Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Special Education Dilemma

It is time for change.

"No Child Left Behind" was a joke.  Every educator that knows anything about education could tell you 10 reasons why this was the case.  I will elaborate on just one...
Students with moderate to severe disabilities and significant needs.  This subgroup of students has been left behind!  Instead of teaching these students the "life skills" that they need to survive in our society of cultural norms, teachers have been forced to build a test that holds them accountable for the standards put upon the students in general education classrooms.

If you are unfamiliar with the process, let me explain... The teacher builds a test based on their goals that are aligned with the state curriculum.  The test is given throughout the year.  It starts with the teacher giving prompts to the student about a particular goal to establish baseline data.  The student then works on this throughout the year to then reach the goal that is stated. This action is repeated so much that it is almost impossible for the student to fail when it is time to video tape and show mastery of the goal.

This all sounds great until you realize where the child was left behind.  Most of these students still go to the bathroom in their pants.  They lack the social skills that allow them to communicate their needs.  In order to communicate their wants or needs they will grab, hit, bite, scream, and hurt themselves.  This isn't because they don't like people or they are mean kids.  They just have a difficult time communicating in the way that you or I do.  Is it important that these students know that 5 + 5 = 10 when they do not know that using the bathroom means actually "going into the bathroom" to use it?

So in the process of trying to "fix" these students and hold them accountable to state standards, what have we done?  We have left them behind.  In the time it took them to master these state aligned goals, they could have mastered so many more "life skills" that are much more meaningful to them and their families.

Another group that is being left behind is the incredibly talented teachers and assistants that work with these students on a daily basis.  Most leave after just a year because of the stress of the job.  Seeing this first hand has been devastating to me.  I hope that something changes quick for these beautiful students and the awesome teachers that work with them!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I'm Back

I have kept the blog with the intentions of coming back in the near future.  Since my last post, I have lost 160 pounds, gotten married, bought a house, finished my masters in reading instruction, and have taught fourth grade for 5 additional years.  I have also simplified my life.  Some people may call me a hippie.  I don't know what that label means.  But if I'm a hippie, I like it.  However, I still have a computer and still feel strongly about education reform.  I will be posting more often... probably whenever something engages me to do so.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Twitter with 4th Graders

This week, I took on a large task. I have opened up my personal time to my students and Twitter. With long discussion and rule creating, I opened up their world to using Twitter. We are using Twitter as an educational supplement for students to ask questions, receive help and study new skills while they are home. We are still in the infant stages of Twitter use. I have 5 students involved at the moment. We only follow each other... kind of a closed circuit Twitter use.
I am finding these students love the fact that they have the ability to ask questions the night before the quiz. They love the interaction with me as their teacher while they sit at home at their computer. They are taking a social networking site and using it for educational purposes.
This is foreign to many 4th graders. I have spent the first half of this school year laying the groundwork for digital responsibility. This is not an easy task. Sadly, some 9 and 10 year olds think of social networking sites as a place for gossip and rumor creating. I have spent much of this time showing the learning aspect of these sites.
As of now, our Twitter community gets it. We have had great conversations about topics discussed in class. I helped a nervous student find links to help him study the night before his math quiz. The next day, he thanked me over and over again. In the infant stages, this is working better than I would have ever imagined.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ownership of Information

How can I create a wiki that is owned by 4th graders? This is the question I have been struggling with for the last few months. I have owned the wiki for a few years now. The name may have changed a few times, but the idea remains the same. It serves as a link between the teacher, student, parent and world. The ideas that are floating near the top of my sporadic, sometimes rule-breaking mind are endless. I have thought of the creation of an entire digital classroom, where work can be completed via wiki. This idea sank when I realized the students need to be taught core 21st Century information sharing skills.
The 9 and 10 year olds that I teach are rather limited in their current views of the Internet, as it relates to purpose, relativity and possibilities. The more the world becomes transparent, the more I see these young students become stagnate with their learning. The 9/10 year old view of the Internet is a great place to play games, watch videos and chat with friends. This is the Internet for these students. I see the Internet as a vast, sometimes confusing mesh of woven arteries that lead to a completely different mesh of woven arteries. These arteries are created and destroyed. Sometimes just blocked.
The challenge seems to come when time interferes with curriculum. I spend much of my day trying to fit into a little mold of what it takes to be a successful 4th grade teacher. Sometimes this path leads to a successful, well thought-out lesson. Sometimes the lesson goes south. I still haven't figured out how to figure it out. I am constantly changing how I teach. I am constantly thinking of new and better way to introduce a skill so that the student ultimately absorbs the information.
I have now opened OUR wiki up to the world with my students leading the conversation. This is a great milestone, in my opinion. This is a step in the right direction for me. This will be one tool I will use to assess students and teacher (me). The students feel ownership. They now know what it is like to own what they are learning. Very few students have started with the process of making edits to the wiki. I have been sacrificing my lunch time in order to not take any instruction time away from our current curriculum model. These few students are creating a buzz. I am using these students as a fuse to light the entire class with the ownership of the material they are learning.
Every day, a new idea for the wiki is generated by a student. We discuss the positives and negatives of including this idea to OUR wiki. Student ideas generated so far... Going Green, Book Reviews, and Beyond. These ideas are in their infant stages of course. We are still working on our editing skills.
How it Works:
1. Students fill out a wiki editing form with a unique idea they would like to add to our wiki.
2. During the day, we discuss the edit and the process of adding it.
3. Students begin editing the wiki during lunch, indoor recess or when they have finished their assignments for the day.
Future Plans:
I plan to open the editing for students to complete at home. I haven't quite reached this point of trust... yet. I am still working with the students to understand Internet responsibility (what to make public and what to keep to yourself). I believe this will come in the near future.
I am excited about this whole "experiment". The students are also excited.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pause for Purpose

