm....What are your thoughts on this story?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Are you a Great Teacher?

This was post was inspired by Patrick Higgins who earlier wrote about Ben Wilkoff’s Academy of Discovery Wiki, and he attributes it to the folks as Science Leadership Academy, and he belives it is something everyone involved in education should examine.

Let’s take a look at some of the words that are used to describe an “Educational Hero” in this picture:

Provocative: the first on the list, and for good reason. What is someone in education if not provocative. By nature, information is meant to incite in us something that lay dormant or underutilized. Giving our students access to such provocation is an act that we need to do often.

Risk-Takers: We teach our students to take compositional risks, to make cognitive leaps, and to attempt to connect several disparate ideas into one usable and coherent whole. Why should we as teachers not be doing the same? By nature, our approach should be daring, and variable based on “teachable moments.”

Balance-Freedom-Guidance: I like the inclusion of these words, and of “nurturing,” because if nothing else, our students need to feel valuable and safe before they can take the risks that they need to. These words, these actions are what makes it easier for learners to reach from the solid ground of what they know towards that which is shaky, unknown, yet incredibly valuable.

Humble: When I work with teachers who are trying to shift away from being the sole arbiters of information in the classroom, I always stress humility over the stress of trying to know everything. Being grounded, centered and comfortable with the idea that you do not have all the answers, and that these students can help you continue to learn, makes it all beautiful, doesn’t it?
Want to be like them: Perhaps the highest compliment anyone in education can receive. With the omnipresent stream of role models of ill-repute, being someone that learners want to be “when they grow up” is no small feat. I remember the moments that some of my past teachers did something amazing, showed us a door that we didn’t know existed, and then thinking back to it years later as I was doing the same thing to a group of students. It is high praise indeed.

As we are all going through our first part of school, I ask each and every one of you.....Do you see youself acting on all of these traits on a daily basis? School life is not easy, and anyone who says it is, is probably not doing it right. However, I challenge you to try to take this task on for one day a week. Then when you can, take it a step further and do 2 days a weeks. The goal ofcourse is being actively involved in each of these components on a daily basis. If you notice that you are simply "going through the motions" try to do your best to come up with a new way of getting your activity done that you haven't tried before. Let me know what your thoughts are on this topic......

Monday, August 25, 2008

To give or not to give.....

I know it's the timeless question. How much homework should be given out? As it stands, I do believe that homework should not be anything new, or difficult. It should be something that the student can do independently without taking up too much time. Yet I fear that there are teachers out there who feel uncomfortable in not giving loads of work to be done home. Old habits are hard to kill, and I do believe that with good first teaching, homework shouldn't be so taxing.
As a former second grade teacher, I used to make sure that one thing that they would always have to do is read and have their parents sign their reading log. As the year went on, I had them summarize and infer on what they were reading. Spelling and math worksheets were sent home every once in awhile. I made to sure to focus on getting what I wanted the students to learn in class which I saw made a huge improvement on their reading scores later on.

For anyone else out there who has been having similar problems with this dilema, here's a story from the houston chronicle telling how one school district is handling it. How much homework do you give your students? Do you feel that you are giving too much?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sad day...

Today my wife and I gave our black lab to a friend of ours. Even though we barely had him for a year, he was by far the best dog I have ever had. This wasn't an easy thing to do, and if anyone has ever lost someone they loved, than you understand what I'm going through now. You see my friend and her husband were going through some hard times before they got married and at the core of their problems was his black lab. She couldn't stand his dog because not only was he a large dog, but they wouldn't be able to move into an apartment together with the lab. Well, one night they had a phone conversation/argument and when she thought he hung up, she told her friend who was in the room "I wish that dog would die". Needless to say, he told her that he heard that and hung up. The very next day his dog died from being hit by a truck.

By giving them our dog I was able to heal their old wounds and bring some peace to their lives. I feel good knowing that Buddy is in a good home now. They said I can come over to visit, and maybe in time I just might.

Sooooooo...I since I'm feeling rather dogish right now, I thought it would be nice to share this link about dog friendly hotels. For dog owners, this site is a great tool when planning your vacation. It's hard to leave our loved ones behind, and with this great site, now you won't have to. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What will happen next...?

It's a sad day when a school district does not have enough money to support their finances. It's hard on the school admin, teachers and most importantly the students. So when I came across this story I was really surprised by the way this district is trying to handle their problem. I like the outside the box thinking, and I hope that this solves their short term and long term problems. What do you think of this? How would you solve this problem?

A great book for every teacher...

