Friday, July 23, 2010

are you kidding me?

What kind of parent buys this for her kid, this notebook sitting in the "Back-To-School" section at an office supply store?

What kind of mentality is more self-destructive for a young mind than to equate fun with badness?

What kind of miracle will it take to undo the cultural damage that has spawned the company that believes it has a market for this product?

I am not a humorless individual. But this is one of the most unfunny things I've ever seen.

exciting--i feel like a grown up!

Last year I got a call from a World Famous Company. Would I be their educational consultant for a project*? One involving all the U.S. presidents? And how much would I charge?

I laughed. "I'd love to work with you, but I've never done this before and have no idea how much is fair."

Oh, my heavenly Father has a way of taking care of me! All I can tell you is this project was a delight, the people I interacted with were creative and sparkly, and the WFC was fair. ;-)

We as teachers stand
on the shoulders of those who
went ahead of us

A child isn't like
a DVD--is never
a finished product,

one's contribution
to a child's life is not something measurable.

Soooo this endeavor
scratched a less-than-lofty
itch: the credit itch--

First time consultant
for an impressive client!
Such interesting work--

Click on the credits
and there's my name! A little
overwhelming, really...

It's not a novel
or portrait; nor a scientific

No one is going
to click on the credits. (Who
cares? My name is there!!!!!)

* These videos are terrific--honest and amusing vignettes about each president that align to California standards. The target audience is 3rd through 8th grade, but my mom really liked them. (Then again, she's my mom.) I really liked them, too. They come with an interactive whiteboard feature to help kids remember what they've learned. No, I don't get royalties. I'm just kinda proud.

9/13/10 THIS JUST IN:
Apparently more people than just my mom and I liked them--the two videos pictured here each won a GOLD 2010 Parents' Choice Award!! Click HERE to read more about it! Hurrah!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

what is harder than a class that won't be quiet?

In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou discloses that as a girl, she became voluntarily mute. So I wasn't completely unprepared for the idea of J.; I just had no idea how to deal with the reality of J.

Ms S., the speech therapist, gave me what slight background she had: J. was incredibly shy and rarely smiled. A smile, I was informed, was any change in the corners of her mouth. Her slightly bowed head appeared frozen on her neck, her shoulders frozen -- her body held as if she expected to be hit any minute. Slight nods and almost imperceptible head shakes were her m.o., and open ended questions usually elicited only stares or made her eyes dart nervously left and right. And when her lips moved, J. thought others could hear her. Um, maybe owls or whales or hunting dogs. Humans? Not so much. And no one could out-silence her; J. could sit there all day, not answering, passive-aggressively passing time. To compound the issue, her academic skills were, in the parlance of the CST, FBB.

Wow. I prayed hard.

I welcomed her, sat her between a loud kid and one with a reputation for kindness. When I called on her, the class held its collective breath. Ms S. said I could inform J. that I couldn't hear her, and I would do that about 50% of the time. I was gratified to learn that J. wanted to do better in my class, and Ms S. was role playing with J. how to approach me and what to say. Twice a week, J. had a one-on-one instructional assistant accompany her in my class.

Every morning as the kids came up the ramp, I'd greet her with a smile, a joke or comment, and end with an easy question I expected her to answer. The corners of her mouth moved. One of the best days of the year, easily, was the day she laughed in class. She has beautiful teeth.

Ironically, she has asked me an open ended question on FB: "How is your summer :D"... I am glad that she has 116 FB friends and am proud to be one of them.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

paper chase

Experts frown upon
handling papers more than once;
teachers know better.

The truth? We have more
space than time. So teachers hoard
and save; plus, "what if?"

"What if this paper
is the magical paper
that will save us all?"

In a resource-tight world,
we save "maybe" papers
for "maybe sometime."

Over time, I learn
to let go of the "maybe"
to make room for "now."

My liberated coffee table--
Round Two goes to Lola!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Paper Monster, Flamethrowers, and Angela

It's real.

It wants to kill me.

Method? Drowning. You thought I was gonna say paper cuts, didn't you.

I sit here staring at eight stacks of English on my larger-than-average coffee table, eight stacks created from boxes of random papers. There's a pile of history papers on the floor that is particularly bugging me because I optimistically and mistakenly believed I had filed every last one of them. The history papers only seem spiteful, not scary, since they are easily put into binders that I spent a week organizing*.