Hello all. It has been an incredible amount of time since I have posted to this blog. The time has been wisely spent. I have a new position this year as a fourth grade teacher at a new elementary school. Having spent a few years out of the classroom setting, it was a lot to grasp at first.

I have been spending my time getting used to the many idiosyncrasies of having my own class of 28... 14 boys and 14 girls. Wow, I forgot the rewards of watching students soak up knowledge like a sponge.

I have been using my wiki as a connection between school and home. I have been spending the entire beginning of the school year updating the wiki and figuring out how I was going to make it work with many Internet irresponsible 9 and 10 year olds.

I am opening the wiki up to students now. Students will be able to log on to the wiki during school and add information once work is complete. I have opened up the wiki for Reading, Social Studies and Math. They are labeled "A students View of..."

The students will post anything they deem to be appropriate for the sharing of knowledge with the world. Hopefully we will start with our first entry tomorrow. Depending on how this works out, I plan to have students create their own pages and eventually blog with a purpose. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

School Year Goals

I like posting my yearly teaching goals in this forum. It gives me a chance to share some of my ideas and serves as a checklist to myself for reflection at the end of the school year.
1. Listen to Every Student Voice...
Sometimes the best instructional ideas come from the students themselves. I love to live by my own modo... many voices are better than one. Too often, teachers become stuck in a muddy ditch that I like to call stagnate instruction. When this occurs, learning also becomes stagnate.
2. Use the Power of Global Learning and Sharing...
Students love to share what they are learning with other students their age. Why not make it a global audience? Along with this idea, we need to also learn globally. Learning from other cultures puts ours in perspective.
3. Help Students Own Their Work...
Students tend to perform at a higher level if they have ownership of the product they create. It's hard to own a worksheet. They didn't create it, and they have seen far too many in their life time. I want to create authentic learning from authentic creations. I hope the last sentence made sense.
4. Create an Atmosphere of Trust and Respect...
I would love to have a learning environment where everyone, teachers and students, trusted and respected each other for their ideas. I will do my part by not talking at students, but create conversations in which they have a voice along with mine. I feel it's important to talk to students as if they are young adults and not baby's.

There it is, my goals. I bet these goals look a bit different from an administrators goals. We will see how successful I am with sticking to these goals. To all teachers, I invite you to list your goals. I would like to read some of your ideas. Until next blog...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Position

I was just hired at a new school for a 4th grade position. I am stoked. I am finally back in the classroom with ONE class. The possibilities are endless. Many ideas are floating through my mind. I haven't had the opportunity to work with one class with all of my many ideas yet. This should be great.
I plan to make this an opportunity for collaboration among the students, teachers and parents. My ideas are still quite foreign to most educators in my school system, however it's changing slowly.

Oh yeah, I don't know what all the iPhone hype is about. I know I may ruffle some feathers with that statement, but I just purchased a Blackberry Curve for $150 that does everything. This phone takes pictures, video, voice recording, works as an mp3 player, has e-mail alerts, VZ Navigator which is better than GPS, voice dialing, an awesome browser, and also works as an air card for my laptop. I can't figure out how to get it to make coffee.
Why spend the money for an iPhone? I don't know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Busy Summer

I never thought that I would be so busy over the summer that I wouldn't have time to write. I have had a little time to read. Working a job over the summer has allowed me to visit friends that live in other states, go to some concerts that I enjoy and not worry about money as much. Now, I have a month off until the school year begins.
I received a phone call about a week ago informing me that I am being involuntarily transferred. It's a seniority issue at the school. Needless to say, I have no clue where I will be teaching again. I somewhat enjoy the mystery... I think. It keeps me on my toes. I have a few interviews lined up this week and will bring my ever-growing resume. I have no clue what position I will be interviewing for, but at this point it doesn't matter. I have taught 4th grade, I have been a technology teacher, and have taught Science to 2nd -5th grade. I think they can find a spot for me.
I should have more time to write in the coming months. I have partnered up with a friend to get the website project launched... what a job. Much more difficult than once thought.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

T#@%?&r... Not a 4-Letter Word

I spent much of my time yesterday discussing a students grade with a parent. The student never turned in an assignment due a month ago. The student claimed to turn in the assignment, but I know he didn't. The parent wanted to know why the child had a "C" for his Science grade. I thought I explained it very well. I guess I didn't. I simply explained that his grade was not going to change and that was the end of it.

