Wednesday, October 31, 2007
How can one respond to being honored with a Milken Award? I am still feeling shock. Yesterday seems quite blurry at this point. I do remember that when I heard my name the only thing I could think was that I suspected I needed to stand up and walk to the stage and was not certain I had the power to do so. I could not hold back the tears. I know several people spoke after that - including me - but I have very little recollection of what was said! My Milken bio needs updating, but it is online.
I am struggling a bit with how I was the one in our state that was chosen for this award. I know teachers all across this state and there are so many amazing ones. I know how much I love what I do and how much I love working with "my" kids. This year, however, the switch from being a computer teacher to an English and Social Studies teacher has been extremely challenging. (English teachers work really HARD!) I do a number of additional duties at school, mostly because I can't help myself. When my principal asks for volunteer, my hand just shoots up. I have no control! (Okay, I admit - I enjoy the extra stuff!) I spend a lot of time as the building technology leader, too. I am so happy when my teachers start using technology. I had one teacher this morning drag me over to look at a PowerPoint he put together. He was so proud and I loved that he was using visuals in his class.
I had a room FULL of students after school today. They were making sure they were caught up and some asked to see a video I had shown today with Vincent Price doing the Tell-Tale Heart. I was surprised that they would want to see it again.
Excited teachers, engaged students - this is why I come in each day. The Milken Award - Wow! what a bonus! Does life get any better than this? I doubt it!
The Rapid City Journal
Sioux Falls Argus Leader
KEVN TV - Fox
KOTA TV - ABC
KNBN TV -MSNBC
Sunday, October 21, 2007
My students spent the last two weeks working on a historical person project. It culminated Friday with them dressing in character and giving speeches about their person to judges. We played games and had a movie. Since this is the first year I have done this, I was a bit apprehensive as to how the kids would respond to this. So I told all my students that the other 8th grade English teacher is bragging that she always gets 100% participation and that she doesn't think I will manage the same. Kids love that kind of competition. Several of them told me that they "had my back" and they have all been working on their projects like crazy. Jackie - the other English teacher - has gotten a chuckle about hearing about her "talking smack" as they have strolled down the hall. She is all for whatever works. I guess the competition worked. I had one that didn't dress in character, but gave her speech and just one that refused to do either. Jackie had two that didn't participate. The project was exhausting!
We are working on Edgar Allan Poe now and the kids really are excited about it. Who knew!
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Teacher surprised with giant box of supplies
By Andrea J. Cook, Journal staff
RAPID CITY -- Sherry Crofut stayed up late Monday night preparing for an assembly presentation, only to discover Tuesday that the assembly was in her honor.
With the help of North Middle School's principal Jeanne Burckhard, Office Max employees surprised Crofut with a huge box of school supplies, a new office chair and a cart useful for transporting everything from books to computers.
"This is awesome!" Crofut said, scanning a table piled with notebooks, pens and glue sticks. Her bounty also included a digital camera and color printer. "I'm a school-supply kind of girl. This is mind blowing!"
About 1,000 Office Max stores nationwide celebrated the first "A Day Made Better" at 10 a.m. Tuesday by delivering school supplies worth about $1,200 to deserving teachers.
"Office Max wanted to make an impact ... with 'A Day Made Better,'" Rapid City Office Max manager Beth Schnell said. Education is one of Office Max's priorities, Schnell said. "We also adopted the school, so the school will see rewards down the road."
Office Max officials estimate that teachers spend about $1,200 of their own money on supplies for their classroom, Schnell said.
Crofut said it was hard to pick out a favorite item from those delivered by the Office Max employees.
"The beginning of the school year just excites me, so I buy all this stuff," she said. "They laugh at me because I buy more school supplies than my children do."
However, the new desk chair immediately won Crofut's attention. After eight years as a computer teacher, Crofut now teaches eighth-grade English and social studies and has moved to a new classroom with an "awful" chair.
Crofut was nominated for the award by Burckhard, who knew that Crofut could use the materials to stock her new classroom.
And Crofut, who is waiting to hear on the results of her national board certification, is a hard worker who is always willing to help other teachers with technology, Burckhard said. Crofut also completed her master's degree in technology last May.
"She really does over achieve," Burckhard said.
Crofut said a share of the credit goes to Burckhard, who has encouraged her to continue her education and consider a career in administration.
"I truly admire this woman and am beyond touched that she would nominate me for such an award," Crofut said.
Office Max has adopted North Middle School for the year. Along with Crofut's gifts, Schnell and her staff left discount cards for all teachers.
Between now and Oct. 6, Office Max is accepting cash donations for North and other Title 1 schools in the Rapid City School District, which will be passed on to the schools.___________________________________________________________________
I think the staff is most happy that they pulled this off without me knowing exactly what was going on. I did know something was up the night before when I called a teacher friend and told her I was calling in sick the next day. She flipped on me and told me to suck it up and be at school the next day - and dress nice.
The best part was that my husband and sons had all been notified and had taken time off to be there! How sweet!
Unfortunately, the sick thing was for real. I went to the doctor this afternoon and have the first stages of pneumonia. I have been told I must keep my rear end in bed tomorrow. I HATE missing school! I argued, but it did me no good. And I am running a bit of a fever. Spreading this would not be good. But tomorrow is my first day with my Eagle's Nest - kind of an advisory group. DRATS! They will miss me! At least the sub has an activity for them - they are decorating my door for Red Ribbon Week. Guess it will really just be me missing them! Most of my students were worried about me today when I couldn't quit coughing. They will be glad to hear I went to the doctor.
Okay, off to bed with me like a good girl. (Ha!) We have the day off on Monday and in-service on Tuesday, so I only have three days to plan for next week. Should make resting easier!
