Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time for Reflection

What an amazing year....2008. Today, as I am a bit homebound, I started to reflect on the year of connections and technology....and the beginning of a new and amazing section of my journey.

Over last Christmas break, I was asked to write lesson plans for a new software program called, "Animation-Ish" from my dear friends at FableVision. What a great experience that turned out to be. There is nothing more exciting to me than dreaming up ways to reach kids using any tool available, and having a great animation tool was the motivation for a lot of new ways to teach! In May, the high school kids made political cartoons (one of the last lesson plans I came up with) and I was blown away by the results. Huge thanks to History teacher, Brent Thoren, for having students work on the assignment. Check out my resource collection on a previous blog post.

In May, I also took the jump into Twitter. I had read about (and mocked) Twitter for quite some time and didn't see the point. How can a person learn anything or make friends 140 characters at a time? After gaining 220 or so followers, I have learned that the "Personal Learning Network" is a very strong force in my career and my life. I have learned so much from these friends, most of whom I have never met in real life. I must give thanks to Sylvia Martinez who tweeted my presence and gained me a lot of followers on that first day!

Also in May, I launched this blog. What a journey that has been. I have been able to post about the things that move me. I have been able to think out loud and also make some cherished connections. I love the thoughtful comments and I love being the voice for some other dreamers. One of the greatest thrills this year was when I blogged about "Darius Goes West," an amazing journey that EVERYONE should watch and support, I received emails from some of the gifted filmmakers. What a thrill. I purchased a video and I hope you will too. Here is a previous post to give you more information.

June was truly amazing and unreal. I traveled to NECC in San Antonio and was part of the FableVision group for the second year. I attended the Constructivist Consortium with my friends Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns, Gary Goldberger and Cristine Goldberg.  I got to meet "The Great One," of Twitter and Plurk fame, Diane Cordell (@dmcordell). What a treat. What could be better than being in a room with motivated educators who want to make a difference in the lives of children and they want to change their practice to inspire the difference?

I also had the wonderful opportunity to be a guest presenter with my hero and friend, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns in her session. Watching this truly gifted educator is treat enough....but being invited to present some things my students have done was unbelievable. Another great treat of this conference was while I was sitting on a lobby floor hanging out and having lunch with Peggy, Peter H. Reynolds came up to sit with us and showed us the proof for the book that would be come one of my favorites of this year, "Free to Be...You and Me: The 35th anniversary edition." I had used "Free to Be...You and Me" in my classroom over the years, I was thrilled that it was being updated. Peter H Reynolds' artwork is some of the best ever. It is a beautiful book and a work of art to me

The other great part of NECC was meeting people all around the country who love FableVision and some who hadn't met the company yet. It was great fun....in a way, like teaching. Sometimes, you could literally see the fire light as educators dreamed of ways to use "Animation-Ish" in their classroom!

Sometime in the summer, I also jumped on the Plurk bandwagon...I have amassed 143 new friends. It is amazing how much sharing goes on in that arena. Although much of it is the sharing of the mundane comings and goings of the day.... their have been some very poignant discussions. There have been the passing of animals and the devastation of areas with weather that have led me to make charitable donations. I am amazed how the lives of people that most of us have never and will never meet have brought about such compassion.  On the other side of serious, my sense of humor gets a work out with some of my favorite sparring partners on Plurk, like principalspage and Dedra. Although I love making connections and learning about the latest in education and technology, my extreme quest for humor enjoys the silly interchanges as well. I once said, "If you can't have fun doing it, don't do it!"

In the end of October I was hired part-time by FableVision, the world's greatest software company (which you know I thought was that great before I 'worked' there). I lead the Ambassador program, which is the program I had been involved with. As I mentioned earlier, one of my greatest joys in the world is talking with educators who are committed to motivating kids and improving lessons with new products or methods. So, this job is a perfect fit for me. I am not in sales, which I would be really bad at. I get to spend time talking to phenomenal educators who are ON FIRE about reaching kids and love education. I get wonderfully touching emails about what people are doing with kids and it is truly a joy.

In November, I was asked to write an article for "Learning and Leading" magazine because of a comment I left on my "cyber angel" Sylvia Martinez's blog. It was a thought provoking prompt and it was gratifying to be asked to respond.

In late November, Peter H. Reynolds encouraged me to join Facebook. Previously, I believed that was an avenue for college students to come up with party plans....I was wrong. I have had a great time connecting with my Twitter, Plurk, and FableVision friends. Lately, I have started following some of the authors I admire in the Young Adult realm. Susan Patron, Deborah Wiles and others... Another great way to be motivated by interesting people. But, probably the greatest use of Facebook is that I have been reconnected with some of my favorite students from the past.  What a great use of technology!!!  I now have 229 friends and am enjoying adding more as the days pass.

It was a year filled with friends and good times. Thanks to all who played a part!

I am a very lucky man!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Animation

video
Created by me using Animation-Ish

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Are we SURE we want to go to DC???

This from Michelle Rhee, the new chancellor of D.C. Schools...

"She says things most superintendents would not. "The thing that kills me about education is that it's so touchy-feely," she tells me one afternoon in her office. Then she raises her chin and does what I come to recognize as her standard imitation of people she doesn't respect. Sometimes she uses this voice to imitate teachers; other times, politicians or parents. Never students. "People say, 'Well, you know, test scores don't take into account creativity and the love of learning,'" she says with a drippy, grating voice, lowering her eyelids halfway. Then she snaps back to herself. "I'm like, 'You know what? I don't give a crap.' Don't get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don't know how to read, I don't care how creative you are. You're not doing your job."
Source: Time Magazine

In education, we do need people who can make hard choices....But, more importantly, we need leaders who have taken their place in the classroom and been EFFECTIVE! Unless you have been in the trenches, you don't know how to handle the struggles in education. Thinking that creativity and "Touchy Feely" people have no place in the classroom gives me the impression that Ms. Rhee has not been in a classroom and/or was not effective in it.

