Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Top 5 Popular Posts of July 2012!

Jeopardy and Photopeach:Beginning of the Year Activities!  I got this idea from the facilitator of a workshop I participated in last week. This is how she started the class, different categories of course, and I thought it was so cool! I asked her for a copy, and then realized I could use the online version of Jeopardy.  Of course, you can use whatever Jeopardy you are comfortable with. I really like this one because you can edit easily, download, and/or share it. I left Textbooks blank because I would love a category that is more fun and /or interesting. Any ideas?...


Stereotypes Stifle Students!  We all do it. We might not be conscious of it all the time, but we do it. Whether it is race, gender, nationality, religion, etc..., we stereotype.  Stereotyping in general is a bad thing,  but when it is done in our classrooms, we are committing a grave disservice to our students...


Burned-Out? Please Reignite the Flame Or Get Out the Kitchen!  Usually what happens on Linkedin, stays on Linkedin, but this discussion topic warranted a post.  A teacher started a discussion regarding 50+ educators and survival tips. Many, many 50+ educators responded with wonderful, positive, ideas and comments about what they do in order to "survive" teaching. As a matter of fact, the responses weren't even those of educators who are just "surviving". Most of the teachers who responded, like me, are still passionate about teaching...


 The "Teacher In Me"!: It's So Hard to Turn It Off! The other day my teacher-friend and I headed down to the beach. We make the journey once a week to sit on the beach and relax, enjoying the view of the ocean and the warmth of the sun. During the week, it's not too crowded, but people still have to sit pretty close to each other...



What's Love Got to Do With It? Ask Your Students! Once upon a time there was a little 2nd grade boy. He was new to a school, and he brought with him, all his problems and issues.  Sent to live with dad after mom "couldn't take it any more", a pre-primer reading level, an evil stepmother, and siblings who did not like him, he didn't stand a chance...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Boring Lessons? ReVamp with Videos!



I wanted to spice up my lesson on fact and opinion, but I wanted to make sure I was in the upper echelon of Bloom's Taxonomy. At this point in their schooliverse, my students are well versed in writing F and O on a worksheet. Not because of me, because you know how I feel about worksheets. I wanted to step it up! What to do? What to do?

 Wellllll, now that we have access to Youtube, I decided to take advantage of it! I was already a big fan of using videos in the classroom before our Youtube access was granted. Prior to Youtube, I used, and still do, WatchKnowLearn, which is a great way to watch educational videos, especially if you can't access Youtube. There is also Discovery Education/United Streaming and Youtube Education.

 I decided to locate commercials on Youtube, and show them to my students. They watched the videos, and distinguished fact from opinion. This led to conversations about truth in advertising. And of course, I couldn't stop there. My students are working in cooperative groups, creating original commercials. I gave them a Fact/Opinion organizer so that they could list facts and opinions about their product, and incorporate it into their commercial, which will be recorded. I'm sure watching the videos on Youtube,(commercials), will help them create excellent original commercials.


 And this all started with a video.... 


My class made me play this particular video every.single.day. But, it served it's purpose, everyone knew everything there was to know about a polygon by the end of the unit. Whenever I come across an interesting video, I post it on our class blog and/or Edmodo. We are studying Mount Everest, and the videos we have watched... Well,let's just say, only reading about it, couldn't begin to compare. Videos inspire, teach, entertain, there are a myriad of uses for them in the classroom! 


WARNING! WARNING! Never, ever, ever, show a video without watching it first!!!!! 


 Funny story, well, now it's funny, it wasn't funny when it happened.


 I set up my Mount Everest video that I have posted on Teachertube. I turned on the Smartboard because, well, I was on Teachertube. It was my video, so I knew it was safe. I started the video, and what comes blaring out of our speaker? "Rachel Ray is going to talk about sex!" What the...? 


It was a commercial for the Rachael Ray show! My kids crack up as I frantically turned off the speaker and flicked the remote simultaneously. The remote wouldn't work for some reason, so I placed my body in front of the Smartboard to block the screen, while continuing to frantically hit the off button.!!! I talked to my kids after I turned off the projector, they thought it was quite funny. Thankfully, I did not get any irate phone calls from parents. Lesson learned, do not turn on the projector until the actual video begins! Pass it on.:)


Videos are not a replacement for a lesson, but they can certainly be used as a tool to enhance one!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Burned-Out? Please Reignite the Flame Or Get Out the Kitchen!

Usually what happens on Linkedin, stays on Linkedin, but this discussion topic warranted a post.  A teacher started a discussion regarding 50+ educators and survival tips. Many, many 50+ educators responded with wonderful, positive, ideas and comments about what they do in order to "survive" teaching. As a matter of fact, the responses weren't even those of educators who are just "surviving". Most of the teachers who responded, like me, are still passionate about teaching.