Adding link to pictures at Flicker.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I had another big change for me this week. I learned the word no. It has been scarce in my vocabulary and it took me hours to build up the confidence to say it. Our English department head had decided to study a new writing method as a department and got it set up as a class for credit. I was feeling enormous pressure as a new member of the department to take this class, even though not everyone in the department was going to. I finally went to her and explained that I am frantically learning the current writing method AND the Social Studies curriculum AND taking a Promethean Board class AND finishing the technology curriculum revision. I told her that another class probably would cause me to go over the edge and that I appreciated the offer, but no thank you. She completely understood. Whew!
There were other bright spots in my week. I am a teacher that keeps MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo accounts. I believe that if our kids live out there, I need to know what these are about. Over the summer, a few of my students found my Bebo account and to date 45 of them have requested me to be their "friends." I make it a point to not seek them out as friends, but I accept all of them that ask. I was looking over one of my students pages the other night and found a lot of things he has written. Wow! He is an awesome writer. There were a couple of pieces about how he feels about sports and a couple of lines about his girlfriend. This young man knows how to express himself. I sent him email telling him so. He doesn't think it is writing - just putting himself out there. I explained that is what writing is and that I am greatly looking forward to what he has to offer in class. I really am, too. This young man is an athlete and tends to play the part. It isn't going to happen in English class! He sought me out on yesterday's field trip to talk to me about his Bebo page and you could see how pleased he was that I liked it. For all the bad things that I find on my kids' Bebo pages, his was worth it all!
Yesterday our school had Natural High Day. Each core takes the kids on a field trip. The purposes are to show them that they can have fun without drugs, for us to get to know them better in a different setting, and for them to get to know us when we aren't in teaching mode. I look forward to this every year. The last 8 years at North I have gone as an Encore teacher, which is just another set of hands. The core teachers do all the planning and are in charge of the event. This year I felt more responsibility. I was in charge of things like collecting all the money and paying for things. As usual, some very cool things happened. We took our kids to a retreat setting and they have an obstacle course there. It is designed for both team building and trust building. We split the kids into four groups and were guided through the different stations on the course. I always like watching kids that don't hang out together learn to solve problems together. The biggie was when they had to get the entire team across a 10 foot wall. We had one young lady that was concerned about her weight. The kids didn't let her refuse the challenge. They took her right over the wall. Two girls were terrified of heights - whoosh over the wall they went. You have to love kids!
They also were given large blocks of free time. There was an outdoor basketball court, volleyball net, and field for frisbee. Inside were a number of games and there was also a hike down to a fishing hole. The kids were awesome, but the highlight of my day was when one of our boys was sitting off to the side. He tends to be a loner by choice. He has long, blonde hair and wears more makeup than I do. He considers himself to be very goth. He is quite the artist - if you like the skulls and dark art he does. Anyway, he is sitting off to the side and a couple of the boys yelled for him to come even up the basketball teams. That alone stunned me, because they usually leave this young man alone. But he went! He played basketball with them for about 1/2 an hour! I took pictures just because I was so excited. After a while there were other kids that wanted in the game and he gave up his spot and headed back off to draw. I went and chatted with him about his experience. He was laughing because he wasn't very good at basketball, but I think that short experience changed something in him. He was a different kid all day. I am anxious for Monday!
There are times when I let the details of my job overwhelm me. The technology aspect can make me crazy. The learning curve I am on leaves me feeling behind. The English papers that must be graded are insane. But I love what I do. Lucky for me teaching isn't just about technology or English or Social Studies. It is about these kids and the amazing resilience they have. My kids don't have a lot of money. Many are from very poor home situations. They come into my classroom with a lot of baggage, but they are really all about being kids. I am so blessed to be able to share a brief part of their lives!
Okay - off to Saturday School to assist those that are struggling academically! I love my job!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Tuesday went just as well. I am taking a class for the Promethean Board the district is putting into a number of classes. I have not been overly happy about giving up three hours every Tuesday night for 10 weeks AND having to pay for the class. I felt like the district should train me for free since they want me to use the board. But, since it is such a cool board, I was going to do it. Word came to us this Tuesday that through some grant money, we are all getting paid an hourly wage to attend. Woohoo! Huge kudos to our Staff Development Director!
Then came Thursday. I am finishing the heart maps with my English students and have loved the conferencing that goes with the Writer's Workshop format we are using. On Thursday, one of my young ladies shared her story with me and told me how there is very little good in her heart and she just didn't want to be around any more. My heart broke for her. Not something I could ignore. Long story short - I ended up taking her to our liaison officer (she held my hand tightly on the walk to the offices) who did an evaluation, determined that she wasn't a threat to herself, but brought mom in and set some things straight. After school, I think I sat in my room and cried for an hour. I felt this young girl's pain so intensely. I thought being an English teacher was hard because I was learning new curriculum and had tons of papers to grade. This is more than I bargained for. Our liaison came and talked to me and assured me that this student opened up to me because she trusts me and that was a good thing. I know that in my head, but I am not sure my heart is strong enough. I am going to have to get tougher if I am going to continue in this role. I am not sure I can handle becoming an administrator if I am going to fall apart like that either. Loads to think about! (On Friday, I did get a big hug from the young lady and a thank you. Now I am praying her weekend goes well.)
Last night I went to our high school homecoming football game. Our team got killed, but I had a good time. A number of teachers have ramp passes so we can park our cars on the opposite side from the bleachers and watch the game from there. We bring chairs and sit outside chatting. I can't believe the number of students that seek us out instead of hanging out with the kids in the bleachers. I ended up driving three boys home because one had promised his mom would take them home, only to remember his mom is on the other side of the state with his brother at their football game. His dad is not big on driving them around, so I made them call home and get permission for me to take them. You learn a lot outside the classroom! I have a feeling that Monday, two of these boys are going to work a bit harder in my English class.