Well, I am going to say it right here.... I am one of those "touchy feely" people who tries to teach kids that they can be whomever they want to be--if they work for it. I think you could survey kids in my room and they would KNOW I care about them and I want what is best for them. If I had to guess, I would say that many kids love me and most kids I know respect me....and most all of them, learn from me. SO, touchy/feely and learning are not mutually exclusive.

Creativity will get us to the promised land in education! We need to be done educating kids to punch clocks....we need to get them to THINK and come up with creative answers to the problems ahead of us. Thank goodness for amazing people like Peter Reynolds and Sylvia Martinez and others leaders in education who keep us heading in the RIGHT direction!!!!

So, when I fly into D.C. this summer, I pray to be met by wonderful people who create amazing things. I know I will be able to be in the presence of teachers and leaders like me who are touchy-feely in all the right ways! WE KNOW that the kids will learn more from a caring adult....and we will lead those amazing children in our classes to a brighter tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wordle Meme

Beth Knittle tagged me in a Wordle meme. She was tagged by Jen Wagner and Martha Thornburgh. The Meme was started by Lee Kolbert The mission, which I chose to accept, was to create a Wordle using your blog and/or your Del.icio.us account... I chose to do both.

The first one, from this blog....
I think this does a pretty amazing job of highlighting who I am. KIDS ---the biggest word and my mission. Everything I do and everything I am in education has kids as the focus. Even the FableVision, North Star, and Peter Reynolds markers are all about kids!

Next, the Del.icio.us tags...
Yep, here it is again. EDUCATION is largest. technology, music, fun, Web 2.0, blogs all make an appearance. Education is the key!

Thanks, Beth. It was great to get the affirmation that kids and education are the center of what I write about.

I tag:

'The Great One" Diane Cordell

"My Cyber Angel" Sylvia Martinez

"Super Friend" Andrea Hernandez

"Best Ambassador Pal," Julie Everett

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Sea is So WIde, My Boat is So Small...

A few years ago, I heard the quote, "Dear Lord, be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small." It is the slogan for the "Children's Defense Fund" which is a child advocacy group. There was a song written to go along with the quote.

Oddly, a few days ago I was thinking about that quote because it described how I was feeling. Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed with things at school....and my boat feels very small. Then, in a strange sense of coincidence, I noticed that Peter H. Reynolds became a fan of the Children's Defense Fund on Facebook. Wow, would I love to see the "Peter H" art to go along with that quote. I decided that this coincidence must be trying to send me a message.

All of these things have me thinking about something I have known for a while now.... I had noticed that a few kids at school wanted to get a little closer or touch me a little more...then it hit me....Not every kid is happy to have time off to spend with their family. Some family time is unpleasant and some is frightening.

The great thing about being a teacher is that we can have a little impact on the sea that kids are navigating. We can be a warm caring person in a kids life. We can never make up for a bad home life, but we can understand that kids have those types of experience and give them skills to get out. We have learned that education is the key to a brighter future.

I feel especially blessed this year to be a part-time member of the FableVision family. Our leader, Peter Reynolds, has given us a glimpse of a different world where kids can be lifted up by capitalizing on their creativity and demonstrating their intelligence in non-paper and pencil ways. Best of all, we have "The North Star" book which helps us teach kids to follow their star!

Every day I have a lot to be thankful for. Today is a day when I will spend a little extra time appreciating. I get to be a force in some wonderful childrens' lives. What other job can you have that you feel so loved? I get to work part time for the most amazing company who has a mission matches my own.

I wouldn't begin to compare myself with the amazing Marion Wright Edelman who founded the Childrens Defense Fund....But we all have a stake in making sure that kids are successful. I do what I can and I know that many of you share that passion.


What are you thankful for? What ways are YOU reaching out to kids and getting them to see their North Star?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Please come along on my Journey!!!

My request for singers from around the country/world was a bust. SO, I am going to change my request. Would you consider sending me a very short (10-20 second) video of your town and/or school?

I want to have my kids sing the song "Journey" from "The North Star Musical" and then show video from around the world/country to show we are all on a Journey, no matter where we live.

Thanks!

Here is an example from my new BEST FRIEND, Lori Lee:

video

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm on Facebook??

Well, as an example of the phrase 'never say never,' I am on Facebook. When mentor and pal, Peter H. Reynolds, suggested that I get a Facebook account, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. But, he has never led me astray before, so I jumped in.

After a few days, this is what has happened. I have friend and been friended by over one hundred people. Nice! I have started a group called "Educator Fans of FableVision." Currently, I am the Lead Ambassador for my favorite company, FableVision! How great is that? I started out loving the company and the software they create...then blogging like crazy about programs that inspire me and my students, and I end up with a job about two weeks ago... Best of all, my new part-time job is not in sales....it is talking to other educators who LOVE FableVision and are inspired by what great books and programs can do for their students. But, I am off topic.

My friend, the amazing Maribeth whom I blogged about a few days ago, started the "Educator Fans of Stationery Studio" which is one of my all-time favorite software programs. "Stationery Studio" was written by one of my all-time favorite people, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns (who is also on Facebook). I was the first person to join that group!!!

So, where does that get us? If you are on Facebook, look me up! If you haven't already, join the two groups above. And if, like me, you thought that Facebook was for sixteen year olds....think again! There are a lot of us there now who are.....well, let's just say a few years over sixteen!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Come Along on a Journey...

I was so inspired by a blog post by Karl Fisch, that I want to do the same sort of thing. It was called, "Playing for Change" and it featured singers from around the world.

In the next few days, I want to start working on this. I am hoping for people from all around the world to do it!! Here is what I would like to do....

1- Each school creates a short video showing their town/area

2- Each school/class learns the song, "Journey" from The North Star Musical by Tim Beckman and Peter H. Reynolds. Schools will be provided the music and an .mp3 track to sing along with.

3- I will combine the songs from all schools and the video clips into one incredible compilation!

4- The final video will be shared!

Your kids will love the song (My kids did). The musical is amazing and you might just want to do the whole thing. But, for now, you only need to commit to the one song and recording.

Email me for the song!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Wings of Epoh is a Winner!!!


