Post Christmas Blues

Thursday, December 27, 2007 | 2 comments »

It's only 2 days after Christmas and I'm already thinking I want to be back at work. Not so much because vacation isn't fun, but more so to have a little peace and quiet. That may sound kind of odd, but since Santa delivered several new toys to my children, I'm constantly being asked to play with them. Don't you think they should be able to handle that duty themselves? Nope, instead, they want dad. Dad wants peace and quiet. Dad wants time to read. Dad wants time to blog. Dad wants time to do whatever he wants. I have some ideas for "deeper" blog entries in the next few days when I actually get a chance to sit down for more than 3 minutes.

On a happier note.....

By the way, at last check the first video has over 400 views - something the girls are extremely thrilled about! We've since added a second by Lexi and Maria and another by 3 other 3rd graders.

Yesterday, we set up blogs with a sixth grade class. I figured it would go fairly smooth since I had a good handout that I stole borrowed (thanks Lou) and everyone would be on task since we were doing something fun and new. Poor assumption. For the most part, things did go fine, but there were some technical difficulties I didn't plan for. For one, not everyone wrote down their password when the website assigned them one. Now, we can request another one, but it's time consuming and I don't see the kids more than once a week. I would like everyone at the same point in the process while we start, but I'm going to have to meet with some of the kids at another time to make sure they are ready for next week. Another problem was the lack of listening skills some of the kids have. This isn't new, I'm taught for a while and I should have known, but for some reason, I was overly optimistic. For the most part, everyone's ready to go. We'll see what happens when we try reading other blogs and actually blogging next week, but I certainly can tell you one thing - I'll be hoping for the worst. That way, if something better happens, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Now, a great tip from the Four Eyed Technologist suggested that I have students read and read and read blogs prior to writing their own. This is a great idea, but I'm looking for some help. If you know of any students blogs that my sixth graders would benefit from, please leave me a comment. If you have students who are blogging, let me know. The more the merrier. I want my students to starting thinking about what they're reading and coming up with thoughtful comments. Once they see good examples of this, their blogging will be better. Thanks in advance for your help.

Here It Is...

Monday, December 10, 2007 | 5 comments »

Permission was granted from parents, so here's the video described in the previous post.

The past couple of days brought some technology related excitement to a couple of my students. Two third graders, Lexi and Maria, are working on a podcast project with me. During center time in their classroom, they are coming down to the library. Our plan is to create a weekly podcast where they review a book they've read. It's actually going to be a booktalk/book review podcast. They've completed the first podcast and we are really excited about it.

I'm not sure how many people are using podcasts with their students, but I see great potential in a project similar to what we are doing. For this project, the students are first reading a book, then they are writing a short summary and booktalk. This time, I wrote the script with them, but my hope is that after we do a couple together, they will be able to do all the writing themselves. I see this project really motivating the students to read and write. In addition, creating the podcast will improve public speaking skills and increase technology skills. The first time we did the recording, we used Audacity. This was a pretty simply program to use, but I was hoping to take the podcast a little further. I wanted to submit the podcast to iTunes so people could search for it there and subscribe to the weekly podcast. I didn't know how to do this with Audacity and since we don't have Macs in our school anymore, I brought in my MacBook and used that. Down the road, I think using my Mac and GarageBand may be the way to go. Submitting the podcast to iTunes was simple and now we have an RSS feed for "Lexi and Maria's Weekly Podcast." If you are visiting the iTunes Store, search for "Lexi and Maria" and you'll find their work. At our school, we have over 70% of our students on free and reduced lunch, which leads me to think that not a lot of people will even be checking out the podcast through iTunes or listening it on their iPod, but who knows? Those who do have computers, will probably check out the podcast through our school website. Either way, I guess one of the goals is to share the work of the students to as many people as possible. Perhaps you want to share their work with some of the students you work with. I think the link listed is correct, if it's not, let me know.

Where is this project going to go? I'm not sure, but it's already grown. When I was using iMovie to edit the video they made (see next paragraph), I wanted to try and add a little music introduction, a sixth grader was watching. She's really into music and plays the guitar and drums. I asked her if she'd be interested in creating some introduction music for the podcasts. She liked the idea and hopefully her talents will be added to future projects. In addition, after I emailed the staff about the project, I had a fourth grade teacher ask if there was room for some of her students to do something like this. My answer - OF COURSE! It appears that what started with 2 students could grow to much more.

One of my next goals is to create a video of each book review. We already filmed the first one, but I'm hoping to share it with the world. I'd like to post the videos not only on our school website, but also on TeacherTube. I'm not going to go the YouTube route with third graders. I've sent permission slips to both girls' parents for permission for the video to be posted online. Knowing the parents a little, it shouldn't be a problem. I will certainly update this post to add the video if I get permission. I think it would be pretty powerful if the students noticed that hundreds of people have seen their work.

Take a peek at their work and let me know what you think? How can we make it better?

Mmm...Mmm...Good

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 | | 7 comments »

I mentioned in an earlier post about making the switch to del.icio.us for students links on my school website. While I'm nowhere near complete making the full transition, I'm loving the result. We used to have links for the students all ove the place - on 3 different pages of our school website and in folders all over our school server. Now, they are going to be in one place, organized well with easy access. I introduced the new list to a fourth grade class today and they picked it up quickly. To me, the best part is going to be the ease of adding new sites to the list. In a matter of seconds, I can add a new site and have it ready for the kids. I no longer have to be at the one computer in our computer lab that allows me to update the school site. I no longer have to go through multiple steps to simply add a link. Now, with just a few clicks, we can add more great resources for our students. The thousands three of you reading this probably know quite a bit about del.icio.us, but if you don't, I came across an outstanding video about social bookmarking that describes how social bookmarking works. I have to check out more of the videos this site has to offer because from what I've seen, they are pretty good.

As far as the blogging goes with students - we introduced the concept of blogging yesterday and later this week or early next week will get one of our sixth grade classes blogging. Hopefully setting up their blogs won't be too troubling. If any of you have your students blogging and are looking to expand the conversations, please let me know by leaving a comment. We should have our first blog entry in the next week or so. I'd like to get the kids up and running so they could possibly add entries over Christmas Holiday break that is coming in a couple of weeks.

Okay, I've decided what to do first. In an earlier blog, I noted how overwhelmed I am with the abundance of Web 2.0 tools that are out there. Taking some advice from a comment Bud the Teacher left me, I've decided to start slow and pick one tool to focus on....blogs! Now, I've been blogging for a little less than a year and am really enjoying it. When I first started, one of the things I did to keep up with some of my fellow bloggers was to list their blogs on my blog page. If I came across a new blog I wanted to read, I copied the URL, went to my blog, edited the layout and added the blog to my list. Then, I'd visit all the blogs and see if they wrote anything new - some did, some didn't, but I checked every one. I ran my total up to 29 blogs listed on my blog page as "Things I Read." Some of you might be thinking - hey dummy genius, there's an easier way!

You're right, there is. I discovered Bloglines and have been using that as a great way to keep track of the new feeds from my blogging friends. This has really been a great tool for me. Earlier this week, I made another discovery - Google Reader. Sure, Google is behind a wide variety of 2.0 tools, but some of them are pretty good. Currently, I've divided the blogs I read and subscribe to into 2 groups - Educational Technology and Other Stuff. I'm using Bloglines for one and Google Reader for the other. I figure this way I'll use both for a while and then decided which one I like better. Perhaps I'll like them both and continue with my current plan. Either way, I'll have to agree with a comment from Darren at Drape's Takes that these tools can make your online time more efficient. I now have way more than 29 blogs I'm keeping track of and I'm probably spending less time doing it now than I was before. In addition, when I come across a new blog that interests me, I can simply click on a button in the toolbar of my browser and it's instantly added to Bloglines or Google Reader.

Now, my next tool to learn more about is going to be del.icio.us! I've played around with this personally and have an idea on how to use this at school.

Please give me your thoughts on this. I'm in charge of our school web page. Among other things, I manage lists of links for our parents and students to use. Every time I want to add a new site, I either add it to the general list of links or put it on the specific grade level page. We use Contribute for creating the web pages and I must do all updates from the computer in my library. This can be a pain the butt because sometimes I find things to add when I'm not at school. If teachers want something added, they tell me about it in the hall (wonderful stupid idea) or email it and then I add it when I have time. I was thinking about using del.icio.us as a better way to keep track of the links we use. I could create a link to a del.icio.us page I've created for our school from our school site. Updating or adding links could be done from anywhere. In addition, if I properly trained the teachers, they could also add links to the list. We could label grade level specific sites with specified tags for better organization. Teachers, students, and parents could narrow the list to the grade level or subject area they need by selecting a specific tag. This sounds like a great idea and just might work, but perhaps I haven't thought of everything. If you've got a thought on this, let me know - I need your collective brainpower!