I am glad the week ended well, but I am exhausted. You would think that in my 11th year of teaching, I would be used to the roller coaster. I guess every year throws a learning curve, especially when you put yourself in challenging positions.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
My blog entry that expressed my frustration about technology at the beginning of my school year mushroomed faster than I ever thought possible. It also gave me great insight and ideas. It catapulted my learning about blogs! The power of the blog is amazing!
This week has been an interesting week. I am truly enjoying learning to teach Social Studies and English. We are currently working on the geography of America and I am planning a couple of lessons in Google Earth. Because I am an English teacher that teaches one Social Studies class a day, I have not asked for maps or a globe. I am not sure I need those things when I have 25 computers in the room. I really think the kids are going to like these lessons.
I am not asking my students to do any assignments that I am not doing as well. I am enjoying doing journal entries and we are working on heart maps to prepare us for the upcoming poetry unit. These are so much fun. I feel certain I will do a new one every year I teach this! I got to explain my heart map to my students this week and I was completely amazed as I told stories about the things in my heart and every one of my 8th graders sat and listened. 8th graders listening? Who would have thought! They are all working intently on their own. I will be taking many pictures this week and will post a few. I am working hard to learn to teach English, but I can promise this is a change I needed. I need a challenge!
Now to the technology: First of all, I have been given the green light to offer a monthly social networking class. I plan to have parents and students come in and discuss sites like Bebo, MySpace, and Facebook. I will have the students log into their accounts and show them to to the parents. The parents will be the ones helping their kids make good decisions. I will then encourage parents to open their own accounts to monitor their kids. Now I hope this is well received. This is another one of those things I am passionate about, but I don't know if I can get our parents to participate. It is a great idea, but who knows?
Secondly, we had a meeting this week about the new Information and Communication Technology Curriculum (formerly the Computer Curriculum.) I started on this committee last year when I was a computer teacher. We have had a number of very loud conversations about the topic, but were told in the spring that we were simply to align the new state standards with the curriculum. We weren’t happy, but did as we were told. When it got to our Instructional Counsel for what should have been its second reading, there were others that weren’t happy. They wanted to see it go further. That elates me. We have a new curriculum director and on Thursday night I actually heard him utter the words that now is a good time for us to become more cutting edge. We have another meeting this coming Wednesday to discuss what that could look like. We are to come with ideas. I am overwhelmed. I am still not getting my hopes up too high (easier to avoid being crushed), but I have some hope. Now all of the sudden I need to figure out what cutting edge is!
So, for all of you in the blogosphere that have been so helpful, I really need help. What do you do in your schools to make you be cutting edge? Do you teach some cool stand-alone classes at the high school level? How do you integrate technology into the regular classroom? What districts are shining examples that I can hold up in this meeting? I figure I won’t get everything I ask for, but now is the time to ask for the sky!
Thanks in advance for your help. The connections I have made via my blog and Twitter have moved me forward in amazing ways and the support has been phenomenal!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
After a rough start to the school year from a technology point of view, I need to take a few minutes to reflect on the rest of the week.
Tuesday was the first day back for students and I am always excited for the first day of school. This year I was also nervous. All week I felt like a first year teacher. Two new subjects to teach.. Wow! I tried not to let it overwhelm be, but there were moments of panic in the week. I have taught computers for 10 years. Could I really teach English and Social Studies and could I do it well? As the kids came in Tuesday morning, I was more overwhelmed by how much I had missed them over the summer. They are 8th graders, so very few of them were anxious about being back. They are the top dogs in the school and you could see that knowledge on their faces. Many of them knew I was making the move upstairs and my classroom is the first one as you make the turn down the 8th grade wing. So as I am standing in the hall to direct them to orientation, I was greeted with hugs and high fives. What an amazing way to start the year. I think a few of the 8th grade teachers were jealous. They don’t know many of these kids yet, but I have the advantage after having them in classes for the last two years. Knowing I was a leg up in forming the relationships necessary to teach students was a confidence boost to me. I was able to let them choose their own seats and make suggestions about a few not choosing wisely. We did ice breakers on the first day and rules and procedures on the second. My social studies students (I am thrilled to have them twice a day) did current events and wrote their personal history. My English students wrote two bio poems. The second one will not be due until Monday, but I have been grading the first cinquain poems and learning much more about my kids. Reading their personal histories has also been helpful. Even though I have had these students before and know a lot about them, put a pen in their hands and information flows. I was worried about teaching writing, but I can tell that they are going to need this class. Sure, they need to learn more about spelling and grammar, but they really NEED to be able to channel their feelings onto paper.
My students are from the poor side of our city. My middle school has 87% free and reduced lunches. We are 60% Native American and a large number of those students seem to float between Rapid City and the Pine Ridge Reservation. The poverty on the reservation is mind numbing. We have students that run in gangs. We have a problem with alcoholism both with parents and students. Drugs are not uncommon. We seem to draw in more special education students. We also range up to average middle-class. We certainly aren’t up to what is seen in large, inner-city schools, but it is the toughest part of Rapid City, SD. Most of my kids come to school with a great deal of baggage. I think our teachers are the hardest working middle school teachers in the city. We try to take care of students needs before we can even think about curriculum. Our school serves breakfast for the early drop-offs and has an after-school program that runs until 5:30 for those that have no where to go after our 3:02 bell. We have an Eagle Closet, which would be like a thrift store except it is free for our families. We have a parole officer that comes to our school several times a week to meet with her kids. We have a liaison officer that is kept far too busy. We have a food backpack program that sends students home on Friday with a backpack full of groceries to get students through the weekend. We have just set up a new fundraising committee that teachers are volunteering on to raise money for so many of the other items our students need. And with all of this said, let me assure you, there is NO other school I would rather work at. Even with all the issues they have, my kids are just kids. They need an education and they need someone to care about them. I never leave the school on any day when I don’t know with absolute certainty that I touched the life of a child. There is nothing that can give more purpose to my life.