Wings of Epoh, which I have blogged about before, has won "The Rights of the Child Award" at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival! If you haven't checked it out, you must. It is a beautiful story and a beautiful film. It was cooperative project with SARRC (Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center). The book was written by Gerda Weissmann Klein, famed Holocaust survivor and author. It was lovingly illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

The film was produced by FableVision.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Darius Goes West --- Part Two

A few months ago, I blogged about a YouTube video I had watched on the advice of Karen Janowski. It was about a young man who had taken a journey from Georgia (starting in Florida) to California to try to get on MTV and have West Coast Customs 'pimp' his wheelchair. I immediately ordered the DVD.

I finally had a chance to watch the movie and I can tell you that my life will be forever changed. Darius is an amazing young man who faces a very tough past and tougher future. What you see is the journey across the country filled with smiles and laughter. What could be a sad and depressing movie is uplifting. OK, I will admit it, I was moved to tears on several occasions. I am not a person who cries easily...but it is THAT wonderful. The 'Crew' take Darius for his first swim in the ocean and on some amazing experiences. The 'crew' are an amazing bunch of guys that anyone would be proud to know. The unparalleled passion these men have for life and for their journey is refreshing.

If I had to characterize the biggest change in the 23 years I have been teaching, it would be that kids do not have a lot of passion about things in the world. What blew me away about the boys in this video is their amazing passion for their cause. With every DVD purchase $17.00 of the $20.oo video will go to finding a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Darius and friends are trying to sell one million DVD's in one year.

Please check out the Darius Goes West website and store. Buy a DVD...Host a party...Share the passion for life. Probably the most touching thing about this story is that Darius knows that this effort will not help him. . . It will undoubtedly be too late. But it is not too late to put a stop to this disgusting disease for future generations.

I promise if you watch the video and support the cause....Your life will be changed....and you can change the life for generations to come.

Darius Goes West. One Year. One Million DVDs.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Free To Be....You and Me" Anniversary Edition


Thirty-five years ago, a ground-breaking book hit the shelves. It was called, "Free to Be...You and Me." Marlo Thomas and Friends put together an amazing book that takes a look at gender roles through stories and songs. I remember this from when I was young and purchased the movie and soundtrack. One of the highlights of the video and soundtrack was Rosie Greer singing, "It's Alright to Cry."

Imagine my surprise when Peter Reynolds told me in San Antonio that he and Marlo Thomas along with some other amazing artists and writers were doing a thirty-fifth anniversary edition!!! One of my favorite books re-imagined by one of my favorite artists. The book arrived today and it is MORE beautiful than I imagined. I know Peter does great work, but this is absolutely phenomenal.

If you remember the book as a youngster or if you are new to it, you MUST check it out. It comes with a CD features the great Rosie Greer singing "It's Alright to Cry." I ordered mine from the Reynolds' family book store, The Dedham Blue Bunny. It is available everywhere.

It's Out!!!!

Based on a comment I left on Sylvia Martinez's GenYes blog, I was asked by to write an article for "Learning and Leading with Technology" magazine. The issue arrived in my mailbox yesterday! It is also available online.

The section is called, "Point/Counterpoint" and the article is called "Are Free Tools Worth the Price." Check it out (revised link).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I Blog! A Great Teacher Quote

Saw this quote today...it made me think a lot. For some reason, it reminded me of why I blog. I may never know the people who read this blog....But I hope at least one time, it makes you think or smile and, just maybe, it creates a tiny change in your view of the world of education....just a little bit.

"Many of us carry memories of an influential teacher who may scarcely know we existed, yet who said something at just the right time in our lives to snap a whole world into focus."
Laurent A Daloz

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meet Maribeth from UCando

If you read the comments on my last blog post, you noticed one from Maribeth Bush, a great person who has a great website. I got to know Maribeth through my friends at FableVision and if you haven't been to her website and blog, you need to check it out.

Ucando.org is a website that encourages people who have challenges to have a 'Can Do" attitude. According to the website, "The overall mission of the Can Do! is to help people, especially kids, develop a more positive attitude and perspective about themselves and the people in the world around them." There are great activities and posters from Peter H. Reynolds on the site for download. There are profiles of other famous 'can do' people. There is also the Can Do lunchbox with ideas for educators to use in the classroom.

Maribeth is an amazing advocate for children and is an elementary guidance counselor. Seeing the need in her school for a book on friendship triangle, she created a book available online or in print form.

Please check out Maribeth's site and blog. We all need to get behind those people who inspire us and inspire kids!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Story on the 'Doggy Box'

Friday night, my wife and I went out to eat at a local establishment. The waitress was phenomenal, a rarity these days, and when we could eat all of our meals, she decorated our take-away boxes. On my wife's box, she drew a ribbon. On mine she told the story of the armless man who was chased by bees. I was so impressed by her story, I animated it and it appears below.

The waitress explained that she loved drawing, but she had to be a waitress to 'pay the bills.' A very sad story, but I was impressed how she could bring a little of her real passion into her job. So the lesson for me is that even if you are not doing exactly what you dreamed you would be doing, keep dreaming and find ways for your passion to shine through what you are doing until that big dream comes true.
video

Speaking of storytelling, Peter H. Reynolds has a great idea for getting your stories out on his blog today http://stellarcafe.blogspot.com/


The original puppy on the box--


Animation made with Animation-Ish, of course.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Custom Search Engines!!!

Another great tip I picked up from Alan November on Tuesday is that Google allows you to create custom search engines! Today, in a few very easy steps, I created a custom search engine for my elementary students to use. NT Music Composer Search Engine was born.

Mr. November explained that it can be a collaborative way for groups to work and select decent sites for the group to explore. Up to 100 people can collaborate on one search engine. I saw a different potential in my situation....Kids in my room are currently discovering "The Greatest Composer of All Time." Each group picked a composer and the only criteria is that the composer has to have created music before 1900. Students were allowed to change the person they chose at any time, providing that no other group was looking for the same composer. In the end, the students will 'present' the composer and explain why he/she should be named the greatest composer of all time. They give arguments, but there doesn't have to be a written component.

