Sunday, July 31, 2011

Simple Lesson Plans for the New School Year

I've spent most of the summer looking for ways to integrate technology, create exciting lesson plans, use project-based learning more efficiently, and combine service learning and global education into my classroom.  I recently found this website that actually give you lesson plans for all of these areas.  EdTech Magazine has made it very easy for you too, check it out and let me know what you think! Have a great day, Heidi.

My Bucket List for the Year!

Today I received an email that had a list of 21 ways you know your a 21st Century Teacher. Although I've yet to accomplish all of these, it gave me an idea of things I might shoot for this year.  As I reach them, I intend to check them off my list.  I'm constantly striving to be a better teacher, to make my classroom exciting, engaging, and place that students want to be. I believe to do this, I need to keep up with them, and this will certainly give me something to shoot for.  What's on your 21st Century Teacher list?  Feel free to add to the list in the comment section below, I look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Manners and Etiquette

I posted recently about manners and how I think we've lost them in today's society.  I do think manners have fallen on the wayside and that the teaching of them exists only in the classroom on some occasions. I don't believe this is a phenomenon of just the good ol' USA, as I sit in Spain right now watching a young boy of about 6 make loud mooing noises and banging his sister's stroller up against the pole next to my table.  The mother is conveniently sitting watching him doing this, saying nothing, as my family and I try to eat our pizza.  Yikes!

I was thinking that manners and etiquette also apply to using technology.  Thankfully as I was perusing the internet, I came across this link shared by a fellow blogger eEtiquette. This addresses those manners that we conveniently forget while using technology.  It is also something that we as teachers should consider teaching. Enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Let’s Bring Manners Back!

Today as I was exiting the gym at the YMCA, a woman about my age was entering. I very nicely held the door open for her, and to my surprise, not a thank you, grunt, smile, nothing.  I was irritated to say the least.  It’s already 107 here, so this just added to my irritability. As I drove home, I thought to myself, where have all of the manners gone?

As a teacher, I work everyday to get my students to say good morning, use manners when speaking to other adults, and to each other, and to care about their classmates.  I expect them to take off their hat in the classroom, look me in the eye when speaking to me, and to not back talk their parents or other adults in front of me.  As you have probably already figured out, I’m not the most popular teacher on campus, but that’s o.k. I know that when I go home each night, I can feel good about what I’ve done in my class, and if being kind to each other is bad, then I’ll be the bad guy.

I know as a parent it’s a lot easier if we just ignore bad or disrespectful behavior. It creates less drama in our lives, and our kids like us better.  But come on people, couldn’t you just teach your children to be kind to one another?  Be respectful of another human just because they are human, or better yet, do something nice for someone or the earth. It will make them feel good and you’ll be a proud parent in addition to, people will smile at you, and as a classroom or family unit, just think how much more we can accomplish being kind and using manners.

So, next time someone opens the door for you, how about a shout out of “thank you” and a big smile?  You never know who you will be making feel better just because we brought manners back into our lives!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are Resources a Luxury in Today's Classroom?

I’m constantly torn with the thought that having more resources and technology in my classroom will make it all better.  What do I mean by make it all better? Better student achievement scores, attendance and engagement increases, and students like coming to school.  With the economy in the state it is, I think most of  “resources” will be on the back burner for a while, but I can hope for a couple of things. Well, for starters, new books! All students love new books. Have you ever seen how they gravitate to the newest book on the shelf or in the stack. Heck, who can blame them, we all like new things.  So just having the correct and current resources might be a bonus. Secondly, will that laptop, iPad, or Smartboard help my teaching? Certainly, it will bring more information to my student’s and my fingertips more quickly (time warp: remember the old card catalogs…right?). They will be more engaged in what they are learning because they will have the tools they like to use. Lastly, just think of all the paper we will be saving? (Just kidding, research has shown that we use more paper now, then before technology because we print everything off, is that you?) Maybe we can skip that printed progress report and report card?

OK, so better might not be the right word choice (ha, a little writing instruction in the middle of the summer, who would have thought!) But, I’m not totally convinced the above will make me happier or that we can do without any of it. I believe I still accomplish all of the above even with a lack of resources on a daily basis. I just recently found out that my daughter who is a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa teaching secondary English had some of the highest scores and passing rate for her students.  She definitely lacks resources more than any teacher in America could dream of (think electricity, books, and water.)