I'm getting overwhelmed. I'm finding so many outstanding blogs that I'm having a hard time figuring out where to start. There are tons of teaching blogs out there and tons of Ed. Tech blogs that I'm really starting to enjoy. However, I'm finding out this world is much bigger than I imagined. My bookmarks on del.icio.us are growing by the minute. The list is still very small compared to what's out there, but I guess I better start small - there's only 24 hours in the day.

I have to start narrowing down my interests. There's so much I want to learn more about - RSS feeds, Google Reader, Twitter, Ning, and others. I haven't even touched wikis yet. I'm using Bloglines - and I find it very useful. I'm in the very early learning stages of Twitter, recently signing up. I have no idea, at this point, how it works. If you have an idea, let me know. Look me up or something - if that's possible. I'm pretty sure my user name is imcguy. Should I learn more about this before moving on to something else?

Should I focus more on my blogging and less on other Web 2.0 tools? Should I focus more on reading the good stuff that's out there commenting on it rather than worry about how many people will comment on my blog? I'm upset when I don't get any comments - should I even care? Should I continue learning more about del.icio.us and how to share my bookmarks? What tool should my students start using? What would they benefit from first? So many questions.

This learning environment is huge. There is no way I could get this information from the teachers in my building, my department, or even my district. This is truly incredible. Now, how can it benefit the kids? How can I get classroom teachers to see the value of this? How can this increase test scores - or can it? While we need to prepare students for a future that most likely doesn't exist yet, how can we teach these skills when there is so much focus on getting our students to be proficient learners. These tech skills will help them as they get older, but I'm not sure how they will get kids to pass the test now!

Time for Thanks

Thursday, November 22, 2007 | 0 comments »

Happy Thanksgiving!

Time to give thanks for:

Good families,
Good jobs,
Good friends,
Good blogging!

Yesterday wrapped up our third evening of parent teacher conferences. Spending three evenings at school followed by a day with students can be very exhausting. Now that I'm out the classroom and working as the Library Media Specialist, my thoughts on conferences are a little different. During the time we have for conferences, I get to get work done that I don't have a chance to do during the day. What a concept - uninterrupted (almost) time to work. Classroom teachers do get a little jealous when I tell them I had a chance to get some work done, but I guess that's just part of the job.

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There's been a lot of blogging about Web 2.0. I'm just starting to catch up with some of the great ideas that are out there and how these technologies can be put to use in the classroom. I've podcasted, use Flickr, GoogleDocs, del.icio.us, Bloglines, etc. and have some experience working with these great tools. I need to learn about wikis, but Andrew's Web 2.0 tutorial for Teachers is one place I'll look. Obviously, I've created more accounts on a variety of sites, thanks Clay, than I thought I would. If I had a classroom I know I could put these to use. However, in my position and Library Media Specialist, I have a little bit of a problem. I've blogged before about the lack of collaboration between classroom teachers and me. Sometimes it's good, most times, it's not. Yes, some of the problem can be contributed to me, but I'm going to put most of the problem on the teachers. Now, I'm not throwing them under the bus. The problem isn't the lack of interest, it's the lack of time and knowledge. It's also the pressure put on them to make sure they have a balanced literacy program, 90 minutes of math, and other crap they have to do to try and get all students to be proficient. I truly believe that if there was time built into our schedule on a weekly basis to meet and plan for upcoming projects, we'd be doing more. We don't have this time and I (we) need to find a solution. There's so much I'd like to do with the kids that can help them become better writers and readers, but since I only have the students in the computer lab for about 30 minutes a week, my time is severely limited. The other huge problem is the lack of knowledge of Web 2.0 tools. I guarantee that if I asked my staff, especially third through sixth grade teachers to tell me what they know about Web 2.0, all 9 would say they knew very little or would say nothing. They may have heard about podcasting and blogging, but as far as how to do these tools or incorporate it into their lessons, they'd be lost.

It's not their fault - or is it? Many teachers keep up to date with new reading strategies, classoom management techniques, and new ideas related to instruction. Should teachers also be on the cutting edge, or at least be up to date with technology? Should the school district put more emphasis on new technology and how to use it? If some can become competent with "what's new" in education, shouldn't everyone? I think these are all good questions that may have different answers. Those of us who have more knowledge about new ideas, such as Web 2.0 tools, need to step up and start teaching the teachers more about this. We need to get the kids excited, we need to get the teachers excited. You know we don't want to leave any educators behind!

eBay story

Thursday, November 15, 2007 | | 0 comments »

This isn't going to be education related, but it is technology related and made me realize I better monitor my four year old a little closer when he's on the computer.

My son collects Disney diecast Cars characters of which there are many. We've visited the Wal-Mart and Toys R Us stores around us to gather what we could. Hey, at $3.50 I don't mind spoiling him a little. Anyway, we've had to pick up a few on eBay since some are hard to find. My son loves looking at the list on eBay at all the Cars for sale - the list is usually well over 1,000 available. He likes to see what new Cars are available and compare those to the 40 or so he has.

This morning, he wanted to look at the list again on the computer in the basement. I went down to say good bye to him before heading off to school and found him BIDDING on a car! Wow, a four year old doing a little shopping. I'm sure this isn't the first time it's happened, but when I gently told him he couldn't do that, he started to throw a slight temper tantrum and question why he couldn't buy a car.

Technology is really taking over the lives of our children. Just think, five years ago, who would have imagined that a four year old would do a little shopping on eBay!

And then there's the Webkinz World!

As many educators know, blogging can bring out some great discussion. We all like throwing ideas and questions out to the blogging world to create discussion. Comments are great and often lead to other posts, comments, and questions. Many teachers realize the impact this could have on student writing. It immediately creates a real-world audience that can provide feedback on student writing. The feedback could require the student to take a stand on an issue or back up what they've written. For some, this is great. For others, this feedback could end up being more than they are looking for.

Here's an example. Our local community has a web site that allows some community members to run blogs on the site. These bloggers come from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and attitude - a great representation of the real world. I made the brilliant idea mistake of responding to a blog about a decision my school district has made. I won't get into the details, but the creator of the blog, and many of his readers, disagree with the decision. I've known about the decision for a while, and don't have as big of a problem with it as the writer and the readers who have commented. Although I do see where they are coming from.

After submitting a few comments to the blog discussing the "other side" to the spending - not necessarily supporting it, but not not supporting it either, my simple discussion has turned into something I wasn't looking for. I felt like I had to comment on every comment that was made to my comments - if that makes sense. I also had to defend myself while sort of being gently attacked for bringing up the opinion the blogger and the readers didn't have. Now, I really don't have too much of a problem with defending myself, but I really didn't go into this with wanting to do that. I simply made a comment and it kind of turned into a monster. One person wanted to know what my connection to the district was - I never stated it, but they inferred that I had a connection. I decided that I did need to disclose that I taught in the district, but felt compelled to mention that I didn't support all decisions the School Board makes. Should I have to defend myself? What started out as a simple blog and discussion put me on my heels. Sure, I could never return to the blog, but I want to know what people will say. Now, I'm wondering how much digging some people might do to find out who I am. I'm using a pen name, not my real one - like some of the others.

Is blogging something that could hurt students? What if they write something and get in a situation like this and then start getting attacked for what they've said? On the positive side, it would be a quick lesson in making sure you can back up your opinions and what you write. They could learn about what battles to fight and what battles to ignore. It could show students the power of their words. On the other side, it could really shut down someone's voice. The writer could fear that it's not worth putting something out there and get attacked for it - they might feel taking the abuse simply isn't worth their time or something they want to deal with.

Your thoughts?

Okay, here's a couple random thoughts and then something a little more serious.

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It's testing time in our state and school. Our fourth and fifth graders started on Monday and the third and sixth will be starting soon. I'm not going to spend too much time on standardized testing and NCLB, other than to say too much emphasis is being put on these tests. Sure, we can take some good out of the results, but as educators, we all know the way things are currently going, is certainly the wrong direction.

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Does anyone still have Halloween costume parties at their schools? Our district got rid of them a while back. I guess we can't let the kids have fun anymore. My daughter's school still has a costume parade and the kids get to have a little party. I heard a teacher at my school today say she wishes we could get rid of Halloween and Valentine's day parties. I say let the kids relax and have some fun.

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Why do classroom teachers collaborate little with others who can help their students. I'm the Library Media Specialist in my building and have all classes for an hour a week for library time and technology time. The tech part consists of going into the lab to work on something. If it was up to the little kids, it would be Kid Pix for 30 minutes. For the older kids, it would be listening to music videos while hitting Funbrian.com or even KidPix. I'd like to do some neat stuff with the kids, but with only 30 minutes a week to do it, my time is limited. How could it improve - collaboration! Could the classroom teachers work with me to integrate technology into what's going on? Of course. Do they? NO! I get some teachers who bring their kids to the lab and as the kids are walking in, the teacher will say, if you have some time, can you help them find some stuff on explorers when you go to the lab? Wow, nothing like giving me a heads up on it.

