Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Collage Collaboration on Measurement

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Online Safety

I've read many posts on internet safety in the year I've really been engaged in the blogosphere. But I haven't really been invested in what I was reading. I think I figured it wasn't a big issue for my students - fifth graders who aren't upper middle class. They don't have computers in their bedrooms, many of them don't have internet access at home.

So, an incident last week took me completely by surprise. One girl in my class went to the counselor with a concern. The counselor kept returning to my room throughout the morning and borrowing or returning students. I didn't really think too much about it, assuming it was a friendship issue (a common problem). At lunch I walked past my principal's office and noticed the counselor and four of my students in there. I got them to lunch and went back to figure out what on earth was going on.

It turns out that quite a few of my students have been using a social networking site. I had never heard of it. It seems to have a focus on anime and manga. One student began receiving threatening emails two days before this. When she didn't respond the bully began emailing her friends to get to her. They were all quite scared.

As a school, we contacted parents, reassured students, and turned this over to the proper authorities. I'm keeping an eye on these students to see if they seem to be upset or distracted or if they show any other signs of distress. Hopefully they will all stop using this site and not be bothered by this bully anymore.

It was eye opening to me and I think I need to do more on internet safety with my students. I thought they were too young, but I was wrong. Only one of them had anything very personal on this site, fortunately, but it's clearly a lesson we need to discuss.

The positive side to all of this was a reaffirmation of the wonders of my school. I spent part of my lunch getting the scoop on the issue from the principal and counselor, but that was all that was required of me. The administration took care of everything. My job was to teach my class and they made sure I could do that. I'm not sure that level of support is a common thing.

(I have to admit that I wasn't willing to be that uninvolved. I'm lucky to have an intern/student teacher working in my room right now so I was able to be out of the classroom to help call parents and talk with the authorities. But, it was nice to have options.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

With our buddies (head start three and four year olds):

(Many bloggers, mostly outside of the edublogosphere, do Wordless Wednesday posts every week. I've greatly enjoyed them and decided to give it a try.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Me as a Model

Not a fashion model, obviously, but a role model for my students. I've been thinking about this since Dan posted about keeping students' attention. It's a great post and my musings are way off topic, but it got me thinking. He has a short video in this post in which he calls his class "boys and girls." It struck me because I typically call my students "ladies and gentlemen" and they are a few years younger than Dan's students. I wasn't the only one intrigued by this. Dina posted a poll asking what others call their students. The responses are interesting.

Since reading all of this I've been more aware of how I address my students. I'm exceptionally polite with them (thank you, please, etc.), more so than I am in the rest of my life. I've also realized that I write thank you notes for anything my students give me, no matter how small. I am not that good about thank you notes to others who give me gifts.

I've realized that, consciously or unconsciously, I try to model the behavior I would like to see in my students. As a result, I am a better person as a teacher than I am in general. I'm not sure if I'm proud of that or not.

This also made me realize how much I'm teaching my students that has nothing to do with the SOLs or our county curriculum.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mary Lee, at A Year of Reading, was inspired by this year's Newbery Award Winner. Laura Amy Schlitz wrote Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village. She is a librarian at a school in Baltimore and wrote the book originally as monologues for her students to perform. Mary Lee believes that Schlitz went to the ends of the Earth for her students and decided to award some To the Ends of the Earth awards to people at her school.

I think the idea is a fantastic one and I'd like to add a few awards. First, the parent liaison at our school who knows everything about our Spanish speaking students and their families. She arranges transportation to school for some, finds clothing and furniture when needed, and works tirelessly to find medical care and other services.

Second, the secretaries in our office who go way above and beyond for the teachers, students, and families at our school. They are the first ones in each morning and the last to leave. They track down maintenance help, find substitutes, help students celebrate birthdays, and are always cheerful.

The third grade teacher who in addition to raising three girls of her own, manages to be a model teacher, complete her National Boards, advocate for her students, innovate in her classroom, and recognize everyone else's achievements and contributions to our school. We are a better school thanks to her presence.

Our reading teacher who thinks everything through. Nothing happens in our school related to literacy that she isn't considering how it impacts our students. Her model has made all of us more thoughtful about our instruction and has made our school a model in our district.

And, our administrators. It is the atmosphere that they create that allows the rest of us to teach students as well as we can. They treat us as professionals and work hard to find the support for anything we request. They meet with families frequently and are at all evening events. It is thanks to them that we have so many others who go to the ends of the Earth for our students.

(I'm sure that once I post this I will think of six more worthy awardees!)