The problem is that I only see the sixth grade students twice a week for thirty minutes. As you know, kids can get lost on the Internet and find a lot of sites that won't help them. Also, although I don't want to get into the merits of Wikipedia on this blog, it is just easier to give kids a choice of quality websites than to argue the merits of the site. I believe we all should talk about reliable sources, but I don't want to give up a ton of class time to do it. Mr. November taught us that Wikipedia is usually in the top five or so of search results because of the number of sites that link to it.

Where I disagree with Mr. November is that one of his main points was that students need to be exposed to other ways of thinking. It seems to me that having high school kids come up with their own search engine might have the opposite effect. They might only find things that support their own views. It is interesting to think about.

Finally, in case this is not new information just to me, a how to! In Firefox or Flock (It apparently doesn't work in some browsers), go to the Google page and choose "more."
Choose "even more"

Then choose, Custom Search Engine.You must have a Google ID. Then name your search engine, add sites, and you are on your way.

Thanks, GOOGLE!!!! (and Alan November).

Now, go try out our new search engine. Try Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, etc.
Link

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

November is a Great Time for Learning

(If you are looking for Animation-Ish post, it is here.)



Alan November, that is....

I watched Alan November present the second day keynote at the Iowa Education Technology Connection Conference held in Des Moines, Iowa. This home state conference has grown over the last few years. I was intrigued by a few ideas that Mr. November presented and I would like to share the first one here today.

One of the big ideas I gained from his talk was that our Internet, like our television and radio, can give us a skewed sense of the world. A heavily paraphrased quote from Alan was, "The Internet isn't necessarily a place to find a new perspective. You may find things that strengthen your current beliefs." Sorry Mr. November if those weren't the exact words, but I believe that was the intent of the words. (Like he reads my blog :-)

He suggests that we add site:(country code) to a search and then get search results from that country. So, today I tried it. I searched for information about the Boston Tea Party, and I will be posting the most unusual results. I don't know if I have representative sites on either continent, but it was interesting to me the differences in the material.

Part of the UK version
"In the early evening of 16 December, a band of men, some disguised as Mohawk American Indians (Hewes recorded that he darkened his face with soot), assembled on a hill near the wharf. Whooping Indian-style war cries, they marched to the wharf, where they boarded the ships one after another, hoisted the tea on board deck, split open the chests - 342 in total - and threw all the tea into the sea. The whole affair took about three hours, and it was not a violent protest - the ships’ crews attested that nothing had been damaged or destroyed except the tea - and the protesters swept the decks clean afterwards. The Massachusetts Gazette even reported that when it was realised that a padlock that had been broken was the personal property of one of the ships’ captains, a replacement was procured and sent to him." http://www.tea.co.uk/index.php?pgId=38

Part of the US version
"We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water."

Most of the parts were the same...but the savagery of the US version really set it apart from the gentleness of the UK version which went so far as to have the hooligans tidy up after the big 'party.'

Mr. November's assertion was that we need to help kids think more globally and a great way to do it would be to give them some tools to find information of varying viewpoints.


Picture source: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/teaparty.htm

Sunday, October 19, 2008

All About Animation-Ish

Tomorrow, Monday, October 20, I will be presenting the amazing program Animation-Ish at the Iowa Technology and Education Connection Conference. I was very lucky to be on the Beta-testing team for this program last year. In addition, I wrote fifteen of the lessons that are included in the Activity Guide as part of the Educational Edition.

This blog post is going to attempt to answer some questions. Windows and Mac!
Wacom tablet or not? Actually, as it says in the system requirements, a drawing table is not required. Most of my students prefer to use a mouse. I LOVE to use the Promethean Board!!! You can draw on the board and it is "what you see is what you get." Currently, there is an issue with Macs and Promethean board, but they are working on it. It works great on the PC.

I use it in my classroom, if you go here, here, here, or here, you can see things my students have done with the program.

Wait....There is more! When you are done creating your amazing animation, it can be saved in a variety of formats, like Flash or QuickTime.

Here are some screenshots and notes so you can get an idea of what the program looks like. The program comes with AWESOME video tutorials by Peter H. Reynolds and the animators at FableVision.


Hey, do you think I am the only person who thinks the program is the best? Nope! Here are the awards the program has won so far.

Give it a try! Free 15 day download.
Make my day and send me your animation!!!

If we met at ITEC, please send a comment!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Discipline--Everything I ever needed to know, I learned in my classroom


Today I want to brainstorm a list of strategies that WORK in the field of discipline. I want your help!

First, I have to say that my ideas come from twenty-two years in the classroom and a lot of error and trials. Mostly errors. I am not an expert, I only play one in my classroom.

Second, we must agree that what works for me would absolutely and positively work for you, but ONLY if you had the same kids, with the same background, and the same rapport with said children. So, in other words, one size does NOT fit all.

Third, we will have to agree that nothing works if we are not fair and consistent. And I MEAN IT! The kid has to know that whatever you do, you do it to everyone and you do the same thing everytime. No exceptions.

After sitting through (enduring really) a Harry Wong video, I will agree on one thing. Routine is important. Harry and I agree that having a routine for what you do will help kids get going. In high school chorus, when the attendance taker begins, the talking stops. When the piano starts playing the warm-up, the kids stand and begin. No words necessary. Please note that this took approximately three sentences to share and not a half hour of video time....but I digress.

Here are some things that have worked. Oddly, this year I have tried something new with the big kids...which is to point out that some of their behaviors are disrespectful to me. Now, if they didn't want to demonstrate their respect, this obviously wouldn't work....And it doesn't work for every kid. Most kids really want to please a positive adult who cares about them.

Explain why the rules are important TO YOU. I worked with At-Risk kids for the past few years and I noticed that one thing that seemed to really make them stumble was when a rule seemed arbitrary. So, when explaining rules, I let students know why it is important. For example, one of my rules is to keep the chairs on all four legs. The reason I have that rule is because every year, a kid leans back and goes all the way over and smacks their head. The explanation makes the rule make sense. No one wants to be embarrassed. Without explanation, it is just the cranky teacher making up rules.

