Inspiring Videos by Pausch and Farrell

This post contains 2 very motivating videos that can certainly apply to teachers as well as other professions and people in general. I was pleased several years ago when our district Superintendent chose to play Randy Pausch’s Last lecture for the welcome back meeting. His messages of inspiration are incredible and ingenious. Even though I’d heard them many times already, it was great to know the call to arms this year had such universal merit. This is the video if you haven’t seen it yet. I know it will make your teaching year better if you watch it. It is especially powerful now that Randy has passed.

Secondly, I was delighted with the second video played at the meeting by the founder of Farrell’s. It was called “Give them the Pickle!” It encouraged me to give more to the students and their families that I serve in the capacity of a teacher. This video is great if you work with people in any way.

Inspired yet? How is your year going?

Free Online Learning Sites: Any Suggestions?

Give us your online learning site suggestions! Here are a few you may or may not heard of. The idea of this post is to start a collection of urls in the comments.

You know there was a time when the comment section on a blog or forum was where you got the really good stuff online. That’s fading with social media. I say let’s bring it back a little with this post. Here are a couple I found the other day searching.

Scholastic
Discovery Education

Here’s another interesting list though all are not K12 learning sites. Some are though:

Beat The System With This List Of 40 Free Educational Websites

I’ve noticed Prodigy is a good one but my kids have told me you need to pay for it. I have Lexia, Compass Math, and Renaissance Learning in class usage now but they are on paid licences. Ixl used to be a great one but now it’s a paid service. How about it, can you share with the community here what you know about? Thanks in advance for your time!

Less Paper Lesson Planning

I had a rough day recently where I realized paper was not a good foundation for a week of lessons. Our copy machine is hit and miss. Some days it will work perfectly, other day it will be the primary discourager of teachers on campus, myself included. I am always looking to make my teaching “foolproof” so I sat down with a huge chart tablet and started creating what I called “Less Paper Lesson Planning.” The embarrassing truth it that I only used it one day. However, the concept is still with me and I think about it as I plan the lessons for my classroom. I was told once that a goal will always put you in a good direction, whether you achieve it or not. The greatest ideas seem to come only after many failed ones are attempted. I guess that day I set a very deep-set goal that hasn’t gone away. We have a lot of materials at our disposal every day that can be used in place of copies. Projectors, ELMOs, PPT, white boards, smart boards, pair sharing and verbal response, computers, tablets, ipads … more are coming our way all the time. I am finding that when I put my emphasis on “less paper” more innovative ideas come.

A Snapshot of How I Make Lesson Plans

Every weekend, after the laundry and wrestling with the chores, I am faced once again with the same professional challenge: making a weekly lesson plan schedule. The obvious reason for this is to have a backbone for the activities and learning that go on in my classroom all week. The other reason is to ensure to myself and others that I am not just “winging it” without a plan. Good teachers make weekly plans. I have been at this for 16+ years and I won’t say I am a “good teacher” I will let others say that if they wish. I have found that making weekly plans yields smiles and growth returns from my students. Finding the weaknesses of my students’ scores as well as the way I have taught up to this point is the goal of my weekend planning time. Here’s a very broad presentation of how I sometimes do it.

NOTE: In this field, while I seek only to help teachers from a peer-to-peer perspective, there are an abundance of snooty types who seek to criticize and devour ideas different from their own. I would like it known that this is a very personal sharing post and is certainly not meant to be perfect nor the “only” way one can prepare for a powerful week of teaching. For you to get something out of it, you may have to do a bit of “reading between the lines.” having said that, I would not be as excited to share this with you were I not extremely excited about what I do and they way I do it in this particular situation. Thank you for having an open mind as you continue. Incidentally, why are so many teachers the “snooty” type? Hmmm. I’ll let you address that in the comments. Now for: “How to Make a Weekly Lesson Plan Schedule.”

I Start with a rolling cart. I put a minimum of books and TE’s I need into the rolling cart so I have the access I need at home on the weekend. You may not be sure what to bring. In that case, let me give you my choices as an example: a math TE, the district pacing guide, ELA curriculum (Mine is a PDF so is always at home with me), a Google Calendar printout from the week below (read about how I make the Google calendar printouts here), the state standards blueprint, the state standards released test questions, and finally a printout of my students’ most recent assessment scores. (Photos are not the most recent Common Core standards that I use in accordance with district standards.)

