My Word of the Year 2016: Peace

Courtyard at the Ayers Mission Viejo

Reading through the #MondayMusings hashtag posts I ran across a blog post regarding a Word of the Year for 2016. The author, a blog friend of mine Corinne Rodrigues, was explaining her word of the year for last year and she offered a link to a worksheet for finding ones own Word of the Year. I thought it sounded cool and since New Years Day is fast approaching, I downloaded the worksheet pdf by Christine Kane and checked it out. I wrote out my responses in my journal and came up with my word of the year:

Peace

It is certainly something I have currently but want to be intentional inwardly about it in hopes of increasing the peace of others as well in the new year 2016. It will look like many things different from now but most are personal so I will choose to keep them off my online diary. Have you chosen your word of the year yet?

Parent Conferences Tip – Listen to Parents About Their Child


Every year about Thanksgiving time, the parent conference occurs. I’ve been scheduling and hosting them for 14 years. These can be fluid and helpful to both parent and teacher but without this tip, they can be useless. You can offer positive parenting tips You may think you know the student very well because you have seen them every day in class since August.

Face the reality however that the parent knows them much better than you. In most cases, they were there with the child at birth. If you have kids of your own, you know the significance of the parent/child relationship. Even if you don’t have kids you can recall your relationship with your own parents. Should a teacher assume to know as much about one of their 25-35 students? I say no. It can be tempting to want to give educational tips for parents but remember a balance.

In my school, there is usually only one mandated conference and then peppered parent/teacher meetings as needed. I have always thought there should be at least three mandated conferences throughout the year and I always try to meet with parents regularly throughout the year. Unfortunately, the business of our culture doesn’t always make that possible.

Anything you can get from the parents about the student is valuable. Unfortunately, sometimes parents get silent in conferences, here are a few ways to encourage parents to talk about their child. Once they start talking, be sure and take note and/or just listen. Note: Most the time, parents will be hesitant at first to share. They will be skeptical so explain hos information about a child can greatly help you as you teach them in the year.

  1. Give the parent a short questionnaire. Just like the doctor’s office, put in some harmless questions about things you want to know to better serve their child. You should send this home before the conference and ask them to bring it. That way it doesn’t take up valuable conference time.
  2. LISTEN. Many parents respect the teacher as a part of their lives. Some don’t and others are reserving judgement. Use this time to show them respect. Encourage them to talk about their child. Don’t bring up anything. Ask them to share everything they think of about their child. I personally am a very bad listener but I plan to “shut up” and hear the parent before my part of the conference begins. How long to listen? As much as possible.
  3. Thank them profusely for sharing. Even if they only share the minimum, this will convey mutual respect and vulnerability. Don’t be afraid of silence, give them time to answer.

Of course parent conferences should include many things including your feedback on a child’s progress toward goals. You should also give teaching tips for parents if they seem to be open to it. Give feedback but remember the child is comparatively new to you so be more of a listener. In the long term, your ability to teach the child will greatly increase when you listen to parents about their child. Here’s a sample questionnaire you can use or modify to suit your needs (docx) format: Conference Questionnaire

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Online Diary 12.21.2015

I wrapped 3 presentsHere I am at the end of the first Monday of Christmas break and it feels awesome. These are some of the things I’ve been seeing and doing in the time since I left work Friday. I wrote yesterday about how I wrapped 3 presents. My wife was a maniacal animal and she wrapped 28 at my last count. I can’t remember when there were so many gifts in the house. 

UntitledI make sure we always have fresh ground Starbucks coffee on hand. We were getting low so I just bought this new pack. My wife tells me she prefers the way I make coffee to buying it at Starbucks. That’s a huge and kind compliment. When I was 26 I worked as a barista while in grad school. I learned a lot about all the espresso drinks as well as the subtle secrets of brewing great coffee. We use a French Press and a Melitta pour through method usually.

UntitledLast night I ate sardines with cheddar cheese and Ritz crackers. Perrier is so good with snacks like this so I bought a 4 pack and I’ve almost drank all 4 in only 24 hours. Good drink I say! 0 carbs too.

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I’m spending a lot of time with my girls. Actually, they are playing and reading and drawing and I just watch in wonder. We’ve seen a couple movies together on Netflix and gone out a few times for some yummy fast food. I haven’t seen a whole lot of my 17 year old son since he’s working a lot but we did watch “Dumb and Dumber to” today before he ran off for work.

