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.

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?

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.

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

What Might Have Been and What Can Be

imageIn education, things are contantly changing. Some methods show up as new ones but they’re really just renewed from times past. We have to be comfortable with change. This isn’t just about technology, though it is true with that as well. Rather, it refers to Common Core and Madeline Hunter’s lesson plan and every other trendy style that has come down the pike with mixed results. We need to synthesize old and new based on the needs of the students. This is what makes us valuable. If we couldn’t do this, anybody could step into the classroom and pretend to teach. When things change a lot, there is bound to be a lot of failed attempts. We rely on those failures to learn what works. The key is to not give up. Keep your eyes on the prize. Continue reading “What Might Have Been and What Can Be”

Monetary vs. Non Monetary Rewards in the Classroom

Here’s another topic for my teacher journal and I hope to get some external input in the comments on it. In every class there should be some sort of rewards system. Kids are small adults and adults work for rewards, why shouldn’t they? In teaching, I have found the PC and mainstream way most teachers take is the way of monetary rewards. Kids follow the rules and get junk the teacher buys with her/his own money or other sources. There is a problem I see with this monetized rewards system. If kids do right to get a tangible physical reward, they will only do right when they can get a reward. This is a poor way to prepare kids for life because many times in life we are not rewarded monetarily for doing the right thing.

I prefer non monetary rewards. When I was a Pizza Hut manager, the trainers told us that people will do more for a compliment than they will for a slight raise. People want to be seen. Again, students are small people so why wouldn’t they behave the same way grownups do? Throughout the day, I make sure I am giving high fives and compliments when they are warranted. I don’t go out and buy a bunch of monetary “prizes” for my students. Once in a while I will buy my kids stuff but I keep this few and far between because I know training them to crave non-monetary rewards is a more suitable training for the world we all live and work in.

It’s possible I’m a little bitter because in 1997 something happened in my classroom that really changed me. I bought a small mechanized Harley Davidson motorcycle toy to give away at the end of the month. (I also regularly bought monetary rewards for my class at that time). The $40 toy was stolen off my desk and I never retrieved it. The kids never revealed who and how it was taken. I decided pretty soon after that event that it was not the best idea to have monetary rewards in the classroom. That’s my view, what do you think?

Parent Conference Coffee Selection and Method

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Parent conferences go best with a Melitta pour-through using a mild coffee, like Gevalia or Starbucks.

Once that is done my best advice is to try and get them to talk. You learn more about the child that way. Tell about progress and show some sample work. Most of all listen. (It’s harder for some than others) I wrote a short article on it if interested: Listening at Parent Conferences http://www.dynamitelessonplan.com/parent-conferences-tip-listen-to-parents-about-their-child/