Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cellphones in school...

There has been a lot of talk recently about the use of cell phones in the classroom. Is there educational use behind these little machines, or are they just a means to communicate? For some teachers, this is not even a debate. How can something that has been for some many years now, seen as a distraction and even punishable, now be seen as having educational merit? The answer to that is rather simple....cellphones are now mini computers.

Let's look at some of the features that comes on many cellphones today:
Camera
Video Recorder
Text Messaging
Calculator
Calendar
Stop Watch
World Time
Unit Converter
Notepad
Alarm
Voice Memo

That's great....but how exactly can you use this in the classroom? Well....here are just a few ideas that came to my mind:
Take pictures that relate to their books, characters, or even word patterns.
Make mini movies based on a reflection on a lesson.
Use the calculator as an accommodation for sped students.
Stop watch can be used for measurement.
World Time can be used for Geography.
Unit Converter....can be used to reinforcement in independent work on units.
Notepad, can be where they take notes and send them to the teacher.
Alarm can be used to study time.
Voice memo can be used to take notes.
Text messaging can be used for polls.

There were just the very first things that came to my mind, however there are a ton more uses for them. Teachers need to start being creative since, not every student has their own computer. This might very well be a useful alternative to just that.

Here's an article on it that explains a bit more.
And here's another one as well.




Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Online Training....


I'm sure that many teachers out there can agree with me when I say that I HATE TRAININGS!! Well....let me clarify, I don't actually hate what I have to learn.....I just hate the manner in how I learn it. I don't need someone to speak (word for word) on power point, and then hand me the handouts, like I can't read it myself. I find that to be insulting, and annoying. I have many things to do, and I can't do them when someone can't get off their soapbox!!!!

Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I do have to say that I LOVE ELLUMINATE. That's an online training allows users to interact with the guest speaker through either a chat window, or through a microphone. The speaker can utilize a whiteboard, which can be for presentations, videos or shared files, and the whole course is recorded and archived. So if you miss a session you can go back and watch it again and again and again.....all while wearing your pajamas in bed.

Here's classroom 2.0's site
which also has huge archived directory for you to choose from. The best part is that it's all free, with no need to sign in or register. You just select your name the program will run from there. I can't get enough of this, and I hope you are able to take the time to try it out. You just might find yourself enjoying professional development again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Social Media Revolution!!!

I really do believe that teachers need to embrace the skills of the social media...NOW!!! I had a conversation with a teacher who mentioned that she avoided facebook because she didn't know too much about it. I thought hard on this, because I realize she's in the majority of teachers who I come across on a daily basis. Social Media is something that they did not learn in a traditional setting, which maybe the reason why so many teachers are a little apprehensive to it.

"I don't want my son to be limited to learning only what his teacher already knows!" John Couch, VP of Apple Education.

I thought long and hard after I heard that quote. It really made me think about who we as teacher are...and who we should strive to be. I don't consider myself to be a "tech person", but rather a creative, problem solver. I don't always know what the answer is....but I know where to find it.

Here's a video that I found that inspired this post....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Google Wave!!!


I now know how all the kids in the world felt when they opened their wonka bars only to find no Golden Ticket. For those who have been living in a cave for the last month or so, Google has rolled out their new innovation in communication....Google Wave. (cue in applause)
The concept is quite simple. Take the best out of all the great social media sites, and combine them into one site. Google Wave allows the user to communicate with others in real time, by integrating video, photos, and all the elements of the web into a wave. That wave can be saved and be played back later for someone else who you invite to see at a later time. It archives what each user has done, and can play it back in a historical format, so each person can know who did what....when. Very cool.
Unfortunately....Google is only offering invites to those who sign up on their page. There has been no announcement of when it will be rolled out in full force. Believe...when that happens, I'll be there. Until then...I'm going to be checking my email every couple of hours until I find my golden ticket.
If you're still not understanding what Google Wave can do...here's a video describing it.


Here is another google video that demonstrates just how cool it can be. CAUTION!!! There is some profane language...so please take caution of where you play it. Enjoy

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What does your PLN mean to you?

I'm not the most web savy person so I have to admit, when I first heard this new phrased being tossed around, I had to think hard about it. Actually....I just googled it, till I found the answer. PLN or Personal Learning Network, is how educators are able to reach out with one another and share with others new ideas, sites, lessons about anything and everything. Before the internet, (I know...think waaaaaaaaay back) teachers would reserve their collaboration for trainings. Those however would be far few and in-between. Now we are able to connect with other teachers from around the world at any given time and be able to receive feedback. The power of bringing in like minded educators is very powerful, and I have been in awe of the fantastic ideas that I have come across.

If you are not aware of your what your PLN, think about how you are able to connect with other teachers. For me I use, twitter, facebook, diggo, skype, google reader, and my own little blog. I love being able to share with other people who can make me become a better educator. I always tell people, that I may not know the answer right away, but I can find out how to answer it. Having my PLN, has enabled me to find answers to questions that I would have spent days over. Collaboration is how we are all going to become better teachers. What does your PLN mean to you?