Somewhere along the line of reading the comments, one of the comments really bothered me, and this was my general response:

I think, as a teacher, when you reach the point where you can't stand your job, you should find something else to do. I know it sounds harsh, but we are dealing with children. This past year was really difficult with a new thing being thrown at us every day, but I have not lost my passion for teaching. Imagine your child or grandchild sitting in a room where the teacher is miserable.
And I refuse to hold my kids accountable for the actions of their parents. If their parents don't care, that means I shouldn't care about them? I know it's hard in the teaching profession right now, a lot of the public hates us, standardized testing, charter schools, class size, you name it. But if you don't like what you do, when working with children, maybe it is time to get out of the classroom.


Of course, the teacher I was thinking of  when I wrote this response, wrote a direct comment berating me. But as I stated to her,  in a friendly sort of way, I stand by what I said. I know the economy is bad right now. I know people still have mortgages to pay. I know there is a ton of crap being thrown at us every day, from every angle, from people who don't have a clue of what it means to be an educator.  If you have 3-5 years left until retirement inputting data , it's not that bad. But, we deal with human beings, children, we deal with children!

I am no saint. If you've read my posts on Blogger or Wordpress, you know I get angry at my kids, their parents, administration, and heck, even President Obama.  Each day in my school is not sunshine and roses. But, I get over it, and I find a way, ready to do what I said I was going to do, educate our children! Most of the time, most of the time, I am patient, loving, and passionate about what I do.

Can you imagine what it's like being stuck in the room with a teacher who is miserable? He or she has no real interest in teaching? Those poor kids! Parents in the know tell the principal not to put their kid in that class. Parents insist their kids be pulled out in the middle of the year. The strategy for teaching is "death by worksheet", and no real learning takes place in the classroom. The teacher is miserable, and doesn't care who knows it, teachers, parents, and most of all, her students.

My first year of teaching, I had a principal who was retiring in a year. The teachers would come in and sit on the desks in the front office, drinking coffee. He would go in his office and close the door all day. There was no interaction with the students and staff, he was just waiting it out.  From what I heard, he used to be a great principal, but he was done by the time I got there.

I read a post the other day, "You Are a Difference Maker!", and I posted the link as one of the comments on Linkedin.  The quote in this post by Haim Ginot moved me. "I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration."

 If you are burned out, and your only thought each day is how much you hate your job, how much of yourself will you give to your students? Do those kids a favor, get help.  Please find a way to reignite the flame or think about getting out the kitchen.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Jeopardy and Photopeach:Beginning of the Year Activities!

Pleasantville 2012-2013 Year Begins! - Jeopardy
I got this idea from the facilitator of a workshop I participated in last week. This is how she started the class, different categories of course, and I thought it was so cool! I asked her for a copy, and then realized I could use the online version of Jeopardy.  Of course, you can use whatever Jeopardy you are comfortable with. I really like this one because you can edit easily, download, and/or share it. I left Textbooks blank because I would love a category that is more fun and /or interesting. Any ideas?



Getting to Know Mrs.Mims! on PhotoPeach

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My students loved this assignment! I used it during the 2011-2012. I think it is a wonderful way for them to get to know me beyond our classroom!(I do need to update it though)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stereotypes Stifle Students!


We all do it. We might not be conscious of it all the time, but we do it. Whether it is race, gender, nationality, religion, etc..., we stereotype.  Stereotyping in general is a bad thing,  but when it is done in our classrooms, we are committing a grave disservice to our students.


The Spanish kid, or his parents, are not going to have a handle on the English language, when in actuality he is a bright student who speaks English fluently. The African American male from an "inner-city" is going to be a behavior problem, when in fact he is the most polite kid you could ever meet.  The girl whose family lives in the trailer park is "trailer trash", and will eventually have a teen pregnancy.  She turns out to be a straight A student! The quiet child who never speaks seems "weird", yet leaves you a note about how much they love the class.

If we allow these stereotypes to guide the way we treat our students, we stifle them. I know a teacher who was very proud of her book club "for girls only"  I am sure she didn't do this to offend, she probably thought it was a great idea because girls are more likely to read than boys. But what happens to the boys, who are reluctant readers? Did the "girls only" book club reinforce the idea that only girls read?

What do educators do when they buy into the stereotype? Expectations are lowered. Lowered expectations lead to unchallenged, unmotivated, students.  They are not given the chance to grow, a chance to accomplish more than the minimum.   I can't begin to count the number of times I have heard teachers say, "My population of students can't...." These educators have not tried a lesson, program,etc...with these students. The assumption is made that because of their socioeconomic background, they can not rise to the challenge. I get tired of hearing about "these" students and "these" parents, as if having a degree automatically makes us better than them.  


A reinforced stereotype could be as simple as an innocent comment I made to my class one day.
 "I need two boys to move the AR tub to Ms. L's room."  
My girls immediately questioned me as to why they couldn't move it.  I let two girls carry the tub next door.:)


It can be difficult to avoid forming opinions of people based on stereotypes. For example, you might peruse the New Admission form, and look for a number of things. Is the new kid a boy or a girl? Are they coming from another country? Where did they live or go to school?, What race are they? Are they being raised by a single parent? Your idea of who this child is begins to form in your mind, creating a biased version of this student you have never met. Instead of succumbing to the perceived stereotype, give the student a chance. 