Here's the question of the moment - why do you think classroom teachers don't collaborate enough with the Library Media Specialist to better incorporate technology.

Side note: I do have more technology experience and ability than probably all of the classroom teachers.

Choice Schools - are they better than a traditional public school? Do they improve public schools because they create more competition? Proponents of Choice Schools have felt they are good for kids and families in Milwaukee and across the country. A recent report and ensuing article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contradict those claims. The study was even funded by Choice supporters and they were surprised at the results.

Am I surprised at the results of the study? Not at all. In fact, when we discussed the article at lunch the other day, other educators weren't surprised. It seems to me that the teachers, parents, administrators, and students are the ones who make schools successful. By giving students a choice to switch from one below average school to another certainly doesn't guarantee improved learning. Good schools - traditional public, private, choice, etc. are going to be successful. Bad schools are not. What we as educators need to figure out is how to improve the poor achieving schools. It's not as simple as putting the best teachers there. We also need good families and administration.

As educators, we often try to look at things through rose colored glasses. The glass is half full, not half empty. We look at every child as a learner and try to see the positive in all children.

Sometimes, however, we don't. Some of us get in the lounge or at a happy hour function and start telling it like it is. In most cases, there's not an administrator around and the people we are talking to are one's we trust. I recently came across a blog entry that certainly speaks the truth - to some extent.

If you haven't read this entry from Scheiss Weekly, please do so. I bet you'll be nodding your head more than once! At my school, we really liked the reference to a acertain kind of behavior!

New Goals

Monday, October 22, 2007 | 2 comments »

With 2 months into yet another new school year already gone, I've decided to set a few goals for myself for the rest of this year. These are going to be school/professionally related, not personal. Some are going to be rather serious, others are not. Here we go.

1. Write something at least once a week. While some may have noticed that I took a rather lengthy vacation from blogging, I'm going to work hard on writing something each week that expresses my thoughts about something.

2. Read several blogs more than once a week. We all know there is great stuff being written by others regarding education (and crappy stuff as well) I'm going to try and read some- it might inspire, motivate, and frustrate me, but I'll take my chances.

3. Gain more patience with all of my students. Some knowingly try to under my skin while others do it without knowing, but either way, I've got to work on not getting to pissed off at the kids.

4. Take another class to complete my IMC certification. IF this happens, it will be during the second semester - we'll see.

5. Figure out the next few years. Our district is going through some reorganization, much of it will impact my future. There's some discussion that over the next few years, our elementary schools will go from K5-6th grade to full day K4-4th grade with our intermediate schools housing grades 5-8. I'm 99.9% sure I do not want to be working with K4-4th graders if this is the way of our district. Big decisions may have to be made.

6. Work out more. Yes, it's a personal goal, but if I'm feeling better, I'll have a better attitude at school, etc. I also won't be wasting a ton of money on a health club membership!

7. Don't sweat the small stuff - enjoy job security, friends at school, the opportunity to work with kids all day (a blessing and a curse), and all the other good things in life.

I'm back

Thursday, October 18, 2007 | 1 comments »

After a super (too long) break, I'm going to start writing again. It might be useless stuff that no one reads, it might not.

I'm also going to start reading again - which just might lead to a few people stopping by my site.

Hope to see some familiar bloggers back.

Random Stuff

Sunday, May 20, 2007 | 3 comments »

It's been a week or so since my latest blog and it actually seems like it's been much longer. I really don't have any excuses as to why I haven't written anything lately. I've logged on and read some stuff, but for whatever reason, I have put the actual writing off. To get back on track as far as blogging, I'll put together a list of somewhat random thoughts.

1. We have an after school math program that I am part of. It's near the end of the program and because of this, I've had to administrator a standardized test to the participating kids. I'm not done yet, but after giving me this test, I've confirmed my complete dislike for standardized tests.

2. My wife traveling for work pretty much sucks. She's been on the west coast for the past 5 days and it's been just me and the kids. Now, she's good at her job and I'm very glad she has the job, but I wish the travel was a lot less.

3. I'm blogging while I watch Arrested Development and this show is hilarious.

4. I have a ton of reading to do to catch up on the blogs that I've been failing to read. I miss the entertaining and relaxing writing that many of you do. I will catch up.

5. My daughter's soccer coach made a good coaching decision today (putting the good kids in at the end of a tie game) and the kids won their game because of it.

6. As of today, we have 19 days left of school - yippee!!

7. As much as I love blogging, I'm starting to realize that there are other things that are in competition with my time - kids, tv, sleep, friends, golf, etc. With the summer coming, I'm wondering if I'll blog more because I don't have school or I'll blog less because I'll have more stuff to do. Hmmmm.

This weekend, my daughter was in a soccer tournament. There were four teams in her bracket and it turns out two were 7 year olds and two were eight year old teams. They played one of the 8 year old teams today and were totally outmatched. Then, the head coach makes a horrendous decision - he stops the game. Now, my wife is the assistant coach and he asked her what she thought. Of course, she says to let the kids keep playing. They can use the practice and what does quitting teach them? Now, it was not even halftime yet and the score was only 7-0. He didn't take that advice at all and called the game. This not only pissed my wife off, but many of the parents were ticked as well. He also never told the girls the real reason the game was off. What does that teach them? The good news is that he told my wife and the team manager that he wasn't going to coach the girls next year! For the second game today, our team beat the other 7 year old team, so that was good. That team was hammered earlier today by the other 8 year old team. Tomorrow, was supposed to be the other games, but the coaches for all 4 teams wisely redid the games so we play the other 7 year old team and the two 8 year old teams will play each other again. This will be much better for all of the girls involved and we won't have to worry about our kids only playing half of a game. Thank goodness this guy's not a teacher!

By the way, we got a call from the insurance company yesterday about the accident and the car is totaled. We ended up buying a new car today and will pick it up on Tuesday. I think we got a decent price, but you never know how honest car salesmen are! Oh well.

My Bad Day

Thursday, May 10, 2007 | | 3 comments »

My day started off just fine- woke up ready to go. Wife and son left for school and daycare and I was off with my daughter to drop her off at her school before heading to mine. After I dropped her off, I get a phone call from my wife that she was in a bad car accident on the way to daycare/work. To make a long story short, I proceeded to head to the accident, not go to school, then take my 4 year old to daycare. Luckily, he wasn't hurt. Then, met my wife at the hospital while she was checked out - nothing but a few bruises and some pain for her. After 3 hours in the ER, we made it home, took care of the insurance phone calls and are kind of back in the swing of things. Now, we await the call from the insurance company to tell us if our car is totaled or not.

I feel bad for my very sore wife because we have my daughter's birthday party tomorrow, a run/walk for the local school district, and 3 soccer games this weekend that she'll have to somewhat suffer through.

On the good side, no one was seriously hurt in the accident and I missed the day of the week at school where my schedule stinks because I have some crazy classes.

Tonight was my last grad school class for the semester - and am I happy. No more Monday nights wasted sitting in a windowless room while the professor reads the info from a Power Point to us. I turned in my final assignment tonight - that's another relief. Now, it's time to wait for the grade - which apparently will be an A. According to others who did some background checking on the professor, rumor has it that if you turn your work in and it's not totally crappy, you get an A. I can now spend the next few Mondays watching my 4 year old play soccer!

This Friday marks one of the big days. We will be training our staff on how to do the elementary report cards online. A couple of the teachers who were previously trained thought the process was fairly simple - time consuming at first, but easy. As they got going with it, they liked it much better than the paper report cards. We met last week to plan out the day (this Friday) and to get ready. We already know a few people who will need extra attention, but we'll work with them. Hopefully things will go smoothly, if not, we'll be heading to a local establishment for some adult beverages while we complain about the technology challenged who came into the training with a bad attitude and left with a bad headache. Oh well - let the fun begin!

I had one of those days today. I'll apologize right now, but this is going to be more of a venting post that anything else.

My day was going pretty good. My morning classes were pretty good - kids worked hard and for the most part, behaved. Afternoon kindergarten classes were better than normal. This was a little surprising since a college student was in to observe a library class for a while. Don't things usually go a little wacky when someone's observing? This time, they were great. Anyway, the day ended, I got some work done and then it was time for the after school math kids to come in the library for about 15 minutes before their after school teachers came to pick them up. Now, I'm not usually Mr. Strict during this time because I believe the kids need a little time to let loose after a day of classes and before another 45 minutes of learning. However, today, I lost it. There were about 45 kids in the library and things started to get a take a turn for the worse. First, a carton of milk, which they had for snack, suddenly spilled all over the carpeting, on it's own apparently, and no one told me about it for at least a couple of minutes. Then, I see several fourth graders playing a little tag - yes, running around the library. Of course, I tell them to stop. Then, some more wonder children decided that some pushing needed to occur. I'm not talking about a little one handed push - I'm talking two hands, hard to the back of another unsuspecting student. Well, this of course, resulted in the pushee shoving another student in the same fashion. The girl who got shoved, was pushed into some other students and I lost it. I yelled louder than I probably have ever yelled at a class. I told everyone to sit down on a chair at a table and be quiet. I would have loved to say "Get your ass to a table and shut the hell up," but of course, I couldn't do that. Since this was near the time when their teachers were going to pick them up, I now had an audience of a few teachers, including the principal, to hear my lecture on behavior and safety and so on. I'm quite sure the principal heard me blow up from where ever she was in the building. She took the 2 pushers and the other kids involved out. I left school shortly after that pretty pissed off. I feel better now, but it still bothers me that these little children don't know the difference between good behavior and screwing around. Thanks for listening. I hope to put together a more meaningful post in the next day or 2.