Here is a wiki
where other teachers have made their confession of what their PLN means to them.


video

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cool Web 2.0 sites...


I've been meaning to post about these for some time now, and I just never got around to it. Well....now that I've got a bit of down time, I might as well play a little bit of catch up.

Ok the first site is called http://lingtlanguage.com
This is very cool tool for those who are teaching another language, or who have English Language Learners in their class. This is a free site, where you can create your own assessment with uploaded audio, youtube videos, photos, and even text. It allows for the students to get the full meaning of any given subject.

The next site is basically a cool search engine that locates images.....in other languages. How cool is that? You can choose what language you want from a drop down menu, and then type it in, to see your assortment of images. Very cool for early learners of another language. Plus its just fun to search for images in other languages.

For those of you who are like me...you may or may not like this next site....I'm pretty sure my wife will love it though. It's minutesplease.com. Foranyone who stays connected a bit too long, this site is great for for time management. Just type in the site you want to be at, and how long you'll want to be there for...and the timer will keep track for you...and then it'll shut down once the time has expired. Great for students...and for husbands who happen to stay online a bit too much.

This site is the eight irresistible principles of fun. It's a fantastic show that will get you jazzed up and ready for the day. I love this site, and keep finding myself going back and seeing it again. You'll love it.

There....now I feel much better...and just in time too, my timer just went off. Enjoy!!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ever wonder what it's like to be a principal?


If you're like me, then you often have had moments of "what does it take to have that job?". I have a lot of respect for principals (the good ones, at least), because they always have a thousand things going on....and that's just on a good day. It's really hard to merely observe a principal and have an idea of what it is they go through. Teachers have it hard, but principals have it even harder. While test scores a big component, there's staff appreciation, communication with parents and family, budgets, and not to mention the hundred or so meetings that quickly fill up the day.

I had a great principal who made the job seem so easy. She always handled herself professionally, and when you left one of her meetings she made you feel good and empowered. What I didn't see (or took for granted) was the countless number of hours it takes to handle everything else. Which is why, I still hold her as one of the best principals, because she never tried to waste your time with things that were not important. She was efficient, effective, and a big plus, funny.

PBS is showing a great documentary called The Principal Story. It's on two different principals (one new, and one experienced) and you get to see how they handle the day to day challenges. For anyone who has every considered being a principal, this is a must see program. There's even a field guide that goes along with the program. Take the time to watch it, and reflect on it for a moment. You just might have a better appreciation for your principal.....

Monday, September 7, 2009

Obama speaks to the students....


Whether you care for the president or not, is your opinion. I'm not going to sway you one way or the other. I don't care, if you voted for him or if you can't stand him. Neither one doesn't change the fact that he's still the president. Take away all the issues that's been going on recently (take your pick), his position still demands respect.

Students today are losing respect. Respect for themselves, each other, teachers, family, and authority. It's very stressful being a student in school today. Not only are there high stakes assessments, but the pace is faster since most teachers have to play "catch up" to help bring students up to what's current. A student who trips and falls may not be able to bring themselves back up again.

Which brings up to the big speech this Tuesday morning. Here is a link to the president's speech. Here's a man in a position of respect talking to students to try to get them motivated to succeed. He does this by adding pieces of his personal life, bringing in other children who have risen to success, and famous celebrities who have overcome difficulties. He's not trying to brainwash children, rather try to get them focused and ready for the coming year.

Some parent's are pulling their children out of class so they can miss it. Think about that for a moment. Parents are pulling their children out of classes so they can miss a speech about staying in school and being motivated to succeed. If you find yourself caught up in this huge drama, take a moment and think about what you want best for your kids. Do you want them to be successful later on life? Do you want them to not get discouraged or give up easily after they fail at something

The students who I used to work with needed a positive role model to look up to. It's hard to find that in the media today, and for some it might be even harder to find in their own family. I'm glad that the president is trying to address this issue. Hopefully students will listen to it with an open mind and will leave with the confidence to do anything they want.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Outliers.....What a great read!!!!


I know it's been like year and a half since my last post. I'm sorry....I guess graduate school, work, trainings, baby work, and well everything else in between has been sucking up my time. I'm sure that none of you are busy, or even stressed out right now (liars), but in case you are in need of something to fill up your time....do I have something for you!!!

My father recommended this book to me called Outliers. It sounded fairly interesting, and from what I understood, it seemed revolve around factors that define those who have demonstrated above and beyond greatness. I was intrigued by this concept, since as teacher, I would like all of my students to have that kind of success.

If someone were to ask you, why Bill Gates is so successful, how would you answer? Would it be because of his intelligence? Or maybe because of his hard work? Those are reasonable answers, but since very few people have amassed the wealth and success that he has, the answer is not as simple. The author, Malcolm Gladwell, does a remarkable job of breaking down all the factors that have helped established Bill Gates. What you discover from the research, was that not only was he smart but he was so determined that he was able to put in over 10,000 hours of work in his field of study. By living so close to the University of Seattle (within walking distance) he was able to take advantage of his environment.

