Tonight I took my kids (ages 4 & 6) to see Santa. Their joy of seeing him was contagious. How could it not be? As a parent, this is one of the things I look forward to each year. No matter how fun it was this year there was this cloud of tragedy hanging over everything. The flags at half-mast. The TV in the mall food court showing pictures of beautiful children, the same age as my daughter, who will not be going to the mall to see Santa this year. My heart, as well as hearts throughout the world, have broken for these children and their parents. Even the Commander and Cheif couldn’t speak about this without keeping his composure. Words like “why” and “senseless” come to mind. Questions are asked that have no answers. All we can do is hold our children a little tighter.
As a teacher I have so much more going through my head. This is a teacher’s worse nightmare. We practice lock-down drills, but is that enough? Should we be teaching kids the importance of the escape and best way to do so? I don’t know if you can really prepare for this. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this last two days. It does shock me the number of people who were surprised teachers protected their students. There are reasons we are teachers, and it’s not because it is a job. I hope to goodness teachers out there wouldn’t think twice about what they would do. Even on their lowest days as a teacher (like last Wednesday was to me).
The second reaction I had as a teacher was thinking about the person who could do this. It’s not about guns, though I feel like this needs to be a wake up call to discussions on this and some laws need to change. And no teachers and school secretaries shouldn’t have guns either. Seriously dumbest comments that have come from this. But we need to think about the person. Teaching as many years I have, there are people I have come in contact that I would not be too surprised if they did something like this. And I keep asking myself “did I do all I could to help this person?” I wonder if we should increase the counseling that we have in schools. I wonder if we do enough to get kids out of abusive homes that have lasting effects on them. I wonder if we are too quick to punish and send off to alternative schools instead of getting them help they need. I’m so guilty of just hoping for punishment. Unfortuately the world we live in, teacher take on responsibilities parents ignore. Like it or not we do, so are we doing all we can? I don’t know if we are or not. No matter how bad the government wants to be, being a teacher is no longer making sure we teach the Common Core. There is so much more.
I’m not sure if we can prevent this from happening again. But I feel this is a wake up call to me, and I hope others, to do what we can to prevent it. It is time we stop saying “that’s not my job” and teach children to become positive citizens in our society.
As of now all we can do is remember and pray for the victims of this disgusting tradegy. We pray for their families. The emotional healing of those children who witnessed this, even though they escaped physically unharmed. We need to do something about tougher gun laws – since yesterday my area has had 3 terrible tragedies caused my gun violence, including a gunman in a hospital. And we need to make sure our children and students know what to do in a situation like this. Lastly, we need to show & tell our children how much we love them.
I was lucky growing up in a family who honestly believed that I could and would be what ever I wanted when I grew up. I was lucky to have parents more supportive of me wanting to be a fighter pilot than they were when I wanted to be a Cowboys’ cheerleader. Unfortunately I am too short to become either, so when I realized I would never be tall (probably took until 4th grade for that to sink in) I figured I would just be President of the US. I remember telling my mom my goal and she never balked. I think she said something about me being bossy, center of attention and always arguing and it was perfect, I don’t know. I was just glad she agreed to run my campaign. So through out elementary I was obsessed about becoming president. I would read books about politics, I would map out how long I would have to be in congress before I could run for the big house. One day in class we did an activity of what we were going to be when we grow up. I was so excited, mostly because I knew the answer and it would be an easy assignment. When we had to share with the class, a few kids started laughing at me. One of the boys quickly pointed out that I could never be president because I was a girl. The part that stuck with me the most was the fact my teacher never told him he was wrong, she laughed and nodded. I remember feeling crushed. I knew there was no law against a woman being president, but did not argue. I told my parents that night and they informed me that there were people who actually thought women could not do certain jobs. I was appalled. These people never met my mom obviously, she is a warrior in her own right. Before that day I never knew there was an actual prejudice against women in certain careers. I remember wanting to go back and be naive. I hated everything about this.
As educators our goals need to encourage children equally. But women being able to have careers they want is still a new concept to many, so sometimes girls need that extra push. In a society that has pink legos and tell girls they should focus on being princesses when they grow up or become vampires to get the guy, girls need strong, intellectual role models. They also need exposure to all careers.