Some really strange things I have tried.... I have an advisee group. They meet 15 minutes per day. They are supposed to work on homework and make sure they have it all written down. I used to H A T E that time because it was me trying to corral 8 sets of raging hormones. No grade to hold over their head and most of them had very little rapport. So, I made the deal that if they went X number of days without talking, we would have a game day. Number of game days?? 1 It took too long for them to earn a day and so they stopped trying. So, I then decided that the last 4 minutes would be game time if they got the required things done. Now it works almost every time! Immediate gratification.

The time I got in the greatest amount of trouble?? Well, I had an advisee group a number of years ago that was TERRIBLE to one kid. I tried everything I knew how to do and I couldn't make a difference. Then, I decided to hit them where it hurt. (No, not there). In the wallet. Every time someone said something mean to that kid, they owed a quarter. If the fund was less than $20, I would chip in money and we would have an amazing pizza party at the end. If the amount was more than $20, all of the money went to charity. I ended up making up the difference and celebrating with the group. . . Wait, are you wondering how I got in trouble?? The new teacher next door tried to do the same thing with her group....unfortunately she didn't have one student that all the others picked on, and therefore it caused parents to question why the new teacher needed the money of children. Obviously, one size does not fit all and I was given a pass by the parents of students in my room because the parents knew me. I was actually criticized (loudly) on the phone by the parent from the other room.

My last point here, is sometimes it is good to know the root of the problem and sometimes, there is a clear cut root. Problems at home, with other classes, or problems that occurred before they got to me can all be in full bloom in my room. I don't always take the time to get to the root of a problem, but I have learned to look for some warning signs along the way. Frequent misbehavior is often a sign of deeper trouble. Ask or refer to someone qualified for deeper understanding.

What tips do you have for newer professionals? What works for you? Maybe even share what didn't work so we all might learn.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Go Hear For Yourself- Peter Reynolds at NHCMTC


2008 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference

The Link is HERE

I promise you will not be disappointed! The author of "The Dot," "Ish," "So Few of Me" and many more amazing books, the illustrator of the "Judy Moody" series of books, and the founder of FableVision
will inspire more creativity in you than you ever knew you had!

Since I won't be able to be there, be sure to tell him I said "hi."



Thursday, October 9, 2008

Obstructed View

Wow, sometimes the journey is tough...and then something makes you look in a different direction. Today was absolute rock bottom in my regular job. Not going into it here, but it was not a good day. If you know me well, even from just reading this, you know I am all about kids. The situation today, as it almost always is, was about adults and not kids.

The big lesson for me today came at the end of the day. My best friend at school was helping me deal with "THE" situation. Wow, couldn't ask for a better friend. Then, the phone rang...It was the state sports office asking my students to sing the National Anthem for the state volleyball tournament.

Just when the star is the farthest away, something happens that turns you in a different direction and the star is as close as it ever has been...It was me that got turned around.

You might have to go read The North Star if that doesn't make sense. The art above is from Peter H. Reynolds.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Prometheus--Thief of Fire

In Greek mythology, Prometheus was the person who stole fire from Zeus and brought it to the people. A few weeks ago, a great guy named Nate (ultimately with help from Kathleen, Scott, Anna, and Joelle) brought fire to my classroom....A Promethean interactive whiteboard.

This Wednesday, the UPS truck brought the gas for the fire...Activotes. For those who haven't used them, Activotes are devices that each student uses to interact with the lesson (other people in my school call them the clickers). If you want to see a lesson come alive, hand out electronics!

So, you are wondering how things have changed since the introduction of this amazing technology. First, a little about me. I haven't been a paper-pencil person for at least a dozen years. I never saw the need to quantify things in the music classroom. I have kids write stories, as previously discussed, but I don't do tests. I like to have kids SHOW me that they understand what we are learning.

The addition of the whiteboard has changed a lot in my classroom, but not the basic fundamentals. The kids spend eighty percent of the time in front of the board (if not more). I do my twenty percent is mostly setting up the activities and a little instruction. In fact, since the Activslate arrived, I have spent even less time in front of the board! The focus of my instruction is still the children, but now the kids have ramped up motivation...they are on fire!

Adding the Activotes this week has changed the atmosphere in my room...I am still dreaming of ways to make it better. We have been talking about naming the notes the kids will have to know to play the keyboards in February. The interesting thing to me is that I had the votes in "Anonymous" mode and the kids still wanted to know how they were doing... The quest for learning was apparent. Perhaps more than in the past, the students wanted to get the 'right' answer and were eager to listen better to instruction so taht they could get the answer right. I am not sure what all the implications of this are. I am not sure if the motivation is intrinsic, which has always been my goal. For now, I am going to go with the on-fire excitement and find ways to transfer that assignment to an instrument.

From my early experiences, I have decided that Promethean is correctly named for Prometheus, the one who shares fire. My classroom is definitely on fire!!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

"The Stellar Cafe" and the Stellar Illustrator!


If you haven't visited the great Peter H. Reynolds at his Stellar Cafe Blog, you need to! Today he shares that the Telefable for "Rose's Garden" will premiere tonight in Boston at the Gala for the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Every blog post from Peter is an inspiration! If you have ever seen him at a conference, you will understand that just being around him inspires you to be more creative and to "Be Brave"

Be sure to leave him a comment!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Characteristics of a GREAT Colleague



I sent out a plea to my Plurk and Twitter friends asking for characteristics they like in a colleague. Here is their list:

SDSherrysays
Willingness to collaborate
SDSherrysays
Same love for kids
SDSherrysays
Respectful attitude
SDSherrysays
Sense of humor
SDSherrysays
Positiv

GingerTPLCsays
someone who puts his/her all into growing and learning for self and kids. And *always* leaves non-school drama in the car.
macmomsays
good listener
pfandersonsays
trustworthiness. Like what dmcordell said :-)

dmcordell
dmcordell Openness to new experiences, eager learner.
Mike Sansone
mikesansone Characteristics of a Co-Worker (Teachers): cooperative w/o being a yes man.
Carey Gilcher
TheGilch supportive, understanding


lisibo
cooperation, always learning, flexible, good hygiene (!)