My previous post expressed my frustration with technology. Yes, I am passionate about teaching 21st century students with 21st century tools, but even more so when it comes to MY kids. These students that come to me each day have not had the advantage of computers in their homes since birth. Some of them are starting to get them now, but their parents certainly know very little about technology and aren’t teaching them how to behave in an appropriate manner on the Internet. I have accounts on MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo and have found many of my students on Bebo. This summer, many of them found my account and made me their friend. (I don’t remember ever wanting to communicate with any of my middle school teachers in the summer, but maybe that was because I grew up in a different kind of household.) Because they reached out to me, I never missed an opportunity to chat with any of them. I counseled a few on what they were putting on their pages from a safety standpoint and tried to turn a blind eye to the language they were speaking to one another with. I did pull one young lady aside on the first day and express my concern at how vulgar her sign in name was and why, perhaps, that wasn’t the impression she wanted to leave with someone who might be her future employer. She hadn’t thought of it that way.
I talked to my principal about Bebo and we are going to try to get the district to open up the Internet one night a month. We are going to invite parents with their children to come in and I am going to discuss safety on sites like these and why putting the wrong image out there for the world to see might not be a great idea. Then we will have the students log into their accounts and show the parents. I will encourage parents to make the call on what is and isn’t proper and guide their own children. I am also go to encourage parents to set up their own accounts and have their children make them their friends so they can check in. I know some kids would feel this would be an invasion of privacy, but most of my kids would welcome this kind of attention from their parents. And parents just need to learn how to guide their children in an unknown territory for them. My son and I have had numerous conversations about what I have seen on his pages and it gives me a window into his friends. I hope we can work this out. I think it could be fun and good for all involved.
Back to the first week, – I get sidetracked once in a while – even with all the frustration, I love what I do. It is a calling. I don’t get up and go to work every day, I have the pleasure of spending my day with some amazing, young individuals who make my life richer. They keep me grounded. They make a bigger difference in my life than I probably do in theirs, but they make me want to work my tail off to be the best teacher I can for them. I’m glad they’re back. I needed to be grounded!
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
I walked into my building to find that a great number of computers have been removed from my school building, not because they were not working, just because they are 5 years old. I would have no problem with this, but there will be no more replacements for two years. I just don't understand taking perfectly good computers out of the hands of students.
Our state has added a new web filter. Right now it blocks an awful lot of sites, but they have a very simple Click here feature that allows you to justify a site. They are very fast about re-rating it, but then it still seems we are blocked at a district level. I can't get to a number of blogs. I can't Twitter. I can't download anything. I can't get to ANY multimedia site: YouTube, TeacherTube, streaming audio, even clipart! Web 2.0? I would be happy with just a few of these open! How am I supposed to teach my multimedia learners like this?
If that wasn't enough, I have received two notes letting me know I am exceeding my server quota by almost 13,000%. Since when do we have a limit? And that limit is 250 MB. Are you kidding? So, frustration getting the best of me, I decided to just take EVERYTHING off the server only to find out that when they re-imaged my teacher computer over the summer, I no longer can burn CDs. So I shot off a message to the help desk. I also made it clear that I don't think it is right that they are recommending teachers purchase their own thumb drives to store data. We work for the district, shouldn't they provide a place for us to store our files? Is 250 MB reasonable? Luckily, I had burned all my files in the spring and I just dropped the new files right onto my computer today. I have dumped everything else. I am no longer a bother to the server.
By this week I was ready to throw in the towel. I switched teaching positions so that I could lead by example and show teachers how to integrate technology into the curriculum. Fat chance! My hands are tied. Yes, I have classblogmeister set up, but now they are getting ready to dictate to me what blog I can use. They are not sure they want me using my wiki. Maybe I should just ask what may I use, please?
Thankfully, yesterday was the first day of students. Many of my 8th graders were surprised to see me as an 8th grade English and Social Studies teacher. I was a computer teacher for 10 years. I was greeted with hugs. Many of those that are in my core were cheering and many who didn't get me expressed disappointment. It doesn't take long to remember WHY we do this job. I need these kids probably more than they could ever need me. By today I was already starting curriculum. And they got right to work. We wrote a short poem today and not one of them complained. I love being a teacher!
So where does that leave me? Do I believe I can teach 21st century learners with 21st century tools? Not really. I have a lot of new curriculum to learn. Do I have the energy to fight this fight? Do I have a choice? Next week my kids are going to be using the computers. They are going to be as frustrated as I am. What am I to tell them?
Fighting this in my district is going to be tough. We have a lot of new administrators this year. They have a learning curve of their own. I understand that. Are they going to be willing to take on a tough fight? Do I dare take it to my school board? Man, can't that get you fired? How about taking it to the media and ultimately to the public. Pretty risky. I remember when I went in my classroom and just taught my kids. Life was simpler then. I can't go back to that now, but need to figure out how to go forward. One thing is certain though, I am not in this alone. Many, many other teachers are feeling the same way I am. When I put my neck out, I am confident there are others behind me. Teachers uniting for a cause should be a force to be reckoned with.
Will it work or will I be looking for a new district to teach in???
UPDATE: I greatly appreciate all the feedback I have received and it has been most helpful.
