Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When I'm Not A Teacher

It seems like teaching is always a part of my life.  Everything I do, I think, "Oh, this is great for my students!"  This is the reason why Adele's song Someone Like You became a way to review verb tenses and why I once showed a clip of Jennifer Lopez's movie Maid in Manhattan to expand a book unit discussion. But what do I do when I am not teaching?  One thing I do is procrastinate relax by stalking reading the following blogs:

At least once I week I check these blogs:

Design Mom. I'd never be this fashionable personally or at home, but I sometimes catch cool videos like this one about the Joy of Books that I end up sharing with my students.

I Heart Organizing.  I just started reading this one, and in addition to helping me organize my family's stack of paperwork, it also inspired me to streamline my work files.

The Pioneer Woman.  I'm an urban girl, but somehow intrigued by the ranch life on this blog, and I've come across ideas from her homeschool section including Journaling 2.0.  I've shared the Mean Ol' Schoolmarm feature with my class as well.

Stats Dad.  My boys play basketball and baseball, so I'm fascinated by this blog about youth sports.  And I also read some great advice about starting up a blog.

Time Management Ninja.  There's almost no better way to spend time than to read about how to manage it.  I've recently read some interesting takes on work email destruction and bad meeting behavior.

Zen Habits.  This blog gives me good advice about balanced living which helps me (sometimes) to put aside all the papers and lesson planning.

The Happiness Project.  I love her quotes and interviews.  And I still watch this video The Years Are Short often.

Seth Godin's Blog.  I lied about once a week with this blog,  I read it nearly every day, absorbing every word.

Cool Mom Tech.  This blog keeps me hip with everything from the latest apps to keyboards.

Lesson Learned:  I'm not always in teacher-mode, but even when I'm browsing blogs for pleasure I seem to find things that impact my teaching anyway.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday Finds 2/24/12

Here are two weeks worth of Friday Finds (since I missed last week)!

I may move from Six-Words to Twenty-Five Word Stories
Go where you want to go . . . back in 1989!
I believe this: Men are from Google+, Women are from Pinterest
These are so cool, and have absolutely nothing to do with teaching or technology.
Since I lived and taught in NYC for four years, I totally get this field trip.
When I got my new MacBook, I made sure to load these browser extensions.
I'm still exploring BYOD days with my students.  Last week we explored some dictionary apps.  I don't think I'm encouraging distraction by including mobile devices in the classroom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What can you buy with $1,000?

TESOL 2012 Convention Registration: $265
Airfare from San Francisco to Philadelphia: $510.60
Hotel (shared room) for 3 nights: $198.72

Total:  $974.32

I just paid that amount of my own personal money to go to the annual TESOL Convention this year in March.  It's the fourth year that I have had to use my own money because of budget cuts (and that number above does not include food while I'm there).   Sure, it's not always that much - airfare the year it was held in Denver was much less.  And sure, there are awards and scholarships like this one that I was honored to receive last year.  But generally speaking, I pay my own way because there is no funding where I work for conferences and travel.

I have gone to this national convention every year for the past eleven years.  I have gone to nearly every state convention, and most regional conventions.  None of them are free, and I don't get reimbursed for any of them.  I go because they make me a better teacher.  I learn the latest trends in education, I come back refreshed from being among the vast group of international educators in TESOL, I browse new books and materials.  Oh, and I share and present my own workshops as well.  Through the years, I've learned the best way to organize book clubs, how to moderate a class blog, how group writing workshops can happen on a wiki, fun ways to incorporate readers theater, and on and on . . . but the question remains when and if schools will also realize the value of spending just under $1,000 per teacher per year for professional development.

Lesson Learned:  Professional development conventions are important for teachers, but continuing to pay out of pocket makes it less and less of a possibility.  How long till the costs outweigh the benefits?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pens in Hand

Like any teacher, I spend a lot of time grading papers, giving feedback, recording scores, and making notes to myself.  In other words, I spend a lot of time with a pen in hand.  I haven't used a red pen in years - since I learned in grad school that red all over a student's paper makes them feel like their essay is bleeding.  I recently also read this article about the terror of the red pen.  I used to just grab whatever pen was handy, buying jumbo packs that were on sale.

Lately, though I've discovered that when I write with a pen I like, I'm just happier and more productive.  Since I'm one of those people that loves to browse the office supplies aisles, I'm always on the lookout and I think my next buy will be one of these 7-year pens.   The bucket above holds my current stash of colorful pens I've been using this semester.  They are actually two different kinds that I use for different purposes.

I got this pack of 24 different color pens on sale at Office Max.  I like that you click it to use so that I don't have to worry about losing the cap.  (How many Bic pens without caps do I have in my work desk drawer?!).  I like that it's a pretty fine point that doesn't bleed through, but is bright enough to see easily.  I love all the colors.  I've been using the purple, turquoise, and lime green the most.  I use it for grading and commenting on papers.  I use them also to make notes in my planner and for the lists I write all day long.

I got this set of five fine felt-tipped markers at Target. I love the color and the felt tips.  It bleeds a bit through regular notebook paper though, so I don't usually use it for writing on student papers.  Lately I've been using it for making notes on my family and work calendars and for writing labels and titles on file folders and binders.