UntitledThis is a photo of some of my cord outside. I have been really enjoying making fires all day, into the evening.

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Here’s what it looks like burning. It heats up the house so well. Christmas break is going great and Monday has officially rocked!

#ROW80 Late Goals Post With Much Ambition

Hi #ROW80 folks. I’m checking in over a month late this round … I really hope to keep it up to the end though. Here are my goals for this round. The first hashtag represents the corresponding category on my blog. It may seem like a lot of stuff but I am actually in the habit of doing it already.

    1. #postaday A Daily Post or #NaBloPoMo writing prompt daily.
    2. #Journal tumblr paper & pen journal prompt daily.
    3. #Diary daily #Blog entry.
    4. #ROW80 Checkins Wed and Sun
    5. #Blog Mama Kat’s Weekly writing prompt.
    6. #SoCS Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt.
    7. #PhotoBlog #MySundayPhoto challenge.
    8. #PhotoBlog The Daily Post Weekly Photo challenge.

As you can see, I have my blogging laid out for me. I hope to visit a lot of your blogs and see how your doing. You support as well is much appreciated.

Photoblog Focus: More Fun, Less Text

These check in posts for #ROW80 are great for me because I can make a line to start something new. I’m going to try photoblogging with minimal text for a while and see where that goes.

I really enjoy Flickr and Instagram so I’ve rigged it to where those host the images I make photoblogs of on WordPress. I’m setting out to do 3/day. That will push me to take more photos.

Words aren’t dead just way less important to my posts. I feel like nobody has time to read blogs anyway.

Public schools gear up for new standards | standards, victorville, gear – Victorville Daily Press

“This is going to be my restaurant,” the fifth-grader said proudly, without breaking her focus. “All my tables are different shapes.”

Ulloa, who attends Eagle Ranch Elementary in Victorville, created detailed plans for a pizza restaurant, which was just one of many group assignments that she and her peers have been tasked with doing in their GATE class.

According to Eagle Ranch Principal Peter Livingston, the school has started to implement the Common Core State Standards, an instruction method designed to teach students to develop higher-level thinking skills, especially in English, language arts and math. Livingston said that group-work is one of the trademarks of the new Common Core standards.

via Public schools gear up for new standards | standards, victorville, gear – Victorville Daily Press.

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Discovering Type with Teens (Book Review)

If your school is like mine, you are struggling to keep classroom control at this stage in the year. We have just finished our state testing and the kids are thinking about Summer vacation every day. I am integrating Science more into the curriculum which is helping a lot. Weaving many different objectives into the day can help when the kids are “done” with their year, mentally anyway. We need a special ingredient to keep our lessons effective.

As with objectives and subject matter, psychological type is an important thing to weave into your plans. A new book just released, Discovering Type with Teens, is an amazing resource when looking into the different ways your students process information. Mollie Allen, Claire Hayman, and Kay Abella are the authors. They offer excelling assessment guides on learning exactly what “type” of kids you are teaching. Knowing this information can help through all parts of the year but certainly the last few weeks.

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Three Areas of Student Assessment – a modest proposal

1619_131794753693811_1561166653_nToday on my Facebook, I reposted (shared) this photo of Bruce Springsteen and his quote. One of my friends challenged me to share what I would do differently so I decided to blog three areas of student assessment I would recommend. These can be used in place of standardized assessments we have now or in addition to. They would give us a less restrictive measurement of success.

1) At the parent conference, create assessment goals. Students all have different gifts and needs. If parents and teachers get together, the best goals can be made for the child. It would probably be impractical to have individual assessments for everyone. At the same time, I think if we tried doing this, a set of assessment “types” would come into focus. Teachers could make a set of open-minded assessments to help a child grow. Part of this assessment should be to test a student’s understanding of real life jobs as they exist now (not 50 years ago).

2) Make music and the arts a requirement in school. I agree charter schools can do a good job at focusing on the arts shouldn’t all kids get that exposure? Forget what other countries do on their tests, we are trailblazers. Only we decide what we want our kids to be exposed to.

3) Academic assessments must be there. Teachers should have full access to the material the kids will be tested on and testing should be. I thought the standardized testing of the CDE was good for the past 15 years but it shouldn’t be the sole assessment. At the same time, this aspect cannot be ignored.

