I'm Grateful

Sunday, August 31, 2008 | , , | 4 comments »

When I first started blogging, I did it to learn what it was about. I've written before that I felt it was important for me to know what I was talking about if I had any plans on blogging with students. Like most new bloggers, finding an audience is tough. Whatever your reasons for blogging, you at least want someone to read your writing. My first comment came from Mister Teacher, who writes a rather entertaining blog, Learn Me Good. I've read his blog for a while and I'm pretty sure he subscribes to mine. He teachers third grade, the grade I used to teach, so I can relate to some of the stuff he writes about.

Anyway, he was given a blogging award recently and as part of the award, was supposed to pass it along to seven of his favorites. I was very surprised to find out that he felt my blog was worthy of this award.

I'm glad someone enjoys my blog enough to feel I'm deserving of this award. I don't want that point to be lost, but I do wonder what this award is for.

I tried to find out the origin of this award or see what it really means. I searched back several people to find some information on it, but couldn't. I checked the person who gave the award to Mister Teacher and the person before and the person before. I went back about 5 or 6 people, but couldn't find what this award meant. I believe the people who have been passing it on are doing so because they feel some of the blogs they read are good. I'm not saying I'm skeptical by any means of this award, but I just wonder who started it. It certainly isn't an award like EduBlogs Best Of...., but I don't think people write blogs to get awards. It's certainly not my goal. Whether many people "vote" for an award like EduBlog Awards, or just one, like the award I got, it's a bonus. Needless to say, it's cool that at least one person thinks my blog isn't too shabby!

I'm not going to pass this award on to anyone else. There are a lot of great blogs I read - check my Blogroll if you're looking for good ones. As far as I'm concerned, they're all worthy.

UPDATE: Just found out this information about this award. Like I thought, not a real award, but it doesn't change my thoughts that any award given to a blog/blogger by someone else does have some importance.

It's been some time since I've written a post, but I've got a few things on my mind that I want to share and get some feedback from. Prior to my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, I sent out a tweet and Plurk about what I should do on the plane. Should I:

a) read Here Comes Everybody, a book many are suggesting to read
b) read some magazines - I have a huge stack laying around
c) just sit back and listen to my iPod (music, not ed. related)

The majority of the responses suggested I read the book. I'm not a huge book reader, but decided I'd give it a shot. While I'm not quite done with it, I did take a few notes about things that raised an eyebrow or two. I plan on blogging about more of those thoughts in the coming weeks, but for now, here's the first.

The topic of collaboration has come up quite a bit in my school district lately and we are trying to find time to work collaboration into our daily schedule. In addition, I've been trying to find time to communicate with those in my PLN, whether it's through blogging, Skype, Twitter, or Plurk. While we never seem to have enough time for the things we need to do, we now have some tools in place to help us get over this obstacle. Prior to NECC, there was some frustration with Twitter, a collaboration/social networking tool of many. Some were moving to Plurk because of technical difficulties, but realized that their networks were not as big as they were on Twitter. I started to wonder how valuable Plurk would be to me compared to Twitter if not as many people were using it.

This issue hit home when I read in Shirkey's book, "The invention of a tool doesn't create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it." I thought about the tools I was using to work with and learn from and realized that no matter how good the tool was, if no one (or at the least, very little people) were using it, it would not be very valuable. Email, text messaging, and instant messaging are great ways to communicate, but have only become more useful because they are part of the norm for many people.

There will always be new tools that pop up that will allow people to communicate with others - some of these will be better than others, but the real success will be which ones a large number of people use. This idea brought me back to NECC and a quote I heard from Chris Lehmann, "The best collaborative tool is the one we all agree to use together."

The tool doesn't matter, it's the people who make the difference, well stated Chris.

Yesterday was the day letters were mailed from the school my children attend regarding the upcoming year. The information contained what teacher they would have. Class lists are going to be posted at the school tomorrow. One would think that children would find out who their classmates are on Friday - no, no, no!

Good ol' technology!

Within minutes of someone getting their snail mail, emails (and I'm sure phone calls) were starting to fly from parent to parent wondering who was in what class. Why pick up the phone and make a call to one person when you can send an email out to twenty? Gotta love email, right? We were on the list and started to see what friends were in what classes for both of our children. While we generally didn't care (okay, maybe a little) about who our children had for teachers, there were other parents not feeling the same way. In some of the email responses, parents would say who their child's teacher was and then write something like (Yeh! or Thankfully! or Whew!) for everyone else to see. I know parents have reasons for wanting their children with a certain teacher, but don't you think that should be kept a little more private? I simply replied to the emails with who my children have because I was asked. I didn't go into the "I'm really happy" or "I'm glad they aren't with so & so" because it was pointless. We have a pretty good idea of who is in our daughter's class from the emails and the one phone call from one of her friends asking who she had. She'll see the list tomorrow and find out the rest. In the meantime, I guess we'll have to see if more emails fly around today with more news about classes.

