Tuesday, November 23, 2010


In honor of the Turkey-Day tradition upon us this week, here's a list of what I'm most thankful for in 2010:

1. A loving, supportive family. I could not have made it through some of the tough times I've experienced without them, especially my mommy <3

2. A husband who is a fighter, and a survivor. I love you, Johnathan!

3. My closest friends, who have seen me fall and helped me get back up. The best part, though, is that it doesn't take a difficult situation to bring out the best in them; they're naturally good like that.

4. A job. Even in its most maddening configuration, it's regular pay, and sometimes the kids are really great. My coworkers for the most part aren't too bad, either :)

5. Music. It doesn't matter what I'm going through or feeling, there's music for it. The right song can lift me out of the dumps fast!

6. Words, Words, Words. I can't say enough about how writing in a journal, writing on this blog and reading good books soothes me and helps me center myself.

7. The ability and freedom to think, feel and express myself. The experiences I have daily continue to shape me into the adult I hope to one day become. Without this unique set of experiences, I wouldn't be who I am.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rude teachers...

And I'm the student!

Begin rant:

I am adding my principal's license through a 3 class add-on program at ASU. Basically, the instructor we had in our last semester of the C&I program recruited some of us to join the add-on program (which she coordinates). So we did. And now we're wondering if we were crazy. Let me explain:

1st, I don't dislike the Professor we have this semester as a person. In fact, I got a good first impression of her when the class started. We were all very concerned that the course would require a large amount of work, but it hasn't turned out that way. However, because of what may only be a cultural discrepancy, I find our instructor to be a bit abrasive and sometimes downright rude.

Example: Tuesday evening, we started class at 5pm. At 6:40 we were allowed a 5 minute break (for all the ladies in the class, and the class is ALL female, this means a line in the restroom). Indeed, the line happened. And I stood in it. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then it was my turn. I returned to the class immediately; I did not chit chat (unheard of, I know!) and was working my way to my seat when the instructor actually said to me, out loud in front of the rest of the class, "hurry up and sit down, we have to start class."

Uh, excuse me?

I'm 26 years old. I'm paying to be here, and I can't help that everyone has synchronized their bladders for fear of leaving during class and being called out for doing so. I mean, really, I'm an adult, and the instructor is an adult, and everyone in the class is an adult. Why, then, can't we all just act like adults? I wasn't intentionally being rude or disrespectful. Another example: when we give presentations, she openly criticizes the presenter at the conclusion.

Now, I have lots of education on being an educator (of both 9-12 students and adult learners), and if I know anything it's that we should give feedback that is candid, but discreet. We work on rubrics to show students exactly where they missed the mark; we don't just tell them what's wrong with them in front of everyone else.

And speaking of rubrics...

How, my teacher friends, does someone have a rubric with 4 different levels where the entire point value is 1 point total? When your only response to that question is "well if you make any mistakes you get a zero in that section", that means you aren't paying attention to what you're doing. If your only possible rubric options are 1 point or 0 points, shouldn't you only have 2 blocks on the rubric?

It's bad planning. It's bad education theory. It's bad teaching.


End rant.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


One of the tools that I'm learning more about is Tagxedo. This is a word cloud program that generates shapes and demonstrates in a visual way which words are used most frequently in a given piece of text. So for fun, I took a look at this blog by keying my url into the site. Here's what it generated:

Love, Share, Think

Marzano Marathon: Final Leg, Afternoon Session

There is a light at the end of the tunnel!! I am going to survive this training! Now we're taking on Marzano strategy #6: Cooperative Learning. The instructor says we won't be doing many activities with it, and that we will be moving quickly through these last sections, because there are so many to cover in the next 2 hours.

1. Up first, random.org
As a student, I always hated group learning, because I always ended up doing the work for others to copy and turn in as their own. For some reason, this was acceptable because the teacher believed (because we all want to desperately) that all the students contributed to the work that was submitted. This website, in theory, could act as a motivator because students would be called out individually within the groups to answer.

2. Here's something fun www.wallwisher.com
It's an online board where you and your students can put virtual post-its!! Each wall gets its own unique url so students can navigate to it directly, which is super important to me for privacy and organization.

3. Something else for the history buffs (and for me because I teach my class with lots of history involved). Historical Scene Investigation takes students through trying out hypotheses about historic events. The instructor says there are other areas for other subjects, so we'll see what else it has to offer when I have time to browse it in depth.