I start with their assessment scores. 1) I identify the lowest standards and write them daily into the lessons. This is often called “backward mapping,” whatever they tested low in, teach again. 2) Then I find matching curriculum and write that into the Google Calendar lesson plan. The former is pretty simply since I have access to Oars.net. This is a great online program that aggregates assessment data for teachers. I can see in an instant what standards are high and need only be spiraled and I can also see the low stuff needing intervention. The way I go through my day teaching these lessons in in almost constant evolution. Having said that, watch for a post in the next week or two where I will share how the weekly lesson plan looks in a given teaching day. What do you think about my art of planning a teaching week? Have you anything to add? That would be great. I comment and link back!

Back to the Old Drawing Board

 

 Someone asked me if I agreed it takes about 5 years for a teacher to feel comfortable with her/his craft. I responded by saying it’s taken me 3 years in Santa Ana and 13 in Adelanto to get here today where I am yet again rearranging the furniture and tweaking my behavior program. I say it comes in waves but a dedicated teacher keeps putting out blood, sweat and tears. This all makes the learner experience better. Of course I pull from the stuff I learned in my first five years. Nonetheless the time since has been full of trial and error. The error sometimes shows me more than the success. If you know what doesn’t work, you can narrow it down to what does.

 

 A few days ago I started getting that urge to uproot my seating chart. Kids had settled in and we’re getting used to some bad talking habits during the lessons. In my normal way, I like to think big by writing on a huge piece of cardboard. This time I added a C shaped table and made my teaching area further back. I made a seating chart on a spreadsheet and rearranged some of the overly lively kids to be better located. The kids are always excited and motivated right after a classroom makeover. This was no exception. With 32 school days left in the year, I’m glad I mixed it up. It will work much better, it already is. I’m sore from moving huge tables but I feel satisfied this will give them more of what they need from my 4th grade program. What does “Back to the old drawing board” mean to your teaching?

Renewal (Book Review)

Parents, principals, teachers, and community members will become the rightful school decision makers.

This book is written by a consultant and veteran educator/administrator Harold Kwalwasser. He uses real experience to assemble data and predict where education is going. Trends in education are explained and developed with frightening believability. Most importantly, he concludes, in light of data, the way it ought to go in the 21st century.

In one section of the book, he explains what he calls the four tiers of teachers. He praises the ones who can do a good job whatever the circumstances and decries the ones on the other end of the spectrum saying they need not even be in the profession. From that he springboards into ways we can retain, recruit, and develop those in the upper tiers to give our students the best education possible. He refers to the old model and staff as teacher centered (bad) and the new one “customer” focused (good). With families and students as our focus, we can innovate a system of education that truly benefits our country. This is true on the macro level (nationwide) as well as the micro (the school). The author explains what the new 21st century school district should look like. His models are stellar illustrations of what our future system can be. Furthermore, he tells us how we will get there. There is much material here and and it isn’t just relevant to administrators. Teachers, principals, superintendents, and staff members of schools will be better at what they do for reading this book. As a teacher, it helped me gain a clearer focus on what is going to be valuable going forward.

One of the more profound sections of the book is where he explains the school will become the central focus of a community (not the school district). The leader will become the principal instead of the superintendent. Parents, principals, teachers, and community members will become the decision makers and trendsetters for a school. What’s more, each school is likely to have a tailor made system that is less universal as past models of curriculum and instruction have been. There is tons of value in this book for teachers, especially those seeking assurance and direction in a changing era. I am a better teacher for reading this book.

Lesson Planning and Teacher Preparation Over the Weekend

I recognize that the only way to really “teach” my kids and get test results is to prepare dynamite lesson plans and that often means using the weekend hours.

Teacher Preparation prepares you for many things. It also leaves a lot of holes. You aren’t ever schooled how to use your weekend hours which is unfortunate because there is still plenty to do at the end of the week. Lesson planning for instruction, aka teacher prep, is the single most important part of what I call the “Dynamite Lesson Plan.” I have the toughest class many can imagine this year. I have discussed many solutions with my grade level colleagues and we are trying them. We are all having a hard time so we are modeling every activity they must do from lining up to raising their hands. We are doing a “respect lunch” where the kids who have shown the most respect all week get to have lunch with us in our rooms. After all, behavior management really can be reduced down to that one word: “respect.” You may or may not learn that in your teacher preparation classes. Interventions such as these really are just cosmetic fixes. Effective lesson planning is really the secret ingredient to behavior management.