Over the last few weeks I have learned about a book series called “Girls Know How.” They are stories written by Ellen Langas Campbell about girls who explore career opportunities and learn about these careers. It teaches them how to put those dreams into a reality. These books are perfect for elementary school aged girls. Their website also allows them to explore careers from the books. The careers are journalism, construction (which I love that idea since I literally grew up on construction sites), and teaching (know any of those?). The books have been received enthusiastically by young readers, parents and teachers, and were named among the best in family-friendly media, receiving the Gold Award for Juvenile Level 2 Books ages 9-12 from the Mom’s Choice Awards®.
Here is the exciting part – “Girls Know How” is giving me the opportunity for a contest to give YOU a complete set of autographed books FREE! All you have to do in enter the contest below between now and Thursday, December 6. As a teacher I know you are always looking for opportunities to add to our classroom libraries. Here is a chance to do that and what an awesome set of books to add! Who knows how many girls you can encourage through it.
Fill out the form below to enter!! On the form I put “what I wanted to be when I grow up” and would love to hear your dreams as a kid and will add them to the end of the post! And sorry to my Canadian and Australian friends only those with US addresses are eligible.
By the way, the dream of being President stuck with me until I went to college. I was even a pre-law political science major when I enroll. Fortunately, the school messed up my enrollment and put me in as an elem ed major. I figured I would stay that way for a semester and change – never happened, found my passion that semester!
I’m having a problem in my classroom. I’ve had a mission to make it stop. The problem is note passing. Instead of working or listening or participating they write notes. Then bother others to pass them. When I stop a note or find one, it is usually inappropriate or mean. Bullying. Obscenities. Something of that nature. It is rare it is just a “check yes or no” or “want to come to my house this weekend” it is usually more obscene.
So I have a plan. I believe we should ban all pencils, pens, markers, and paper. Without these materials there would be no more notes. I think these things are preventing learning about causing students to focus on something else. These are corrupting the youth of America.
Yep, that’s a dumb idea. Good thing we are banning phones in schools so kids can’t send obscene or mean texts. That’s all they use smart phones for any way. Oh wait it’s not is it? Hmmmmm.
Every Sunday I used to laugh at a slide they would show at church before service started, it said “please be considerate and turn off all phones.” I always laughed because everyone I sit by has their Bible on their phone and use them anyway. This morning I noticed the slide said “please silence you phone during service.” Ha! They figured it out. Think it is about time schools to as well.
Kids are going to send each other notes with or without technology. Don’t blame the technology for student behavior.
Few days ago I sat down to check my twitter stream and saw these posts come by from ABC3340, a local news station. I was immediately upset, especially the one in the middle.
All education is what?! Workforce training?! So when you get a job, you no longer need to learn. So we are just “training” children? Most disgusting idea ever.
Biggest complaint of educators and education reformist is that our schools are set up for the early 1900′s to turn out factory workers. Our goal is to change our schools from sitting in rows and turning out robots. Yet we have a governor whose “plan” is to do exactly that. A governor who went to med school, not a political science major. Yeah, school did not prepare him for his job.
This also got me thinking, what is the purpose of school? Of course learning content is part of it, but is that main goal? Should it be? Or should we be producing problem solvers, lifelong learners, thinkers? What if we don’t? I love that we have many manufacturers in our state, but only a small part of our population work in that field.
What do you think our purpose is? I would love to hear!
Few weeks ago I attended a “Education Symposium” at Dekalb Office. The conversations of the day focused on learning spaces. The first session focused mostly on libraries and that afternoon more toward schools and classrooms. One thing that was brought over and over was the idea of areas in schools with a coffee shop atmosphere. Some schools were even putting coffee shops in their libraries.
As these conversations were happening I kept thinking about a book I read months ago. The book, “Hedy’s Folly” was about an Austrian actress/inventor who built radio guidance systems for torpedoes for the US during WWII. (If you need a brilliant woman hero, this book is worth the read.) Anyway the book has really nothing to do with schools and coffee shops, but the first chapter focused on pre-Holocaust Vienna. According to some history (which has been debated – why I took a few weeks to finish this post, I wanted to research this), from the late 1800′s until the war, Vienna was a breeding ground for new ideas. Vienna during this time had a “cafe society” where neighborhoods had central cafes where people would gather and discuss ideas. Since the country was a monarchy politics were not as often discussed or debated (which came later unfortunately) but instead art, psychology, theater, music, and literature. If you ever see the amazing architectural of Vienna it was usually built after the turn of the century. Many novelist, physicist, composers, and even Sigmund Freud himself were in Vienna during this time. The area was ethnically diverse – the newspaper was published in 10 languages – yet the people found a common place to have conversations. Of course from this came museums, theaters, universities, bookstores, etc, but it all started with this common place for conversation and collaboration.