I know what you're thinking....that's nice, but how does that relate to my students? Good question. In order for anybody to be an expert at something, Malcolm Gladwell has researched that it takes at least 10,000 hours to develop their skill. But it's not enough just doing the amount of practice hours alone. They need support and guidance from someone who they can give them the proper feedback when needed.

Think about any objective that you feel they should have by the time they graduate. Whatever it may be, the student who tries to cram it all in and the end, won't be anywhere near as successful as the one who prepares well in advance. No surprise, right? From here on out, encourage the parents to find a task that matches the given objective. It take a village to raise a child...which means no teacher can do it alone.

Outliers is a fun, and an enjoyable read. I challenge you know to find it somewhere, and find out for yourself.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How about an upgrade?


I'm still a little frazzled as I'm writing this so please bear with me. About a couple of months ago I wrote about how I was about to embark on a new journey....to Kindergarten. Well, my friends those times....they are a changing!!!! I've got a new calling, and time will tell if it's the right one for me.
Early on this year, I was asked to go to a special reading conference about Leveled Literacy Intervention. Basically, it's an accelerated reading system that helps lower level readers become stronger readers. That pretty much just summed up what I had to sit through two days of training (you're welcome).
So anyways...I'm loving this system and I was one of the few teachers who was picked to use it and see how it works. Well....my kiddos loved it, and we had a lot of fun as well. As a result of all the positive data that was collected, my school district is implementing this as the required reading system for special education teachers to use......and guess who they picked to help train the teachers??? No...not her...ME!! I know, I was just as shocked too.
So...i'm a little bummed about not having to experience the little ones in kindergarten. I am going to miss seeing all of my old students, and hopefully I'll be able to check back in and see how they are progressing.
Now, here's the scary part.....I'm going to be working with teachers. For those of you who are teachers...you know that this is not an easy task. It'll be a hard challenge...and hopefully we'll all come out ok in the end. (please don't roll your eyes at me....I'm serious).
I know that on paper this position is a promotion, but when I think about it having to train and work with all the special education teachers in the district....I have to wonder just if this really is an upgrade. Only time will tell.....

It's not all Flowers and Sausages.....


Ok, I think it's safe for me to say that I really love this blog. I have a lot that I follow, and they are spread out across the board, but I love the well placed humor and emotions that are placed into every post. For those of you who are wondering just what I'm talking about....(you're not alone), You have to check out her blog to enjoy the whole enchilada. Mrs. Mimi is a teacher in NYC who writes about her adventures in teaching the second grade, with a very funny outlook on life as well.

As a teacher, we all know that this profession is a calling....and clearly not meant for everyone. No matter what school you work in, there's always that one teacher who you just can't mesh with. Life is like that, however teaching is one where you can find yourself sinking or swimming in your classroom very quickly depending on how you handle the first couple of situations. I know what's like to have to deal with administrators who are from another planet, teachers who give lazy a new defination, and substitutes who do more good staying home than being in the classroom. These are our adventures...These are our stories.

Please be sure to buy her new book on amazon when it comes out in Sept. It's a mixture of her old posts with some back story as well. I know I can't wait for it.

Here's an actual interview that she had on Alexander Russo's blog This Week in Education.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mother Child Experiment....Powerful Video

video
Ok I have to admit it....It was really hard watching this video when the mother was not paying attention. You can see the frustration grow in the child until he couldn't take it anymore. As painful as it was....it was also moving and powerful.

How often as a teacher, have you experienced a student who shares in your excitement and joy? Our body languages speak more words than our mouths do, and in this video the child is picking up on everything and even more so when it's not there.

The point that I'm trying to make here is simple....be fully aware of your interactions not only with your child, but also with your students. It's very easy to get caught up in the moment, and lose sight of how other people around us are feeling. Hopefully this video helps you to become more aware and to have a lasting positive image on our loved ones.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What is going on with Texas Social Studies?....



Ok, so I took some time off from blogging and enjoying some relaxation when I saw this story in the Houston Chronicle. I couldn't and still don't believe it. The State Board of Education are meeting to discuss new standards in social studies curriculum. Not a big deal....here's some of the things that they are going to bring up.
Cesar Chavez - not worthy of his role model status because of active participation in democratic process.
Chief Justice Thurgood Marshal - Be removed from history books on the basis that he is not an appropriate example of a historical figure of influence.
According to a prelimanary draft other historical figures to be removed are:
George Washington
Abraham Lincoln
Stephen F Austin
And the removal of Independence Day and Veterans' Day

So right about now, you're probably thinking...."so what exactly DOES the board of education want"? Well....are you sitting down? They recommend that school children get a better understanding of the motivational role the Bible and the Christian faith played in the settling of the original colonies. There goes the separation of church and state.

Only in Texas does this seem to happen.

What do you think of this? Are you in favor of these changes?
oh, Texas
Originally uploaded by KerstenMarie

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wordle

Wordle: Kindergarten Teacher

I love art, and I also love words, so you can imagine how excited I was when I saw this sight. Wordle allows the user to create an artwork out of any selected words they want. I just happened to use my last blog post ( how unique....I know). Anyways, you can allow your students to use any of their stories, poems or writings. You can even use this as a quick write format, and just give them a topic to explore on. Since a lot of our students are visual learners this site caters to their needs.