stacysays
sharing attitude...and always has chocolate available

mindeleisays
Attributes: risk-taker, open-minded, student-advocate, no drama/no politics, willing to try new things,
cleisuresays
kind

paulbogushsays
#1-Reflective...if they don't reflect on their practice they will never improve, never grow, never change.
cleisuresays
accepting of all

loonyhikersays honest

My amazing friend and fellow FableVision Ambassador, Julie, said:
you can trust
you rely upon
inspires your outside and inner spirits
thinks like you occasionally, but differently on most occasions
loves growing right along with you
encourages you, even when creative wheels aren't spinning
believes in who you are, and what you are made of
loves finding ways to inspire you to become better--as a professional AND as a person
excites you after conversations or meetings you've shared
learns from you and becomes better
supports your decisions, but gives you new things to consider
takes risks with you
celebrates with you when things go well, and has a shoulder to lean on when they don't
cares about your personal and professional development
is friendly
is constantly moving forward in thought, word, and creative spirit, and wants you right along side

------

That is a great list and my list would have many of the same characteristics. One of the things about school that I find increasingly troubling is that some of my colleagues seem to have no desire to be better than they are right now (or better than the day they stepped into the classroom). I am not sure how it happens, but it seems to be more prevalent lately.

It seems that most people got into teaching because they want to shape the future and they are on fire to teach. They exude passion and nothing can stop them....Or is that only in my dream world? I think it is probably obvious from my blog, but I LOVE the kids. They inspire me. They are the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

Although my 'dream job' is to be a technology director with emphasis in technology integration, I will have to find a place that I can still have interaction with students. Seeing the light click on in a kids eyes when they 'get it' is a sacred trust. We, as educators, must do everything we can to make it happen.

The bottom line for me is that sometimes I get discouraged at school. I send out links, I offer to show people new instructional methods, I talk with great passion about things that have worked for me. The times that I have offered to show something new, I might get three people to come. So, what I need to do is just keep pitching and not be discouraged by striking out.

I always begin my education night class by asking about the college students' worst teacher. Then I challenge them to be NOTHING like them. It is easy to get complacent. It's easy to fall into routines and do the same old things day after day.... But our students deserve better. We may be the best thing in a kid's day. WE deserve better colleagues. We deserve to be challenged and inspired.

What characteristics are you looking for??? What are you willing to do to facilitate it happening?


Clipart from the FREE North Star collection.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Big Dreams




This beautiful artwork is my favorite from "The North Star" by Peter H. Reynolds. The message is an inspirational card on the FableVision website. I don't know about you, but I really needed this message today.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Follow Your Star

video

The journey has been a little tough for me and a few of my online friends....I came up with this animation to remind us all that we must keep following our star.

Everyone knows that I am a huge fan of Peter H. Reynolds and his book, "The North Star!" So, I used my favorite program, Animation-Ish to create this animation. The boy is part of the program library and it was drawn by the amazing Peter H. Reynolds....the rest was me. I even tried to emulate the Reynolds' style of coloring in the boy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Homecoming

Here is a crazy and successful thing that I do every year. As a teacher, I have a habit of trying new things that somehow seem to work. My former next colleague used to say that I am very successful at flying by the seat of my pants. She would say, "It works for you." The event I am going to describe has become a time honored tradition in my classroom. It is one of the things that the kids who come back to visit always talk about.

About ten years ago, I was frustrated by the yearly Homecoming rituals. I would lose an entire week of chorus rehearsals because I couldn't possibly expect the students to work on Homecoming week!

So, one day, I had the crazy idea to have a contest. I gave the kids some time on Monday of Homecoming week to plan a skit to be performed on Friday, the morning of the big game. I divided the students up by their chorus sections: bass, tenor, alto, soprano. When Friday of that first week rolled around, I noticed that something was different...very different. The second the "Chariots of Fire" music came out of the speakers of the stereo, I knew that things were going to change.

The Tenors, had created a slow motion football game, with the Chariots Theme in the background. It was an amazing 'skit' and was so wildly popular that the students were asked to perform it at the afternoon pep rally.

Two amazing things came out of this experience. I now give away thirty minutes of Homecoming week instead of 200. The groups have an amazing bonding experience and build unity.

The lesson I learned from this is that sometimes, as teachers, we must honor the rituals of school. I believe the reason this works for me is that I allow kids the time to revel in the fun of the high school experience.

What do you do to honor the rituals of school?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Qualities of a Good Teacher -- Junior High Edition

Yesterday, I asked Junior High students what qualities a good teacher had. I had mostly boys and a few girls at the time. Here are there responses:

“Nice” (15 students)

“Fun” (9 students)

“They are strict, but not too strict.” (Six students)

“Funny” (Six students)

“Doesn’t give a lot of ( or too much) homework” (Four students)

“Patience” (Three students)

“Really smart” (Three students)

“They help when needed” (Two students)

“Has some fun games” (Two students)

“Kindness/Caring” (Two students)

“Fair” (Two students)

“Has control over students” (Two students)

“Very organized”

“They know what they are talking about”

“Tolerance”

“Explain assignments clearly”

“Listens to students”

“Doesn’t give detentions for no reason” (from the kid who just got a detention FOR a reason)

“Shows respect”

“Strict”

“Thoughtful”

“Has rules”

“A teacher who actually teaches, not just reads through the lesson and expects the students to understand it.”

“Picks good things to learn about.”

“Helps them learn”

“Knows how to discipline”

“Not a hypocrite”

“Should not yell”

“Cool”

“Loves and works well with kids.”

“Nice person”

“Willing to have fun, but there is a line at some point”

“Willing to answer questions”

“Happy”

“Putting enjoyment in learning.”

“Good at teaching.”

