Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Guinea Pigs

...have Homework in P.E. !  What kind of substitute P.E. Coach gives homework?!?!?

One that tells his students the first day he's going to be trying new things, experimenting on them (which did cause quite a few 7th grade eyebrows to rise, until I assured them I did not mean "experiment" in the mad scientist sense), honing his skills and trying to get better as a teacher/coach.  So yes, they have homework: find a quote connected to physical education* that will encourage/inspire/motivate them.  And no, "Just Do It" is not allowed.

*sports, fitness, nutrition, outdoors, health... 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Theme Song

...or Fight Song? Rallying Cry?

I know this has been around before and in many different versions, but I'm man enough  teacher enough to admit it still chokes me up, convicts* me, and INSPIRES me!  Especially since one of the jokes running around my family and friends lately (and I confess I started it) is a variation of the old "Those who can, do..." ending with "...can't teach, coach P.E.!" har, har, har...

*future post on my failure as a teacher/coach/man on only the second day of the job... :(

with no further ado, Taylor Mali:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day Two!

Which leads to the logical conclusion that yes, I did indeed survive Day One.

Aside from sending kids to the wrong place at the wrong time, and to the right place at the wrong time, and to the wrong... whatever, they all were accounted for at the end of the day.  No tears and no blood, no drama, and just a little whining....

Day 2 replaces the head-swimming confusion of schedules and syllabuses (syllabi?) with that of CELT scores and IEPs, plus I have to figure out how to play "Bowling Dodge Ball" for my 3rd graders tomorrow.  But Day 2 also brings my first ever prep period, so I have a student-free classroom, Pandora radio soothing my savage beast*, and not much else to do for the next hour ...?

*it's hard to separate P.E. coach from Football coach -- I am 95% very positive with my teams, but at a much higher, more insistent volume level than allowed on the school grounds.  And the other 5% is most definitely not allowed on campus.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My FIRST First Day

...and yes, I am a little on the terrified side. 

Part of me knows this will work out just fine: it's a long-term sub job coaching Middle School P.E., at my sons' school where I've subbed and done observations and taught Art and hung around asking questions, where I know the kids and the Staff...

And part of me knows this is an inevitable disaster of epic proportions: after all, I'm still a sub, it is (shudder) Middle School, and everyone who has known me all these years will see I'm a clueless fraud, and if I can't manage a P.E. class I will never, ever get a classroom... 

Not only that, but I can't decide on what to wear.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

There Are No Shortcuts

page 51: Coach Wooden: "The four laws of learning are explanation, demonstration, imitation, and repetition... To make sure this goal was achieved I created eight laws of learning, namely: explanation, demonstration, imitation, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, and repetition."

pg 91: "It's not the job of the teacher to save a child's soul; it is the teacher's job to provide an opportunity for the child to save his own soul."

pg 156: Teacher Marva Collins: " 'I Will' is more important than IQ."

I didn't like this book as much as Teach ...on Fire, a little too whiny and bitter for my taste, but Esquith outlines some schedules and lesson ideas/plans, and there's always his high standards to inspire...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Got a Desk!

...and keys to the restroom, and a mailbox, and even a cool laptop with the district logo on it!  Oh yeah, I also have several classes of 8th graders, a few of 7th graders, and one day of little 1st graders, all through the end of November.

I also have very little idea as to what I'm actually supposed to be doing once school starts, but I suppose I'll work some of that out tomorrow while blowing up 400 vinyl playground balls...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Does This Make Me Soooooo...


"Obviously what I need to do is to look at what I'm doing and take some steps to make sure something changes," he said.

Ok, I'm not a "real" teacher yet, so as I read this article I must attempt to compare it to what I do know, and I although I get emotionally charged regarding poor teachers/education systems/etc., I am hopefully able to maintain some sense, a bit of logic, an iota of let's give him the benefit of the doubt...

I get the sense the Education field generally, much like the all-powerful monopoly that is the NFL, chooses to see itself as special and unique, and considers itself incomparable to any other profession/vocation/entity. I get that teaching is not like the business world (except that it is) and that successful teachers cannot be measured like successful chefs, fire fighters, grocery clerks... (except that they can).

What I do know is that in the business world, I could never have 2, much less 10 plus, years of poor results without losing responsibilities, advancement opportunities, the support of my superiors, much less cold hard cash: no profit, no raise, and no excuses: can't blame failure on rude or non-existent customers (read "unsupportive parents"), or unmotivated, unwilling, dishonest employees (read "kids these days"), and certainly not on uncaring, egotistical, out of touch, money- and power-driven upper management (read "administration" -- unless you're thinking of offering me a job, then read "role models and heroes whom I worship above all else"). 