In case your thinking..."well this is nice, but how else can I use it for my students?" Good question...Terry Freedman gives us 5 solid reasons to that very question. I found her blog off of twitter feed from @nharm....so if you are still haven't got on twitter you need to. Or else you'll miss out on cool links and stuff like this.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A new adventure....


My principal the other day called me into her office. Well actually not really her, more like her assistant, but you get the idea. As I was walking down there, a thousand and two things were all going through my head. "What did I do this time", "Who did I offend today?". As I was going over all the different scenarios for my being summoned....the real reason was the last thing I would have ever expected. Which was....she wanted me to go to kindergarten. Yup....that's right......she wanted, me....to go to.....Kindergarten. This was a shock given the fact that I had transfered from my other school because they wanted me to do the same thing. I was taken away from this, especially since I had asked to move to a higher grade. Needless to say I was not too crazy about the whole move, and I did a lot of thinking on it the next few nights.
So a few days later I went in and spoke to her and asked her point blank.....why? Did I do something wrong? Did she think that I could not handle the upper grade levels?

And what she said next sold me on being a kindergarten teacher......

"We need strong teachers to help bring our low kids back to where they need to be at. We need to you to make sure that our kids have a great start and are ready for what's to come."

Once she put it that way, I began to warm up to the idea. Now it's been a week and I feel good about the idea. Who knows what's to be expected down the road from now. Hopefully a year from now, I won't be that much crazier than I already am......but I doubt it. Here's to good times and a bright future.

In case anyone out there was in the same boat about kindergarten or a teacher who had really has no clue about the importance of a good kinder teacher.....than you need to check this site out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I hate boring meetings!!!!


The one thing that I value the most as a teacher is my time. That's it, simple. Don't waste it, and we'll get along fine. Time, is something that I just can't get back. I have a thousand and three things to do to get ready for the next lesson, week, assessment and not too mention all the other stuff at home too(just ask my wife).

I'm not sure what it is, but something in my brain starts to explode the minute I detect a meeting becoming a waste of time. It's probably somewhere between the speaker talking about personal boring, yack yack stuff, and stretching out a short, simple point to a 15 minute discussion. It's always around that time that I start to wonder just what exactly did I get myself into?

Don't get me wrong. I love my work, and everything that comes with it. Teaching is a very demanding occupation. From the moment I step inside, till I step back outside, I'm going full speed teaching mode. Guided reading, Stations, writing, small groups.

I have a passion for learning as well. Anything that I find interesting and even applicable, I'm all in. I can go to toe to toe with anyone on my campus for being a person who loves reaching and exceeding all of my students expectations. I'm also a first time father, a graduate student, and a night time ESL teacher, so any free time that I have is really precious now.

Which brings me back to my topic at hand. Since my time is very important to me, if I find myself having to attend one of those "mandatory meetings", the very least they can do is try to make it interesting. Reading right from the power-point, talking while sitting down, printing out the handouts, are all a few of things that all presenters need to avoid. These are killers to any presentation and instantly changes what could have been a interesting meeting to a waste of time, boredom.

Here's a blog which very nice and neatly lists out the top ten things you can do to make a great presentation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Transfer Fair....


I hate job fairs. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of people wanting to test out the waters of other schools. That's fine. Go at it. Knock yourself out. What I have a problem with is how shallow the conversations tend to be. There was no genuine conversations to be had, it was for lack of a better term, speed dating. You had under a minute to convince why you should be hired before moving on to the next school.
Flocks of people waited in lines at school's respective tables to speak to the principal. Each one trying to show off why they should be the candidate for the position. The whole time, I was there I realized something......I'm not as "sexy" as these other candidates. I don't have the amount of experience as some, nor the certifications as others, or even the awards as well. I felt like these principals were sizing me up, and noticed instantly all of my imperfections. I kept thinking that this was exactly like speed dating. I was waiting in line to talk to a principal and I noticed that she tried her best to look interested in hearing what others had to say. It was at that moment that I knew I wasn't going to "wow" her. I'm still a relative new teacher and I after working a year in resource, I was just looking for a campus that I can teach my own class. Something I know I can do well if given the shot. The only problem was that I was just one of 200 going after maybe 5 jobs.
I walked out after talking to a couple of schools. I did my best at the song and dance, but it's really hard when you know the odds are stacked against you. What I don't have in experience or awards, I can make up for in creativity determination and imagination. I have a master plan that might get me another shot. We'll see if it works. I'll have an update in a few months on this post.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Facebook users have bad grades.....


At least that's what a study done by doctoral candidate Aryn Karpinski of Ohio State University and her co-author Adam Duberstein of Ohio Dominican University have concluded. College students who use this very popular social networking site have a considerable difference in G.P.A. from those who don't.

Typically, Facebook users in the study had G.P.As between 3.0 and 3.5, while non-users had G.P.As between 3.5 and 4.0.

