Absorbing Common Core

3-kitchen-sponges-lgn-86344707Common Core is the innocuous name of a set of standards yet people treat it as if it were a religion. There are people for and against it and I think, as is true with religion, a middle ground is preferable. Of course I mean no respect to zealous religious folk, I just don’t live that way. Okay, hopefully my introduction has offended those to which I could never communicate with, now for my point.

ccss-sbacCommon Core is perplexing to some because it uses a multi-cognitive approach to lessons. While comedians and civilians will make fun of the approach, it really is neither better nor worse than what we teachers have been ordered to teach with snce as far back as 1997. We are given uniform state standards, materials and curriculum, and expected to show mastery of these standards in our student data. Common Core simply combines what was once 7-8 (say for instance) standards into one Common Core standard. We have to teach a concept to incorporate multiple standards from before. There is nothing more difficult in this. It does require imagination and creativity but hasn’t teaching always required that?

20130110-123237.jpgAs I move into the third week of lessons with my 4th graders currently, I find myself increasingly absorbing Common Core. It’s like a snowball effect. My hope is that this year on the blog I can bring more understanding to the public including teachers out there doing the same. How about we hear from you? How are you doing with internalizing the Common Core. If you are a blogging teacher, or a blogger in general, please feel free to leave a trackback or link to this post so I can help spread your ideas on the subject. Onward!

3 Offbeat Tips From My Classroom

These are offbeat tips that may or may not work for you. I offer them freely to you. All teachers in California as most of the country now are learning to teach with the “Common Core.” This is exciting to me but we shouldn’t lose sight of the timeless things that work with whatever curriculum you use. These are three offbeat things that I have tried and that have worked to foster literacy and meet academic goals in my classroom. Maybe these things are powerful or maybe it’s the intent behind them that seeks to reach human in the child and awaken her/his sense of wonder.

12506845744_0120be8609Kids are just like us only smaller. There is a reason music is a multi-billion dollar industry, people are inspired by it. Kids get burned out after hours of academic stuff. Occasionally I will pass out age-appropriate lyric packets and we sing together. The relieved look on some of their faces says to me that music heals and fosters. MY favorite song to do with kids so far is “The Rainbow Connection.”

9847439604_8e8a1b40f7When I graduated, I paid 50 bucks to have both my degrees mounted on wood. This was a great decision because it allows my kids to pass them around and look closely at them. I want my students to see a diploma and know they can do it just like their teacher did. At the very least, post your diplomas. Your kids are watching.

13015781444_c483b14fd5Puppets are the weirdest things adults can do, that’s why we should use them! Kids are so freaked out by puppets that they just might listen. I have said some things through a puppet that are outside my personality type. Kids respond too. I’ve had better conversations with kids during “Say no to drugs” with my pig puppet than any teacher talk could ever generate. I highly recommend getting puppets in your room. You never know when one will come in handy. Like music, they are a temporary escape from the required rigor. In my opinion, music and opinion have the potential to teach just as much as the most rigorous of lesson plans. It’s all in how you incorporate them. Those are my three things to share. What are yours? I’d love to read about them and they don’t have to be as offbeat as mine.

Professional Learning Communities – Worth the Effort

Professional learning communities are revolutionizing teaching. We are learning at my school how powerful it can be when teachers work together. Unfortunately, it does require a lot of patience and work to make happen.

IMG_0045-1024x768Professional learning communities are revolutionizing education. We are learning at my school how powerful it can be when teachers work together. Unfortunately, it does require a lot of patience and work to make happen.

In teaching, as with any professional job, there are times when you have to make professional conversations happen. This might be be over an issue of student motivation or just plain getting along issues. They can be awful to do and they make your stomach churn but they are hugely important and have to be done whether comfortable or not. It would be nice if we could just stay in our classrooms until dismissal and not bother anyone and not be bothered by anyone but that is a fantasy land. To keep kids “moving” up from one level to another or staying at the top level, it requires teachers engaging in professional conversations on a regular basis. It’s not about who’s cool or not or who likes who or not. It is simply a commitment to moving kids upward by all means available. When teachers agree to work this way … everybody benefits and at the end of the year, great progress is inevitable.

The dynamite teacher ensures and fosters professional learning communities.

Teachers and Public Image

I would say teachers are free to write and create art on their off work time. The trouble is, they are morally responsible for the effect their work has on children. For this reason, they have a responsibility to keep adult activities or art out of the classroom psyche.

How much does a teacher’s private life enter in to the job they do? In a recent article, ‘Fifty Shades of Who Cares’, I read about a teacher who has been suspended for writing and selling erotica. I wouldn’t have thought that was a giant problem until I read that the teacher used the school computer to use social media and compose this writing. Was this teacher dropped as a child or something? Things like this are so blatantly wrong they hardly merit an article. Still, the question of a teacher’s right to have a private life and to pursue other interests is an important topic I think.