4. Google docs: We're using this platform to create student information forms. I had a bad experience with google docs the first time, as we were working in a spreadsheet and people kept erasing others' work unintentionally. It was beyond frustrating, so I swore it off. But, this new form feature is pretty cool. You'll need a google account (as if anyone doesn't have one!). http://docs.google.com

5. Glogster online poster maker. I have used this program before and my students LOVE it. They picked it up immediately and started making their own posters about themselves, then we moved on to their researching Gothic writers and presenting those to the class. It was a good experience all around, and many of my students asked to do it again. There's a special page for teachers where you can create student accounts and keep all their work private. http://edu.glogster.com

Looks like that's all for this training. I am EXHAUSTED from sitting here for what feels like the last 2 days with a nap in between. I hope this is helpful to some of you teacher folk; I know I feel like I have lots more tools than I did on Friday at work.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!!

Digital Marzano: Day 2, Morning Session

I'm back bright and early this morning! After an early morning alarm, breakfast at Chick-fil-A and a ten minute walk through the Arctic (seriously it was 33 degrees!), we're back in the lab. Rumor has it there's Starbucks coffee somewhere, but I was 10 minutes late to the 8am start time already, so I didn't go looking for it.

1. www.meritline.com
Inexpensive items, free shipping, no tax. The instructor says he probably orders a few times each week because the items are "dirt cheap". Definitely something I want to try out and refer to our media coordinator if it proves itself useful. Update: this site is AWESOME and there's no way my tech junkie husband won't be living on it very soon. SUPER DEALS on hardware and accessories!

2. Voicethread: create a presentation and talk with it. Other people can log in, view the pictures and record information in their own voice. Pretty cool for interactive dialogue, especially if you're looking for primary source information from people who lived during a historical period, have experienced a historic event, or even have a specific medical condition. It's neat how voicethread can be used to promote correspondence online. I like it, but I'm unsure of our equipment status in terms of microphones, headphones and such.

**Side note: If you've ever used the animoto application, I just found out there is a free pass they offer to educators. www.animoto.com/education I used animoto during my last observation and my students loved how it worked, but had some complaints that the limit on the free version is 30 seconds of video. Now that I know there's an educator's pass, I won't ever have to hear that complaint again. I've already applied for mine, and the email I received said the process could take 1-2 weeks, but that access is worth the wait.

3. Word Clouds: I already get a daily tagxedo because I follow it on facebook. We just downloaded a file that has 43 unique ways to use word clouds, specifically wordle. As part of the presentation I was redirected on my own to a cool presentation on slideshare about power writing. Until now I had not heard of this concept, but I think it would be useful in my Writing Seminar course. Power Writing for Fluency

4. Autosummary tool in Microsoft Word. First off, let me just say that I had NO idea how many options are available in Word. In the access key in 2007, at the bottom there's a button called Word Options, and holy cow there are SO many!! What's even better for my teacher friends is the website where we grabbed text to summarize: www.americanrhetoric.com. This site offers full text, video and mp3 of famous speeches and has other tools. How cool is that?! I can't wait to look around more on the site and maybe find some speeches by writers we study in American Literature.

No creamer for the coffee...ick! Spent the 15 minutes texting and checking facebook. Hey, everyone needs a mental break, right? Side note: again, I'm concerned about getting through everything, we're on block number 4 of 13...

5. Online note taking: http://bubbl.us is a pretty neat tool for creating digital bubble maps in a real-time brainstorming session. Not sure how I feel about using it on the fly, definitely need some time to learn how to manipulate it and use the command keys correctly. Maps could be created in advance to demonstrate how ideas fit together, too. Someone just suggested that it could be used to show the connections between/among characters or to describe characters, and I love that idea! Maybe during lunch I can play around with it and try to create a map that links the characters in The Great Gatsby, which is what I'm teaching next :)

6. File Conversion platform: www.formatoz.com
In a class where lots of audio/video are used, this would be handy for embedding files in powerpoint or converting sound files no matter who/what created them. Note: a discussion has popped up about itunes files, so the jury is still out on whether they can be converted. But if you found a video/audio file somewhere such as youtube, it would most likely convert to whatever format you need.