So back to schools. Yesterday (which is what prompted me to finish my research on this), I saw a tweet from Josh Stumpenhorst asking what the ideal classroom would look like. After I and another teacher responded, he said “I want my classroom to look like a coffee shop.” There is that coffee shop idea again. A place where conversation, comfort, and collaboration can flourish. If a city of 2 million people who speak multiple language can be a birthplace of some of the most extraordinary ideas of its time, imagine what can take place in a school of just a few hundred students. Add in whiteboards and technology to jot information on and there is no telling what students can come up with.
I know this would not work in all schools with all students. I do know that if this culture is taught it can become easier and easier to cultivate. I do wonder how behavior would factor in this.
I read an essay that said in Vienna and other European cafes at the turn of the century ”more than coffee was served” and I believe that maybe as schools we need to start serving something more. Something more than just facts and information.
Ok I have been sitting on this post for a while now. I started it after ISTE12 and then started again after school started. Now that I have a shopping gift card to give away I figured this may be the best time to post it. First let me say that the reasoning it keeps going back to the “drafts” bin is because I never want to make someone feel negative about themselves or others. In this area I never want anyone to think I am judging them. I just want to point out professionalism and the importance behind it. FYI guys, it is mostly for us ladies so understood if you leave now.
Something I see often is the argument that teachers are not treated like the professionals that they are. I have felt that way many, many times. But we know we are professionals. We have to have college degrees and most educators I work with have graduate degrees or higher. But do we always “dress” the part? When we walk into our classrooms or into conferences do we look professional?
Are you dressed professionally for your job on an everyday basis? Do I mean that kindergarten teachers should be wearing suits everyday? No. When I taught 1st grade, I never got to wear a skirt, most of my days were spent on the floor or in a rocker surrounded my students, so of course I had to consider that when getting dressed. Heck, I even have jeans on today, but I have a rule – only one casual piece at a time, the rest of my outfit is dressier. When you leave in the morning do you look in the mirror and are you dressed as someone your students will look at as a professional? Their parents?
I had a student come up to me the other day and ask “Why do you dress up and look nice everyday? You don’t have to.” and I told her that no I did not have to, but then I told her “because y’all are worth dressing up for.” The look on her face and the “really?!” after it reminded me why it is important to be a professional and dress the part. Especially the older the students are. Some may not have positive influence on how to dress for a career. You are someone they look up to, teach them with actions. Show them your job is important to you, because if you are in shorts and a Tshirt it may not look that way.
When I was attending ISTE12 last year I was walking with a friend trying to find a party sponsored by a vendor. We felt kind of lost and looked up and saw a group of women and decided to follow them because they were “dressed like teachers.” Now please take a moment and realize, ISTE is a professional organization with a professional conference. Yes it is in the middle of summer and no one needs to be wearing a suit in SoCal in June. But oversized T-shirts and shorts are probably not considered “professional” in any profession. This was typical wear during the conference. This is a conference, not a vacation. Professionalism needs to be a priority. Yes I know there is a lot of walking, so I do understand the want and need to wear sneakers. But how can you say you are being professional dressed like a tourist? I have plenty of friends who in the business industry. When they go to conferences I always send a DM tweet and ask them “what were people wearing?” Not once has “mom jean capris and sneakers” or “too big vendor tshirts” been an answer. Ever. Even worse, this summer I was at a district science meeting and there were teachers in Nike Tempo shorts and Tshirts. Again, not professional.
I am really not trying to be fashion police. It really does not matter how “in-style” or how high your heels are, just be professional. I never will claim to be a fashionista, but I do have a few tips. Have a few staples for your closet. For example: nice pencil skirt, dress pants, a blazer, solid blouses, trendy jeans, and of course the perfect crisp white shirt. Good Housekeeping actually has a great article in the November issue on how to pair staples. When you go to conferences, a nice cotton dress can go along way and be just as comfortable, if not more – think breezy! They make fantastic sandals that are just as comfortable as sneakers. A fantastic investment.