That Explains It

Monday, April 30, 2007 | 2 comments »

This morning the teacher of the unsupervised Google students came down to see me this morning. It turns out she was absent on Friday and the students were pulling a fast one on the sub. They told her they could go to the lab on their own last Friday. She felt really bad and apologized for the kids - which she didn't need to do. Needless to say, the teacher wasn't happy - and I don't blame her one bit!

I feel bad that I didn't even know this - after the kids came down the first time, I should have sent them back to class. In fact, I could have walked them back up and talked to the teacher.

After talking to the teacher, I feel much better. I did realize, though, that better communication can solve problems like this.

The Google and printing problems still exists!


One more crazy thing - weather in my location yesterday - low 80's - today's current temp - 50!

I sent out an email to the teacher who sent her kids down stating "Let's touch base before kids are sent to the lab in search of information. I would really like to know when kids are coming to the lab unsupervised. The past several times kids have come down, they've wasted a ton of time because they don't know that they're looking for and they are using Google, which shouldn't be the first website of choice. When searching for pictures using Google, they are coming across many pictures that are inappropriate/useless for what they need. Let's try and find sites for them ahead of time or at least me know so I can have them using the proper search tools."

Later that day more of her kids came down and one came over to me while I was working on some stuff and said they were going to be in the lab working on Civil War stuff. I asked what they were going to be looking for and he said pictures and information.

Obviously, my email wasn't clear enough for this teacher. Maybe I just need to come right out and say "NO KIDS SHOULD BE IN THE LAB UNLESS A TEACHER IS PRESENT!

Don't even get me started on printing issues - with this class or any other.

I'm completely loosing my mind with some of my teachers and students. We have had discussions over and over about Google. At my department meetings where all the district librarians get together, we have discussed various search tools students should be using. We have several online subscriptions that our district subscribes to. We have links on our school website to these and others student-friendly search tools that are good for students. When our discussion turns to Google, we have decided that this is not a search engine our elementary students should be using, maybe as a last resort, but not right away. Our main thinking for this is due to the fact that searches will bring back way too many hits and that the sites are not filtered to eliminate ones that are not appropriate for students.

Here's the story:

Students were being sent to the computer lab, unsupervised, to search for information on a particular topic.
PROBLEM -Unsupervised? WTF? This is not the model class of our school and these kids have no idea how to conduct an effective internet search.

Today, there were kids who came to the lab this morning looking for Civil War information. They said they needed pictures and information because they were studying it. The first thing they did is head straight to Google (only 128,000,000 hits show up).
PROBLEM -It's nice that the teacher gave them direction for the assignment.

I'm really frustrated for a number of reasons. The first is the fact that the kids are sent unsupervised, without my knowledge that they are even going to be in the lab. If I at least knew they were coming, I wouldn't be so pissed off about it, but I found out because I walked into the lab, which is connected to my library, with another class and found three fifth graders there. Another reason I'm frustrated is because they head straight to Google! Now, I'm not a Google-hater, it is a very good resource and I use it a ton. However, this isn't where kids should start. I'm at a point where I think I have a couple of options, but I'm not sure where to start.

Options:
1. Not allow students in the lab without a teacher. (We have this rule, but it needs to be strictly enforced.)
2. Remove kids from the computer and lab when I see them using Google.
3. Continue to pound into their heads the other resources they should be using.
4. Continue to pound into the teacher's heads #1 and #3.
5. Have the district block Google for elementary students.

I really know what the answers, but if you have any other options for me, I'd love to hear them.

On the other hand, because we know Google is a good resource, is it really that bad if they use it as their first stop on the information superhighway? Odds are, many of us head their first as well, so why shouldn't they? Should they learn the skill of evaluating good and bad links and pictures at the elementary age or is this something that should take place when they're a little older?

To Blog or Not to Blog

Monday, April 23, 2007 | | 5 comments »

That is the question! After taking a peek at a recent issue of School Library Journal, I came across an article directed at librarians with the title "Five Reasons Not to Blog." I read this article with a little interest since I've recently (a few months ago) joined the blog community. Read it and see what you think about the author's five reasons for not blogging (my comments are in italics):

1. “I want to give them a piece of my mind!” Be careful what piece you give them!
2. "2. “Oh, the stories I could tell.” This section basically tells you not to tell those stories. But that's not fun!
3. “I think I can find some time at school…” We all know how this one would play out.
4. “Nobody will find out that it’s me.” Oh really?
5. “It’s OK, I will keep it private.” Much easier said than done. I've commented to colleagues that I've started a blog, which some would like to read. I think I made a mistake mentioning it.

After reading and rereading this little article, I did think a little about the purpose of my blog. Is my blog meant to hide my identity in case I do say something inappropriate? Do I care if my reader knows I'm the author? Is this blog set up as a way to kind of vent and just get stuff off my chest? Probably, all of the above.

When I first read this article, I thought it would make a good blog entry. Today, when I decided to actually start writing the blog during my rather boring grad class, I couldn't remember where I read it. Time for Google! I searched for "8 Reasons Not to Blog" thinking that was the title. Well, it wasn't, but I did come across reasons to join and stay away from this often addicting hobby as well as other reasons.. The 5 reasons mentioned in SLJ are much more serious than the other two, but all do have some interesting points. What do you think?

For me for now, the blogging continues!

What's Happening?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | | 8 comments »

Lara, at Life: An Ongoing Education wrote an interesting piece about whether or not it's okay to ask for compliments and other similar ideas in a blog. I say, it's your blog, so go for it. Read the post, it's pretty good.

On that note, I am starting to wonder if my writing has gone to the toilet or if my earlier readers have actually realized that I don't have much to say. Why do I think this? It seems as though some of my favorite bloggers, who earlier provided me with comments, are no longer commenting. I'm sure they have reasons, many of which probably make sense.

However, as a relative rookie as far as blogging goes, getting comments or feedback is extremely rewarding. In addition, starting up a conversation and sharing thoughts is one of the reasons many people start blogs.

So, if you do visit, please drop me a note so I know you still exist. I'll keep on reading the great stuff I've discovered over the past several months, written by some pretty spectacular people. (Is that sucking up enough??)

Inappropriate comments

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 | , | 2 comments »

Today, one of our ED students was getting very angry, which he often does. In the hall, in front of several teachers and even a couple of other students, he loudly says "I'm going to kill everyone in the school." (If those weren't the exact words, they were close-maybe he said someone instead of everyone)

Now, in these times, what should be done? Keep in mind that this was a THIRD GRADER!

I didn't see him the rest of the day, but I sure hope a phone call was made to the police. With that being said, I also have a strange feeling that he will be back in school tomorrow. He has said similar things in the past and we just kind of blew them off. That attitude has to stop. For whatever reason, this time seemed different. I bet that if he was holding a gun, something pretty bad would have happened. He has some serious issues dealing with his anger. Just days after the V.Tech situation, this happens. It's not something we can ignore anymore, regardless of the age of the student. I'd hate to be the person in charge if this student came back to school and did something. It's better to error on the side of caution than to think back - I should have known.

Now, I know this isn't a surprise to anyone who knows a little about this stupid law. However, I'm starting to read about and witness how the pressure of getting children to be at least proficient is pushing teachers to the end. At a local school, hard working teachers are being asked to do more and more. The school administrator knows the teachers work hard, or at least says they do, but still demands more. The school does have it's share of problems and many of those problems are beyond the control of the staff- poor home lives, poverty, etc. Is this a reason to throw in the towel and say screw it? I doubt it, but I think that's the attitude that's creeping in. The teachers feel frustrated because they are working their asses off, a majority of them at least, and still feel like they are failing - and, it's only going to get worse. Some have commented that if they were in "better off" schools and were working as hard, the students would be advance. But since they are working with this particular population, there's little hope. So far, the school has met AYP, but barely. When the bar gets raised, I have a feeling that many of these people will be heading to the bar - to drink their problems away!

Here's my thought/question. Is anyone else seeing the frustration and pressure getting to their teachers? Should we be worried about it or will everything just play itself out when a ton of the schools across the country start "failing." What's really going to happen to the teachers in these buildings? Will there be mass transfers? Will there be massive budget cuts? How will the teachers who are moved be welcomed into other buildings? Will the "good schools" still be "good schools" when the teachers from failing schools show up? I honestly don't have the answer.