2008 Education Blogosphere Survey

Scott McLeod, over at Dangerously Irrelevant, has opened up his second annual survey. It's 25 questions, some of them quite thought provoking for me. If you can find 10-15 minutes, go fill it out. The more people who respond, the more fascinating the results will be. I'm looking forward to reading others' thoughts on blogs they enjoy, tech tools they use, and reasons they blog.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Annual Report

dy/dan has put up a design challenge to create your own annual report. He did a previous contest, the Four Slides Sales Pitch, which fascinated me. I lacked the time and confidence to enter that contest. I refused to let that stop me this time.

I'm not happy with this as a final annual report, but time constraints require that I stop. I'm actually glad of those time constraints because I think I could spend a ridiculous amount of time on this. I will say that the more I do, the better I start to see ways to improve presenting what I want to say. I still have a ton to learn, but this has pushed me in a good way and I've really enjoyed it.

2007 was the year I really started blogging. I was on maternity leave from January on into April and took that time to get serious about reading and writing blogs. It was interesting to look back at what I've written and reflect on what I've learned through it.

With two children I've done a lot of reading of children's books this year.

Looking at this year through statistics got me thinking about the physical side of teaching elementary school.

Finally, after the birth of my second daughter I felt a need to get back in shape and lose weight. It felt good to look at the year this way.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Personal Learning Environments

The tech guru at our school has been thinking hard about how best to work with students and technology. He's pushing us to push the boundaries and meet students' needs in the best ways possible. This morning he shared an epiphany with me. He's been mulling over the idea of 'personal learning environments' and has created a working definition for himself. (I'm sure he'll correct my explanation if I'm missing something, at least I hope so.)

Here's an example: students are working on a study of oceans. In a group they could have a specific focus, say ocean currents. Their group would create a wiki as a base for all their research. They would create a group delicious site full of relevant links, a bloglines collection of feeds, and a blog that they write to share their thinking and their synthesis of their learning through the research. All of these sites would be linked in their wiki.

My question is, what else is a possibility? My feeling is that no piece will make sense for every group and for every project, but these seem like a good starting point. What other tools could help students research and/or pull their thinking together?

Friday, January 04, 2008

XO Laptop

I've been meaning to write about this since Christmas because my four-year-old daughter received an XO laptop from her grandparents. She has been loving it and goes to it each day. She now has an email account and has been feverishly sending emails to family and friends. So far folks have been quite kind and quick to respond. We'll see how long that lasts. My husband has done a lot to make the computer work for her and has been adding activities to it regularly.

She dropped it off the kitchen table yesterday as she was trying to pick it up and it survived without problem. The keyboard is tough for me to use, but works well for her little fingers.

I was finally moved to write because I just read an article from BBC news. It seems that Intel has pulled out of the OLPC project rather than stop backing Classmate, a rival low-cost laptop. I'd love to think that competition will push all of this forward, but I have reservations. I know the XO is far from perfect, but I am very impressed with the entire project. I hope that the loss of Intel does not hinder the good work happening here.

More Grading Thoughts

(I wrote this post last night and it apparently disappeared. If it shows up multiple times in your reader, I apologize.)

The Washington Post had an article recently on grading scales and weighted grades in various honors classes in different school districts in our area. This is frustrating to parents (and I assume to students, although that is not a focus of the article). This was a front page article in the Post which suggests a significant level of importance. I read the article with growing frustration. These parents are up in arms over this issue which has absolutely nothing to do with what their children are learning. The only thing that matters, apparently, is the grade on the transcript.

I found this to be a sad commentary on the state of education today. Our students are working to earn grades rather than to learn and their parents are encouraging this. Many teachers will say that one of their main goals is to encourage life-long learning. Grades are in direction opposition to this aim.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Brilliant Man (and small world)

My sister works with Gever Tully at his Tinkering School each summer. He is absolutely amazing in what he plans for those students and what they all do together. I'm looking forward to the point when my daughters are old enough to go. He recently presented a TED talk about dangerous things you should let your children do that is well worth the 10 minutes it takes to watch it. (Plus, there's a picture of my sister in the midst of his slideshow.)

The other piece of this that has fascinated me is how it is an example of the interconnectedness of our world. Doug Noon, blogging at Borderland, shared a blog post from Stephen's Web that linked to the TED talk. To recap, a blogger in Alaska shared a blog post from Canada with me in Virginia about a talk in California. I love it. I should also mention that Tim, in my own school district, also blogged about the TED talk. I'm thrilled to see Gever creating this sort of buzz.