Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mandate from the President: No Paper Day/Week

I had an epiphany the other evening while brushing my teeth and participating a plurk radio program hosted by Kevin Honeycutt. We were discussing how do we get technology to be used effectively in the classroom. We shared ideas for teacher development and the role that administrators take in leading the charge.

Most people don't want to be left behind as the world is changing around them. We want to use best practices for our students. TIME to learn and support when problems occur tend to be the reasons(excuses?) why technology integration is not happening at the pace we would like it too.

I thought wouldn't it be interesting for the our new president to designate a day or a week that no paper can be used in education? It would really upset the apple cart but it would be an opportunity for students and teachers alike to change how we teach and learn. More hands on activities would need to be planned. We would go on community field trips. We would use our computers for online collaboration and communication. The possibilities are endless! It is a bold action and vision but one that would reap rewards that I think are immeasurable.

We have so many "special" days and weeks that are put into the calendar. I think my idea could take off. I don't know how to get it done but I am putting it out there for others to think about.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Grateful & Lucky

These past weeks I have been thinking a lot about how grateful I am, how truly grateful I am. In no particular order- I have a wonderful family. We are all relatively healthy. I have a home that is comfortable and warm. We have the money we need to pay the bills. I have friends that care about me. I have a job that I love. I live in a country in which freedom of speech is a right. I live in a technological time and have a pretty "comfortable" life compared to my ancestors.

It is easy to forget how lucky a person is when something upsets the normal routine. Recently a person I don't know well had her husband die unexpectedly. Another person I network with, lost her mother. I cannot imagine either of their losses. I would imagine the death almost like a hole in ones heart. Our son recently had a health crisis but fortunately he is going to be ok with the drug therapy that our health insurance will cover. I am relieved and grateful that we have insurance, good insurance. The costs of the tests that he took, the doctors that looked at the results and the drugs that he is on, would have been a huge financial burden on us that I hope never to experience.

Like so many school districts in the United States, the one that I work for is losing students. The way that the public funding is calculated is based in part on the enrollment numbers. We have had the privilege and luxury these past 8 years of having the state and the district support low class sizes with SAGE funding. One teacher to 15 students is the ratio in kindergarten to 3rd grade for reading and math. This gives the youngest of students an opportunity to get a great start in their formal education. I returned to the classroom after a 10 year hiatus from raising my own children. I was so happy to get hired to teach kindergarten during the expansion to all-day kindergarten and SAGE classes that our district embraced. After 2 quick years I was asked to move to the technology computer teaching position. I have been teaching k-2 ever since and love it!

I may or may not have a teaching job in the future. The district is facing budget cuts. A primary computer technology teacher is not a mandated class that a district has to have. I would hope that I could move back to teaching kindergarten if that were to happen. I have never taught another grade and don't feel qualified to do so. If the district wants to restructure and decides that SAGE is not necessary and that budget woes can be solved by increasing class sizes, then the laying off of many teachers will happen. I hope with all of my body that this does not happen. I know that life changes and curve balls come at you fast. I will tell my readers this, " I am lucky to have a job." I don't take it for granted. I love working for my school district and touching the lives of the students in positive ways. I hope that in my future I can keep being employed as a teacher in whatever capacity the district chooses.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

When it works...

A teacher never knows how their week may go. Often times a teachers best plans are scrapped on Monday or reworked at the very least. There are so many reasons why this happens and some of these are very worthwhile and student led. Others reasons that our planning goes awry are because of circumstances beyond the teachers lesson planning vision. A good teacher has to be flexible and rework and sometimes teach by the seat of her pants :) as the expression goes. It is what those teachable moments are for. And yet, I hope as most of my fellow teachers do, that my lesson plans can be my guide for the week to get us where we need to go by the end of the school year.

It is very rare that you have a fantastic week- one in which your lessons are right on, the students are attentive and showing interest and excitement and that the unscheduled interruptions are nonexistent. This happened to me this last week. I had a my kindergartners beginning a "Color"(see previous post) project in Pixie 2. It was just at their level- not too easy and not too hard. When you can have both ends of the learning spectrum succeed in your classroom, you know that it is a great lesson/project! My first and second grade classes completed their joke/riddle projects after working a month or more on them. This project was interrupted for these students by many holidays, vacation days and just general school stuff. It feels great to have it done!

