Look at it Differently, or Where I Managed to Put the Bookshelf

I want to thank Elysabeth for her comment yesterday on my post Look at Things Differently where I described my vanilla dilemma of where to put my classroom bookshelf. I placed it too far into my math wall and so I was thinking all was lost. After I slept on it and drew a schematic I had an “aha.” I put it in the middle! (embarrassingly simple conclusion I admit). Below is a before and after. The point I was making was made, with a visual. Mind you, this was a very simple matter but it made my point in the post about all matters of classroom decor: look at it differently.

I published this “idiot’s” conclusion (the idiot being me) because I feel it makes my point solid: if you take the time to look at your predicament “differently” you are likely to find a solution that is simple, possible and often right under your nose.

Power of Icon

Power of Icons in ClassroomKids get icons in their face every day on tv and the internet. My kids must see Spongebob in their sleep since their tv watching time seems to consist mostly of him. When they heard the song or see the icon on a fast food cup, they are dialed in waiting to take part. It’s trust built over time. Teachers have some of that power and we can use it to our advantage. Why not fill their heads with some different ones, with valuable meaning? On my desk I have a carved buffalo statue. My students walk by me every day and see it. I share with them the buffalo is a sign of gentle strength for me. Sometimes I will refer to him in my teaching, pointing out the characteristics that I admire. I even go so far as to name my student’s “Riley’s Buffaloes.” They know it’s my favorite animal, an icon is on my desk, and we identify with the buffalo by making him our mascot. In this way, I have an unwritten connection with my students. I have even developed a quick line drawing I put on the board and on their papers when I grade highly. Continue reading “Power of Icon”

Rethinking Your “Regular Stuff” in a Classroom

What good are the loftiest goals if you don’t have the nuts and bolts. In 4th grade, this means a solid and open instruction space and homework. These are two areas I have opened up lately and done a full rebuild with. When the everyday tasks are available on a daily basis in an accessible way, the teacher can explore into the depths. When they are clogged or neglected, those loftier goals might as well be unsaid because they will never happen. There is hope. Take the time to clear a better space to teach.

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Take the time to clear your workspace. Fill it with only that which you need to instruct.

Hemingway wrote about a clean, well lighted space. I’d change clean to ordered and apply it to teaching. The cluttered mind is far with worry and unreal expectations. Take the time to order your workspace. On my personal blog/online diary, I wrote recently about enjoying the regular road to achieve enlightenment (of sorts). This is also true of teaching. I know are all overwhelmed but I know from experience if you take the time to uproot and replant your regular stuff, like a teaching space and homework, new doors will open up and you will be a stronger teacher than you ever imagined.

What is the “regular stuff” of your classroom. Could it use some rethinking?

Back to the Old Drawing Board

 

 Someone asked me if I agreed it takes about 5 years for a teacher to feel comfortable with her/his craft. I responded by saying it’s taken me 3 years in Santa Ana and 13 in Adelanto to get here today where I am yet again rearranging the furniture and tweaking my behavior program. I say it comes in waves but a dedicated teacher keeps putting out blood, sweat and tears. This all makes the learner experience better. Of course I pull from the stuff I learned in my first five years. Nonetheless the time since has been full of trial and error. The error sometimes shows me more than the success. If you know what doesn’t work, you can narrow it down to what does.

 

 A few days ago I started getting that urge to uproot my seating chart. Kids had settled in and we’re getting used to some bad talking habits during the lessons. In my normal way, I like to think big by writing on a huge piece of cardboard. This time I added a C shaped table and made my teaching area further back. I made a seating chart on a spreadsheet and rearranged some of the overly lively kids to be better located. The kids are always excited and motivated right after a classroom makeover. This was no exception. With 32 school days left in the year, I’m glad I mixed it up. It will work much better, it already is. I’m sore from moving huge tables but I feel satisfied this will give them more of what they need from my 4th grade program. What does “Back to the old drawing board” mean to your teaching?

Preparing Students for Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet

A friend I teach with sent me this link. I think we all can identify with one factoid if not most or all of them. The most significant for me was the one that said we are preparing students for job descriptions that don’t exist now but will.

