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:

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

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

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

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

sharing attitude...and always has chocolate available

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

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

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


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”


“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”



“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”


“Loves and works well with kids.”

“Nice person”

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

“Willing to answer questions”


“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'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!