**Break** Another round of the $100,000 pyramid game on powerpoint.

7. Homework websites: We didn't actually click through these, but I want to list them here:




8. Google is our friend :) The advance search functions accessed from the web are cool; I can locate powerpoint presentations much quicker by selecting the file format prior to searching. This would be helpful to me as well when I'm looking for new research and only want pdf files to read. At this juncture I also acquired a teachertube account.

9. Hey math teacher friends, have you seen this site? National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

**Break for Lunch**
I will open a new post for the afternoon session. Enjoy checking out these resources :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Digital Marzano: My 1st Attempt at LiveBlogging, Evening Session

Many of my teacher friends will immediately recognize the name Marzano. And I know that if any of my coworkers are reading this they are probably breaking out in hives at the mere mention of his name. I am spending tonight (Friday) and a bulk of the day tomorrow (Saturday) at a conference on Digital Marzano. Why, you ask, would I subject myself to such a thing after the many hours we have spent at my school in staff development studying, reviewing, relearning Marzano?

If I really like one aspect of teaching above others, it's watching kids learn how to use technology in the classroom. I say how, I mean that literally. Because I teach in a rural area, some of my students do not have access to the internet, or even a computer, at home. Our staff has worked really hard on raising money to increase that access at school, and I'm taking full advantage of it :) So I'm at this workshop to hopefully get some new strategies and tools to take back to school and use in my classroom and share with my colleagues.

I'm attempting to live-blog this evening session so I can remember what goes on for when I (hopefully) get to share back at work.

1. Moodle: I've already advocated for it at work, because it's so user friendly once you get it set up right. I think it's the best platform for course management online, and it's free! Teacher Academy is using it, and lots of Universities are using it, so why aren't we? http://online.teacheracademy.org --> Digital Marzano Drive In Fall 2010 --> login as guest --> avatar, enroll me in the course

2. 9 Strategies Shuffle: an interactive word document. Can't WAIT to see my colleagues try to match them up. I only got the first 4 right, and there are definitely 9.

3. Dropbox: I think I like this idea, a free space online to store files. No more shuffling flash drives for students!! I will definitely want to experiment with this platform for storing files online for collaborative planning, storing lesson plans and other artifacts for teacher evaluation. Then, once I feel like I have a grip on it, I'll want to try and use it with students, too. www.dropbox.com

Update: The instructor has asked that we write notes in a word document. Is that really necessary? I don't think I need to be coached on note-taking, or encouraged to do so. Sigh. I'm live-blogging it instead for my own "running record" (teacher funny!!).

4. Wiki for all these resources: http://strategiesthatwork.pbworks.com
I really like pbworks for use with my honors students, but I'm afraid that echalk is going to fulfill that function for us in the district (and probably go mandatory at some point anyway). So frustrating to get kids working on a platform and then see it go away like that, so I may hold off on using the tool itself, but definitely tucking this url away so my colleagues can access it. This wiki specifically is rich in resources, so I'm looking forward to browsing it when I'm working on lesson plans.

Timed using www.online-stopwatch.com
Playing a game that resembles the old $100,000 pyramid show hosted by Dick Clark with the categories and the clues. They constructed powerpoint slides that had the clues so students would stand facing opposite directions and one would give the clues and the other would guess the words. Love it! I'm also checking Gametracker now for the UNC score...yikes. Carolina isn't nearly as far ahead as they should be! Come on, Heels!!

Back to Business:

5. Cute idea for elementary schools: digital books that are illustrated and narrated by students. This example: kindergartners wrote a book about robins using powerpoint and rehearsed narration. I like it! Could my students publish their Gothic stories in this format? Side note: I need a diet dr pepper in the worst kind of way right now...

6. Downloading Avery templates (free!) to create manipulatives and interactive Word documents. www.avery.com/wizard
You can also view and use templates in the mailing options in Microsoft Word. I'm not sure how many of them are the same or different, I'll have to check it out when I have time.

**Side tangent about movies: moviemaker vs. photostory. My 2 cents: I think photostory is easier to use than moviemaker, and more difficult than animoto, so I think with a combination of the 3 applications there's something for each student in any ability level.

7. Searching for images: http://images.google.com
Some images (when teachers or students create powerpoint presentations) can appear pixelated or grainy if they aren't the right size. Beware of saving thumbnails as opposed to full images!
An awesome archive within google images: http://images.google.com/hosted/life I found some amazing portraits of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his family for my upcoming unit on The Great Gatsby. I also found this discussion of the book online.