A little while ago, I spent time reading with my children before they went to bed. My first grader wanted to sit on my lap while we read Charlotte's Web together. Just prior to that, my almost-four year old picked out his book and I read to him while lying on his bed right next to him. While I was doing this, I thought about all of the stuff I had to do the rest of the night, but then realized how precious and important this time is to them - and me.

This got me thinking about the many students I will be seeing tomorrow when I head back to school after Spring Break. I know many of these students weren't able to have the moments with their parents like I just did with mine. Their parents weren't willing or didn't have the chance to see the smiles on their kids faces like I did. I would bet that for the 7 days off of school, very few students had the opportunity to have a moment like this. For whatever reason- the lack of both parents being home, lack of quality time parents want to spend with their kids, lack of reading ability, lack of books, etc., we need to somehow get the message across to our families that it's not just about the 15 minutes of reading time. It's about family time and showing the kids how much they are loved. This really can put them in a good frame of mind when coming to school. When they know they're going home to a place where they are wanted, they will feel better about themselves, probably work harder in school, do better on the tests, etc. That little bit of quality time parents spend with their children really does go a long way. As teachers, we see it - hopefully, some of the parents of our children will begin to see it as well. Like the Mastercard commercials say - this time is priceless.

It seems that a high school close to my neck of the woods is going away with detentions. What is going on with this? Is this a good idea or not? Is it happening elsewhere? I don't know if it's a good idea or not, but I can certainly say we've done similar things with students at my school. There have been students who are either serving in-school detentions or were kicked out of class for a little while and were sent to the office. There, one of our educational aides who sometimes watches these kids needs to do some work, so she has the kids help her.

I had six 6th graders in my library one lunch period because of poor behavior and there was no other place for them to go. Now, I was only helping out because our regular supervisors weren't available and I got paid extra, but nonetheless, I put these kids to work. I had some books that needed labeling because I was rearranging the library so I had some of the kids do it. Was this a bad idea? Does it defeat the purpose of a detention or some other punishment because the kids might enjoy it? I don't know. I tend to think they might actually get something out of it and I might too.

The more I think about it, I don't necessarily think it's that bad. Work of some sort needs to be done and now there are people who can do it. Schools don't have to pay the custodian or someone else to do the cleanup. In addition, schools don't have to pay someone extra to supervise detention - I guess it's a money saver all around for the schools! Wait, I guess someone does have to supervise the kids while they are doing the "cleanup" so it may not be as much of a savings as I first thought. Regardless of the financial impact, I do think some students might learn a little responsibility from this. By having the students perform these duties outside of the school day, they miss out on something else they may enjoy doing. If this occurs on a Saturday, it may have even more of an impact. I guess only time will tell, but it might just be worth a try.

Maybe we should put orange jumpsuits on these kids, chain them together, and put them to work just like real life criminals - or at least the ones we see in movies.

Don't laugh, we are. Sure, there are challenges we face everyday - NCLB, crazy students, crazy parents, crazy administrators, etc. Everyone faces challenges in the workplace, but teachers are lucky in one particular area. We get built in breaks in our year to not only help us with the stress and workload of the job, but also a chance to get away from the students. They also get to get away from us for a bit. In addition to breaks like Spring Break, we get to start over every fall. While many of the job responsibilities are the same, we get fresh new faces to mold again.

Almost everyone is eager for a new school year to begin. Sure, we don't want summer to end and neither do the students, but you can't ignore the sense of excitement that exists with the start of a new school year and the questions it brings. What will your students be like? The students wonder what their teacher will be like? What will the administration pile on our plates this year? Who are the new teachers? I can't think of any other profession that has an excitement like this every year. We get to recharge over the summer, learn more about our profession, and enjoy some time "off." Most other jobs and careers just keep going. One project leads to another, one month to the next. We have something to look forward to - June! Others, they have nothing to look forward to. We can count on breaks throughout the year to give us the much needed 3 R's - rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. You know as well as I do how much we look forward to Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. Does any other job have that luxury? I don't think so.

Why am I writing this now? Sure, it seems that this entry would make more sense some other time of the year. Well, since I'm in the middle of Spring Break, I'm recharging. This break is going to help me come back to school soon with a fresh outlook and a willingness to know that there is only about 1/4 of the school year left to accomplish a lot. However, while there's still work to do, knowing that we are lucky to have breaks to help us make it through these times makes it just a little easier.

While you are complaining, as I sometimes do, about unruly students, too low pay, piles and piles of work, NCLB demands, and the rest of the stuff that often bogs us down, keep in mind that while I'm wrapping up Spring Break in the next week, and you may have already, the next big break will be here in no time and we can start this wonderful career all over again next fall!

Happy Easter

Sunday, April 08, 2007 | | 0 comments »

To those of you who celebrate the holiday today - Happy Easter!

Spring Break

Monday, April 02, 2007 | | 3 comments »

I have been very jealous of Rookie Teacher, Learn Me Good, Education in Texas, and the many, many others who have talked about Spring Break, March Break, and whatever else people call this much needed time of the year. Well, for me, the time has finally come.

I actually planned on writing a quick blog about things I was looking forward to as Spring Break was arriving, but then I got busy with a variety of things and never finished it. Well, Spring Break started yesterday and the first thing I did when I woke up at 3:30 am was to get to the airport and catch a 6:00 am flight to Florida. While many people are already back to school after break, mine is just starting. I'll be relaxing with my wife and her parents for a week without my kids. They are staying with my parents and thanks to video chatting, I'll be able to talk to them just enough to get my fix!

I brought my laptop for just that reason, but wished my in-laws had a wireless network set up so I could sit out on the patio and catch up on some blogs I've been missing. In fact, I actually thought about buying the hardware myself just I could use it this weel. Well, what a surprise when I logged on this morning and found out that one of their neighbors does indeed have a wireless connection! Currently, I'm enjoying their network, but not on the patio - the signal is a little too weak. Oh well - at least I didn't have to unplug their computer and deal with all of that.

Anyway, here's what I plan on doing the next 7 days while I'm on vacation:

1. Play golf - played a round today and have at least 3 more rounds scheduled.
2. Relax - I don't plan on thinking about school at all since I wrapped up all of the ordering for the current school year and now will wait for hundreds of books to arrive in several weeks.
3. Shop - yes, I like to do it - there's a great outlet mall here!
4. Go out to dinner and see some movies. Without the kids, my wife and I will have a chance to enjoy some time together without having to worry about a babysitter or taking the kids with us.
5. Relax - did I say that already?

So, while many of you are back at school, refreshed from your break, I'm just starting mine and hope to return to school on the 16th as refreshed as you and looking forward to June 15th when summer begins!

Do blogs have a place in schools? I think so and so do others. Although, we do need to be careful how we use them to take full advantage. I recently had a sixth grade teacher come to me, as the library media specialist, to see if you we could start a blog with her students. Now, regardless of whether or not you feel this is a good idea, we came across an obstacle - our IT department.

Our tech director, who I feel is extremely out of touch with reality and what works in schools, has had almost all blog sites blocked by SurfWatch. This is the software our district has in place to block our students and staff from accessing certain sites. One of the media specialists in the district asked if some blog sites could be unlocked so he could have access for a class he's taken. Our wise IT director reviewed his policy and has allowed this media specialist, and all media specialists in our district to now have access to all blog sites. Sounds pretty good, huh? Well, there's still a small group of people without access - THE TEACHERS!! I'm not commenting anymore.

Now, I found a blog site that isn't blocked and we have begun to set up our students on the site and in the next couple of weeks will be figuring out how to take advantage of this tool. We have enlisted a couple of tech savvy sixth graders to play around with the site to see how it works, how to add entries, make comments, and generally navigate around. It is our hope that they will then be able to teach their classmates.

Are you or is anyone in your school using blogs with your students? I'd be interested in learning how.

Well, the training will begin tomorrow. Tomorrow, our tech department will be sending over someone to teach our secretary, me, and some teachers how to do our elementary report cards online using Infinite Campus - welcome to the 21st century. One of the things I had to do in the last day or 2 was find a couple of teachers who were interested in helping pilot the project. I certainly had one fourth grade teacher in mind because she's pretty good with technology and certainly willing to learn something new. When I asked her, she jumped at the opportunity. The same thing happened when I asked one of our first grade teachers. Now, I was surprised when I asked a kindergarten teacher if she'd like to be involved. Her response took me by surprise a little because she didn't want to do it. She had her reasons, but I really didn't think they made sense. Oh well, luckily, another kindergarten teacher wants in, so we're all set.

I'm very excited about the project and hopefully I'll have something good to say about it in the next couple of days after we get into the project.