Also, understand a teacher’s budget. I will be the first to admit sales are my favorite part of life. Not much in my closet has cost me over $40. Many stores will give you a teacher discount – Loft, JCrew, NY & Co to name a few. Shop at Target, TJMaxx, and outlets. I live for Loft and Banana Republic outlets. Speaking of outlets, this is where the good part comes in – for you teachers in the Birmingham area (or like to come here to shop) I have a $50 gift card to give away for the Shops of Grand River outlets. All you have to do is fill out the form and promise me you will spoil yourself and only buy something for you with the card! I will randomly draw a winner on November 13. Have your entry in by 8:30 am on Nov 13 to be entered!
We have a winner! Ashley Turner from North Highlands Elementary! Congrats!
**I would like to take a line to thank The Shops of Grand River for hosting a wonderful event as well as Alabama Bloggers and giving y’all this chance to win (and shop!)**
Underestimating is usually never good. From trying to get a loan to gambling, underestimating can leave you in hot water. Often time we even underestimate people then act surprised or impressed when they preform to their ability.
Today I have to admit I have underestimated and now I’m kicking myself for it. You see this year has been a discipline/classroom management nightmare. I spend more time dealing with problems in that area than ever before. I also have a record number of students per class. Those two issues added together can be a huge problem. Also add in the fact that I have my largest number of IEPs, 504s, and boys (yes that is a factor when you have over 22 boys in a class of 31, there is a lot of energy being expelled) ever. I also have a record number of failures from kids refusing to do work. So as you can see this year has really challenged me and my teaching (that is a teacher’s nice way of saying it has been pretty bad).
With a year like this I have been leery of trying “out of the box” type stuff. We have done some group work and some were successful and others not so much. But anything too advanced like PBL type lessons I have shied away from. Until this week. The thing is, I was actually pretty scared about it. Then I panicked even more when I realize this would be during a school “walk-thru.” I even tweeted out my fear:
I went for it anyway. Decided not to take the easy way out. I made sure I gave specific background information, instructions, and my expectations.
Day 1 – excellent. Only 2 groups out of 36 groups of students I had to really push to get busy. Kids were “bottoms up” on the table which I always say is a great measure to how hard they are working and collaborating. Groups did not argue. The best part – they came up with some amazing stuff!!
Day 2 – Same things. Only 2 groups did not finish (yes same 2 as yesterday). My 1st three classes as well as my last class had 100% of students actively engaged. 100%. Now this is a group of kids I have had problems getting to give me anything. 100% were working. Today their finished products were outstanding and even better than yesterday’s work. I had kids asking me about engineering or what kind of degrees would they need to do __. Such great stuff!
So I underestimated my kids. I should have never done that. We should never think the worst of students. Years like this year make it hard not to fall into that, but I feel kinda like a jerk for falling for it. I should have never thought that students could not do something on their grade level. Please don’t make the mistake I did. Take the leap and just try something out of the norm. It may be frustrating or it may be a pleasant surprise.
The word “trend” is pretty “trendy” right now. Used to be trends only happened in the fashion world – and now we look back at those trends and cringe. (Did I really wear flannel to middle school? Help us all if that ever comes back.) But now, thanks to social media, the word “trend” is used quite often. We usually use it to see what people are “talking” about. And you see the more things trend, the more we talk about them. Vicious cycle, I know. Some trends are pointless – like that Justin B is always trending somewhere in this world. Some trends are political – I am pretty sure the debate last night was trending, I wouldn’t know I was too busy watching the Yankees lose, yay! But some trends are inspiring. Some trends are showing us that there is hope in humanity and in the future of our world.
Lately a lot of these trends had focused one something near and dear to me – SCIENCE! Yeah, I am a science teacher and a self-proclaimed nerd, but most people in the US or around the world are neither of those things. Yet thanks to social media science is trending often, and it is trending BIG time.
I started thinking about this last week while teaching my students about the Apollo space program. We were discussing how almost every person in the US (and many parts of the world) stopped what they were doing to watch Neil Armstrong take first steps on the moon. One of my students asked me “how did they know he was going to do that, they didn’t have internet?” I answered his question, but really that stuck with me. I get a lot of my information from Twitter and Facebook. Also, when something is happening that is important, I pull up Twitter and follow along, and even comment. We have become dependent on social media to bring us current events as they happen.