Another teacher friend of mine wrote about the same thing on her blog today. Wow, this says to me we need to prepare our kids with the basics to adapt to wherever the bread and butter may be:

Can you envision today’s high school or college students carrying out jobs like these:

Bio-botic Physcian

Chef-farmer (agri-restaurateur)

Clone rancher

Digital archaeologist

Drone dispatcher

Exozoologist

Energy Harvester

Global system architect

Holodeck trainer

Mobile BioMass Therapist

Personal brand manager

Smart car interior advertisement sales representative

Space junk hauler

Transhumanist consultant

Robotician

The World Future Society; an organization served with the charge of making those predictions can. In their recently released special report (PDF) these were among some of the 70 specific jobs predicted for 2030.

via Jobs of the Future – Will Our Students Be Prepared? | Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc.

Parent Conference Coffee Selection and Method

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Parent conferences go best with a Melitta pour-through using a mild coffee, like Gevalia or Starbucks.

Once that is done my best advice is to try and get them to talk. You learn more about the child that way. Tell about progress and show some sample work. Most of all listen. (It’s harder for some than others) I wrote a short article on it if interested: Listening at Parent Conferences https://www.dynamitelessonplan.com/parent-conferences-tip-listen-to-parents-about-their-child/

Teach: Tony Danza on A&E – My Review

Teach: Tony Danza – what happens when a career actor steps into the classroom and tries public school teaching, under lights and television cameras. Is is an accurate presentation of the profession? Not quite.

Every public school teacher should watch this show!

Teach: Tony Danza – what happens when a career actor steps into the classroom and tries public school teaching, under lights and television cameras. Is is an accurate presentation of the profession? Not quite.

Teach: Tony Danza is a reality show on A&E currently running on Friday nights. (You can currently catch all the epsiodes free online at hulu.com) The show has a lot to offer us as teachers as well as the “civilians” out there because it raises crucial topics about the profession. Tony Danza, actor made famous by shows Taxi and Who’s the Boss, actually taught for one year at a Philadelphia high school. Though it aims to be, the show is not a realistic portrayal of the teaching profession. Having said that, his reactions to the classroom challenge and administrative pressure feel real. They are an excellent starting point for understand the world that is teaching. I am glad this show was produced because it shows some extreme challenges we as teachers face. I hope the viewers take the good and leave the acting because there is quite a bit if it. As my long-term readers know, I’ve been a public school teacher for 13 years and therefore feel qualified to evaluate the show below.

  1. Teachers teach first, then ask. When they fail to teach, this is known as “forward questioning.” It is a big no no because it just doesn’t work. Danza loses a point for using forward questioning throughout the episodes.
  2. Danza does not stay focused and on topic. This is a nightmarish trait for a high school teacher, or any grade for that matter. Students need to be guided carefully and clearly through new concepts for them to take hold. Danza is an actor/entertainer and this is not what works with kids to teach them a year’s worth of standards.

Danza sweats and appears nervous many times in the show. He often appears over-extended. The viewer should note the following:

He taught 28 kids 45 minutes a day.

I teach 104 kids for 6 hours a day.

When he appears harried by his heartless Principal and asst Principals, we as viewers need to remember he is not even doing a quarter of the work an ordinary teacher must do.

There are many scenes where he is helping coach the football team that are useless and off topic from the show’s premise. There are also large spaces of time devoted in one episode to Danza’s daughter and fights breaking out that really have nothing to do with understanding teaching. You would think in one year they’d have gathered more footage of Danza becoming a proficient teacher. Still, what is there is worth seeing.

In conclusion, while it may seem I am not big on this series, I do recommend you see it. There were many times (mostly in episodes 1-3) where I found myself cheering because so many things resonated as true to my job. It is nice to know people see the constraints of time and demands of the administration and parents. It shows some of what what we teachers have to deal with on the job.

Danza probably went into this thinking because he was an entertainer he could succeed. It is far more than that. You must engage the learner with innovative methods. Often you receive no recognition. I hope civilians (non-teachers) will see all we are expected to do and that not just anyone can waltz in and do it. Teacher preparation and teacher training are crucial but tenacity and ongoing improvement are also invaluable.

Teach: Tony Danza is a reality show on A&E currently running on Friday nights. (You can currently catch all the epsiodes free online at hulu.com)

Cyber-Safety $1,000 Classroom Grant

I’m promoting this teacher grant opp because I think it’s helpful and fairly easy to apply for, especially if, like me, you enjoy writing. Below is the information Jason mailed to me. I hope you’ll take some time to look at it! Good luck!