What I do know is most of us would not have anything to do with a business or a person or even a means of entertainment that failed to succeed, improve, or maintain an acceptable level of performance.  You don't shop at the same store that gives poor service or product, you don't have the same boyfriend that can't remember dates and hits on your sister, you don't still listen to Vanilla Ice, word to yo mutha.  In fact, we spend countless ways rating and measuring and comparing lovers, movies, restaurants, running backs, and every single little facet of the business world.

Why not teachers?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ask These Questions!

Saw this blog post this morning, thought these points/questions were very insightful -- Haiku Education/L.A. Times articles -- why are teachers afraid (or is that the wrong word?) of accountability, of evaluation? I don't want to debate the questions themselves, I want to see answers.

Now I'd better go read the Times...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deconstructing Penguins

by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone (2005)

As one who has loved books all my life (thank you, Mother!) I am regretfully weak in the whole theme/subtext/metaphor/etc. angle of reading.  I've always been more of an "enjoy the story" kind of guy, which led to much embarrassment in college courses when I repeatedly failed to catch important foreshadowing clues or understand what the author was really saying.

This book is one I will keep on my desk.  I suppose I can't only teach the books the Goldstones talk about, but they give clear, usable examples, especially of protagonist vs antagonist and the authors' reasons for writing what they do, which should help students (and me) build a critical eye.  Books they discuss include Charlotte's Web, Babe, Phantom Tollbooth, The View From Saturday, Animal Farm, and The Giver (most of which I've popped straight to the top of the Library Request list)...

Now if only someone could explain The Giving Tree to me...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Math may still suck a little?

...not that I would ever say that in front of students!

While I didn't read this, or it's sequel Kiss My Math, thoroughly, I certainly want them in my classroom -- lots of hands-on examples and methods, cute and clever wording to connect with students, even practice problems that don't feel like actual work (suggested by a cute TV personality has more weight than assigned by a teacher?).  The cover design that looks like an issue of Teen Vogue is apt, there are also a lot of girl-centric non-Math articles, advice, and encouraging quotes.

From a Math student viewpoint, it reminded me of my Math for Elementary Teachers course from just a few years back.  That class gave me such a headache, but the brain pain was from repeatedly slapping my forehead while exclaiming "No one ever taught me that!" and from the blinding flashes of lightbulbs going off above my head.  I remember Math as learn/memorize/practice doing it this way or you'll get it wrong -- which I usually did.  That Professor, and McKellar's book, teaches tricks, shortcuts, divisibility rules, dare we say "fun" Math stuff that will :
  1. provide multiple methods of getting the right answer, so not every robot student has to do the work the same way.
  2. teach cool patterns, easy to remember algorithms, even tricks that can help students feel smart and gain confidence when they start getting the answers correct.
  3. engage students, getting them to invest in their own learn by presenting a 3-digit division problem as something more than one of 20 to solve -- it's the work place, it's marriage, it's a real-world problem that needs solving, and the student has been armed and trained in several tools and skills in order to reach the solution.
 Not only a great Math reference to keep and USE in the classroom, but a reason to show some old "The Wonder Years" scenes...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

When does he have time to comb his hair, much less let it catch fire?!?!?

This has got to be fiction, one of those James Frey "true as I remember it" tales?  Or it's a combination of several decades of teaching, all this -- plays, concerts, travel, baseball, manners -- could not possibly all occur in the same school year... with 5th graders?!?!?

They need hidden cameras in this classroom so mere mortals can see just how he does it.

I admire him, am intimidated by him, and will strive to have one tenth of the impact he has on his students.  I don't think we'll ever do Shakespeare, but I think the time he makes himself (and the classroom) available is a huge difference maker. I'm an early to work guy anyway, so as long as my students learn to use the coffee maker I'd love to have them in bright and early to get some work done, and designate days after school to focus on additional learning. 

The Hobart Shakespeareans website

Saturday, July 31, 2010

At last!

No, not a job. Think I'm heading down to In-n-Out Burger next week to solve that dilemma...