Here are my questions:

Do you think this type of communication about classes and teachers among parents is good?

Do you think what I posted above occurs at schools everywhere? To what degree?

Do you think the teachers know about it? Do they care?

Do the kids care as much as the parents?

How are parents informed about class lists/teacher names at your school?

What do you think? Please share.

There are many people outside of education who says teachers have it easy. Summers off, great benefits, etc. There are even people within our field who agree with those same topics. I think there is another aspect of our jobs that makes it awesome - the start of the school year. How many professions get to "start over" each year? How many have that renewed excitement each year? How many have sales just for them? You don't hear about "Back to the Doctor" sales, do you? Nope, this is an exciting time for a lot of people.

Off the top of my head, here's a list of what makes our profession wonderful related to starting a new school year each fall.

1. Fresh faces to give you fresh smiles.
2. New faces to give you new headaches.
3. A chance to try out new things you've learned over the summer.
4. An excuse to go shopping for school clothes.
5. Coming up with new back to school/get to know you activities.
6. Reconnecting with students and colleagues you haven't spoken to in months.
7. Figuring out what new paperwork your administrator is going to have you complete this time.
8. Watching students color with brand new crayons.
9. Seeing half your class very eager to see you at the beginning of the year.
10. Seeing the other half wishing they were still on summer break.

I'd love to hear what you would add to this list. Let's see it grow!

I'm a DEN Member.....Sort of!

Friday, August 08, 2008 | | 5 comments »

This is cross posted at my new DEN Blog site.

I have no idea whether or not I'm going to continue with 2 blogs, but for now, I'll probably cross post because it will be the easiest. I'm going to try and keep the DEN blog related to Discovery stuff and new things I've learned from the site or other DEN members, but for now, there won't be much there. Perhaps it will lead to more learning for me and others.

For now, here's the post.

Well, I filled out the necessary forms and am now a member of the Discovery Educator Network. I’ve even completed the requirements and became a STAR Educator. I even received my welcome pack consisting of a very cool messenger bag, DEN Star Educator note, and pin. However, I really don’t feel like a DEN member yet because I’m only one in name. Here’s what I mean. While the name is there, until I contribute to the DEN and become an ACTIVE member, I can’t full count myself as part of the DEN. I’ve already met some fantastic people who are DEN members and can’t wait to learn from them. Writing this post is a start of my involvement and my goal in the next couple of weeks is to really dig into the lesson plans that are online and the DEN site itself. I really don’t know if I’ll post too much to the DEN site since this blog is more of a priority for me.

Additional note: I must thank Teryl Magee, Tom Turner, Tim Childers, and Lee Kolbert for sharing the DEN with with me at NECC this past June.

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about preparing students for the 21st Century. There's also been a lot of discussion about 21st Century Skills and how we need to make sure our students have those skills when they graduate. I don't disagree for one second that there are new skills needed by students that didn't exist 5 or 10 years ago, but I also think we need to keep in mind that there are skills students will need that we don't even know about yet. I remember being at a conference a few years ago and listening to Ian Jukes present the keynote. He was talking about a future that doesn't exist. Jobs that would be there for our students that don't even exist yet. How do we prepare kids for these? The jobs now that didn't exist years ago are being filled by eager, hard working, and smart people. Don't you think the same will occur in the next 10 years? I think so.

What got me thinking about this was something I saw on the side of the road on a drive to visit my parents a few weeks ago. As I was driving through a construction zone on the freeway (who hasn't this summer), I saw the construction guys on the side of the road and wondered who will be filling these jobs in the future? Are they going to be the kids in the middle of their class with no desire/money/opportunity to attend college? Certainly there will be many high tech jobs in the future where 21st Century Skills will be needed, but what about the other jobs? What about the worker fixing our highways, the electricians/plumbers, the manager at Burger King? In some of these cases, the skills they need are taught by the unions or corporations at various training centers. Do we need to prepare these future professionals with the same 21st Century Skills as the teachers, lawyers, doctors, and business professionals? What about the person checking you out at the grocery store, the person who works at Wal-Mart? Will these workers be the basic and minimal kids of today? There is now and always will be a wide variety of jobs for our students. Some will excel and others will not. Some will drive to be the best and others will be happy working elsewhere in a low end job.

My question is, how can we meet the needs of all of these students? Do we prepare them for a job or do we prepare them for a career? Can we prepare them for a career or job that doesn't exist yet? What skills are needed? Hmmmmm.

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