In addition, users said they averaged one to five hours a week studying, while non-users studied 11 to 15 hours per week.

The researchers surveyed 219 students at Ohio State, including 102 undergraduate students and 117 graduate students. Of the participants, 148 said they had a Facebook account.

The study found that 85 percent of undergraduates were Facebook users, while only 52 percent of graduate students had accounts.

I can't believe that facebook is the only variable between all these students that links them to lower grades. There should other considerations, like amount of time watching t.v., studying, if they work. The most important thing is, how long are these students on the site? 20 min, 45 min, an hour...more?

Sure, it can be distractating, but how much more than anything else? Maybe we'll find out more data about users in the near future, and we'll have a better idea of the impact it's having on our culture. What do you think of this study? Do you agree or do you have another opinion? Here's an article in Time that also talks about the same thing as well.

Now I have to go and check my facebook status.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Teachers tv


I just came across this remarkable website that's geared just for teachers called teachers.tv. I think of this as your own personal staff development. There are hundreds of videos out there that you can choose to watch, to learn how to handle a given situation and after-wards you can get more detailed notes on it.

I watched a clip on anger management and I was really impressed by how effective the lesson was on her class. The narrator didn't talk too much, but rather simply explained what the teacher was doing and the viewer was able to see the results first hand. It's a 3 min clip, and had this had been a real training, it would have lasted a couple of hours. When the clip ended I knew what to do, how it would work, and more importantly..that it has worked, while still having time to take care of other things as well.

The one thing I really value is my time, and I really can't stand meetings that take hours when it could have been done in minutes. This website ensures that you'll never feel that way again. To me, it's heaven. However...if you want...we can always meet afterschool. Have fun. Let me know how you like it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Leader in me.....


If you're like me, than you're not crazy about all these "new" plans that come out every year to help with the behavior problems with our students. Each fall, we all gather and listen to the "new, and innovative" ideas, that were suppose to get us excited and motivated. Blah blah blah. Don't get me wrong....I love new ways of thinking, and always trying to solve a problem with new techniques and strategies....however, I'm not at all crazy about old ideas, that are just being passed on as something new.

Which brings me to my topic at hand. Stephen Covey, the best selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has just rocked my world. Literally. This book speaks at the heart of why I wanted to be a teacher, and seeks to minimize the very things that I don't care for. How's that for a win-win!!!

In these documented cases, schools has actually taken the time to implement the 7 habits, into their teaching core curriculum. The big selling point, is that this is NOT one more thing to do....instead it's a methodology that many describe as "a better way of doing what we are already doing. Right now, you're probably thinking...."yeah, yeah, yeah...what's so different about this, from any other "new concept"?.

Well....there's several:
  • How about improved test scores
  • Reduced discipline problems
  • Greater parent satisfaction
  • Soaring student self-confidence
  • Improved school cultures
  • Increased teacher pride
  • and a Refined focus on twenty-first century skill
It's not just happening at one campus. It's a movement that's happening all over the world. In Raleigh, North Carolina (A.B. Combs Elementary), Alberta, Canada (Joseph Welsh Elementary), Decatur, Alabama (Grove Elementary), Adams County, Illinois (Dewey Elementary), Inner-city Chicago, Illinois (7 high schools) as well as Japan and Guatemala.

I strongly recommend you checking out this website and finding out more info.

Imagine teaching at a school, where students have acquired the skills to be leaders of tomorrow. Where they understand how to work together, and share ideas as well as thinking and expressing new ways of solving problems. That sounds like a school where I would love to teach at. If are interested, go to amazon or barnes and nobel and buy this book.....You won't regret it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

HISD offers $20,000 to recruit effective teachers


So now the Houston Independent School District is at again with another controversial program. Enticing effective teachers to work at low performing schools for 2 years for a extra stipend of $10,000 per year. Which brings us to our topic at hand. How much emphasis does a teacher have on a student's performance? How much emphasis is placed on a student who has a supportive family? In a few years we are all about to find out.
I, for one, can't help but think about the teachers who are effective at those low income schools? How do they feel about this new venture? What are their feelings about this? If I was working at one of those schools, I would be extremely upset. I would take this effort as a personal insult and if I wasn't already feeling discouraged, you better believe that would be exactly how I would feel then. The message that I would be getting is "You are not good enough, so we're going to spend more money to get someone better". Hmmmmmmm.....nice.
Ok...now here's my two cents on this matter. I strongly believe and support every school to want to strive to become better, however NOT at the expense of morale of the entire staff. Two scenarios that I think are being overlooked: (1) New teacher coming in is not full accepted by the staff and (2) Staff morale has now dropped causing an even more lack of production.
You want a better school.....than you build it from the ground up. Start with what you have and grow from there. Have the stronger teachers lead and model what they have been doing well, and emphasize those skills. Bring in the parents and hold them accountable for what goes on at home. You can't expect a student who does no reading at home, but plays video games, to excel on his exams.
Doing this will show the faculty that YOU believe in them, and that as a team YOU ALL can raise the scores TOGETHER. Higher morale will inturn lead to student statisification....which in turn will lead to less office refferals....which will lead to more time learning. Now...where's my $20,000?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Share, until you can't share anymore.....