Lesson Learned:  I spend a lot of time with a pen in hand, and it just makes sense that it is one that I enjoy writing with!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Zumba As A Second Language

After hearing a lot of hype about Zumba, I started taking classes about a month ago.  Instantly, I was hooked.  Therefore it should come as no surprise that being a Zumba newbie has impacted my teaching.  First of all, it is important to know that I have pretty good rhythm and am quick at picking up dance moves thanks to years of gymnastics, ballet, and (umm. . . ) cheerleading.  Despite this, it is very, very clear that I am a Zumba beginner.  I don't have the cool clothes.  I don't know the steps.  I have trouble keeping up.  I'm the one who turns left when everyone turns right, and is facing back when everyone jumps front. Oh yeah, and I don't speak Spanish.  Talk about a true beginner!  If Zumba were tracked, I would be put in the slow group.  Zumba classes are crowded - I've counted over 50 in a room.  All levels of movement, fitness, and ages.   It's a recipe for disaster in a language learning class, but my teacher pulls it off!  She's an amazing dancer, but an even more amazing teacher.  How does she do it?

Here's what I've noticed:

1.  Differentiated Learning:  I'm brand new to Zumba.  There's a bunch of us newbies (New Year's Resolutions, I'm sure!), but there are obviously hard-core Zumba followers.  The teacher finds a way to welcome us new "students" while keeping the veterans happy too.  No matter the routine or steps, there are different levels you can do - she demonstrates all of them, and everyone works to their ability.

2.   Repetition and Routine:  I wrote about the power of muscle memory in this post.  My Zumba teacher gets this too. Every class repeats a lot of the same moves, while keeping it fresh and adding new layers.  I get more and more comfortable each class because I know what to expect, but I don't get bored because I know there's going to be something different to learn too.

3.  Feedback:  The feedback is loud and crazy.  You're doing a good job at something?  She's in your face shaking her thing next to you, or pulling the pros up in front with her to be a fun example. Those pulled up love it and beam with pride.  You're lost or struggling?   She appears next to you doing the steps side by side.  Those fifteen seconds of one-on-one are usually all that's needed to get on track.

4.  Classroom Management:  We always start out facing the front, but we don't stay that way!  The focus is constantly changing.  Each side of the room becomes the front at some point during the class, with the teacher moving from each side - this way everyone - even in the back (where I tend to hide) suddenly finds themselves with a bird's eye view of what's going on.  Other times, the class is divided, facing each other, and even turned all the way around.  In this way, a very large class is managed at all times and she constantly knows what's happening in every corner of the room.

5.  Formative and Summative Assessment:  Most of the time the teacher is modeling all the moves.  We follow her, but she finds ways to assess how we are doing.  When she stops to watch and cheer us on, we continue on without her.  If we stumble, she can tell we don't have it yet and continues to model - sometimes even breaking it down to half-speed so we can pick it up.  At the end of class, she always encourages us to let her know how class was, and if there was anything we want more or less of to let her know.

Lesson Learned:  I've been teaching a really long time, but learning something new has given me some great teaching ideas and put it all in a new light.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Finds 2/10/12

Articles and ideas that caught me attention this week:

Hiring Committees really should move towards new resumes instead.
Just something I read the other day that got me thinking.
Prove you are not a dog (and other strategies for making your online teaching better).
I love how Google searches can tell a story.
These (like the image above) are awesome for impromptu writing and journaling.
More ways to use Pinterest in education.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Friendly, but Unfriended.

I think I have a reputation as a firm, but friendly teacher.  This has led to many students friending me on Facebook.  Perhaps because we use a lot of technology tools and social media in our class, students feel comfortable sending me friend requests.  If they are following me on our our class Twitter page, blogging, and interacting on our Moodle discussion board forums, doesn't it make sense to take the next step and be friends on Facebook?  Not just current students, but a number of past students have found and friended me.  I accepted all of their friend requests.

Until last month.  After thinking long and hard, I unfriended all my students.  It wasn't just because of startling stories of inappropriate Facebook interactions that surface from time to time.  I had long been struggling to stand on the other side of the coin, researching reasons why I should invite Facebook into my classroom.  I know that Missouri teachers are fighting to stay Facebook friends with their students, but I decided I wanted out.

No, I don't post a bunch of inappropriate pictures of me partying on the weekends.  I also don't use Facebook to complain or rant about my students or my job.  I do, however, post pictures of my family, and there are a lot of links and posts I like to share with my close friends.  I'm pretty sure my students got tired of seeing posts of my boys' basketball and baseball game scores.  Also, I don't think they needed to see where my husband and I vacationed on our anniversary.  Yes, I know that I can form groups, and put all my students in one group.  I know I can hide my posts selectively.  But every one of my friends, students or otherwise, can see anything anyone else puts on my wall, and it just got to be too much work to select out groups and individuals every time I posted.  There are other problems too, which finally brought me to my decision.

Lesson Learned:
My students can still communicate with me through Moodle, Twitter, Email, and even Face-to-Face.  I'm still friendly too, just not on Facebook.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Finds 2/3/12

I almost don't know what I'd do without Gmail!  Here are my favorite things, as well as a few others:

Are you using Gmail filters?
And how about this Gmail trick for class accounts?
Speaking of Gmail, teach your students how to be a Google Apps Ninja
Moment Garden is great for making timelines
If are a Pinterest addict like me, then while you are there check out these boards.