Side note: it's 8:28, we are dismissed at 9, and we have only covered one Marzano strategy out of 9. Needless to say, I'm a little worried...

8. Taking powerpoint to the next level: recording audio with your awesome images. In the latest version of powerpoint, go to the Slideshow menu and select Record Narration. I tried this for myself and I certainly do not have a radio voice.

Wrapping up for the night. I think the session has been helpful, but I'm wary of covering all the content by the end of the session tomorrow at 3.

Keep Moving Forward

One of my favorite animated movies is Meet the Robinsons, produced by Disney. It's the story of two orphaned kids and time travel and all kinds of awesomeness. And it has the T-Rex who says "I have a big head and little arms, and I'm not sure this plan was well thought out". It never fails to make me smile and laugh. That isn't, however, the point of my referencing the film. At the very end, there is a quote by Walt Disney that reads "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We're always exploring and experimenting."

Keep Moving Forward.

It would be an understatement to say that I have had my fair share of personal struggles here recently. It would also be unfair to imply that I'm a victim and no one helped me. In fact, I have received a tremendous amount of support from people I love, and from some awesome coworkers. Here, I'm resolving to keep moving forward. There's no point in brooding or rehashing the situations I've been in lately. They are what they are, and as far as I'm concerned they are in the past. If I have learned one thing from these experiences, it is that we cannot change people unless they are willing to hear us. We can have lots of great ideas about things, and even have knowledge that could change the world but if no one is willing to hear, then that information doesn't have a chance at surviving beyond our lips. But that won't keep me from speaking up, and speaking loudly. I want to keep moving forward, because losing faith and losing hope is not an option.
Keep Moving Forward.

I don't want to sound defeated. In fact, I would say that the things I've been through in the last month have served to motivate me. I'm going to keep talking about the issues that matter to me and to those whom I love. I want to keep promoting awareness about injustice and inequality. The movement I want to be a part of is about love. Love conquers hate. Love endures forever. Love can change the world.

Isn't that a message everyone needs to hear? Who isn't impacted by love? Who doesn't deserve to love and be loved? Aren't so many of our teenagers today directly affected by a lack of love and affection? I know I tend to contradict myself the longer I write, but I'm trying to strike a balance that shows how love can impact the world without sounding trite or sappy. I have been rescued from a very dark place more than once because of the love I was shown and the support I was given. I was loved (and am loved) without judgment. That's the kind of love every person deserves, and I'm not talking about tossing those words around as a disclaimer for when you're about to let someone have it. "I love you, but...." doesn't cut it. That's a cop out. I'm not saying we can't agree to disagree, but don't denigrate the power of love by tossing that word around. I certainly don't and am insulted when people do.

Keep Moving Forward.

We can agree to disagree; that's the beauty of being people capable of intelligent thought. What we have to do, however, is have a little understanding. Compromise is key to making the world a more decent place for all people. When that happens, it is then that we have truly moved forward.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo and a Rant

So I've taken the plunge and am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I got out of the gate pretty strong on November 1. But, I haven't written since. My story has stalled, and I'm only in the exposition! I'm frustrated.

In fact, I think frustrated sums up the day. My workplace is really tense right now (and has been for a couple of weeks). I don't know what's going on, and I don't think I want to know. What I am aware of is the constant pressure that I'm being watched and evaluated on the way I do everything, including breathe :( What's so sad is that breathing is all I want to do...

Sigh. The lack of logic befuddles me. Today was a tough day, and this is where I'm channeling my energy. I think I'm even more frustrated because the good days are becoming the minority, and I don't want to become disenchanted with teaching. I don't want to be one of those rookies who gets burned out and can't go the distance and make it past 5 years. But then again, I can't come home exhausted everyday from worry and anxiety. I can't cultivate healthy relationships with those feelings bottled up everyday. I cannot go to work crying in the mornings because I may be just a little late.

I'm tense. I'm afraid we are about to have something of a witch hunt on our hands and it isn't going to be pretty. And I don't want any part of it.

And I've gotten away from my original topic: NaNoWriMo. At any rate, I'm giving it my best shot, both with writing a novel and getting through each school day. Let's hope that I'm successful with at least one of them.