I heard this quote pretty much sums up my first year teaching experience...."We are all in this....ALONE". Meaning, that as teachers we all might have the same problems and struggles but we all tend to deal with it, with our doors closed. Which is exactly what we should never do.

Vicki Davis, has made a great post about how we as bloggers should continue with our posts. It's very easy to get overworked, with normal (and un-normal) paperwork as well as with our own personal lives. Sometimes we might even push aside our blog postings to the back burner and without even knowing it we have inadvertently effected the lives of other on-line teachers.

I realize that I have become a much more effective teacher because of all the great bloggers who have shared their experiences. Teachers who took the time to share what worked well for them, and even what frustrated them to pieces. I love hearing all the different tools and new techniques that are used to solve similar problems that I go through. It's through blogging that I am able to help others who I normally wouldn't see or talk to. By blogging I am able to open up my door and allow the world to see how I am able to solve and handle my problems.

So take a moment and think about how your contributions have been going. Do you think you can contribute either as a blogger or a commenter on a somewhat more consistent basis? I know I'm going to step up my postings and comments and do my part to help share ideas across this online world.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tweet, Tweet.....You're Fired!!!!



We all have to be very careful at what we now post on our social sites. Future employers are now able to view and verify your sites and determine just how viable a candidate you really are. This article from MSNBC tells how an employee weighed his options at working for a company, only to discover that his future employees were very tech savvy and were aware of his decision and even went so forth as to comment on his tweeter about it.

The world is small, and with all the social sites out there it's getting a lot smaller. Take the time to be extra cautious as what, and when you post items out there. You never know who is watching and taking notes on you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Homework....sometimes less is more


As a former student, I hated homework and everything about it. As a teacher, I know it can be a frustrating for both the parents and the students, so I try to send home a few items as possible. When I was a second grade teacher, the only thing I really had them do was read, and then they would record in their journal the title of the book, the page numbers, and a short reflection. What I really wanted them to learn was not going to happen at home, but rather in the classroom. So I just focused all my teaching efforts to make it as effective and efficient as possible. Unfortunately I do know that from time to time we had to do grade level projects where I can see the parent's influence from all different degrees. From writing, to building, to even creating the idea of it, the parents who I saw, had taken away the child's ownership and made it their own. While they might be trying to be helpful, is actually causing serious problems down the line when the projects become bigger and more important.

The Houston Chronicle, wrote a story discussing this very issue and explained that parents who tip over into doing the majority of the thinking and writing need to stop and back off. Helping them with thinking about how to solve it, is fine. Helping them write it and solve it while they watch is not. It's a hard and sometimes blurry line that parents have to deal with. So the rule of thumb is to try to do as less as you can.

How do you feel about homework? Do you notice that as teachers your parents are having more and more influence on it? As parents, are you finding that you are coming more and more to your child's aid?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Some friendly advice.....


It's spring...and with that brings: flowers, rain, tests and yes interviews. I'm pretty sure I won't be moving schools, but if I were, I would follow the advice that was given on The PrincipalsPage blog. He laid out, exactly what not do and hopefully we'll do our best to not do them.

I did have the fortune of interviewing some teachers to fill an open spot earlier this year, and that was something else. Here's what I learned what not to do from that experience....

1) Show up early - I'm not talking about camping out, like those shoppers do on Black Friday. Instead show up 15 min early, just to show that you care about this interview and that your priorities are set. Waiting for someone to show up after school is hard....especially since we all have other things that we could be doing.

2) Be honest, but not too honest - Time and place, time and place....TIME AND PLACE. There is a time and place to talk about your stance on drug use, politics, and religion. It's a good idea to not bring up this stuff on your next interview.

3) Do your homework - No not that kind of homework (but do that too) I'm talking about actually using the internet to use and start checking out the school's website. Know the names of the principal and the school's demographics and try to come up with how and why you would be an asset to them. More importantly, when it's time for you to ask some questions you actually have something decent to ask other than...."when's lunch?".

If you do this you're chances of landing that teaching job will increase just a bit. Just don't ask about sending in your resume.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Technology.....the time is now!!!!!

Learning from textbooks are now a thing of the past.....welcome to the next stage, WEB2.0!!! Writing in journals and sharing only with classmates and the teacher, are now slowly being replaced by blogs and web journals. The feeling of writing to a bigger audience is more "real" to the students, and they will in turn learn to appreciate and take pride in their work.

This should be more than enough reason why teachers need to learn how to learn and apply these tools into their classrooms. Part of what we do, is make sure that by the time they leave school that they will have the tools necessary to get a job. It's now clear to see that the jobs of tomorrow will require the knowledge of basic internet skills. Skills that we as teachers can easily incorporate into what we do in our everyday teaching.

It's hard to change your way of doing things, but in order to best serve the students, we need to. Take a moment and reflect on the amount of time you allow your students to use the internet, and ask yourself if you're doing all that you can. I always feel like I can do more, and after watching this voicethread by Belinda you'll feel a bit better about the why and the how. Now all you have to do, is ask yourself when?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Parents Vrs. School Districts.....