Doug Johnson made a reference to Mars and Venus and has helped me see that part of the problem is communication. We speak different languages. For example, the fact that I received a notice telling my I was almost 13,000% over my 250 MB limit on the server caused me to panic. Yesterday, I had a reasonable conversation with a young lady in the IT department that said that we were nearly filling our servers and that there was a lot of data that could be put on discs freeing up the space. They are making the quotas bigger for teachers that request and justify why they need more space. It was practical for them to set one limit and send that to all. For most of our staff, it was taken wrong (myself included) and we felt like we were being told that our materials were not to be given a place to be stored. I reacted strongly and pulled ALL of my stuff off the server. I had a genuine reason for most of what was there, but there was also a number of files that could have been archived to discs, freeing some of the space they needed. I think it is in the language in which the requests are presented.
The same, I believe is going to hold true for a number of the sites that are blocked. Many of us are putting together a list of the tools we would like to use, a reason why we would like to use them, and a rationale for what they will add to our curriculum. While I struggle with having to defend my every move, I also recognize that our IT department IS trying to ensure the safety of our students. Hopefully, we can meet in the middle.
Thanks for all your suggestions and help. I will be searching through the many blogs I read to take guidance in the tools you are using and how they are working in your classes.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I hate internal struggle. I can be my own worst enemy. I have – once again – spent the last two days filled with self-doubt. I have engaged in conversation regarding blogs. I really listened to those participating and then sat back wondering if I have ANY clue as to what I am doing.
Starting two new curriculums is pretty nerve-wracking. I have taught English in summer school before and have been doing a lot of reading. The other 8th grade teacher uses Writer’s Workshop and I am learning as fast as I can. I am meeting with her tomorrow to go over a number of things I am still learning. I am also teaching Social Studies – US History. I have NEVER taught that before and had to take the Praxis in June to be certified. So, in my spare time, have been reading the textbook (which is SO boring!), as well as fun stuff like “Gone With The Wind.”
I passionately believe that I need to teach my students in the world they live in and the world they are heading to. For me, that means I need to integrate technology. I have truly listened to the conversation on blogs, but I really believe my students need to post some of their writing on class blogs. The writing process will take a while with each piece, so I don’t see us posting daily or even weekly, but I do want them to be thinking of a wider audience. I also want my students to read other students blogs. I am finding some that I am going to have them read and comment on. I want them to learn how to appropriately respond to others and how to engage in a conversation with the writer. They will also have the opportunity to respond to each other and all the students in our CORE. This will give me the opportunity to talk to my students about how they represent themselves on the Internet. I really can tie this all together and work to make them understand how they need to be responsible with what they put out there.
I have started setting up a wiki and will use that for English and Social Studies. I am adding resources that students can use and will continue to add as we find more sites to use. I want my Social Studies students to also work in groups and put together their own wiki pages for some research they will be doing. I am looking for interactive web sites to add to their learning experience. I have been told there is no way I can cover all my curriculum without using the textbook, but I just know if I put that boring book in my students’ hands, they will resort to HATING US History. I HAVE to make this interesting. I know this is 8th grade, but these kids will be adults in a few years – voting and some will be leading this city, county, state, or even country. Hating history does not bode well for that. I think we can do better.
Am I idealistic? Probably. Will I re-evaluate as we go? Absolutely. I see a lot of research and work in my future, but at least that part doesn’t bother me. I teach in what is considered one of the toughest middle schools in Rapid City. (Okay, it isn’t inner city Chicago, but we do have our own problems!) I love my kids. I never leave for the day without believing I have made a difference. Because of that, I take this very seriously and never mind what I have to put into it. I have nine days until we are officially at in-service and 16 days until we have students. I am nervous about the whole curriculum thing, but really excited to have my students back.
While the conversation about blogs caused me to re-think what I am doing, I don’t mind that. I am going to re-think everything I am doing anyway – that’s the kind of person I am. I still believe in myself and in what I am doing with my students. We’ll see where I am in a month or two!
Friday, August 17, 2007
I find myself thinking about the skeptics I know concerning blogging. My husband is one of them. He is a computer programmer and honestly is brilliant concerning many things. He just doesn't believe that people want to read other people's opinions. He said that not everyone is an expert. I tell him the value of having this kind of communication with other professionals and you can just about see his eyes roll to the back of his head. To be fair, he doesn't "get" teachers anyway. He constantly teases me about how "touchy feely" many of us are. He opts out of most teacher gatherings because he says we always talk shop. He loves what he does, but he leaves it at the end of the day and finds passion in riding his bike or lifting weights or spending time with me. He doesn't understand that teaching can be my passion.
I have given up trying to explain teaching or blogging to my husband. He is proud of me for getting in there everyday and making a difference. He supports me in my continuing education. He knows that passion is one of the reasons he married me. So I consider that enough.
But if I can't make him understand the benefits of blogging, how can I make other skeptics understand? I was sort of amused by David's skeptic. By voicing his opinions on David's blog, he was part of the very conversation that makes blogging so great.
Personally, I know I am new at it. I know I used to be intimidated to write in my blog because I never feel like I have anything of real importance to say. But having gotten over that and started, I have connected with people all over the place. I am no longer afraid to leave comments on others blogs. I am feeling enriched by the many conversations around me. I am grateful for being part of this community.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
1. Post these rules before you give your facts.
2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them.
4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged.
My 8 Random Things:
1. I was first runner up for Miss Douglas High School my senior year.
2. I am the most insecure person I know.
3. I am married to my high school sweetheart - after we married and divorced other people.
4. I love Texas Hold 'Em.
5. I should have been born at a time when dinner parties were stylish.
6. I love to bake.
7. I would love to own a Ford Mustang.
8. Even though my husband would like to move to warmer climates, I would like to always live in South Dakota.
If I tagged you, please don't feel obligated to participate.
