Sunday, May 24, 2009

World Problem Solvers Agency

Two students who attend the school where I work created an amazing Public Service Announcement in their Contemporary Affairs class. The class is taught by history teacher, Brent Thoren.

The entire project was part of a new initiative by my pal, Peter H. Reynolds, called World Problem Solvers Agency. Students are encouraged to write a sixty second PSA on how to move the world to a better place.

I think this video is great and I will have another to share soon.

What would our world be like if everyone was looking for ways to make it better?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"The North Star" by Peter H. Reynolds

One of the most influential books in my life has been "The North Star" by my pal, Peter H. Reynolds. I was absolutely in love with the original book and today, I saw the brand new edition.  Though I admit I was nervous about a new edition (because I loved the old one so much) I was pleasantly surprised by the new and beautiful artwork.  

If you have never read the book, RUN don't walk to your local bookseller and pick it up.  If you want a special treat, order it from "The Dedham Blue Bunny," the Reynolds' family bookstore and it will come signed by Peter H. Reynolds.  The bookstore is managed by amazingly friendly, Janet Reynolds (Paul's wife), who will take very good care of you!  

If you are an educator, you might also want to check out "The North Star Musical Journey" and "The North Star Classroom Resource Guide" available from FableVision Learning.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I work part-time for FableVision, but not in sales. Contact me if you would like a salesperson to call you about purchasing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

April Reflections and What Happened to W2C2?

I am a reflective person.... about my personal life and especially, my professional life. So, I have been looking back lately and thinking about this year. I won't bore you with the personal life, but I have come to some great knowledge in my professional life.

I have noticed a change in some of my "tough to reach" students. Mostly talking elementary students at this time.  There have been several kids who have driven me crazy for YEARS. They have been sent to the principal, kept in for recess, lectured, scolded, and -- rather infrequently -- talked to with a raised voice. Yep, I admit it, sometimes I raise my voice (though with older kids I have always known it is the very quietest voice that gets their attention -- more on that another day).

This year, a few of the tough kids have made complete changes... Well, that is not totally true. The one who did the changing was me at first....then them.  It started with the addition of the Promethean board. Wait, before all the whiteboard bashers quit reading, I need to explain. One of the amazing things I received with the whiteboard was the Activslate, which allows me to sit WITH the kids while I am instructing and interacting with the class. And, as my friend Anna from Promethean can attest, I plop myself right between the naughtiest kids when I teach with that board.  For about three kids, there was a complete change. Why? Because they had my attention and I was among them, not the 'authority' in the front of the room. We could have little QUIET corrections without stopping the entire class. So, three naughty kids down, a dozen to go.

In other classes, I made one significant change....after a particularly horrific experience with the 'leadership' of the school, I started notifying parents when there was an issue in class. I explained I would be doing that in the beginning of a few classes (check off two more naughty kids from my problem list).  Then, I followed through on the threat (check off a few more).  A few parents are not parenting....yeah, we knew that....But the inconvenience of having to respond to the teacher was enough to light a fire under a few.  Other people who do expend the energy to be a parent were supportive and worked with their child at home to create change (don't you love it when the parental connection with the teacher works for good instead of evil)

OK, so I am now living the ideal teacher life, right?? Well, no, perhaps you miscounted, I have a few hold outs. So, what changed those couple of kids? Well, for most of them, it was again a change in me. I summoned up everything I know about kids and tried to treat them as if we had an empty slate. I made no reference to the dozens of discipline referrals (which obviously weren't making any sort of change) and started talking about the present and what sort of student I could be seeing. I worked at keeping an even temper (hard for me) and tried to LIKE them and SHOW THEM that I liked them.  It's harder than it seems.  But, you know, it worked for some of the remainders. I still have a few that can push all the wrong buttons in me, but that number is greatly reduced this year.  

So, what happened to my mantra from a few blog posts ago...  We Will Create Change?  W2C2?  Well, you just got done reading my efforts to create change. I have to change ME first and then I shall work on the rest of the world. So, once again I ask, Who's with me??  W2C2