But where does science come into all of this, many of our current events are science based. Think about last Sunday, what were you talking about on Twitter and Facebook? Other than sports, probably Felix Baumgartner’s jump. On August 4, 2012, you may not recognize that day, but if you were on twitter you were tweeting about @MarsCuriosity landing on Mars. It is a safe bet that if it was not for social media Times Square would not have had over 1000 watching the landing after midnight.
When looking for info for this post, I came across this article on Felix Baumgartner’s jump. 7.3 million viewers were watching on youtube, his picture got over 200,000 likes on Facebook within 40 minutes, he had more tweets than Justin B or NFL during that time. All social media, all science.
NASA has done an excellent job tapping into this medium. They have NASA Social or #NASAsocial (formerally #NASAtweetup) where people from all over the world from all walks of life come and tweet events they are having. I attended the Mars Curiosity landing and it was cool to see that all 25 attendees had different professions and tweeted about different genres. So the people following us saw our tweets and passed them on. If we were all teachers or scientist the tweets would have gone into the same ol’ echo chamber. They also have twitter accounts for astronauts and their “space craft” like @MarsCuriosity and @NASAvoyager.
Lastly, so often #STEM has been tweeting lately. Perfect. So while as educators we stress about whether or not our kids are becoming problem solvers and how testing is killing their creativity, we can rejoice that social media has our backs. I cannot wait to see what awesome science adventure will be trending!
As humans we need encouragement and friendship. We need time to “chat,” time to build relationships. We need it from our family we spend most of our lives with. We need it from our friends we spend time with when we can get schedules lined up (and that’s not as often as we would like). It is 2012, so it is safe to say we need it from our community within our social media world. But often we forget we need it from people we spend most of days with – our coworkers.
Had a panic last week. The kids were wild at lunch. They are wild all day but in a lunchroom with 296 kids (& only 293 seats) it can feel more crazy if you aren’t used to them. So the AP announced that if they did not calm down the teachers would be sitting at the table with the kids. Panic, I tell you. It’s not because I don’t like the kids (though that class is a slight nightmare) but it was losing that 15 minutes of conversation with coworkers.
You see my school is a new school. We split from a 6-12 to a 6-8 school 3 years ago. Before the split we had Friday lunch. We all had the same off period and during that time we all ate take out from local restaurants. It was nice to hang out and laugh and sometimes even complain. It made us closer as a group. Since we have moved to new school, our lunch schedules have never completely matched up and we have had off periods by ‘team.’ Not only was the camaraderie gone but it had almost felt like it was our team vs their team. This year we all have lunch at the same time. So for this 15 minutes we have that time to laugh at the day (you know bc if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane). Hey we all need that moment to quote “Bad Teacher” (don’t judge it gets us through the day – teachers report to your quadrants).
Principals, please remember this. You need to cut out time for your teachers to spend together. Maybe a duty free lunch once a week or twice a month. I know of an amazing principal who has retreats for his staff to take a day and bond. Most businesses have coworker retreats but we don’t take the time as teachers, that is wrong. And I don’t just mean a time we can all bring food but then eat it back in the lunch room, but time without kids. The bond is needed. It is so important. Your teachers are adults, they need time with adults. Most leave school and go straight home to more kids. I promise, this eventually leads to insanity. I feel it nipping at my heels often. You don’t teachers having breakdowns do you? The state of Alabama has already taken away most PD & teacher work days with the new tourism law, so the bonding that takes place during lunches and breaks on those days is already gone. We must find time to replace them.
Better yet, not only give them this time but join them sometimes. You might find out how human they really are, and they may do the same.
I’m not knocking my administration, they probably have never even thought about this & how it is effecting us. But I know I have admins that read this blog. Those who do, just think of a way to help your employees. Also, teachers who get that time and aren’t taking advantage of it, please do. It will help you in the long run.
Have you ever had a lesson that was awesome and you couldn’t wait to share it with your coworkers or to blog about it? Well here is your chance to WIN as you share your awesomeness! Adobe Education Exchange is having an Adobe Educator’s Choice Awards. There are 3 categories, Primary and Secondary, Higher Education, and Creative Suite 6. The prizes are pretty cool as well, a MBP as well as Creative Cloud subscriptions.
Visit the Adobe Educator’s Choice Awards website to enter! Entries must be received by October 5! Good luck!