Field High School here I come!!!
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. -- Anonymous
Field High School here I come!!!
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. -- Anonymous
-- Zeitgeist for 2013
"I've got a bad feeling about this." -Han Solo
In response to my friends at Teachers for Tomorrow's blog post, I decided to create my own zeitgeist for this year. The year has been filled with its challenges, joy, and disappointments. However, by the end of the year, I am not unlike our heroes in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, who find their selves in a smelly trash compactor while trying to escape the Death Star. Princess Leia comments that "It could be worse". At the sound of the walls moving in, Han responds, "It's worse!".
I think that is not only the type of season I am on a personal level, but it is also a season that society seems to be in. Look around. Education is still struggling in the midst of government reforms. Speaking of our government: how's that hope and change working out?? What you hear from the media is only bad news. As a society, less than half of us sustain a marital status. Relationships are difficult. Jobs and careers are hard to keep...and nobody has enough money (a relative term in the United States). Let's just say it is difficult to pay the bills.
The element of fear is always around us (Just went through A.L.I.C.E. training at my workplace). The future is unknown and it looks bleak!
So sometimes we find ourselves in the trash compactor of life! Sometimes things will get worse until they get better.
I find the advice that I give to young people is the same advice that I need to take:
And now, for your viewing pleasure, please enjoy the video below that depicts our current status:
"On a different, stormy sea."
Here is some wisdom that has been passed down to me:
"What do people really get for all their hard work? I have thought about this in connection with the various kinds of work God has given people to do. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.
And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God's purpose in this is that people should fear him. Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn."
- King Solomon
I do have hope for the future. 2013 went very quickly for me. I earned my degree and I took it off my bucket list. That was a positive. Jumping off the education train was easy. But now it is the unknown future that I look into. These are new depths to chart in life. On a different, stormy sea. This present reality requires paradigm shifting. Prioritizing. Taking initiatives without prompts. Listening. Having the confidence and assurance that God, through his sovereignty, understands the entirety of my life and the society in which I live in. Sometimes that means being in a trash compactor for a while.
A local radio station plays this cut from the movie Network, and it sums up what people are feeling currently. Sometimes it is done in humor and other times it is used in a more serious tone...but there is an element of truth in this character's rant. Take a look:
One of the things that I do while I am working is listen to podcasts. I love 'em! I have the freedom to listen to whatever I want when I went. I usually pick from something related to Star Wars, like Rebel Force Radio, or a podcast for my spiritual growth, Grace to You. I have several apps on my iPhone that connect me to a direct source, such as Sound Cloud, and, of course, the Podcast app. You can find whatever your heart desires and have it downloaded to your device in a blink of and eye!
The funny thing is that I just fell into the trap: If the title of the podcast is interesting enough I will listen to it. The look and allure of the app or title makes me want to touch the screen and go, right? Yep! The truth is that I have integrated technology into my daily routine at work so much that it BOTHERS me when I don't listen to it. The school I work at has wifi throughout the building that, for the most part, works very well. I hate when it goes down or has maintenance issues! (OK, truth be told: I save on Gigabytes of information because I'm using the free wifi. I don't have to use my data plan much that way!!). It used to be that a radio would be playing in the background at work. That isn't the case now. The earbuds are in and I become a cleaning fool.
Anyway, Sound Cloud (download the app in iTunes Store) delivers a variety of programs on technology and I thought this one was interesting: "How Technology Pushes Our Buttons" by Innovation Hub. It is an interesting interview with BJ Fogg. He has made a career in the role technology makes in changing human behavior. I don't want to recap something that, you the reader, can listen to for yourself, but he makes some really interesting points in regards to technology and the way it is developed to cause us to change our behavior(s).
For instance, there is a lot of money and time that goes into that like button on Facebook. Or what about the user experience at Amazon? There are people at these companies who are looking for trends (I would argue micro trends using Mark Penn's idea) and how people might better interact with a website, app, products, and so on. I remember when Apple announced the release of Mavericks this fall. I thought that, number one, this five year old Macbook Pro will never run a new OS and I don't have $30 to waste on it! When they said it was optimized for older machines and that I could download it for free -- I was sold!! And I love Mavericks, by the way Apple. FREE was the motivation I needed to click on it in the App Store.
But this whole science of why or how we use technology and the effects it has on our behavior just fascinates me.