But at last I can comment again! I've been frustrated for months not be able to leave comments on a majority of the blogs I follow, and I've been cursing Blogger and blaming it all on them. Oops. One tiny box I had not checked, now checked, appears to have solved the problem...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Read, Therefore I'll Get Hired

My summer reading goal (besides the 1000+ pages of Infinite Jest) is go through these stacks of text and Education books surrounding my desk, brush up terms and techniques for (cross fingers, knock on wood) interviews, and see what is useful... Starting with a few I picked up at the Library but prob will end up purchasing due the overwhelming urge to highlight and dog ear:
  1. Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith
  2. Conscious Classroom Management by Rick Smith
  3. The Reading Teacher's Book of Lists -- this one almost doesn't count, it's too fun to read!
As always, suggestions are appreciated -- what else should I take poolside?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Superheroes = Super Readers

Comic Book Literacy *

I like comic books, my kids like comic books, and I want my students to read/like/appreciate/create/etc. comic books.  Oops, I forgot I'm supposed to call them "graphic novels" or "illustrated classics" now, especially if trying to use them in a classroom.  Reading is about enjoying to read, wanting to read, cooperating eagerly with reading time instead of grudgingly flipping through whatever book happens to be nearby.  I've seen middle school classes turn the pages of tired, over-perused National Geographics without so much as a courtesy glance at the text (and barely allowing the images to register in their turned-off minds) during "Independent Reading" -- and I'd much rather they were reading a comic book!

On the other hand, I also see (mostly boys, mostly struggling readers) the "reading" of comics as simply a picture walk.  I'll allow comics, even strip collections like the inimitable Calvin and Hobbes , but I want to verify comprehension, I want vocabulary, questions, and predictions -- proof you actually read the words inside those balloons!  Would this work to check comprehension: white out some of the text, entire balloons or panels, and have the student fill in his/her own words, phrases, descriptions of action. Comics could also be used as a voice-over type of Reader's Theater, almost like classic radio shows or silent movies with the images up on the screen?

* Probably going to miss ComicCon this year, but checking out this site now...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Learn Me Good, Gooder, Best!

Another great list of resources from Learn Me Good , free educational games from Elementary up to HS, and they're usable with the interactive whiteboards -- I haven't checked them all out, 'cause I got sidetracked for several hours on the Professor Garfield site, playing games and listening to Mrs. P read to me...

 Speaking of reading, that is definitely one of the things I look forward to  if when I have my own class: reading a book to them, a long book that takes several weeks, a book with several voices and maybe a slightly scary and/or dangerous scene.  No matter what grade I get, they're getting story time!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mrs. P's Magic Library

Classic stories, Masterpiece Theater style? Right now she's reading me Alice in Wonderland -- the intro was a little long, and I wish it showed more text and less actor, but otherwise a very interesting read-along option.

Anyone know of something like this in Spanish?

Mrs. P's The Magic Library

I found this link, believe it or not, on "Professor Garfield" -- as in the fat orange cat -- and initially thought it would be the usual silly games and cartoons that kids love to play on but don't really do anything educational. From scooting around a few activities though, I'd say they got this one right.  Great graphics, clear instructions, standards-based activities... the lasagna's on me, Professor Garfield, great job! 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Technology Should Make Ya Move!

As I sit here on my ever-widening rear end night after night, searching and reading and collecting Education issues, I am serving as a reminder of how I do not want my children or students to use the computer and internet: It, the computer-centered world, cannot be the be-all, end-all solution to anything, especially not Education.  A computer cannot be the means for engaging, teaching, researching, producing, and assessing (not to mention entertaining) students.  Yet I see in a lot of the work and ideas that herald computer technology as the only future for Education, and concurrently the only way to communicate with any person under 16 years old, the common thread of isolation, of a student linked electronically and wirelessly to teachers, classmates, and the means to receive, practice, and demonstrate understanding of knowledge.

I'm not merely railing against the video game generation that never sees a ball or bike touch real dirt, that's an old argument, nor am I hating on the texting/FB-ing addicts whose thumbs and phones are never separated.  But what I see online and out on the campuses seems to fall into two schools of thought regarding technology:
  1. "We're a Technology school, we let 'em use computers!"  These schools/teachers are so hip and with it their students can use Word, then Google up some pictures to really snazz up the book report!  The advanced students that finish class work first, or the RSP students that "don't do" a certain subject, can play cool math games... What's the difference between my son sitting for 2 hours in front of the screen playing Zoo Tycoon and sitting for 2 hours playing Shoot the Geometric Shape?*
  2. "We need to relate/connect/catch up -- we Twitter and Facebook and Text our students!"  The emphasis here is playing their game, communicating on the students' terms.  Assignments are available online, questions and answers relayed wirelessly,  entire semesters of work produced electronically.  Is my son demonstrating a mastery of the subject matter or of his ability to collect and merge the correct pieces? 
No Luddites here, I am all for the 21st century and beyond -- I just want there to be balance, a synchronicity between Wikipedia and the dog-eared paperback Thesaurus, between the video camera and real live actors.  Technology assignments should always try to incorporate movement, should have elements of other media involved.  For example: video science reports with real world demonstrations and on location interviews; text message or twitter scavenger hunts that involve reading maps, interviewing classmates, collecting measurable data; history research reports that result in physical demonstrations of knowledge, such as speeches, songs, or re-enactments. Many of these and other ideas can be found at Edutopia's Digital Science and Math Lessons .