 

 

My favorite quality of a good teacher – “Not your mom!”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Qualities of a Good Teacher


My post yesterday made me think of the question, "What are the qualities of a good teacher?" So, since a big chunk of my high school chorus students were on a trip today, I asked the remaining students to write down what they thought were the qualities they thought were important. Here is the list:

"They should be very explanitive and help when a student wants help."
"Someone does hands on learning"
"One that pushes us to do our best, but doesn't lose their temper when we mess up."
"They have to be patient and can have fun sometimes but serious at other times"
"One that informs but still keeps the subject interesting. One that doesn't attempt to embarrass students."
"They have to have humor."
"A teacher who cares about he/she is teaching and will take the time to explain things when we don't get something."
"Teaching with enthusiasm. Mix fun with subjects. Making sure everyone is paying attention."
"Strict but fun. Knows that they are talking about and know how to teach."
"Stern when necessary. Fun. Creative."
"I think a good teacher needs to be easy going yet stern. They need to command respect to get results."
"Relate to kids. Has to have fun to be a good teacher."
"Treats everyone equal. Has fun at appropriate times. Can keep class under control."
"They have to actually teach you and not just give you the information and let your learn by yourself. It helps to play learning games to help you learn."
"Let students have fun and learn. Teachers need to be funny."
"A good teacher is that they are fun, but know their limits."
"Explains stuff clearly. Works one on one. "
"Caring. Funny."
"Doesn't take everything seriously."
"The qualities that I feel are good for a teacher are that they are strict yet care and someimtes, they also listen."
"Respectful towards students, reviews for tests, lets students understand what they just learned and extra credit."
"To be strict and don't tolerate messing around. Teaching different ways to fulfill everyone's learning styles."
"Somewhat patient. Follow through on discipline. Provides extra credit."
"Is stern and punishes when needed. Looks at positive side of problems. Trusts students."
"A good teacher makes a difficult class easy for me to understand."
"Is fun to listen to. Makes sense. Listens to students. Cane make things get done."
"Doesn't pick favorites. Good humor. Imagination for assignments. Answers questions simply."
"Don't let the kids take advantage. Be helpful. "
"Fun but strict"
"Keeps control of the class. Listens to student concerns."
A good teacher is someone who knows a lot and is willing to help you with anything. Also, who likes to have fun sometimes."
"Good sense of humor. Easy going."
"Fair, knows what's best for their students' education. Smart."
"Likes having fun. Only yell when needed."
"Knows how to have fun."
"Teaches us through games and activities."
"Loves the subject they teach."



I wonder if you noticed a pattern??? It was interesting to me how many students said, "Strict".... They truly want structure. Many also said, FUN!

What is on your list? If you had to go back to school tomorrow, what would you want your teacher to be like. . . . Are you that teacher?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Deep Relationships

When Plurking the other day, I said how I had been to visit a former student at his new house. I have already been to two former student weddings this summer. An online friend, Dedra, made the observation, "You seem to stay in touch with students, what a great thing."

I never really thought of it until last January, but yes, I do tend to build long term relationships with some students. I was in Decorah, IA at the "Dorian Vocal Festival," which is an amazing experience for kids and is the largest select honor choir in the country. 1300 students from five states converge on the small town of Decorah. It is great fun for students. This past January, I was waiting to pick up my students and take them to the traditional meal at "Mabe's Pizza" (which by the way is amazing!) and I decided to text former Dorian-ers and tell them I was up there. I realized that I had nine former students in my cell phone.

What happened next made me smile for the rest of the weekend.... I got eight texts back! It really made me think about what it is that makes the bond so special. I felt really lucky. It made me realize that I have kept in touch with a lot of my former students. Not day-to-day contact, but an occasional email or text message.

One very special relationship involves a kid who started calling me dad when he was a junior. Although it probably started as a joke, it has been an enduring relationship. I went to his wedding on August 30. I couldn't have been prouder. There I was, sitting in the second row with other members of the family. For the first time ever, I got a little emotional at a wedding.

If I had read the statements above, I might think that the author wants to be friends with students and perhaps bends rules so that the relationship can happen. The crazy thing is that I am always incredibly fair and I never start out with the intention of being a friend. In fact, the kids who have been closest to me might tell you I was tougher on them than the other kids.

SO how DO these relationships happen? I truly care about the kids. I go to their games and I listen to them when they talk about things that matter. I am also straight-honest all the time. Finally, I joke--a lot of the time. No, every kid does not love me, not even close.... But some kids value what I have to offer.

I almost didn't post this....I waited about a week and kept tweeking. I feared that people might see me as an egotist. Do I think I am wonderful? No, not so much. I just know I have been very lucky and, as I ALWAYS say, I love the kids.

Overall, I feel very lucky to have these wonderful kids in my life. What makes me double fortunate is that my wife is the same way! She understands the crazy needs to go to events that might not interest us if we weren't teachers.

What do you do to build relationships?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Lazy Blog Post

Dudes I just opened mine eyes, and lo! I have not updated this since the Clintons were in the Whitehouse... You would not believe how insane my life has become. Please don't abandon me!.

I am overwhelmed with setting fire to people wearing Crocs, driving from one end of the city to the other, just generally being the life of the party to the local soccer team, my day lasts forever from crawling out of bed at 6.30 to well after sun-down. I am totally exhausted. I wish you could be here to share it.

I hope you are having a good life think of me as I battle mine enemies. Honestly! Until my paycheck dawneth..

________________________
I read about "The Lazy Bloggers Post Generator" on Kobus van Wyk's Blog.
Sure, this looks nothing like my normal posts, but it was great fun and will hopefully keep you reading until I finish a real blog post.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

A New Planet!

Did you feel the shift? Yep, today was the seismic shift in the structure of my classroom. Day one of the new Promethean board!! 

The kids in third grade are just starting to learn the notes on the staff. Imagine the amazement when they walked in and saw the new whiteboard and then got to manipulate notes on it!!!!

It was a great day of learning with many more to follow.  

If you have a interactive whiteboard, what is your favorite activity? 

If you don't have one, what would you do on your first day???