Think of your cell phone, tablet, or other mobile device. You never want to leave home without it. Nobody calls me but I will turn the car around and run inside to fetch my phone if I forgot it. I feel naked without it! Why??? I never felt that way when all I owned was a land line. If I missed a call I had an answering machine to catch whatever phone call I was missing. But technology has changed my behavior. I need my smartphone to read my email, budget, listen to podcasts , check out Twitter and Facebook, and so on. Man, I am connected. If I didn't have it something really important could be missed!!
OK, I have talked a lot about my personal use of technology, but how can this be used to change human behavior in the classroom? As I listened to the podcast, I thought of some things that teachers do to implement technology into their lessons that have changed the way we teach. It has also changed the way students learn (and I hope that is a positive experience). My first example I thought of was the use of the Microsoft Office product. Powerpoint alone has placed the chalkboard in the same category as the dodo bird. No matter how nice the overhead transparency looked, a Powerpoint presentation looks so much sharper. So you see with just product it has changed teaching. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when you look at how far and innovative that suite of products is.
Another example that came to mind was the use of Classdojo. Classdojo is a classroom management tool that allows you to take attendance, establish class rules and reward/demerit accordingly depending on the quality of participation a student gives. For my seventh graders it was a great kinetic activity when they first walk in the door. They would simply approach the smart board and tap their selves in. Each student has a icon next to their name which they tap. During class discussion, I would award points for participation. If there was group work or some other activity, I could reward them for being on task or take away points if they were not on task. This little technological tool really engaged the students. The cool thing is that you could use your smartphone and use the app as you were walking around the room. It would sync in real time. The only downside was that it would take my attention away from my students. I wasn't as quick as other teachers who I observed in employing this software. Oh, did I mention that it was FREE??
Well, today's lesson is that technology has changed our behavior and will continue to influence our lives. Check out that podcast and happy listening!
Elise Muhl, a former student of mine, made this observation after reading one of my blog entries:
Honestly, i think we should just let teachers be teachers, no administrators and a million people telling you how to teach. I sit in the classroom watching as some of my teachers try desperately to squeeze in things that THEY think are important. Maybe it's most important to step out of the boundaries that are so strictly set for us. Sometimes I wonder who really IS teaching us when all we do is read out of the book and do the rest for homework. Hmmmm...
Elise will be an eight grader next fall. I understood her curiosity when she first posted comments on my Weebly blog since I would bring it up in class several times. However, her response to a blog entry is wonderful...and it is very telling of our broken and flawed education system. Elise was one of my best students. She always did very well, but do you see what she just said? "I'm tired of learning from a book, work sheet, and a standardized test! Challenge me! Let me learn out side of the norm! Let me own my learning!"
Our students are really willing to learn for the most part. They are waiting for the day when you make your lesson interesting. Textbooks are necessary, but, at least in the Social Studies, they are very flat and do not pull the student's interest into the lesson. When I created a lesson, I used the book as a guide but would always try to fill it in with other knowledge. A lot of times it was just a little bit of information that brought the facts to life from the page of the text.
I also believe that students love to be creative. Elise was a good example of that. She was very good at the activities that enhanced the learning process. If anyone could give a performance, it was Elise! But the fact is, that is her element. She loves to act and takes advantage of her ability, or element, whenever the opportunity would arise. Sometimes it was in a class play or even reading aloud in class. Her creativity was very evident and I encouraged it to be a part of my Social Studies class. She learned and so did others. That is all that I wanted out of my students!! I wanted them to enjoy their learning!
As a teacher, I feel the same way Elise does. Our approach to a "quality education" has left us a bit wanting. What did we get in turn?? A very basic education that lends itself to the lowest common denominator. We've standardized education like a fine tuned industry. But I thought we were to break from the industrial age! I mean I was taught in college that it was better to keep students in group seating than the old single file rows (that represented a factory line).
Encourage students like Elise that education is so much more than a text and worksheet!! And we need to listen to our students! They just might surprise us with wonderful, insightful comments!!
Being a Teacher is now Reality!