* no, I do not let my sons sit for 2 hours playing anything.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Animated by Purpose

Came across this randomly (or was it... "inspired"???) while playing with an iPad at the Apple store.  Through my drool came this rapid animation and words such as motivation and incentive -- words I happen to be turning over repeatedly in my brain pan as I get ready to take on a 3rd grade class for the next week.  Anyway, got home, looked it up again, this time with audio, and there must be something here we can use in Education.

Now I don't know anything about this RSA group, I'll look 'em up in a minute*, but the video is well done if a bit on the fast side... I want to run it back in slow motion just to make sure I caught everything.  Coming from the business world, I've experienced the "just because you give them more money, or offer the opportunity to earn more money, doesn't mean they'll work harder/faster/better/not be rude to customers" phenomenon. It seems the people that are going to work hard and get things done, and done right, are the people that will do it that way regardless of monetary or advancement incentives.  I'm sure the same is true of students -- the ones that will work hard and complete assignments will be those students whether they get a bouncy ball or Starburst or not.

How should we inspire/encourage/motivate our students?

I do like the Free Time idea -- let them work on whatever they want, but (the manager in me can't let go) I want to see results, I want to see contribution from all team members, I want to see your product shared (taught to) the rest of the class.

* update: okay, I've found, as in The Renaissance Society, but that wasn't it.  Here is the RSA YouTube page and the official "21st Century Enlightenment" RSA site, and here is the video/art site for Cognitive Media  ...

...and here's another video -- he starts discussing education and "kids these days" at about 5:30

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wiki your classroom!

Awesome ideas for getting students to create and collaborate online, thanks to the Web 2.0 Class blog...

From the classes I've taught in the past 2 years I can see where options like these need to exist, at the very least, for those students who finish early, understand quickly, need a challenge, etc. etc.... #1 question I'm asked by students? Easy: Can I use the computer?*  I flat-out say no 99% of the time because I know they are only going to play games or sneak onto a music/mail/whatever site they aren't supposed to.  But what if they could run their own wiki?  Do meaningful research? Create or compose? The possibilities are, of course, endless...

I'm still working on my Year in Review (actually, I'm still working -- 3 more weeks of school), attempting to process all I've experienced and learned during this 1st year of full time (sort of) subbing.  And I definitely still don't feel like a teacher, nor feel I am in any position experience/knowledge/skill -wise to make sweeping judgments and claim to have the answers for what ails Education. (you know a "but" is coming, don't you?) But...
I do wonder why 1) some classrooms are so loud, distracted, unruly, disrupted, talkative? Is it just the way kids are?  Is it because they have a sub? Is it a teacher or parent or school culture problem?
2) why is there so much wasted/lost time during the school day? Does it really take that long to get started, to switch subject materials, to understand directions?  How much of question #2 is in direct correlation to #1?


*provided of course the classroom does have working computers.  Love the district that chose to spend the $$$ on a large screen TV (aka "dust catcher"or "movie screen") instead of enough computers to be worthwhile...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Inspired to Teach

I feel fractured sometimes, or at least multiple-personalitied: 5 blogs, 4 Facebook pages, LibraryThing, Twitter (which I rarely post or check anymore)... half the time I find myself deleting posts or links because I put a book review or football drills on The Wife's hairdresser page.  I'm sooooo confuuuuused...

Anyway, I'm trying to create a FB page and have all my Teacher/Education/Children's Book* stuff, such as blog posts and cool stuff I find on other blogs and sites, go to one central hub.  Don't know if I'm doing it right, is there a way to quickly/automatically link/share eveything to a FB page? Hmmm...

Introducing  Inspired to Teach  the facebook page, aka "The Hub" ???  Ideas and suggestions always appreciated...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wonder Walls and Imitosis

Should be working on cover letters, but instead fighting the urge to pick up my Father's Day gift by visiting cool Education sites and stealing collecting, graciously and gratefully, ideas such as the Wonder Wall .  Also found some awesome music by Andrew Bird* here on this cool video of a teacher's empty but always busy classroom, and virtual post-it notes.