Excuses, Excuses

Sunday, March 25, 2007 | , , | 3 comments »

Okay, I'm over my previously mentioned addiction. For those of you who may suffer from the same addiction, here's a clue to get out of it - have kids and live in an area with nice weather (atleast the weather's starting to get nice). Our school district is also just wrapping up a Fitness Challenge put on by our Wellness Committee. I got a great deal on a temporary membership at a fitness club for the month of February and have actually be working out a little bit, taking up some of my blogging time since I've been going late at night instead of sitting on my butt typing away. Also, find something you like to do other than blog, and do a lot of of it. For me, that's been the NCAA Tournament. However, since my favorite team went down today, my interest in the Final Four is much less and my blogging just might increase. Those are my excuses for being a relative slacker over the past couple of weeks. I've taken time to read some of the posts my blog pals have written, but have failed miserably in blogging myself. So there, a bunch of excuses for my lack of blogging/laziness!

I'd also like to throw a question out regarding teacher effort in your schools. We are in the process of selecting a new elementary math series for our district. There is a committee (surprise-surprise) composed of teachers from all schools and each school has had the opportunity to take a look at the new books and materials, teach a couple of lessons, and give their feedback. There are three different options available, Everyday Math, something similar, but updated, to the series we have, and some other company - Houghton Mifflin, McDougal, etc. Now, I'm not involved in this decision because I'm not in the classroom anymore and I could care less what the final choice turns out to be. However, my big question is this - what's wrong with our current textbook? We've had it for a while and it must have been great when we chose it years ago. Did the book change to now make it suck? I don't think so. I guess the district feels we need to spend money on this instead of keeping more teachers or a program. Remember that question I'm going to toss out?? It's coming...

I've heard some of the teachers talking at lunch about the math committee meetings and why some teachers like one series over the other. Everyday Math was the first one tossed out. From what I've heard, this is a pretty good math series. The school and district my first grade daughter is in uses this and she's doing some pretty amazing stuff in first grade and seems to be well ahead of many of the second graders at my school (maybe it's the genes -haha). Anyway, one of the complaints I heard about this program is that it's a lot of work for the teachers and it's very different from what they've been doing for years. This made some of our teachers a little mad because some don't want to learn something new or work harder simply because the series is "different." They were very vocal about not moving in the direction of this series. They want to do the same thing they've been doing for years. They want to start at chapter 1 in the book in September and work their way to the end in June. WTF?? Let's do what's going to be best for the kids, not the teachers. It's our job to work hard and keep learning and if it means getting used to a new series, then that's what needs to be done.

So, here's my big question, have any of you experienced similar attitudes towards new textbook adoptions where you teach? Are these the attitudes of someone in just about every school across the board? Or, is this happening in my own little world.

Shrunken Head

Friday, March 16, 2007 | 2 comments »

Okay, after I read my previous post, I couldn't get through the nearest doorway because my head was so big. Boy, did I sound like I could rule the world - or at least the project. Well, I do want to clarify that my attitude towards the project is one of confidence, not arrogance. While I pretty much shot my mouth of earlier, I better make sure this project turns out the way I'm planning. I did mention that same comment to our secretary and she agreed - we better pull this off!

Anyway, back to March Madness!

Back in December, our school district was looking for an elementary school to pilot online report cards. We have Infinite Campus as a student information system district wide and our secondary schools have been using the report card feature for a year or so since we started using Infinite Campus. The secretary and I were pushing very hard for our school to be the school to pilot the elementary report cards online. We knew we could pull it off because she's the best secretary in the district dealing with Infinite Campus and I have had great results helping my staff with new technologies. They are very willing to go ahead with new projects and we were willing to put forth the effort. Well, we weren't chosen. One of the reasons is because one of the tech leaders in the district is, well, I won't say anything. Another elementary school was chosen and we knew it wouldn't work as well as if we did it. The librarian who was involved is not very confident as far as technology goes - she's awesome with books, but not technology. She's also not a fast learner and for this new project, that skill is needed.

The project was not going very well and we knew it. There were complaints from the school piloting the report cards and all the secretary and I would say to each other was something like "We should have been doing this."

This past Monday, the secretary stops me after school as informs me that the Director of Instruction called from her office with other administrators in the room to ask if our "offer" was still on the table. That's right, they've finally come to their senses and are going to have the best team (I know, it's bragging) on board with the project. We quickly ran the idea passed our staff and they didn't have a problem with it at all. It was confirmed today and we are in! It's going to be a lot of work, time consuming, and probably stressful, but we are very excited. I'll keep you posted on the project. Now, we can't wait to pull it off and sit back with a smile on our faces saying "We told you we could do it!"

I'm a Slacker

Sunday, March 11, 2007 | 3 comments »

A couple of things have prevented me from writing a good time killing blog lately and they probably will for the very short future:

1. I'm lazy
2. College basketball - Go Heels!
3. My family - we took a trip to the Shedd Aquarium over the weekend
4. Grad school coursework (Why am I still going back to school??)
5. Nice weather
6. Time spent reading other blogs instead of doing coursework mentioned in #4.
7. I'm lazy

Do you ever wonder what makes parents think that moving their children in and out of a school mid year is a good idea? Now, I realize that many moves must happen and are simply no one's fault - parents lose their jobs, get evicted, get divorced, etc., but the impact on their child's education is unbelievable. The school I'm at has a pretty high rate of students moving in and moving out. I would bet that over 75% of our classrooms do not have the same class list now that they did at the beginning of the year. Who loses in these situations? The kids of course. What is taught in one district, may not be taught in another. Maybe something taught at the beginning of the year in one district will be taught again to the student who moved in another district later in the year, resulting in the same material being taught twice. The opposite of this is also probably true. Students are missing valuable instruction in some areas because of the timing of the lessons. Throw all of this high stakes testing into the mix and these children are at a disadvantage.

A recent article discusses the need for a national student tracking system. This isn't a bad idea. I certainly know that when we get new students at our school, our secretaries don't get records from the previous schools in a timely manner, if at all. How can we find out the needs of the children without that information? This national tracking system could help. Having this system online would be great. Sure, there are many obstacles in the way of making this actually happen - one being money. Who's going to pay for it?

Our elementary school, with a population of about 400 students, has had way too many students moving in and out during the school year. We have a family that left our school about a month ago and are starting back tomorrow. What's going on? By an estimate from our secretary, the number of students who have moved in or out is at least 75 - and it's only the beginning of March! That number will probably be 100 by year's end. That's amazing to me. You know as well as I do that these are the kinds of kids who need stability in their lives. We make connections with these kids and they make the connection with us. Just when we are starting to make progress, they move. Mrs. Whatsit certainly feels the same way. I have no idea how to solve this problem, but something needs to be done.

I saw this on 2 sites - Learn Me Good and Rookie Teacher so I thought I'd give it a try.

Earlier tonight, my brain was orange. A little while later, it was yellow. Now, it's red. I wonder if there is a rainbow brain for someone indecisive???

Your Brain is Red

Of all the brain types, yours is the most impulsive.
If you think it, you do it. And you can get the bug to pursue almost any passion.
Your thoughts are big and bold. Your mind has no inhibitions.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about love, your dreams, and distant places.

What is hindering school reform? Filing cabinets? While I would have never thought that a four drawer file cabinet could be hurting students more than helping them, I find that the teacher's inability to change might be more of a factor. In the file cabinet, there often exists lessons and ideas that have worked through the years. While the author of the blog mentioned above feels that those ideas need to be tossed out with the trash, I would argue that those lessons and ideas simply need to be updated. When I started teaching, I inherited a file cabinet full of stuff that the teacher I was replacing left. Was she doing me a favor or was she simply trying not to take that stuff with her. Who knows? After my first three years of teaching, I finally took the time to throw most of it away. Was there good stuff in there? Probably, but I never had the time to sort through it all. I would bet that most teachers have a ton of stuff in their cabinets and drawers that they don't even use any more. Perhaps getting that four drawer cabinet down to a two drawer, a cd-rom, or a flash drive would be more appropriate than finding the nearest hand truck and getting rid of it completely.

The next topic mentioned in the blog, is MANDATORY professional learning. Now, I agree that teachers need to be constantly learning. We are trying to get the students to become life long learners and if we don't practice what we preach, then something is wrong. However, forcing teachers is not the way to go. When you tell someone they have to do something, they often head into that activity with a bad taste in their mouth. However, improving on the current inservice time that teachers have, perhaps given them choices on what to work on, could be a better alternative. Teachers' time is valuable and they certainly don't want it wasted. The author mentions that given a choice between learning and working in their rooms, they choose the second. I completely disagree. There simply isn't enough time in the day for the record keeping, parent communication, and other paperwork districts and NCLB are piling on. Teachers need the time and using that time effectively doesn't translate into a lack of wanting to learn. Most teachers are very willing to learn new techniques and strategies. As many of us know, districts are not very willing to pay for grad classes and workshops like businesses are. Businesses want their employees to learn more and are willing to provide the time and the money to train them. Schools are not willing or perhaps not able financially, to make that same commitment and it's unfortunate.