I was supposed to be straightening my classroom to get it ready for a long summer break. Needless to say, I didn't have much time to do this.

Too often I see parents that seem to side with their child rather than the teacher. I guess this is a natural bias. I question where this stems from. Does the parent really believe their child? Is the parent questioning the teachers motives? Has the parent had negative interactions with other teachers?

All of these questions are valid. I tend to think they all play a role. I don't necessarily blame the parent in this situation. This parent may have a negative view of teachers. Teachers are a big part of students lives... negative or positive. As teachers, we need to be as professional as possible, hold all bias thoughts and give every child a chance to learn in the best environment possible. This does include following through with our words. Students need to be held responsible for their actions and their work. If a student does not turn in an assignment, they need to be held responsible.

Responsibility seems to be a lost trait. The parent has the upper hand. They know they can walk into a school to get their child's grade changed. If we want to teach responsibility, we need to stick to our words, be fair, not give in and be professional.

Until next blog...

Monday, May 26, 2008

What do you mean, Your Pen is out of Ink?

Many years ago, when the first ink-filled pen was invented, people found something wrong with the new technology. The pen would eventually run dry of ink... where would that leave you? The old technology was just simplified a bit to include a writing tool and the media in which became visible on paper. This was all included in one neat package for consumers to purchase. Everyone needed to have a supply of pens available just in case theirs ran out of ink.

Along came the calculator. Now this made people really upset. You mean to tell me that all you have to do is hit a button and find the answers to difficult math problems? Once again people found something wrong with this technology. If people relied on calculators to figure these problems out, what would happen if they needed an answer and there was no calculator?

Now comes the old saying... History repeats itself. This couldn't be more true. Along comes the computer. The computer is not only used for finding information, but also for publishing in the 21st Century. Now this enraged people. You mean that you can hit a few buttons and find every important historical event that happened on August 12? You mean that you can also publish writing for the world to see in a few minutes? You mean with the same tool, you can pay your bills, find a hotel, shop for Christmas, complete a research project, publish your knowledge, find directions to anywhere, visit any location in the world, and talk to anyone via streaming video? What would happen if we didn't have access to a computer?

I began thinking of this a few days ago. I had a few conversations with different people about a broad range of subjects.

Example A:
A friends cousin just returned from West Virginia University, where he switched majors from Engineering to Business. I asked him why he switched majors and he replied "Engineering was just too hard". This sparked a conversation about the content he was learning to become an engineer. It was a long conversation, but the short version is... the 4 years is spent learning the hard way to do calculations to ridiculous math problems. His question was, "Why would I want to spend 4 years learning how to do calculations that would take me a few minutes to do once I become an engineer. They spend the 4 years deriving equations and completing formulas without the use of the computer or even calculators.

Example B:
A conversation the other night with a few teachers led to a discusion about Wikipedia. One teacher said, "All of my students call themselves DOING RESEARCH, when they get all of their information from Wikipedia and other websites". I said "What do you call it"? She continued with explaining to me how the kids are lazy and doing research today is just too easy.

It seems that there has always been a deep routed issue with society embracing a new technology. The same people that were upset with the invention of an ink pen are now upset with the invention of the computer. These new technologies make doing certain tasks easier. So what happens if you don't have these technolgies? I don't think that is a valid question. We have these technologies, and they are here to stay. Whether I am at work or at home, I have a computer with an internet connection. That means I have a calculator and a pen that doesn't even use ink. Changes in technology will always occur. We need to embrace these technologies and not be afraid to rely on the power that they have.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It's been a while

Since I have written here. The school year is closing down and I have been working 40 hours a week with another job, trying to pay off some debt and get my MED in Instructional Technology. Been very busy. I have been reading occasionally, but mainly working, eating, and sleeping. Been so busy, I didn't even attend the MICCA Conference in Baltimore. I usually go each year for the 2 day conference. Oh well, I'll catch it next year.

I've already approached Administration with my plans for next year. My hopes to spend part of my day with a school wide Wiki Project seems to be coming true. Right now, I am using the Wiki for informational purposes, but plan to get students involved next year. I am preparing our returning students for what they will be involved with next year. Most are very excited.

