Friday, January 27, 2012

Slow Down: Personal Reflection

This morning, I had the 'pleasure' of going in for a blood draw. I admit, it is NOT my favorite thing to do (I can't imagine anyone who enjoys it). I go at 7 a.m. because there is never a line....UNTIL today. I was about the third person in line and I had exactly 30 minutes to get it done and on the road for school. I was NOT a happy camper.

The waiting area is tiny. Really it is ridiculously tiny. I did all the important things in life while I waited, like read the emails that had come in over night and checked Twitter. Some people had come in after me, but I was OH so BUSY to notice. I was shocked into awakening from my Twitterific fog by a voice that had grown louder. I realized that there was an older man behind me and he couldn't sit down because everyone in line was blocking the chairs (I told you the place was small). I moved so he could sit and I apologized.

When it was finally my turn at the window, I had to give my date of birth and address. I signed the form (why is everything still on paper -- one blood draw had to be at least 5 pieces of paper) and moved to the other side of the room. Back to my alternating between staring at the clock, sighing, and looking disapprovingly at the workers who were in a conversation about the cost of stampers and how someone farther up the food chain was angry about the cost. (More sighing and staring here by me.)

I finally got into the little room and there are actually two stations. I sat and was finally 'in the moment' as the person trying to draw my blood poked and poked. Apparently if I am fasting, my blood doesn't work right. I faded again into unconsciousness. The older gentleman had come into the room and was at the other station. I started paying attention when the man used the word 'he' and I was the only other male in the room. It turns out he was paying attention as I gave my birthdate at the counter and we have the same birthday. His was in 1927, but the same day. He beamed as he told me. His bloodgirl (can't spell what they are really called) said something to him in a condescending tone about how he had paved the way (it annoys me how people talk to very small children and old people as if there brain doesn't work).

The older gentleman and I walked out together. I called him my birthday buddy and his smile grew. My smile grew larger...He was going to get some breakfast and I was going to work.

As I drove away and for the first few miles, I was smiling....deeply. Then I became conscious of the fact that I was smiling. (you have NO idea how rare it is at 7:30 in the morning) I wondered how many other encounters I have been 'too busy' or 'self-important' to notice.

Making connections, even momentary ones, is partially why we are here on this earth. Why do we spend so little time valuing them?

It was nice to meet you, birthday buddy, I learned a lot from you in those five minutes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Characteristics of a Great Teacher (2012)

The most popular post in the history of this blog was called "Qualities of a Great Teacher". In that post, I asked students to list qualities of a great teacher. With all the talk lately about good and bad teachers (and the demoralizing bashing that they receive at the hands of legislators, public figures, and former software giants), I decided to ask again. This time, I added the words 'effective' in my inquiry. What are the qualities of a teacher who kids learn the most from. The current Department of Ed chief and Governor seem to think that a test can be given to help determine who would make an effective teacher. Here is a Wordle I created from the results:

Looking at this, I imagine everyone expected nice, funny, fun to be large. Did you imagine strict would be?? There are a lot of reasons for that locally, but it matches what I have always known: Kids want to have fun and have someone who cares about them, but they also want structure. 

I summarized the information in this way: Students want a positive, caring and fun teacher that can reteach things that are confusing students and can control the classroom. Isn't that what YOU want too? I admit as I read through the list and tabulated the results, I wondered which of the words would describe me and which ones would not.

With the exception of "Knows what they are talking about", NONE of the things on the kids' list could be measured on a test. Remember I asked them who they learned the most from, not who they liked.