I'm not sure how many of my "readers" are actively involved in their Teachers' Union, or if they even teach in public schools. Regardless, I'm involved in bargaining our next contract and recently began looking at some comments some staff members have listed on a recent survey that was given. I'm not going to list a bunch of them, but one of the thing that baffles me is the lack of understanding some people have about the real world. In my state, where health care extremely expensive and taxpayers are all over our benefits, many teachers still feel they are "entitled" to great benefits, even though the costs are outrageous. Some also believe that in order to "get what we want" in negotiations, we shouldn't have a collaborative, working relationship with our administration. I guess these people don't understand that the positive relationship is a benefit to us. In addition, there are some complaints that we teach too long into June. Well, since a state law requires us to start with students no earlier than September 1st, and we have to put in X number of days, the math forces us to work into June. Some would like us to get out of school earlier and yet add some record keeping days to work on reports cards. Is that even possible? This entry has turned into a little venting session, a rather calm one nonetheless, but I think I'm going to stop your misery for now.

In an earlier post, I stated that I hoped more people would find my blogging interesting. Well, after rereading what I've just written, I'll probably lose the readers who recently stopped by. I hope to provide a much better read soon.

After spending too many hours over the previous few days reading familiar blogs and discovering new ones, I've come to the conclusion that I think I have a problem. Now, I'm not admitting it yet, and that's usually the first step to getting help, but I think I'm headed down the wrong path.

I started a blog a month or so ago just to give it a try and learn more about Web 2.0 technology. Being the technology "guru" in my building and the man in charge of using technology with the students, I figured I better know how to use it. Man, was that a mistake, in a good way. My blog started as a way of just writing about some of my thoughts, mostly useless information for whoever or nobody to read. I have a couple of people who I think read my stuff on a regular basis, and perhaps it will grow into something more. To me, that would be a double edged sword. While becoming more "known" in the educational blog world would be extremely cool and flattering, I wonder if the result would also mean more time spent blogging. At this point, I'm not sure if I have the time, but I think I might give it a go and see what happens. I guess I better start writing entertaining/thoughtful/valuable stuff.

I started out reading mainly with education-related blogs, which I have found very entertaining, relaxing, and thought provoking (congrats to the "Thinking Blog" winners out there). While there are thousands of blogs (many of which I'm sure are great) that I haven't discovered yet, I have found a few that I enjoy and will continue to visit on a regular basis. Over the past few days, I've discovered several more and have added them to my list of fairly regular reads. Today, I've discovered a whole to world of blogs that is going to be both very valuable and of course, time consuming.....library blogs. Being a librarian, I suppose I should keep up with the books part of my job. I'm sure the sites I've discovered today will lead me to more good blogs, which again, will be good and bad.

Here's the question for the serious bloggers out there - How do you find the time to keep up on your reading and blogging? Do you have more than 24 hours in your day? Do you not do anything else to do? Are you kidless outside of the school day? I would appreciate any suggestions as to how to balance the blog world with the rest of the real world!

I don't know about the rest of you, but in the process of taking another class for yet another teaching certification, I'm starting to believe that some courses are completely useless. I realize that it's hard to narrow down some programs to be specific enough for each individual, but I wonder by Teacher Prep University, or in my case, Library U., doesn't eliminate certain courses that are meaningless to some. Now, I must say that I was told one future class I thought I was going to have to take is not going to be required. The advisor said the class had the least to do with school libraries so she is waving the course! Now, if they could just do that a little more.

I'm working in a school library and am in the middle of taking a course on Library Management. While this course is required for those in the Masters of Information Science program, I see no reason why it's required for a teaching certification. In most school libraries, especially these days due to budget cuts, there is no staff to manage. I have an educational assistant who comes in for two hours a week to shelve books. In addition to discussing management, we talk about accounting in libraries. Anyone who knows a thing or two about school districts, knows that the business manager, building principal, or sometimes the secretary, is the one in control of the budget. All I have to do is take the budget amounts given to me, and spend them. It doesn't take rocket science to know that you can't spend more than you get. I don't have to deal with assets and liabilities, or any of the other stuff our instructor discussed last night. Sure, people working in charge of public libraries or other libraries may have to do that, but in my case, it's not something I have to deal with. I am sure that there will be future topics where I feel the same, but I bet many other people have sat in a grad class and wondered "What am I doing here? This doesn't apply to me at all!"

Since I'm at home with my sick three year old, I've decided to change the color scheme on my blog, add more of my favorite reads, and add a somewhat thoughtful entry later today. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you actually have some solid time to work.

California Teacher Guy wrote about Flash Drive Frustration - the bad feeling about not having access to a file you need. I had a similar feeling today when I was trying to email my lesson plans back to school. The problem was that they are on the district server, which I can't access from home. Why aren't they at home with me? Well, last year's format is, but not the new one and I don't want to reinvent the wheel. I'm in the process of trying to get in touch with a teacher I trust who can log in as me to the network, select the files I need and email them back to me at home. Of course she has all kinds of free time to do this. If all else fails, I'll talk to the sub on the phone and just tell her what to do.

William and Mary Blogs

Monday, February 19, 2007 | 2 comments »

While on vacation, I was reading some interesting material by students from William and Mary who were studying to be teachers. For one of their classes, they had to create blogs. Like an idiot, I didn't make a note of the site name and since I wasn't on my computer, can't go back and look at my history. I tried searching for the blogs, but was unsuccessful. If anyone can help me out, I'd appreciate it.

A Feel Good Story

Monday, February 19, 2007 | , , | 0 comments »

Before I get into my feel good story, I must say I've been a complete slacker lately as far as blogging goes. I've been reading a bunch of cool stuff and commenting a little, but haven't actually written anything. I'm going to try and change that and write more frequently.

On to the story. In my school we have a fifth grader with a special ed label of TBI - if you aren't aware of that, it's Traumatic Brain Injury. When this boy was somewhere around 5, he was riding without a seatbelt in his drunk uncle's car on the freeway and somehow fell out of the car. He was then run over by another vehicle. It's pretty amazing he's alive and functioning rather normally. Anyway, he has some issues working in the regular education class and is pulled out for most academic work. His attitude isn't always the greatest and he's not always respectful to others. When his class would come in the library for their weekly time with me, he was always interested in checking out the books to his classmates. At the time, I let him because it kept him out of trouble. He figured out the checkout system rather quickly and kind of took over when he came in. With this working well and keeping him out of trouble, I decided to ask his Special Ed teachers if he could come down when I have kindergarten and first grade students and run the checkout computers. We set this up as a reward for decent behavior with him. He would come in for an hour twice a week to run the computer while I was helping the little students find books. Well, this worked wonders. He quickly learned the names of the younger students and did a great job with them while I was providing "crowd control." He was often a problem everywhere else throughout the day except when he was with me. I ranted and raved about his success and other teachers along with the principal would pop in to see if I was serious. We have since decided to have him come in an hour everyday, to not only help the younger students during checkout, but also help those students in the computer lab. It's been fantastic for me and more importantly for him. We have recently started working on academic work during the down time to make sure he's not losing out. In addition, he has even read stories to the younger students. They love having him there, and so do I.

Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 | , , | 1 comments »

I'm pretty sure that the person who invented Valentine's Day was not an elementary school teacher. In fact, I be the person who invented Halloween wasn't an elementary school teacher either. Regardless, days like today are really not that fun. The day is often a waste because all the kids are looking forward to the party - which is usually held towards the end of the day so the kids can get all sugared up from the onslaught of treats and then go home! Teachers like the end of the day because they can eat the "safe" treats - you know, the wrapped treats or the ones made by parents you trust - and toss the rest, leaving little chance the students will find out that you didn't eat them all.

As a specialist, I get treats from a bunch of students at various grades. Some seem to search me out in order to give me a treat or a little Spiderman Valentine. Others are wandering the halls with one cupcake left and happen to stroll by the library when it hits them - hey, I'll give this last crappy cupcake that no one else wants to the IMC Guy so I can get back to my party. Wow, I'm flattered. However, what I really get a kick out of is those cheap, little Valentine's that the kids hand out. Of course, my own children hand out those same cheap Valentine's at their school. Anyway, I get a kick out of these cards because of what is written on them. In some cases, there isn't a single thing on the cards - including who the card is from. On others, my name is actually written correctly. Then, there are the children who have absolutely no idea how to spell my name. Now, I don't have a simple name like Smith, but it's also not that difficult to spell. This is a list of what showed up on my Valentine's Day cards today - all of them wrong:

Leamen
Leman
Lamem
Lemon
Lamine
Misster L.

My favorite, and one that made my laugh, was the one with 3 simple letters in the little box marked "To:" One student simply wrote "You."

Back to reality

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 | | 1 comments »

As the very few (if any) of you may have noticed, I've been a big slacker the last several days as far as blogging. However, I have good reason - I've been on vacation. Actually, I'm still here (or is it there)! I have about 6 hours before I leave sunny 75 degree weather to return home to 15 degree weather and at least 6 inches of new snow in the last couple of days. Too bad my in-laws, who are watching our kids, have to take care of the snow!