I know not to expect too many more days like this let alone a week, but for now, I am feeling terrific- basking in the successes of the week. I hope that if you are an educator reading this that you can have a week like mine very soon.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Seven things about me : Meme

I have been tagged by my Plurk friends Alica and Nedra to share with others seven things about me that you might not know. The rules are to link back to the person that has tagged you and then tag seven other people. If you would put your name for others to see on this wiki then you can see all of the other social networking people that have done this so far :)

One: My husband was seriously dating my roommate in college. When I returned from Taiwan to do my stateside student teaching I needed a place to stay for just 8 weeks. I contacted John, who was in rental real estate at the time, to help me find a place that did not require a lease(I was going back to Taipei). He was no longer dating my old roommate and asked me to dinner. We met for a fish fry. I was wined and dined and over a few months convinced that staying in Wisconsin was the choice to make. It is one that I don't regret. John waited until he was 35 to get married - he likes to say that he just had not met the right woman. We have been married 22 years this Valentine's day.

Two: In 1984, I went on a semester abroad program my senior year of college. I chose China and Taiwan. I ended up staying an entire year, doing half of my student teaching at the Taipei American School there. This experience gave me such an appreciation for diversity. Fifty five different countries were represented with students all getting along, learning together, having fun together and respecting each others cultures.

Three: As a freshman in high school I was the first girl on the golf team. As a young lady of 11 or 12, I caddied for Fuzzy Zoeller at the Greater Milwaukee Open at the Ozaukee Country Club. I gave up playing golf when I started to feel the pressure that others were putting on me to be great. It took me more than 20 years to pick up a club again. It is kind of like riding a bike, you don't forget how. I played for a few years but have not gone these last 2 summers.

Four: I was a stay at home mom for 10 years. It was the best decision for our family and one that I would make again in a heartbeat, which isn't to say it was easy. I think that there is a lot of pressure on women to do all and be all. I was lucky in the sense that I had a supportive husband and though we did not have much money we could get by. It is isolating and certainly a sacrifice. You worry about getting back into the work force when it is time. I was lucky to get a kindergarten teaching position when Katy was in 1st grade.

Five: Although I teach computers now, it was my sons that got me thinking about going into this field. From the time that they were quite young, they knew more about computers than I did. I could not sit on my hands as the world was changing around me. In high school I had not even taken a typing class. I was not going to be a secretary, I was going to be the boss! I needed a masters degree to move up on the pay scale. A program was being offered in my school district from Lesley University, all on site, one weekend a month for 22 Technology In Education. It was perfect. After just two classes my principal called and asked if I would change my position from kindergarten teacher to elementary computer teacher. I have not looked back.

Six: I get worked up after reading a book or watching a show and feel like I have to do something. It is not enough to just sit idly by for me. I read the book, "The Education of Little Tree" and felt like I could never have a live Christmas tree in my home ever. I watched Frontline on PBS probably 10 years ago that was investigating the diamond mines and I learned about the blood diamonds in Africa. It had such a profound effect upon me that I could not look at my engagement ring without thinking of the horrific things that were being done so that people such as myself could have pretty bling. I decided to trade in my wedding ring set and get a simple gold band. I lost the gold band very soon after I got it.

Seven: We do have a fake Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments. We also have a menorah and have played dreidl for Hanukah. These are not religious symbols of the season for us but instead a part of our cultural heritage. I was raised a conservative Jew. I had a Bat Mitzvah and attended Hebrew school for more than 6 years. I began questioning from a very early age the existence of god and the irony of religion. I slowly moved away from feeling comfortable with religion and now am an atheist. My husband was raised southern Baptist. Our children have attended things in both churches and synagogues. It is up to them to decide what spiritual path that they are going to choose.