Here is the actual list. Items with numbers behind them is how many other people had that same comment:

Takes time to make sure each person understands what’s going on
Being strict at times, though they can be very easy going if we listen and do as told.
Has humor-1
Cares -1
Hands on
Finds unique ways to teach-1
Explains things thoroughly -2
Not too smart
Listens to students
Has structure/rules
Positive all the time 2
Happy person 3
Fun to be in class with
Teacher you lessons you use later in life
Fun - 4
Obey the rules but aren’t strict
Do repetitive activities
Nice 12
They do fun stuff with us -1
They show many ways of solving a problem
Does activities-1
Always willing to help
I like a teacher that gives many examples so I can learn them better
A teacher that knows how to have fun-3
Happy all the time
Know your lesson
Isn’t afraid to break things down
Let us talk-1
Good speaker
Discipline 2
Let us work in groups
Doesn’t get mad at students
Puts in extra time with you
A person that is willing to teach it to you
Tough but reasonable
Doesn’t yell-1
Is kind to all kids-2
Doesn’t judge
Treats you like a student and sometimes a friend
Someone you can joke with
Someone that keeps order in the classroom
Passionate about their work
Doesn’t hate children
Likes what they teach
Always outgoing
Willing to listen to my thoughts
Puts their best effort into their teaching
Knows what he/she is doing/talking about-2
Not strict
Can be stern at times-1
Must be willing to help a student
Good grading scale
Professional but friendly
Bonds with students
Not really old
Likes sports
Relates to students
Engages in classroom activities
Takes student feedback and tries to adjust to it within reason
Teaches the lessons with analogies that don’t relate to the subject
Relaxed yet strict environment
Helps you out when you need it and makes sure you understand it before you continue
Doesn’t ignore any student
Doesn’t pick favorites-3
Helps you one on one
Not always serious
Relate things to life experiences
Easy going and a little strict at times-1
Doesn’t bring personal problems in the class
Treats people as equal
Makes things fun
Has an orderly classroom with structure
A teacher that understands me-4
Cares for/about students-1
A good taste in shoes
Wears a nice pair of slacks
Has a good haircut
Teachers who go back and reteach criteria if students don’t understand
Teacher that wants the kids to learn. A lot of teachers just give you a book and expect you to know and won’t answer questions
Cares about student grades
A teacher who tells it like it is
Someone that knows how to discipline enough that we’re still having fun
Willing to listen
Someone who doesn’t just talk all the time
Doesn’t leave people out
Good sense of humor-2
Teaches in a fun way while still keeping it all appropriate
Isn’t afraid to laugh or sound stupid
Is a good example
Knows how to tell a joke about they they’re teaching
Keeps class interesting
Can keep control of the class
Words things so we can understand them

Thursday, January 5, 2012

After "The Dot"

On September 15, my school and other schools around the World celebrated International Dot Day. Dot Day is a fantastic way to start a creativity movement in your school. You can read more about Dot Day here and here. More than 17000 students and 1000 adults participated in Dot Day this year.

As I was reading through the tweets and Facebook messages, I was struck by two great quotes: @MrSchuReads "Quote of the day: 'Every day should be #dotday.' -2nd grader" and @karacornejo "One dot can launch the journey."

One dot can launch a journey and every day should be dot why isn't it? Both quotes and the whole idea of dot day got me thinking of ways I could add more creativity to my classroom (it has been a creative place....but why not add more?). So, in high school chorus we have done a few artsy type projects. 

We were singing a song called "The Heavenly Road" so, one option for an activity was to draw HIS/HER Heavenly Road. . . What would it look like, what would be on it?

They could also capture a scene from other songs....

like "Winter Song"

It was exciting to see the words of the songs creativity captured in art. It was even more exciting to have the students deeply involved in the words to the song!

Dot Day is a great start to a journey!

How are you going to ramp up creativity in your classroom??

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"I'm Here" Contest Drawing

Thank you to all the people who entered my contest for an original Peter H. Reynolds drawing and print. Here are two wonderful students doing the drawing for the prizes:

Erin Broderick @librarybrods won the original piece of art by Peter H. Reynolds!

John Schumacher @MrSchuReads won the print!

Best news of all, THIRTY FIVE schools now have a copy of "I'm Here"!!!