But those eight stacks?? EIGHT?? There could've been more, but I collapsed some units together:
1) launching the course/benchmarks/book lists
2) narrative/lit analysis
3) persuasive/research/nonfiction
4) novels/bios
5) grammar/vocabulary
6) Holocaust/civil rights accessories
7) cool ideas/wonderful images/no idea where to file this thing
8) poetry

Now, each stack (average height=four inches) needs to be put in order. Sometimes looking at all this paper makes me wanna grab a flamethrower to get rid of these, quit my job, and go hug trees to make up for things. But I can't--I like my coffee table too much.

Imagine my delight in finding this post from Angela Watson's awesome blog: a great resource for planning my future taming of the Paper Monster! It's of no immediate help for the stacks I'm confronting; I still have days of decision making and sorting. But ah, these stacks are the result of a lack of systems to deal with the tsunami of paper that overwhelms me daily in the classroom; Angela's categories will help me win against my relentless enemy. God bless her!

*To the left is Round One of the epic Lola vs the Paper Monster, 2010. (I won this one.) Round Two is in effect right now, and I am too lazy to take a pic of the heavily laden larger-than-average coffee table.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Admiration and envy...

My cousin's wife posted some pics of her nephew's experience at their church school's summer camp:

"Last night the girls and I had the opportunity to go see K. perform in a reinactment. All week he has been participating in a history camp that is part of Covenant Life School. They learned about the French and Indian War. Each boy involved takes on the role of a soldier and learns what life was like in the 1700's for the men who were in battle. I could not have been more impressed. They had a whole military camp set up... After it was all over, the boys camped out in tents for the night."

WOW. Can you believe having uniforms and guns for all those kiddos? My history coworker and I have discussed embellishing our Civil War unit with a tent and so on. I am totally fired up by these photos and what this group has put together, in spite of the constraints we have and they don't (300 kids versus 30, authentic mosquitoed forests versus our small grassy quad, no money versus Lordy knows how much). Time to brainstorm and network!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mixed emotions

I just read Rafe Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair Is on Fire.

His book confirms my core beliefs about valuing students' intellects and holding high expectations. It especially highlights the ideal that teachers don't merely teach content, we teach human beings with amazing potential, and that we have the opportunity to teach them how to be.

Rafe, as his students call him, teaches his students problem solving (before school), guitar (during lunch and recess), baseball (during PE), and Shakespeare (after school). He assigns weekly essays, providing useful feedback on each one (on the weekends). He holds tutoring sessions for former students and takes students to sporting events (in the evenings and instead of personal hygiene, I can only presume).

He echoes my bleak outlook on popular culture. Tired of hearing students tell him about the movies they spend hours watching over the weekend (stuff like "Johnny Killed Everything"), he began his own film library. He takes his students to Washington, D.C. and Ashland, Oregon's Shakespeare Festival (during vacations). He deplores missed opportunities to educate students about how to be, teaching them about the value of money and saving through a class economy begun on the first day of school, teaching them to applaud excellent plays no matter which team makes them, teaching them to try new things, be kind to others, and help the less fortunate (on Christmas Eve, performing at a homeless shelter and serving dinner).

Are you inspired? Or tired?

Yes, he's married. Yes, he's been doing the teaching thing for over 25 years. Yes, Disney, Oprah, and the Queen of England have noticed him*. Yes, he's written three books. Yes, he's in Wikipedia. Yes, he rises before 5 am.

When does he plan? When does he grade? When, forgive me, does he pee?

Dedicated teachers struggle with balance; it's a normal part of a job that is fascinating and rewarding and frustrating and liberating. Reading about how this guy's entire life is Room 56 is overwhelming, and I feel guilty, like that's how I am supposed to do a better job, like that's what I owe the 150+ kids that walk into B-5...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Declaration of Independence, B-5 Style

I tried to load these in order, but alas. Someday I'll come back to this post and fix it once I find someone to teach me how. I could learn how myself, but the time it would take to do so would be better spent

I leave you
the Declaration of
Independence from a
Star Wars paradigm
(with Chuck Norris
randomly appearing
in every piece). Enjoy!