I would like to learn more about each of these people. I know that they are busy so don't feel obligated...But if you could take the time and blog about seven things that your PLN does not know about you, then pass it on to seven others, our personal learning network and the blogosphere will be a more personal place. I tag:

David Kapuler
Gina Hutchins
Scott Flaming
Carol Skyring
Brent R. Jones
Caroline OBannon
Daisy Okay

Friday, January 2, 2009

Projects to start 2009

As many "specials" teachers will agree, keeping your classes on the same lesson or project is virtually impossible. The first week of school for us is only a four day week. I don't see my Monday classes because of the Labor Day holiday. With days off of school for so many reasons lesson planning is a challenge. I was not very successful this year in coordinating my schedule to get classes of same grades to be on the same day. My brain has to switch between kindergarten first and second grade lessons each day throughout the entire week. You need to be very organized.
This first week back in 2009 I have all kindergarten classes ready to start a new project. Below is the project that they will begin making in the Pixie 2 program. I am expecting to work on it for the month of January and have each student make the title slide and 3-5 color slides. They will then make it into the movie. Since this is my first year using the program I am just guessing on the timeline and expectations.

My first and second grade classes are in different places as far as completion of their joke projects. They had to choose between one of the jokes below, type it out and illustrate the joke part on one slide and on the second slide type and illustrate the punchline. This is much harder for first and second graders to do than one might expect. The students are doing a really nice job on it. First and second graders do not have a very refined sense of humor yet. Their thinking is much more literal. I had to explain each and every one of the jokes below and then I showed them this example (which they could not do) project to give them an idea how this project would work.

How does a queen bee get around her hive?
She's throne!

What are the cleverest bees?
Spelling bees!

What goes zzub, zzub?
A bee flying backwards!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Abe who?
Abe C D E F G H...!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Amos who?
A mosquito just bit me!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Arbus who?
Arbus leaves soon, are you coming?

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Atch who?
I'm sorry I didn't know you had a cold!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Bacon who?
Bacon a cake for your birthday!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Ben who?
Ben knocking on this door all morning!

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Beezer who?
Beezer black and yellow and make honey!

How do we know that the Earth won't come to an end?
Because it's round!

How many balls of string would it take to reach the moon?
Just one if it's long enough!

What is the best hand to write with?
Neither - it's best to write with a pencil!

What has forty feet and sings?
The school choir!

Why does a flamingo lift up one leg?
Because if he lifted up both legs it would fall over!

Why do birds fly south in the winter?
Because it's too far to walk!

What did 0 say to 8?
Nice Belt!

Why did Santa have 3 gardens?
So he could hoe, hoe, hoe!!

What did one math book say to the other?
Boy do I have a lot of problems.

The first and second grade classes that are finished with their joke movies are starting a new math Pixie 2 project which I will post about in the very near future.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Polar Plunge -the shock I needed?

Winter is not my season. I don't like how dark it is, how snowy and icy it gets, and I HATE the cold. Why you may ask would I live in Wisconsin? The short story is that my husbands business keeps us here. So I endure and hope that spring comes quickly.

Sometimes we need to jolt our systems. I know that I was feeling the winter "blahs" and with many weeks left of winter a change in attitude was necessary. I am normally not a risk taker. I am afraid of falling from high up places. I don't like driving in less than ideal conditions. I think that taking unnecessary risk in life is foolish when life is so precious. I don't think anyone would say that I enjoy living life on the edge. More likely my kids would tell you that I am too worried about them. I have admiration for people that have physical coordination because I lack it. Like many people in my younger and more selfish years I had done things that were unsafe and crazy. Probably the most dangerous was hitchhiking to Florida and California with friends.

So yesterday, in a moment of delirium, I asked my daughter if she wanted to join me in doing something crazy and silly. I asked if she or any of her friends that were joining us for New Year's Eve wanted to take the polar plunge? She was excited to do it. So at noon on January 1st, 2009 at Rusty's Backwater Saloon near Stevens Point, Katy, 2 of her friends and I, all of us holding hands, jumped into the 38 degree Wisconsin river with an air temperature of close to 20 degrees.
It was an invigorating and shocking experience. The coldest part was my feet afterward walking through the slush. The cold air when you get out actually feels good on your skin. Sharing the experience with my daughter was great. The plunge itself is a wonderful shock to the system- a high almost that lasts for a bit while you retell the story. I will be back to do it again next year.