Let's drop the brush  we sometimes paint our kids with. Let's stomp on the stereotypes, and allow our students to be who they are.  Individuals, who want, and need, the same chance as everyone else.







Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The "Teacher In Me"!: It's So Hard to Turn It Off!

The other day my teacher-friend and I headed down to the beach. We make the journey once a week to sit on the beach and relax, enjoying the view of the ocean and the warmth of the sun. During the week, it's not too crowded, but people still have to sit pretty close to each other.

We left the beach to grab some lunch, and by the time we returned, the family that was in front of us had been replaced. It was a family group, the grands, the children, and the adults that belonged to the children. I thought I was going to take a nap, but instead, I watched the dynamics of two of the children, the boy appeared to be about 6,  the girl 4 or 5.

Watching these two children brought out the "teacher in me". During the thirty minutes I watched them, my teacher-friend would look up from her book, and say things to me, "Don't say anything." Or, "Take your nap.",  At one point her "teacher" also came out and she said, "Did you hear what she told the girl?" It was like watching a train wreck, I couldn't take my eyes off of them.

Of course, I wouldn't say anything to the parents, although the "teacher in me" wanted to. But people nowadays are crazy, and constructive criticism could lead to a path I did not want to travel. BUT, if I could have said something to the parents, the first thing I would ask is for the Dad to put down his phone, stop texting, and help the Mom/Auntie with the kids.

Here are a few questions I would ask the Mom:

Do you realize that if your daughter screams, and slams her body down on the ground because she wants something someone else has, the teacher probably won't give it to her?

Do you realize that the teacher is probably not going to force the other child to give it to her? What will your daughter do then?

Do you realize that the other child is now angry? (And maybe that's why later as you packed up, he kept throwing her in the hole you dug, and wrapped his towel around her neck, and told you he was "just playing".)

Do you realize that when she is doing something wrong to another person, there will be consequences? No one is going to ask the other child to get out of her way.

Do you realize how hard it is to enjoy being around a child who repeatedly whines, and fake cries, each time you say no?

Do you realize that sometimes you have to actually solve conflicts, not just give in because it's easier?

I could go on, but I think those questions could help her rethink the whole parenting strategy she had going on. You never know, maybe, the Mom just reacted the way she did because they were in public. Maybe the kids are/will be well-behaved in school.

But as I watched the scenes play out, I kept thinking about the type of behavior these children might exhibit in a classroom. What an adjustment for that child, when the adults do not react the way Mommy does.

I never did get to take my nap. Yes, I should have just closed my eyes, and minded my own business.  But unfortunately, the "teacher in me" had other plans. :)




Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Don't Get Caught?: What Message Are We Sending Our Kids?

Every Tuesday I read to 3 and 4 year olds at the day care center across the street from my school.  As I picked up one of my enthusiastic charges I noticed the phrase on his t-shirt, "Don't Get Caught!" 

 "Don't Get Caught?" I realized he had no idea what it said, so I left it alone. However, as we sat down to read, the phrase on his shirt picked at me. Negative connotations were the only meaning I could derive from that statement. Maybe I was projecting.  Maybe it meant "Don't get caught slacking" or "Don't get caught....", you fill in the rest, I can't think of anything positive right now.

But it reminded me of what our society has become. A place where you can do whatever you want, as long as you "don't get caught".  And, if you do get caught, do not, under any circumstances, take responsibility for your actions!

I have a sign in my classroom that I place in full view every year, "Your Actions, Your Responsibility!" I repeat it, and point to it, when necessary,  all year, day after day. Why? Because many of my students, and some of their parents, choose to do otherwise. Once they are "caught", there is always a response that should somehow absolve them of any responsibility!

"He was doing it too!" Or the infamous, "No, I didn't". (Even if I watched them do it)

 The parent who did not return a form, "She didn't give it to me", knowing it  was tossed or misplaced.

The teachers who helped their students cheat on state tests. "My principal told me to cheat!" (I know many think it was justified, I can't)

"Ed reformers" who get caught in the web of lies they have created, and then yell , "Teacher Accountability!"

I believe I do a pretty good job of instilling responsibility in my students. I lead by example. If I do something wrong, I own up to it.  I provide plenty of examples of what students should do when "caught". I make sure they understand that lying (and that's what it is), is not an option.

By the middle of the year, most of my kids seem to catch on. When they "get caught", they stop mid sentence in their automatic absolution of their behavior. Better yet, they own up right away, and take the proper action.

"Don't Get Caught?" Hopefully, that 4 year old's shirt had a positive connotation. Perhaps someone explained to him that they didn't want him to get caught__________________________. You fill in the blank.:)