The "Wonder Wall" is similar to something I had thought of before, and it comes more from being a father than a teacher: children are capable of asking over 1 million questions in a single day! Multiply that by a room full of 2nd graders and you can see how easy it is to drown in question marks... I plan on having a wall dedicated to questions students ask, with room for the answers.  Maybe we don't get to the answer right away, I can't let them get me started on Why is the moon so bright? when the curriculum calls for 3-digit addition, but by the end of the year we should have answered them all.  I think I'll have volunteer student "experts" assigned in September so if a stegosaurus question does come up and Jimmy has read every dinosaur book in the Library he can give a mini presentation and answer the question.

* and I thought I'd learned a new word, the video's soundtrack is titled "Imitosis" -- but can't find it in the dictionary?

Resume time!

Not that I really have any hope of getting a classroom of my own, but I did include lottery tickets for all 2nd-5th grade teachers at each school I sent resumes to. I figure if enough of them win big and retire, the more openings for me! All I need is one job, just one...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blog plus Facebook plus Twitter plus ...?

Is there a way to connect them all so a blog post feeds into a FB group page? Or visa versa? Playing around with it instead of while working on resumes...

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Not to knock anyone, but -- aw heck, no one I'm talking about will ever read this, so I'll knock and knock hard: there are some lousy, awful substitute teachers out there!  One of the reasons I got into this gig was the subs I saw (or didn't saw, many never bothered to show up for their assignments) at my sons' school. I thought Hey, I could do a better job than that!  I can hang out with kids, leave work in the afternoon, and have weekends and holidays off -- and no folding shirts!*

Not only could I do that, but I also knew I could teach those kids something, even if I had to make it up as I went along or simply read the text book with them, which was the reason they were there IN SCHOOL in the first place!  Some subs seem to think students never get to see movies at home or get to talk to their friends, poor things...

Anyway, the point of the post was to be "Finally" ...after volunteering, observations, college degree, waiting, pink slips and budget cuts, more volunteering and observations, I am finally able to be a Substitute at my sons' school.  It seems every district in the County had jobs for me but this one, and I was waaaaaaay down on the seniority list, but now I have had several jobs at various grade levels and should be able to work some on into July.

And my 3rd grader comes and eats lunch with me. : )

* I was a sales manager for Robinson's May/Macy's and have folded more shirts in a day than most people will in a lifetime... I am not proud of this fact, although I am a damn good shirt folder.

Pimp the Unshelved Website

I'm not a Librarian, but spend enough time paying late fees to them to appreciate the humorous situations in these comic strips, not to mention the great book suggestions every week...

check them out:  Unshelved

Armando Galarraga vs. Reggie Bush

One of those weeks when I wish I had a classroom or a team -- what a powerful lesson (not that I've worked out the details yet) on sportsmanship and doing the right thing: Galarraga, Jim Joyce, and the Perfect Game that wasn't vs. USC, Reggie, and the Heisman/National Title that are no longer...

Monday, June 7, 2010

playing telephone

I could not for the life of me figure out why this student had a U-shaped piece of pvc in her desk, and after telling her to put it away three times during the day I finally asked -- what are you doing with a U-shaped piece of pipe in your desk?!?!?

Then half the class ran over to a big cabinet drawer full of the white plastic mysteries, and showed me how they read to themselves holding the pipe like a telephone (although a much larger phone than any of these digital children have ever used!) -- their whispered voices went right into the pvc and around the bend to their ear so they could perfectly hear what and how they were reading. Amazing!

I certainly do not recommend using anything that has been attached underneath your sink, and I'm sure there are copyrighted name brand models in those educational supply catalogs, but this teacher had simply bought bright white 2" P-traps and let the kids start reading!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roosevelt Franklin!

hmm... need to work on the sizing issues. Sorry.

Thanks to One Album a Day for this blast from the past!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One of those days...

I know they're just 6th graders, but do they have to be such... 6th graders?!?!?

I was looking forward today too -- the boys' school, Science and English periods, figurative language  (onomatopoeia! alliteration!) -- but it's so hard to teach while repeatedly saying "Shhhh!"

Monday, May 17, 2010

Be Less Helpful

Got in trouble last night for waking up with The Wife with a way too late in the evening "Hallelujah!" due to checking out Teacherninja's post of Dan Meyer's video on "How to Teach..." -- all evening I had been slightly nervous about starting a week-long job, but this got me all fired up!

I'm not a Math person and he lost me on the ski slopes, but I am totally into the "be less helpful" angle* and I consider my absolute number 1 priority as a teacher (and parent/coach/adult) to prepare students for what comes next for the rest of their lives: solving problems.  I don't consider not having all the correct answers penciled in on a workbook page or turning in a certain amount of homework assignments to be problems; more often than not I see students simply copying off others, filling in the answers during review, or completely tuning out the lesson and discussion until the quick 'n easy how do I jump through the next hoop solution is presented.  It looks like Dan Meyer's blog tackles similar issues, plus he and his shopping cart were on Good Morning America!