Over the last 5 days, I've thought very little about school, my students, and surprisingly most of the other daily routines I have when I'm in the real world. Perhaps when I go back to school tomorrow, I'll be refreshed, but then again, maybe I'll just be thinking about what I wasn't doing when I was away from school. On a normal day, I get up early, spend time with my children, stress out about something at school, get mad as some of the students, ask why their library books are overdue, sit at some sort of meeting, watch TV, read some blogs, maybe write one, make lunches for the next day, and probably a few other things. What has been so great about this vacation, and the sign of a good vacation, is that I barely did any of those things. Usually, my kids are with us on a vacation, but this time, we decided to go with some friends for a long weekend instead. It was great. Instead of the things I usually do, I slept in, played golf, went shopping, went out to dinner, hung with friends having "grown up time", and relaxed! Sure, we talked to the kids on the phone daily, but I felt so far out of the daily grind, it didn't seem the same. A big part of me wants to stay longer, but that will only delay my trip back to reality in the morning and I know it can't happen because I used up all of my personal days!

I hope in the next several days to get caught up on the entertaining writing I've been reading from some of you, comment a little, and write about some of the things that have made me wonder, think, question, and laugh.

No School Today!

Monday, February 05, 2007 | 1 comments »

It's -9 degrees F today and school has been cancelled.

I guess I won't hear any questions like I did last week when a third grader asked me "If aliens were real, would they abduct people at night or during the day?"

This student obviously thought hard about this question. Now there's a concept - a student who actually thinks and comes up with a thought provoking question.

In Wisconsin, talk of teacher salaries is often a hot topic. On one side of the debate (often the right side - notice I didn't say "correct") are people who think teachers don't work the hours that everyone else does, have "Cadillac" benefit plans, and have 3 months off. On the other side (often the left) are the people in the classrooms and also the Teachers' Union. All over the country, the debate about merit pay exists. It does exist in some form in some parts of the country. Is it working? I think it's probably too early to tell. Now, regardless of this debate, many teachers feel they are underpaid. Are we?

An interesting article in the paper seems to think we are not underpaid. Read the article and take note of the comparison between Mechanical Engineers and teachers. Who do you think makes more?

Also, there's a comment that teachers trade earnings for time off. I don't know about you, but I was never offered that trade. To me, it's called part of the job.




A colleague of mine sent this my way. Enjoy!

What a Great Day!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | 0 comments »

This time, I'm kidding. My day started today with a fifth grader throwing up near my circulation desk. Luckily, his aim into the trash can was about 90% successful. However, the other 10% made it near my computer, under my printer, and in other places things normally don't go.

And yes, I had to clean most of it up. Just another day in an elementary school!!

I'm serious. Contrary to what normally happens on inservice days, we actually had a great one recently. The funny thing is, our district really did nothing spectacular other than find an incredible person to speak with us in the morning and work with us in the afternoon. I'm not sure how much his speaking fee was, but it was worth every penny. I haven't heard our teachers talk about how good an inservice day was in a long time - and it was all due to Michael Dorn.

If any of you have ever heard Michael Dorn speak on school safety and bullying, you know what I'm talking about. Michael Dorn, not of Star Trek fame, is one of the world's leading experts on school safety. His son is also an expert and has a video that is all over the place showing how students can conceal weapons in their clothing. His son wasn't there, but Michael is really the head honcho. He has tons of experience that makes him an incredible and interesting speaker. We had about 650 teachers in the room when he was speaking and I think he had the attention of all of the for well over an hour. I'm not going to go into detail about his speech, but it was very motivating and really made us think about the students in our school and what we are doing to help them feel safe - not just from intruders, but mostly from other students. I wonder how many other teachers have heard him speak.

Overall, a fantastic day.

Amanda shares a great piece from the NY Times dealing with movies about teaching that hits the spot.

California TeacherGuy wants to know why I wrote that I'm not a typical librarian. Hmmmm...let me think about that.

First and foremost, when you think of an elementary school librarian, you think of a female. That I am not. If you picture an elementary school librarian, you certainly don't think of me. Many people would picture an older person, hair up in a bun, cat-eyed glasses, long skirt, and someone who preaches silence in the library. While that image may certainly be changing, I still think it's out there. When people have asked me over the years what I do, I often hear something similar to "That's great - we need more men in the elementary schools." I've always loved working with the younger students rather than high school kids. (I spent several years as a high school tennis coach for both boys and girls teams)

Back to the library thing. Most people who enter the profession I'm in, do it because they love literature. I did not. Now, I'm not a book hater, it's just that I'm not into the book part of the job as most librarians are. Many of my colleagues probably cringe at that statement, but it's the truth. When I hear many of the other librarians in my district talking about the great children's books they read or ordered, I certainly feel like I don't know what I'm doing. In addition, I don't read books. I enjoy reading magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. With that being said, one of the best feelings I get with this teaching position is finding a book I think a student will enjoy, getting that book into their hands, and then hearing how much fun they had reading it. That's a feeling I can't get enough of. I do know that I have a long way to go as far as my knowledge of books. I feel I order great stuff for my students and compliment the curriculum in my school well, but that love of literature just isn't there. Maybe over time it will grow.

I entered this profession for the technology. I have always loved working with technology and have been pretty good at helping students learn through the use of it. It's a great tool when used correctly. After getting my Master's degree in Educational Computing, I wanted to do more with technology than I could teaching third grade. Hence, the change to the library. In my district, the librarian (or media specialist) is also in charge of teaching technology to all students. I have each grade level (kindgergarten through sixth grade) for one hour per week. Within that hour, we do the book thing and then head to the computer lab for the rest of the tine. This is the part I love.

I guess another reason I'm not the typical librarian is how I answer the question "What do you do?" Almost every librarian will say, "I'm a librarian" and be proud of it. Me, not really. My usual response is something like, "I run the library and teach the technology classes to all of the students." Why do I answer this way? Maybe it's because saying I'm a librarian makes me sound like a geek and I don't want people to think that. (This is starting to sound like therapy!) Perhaps it's because the position for me is so much more than just the librarian. My library isn't a dusty, dingy, place where you walk in, keep your mouth shut, and get a book. I want the place to be a special room in our school where you need to be. I want students to come in, find something to read, learn something, and have a good time. I don't want my library to be like libraries used to be. I want my library to be different and I want to be a different librarian.

Well, Mister Teacher wants me (and others) to list 5 things about me. Here they are:

1. While teaching third grade and loving technology, a colleague suggested I consider going back to school to become a Library Media Specialist. At the time, I thought she was crazy. Well, I already had the ME in Educational Technology, and thought, what the hell? I went back to school, got the certification, and now am in my third year as a Library Media Specialist. (I taught third grade for 8 years prior to the switch.)

2. I'm married and have 2 kids who often drive me nuts! Not just the kids, but my wife too!

3. I'm pretty involved in our teacher's union and feel it's a very important part of public education. However, I don't agree with everything.

4. I'm a huge sports fan, especially the Packers, Bucks, and TarHeel basketball.

5. I love my job. After working in the same grade for 8 years at the same school, I needed a change. I moved the to library, as you've already read, but also switched schools in the process. While I'm in the same district, the school I'm currently at is a lot of fun. Our students give us plenty of challenges (about 70% qualify for free and reduced lunch) but the staff is great and I absolutely love it everyday. Sure there are headaches I will write about down the road, but overall, I love working there.

The links are fixed!

Sunday, January 21, 2007 | 0 comments »

The links on my site are fixed! I'm not sure what I did different this time, but now they work!

I'm excited!

Sunday, January 21, 2007 | , , | 0 comments »

I decided to show my wife the geek side of me again by telling her about my blog and showing her the page. She was like - okay, no big deal. Typical response. Anytime I get some new tech gadget she's never as excited as I am. The new MacBook back in August with the built in iSight camera? No big deal. The cool bluetooth wireless mouse for Christmas? No big deal. Anything tech related that I think is cool and get excited about - is no big deal to her. Can anyone else relate to this??

Anyway, I was much more excited when I saw a comment from Learn Me Good. That was a nice surprise and I appreciated his comment. After reading a few other blogs I made my way over to his site and read his post where he mentions my blog along with a few others I plan on checking out soon. Needless to say, my rambling during this posting comes from a little excitement about the fact that someone other than me is actually reading this. Perhaps it will catch on and I will get more than 1 comment and be mentioned on more than one page.

Anyway, I'm looking to my left right now staring out the front window of my house to a beautiful snowfall. While the beauty of this snowfall is pretty incredible, I'm also thinking about the task I have ahead of me - shoveling and snowblowing it. However, while I'm doing that, my first grade daughter and almost 4 year old son will have a blast playing outside. That excitement for my daughter will not compare to what she will do later today - go see the High School Musical concert with her mom and some friends. If any of you have kids who love that movie, you know what I'm talking about.

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