1. Heather - http://tiggyanne.wordpress.com
2. Geoff - http://ateacherswrites.wordpress.com
Okay, I guess I'm only tagging two. How bad is that? Seems everyone I know is tagged and I am still so new at this blogging business.
I got an email from a friend who made it clear that I needed to relax about some things. He pointed out that it didn't seem that I had taken any time off this summer to just relax. Hmmm, I did take a week off to clean out some closets that I had been ignoring and I am sure there was a day or two when I spent just with the family. I guess he is right. I have been so worried about school that I haven't relaxed. I used to be more flexible and take changes in the district well.
Then today I got to read a blog entry by Clarence Fisher titled Getting Over Ourselves. For the most part, I do believe that I show my students I am a lifelong learner and I do learn with them. I think it is important to show them how to access information when needed. So why have I been freaking out about becoming an expert with the tools I want to use in my classroom this year? I am going to have my students blog this year and I have now blogged enough to be able to lead the way, but I don't have to know every little thing. We can learn it together. The same is true of the wikis I want to use. Do they really have to be complete before school starts? Isn't that the purpose of a wiki - collaboration? Wow! I really do need to get over myself. Thanks Clarence!
I have just under two weeks before we are back at inservice and three until I see students. I do have some work to do. My new classroom needs things put away and I do have a technology inservice to plan. But I bet there is time to take a day with some girlfriends and just laugh about life. I am sure my teenage sons need a little more "Mom time". (They might not admit to that though.)
Do I feel completely confident about teaching English and Social Studies this year? No. I want to know more. But I am fully prepared for the first few weeks. I know what and how we are going about it. And the rest I can learn as we go along. Ultimately, I am a good teacher. I know how to teach middle school students. I LOVE spending time with 8th graders! I really miss them. What more do I need to prepare? Taking a deep breath and getting over myself!
Monday, August 13, 2007
Okay, the gist of the article is that technology is causing so many problems in school that some schools are banning faster than they know what they have. They talked about a teacher who was attacked and it was recorded on a cell phone. I am still trying to figure out how the cell phone is at fault. Even though I understand that we don't want students to think it is cool to beat up a teacher and that recording it is not some trophy, didn't the police have concrete evidence of the crime?
Another teacher is in trouble because of what come up in pop-ups, but that district didn't change anything significant. Excuse me?
We are living in a world where you can access just about everything on the Internet. Isn't it our jobs as educators to teach our students how to function appropriately in this environment? This article goes on to talk about teachers that don't have enough knowledge and therefore are bad role models. Well then, why aren't we doing something about that? (By the way, I know an awful lot of teachers that work long, hard hours of their own precious time teaching themselves the technology!)
We are dealing with NCLB and doing everything in our power to raise those test scores. We are encouraged to integrate technology, but at least in my district, there is limited training and support given to teachers to accomplish that. As a matter of fact, many of us are struggling with a five-year technology plan that pulls computers out that are five-years old, but are not replacing them until we reach the proper five year date. Every time I go online, I find more and more sites blocked. We have so much information right at our fingertips and those above us who panic at letting our kids have access to that.
I resent the attitude that is prevailing. And this article just makes it worse. I am already dealing with parents that are asking how they block their kids from the social networking sites like MySpace and Bebo. I jump on my soapbox and tell these parents that banning sites is not the answer. It makes it more appealing to their kids and they just go to someone else's house to gain access. I encourage parents to get their own MySpace or Bebo accounts and to learn to live in their kids' environment. I ask them if the are aware that the presidential candidates have MySpace accounts. I assure them that there is a lot of good stuff there, but it is just as important that they teach their children the safety of the Internet as it is to teach them to look both ways before they cross the street.
My son just got home from a summer internship and told me that all the drafters and engineers had FaceBook accounts. When I first talked to him about these sites, he thought they were pretty silly. Now he has used them in a workplace atmosphere and is networking with other professionals across the country. He is amazed by the usefulness of this application.
Articles like this cause panic and doesn't deal with the issues at hand. The Internet is a part of all of our lives. Our students are going to be in a workplace where these are the tools they will utilize. The last time I checked, it was our job to prepare them for becoming productive members of society. This brings me back to the quote from John Dewey I discussed in my last entry: "The world is moving at a tremendous rate. Going no one knows where. We must prepare our children, not for the world of the past. Not for our world. But for their world. The world of the future." We MUST prepare our children for THEIR world.
Let's find a way to train more of our teachers to be good role models. Let's teach our students how to use the Internet in a safe, appropriate, and effective way. Let' not panic. Let's take these tools - computers, iPods, cell phones, whatever - and find a way to use them to the fullest. Stop giving us the negatives and give us more time and access to the Will Richardsons and so many others we have leading the way. We are teachers and lifelong learners. We are capable of mastering technology and leading our students to their future.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
My first thought is that all teachers SHOULD teach this way. And I do believe that. But then I remember some of my favorite teachers from high school. Back then (that was another life ago) teachers still routinely taught with the "suck and puke" method. They would lecture and assign textbook pages and we were expected to suck in the information and puke it out on worksheets and tests. Amazingly, I managed to learn a few things along the way. My government teacher was a pro with this method. I think she had been using the same overhead note sheets for years.
Even more, I had an English teacher that did what most of us would consider unthinkable now. She would assign a composition that would be due on a Friday. Monday we would come in and above someone's desk would be the "Golden Gong Award" for the student that had the most spelling errors in their paper. Both of these teachers use methods that are no longer acceptable, but they were a couple of my favorite teachers. I learned a great deal from these ladies. Why? Because these teachers exhibited a love of learning that I still remember. They cared about their students. We knew that they would go above and beyond for everyone of us.