*My sons will recognize this in the form of one of my mantras: "Look it up!"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reasons To Hire Me

where was I, number 7?

7.  Don't let my "visible experience" from point #6 mislead, I am not a doddering retiree embarking on a second career -- I'm still (relatively) young and (fairly) active.  We walk, hike, racquetball, skateboard, challenge any number of sons plus neighborhood children to basketball, football, or dodgeball, and spend a majority of the summer at the beach.  I feel an active, healthy lifestyle is beneficial on mental and scholarly levels and want my students to see me practicing what I preach -- eating fruit and veggies, getting outside and walking around during breaks, classroom stretching every once in a while to get our blood flowing... and on the middle school hoops, I can still dunk.

8. I am active in the community -- several different communities, actually.  We do Cub Scouts near home, sports near the former home, and the boys' school is in a separate part if town entirely.  I've coached Pop Warner football teams, taught Art lessons, made signs and hung banners, and picked up trash and folded chairs after many an event.  I remember hearing a teacher complain about seeing a student and family while grocery shopping, but I think it's so cool when I hear "Coach Joel!" or "Mr. Nauton!" and see one of my kids around town.  Although it's probably like the All-Star giving autographs, it gets old after a while...?

9.  I have three sons, one each in high/middle/elementary school. They were my inspiration for taking this leap, my encouragement and tutors during the return to school, and my connections as I enter the world of 8-15 year olds ("what is a justin beiber again?").  Mostly through the use of the word "no" I am able to stay in touch with the modern student's world, as in "No, you may not see that movie/watch that show/play that song one more time/wear your pants like that/have a girlfriend" etc, etc.  I also have a constant supply of book recommendations, pop culture questions, technology upgrade requests, and a captive audience when I want to experiment try out a new lesson plan or classroom behavior strategy.

Application Time!

I'm not sure what is worse: this line from a local school district:

"We received over 400 applications and only hired 10 new teachers."

...or the dreaded "Tell us about yourself" introduction letter?

I was never good at self-evaluations at work, either too critical or too much the braggart -- but "I really didn't do much of anything" won't get one a raise, and "This place would collapse into rubble without me" doesn't endear one to immediate supervisors.  Now I need to tell principals why they should hire me to work in one of their classrooms, and I'm out on the tightrope, balancing between the feeling that I have no idea what I'm doing and announcing myself as the second coming of Socrates.

So why should a principal hire me?  Let me count the ways...

  1. I enjoy kids.  They amaze me when they learn, inspire me when they create, crack me up just by walking in the door and saying good morning.
  2. I love learning.  Through reading, hearing, watching, doing -- even trying to do but messing things up can be some learning. I love learning about new things I've never heard of before and learning something new about things I thought I knew all about.  I love sharing the "Wow, that was cool!" moment with others when we learn together.
  3. I think it is very important to set a good example, to walk the walk after (and sometimes during) talking the talk -- teachers/parents/adults should do the same things we tell children they should do, such as read a book, get out in the fresh air, visit a museum, make friends with a bully, sit up straight...
  4. I enjoy what I do.  If we have to work or do a task, might as well do it with a smile, do it well, do it right the first time.  It sounds corny, but I cannot wait to have a job I am really going to look forward to going to each morning!
  5. I know how to listen to and talk with a wide variety of people, even unhappy ones.  I was in retail sales for 20 years and have heard every complaint, excuse, and con in the book.  I will be able to efficiently communicate and cooperate with parents and co-workers, and be able to calmly handle any difficulties that might arise.
  6. Speaking of years, I have lived a few more than most rookie teachers, which means not only do I have a bit of that distinguished, professorial gray, but I'm definitely in this job for life.  I plan on spending at least the next 30 years (just enough to pay off the student loans!) as a teacher.  It is who I am, it is what I want to do.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Europe Trip

Europe, here he comes!  Well, he will if he raises enough money in the next 8 months...

Right now I'm just looking for encouragement for his efforts and some ideas and suggestions, so maybe click on some of his links?   Thanks!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Piano Stairs and Bedazzled Battleships

These ideas cover life in general, but what an important concept for educators -- The Fun Theory promotes changing and rewarding positive behavior through this new-fangled concept called "fun" ...