Hi

My name is Jason and I am the Community Manager at Internet.frontier.com. I want to inform you about an awesome teacher grant opportunity. The grant is for $1,000 and open to school teachers and college professors.

In order to apply, teachers must submit either a 300-500 word essay or 1-2 minute video on the following prompt:

The Internet provides students a vast resource for research and learning. Yet, navigating the beneficial and dangerous places online has been an ever-evolving battle. What have you as a teacher and your classes learned when it comes to cyber safety?

More information about this opportunity can be found here:

https://internet.frontier.com/cyber-security-grant.html

The application deadline is April 30, 2017 so it would be great if you could post this opportunity as soon as possible on your The ADTA Website – Grant website page (http://www.adtatoday.org/) so teachers have ample time to prepare their applications.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Kind regards,
Jason Linton
Community Manager
Internet.frontier.com

20 Days is 20 Days – Musing on an Upcoming Test

20130111-144253.jpgThe California Standards Test (CST) is banging at the front door. It’s been an arduous year preparing for it and I must admit, it seems like it came faster than ever. But 20 days is 20 Days and a lot can be accomplished when one is focused and prepared based on data. I have a lot of data. I have used assessments to plan my instruction (as well as guide it). There are at least 6 standards I know we have to really get down pat. Beyond that, some need review. This is what we will be doing in my classroom for the next 20 days.

I always wish I would have done more when the test arrives. I think that will always be a constant. Still, I know when we have done enough to improve upon last year. Ultimately that is my goal/partnership goal with every student: improvement. Most kids can be 70% or higher when the teacher and student are dedicated. All kids can improve so that is my classroom goal. We will be focusing on standards as directed by data for 20 days.

Dealing With Fighting in Schools: Are we Helping Our Kids?

Many parents tell their kids they have a right to fight in self-defense. Is this notion of “I’m defending myself” really worth them getting killed over? Let’s go beyond our animal urges and look at the psychology of what we tell our kids.


Walking home from school or playing on the playground as a kid, were you bullied? Flip that around now: were YOU the bully? As a public school teacher in an inner-city demographic, I deal with the issue of kids fighting M-F (not Sa-Su thank goodness). I can attest that it is a real issue for parents and teachers. I am a big proponent of teaching things outside academics that are so necessary as life skills like teaching music and conflict resolution for example. Unfortunately, even the democrats have become polarized on language and math only so it may be a few years.

So if that is true, why is it I hear nearly all parents of kids involved in fights say they give their child permission to fight? (especially us dads) Of course, we invoke the “self-defense” clause of all that’s common sense about humanity … I would never argue with that. But, there is something they don’t know … something they don’t see. You might refer to it as “the fallen nature” if you are a Christian. Or, you might call it the law of the jungle if you’re an atheist. However you label the data, it’s there and it is kids beating the crud out of each other daily and blaming it on dear old mom and dad.

Last week there was a kid in my summer school class who pummeled another kid right in front of me. (incidentally, if you want to read a hilarious story about a similar student I had my first year, click here) This kid doing the pummeling was about 80 pounds give or take and the kid he was hitting was maybe 40, 45 tops I’d say. After going through all the steps and paperwork that we teachers must to in order to avoid being sued, I met with his dad and his dad said these exact words:

“I tell my son to defend himself because the school don’t do nothing.”

Poetry to this teachers’ ears (not). This isn’t an isolated case. I have even seen kids aggravate smaller kids until the small ones take a swing … then they move in fast for the, well in keeping with the idiom … the kill.

So what’s my point? I’d like parents to clear their minds of needless fears in much the same way you would get a Orovo detox or something physical like that. My school strives to be safe. It’s in the worst part of the High Desert. If any of you out there know Adelanto, it’s in “Old Adelanto.” I doubt many will see a picture in their head. It’s way off any tourist path. Still we keep it safe, and I know many other schools where they strive to do the same. Counsel your kids to NOT punch or hit, even in self-defense. Most the time, to avoid one parent suing the school, if any blows are thrown for any reason, both kids get suspended. There is a fine line between defending oneself and opening a can of whoop-ass. I wish more parents would have that discussion at the dinner table every night until their kids’ are 18. Let’s go beyond our animal urges and look at the psychology of what we tell our kids.