My point? While I believe that we need to use the best methods for our students, being a concerned and caring teacher is every bit, if not more, important. We need teachers with the whole package. Our students deserve it.
Friday, August 10, 2007
In the meantime, I have started creating some new lesson plans for the coming year. I am feeling better about the new classes and about integrating technology into the curriculum. I have two weeks left to learn a lot of things, but I am up to the task. I really want my students to enjoy English and Social Studies and be interested enough to engage in learning. This may be my first year teaching English and Social Studies, but it is not my first time teaching 8th graders.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I did get to go see Process Writing for the MySpace Generation. I already knew that we need to change the way we are teaching, but this takes it to that level! It was put on by the folks at Teaching Matters and I know I am going to be spending some time checking out their website when I get home. They are very reality-based and that is what matters to my kids!
Then I wandered into the Exhibit Hall! Talk about sensory overload. I spent 1 1/2 hours in there and didn't make it half way across the room. Yahoo is getting ready to pilot some new stuff for teachers. I signed up, but who knows if they are taking everyone. I met a wonderful lady who designed her own writing program, but I was surprised that she knew nothing about blogs, wikis, or other online tools. I know I am far from being an expert, but I did realize that I know more than the average teacher as to the Web 2.0 and the environment our kids need to be learning in. Towards the end of my visit to the Exhibit Hall I found Google. Since I am convinced that Google is taking over the world, I popped in. Fun for me...I found I do everything they were showcasing (and many things they weren't) except for the custom search engine. (I popped back in there today to do the Scavenger Hunt and found that it is fun and easy.)
Yesterday was a bad day. I woke up with a terrible headache, went back to bed for a while, then got up and got ready for the afternoon. I made it as far as waiting for the bus, only to have to run back and get sick. I missed the whole day. I can't tell you how bummed I am about that! Thank heavens there are so many people that have blogged about NECC. I have my reading cut out for me for the next week!
Today I feel better and started my day with Digital Game-based Learning in American History. I stopped at their booth on Monday. The are the Colonial Williamsburg group. I can't wait to dig deeper into this. I know our state pays for us to see all the broadcasts, but I really need to sign up for the teacher materials. There are many games and sites for students to interact at. I just need to remember there will be a lot more in my curriculum than just the Revolutionary War!
The second session of the day I went back in to see Will Richardson. I know, I know...a case of hero worship, but I get really inspired listening to him. His wiki for today was at Class Blogmeister. Sometimes baby steps are better than no steps at all. I am going to set up my own wiki and put all the assignments and resources for my kids there. I have more to learn before I am up to podcasting, but would like to find a way to use that before the end of the school year. Perhaps my US History class could do their own podcast about the Revolutionary War? Hmm, something to think about!
I wanted to go to the Hands-On Wikis in the Classroom session, but again it was full. (Guess I would have had to skip Will!) I did go see Creating to Learn: Integrating Technology into your Classroom, Grades 5-12. I was almost on overload by then. Jacqueline Keane has put a lot of work into this and, thankfully, she sent me out with a book and folder packed with information. (More summer reading!)
Since I didn't think I could handle any more sessions, I went back to the Exhibit hall. (As if that wouldn't push me over the edge!) I finally saw the back half. I don't feel like I did it justice though! I have a backpack full of information. I found a great deal on thumb drives. I hope I can convince my wonderful principal that she needs to purchase one for every teacher. Maybe if I keep putting technology into teachers' hands, they will get excited! I saw things that make me want to drool and also realized how lucky we are in South Dakota. Most teachers aren't given web space around here. We all have it available. WebCT available to every teacher? They laughed at me. Promethian Boards starting to come into all the classrooms. I had teachers asking where was it I was from. Okay, we may be on the low end of the pay scale, but it is no wonder South Dakota scored an A- on the technology report card. (Only behind Georgia's A.)
There is only one keynote left for me today and the conference is over. It was a fluke that I got to come this year. I guess I am going to have to really start the campaign so I can be in San Antonio next year!
Monday, June 25, 2007
I have heard Will speak at the TIE conference in Rapid City. Now that I have started my own blog and am planning to use them in my English class, it seems to be a whole new conversation. I will record some of what I heard:
Will had been a 21 year educator. Quit to become a full-time blogger and speaker. Will has been blogging for six years.
Google Blog Search
To start blogging you need to read blogs. The links above are great places to start to find blogs that interest you. You then need to start commenting on other blogs. Engaging is a very important piece. At that point you may feel comfortable to start your own blog. There are many places you can start your own blogs. I have a couple started, but I am not sure where I want to "live."
Blogs are reflective. You can use it as a journal, but the real power is to put your thinking and opinions in there and see what people think. You put in intellectual sweat.There is a lot of synthesis in blogs. There is a lot of hypertext. Kids will be working in linked environments.
The question was posed to Will asking the difference between a blog and a wiki: A blog is a conversation. A wiki is a collection. What is the difference between blogs and forums? Blogs are deeply personal. They are your space. Forums are not. They are a group of people.
Reading blogs is an important part of being a blogger and a few that Will talked about were:
Clarence Fisher's blog
Teacher modeling works best when teaching blogging. Here are a couple more:
Vickie Davis - Cool Cat Teacher
IM is a very effective language and we should be teaching students that as well as formal language. We need to tell them when it is appropriate.