I also remembered this fantastic blog that I used to read almost as a daily devotional, but somehow lost it in the shuffle (maybe 5 blogs + Facebook is too much?).  It's not only fascinating history connected to today's world/student, but it's also full of that "fun" stuff to engage and reinforce learning, such as creatively coloring battleships? I did not know about the dazzle method of camouflage, but now thanks to History is Elementary I do...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Math Teacher Shadow Video

He's not the best actor, but this is still very cool!  A Math teacher has issues with his own shadow...

Oops, just noticed some of the other videos listed are NSFW!

Here's his Halloween video on YouTube, which is probably a safer site to visit.

What a great way to get students interested in using video/computer technology  to express understanding...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Energizing Brain Breaks

Energizing Brain Breaks  -- quick and fun ways to get students re-energized and get attentions re-focused... although some of these look like a full on sweat inducing work out to me, I'd better practice first!  (via I Want To Teach Forever)

Henry Rollins, Punk Educator?

"A member of Ku Klux Klan doesn’t need a frying pan upside the head! He needs an Al Green record and some good books."

Excellent point by the punk icon, made at a University commencement... he's come a long way, baby!  Here is the speech text, and here is the blog that brought up some excellent ideas.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Violence Overload

I am giving up violence.

Or at least attempting to severely curtail my personal exposure to anything and everything violent, which obviously must include books.  On my original* "Inspired..." blog  I am writing about this desire to eliminate violence in my life, and will probably have some duplicate posts here when relevant to students, teaching, and Education.

I know the world is violent.  Some students' lives are violent on a daily basis.  Pop culture is certainly violent, sometimes overwhelmingly so, which is why I am trying to recognize ways I can avoid as much violence as I can and find alternatives for my children and students, if at all possible.  So far, the violence I have encountered in the classroom has been confined to the realms of history (wars, slavery, and assassinations) and nature (volcanoes, tornadoes, and the food chain).**  Could the elementary school culture be the least violent-saturated element of our American culture?

Or have I just not seen it yet, is violence too prevalent in Education?  Do we teach about the battle's victors, and not the peace-makers?  Is everything Twilight and Goosebumps and wizards fighting?

As always, I welcome comments and suggestions.

*Violence is hard to get away from -- I was going to say "I have hijacked my other blog..."
**Not including student violence: a few fights, discussions of video games, and the 1st grader's report on his gun-shaped birthday cake.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Well, what are they?!?!?

I get most of my sub jobs through the online systems, and when one is available there's a brief description such as "3rd grade" or "Boys' P.E." -- took one a few weeks ago that said 6th grade and ended up being the kind of 6th graders that are on their last chance to stay in school and move up a level due to the troubles they've had in other, probably several other, schools. The classroom is separated down at the end of the elementary school,  behind a 10 foot high fence, and there are 7th and 8th graders that trade periods between the two teachers and everything worked out fine.  The kids were cool, respectful and worked hard, and I didn't have any more issues during the day than in any other class or grade level.

Anyway, saw another available job to sub at the same school for the 7th & 8th graders, but instead of the job description being similar to "6th grade" it said "Educationally Handicapped" -- I checked my past assignment, yep it's the same school, same teachers, same students... how did they go from being listed like every other student to being labeled as handicapped?  I hesitated, then took the job, and when I showed up that morning sure enough they were all the same kids!  How many good teachers don't take the job, a job that desperately needs good teachers, because the students are stamped "handicapped"?  How many other difficulties do these students have, and their lives seem tough enough already outside the classroom, because they get labeled like this?

Just another naive new teacher mini-rant, sorry.

cool license plate frame

"You Can't Scare Me

I'm A Teacher"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Owl Box Live!

Cool webcam in an owlbox so you can watch live baby owls being born (well not yet, they're still eggs) and of Mama Owl eating mice... **warning** use full screen around children and principals, the idiots leaving comments are not always on their best behavior...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sand Art video

Here is an amazing artist working in sand (my sons were stunned, although they didn't get the crying audience) from a cool blog.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Building A Better Teacher

I watched and posted these videos last night, and in class today (subbing 5th grade) I mentioned them to the students -- in transition between subjects I talked about the kindergarten students clearing their desks in 3 seconds, and later while beginning a discussion on democracy I brought up how the 3rd grade students were able to debate the "6 is also an odd number"  issue without any interruptions or disruptions or general carrying on. Now I realize there may be some students, potential problem type students, sitting in the library while the filming is going on, but for the most part I'd say this teacher has got it going in the right direction.  I wonder if it would be beneficial for students, such as students in a class that appears to have cultivated a culture of constant interruption and talking over each other,  to watch some of these videos to see that yes, it is actually humanly* possible to sit still and not talk when someone else is talking?