As I sit at my computer, I'm at a loss at what to write. Last week I finished up my student teaching and graduated. Wow! What a ride!! I am a non-traditional student and because of that it took altogether 25 years to finally get my degree! Nine and a half years ago, I made a decision to complete my degree in Education. I never looked back. I worked hard and sacrificed -- hoping that in the end it would pay off. I committed myself to the task. This time I wouldn't drop out or become unfocused...I knew I would have to make this happen one way or the other. In addition to going to school part time, I worked full time. This was OK and manageable until Student Teaching hit. My God, how was I going to do both? I worried about it constantly but realized that it had to be done. It became one of the best experiences of my life, even if I only had about five hours of sleep during the day.
I was fortunate and blessed that I was able to get into a middle school that was close to home and work. I also found out that there was only on class that my mentor teacher taught which meant only one prep. Thank the Lord!
I keep saying that the experience was great, but that was because of the staff and students. I learned so much. I watched the staff teach with passion and professionalism yet have empathy for their students that I didn't expect. I expected that they would be worrying about the standardized test the students would be taking -- not so. All throughout those fifteen weeks they displayed concern or interest in everyone of their students. They had an excellent connection with their student population.
The students, for the most part, were outstanding! I loved the energy and the enthusiasm that they had for learning. OK that is a lie. I had to work hard to make them love Ancient World History. I used as much technology as I could. It made my job easier in some ways, but in other ways, more difficult. There was always that unexpected glitch that I became accustomed to figuring out a different solution. Somehow we always worked it out.
My students taught me how to be patient, merciful, and always craft your words with grace. They also taught me to repeat myself about three or four times before it registered in their little minds!! Yeah, I worked on a lot of repetition!!
Sometimes as a teacher you have no idea if you are reaching your students. My one question was always: "Are they getting it??" Sometimes the signs aren't there. I'm not really talking about assessments here. Any kid can do well on a quiz or a test and totally have no idea what the bigger picture is. My concern was that should be learning the big themes or the big picture. I wasn't always sure if they did or not.
Well, as I found out on the last day some of my students did. While we were saying goodbyes, a number of students made cards wishing me well. At the beginning of one period, a couple of students handed me three sheets of paper with this title: 95 THESIS OF WHY YOU'RE THE BEST TEACHER.
I had to get class started so I didn't have an opportunity to look at it. I just read the part about the 95 Thesis and thought that was really clever. We talked about the Reformation in class and I drilled into them the significance of Martin Luther and his 95 Thesis, thus the mention in the title. I sat down and read the document the next day with a cup of coffee. WOW! What I read there was worth all the blood, sweat, tears, and lack of sleep over the last nine years! Everything I wanted to be as a teacher, my students wrote out about me. What an assessment!!! It didn't matter what other teachers, supervisors, or parents thought of me...it was a moment when you realize that you have connected with your students. They actually learned something. They were listening. Only a teacher can gain that kind of intrinsic reward.
Check out the list for yourself:
Sorry, some of it was cut off, but I think you get the picture. How cool is that?! I'm never going to forget those students!! Isn't that just awesome that three seventh graders came up with that!! Amazing!!
Teachthought.com posted a short tutorial that is very helpful when it comes to searching out information on the internet using Google. I think these are little secrets that every one can benefit from.
Currently, my students are doing a project that requires them to search the internet for information. Many of them simply input their question or topic and rarely get good information -- simply because they do not search smart. Well, we are working on it and I think that these helpful hints will cause them to become a better Google user (and web user).
For the entire article, click on this link at Teachthought.com.
check out this fun slide show:
Created by OnlinePhD.org
My Seventh Graders Respond!
We are studying the Middle Ages of Europe now in Ancient World History. I like for the students to think outside the box; and at the same time allow them to express themselves in what they think is most important to them. This particular episode was prompted by a simple question I wanted them to respond to after they had taken their quiz: "What did you learn this week that was the most interesting or important to you?"...
Check out some of the responses:
Some were funny and some were serious, but in the end, I think my students are become independent thinkers!
I am on cloud nine right now!
As an educator, I am always taking small assessments of my students. I am always asking if they "get it" or understand the material we are going over. Sometimes I don't even have to ask because I can tell by the look on their face whether they are engaged in the process or not.
I have a particular student that was difficult to read at first. She is a very good student who participates in class and completes all of her work in a timely fashion. Her behavior is stellar in the classroom. She is very confident and polite. She is definately a teacher's dream. But I noticed that there was something written on her face that told me that she was frustrated or possibly ... bored!