Friday, September 5, 2008

An Ostrich - An Australian - and an Austrian Walk into Third Grade


My third grade students sing a song called, "The Alpine Song." It starts with the words, "Oh, an Austrian went yodeling on a mountain one day." For years the students would change the word "Austrian" for a word that they knew...a common thing in the elementary. So the kids would sing about the Australian, or worse, the Ostrich who went yodeling!

Then last year, I fired up the computer and we took a trip to Austria via Google Earth. I started in Traer, where I teach, and we flew virtually to Austria. I panned the screen down to look at the mountains and suddenly, they knew of Austria and the subject of the song was no longer a long-legged bird. For extra measure, I pulled up YouTube and included a video that showed an avalanche (also in the song).

The moral of the story is that there many tools at our disposal....We need to think of ways to use them in meaningful ways. There is great depth in the tools we have at our disposal.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My Blog Challenge--

Laurie said, "Here's a blog challenge back at you--what technology or software is most helpful in a music classroom? Those of us non-music teachers but techies would like to know."

Well, here goes, Laurie...

My kids use and LOVE "GarageBand." It is amazing the stuff they have learned about music while composing their own music. Form, musical keys, tempos, etc. have all been part of their experiential learning.

"Stationery Studio" is an amazing piece of writing software that actually has nothing to do with music. I have used it with second graders to create their own "Animal Rap Songs! Great experience for the kids. Rhyming and musical beats...it's all good. If you are a K-5 teacher, you MUST check out "Stationery Studio!"

A software program I have blogged a lot about (in part because I wrote some of the curriculum) is "Animation-Ish." I have several projects underway this year. High school kids will be animating musical terms that are in their music. Elementary kids will be using the program for several different projects.

I also plan on using Skype and inviting other classes from around the country to work with my students!

Best of all, I will have a Promethean board on FRIDAY!!!!!!! Class as we know it will change!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lend a Hand! Blog Challenge!

If you are a regular reader, you have discovered that there has been a drought of blog posts from me lately.... That's because I am blog-blocked. Not sure I have anything interesting or exciting to say. Oddly, I can think of interesting blog posts I would like to see in someone else's blog.

Blog Challenge
Here is my idea, email or comment someone's blog with a post you would like to read. Try to keep it in genre of the person's blog. The person can choose to use your idea, ignore it, or answer the suggestion as a comment here..

I will throw down the gauntlet here... If you challenge someone, please comment a link to their blog so we can all see if they accept the challenge. This is all in good fun! I hope it leads to great conversations.

Since I regularly read these blogs and enjoy them, I shall start the ball rolling:

Diane Cordell - Journeys - Now that you are in your last year, what is the greatest lesson you have learned as an educator?

Peter H. Reynolds - The Stellar Cafe - When you are collaborating with another author, how do you decide which parts of the book to illustrate? Can you share a drawing as an example?

Karen Janowski -
EdTech Solutions: Teaching Every Student- What is the first resource that every teacher who works with special learners should try?

Pat Hensley aka LoonyHiker - The Life of Loonyhiker- It has been one year since your retirement... Looking back, is there one happy teaching memory that rises to the top of the list?


Even if the don't respond... please add these blogs to your reader because they are very good!

Promethean Friday!!!


The first time I touched an Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) was at NECC Atlanta, 2007. From that first moment, I knew I wanted one in my classroom. It was a shiny new Promethean board and I immediately could see the 'draw' of it for kids (A little Monday pun). I immediately imagined the kids manipulating music notes and staves on that beauty!

I got to know Kathleen, from Promethean, who was a great champion of learning in general and Promethean boards. The most amazing thing to me was the curricular possibilities that were included with the software. Kathleen took some time out of the crazy-busy NECC to show me the application for music....The dreaming began!

For 2008 San Antonio NECC, I prepared FlipCharts for my friends at FableVision and ended up actually presenting at the Promethean booth, which was a thrill. So much activity and energy...

Now, like a dream come true, I will have a board in my room on Friday!!!! I can't wait. I have my first lessons in mind for Friday afternoon. The kids will be up at that new board and will be learning in a completely new way. This will be a very exciting week for me. Wait until you see the awesome animations my kids will create with this giant board!!!

Today I am very grateful for the great people I have met from Promethean: Kathleen, Alex, and Scott...and the Promethean gang that I have been emailing but don't know in person: Joelle and Jake (from Haddock). Of course, I also need to thank the FableVision gang for introducing me to this technology and these people!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

This Year I'm On a Journey!


Created with one of my favorite software programs, Stationery Studio.

The Last Night.....A Call for Passion!

Tonight was the final night of teaching the "Computers and Instructional Technology" class. If you haven't been following this, it is a course for undergraduates who will be teachers.

I struggled with what to say on the last night and I think I ended up getting a little preachy... That happens when I get fired up, the passion comes pouring out. Yesterday, I watched the video of the Texas student who gave the keynote for the opening convocation of Dallas schools. I read about it on Karen Janowski's Blog. I was so moved by this fifth grade student who spoke in front of 18,000 students with a passion that is unmatched with kids his age. I understand that he was coached as a speaker and the actual speech may have been written by the school district and, to be perfectly honest, absolutely none of that matters to me.

If I had to identify one problem with the generation of kids who are in school now, it is that they lack passion. Yes, that is a generalization.....but it is based on my observation. So, how can we inspire passion in students??? The easy and honest answer is that we can't....or can we?

What I think we can do is share things WE are passionate about. If you have ever seen Peter H. Reynolds speak about his passion for creativity and kids, you can't help but get swept away. I leave each talk with Peter wanting to go out and light fires of creativity. WE can also be the voice that motivates others.

I personally LOVE what I have witnessed watching kids use technology. Watching a kid 'get it' for the first time is an amazing thing....I get very passionate in sharing those stories. I share the stories with my college students....I share them using this blog. We must be determined to not let the people who are not so passionate about kids and teaching to weight us down! We must find people who are equally inspired and feed on each other. One of the greatest parts of Twitter / Plurk is finding a group of people who are equally passionate.

How do you share your passions?