It seems there is a discernible difference in classrooms I work in: some are designed, set up, run, developed, fostered, created, etc., with a primary, overriding culture of learning, while others are concerned only with "getting through" -- the material, the day, the school year...

Guess in which type of classroom it is easier/smoother/productive and more rewarding to be a Guest Teacher?

*assuming that is we acknowledge 8-12 year old children as "human" -- There is considerable debate.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Aaron Burr Raps!

As it says, easily the best rap song about the first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton... not sure my elementary kids would get it, but middle or high school?

Cash For Grades

Should we pay the students to do well in school?

Would you give up your raise to reward your students with cold hard cash?

The Two Oldest Professions?

"A prospective substitute teacher wanted to know why she hadn’t been selected for an assignment. Slavin explained that her conviction for prostitution made her ineligible."

Ya think?!?!?  That doesn't really have a lot to do with this article, but then again...

Building A Better Teacher

and here are some great videos to go with it -- this is the way I want to teach!

Doug Lemov Teaching Videos 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stagnant Slacker

I confess, substitute teaching has not kept me at my sharpest.  No lesson plans to prepare, no papers to grade, and no specific math concept, historical period, or even a particular grade level to study up on has left me floundering.  Coupled with the fact that I am no longer a student myself -- The Breadwinner's slight income slump and The University's insistence on huge chunks of money having led to a Master's degree hiatus -- I find myself regressing academically/intilectually.  See, I can't even spell good no more.

So I am rededicating myself to the pursuit of smartness, revitalizing my appreciation and application of that great gray mass of matter that of late has been preoccupied largely with creating playlists for the iPod (great Thanksgiving Day songs, lead singers with "Q" in their name, etc.) and dialing the sub job services hoping for sick teachers. I have kept up my reading lately, but now that the football season is over ("Wow Dat!") I need to step it up a notch.  So here's the plan...

  • Read Bigger Books.  Picked up Churchill: A Biography, weighing in at 952 pages, and The Seven Basic Plots, a bit lighter with 711; did a few curls with them as the cute Librarian passed by, and now they're making a fine ottoman while I ice my shoulder...
  • Re-Read Text Books.  There are several degrees worth of books surrounding me, text books and gift books and hand-me-down books and yes-honey-I-neeeeed-to-buy-this books, all centered on various aspects of teaching.  Maybe I should be using them for more than keeping the dust off the shelf?
  • Utilize the Internet.  For more than Facebook, I mean.  I get updates daily from all sorts of amazing educational sites, including blogs and YouTube, and I usually say something along the lines of "Great idea Angela, I'll read/watch/check it out later!" yet never do...
  • Talk To Myself.  Or blog, whatever you want to call it.  Putting it out in the blogosphere somehow holds me accountable, if I post the title of the text I've pulled off the shelf it somehow helps me to actually open the book and do more than look at the pictures.
  • Eat With Others.  I need to take my lunch to the teachers' lounge instead of dropping crumbs all over the afternoon's lesson plan.  It's tough, on one hand 'cause I'm kinda shy and on the other because I really want (need) to read the lesson several times and practice a couple of problems or read a few chapters before attempting to teach it.  I like to get as much up on the white board ahead of time as well, I never like to turn my back on the pack, er, class.  Plus you never know when the Principal might stop by, and the whole idea is to look like I know what I'm doing so I'll get offered a contract on the spot.  What? It could happen, couldn't it?
Any suggestions?  How do keep moving forward and always improving your self and your craft?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I'm A Slacker.

I've meant to chronicle my life as a substitute teacher, but for some reason or other I haven't made the time and effort to get anything posted.

But I do have around the office scattered post-it notes with barely-begun, half-finished thoughts covering days as a substitute/guest teacher; I know it can be beneficial and cathartic to get ideas down on "paper" even though no one, probably not even myself, will read them.  Isn't there a famous quote along the lines of "writing is food for the soul" -- at least that's what I think is scribbled down on this note, along with the words "comfort food/beer."  That must have been after my first day in Middle School.

The past few months have been much more rewarding than challenging, certainly even the toughest day doesn't make me question the decision to become an educator (although if you would've told me about the economy/budget/job disaster waiting for me...).

I have done Kindergarten (dang those little ones are quick!), Jr. High (damn, some of those boys are big), and Special Ed (fall in love and break your heart) and lots of 1st -3rd grade.  I've had a student turn into Wolverine for the afternoon, a student run off and disappear, and a student push me back up against a table.  Well, I kind of let him since he was all of 3 feet tall and I'm sure the rules prohibit me from lifting him by the seat of his pants and tossing him toward the Principal's office...

Saturday, January 9, 2010