So, with that in mind, here is my hit list of things that can keep you going without those gadgets and such you are convinced you need to be a successful teacher:

1.     Be passionate!  Let’s face it, if you don’t like what you are doing the students will know it.
2.     Smile! A smile will make you feel better and make the students feel better.
3.     Delegate! Don’t be afraid to let your students be an integral part of the classroom mechanics.
4.     Choices! Give plenty of choices to your students on how they complete work and give choices to yourself on how you teach and run your classroom.
5.     High Expectations! Have high expectations for your students, their parents, and yourself.  You may not be the most liked teacher on campus, but you will be respected!
6.     Set time limits! Go home, enjoy life, and take up a hobby other than school.
7.     Be Curious!  Look at your students and the world around you with new eyes.
8.     Ask Away! Don’t be afraid to ask for things, from your administrators, your parents, or organizations that support education, the worst they can do is say no!
9.     Plan Ahead! Make sure you plan ahead for the week, month, semester or year. You can always change your mind and you will feel better each day knowing what you need to do.
10. Just Say No!  Don’t over-commit yourself to committees, clubs, etc. In the long run, what you do in the classroom, with your students is all that matters.
Teach Away and have fun!

Year of exchanges wraps with Skype and a party

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Freedom to Choose!

 The 4th of July, Independence Day has many meanings for most Americans: picnics, fireworks, barbeque, friends and family! I don’t believe most people think about the true significance of this special day.  The group of men that came together to formulate a country based on a vision of freedom for all, freedom to choose, and freedom to live a life any which way they choose. One thought that comes to mind, as an educator is the Bill of Rights.

I love the Constitution and Bill of Rights because that freedom to speak out and the freedom to choose how, when, and what method we choose to educate our children and ourselves is reinforced with them.  I don’t mind being a public school educator, in fact I love it, I love teaching about America and the freedoms that we have. I really love when I hear about parents who choose to seek out the best education for their children and have high expectations for it.

Among the choices we face each day is the type of schools we send our children to: public education, private schools, homeschooling, charter schools, and now online education.  I’m not afraid of those choices that compete with public education because I’m confident about what happens in my classroom each day. I work hard to meet the needs of every student, and to move them along their own path of learning.

I have frequently had conversations with parents who state, “…you expect to much and my child is too busy with other activities to complete the work.” I always think to myself, if the parents don’t have high expectations than who will.  I expect every student to do their best, give 100%, and know that I love and care about them. And yes, I do have high expectations for every student that walks through my door. So, whether you choose public education or another form, remember, the choice is yours and yes, it is a freedom! Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Good Teacher, Bad Teacher?

The movie Bad Teacher was recently released, and I’ve seen several articles implying that this movie, along with other media, is just another example of the dismal state of public education and the teachers.  I find this funny, come on people, it’s just a movie!  They make movies about sleep-deprived doctors, mistake-prone nurses, cheating lawyers, crooked politicians, cops on the dole, and nepotism in the fire departments.  No one ever asks is this reflective of those professions? Or implies the ruination of the country because they watched a movie.  The public watches them, says that was entertaining, and that’s the end of it.

Public education is in a realm all by itself, why is that?  Well I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone thinks they can teach better than the teachers.  Sure there are bad teachers out there, but there are also bad politicians, bankers, CEO’s, policemen, nurses, doctors, and firemen. There are great teachers out there also. I challenge anyone out there, including the President of the United States, to do my job for just one day, one week!  I just want you to make sure you know and understand all of the students, their learning styles, their families, the state and national standards, the curriculum, and how are you going to move every single child forward each day, in each subject area.  That is in addition to lesson planning, professional development, duty time, contacting parents, and making sure your classroom isn’t chaos, and finally grading papers each and every night.

Public education doesn’t need a bunch of critics, or people who think they can do our job better, what we need are schools with air-conditioners, resources, books, money to hire more qualified teachers, and keep them in their jobs with a decent salary that is above the poverty line.  We need people to support the local schools and help educate our children.  Let’s face it, our children are our future and if we don’t put our money there, what will our future be? We need to rebuild the public education system, instead of rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. Just think what our military could accomplish if they had to have a bake sale every time they needed a new plane or helicopter?  You laugh, but it’s the truth, our PTO and communities are having bake sales, helping with staff and books, and baking cakes to keep us going.
Not a pretty sight, I can assure you, but it works and teachers around the country feel blessed to have those parents and community member who believe in them.

So tonight or tomorrow, when you are sipping that soda and watching the billion-dollar entertainment industry poke fun at teachers, remember, the key word here is entertainment!  There are hard working, dedicated, underpaid, creative teachers out there trying to make a difference in the lives of children, so go show your support!

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