She's a high functioning student and I thought I needed to engage her more in her learning. After a couple of discussions with my mentor teacher, I decided to approach her with the idea of blogging or setting up a wikispace with some social studies content that we were learning about. I had to make sure that she was allowed to do this, number one, and number two, make sure she had internet access at home. (There have been some typical logistical issues with technology at the middle school that I am student teaching at, therefore it was something that she needed to do at home with supervision.) After my discussion with her, I wasn't so sure that she wanted to do this! After all she is hard to read and this isn't for a grade. Most seventh graders are in constantly in need of some type of motivation to get any work out of them.
Yesterday, in the last period of the day, my student approached me and said she had opened up a Weebly account and began setting up pages. I was shocked!! We went over to a computer and I had her pull it up and was just amazed. She set up an account, navigated through the set up, and added content without anybody's help! I thought for sure that she would need help getting the ball rolling, but I underestimated her abilities! (I was 42 when I first started a blog, and it took weeks to get used to it!)
There is a lesson to be learned here: students will own their learning if they pointed in the right direction -- even without the traditional motivations (i.e. grades). Her motivation to do this is because she enjoys the freedom to express herself intellectually on an individual level via the Weebly blog. She needs this outlet to go above and beyond her classroom.
And I feel like a million bucks right now because all I did was give her a little nudge out of the door...these moments are what teaching is all about.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
Citizenship!? I thought that this word was lost to jargon such as social consciousness or tolerance! But I was wrong! Somebody has picked up on this idea and has ran with it!
Teaching social studies is, for the most part, known for supplying students with a lot of facts (this can be subjective...) that they learn about human history. But in the midst of learning and teaching all these facts we lose sight of the "why". Why are we learning history? How does what happened in the past effect me today? What can be learned from this past event? ...and the questions can go on and on. The questions, however, are at the heart of the learning. Certainly, there are reasons why we teach what we teach. This can be clearly seen in what a small Cleveland suburb is doing within their school district's social studies department. Their main goal is to take the state standards (what they are teaching-the facts) and infuse it into a curriculum that "develop(s) intellectual entrepreneurs with a social conscience". They have a mission statement reads as follows:
Those are some great goals. I appreciate the collaboration that these teachers have with one another to create such a well thought out pedagogical philosophy.
As a wet-behind-the-ears educator, I am simply impressed with this statement and look to include it into my teaching in the future. I know that the state standards do not ask us to teach any of this, but I believe we will do a great disservice to our students and our communities if we don't teach them the human element of Humanities.
Click on the image above or the second title to take you directly to Beachwood's blog page.
"A voice is heard in Ramah,
As I have tried to make sense of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT...words have failed me. I'm not looking at this as an educator, but rather as a human. With the rest of the nation, I'm devastated. I'm angry. But the scripture above is better fitting than anything. It is a time of lamentation and bitter weeping.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote this section of scripture during the exile of Israel to Babylon. Jeremiah likened the exile to a woman who has lost her children -- which was considered to be everything. He also used Rachel's name. This is significant because Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife (he had two). Jacob's name was later changed to Israel by God. Therefore, Jeremiah is focusing on the grief of the exile, as if it had touched Rachel herself. This scripture shows up again in Matthew 2:18 when Herod would kill all the children under two years of age in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus. By Jesus' time, this scripture had become proverbial for the mistreatment of Jewish children. Innocents.
So my heart is broken for the families who have lost a child or an adult in this massacre. I can not even begin to imagine what they are going through. God have mercy.
I am thankful for all of the first responders and teachers that protected the rest of the children. I am sure that their training saved lives.
I also saw politicians leading people today. I think it was the governor of Connecticut who admitted that people don't go into politics to deal with tragedy. Like us, the elected officials are at a loss. I was very proud of how President Obama handled the situation. This was the first time that I have ever noticed his human side. Nothing could prepare any of these people for this.
Twenty-seven innocent lives were snuffed out today for no apparent reason. Twenty were innocent children. Again, it is a time of lamentation and bitter weeping. But I pray it doesn't last forever...
because this type of fear is unnatural. We can't live like this. Our children need to be safe in our schools.
Do me a favor and love somebody up -- especially the children in your life!
"Weeping may tarry through the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30:5
...a teacher certified in AYA Integrated Social Studies