There are many places you can set up blogs. Here are a few:
I have a blog. I read blogs and occasionally comment in other's blogs. I am not yet to a point that I consider myself a blogger. I am getting there though. I really want my 8th graders to publish their writing to a blog this year and comment on one another's blogs. I HAVE to be a good role model, so my summer is cut out for me. I am so excited!
I always enjoy Will's presentations and hope to catch a few more!
Friday, June 15, 2007
This week was our Summer Retreat and we were celebrating abundance. And that we did. Every teacher was to make a personal statement. We were given 1/2 an hour. The recommendation was that you speak for 15 minutes, then everyone else would take a few minutes to write an affirmation for you on a little card, and finally the chance was given for verbal affirmation. I have gotten to know many of these teachers pretty well over the retreat series, but what came out of these statements took me on a roller coaster of emotions. And I am left feeling: "I want to be like you....and you....and you...." Wow! I am truly blessed to be able to share the same space with these teachers.
My statement was last (a place I was regretting after listening to so many amazing teachers) and I stood before the group and told them I felt like a fraud among them, yet blessed to be able to learn from each of them. In usual fashion, I got wound up in my statement and storytelling and talked for over 30 minutes! And this gracious, wonderful group of people let me have every minute I needed and celebrated my journey with me.
Courage to Teach is Parker Palmer's gift to the world. I highly recommend his books and can never put the right words to to wonder of the retreats. I am feeling totally overwhelmed and energized and renewed. Good for us for being teachers! I can't wait for summer to be over so I can get back in the classroom to see my kids!
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Driving home tonight, I took stock in my life. First and foremost, I am coming up on my fourth wedding anniversary. I was blessed to have the opportunity to marry my high school sweetheart many years later. He is the love of my life and the best supporter I could ever have. I have three wonderful sons and all are doing well. Tony is struggling a bit with what he wants to do and that causes me some concern, but all in all they are great kids. My divorce from their dad was terrible for all of us and I never thought I would again see the day that all of them would be living under my roof and all was well with the world. I have the best job in the world. I get to go and interact with incredible young minds every day. Are my students the smartest in the world? I guess that depends on how you describe smart. Many of them struggle with grades and acedemia in general, but they know things I don't know. Some of these kids have challenges I have barely imagined and they manage to show up every day. I admire them and just want to be there for them in any way I can. I love what I teach and would love the new job, if I get the opportunity. Either way, my career is wonderful.
What more could a girl want? Don't you love the days that the good so far outweighs any bad? Maybe I am feeling good enough to try my hand at poetry. It is not a strong skill of mine, but one I need to practice! Maybe a short, fiction story? I have spent so much time with technical writing, I will love spreading my wings a bit!
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
I have been reading the 8th grade history book, studying for the Praxis and I keep getting excited and thinking of how I want to teach it. The first chapter is about maps and geography and my brain is all over Google Earth. I put in my application for this job today. It closes on the 18th. I don't even have an interview yet, much less the job, and yet I sit here planning lessons. So how crushed will I be if I don't get the job? That worries me a bit. Worst case scenario, I keep the job I have now, which I also love. But I love the idea of a new challenge. I can see history being done in groups with a wiki in use. I would HAVE to use blogs in my English class. (Wonder how much I can steal from Geoff?) I want to find ways to incorporate technology as fully as possible in English and History.
Then there is my National Boards. I still have the written exam to take. I need to study some standards and write the practice questions. I feel pretty good about my technical writing skills, but this counts for 40% of the score. If I don't pass this year, I will have to do parts of it again next year. I am sure I can pull that off in an English class. If I pass, I will be Nationally Board Certified in Career and Technical Education. Possibly teaching English and history. Does that make sense? I can still justify that with the fact that I will still be using technology, but is that good enough?
Confusion...I seem to be fully immersed! Oh, and to top it off I made the decision to change from doing my doctorate in Adult and Higher Education and instead go for my Ed. D. in Educational Adminstration. I think this is more applicable with what I want to do, but there is one catch. I do NOT want to be a principal. I don't think I have what it takes! What if I lose my mind and decide to try THAT in a couple of years. It makes my brain spin!
Okay....I need to relax. I need to focus on graduation and enjoy the moment! This has been a long and difficult road. I am feeling pretty proud of myself. Oh, there are things I wish I would have done better, but I managed to get through my Master's while teaching six classes a day - three different preps - teaching adults one night a week, being a small group leader for Confirmation at church, having a husband and three sons at home requiring my attention, not to mention at school I am on BLT, am the building technology leader, on BIC, in charge of the Junior Achievement program and May Madness, etc. Yes, I am proud of all of that, too. Do I have too much on my plate? Yes. Do I sometimes not do everything 100% because of that? Again, yes. But very little really suffered. I did okay. And I think it is okay that I am so pleased with being on this side of the year!
Okay, now I am justifying being proud of myself. I really do need to relax! And study history and study standards and do May Madness and.... You wouldn't think I have time to over-analyze my life! Chapter Two ~ The First Americans.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Then there is the fear that I am going to get all excited and not get the job. There are obviously going to be more qualified teachers of these subject matters than I am. But there is no one more qualified to integrate technology into this curriculum. And no one more excited for this change. Worst case scenario...I don't get the job and I stay in my class that I still love. I guess it isn't a complete risk to put myself out there. Sure, I could lose a month studying history for the exam and then not get the job, but I love history, so that really isn't much of an inconvenience.
The posting will go up next week and I will put my name in. I am pretty sure I will be granted an interview, so I have a good week or two to get myself ready for that. Guess I will have to do some talking to bring myself up to speed. Hey, I am always up to a challenge!
One last thought....I will have my Master's degree in a week in Technology for Education and Training. I have worked all year towards National Certification in Career and Technology. Do I really want to leave the department I am in or will all of these things just make me better in another curriculum?