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.

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.

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