I will hopefully be writing more in the weeks to come. Until next blog...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Prove Yourself Boy!

The latest attempt to regulate online content has reared its ugly head in the form of a false pretense. Of course, it's all about freeing up bandwidth, so that everyones computer will operate a little faster. Can someone tell me how accessing a blog will slow things up.

Yes, I have been waiting for the day, my own blog has been blocked by our school system. I knew this day was coming. While I was at a training one Friday at a Highschool in another County in Maryland, all blogs were blocked. Waiting to start the training, I tried to access my aggregator to read my blogs. What? Pageflakes is blocked? I laughed, thinking that my own district would never do this.

The difference seems to lie in whether your blogging site is deemed a "social networking site" or a "learning networking site". My district has blocked all "social networking" sites. I guess Blogger is considered social. Oh well. We all know how schools think of being social. 90% of the day, students aren't allowed to talk.

I contacted our tech. guy and told him that I sometime use my professional blog in my class to show students the methods in which I learn on a daily basis. I know he is just the messenger, so I am not upset with him. I also know that this was not a personal attack on me. The tech decision makers didn't get together and say "We have to get rid of this guys blog, he's spending too much work time on it". However this may have went down, I am somewhat disappointed in our school system. When they want to block sites from use for the employees and students of the district, they need to think of what they are actually blocking. When they block whole categories, they need to think of the message they are sending to the teachers and the students. Blocking is saying "WE DON'T TRUST YOU". Not only do they have trust issues, but blocking some of these sites are doing our students a disservice in the classroom. Especially in a classroom like mine. I tend to use many sites to engage students on a daily basis. My options are beginning to be limited. I hope they don't block our WIKI. This would make many students revolt. I don't think the district wants 200 3-5 graders knocking on their door with questions :)

Any way, enough with a rant. Now it is down to me proving that my Blog is educational. What exactly does that mean? How do I prove this? Do I need to invite some Board Members into my classroom on a day that I share an aspect of my Personal Learning Network? Should I invite each of you to a Board Meeting to show them how many people I learn from on a daily basis by being "social"? I don't know the answer. But I need to find one quick.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Help! From the Network

My mother has been an Art teacher for 37 years. She is still teaching Sculpture and Ceramics in a High School setting. She approached me today with a few questions...

1. How can I get my students to listen when I give direction?

2. What type of 21st Century activities can I incorporate in my curriculum?

I relayed to her the importance of being involved in a Network on the internet. She is very interested in using tools such as blogs to refresh her teaching and engage the students. I came up with many ideas. I mentioned the importance of letting the students have a voice in her class. I mentioned that she should have a student ran classroom instead of her always teaching them how to do everything. She liked the idea, but seemed hesitant.

Now, I am asking my network...

Does anyone know of any good blogs or resources my mom could use to answer some of her questions?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A New Honest World

I love this new honest world we all live in. Who would have thought that one day, politicians would have to actually tell the truth. No longer, can they get away with deceit, lies and misspoken facts. Everything is recorded. Everything is videotaped. Everything is made public. Out the window is accepting bribes for political gain. A Politician can't even have an extra-marital affair anymore.

A new day has emerged. As soon as a news story emerges, it's posted to a blog or Youtube. If you say it publicly, you are held accountable for what you say. Millions scrutinize your every word or action. Check out this video posted yesterday with 1.2 million hits...

Obviously, someone at CBS is a Barack supporter. Who can blame them. The worst anyone can tie to Barack is inconvenient associations with questionable people. Barack had dealings with a businessman with a questionable past and a Preacher that speaks his mind.

However, I do wish some other small inconsistencies would be revealed to the public...

1. Why do we pay almost $4.00 a gallon for gas while Iraq averages a measly $.23? Hopefully, if gas prices continue to rise, the public will see that we need to be mainstreaming alternative fuels.

2. When is our Government going to blame our Economic problems on the War in Iraq. Oh yeah, we borrowed most of that money from other Countries. Now we have a huge debt that probably won't be paid back in my lifetime.

3. When are we going to find out the names of the intelligent officials who screwed up by saying "there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq". We need all of the names so they can be held accountable for the many lives they have destroyed. They should be in Iraq fighting also.

4. Why does the fate of our public schools rely solely on the test taking skills of students who would rather be outside while the weather is warming.

5. Why do we still rely on Multiple Choice Tests to gauge a students knowledge. Multiple Choice Tests are probably the most remedial form of assessment known. Oh yeah, I forgot about True/False.

I would like to have some of these issues covered on Youtube. Can anyone bring light to my eyes?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sharing with the World

This is what I like to call a Photomentary. I created this work this morning with the many photos from driving from Maryland to Maine and back. I hope you watch it in its entirety. Enjoy...