I would say teachers are free to write and create art on their off work time. The trouble is, they are morally responsible for the effect their work has on children. For this reason, they have a responsibility to keep adult activities or art out of the classroom psyche. This might seem like common sense but in the past year I have read about teachers appearing in porn and others buying drugs. Teachers, let’s come together and get real. You may be a lousy teacher or the cream of the crop, you still work with kids. Teachers have an obligation to uphold a certain standard in the public eye. We are different from other public jobs that way but all public jobs to some extent carry that burden. Of course, one might say that just living a clean life is the best way to avoid negative public perceptions. That probably goes without saying.

Dr. Jim and Bob’s Entertaining Medical Topics

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of © Blue Shield of California for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

PhotobucketHealth should be a focus in all our lives. It's great to have a family doctor and even better when they can make housecalls. But unfortunately for many of us, a doctor visit isn't always convenient. In that situation, many people turn to the internet. This can be a good choice as long as the website you use is credible and trustworthy.

There's a new online doctor in town: Dr. Jim and Bob's Fun & Helpful Health Advice Check out a video I watched recently that he made:

Dr. Jim and Bob are medical experts who entertain but also lead you toward medical solutions. I have them bookmarked for when I need guidance on issues like: sunburn, insomnia, snoring, hiccups, etc. They are on Facebook and that includes all their free videos. One member of my family has a cold sore right now and we both laughed as we watch the above video on that ailment. Bob is a crack-up and appears to be part of the videos for comic relief. It's effective.

Dr. Jim and Bob are a product of Blue Shield, a non profit company. They have been an excellent access point to alternative care like chiropractors and acupuncture. They are a portal to great doctors and they offer a wide range of affordable health plans. As I am getting older I find myself more interested in issues of blood level like cholesterol. Blue Shield is an excellent source of information for that. I have Dr. Jim and Bob "Liked" on my Facebook and I look forward to getting tips and laughs from them in the future.

 

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Should You Get a Teaching Degree in this Economy?

Despite the economy, our civilization will always need intelligent and passionate individuals to teach its youth.

To those curious about a career in teaching: Being a teacher requires a certain type of personality. I think I have the teacher personality. For one thing, I am most happy in a job where I feel I am making a difference. I believe I am making a difference so therefore I enjoy teaching. I also believe the teachers around me are trying to make a difference. Are you thinking about teaching? Do you want to make a difference with your job? If so, read on.

If you are looking at a teaching career and thinking: “Wow, teaching looks secure financially, maybe I’ll go get my credential.” You’re somewhat deluded. There is talk of pulic schools as they are becoming something altogether different in the coming years. But even if it was secure, all the security in the world will not get you through. Only vision and passion can guide you through this demanding profession.

At present there are discussions going on all across our great land about how to make cuts in the classroom. The money just isn’t there any more. It is possible classes will go from 30:1 to 40 or even 50:1 some predict. The resolve of teachers now in the profession will be tested, there is no doubt about that. The people in school now to become teachers should be excited about the career but also realistic that it could years before we ever see hiring like we have seen in the past. The backlog of teachers who are out of work grows every day. These people will be needing jobs when education gets robust again. Don’t let it sway you however if you have a vision to teach. Our civilization will always need intelligent and passionate individuals to teach its youth. It may not have the best pay or conditions but teaching will always have the reward of helping children to grow.

Therein lays the secret of why to become a teacher. A visionary teacher will make it through these tough financial times by putting kids first. If you are new or old or medium or whatever, you can be an excellent teacher if you want to. To those who have the intelligence and passion, I applaud your decision to teach. Go for it.

Kids are Like Sponges: Use Stories to Teach Them

A great lesson plan should have at least one engaging story that teaches. It’s very helpful when introducing a new topic to tell them stories about your life as it relates to that new concept.

Using stories to teach kids is one of the best teaching tips I can suggest. Anything you give kids by way of your life’s anecdotes they will happily absorb.  It’s been said, “kids are like sponges.” It’s very helpful when introducing a new topic to tell them stories about your life as it relates to that new concept.  Until a kid can visualize something and compare it to something concrete, he/she will never have a chance at comprehending it.  It is vital to getting students to understand your message. In teacher jargon this is known as “comprehensible input.” One example for young kids might be when I took a cookie out of the cookie jar. For older kids say in adolescence if I am teaching respect for authority figures, such as police officers, I can tell a story of when someone was disrespectful to a police officer and what happened. If you can’t think of a story, there is so much free online education that includes some. Definitely go searching. For example, if you are studying a story like Akiak, you can type that in and find all sorts of related stories. The teaching materials of our day are largely free and available with minimal search effort.
A “Dynamite Lesson Plan” should have at least one engaging story that teaches.  This can often make the need for a discipline plan obsolete. The reason this is true is because the learner is engaged. Your own kids, as well as your students, in many ways worship the ground you walk on.  To them, you are an image of the real world they desire so desperately to enter.  Telling them stories from your life full of comprehensible input can bridge the chasm for them.

They have nowhere to go.  They are all ears! Make storytelling a part of every lesson you do to improve student engagement in education.

And if you think you have no interesting stories to tell, remember this: Everything you’ve done has value to kids. It’s all in how you tell it to them.  Make it fun and tie it in to age-appropriate input be it SpongeBob or Twilight.  You’ll teach them your objective without them even knowing it.

Do you have any life adventures you could tell your kids?

Why not add a few to your schedule tomorrow and see how your kids respond?