My heart goes out to parents who have special needs children. It's hard enough having kids, but it takes a little bit more to handle special needs kids. I should know...I work with them every day. So when I heard about this story, I had to take a moment and reflect on it.

Sped teachers are required to show paperwork of what sort of accomplishments the student has or has not achieved. It's a tough work, and very easy to get swamped in paperwork. However, the Sped teachers are required to follow what has been stated on the ARD paperwork.

I'm not sure why this school district is not providing the documentation that the parents are asking for. If the student can do the tasks then find a way to document it, or find some ways to help the student achieve it. If a parent has concerns about whether or not their child has met a certain criteria, than the teachers and administrators should meet again to readjust his goals.

I hate hearing a story told from only one perspective, and unfortunately that's what we get from our local media. So I'm going to "hope" that the school district had some reason why they choose to act the way they are....but in the end, what I really hope is that the student gets the appropriate care and education that he/she deserves.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Goals and Objectives.....

Just something to help ease some of the tension that many of us are going through right now. I know that on a Friday I'm usually out the door as soon as possible. So if anyone is feeling stressed or bit uneasy right now, just relax and take a deep breath. We're almost there.....Hang in there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Skype for students

This post was inspired by wesley fryer, who wrote about how Tammy is utilizing Skype into her classroom to interview other students in national organizations across the United States. Students are actually able to interact and engage in meaningful projects.

I love this idea, and I think the uses of Skype in the classroom are endless. Working in an elementary setting, you'll just need to be a bit creative in how you find meaningful uses. You could do a class interview with a class across the state/country/world. You could do interviews of people who work in different job sectors or simply interview someone who has done something or seen something significant.

I'm looking forward to getting stated with this and hopefully you are too. Let me know how you're adventures with Skype are going.


Find more videos like this on Celebrate Oklahoma Voices!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Apples to the students....

The future of teaching is slowing changing and for this Houston Community College course, it's already here. Lifang Tien, a biology professor, and Roger Boston, who teaches computer science and business technology, received $100,196 from a fund created by HCC Chancellor Mary Spangler to encourage innovation, then used the money to buy phones and pay the monthly bills. The students have to give the phones back by the end of the semester.

I find this to be extremely exciting and I'm very interested to see how it pans out for overall teaching. I always felt that, laptops although as helpful as they are, can be quite a hassle with and a pain to lug around. I love how small and compact the apple iphones are. They have all the features and capabilities of a laptop, without the bulk and hassle. Which just makes one less thing for students to carry around from class to class.

I was just at a conference last weekend, and I became a bit frustrated at how distracting some of the laptops were. Could those distractions be minimized by something smaller? I'm not sure, but I would love to find out. I'm not even going to get into that opening sound that the computer makes when it's turned on for the first time. We all know that sound!!!

Take a moment and just think how you could incorporate the apple iphone into your teaching. Do you think it would be a wise idea to move in this direction for teachers, and for students? I love all versatility of it, and hopefully we'll have more data that will guide us, one way or the other.

Here's the story from the Houston chronicle for more info.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The new style of teaching.....


I'm not sure how I came across the Powerful Learning Practice site but I'm extremely glad that I did. PLP is a professional development model that immerses educators into environments and practices that allow them to learn and own the literacies of 21st Century learning and teaching. Being able to fully understand and utilize this will not only engage and captivate your students but also create a shift in thinking and teaching in you as well.

I can't wait to get cracking on this, and I can already see the benefits from this. How can teachers not get excited about being able to create a format that allows the students to be highly engaged as well as ready for life after school? Being able to not only have our students succeed on assessment but also in their careers, is what we as teachers should all strive for.

In case you are still a little weary of the idea....here's a video of Will Richardson explaining how he has changed his classroom teaching style and how the students and the parents have reacted to it. Very cool stuff.

Please share with me any thoughts or feelings that you have about this post....I love this concept and I hope to find more compelling stuff like this. Enjoy

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Is this why teachers make less money????

It's almost that time of year when teachers start to cringe up a little bit more. State testing is never a fun time. Both the students, teachers, administrators and parents all feel the presure. So I thought the best way to help out my fellow teachers would be a good laugh. Granted I don't condone this kind of violence but it is funny nonetheless.

I'll have more posts in the coming days about all the craziness that's going on around here. So in the meantime, enjoy and have a great weekend.


Friday, January 30, 2009

A picture says a 1,000 words.....

PicLit from PicLits.com
See the full PicLit at PicLits.com


At least that was what one of my art teachers told me way back when. I love art, and even tried to persuade one of my former co-workers to switch jobs, because I love art so much. She didn't like that idea too much, however I did find something to calm my selfdown.

Pic-lits.com is an awesome site where you can write or drag words onto pictures that provoke some sort of emotion in you. If you can't think of anything to write, you can look around and see what others have made as well. I also like the fact that you can share your pictures on facebook and other social sites. It's also a good source to teach students parts of speach, as well as poetry.