I recognize that the only way to really “teach” my kids and get test results is to prepare dynamite lesson plans and that often means using the weekend hours. Classroom management follows this, not the other way around. I spent a couple hours this morning, a Saturday, poring through state standards for math. I developed EDI lesson plans based on key standards that are supposed to be assessed by the District this week. It was rough. Especially since my sinuses were really acting up. It’s these hours we teachers on not credited for. They are more than most know.

All I wanted to do was sip Chamomile tea and watch the Biography channel. Instead, I forced myself to focus on creating lessons with audio visual material and engaging concepts prepared in advance. As always, I know it may work and it may not work, but the weekend helps me to refocus on my promises to my kids … even when they don’t keep theirs to me.

I will get in my Jeep Monday morning with a renewed sense of hope for my classes. I have 95 kids all day and I teach them math. My goal is to have them score higher than a more affluent school across town. I want to show that economics do not dictate achievement. I’ll probably get beat up this way and that by various factors at work but I will have that lovely weekend once again for teacher preparation and concentrate my efforts on what matters once again.

Preparing Students for Jobs that Don’t Exist Yet

A friend I teach with sent me this link. I think we all can identify with one factoid if not most or all of them. The most significant for me was the one that said we are preparing students for job descriptions that don’t exist now but will.

Another teacher friend of mine wrote about the same thing on her blog today. Wow, this says to me we need to prepare our kids with the basics to adapt to wherever the bread and butter may be:

Can you envision today’s high school or college students carrying out jobs like these:

Bio-botic Physcian

Chef-farmer (agri-restaurateur)

Clone rancher

Digital archaeologist

Drone dispatcher

Exozoologist

Energy Harvester

Global system architect

Holodeck trainer

Mobile BioMass Therapist

Personal brand manager

Smart car interior advertisement sales representative

Space junk hauler

Transhumanist consultant

Robotician

The World Future Society; an organization served with the charge of making those predictions can. In their recently released special report (PDF) these were among some of the 70 specific jobs predicted for 2030.

via Jobs of the Future – Will Our Students Be Prepared? | Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc.

How a School Climate Can Change

There’s a lot of talk of global climate change but what about teacher attitudes. I’ve seen them change big time and it’s causing bad stuff to happen you might compare to global warming or acid rain.

I remember in my early days of teaching there was a camaraderie that existed in the air. At the mailboxes, people would smile and greet each other. Sometimes people would talk and find themselves tarrying past the bell (God forbid!) In my eyes that was always more valuable than getting to class on time. Getting to know other teachers and feeling cared for was like medicine for that staff. Things aren’t the same now, maybe it’s just how life is and I need to grow up?

Now, it seems everyone on staff is into their own things. They are stressing in their face and their voices. Some days I feel the only people I can let my hair down with (figure of speech, I’m bald) are the classifieds and grounds staff. I hate when everyone is rushed. With public school being attacked from all fronts, everyone is crossing t’s and i’s and all that stuff. Everyone is locked and loaded to point the finger to save their job. It’s a real shame I say. Kids keep growing up, they want to be cool (thank you Mr. Neil Young for reminding me of that) and they want to play!

Teacher drama only hinders learning. Can we be better teachers when we’re stressed and hurried? Some must think so because it’s the order of the day. I say NO WAY. Relax and develop your passions as a teacher. Then, share that with your students. Most people aren’t made happy by their work but rather their passions. The happiest people have seen that modeled and know how to get it in touch with it. Now, for teachers who want to foster the humanity of their school climate, the question comes, how much are you willing to do to make things better?

I Met my Wife 12 Years Ago This Day 8-30-2002 (Slide Show)

Without Sarah, none of my teaching would be possible. Dedicating this post to her, and us. May we have many more years ahead like the past 12.

Sarah and Damien Met on this Day: 8-30-2002 by Slidely Slideshow