Thursday, December 30, 2010

What's Your Word?

One thing I've always enjoyed, since I'm a bit unique, is sitting back and thinking about conversations after they're finished and wondering how we got from where we started to where we ended. Especially in those great, hours long conversations with good friends, the path is windy and twisted and the stops along the path are wide-reaching. Life is often the same way - windy, twisted, and creating unique connections between things you enjoy that you didn't think always fit together. Today a group that I'm part of through school pointed me to the blog of a scrapbooker / photography professional, and it caused me to answer this question:

What's my word?

You can check out Ali Edwards's blog here, and the specific post for One Little Word way back here. This is what got me thinking about my answer to that question.

This blog has mainly focused on school stuff, but I called it Teach 'N' Life for a reason. As much as we try it's pretty impossible for teachers (and kids) to leave life at the door when we get to school, and the opposite is the same when we go home. Teaching and life just go together, even when we have off all summer long. Life wise and school wise 2010 was a challenging year for me. To be honest, challenging is not quite the word I want to use, but I'm going to keep it clean because I still don't know how many people are actually reading this little blog. It was a tough year. Even though I'm more of the opinion that if something is worth doing it shouldn't be put off until you start a resolution on January 1st I like the idea of a fresh start on Saturday.

So, what is my word? My word for 2011 is OPPORTUNITY.

I picked opportunity because it can be presented to me or I can make it for myself. Opportunities can be positive or challenging, but you can always grow and learn from them. I already know that there will be many positive opportunities this coming year, and unfortunately I already know that I am going to be facing some challenging opportunities as well. No matter what, though, we are given each opportunity and need to use them all to become the people we were meant to be.

I will also be able to give others (my family, my friends, my coworkers and my students) a variety of opportunities. I'm hoping those I present are the positive kind, but I won't lie; I know I can be challenging so hopefully those around me are willing to take on the opportunities that come with me and learn and grow throughout the year.

So goodbye, 2010. While a few good things happened, I can't say you'll be one of my favorites. Hello, 2011. I am really looking forward to all of the opportunities that await me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Animal School

I've seen this video many times, and I have yet to watch it that it didn't bring a tear to my eye. What are we doing to kids? What can I do differently so my classroom recognizes my students' uniqueness and gifts? What can YOU do for all kids?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Real Life Experiences

I often spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the assignments my kids must do meaningful for them. If they have to write to a writing prompt, how can I make that prompt something that they will actually care about because we all know we write best when we're writing about an important topic.

We're currently working on our persuasive writing skills. To try and make that a little more meaningful, I told my class the principal wasn't sure if we could have a holiday party. It was their job to convince him we should or to explain why they agreed with his point of view. My kids latched on to this and did well with the assignment, but Friday afternoon they one-upped me big time.

Our dismissal time takes about 10 - 15 minutes, and I enjoy the last few minutes I have with the students who ride the last bus. As we were waiting for their bus to be called, I noticed that one student was chewing gum. He didn't try to hide it, and when asked he told me it was, "An amazing key lime flavor," and he just couldn't wait to get home to have some. As I opened my mouth to go through the "you know you can't chew gum in school" speech, I realized how ridiculous it sounded. We GIVE kids gum during PSSAs (our state tests for my dear readers outside of Pennsylvania) to help them concentrate, but it's forbidden during the rest of the year. Hmmmmmm.....

Well, the kids picked up on it faster than I did, and TAAAA-DAAAAAAHHHHH, a natural learning opportunity was born. Their persuasive skills immediately kicked in and, being the rule-breaker that I am, I was inclined to agree with their points: we get it during PSSAs, we can be responsible, we shouldn't all be punished because one person can't be responsible. All very valid points. But I decided to push them further. "I like your ideas," I said, "but you'll need to talk to Mr. S." If it was really important to them I thought they would stop by the office Monday morning and make an appointment to see the principal.

Clearly I underestimated my kids. By 6PM Friday evening I received notification of a new blog post from one of my last bussers. She had already addressed Mr. S. in a blog post entitled, "Bubble Gum." Now I haven't posted it yet (but I will add the link here as soon as I do!) because I want her to collaborate with her friends and make sure she has included all of the ideas they shared, but I am so proud and impressed that she went home and put her skills to use to solve a real-life problem. They may not realize it, but these kids are really starting to understand what I mean when I say there is more to life than filling in bubbles on a test!

I can't wait to see what Mr. S. has to say about all of this!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Check Out Some Videos

Click here to visit the student's favorite poems that I talked about in my "Add Technology..." post. You'll need to click on each student's name to find their posts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Are We Meeting Students' Needs?

I'd like to think I am, but every time I see a video like this it makes me wonder if I'm doing enough. Special thanks to @NMHS_Principal for tweeting this out.

Add Technology and Presto!

During the days leading up to and following Thanksgiving break my class spent some time looking at poetry. We talked about the tools poets use and became poets ourselves as I mentioned in our last post. Each day I offered the kids a chance to share their favorite poems that they've been reading with the class, and for our final day of poetry I kicked it up a notch. We (some of my student recorders and I) video taped the kids (using Flip cameras I received via grant) reading their poems so they can share them with everybody in the world!

At first some of the kids were not too thrilled about this, but the same small group that has been sharing the last two weeks hopped right up into the blue chair and started reading their poems. All of a sudden, a miracle happened. The sharing list... it started to grow, and grow, and grow! Mr. B, who I introduced here, assured me that I wouldn't have to worry, HE was not going to be sharing a poem to put up on the Internet. I told him that was fine; everybody had the choice whether to be recorded or not.

I looked at the list again. The growing continued, and now pairs and trios had been added. Of course we weren't able to get everybody's sharing videotaped Friday afternoon, but I assured the kids that if they wanted on the blog or the website, they would be on blog or the website. I'll be spending a lot of time uploading videos this weekend, but it'll totally be worth it when they see their sharing!

The kids left, and as I was cleaning up I looked up at the list one last time, happily thinking about how technology had encouraged my kids to find poems they enjoyed, practice reading them with love and expression and share them with others. As I scanned down the list, my eyes landed on the last entry - a trio. Mr. B and his two friends. :)