Go and and play around on this site, it's super cool. Just becareful if you happen to be an art teacher....I just might apply and take your job....ha ha ha ha

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who doesn't love a good quote?....


When I was in front of the classroom, I would sometimes like to start my lessons off with a good quote. Something that will link them and draw their attention further into my hook. Quotestumbler does just that.

I love this site and I hope that more people find out and use this site on a daily basis. I found that this site is extremely easy to use, and with the tag lines, it's fun to jump around and see quotes from across the board.

I just saved my school $1,000!!!!!


Well....not really. But I was really proud of myself for being able to finally sit down and solve this troublesome problem. My principal had the great notion of placing me in charge of the webpage, and the newsletter. Well...everything was going great until I needed to change my publisher files (which my newsletters are on) to PDFs.


I looked everywhere to solve this step. My school doesn't have adobe, and since I don't have one either, I had to ask another teacher to do it for me. After a few issues I placed the issues on hold and didn't get back to it until just yesterday.....That was when I found this site....


You just simply upload your document and provide an email address so that they can send it back to you....FOR FREE!!! I was a little happy because the week earlier, my principal informed that in order to purchase the site license for the Adobe Creative Suite, she would needed to pay $1,000. Wow....


In case you ever come across this similar problem, I hope you won't make the mistake that we almost did. Enjoy...and let me know how it works for you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can you belive this????


I'm not sure if it's because of all the dieting that I'm doing but lately I'm just noticing how weird our parents can be. I'm not one to point fingers, I know i'm not exactly the most sane person around, however, after hearing this rant you might understand a little bit of where I'm coming from.


I have a friend who's a 4th grade teacher, and one of her parents have been having problems with this teacher. Problems such as, not enough contact, not enough caring and support for her son, and not enough of hard discipline on those who bully her son. Nothing too extreme, right, just a mother who cares for her son. I even felt a bit sorry for her.


Well it turns out, that of all the kids in her classroom, this is the only student who receives grades on a weekly basis, he does get more than enough caring and support not only from his classroom teacher, but from the whole school as well, and since there are no phones in the teacher's rooms, and horrible cell phone reception, communication is limited to phone messages, and notes sent to and from. So from that stand point everything would seem like the teacher is doing as much as she can for this student.


Not too long ago the mother took it even a step further, and asked to sit in one of her teachings, so she can see how her teaching style is like. I'm sure that she had no problem with that and probably even agreed to that. But can you just imagine a parent making those kind of requests? I have been imagining myself in that same situation, and when that request is made to me, and I flip it around and say "Sure....let's also schedule a time when I can come over and observe your parenting skills".


Teachers are way too often held accountable for everything a student does in their classroom. We are measured, reviewed, surveyed, poked and steped on, by administrators and parents alike. It's the nature of the job, and I understand how important it is to be held to such a high standard. Yet how much accountablility do the parents have in the whole process?


For those parents who do care and do go the distance for their children, I admire you. For those other parents, who let their kids play video games all night, who neglect to provide a jacket for the cold weather, who consistently drop off and pick up their children late, who do not read to their children at night and who do not hold their children to a high standard.......HOW ON EARTH DO THEY EXPECT US TO DO THAT????


Maybe I'm just a little tired, and a bit cranky....but I would like to see more accountablility from parents and hold them to the same high standard that teachers are held to. In the end, I do believe that this will greatly benefit the child in all aspects of the world. Let's see if this new era of change will handle this.....although I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's Get Physical......


Ok, so it's been awhile since my last post here, and I'm sure you're all wondering where I've been???? Right...oh well, I'll just imagine you are all filled with curiousity that just can't be contained.

I have been working out!!!! Why, might you ask??? Not because I'm dying to get out of the house, but rather my school district is getting all of it's employees to get fit. Not a bad idea and I was able to find a group of three other people who feel the same way as I do about losing weight.

Here's how it works....we all log in to http://www.livehealthyhouston.org/
and we enter and keep track of our weight on an honor system. Sounds good so far right? Oh, and we also get a free subscription to a magazine of our choice. Not too bad. '

Here's where it gets a little tricky. I'm not used to eating healthy. Never have been....my mother used to bribe me money just to eat fruit (i'm not kidding...it's that bad). So i have these little bad habits of eating junk food...and since I live in texas we have these certain thing here called "texas size"....which means I have a little problem with portion sizes. Not looking so fun right now.

However I do enjoy playing sports. At least I did...before my wife and I had our baby a month ago. I just got back into playing a little bit...with the blessing of my loving wife (mostly because I try to make sure that the house is clean and that the clothes are put away). Not too bad...but now I finding that I'm just breaking even....not really do enough to lose weight. So now I started running again. How fun.....kinda like going to the dentist and hearing that drill going off the whole time. Just like that...

So I'm not too sure how this little deal is going to turn out. I'm still hopeful about it. But I think it's not a good thing when even my wii fit keeps telling me that I'm unfit. Hmmmmmm maybe that bowl of icecream doesn't sound too bad right now. This is going to be a long year.