With the begining of school right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to sit back and relax for a moment. I just read 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny by Phillip Done and I feel more energized to get back in class than I ever was. His stories are honest and funny, and very easy to relate. I found myself having a hard time putting the book done, and if you get a chance to find it, you'll understand why. Here is a short excerpt from his book...

I Am a Teacher
I read Charlotte's Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every year, and every year when Charlie finds the golden ticket and Charlotte dies, I cry.

I take slivers out of fingers and bad sports out of steal the bacon. I know when a child has gum in his mouth even when he is not chewing. I have sung "Happy Birthday" 657 times.

I hand over scissors with the handles up. My copies of The Velveteen Rabbit and Treasure Island are falling apart. I can listen to one child talk about his birthday party and another talk about her sleepover and another talk about getting his stomach pumped last night--all at the same time.

I fix staplers that won't staple and zippers that won't zip, and I poke pins in the orange caps of glue bottles that will not pour. I hand out papers and pencils and stickers and envelopes for newly pulled teeth. I know the difference between Austria and Australia.

I plan lessons while shaving, showering, driving, eating, and sleeping. I plan lessons five minutes before the bell rings. I know what time it is when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the nine. I say the r in library. I do not say the w in sword.

I put on Band-Aids and winter coats and school plays. I know they will not understand the difference between your and you're. I know they will write to when it should be too. I say "Cover your mouth," after they have coughed on me.

I am a teacher.

I examine new braces and new blisters and holes in mouths where teeth have just fallen out. I can spell vacuum. I know the magic word.

I wear four-leaf clovers and dandelions in my shirt pocket that have just been picked with love at recess. I pray for snow days. I pray for Stephen to be absent.

I spend Thanksgiving vacation writing report cards, Christmas vacation cleaning my classroom, and summer vacation taking classes on how to relax. I know the difference between a comma and an apostrophe. I can say "apostrophe."

I buy books about cats and dogs and sharks and volcanoes and horses and dinosaurs. I turn jump ropes and am base in tag. I am glad you can only get chicken pox once.

I correct pencil grips and spelling mistakes and bad manners. I push in chairs all the way, push swings higher, and push sleeves up while children are painting. I can touch the paper cutter.
I own one suit, two pairs of shoes, and eight boxes of graham crackers. I have every teacher mug that Hallmark ever made and every Save the Children tie too. I say, "Use two hands!" when they carry their lunch trays. I say, "Accidents happen," after they did not use two hands.

I wear green on Saint Patrick's Day, red on Valentine's Day, and my bathrobe on Pajama Day. I poke straws into juice boxes and untwist thermos lids that are too tight. I unpeel oranges that are too tight too.

I sign library passes and yearbooks and new casts. I attend soccer games and Little League championships and funerals for guinea pigs. I answer to both "Mom" and "Dad."

I am a teacher.

I hope April Fool's Day is on a Saturday. I blow up balloons that will not blow up. I always blow the whistle too early at recess.

I can borrow and carry very fast. I give them more time to answer six times eight than two times three. I never end a sentence with a preposition. I know what a preposition is.
I draw stars and smiley faces. I say, "Take over," in four square games when I was not looking.

Once I forgot eight plus seven.

I know when to say "can" and when to say "may." I have worn green marker, red paint, yellow chalk dust, glue stick, and glitter all on the same day. I hate glitter.

I always begin a sentence with a capital and end it with a period. I always walk in line. I always lose at arm wrestling.

I leave "shuger" and "vilets" misspelled on their valentines. I know all my continents and all my oceans. I tape pages back into books. I can find the end of the new roll of Scotch tape. I call on children whose hands are not raised.

I know that colonel is a really hard word to read, and so is doubt and so is gauge. I know that kids will read started, when it says stared. I have spelled out because and beautiful and friend six million times.

I am a teacher.

I look both ways before crossing the street. I save balls stuck in basketball hoops. I have given 842 spelling tests and have written "Have a Good Summer!" that many times too.

I collect milk boxes and coffee cans and egg cartons. I know all my times tables. I can type without looking. I know that two pretzels do not equal one Hershey kiss.

I can make a telescope out of a toilet paper roll and a totem pole out of oatmeal boxes. I can make snowflakes out of coffee filters and a space shuttle out of a Pringles can too.

I know my notes because "Every Good Boy Does Fine." I know my directions because I "Never Eat Slimy Worms." I know all my planets because "My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Pickles." And I can only say my ABCs if I sing them.

I fix watchbands, repair eyeglasses, and search for lost milk money after freeze tag. I know when their fists will make a rock and when they will make scissors.

I know when a child does not understand. I know when a child is not telling the truth. I know when a child was up too late last night. I know when a child needs help finding a friend.

I am a teacher.
Copyright 2005 by Phillip Done