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The Written Behavior Log – A Win/Win/Win

20120817-141710.jpgProbably the best student behavior related advice I ever got as a new teacher was to “Write things down.” Keeping a written record of things students do is powerful when dealing with parents, the Principal, and when seeking to improve the school’s behavioral programs. It carries more weight than your simple “recollection” of events. If Johnny misbehaves, the parent and administration wants to know exactly how and when he did so. This can be a fancy three ring binder you create or just a lined sheet of paper on a clipboard. The only essential is that it must be written in regularly. It’s so important, I say it should be part of any sound classroom management.

3Is2Win 1: The parent. We live and teach in a time where the teacher/parent relationship is constantly being redefined. For one student, you are the “guide,” the “mentor.” This is of course the ideal situation we hope for with all our students. Unfortunately, there are other parents who can be hostile toward teachers. They can complain to no end and even enter the classroom sometimes to share their discontent about their child. These are the ones we must give our full attention. They may have a real concern but in other cases, they may just want someone to hear their complaints. In either case, you need to be a listener #1. Imagine if you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to be heard? What if your child was being bullied? On the other hand, what if your child were accused of bullying? I have seen upset parents calm down quite quickly simply because I didn’t react or reply, I only listened and gave active listening feedback. If something has happened with their child on the offending end, you will have a much better case if you have a written behavior log. You can examine your well reasoned points if you are lucky. Without a behavior log of the events their child was involved in, you don’t have a leg to stand on and they may try to assault your character, saying you have no proof or you make things up. Let me not here that the goal of a teacher should always be so find a positive solution with parents. We, in a real sense, work for them. We do not, however, have to be at the mercy of ones who seek to disparage us because we are allegedly disorganized or without proof.

With_SupesWin #2: Your Boss. The Principal will greatly appreciate your log as well. I think they have one of the hardest jobs in education. They field complaints all day as well as attempt to foster an ideal learning environment. When they get a phone call about a child in your class, you can get out your log and show your observations. Without the log, it is your word against the parent and that put the Principal in a very precarious situation. We all want the needs of the child to be met. The Behavior log can help us to that end, even if it documents what the child has done wrong. We can look at positive solutions. If you simply try to recall what has happened in class, you run the risk of being the problem! That’s right, a Principal may choose to see you as the problem even when the child has done wrong. The solution? Write it down as it happens. This can also be a great tool to pull out during a time of teacher evaluation.

IMG_0045Win #3: The School. The best reason to have a behavior log is to help constant improvement of the school’s behavior plan. You can bring that information to a school site council meeting (or other meeting) and make informed statements about what behavior problems are occurring. If multiple teachers see trends, it can be possible to brainstorm solutions. You can show statistics at parents meetings as well as any meetings that concern student behavior and safety. This benefits the school and the child as well as the family. Most schools in the 21st century recognize the value of those three entities.

To close, I encourage you to keep a behavior log in your classroom. It will foster your professionalism with parents and administration as well as benefit the school. Sounds like a win/win/win right?

Please leave a comment! This is a blog that thrives on other peoples’ opinions. Thank you in advance for commenting.

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Rethinking Your “Regular Stuff” in a Classroom

What good are the loftiest goals if you don’t have the nuts and bolts. In 4th grade, this means a solid and open instruction space and homework. These are two areas I have opened up lately and done a full rebuild with. When the everyday tasks are available on a daily basis in an accessible way, the teacher can explore into the depths. When they are clogged or neglected, those loftier goals might as well be unsaid because they will never happen. There is hope. Take the time to clear a better space to teach.

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Take the time to clear your workspace. Fill it with only that which you need to instruct.

Hemingway wrote about a clean, well lighted space. I’d change clean to ordered and apply it to teaching. The cluttered mind is far with worry and unreal expectations. Take the time to order your workspace. On my personal blog/online diary, I wrote recently about enjoying the regular road to achieve enlightenment (of sorts). This is also true of teaching. I know are all overwhelmed but I know from experience if you take the time to uproot and replant your regular stuff, like a teaching space and homework, new doors will open up and you will be a stronger teacher than you ever imagined.

What is the “regular stuff” of your classroom. Could it use some rethinking?

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Small Growth is Still Growth

Many of my students just got their reports cards and they included large growth in grades. A few on the other hand, had to see what they have been seeing for years up to now: flat growth or decline in scores. There is only one way to take this: they need to improve. I don’t tell parents of my kids that their children have to be the highest in the class. I just want them to improve. If there was a 2 in one area last trimester, we are looking for a 3 and so on.

The challenge to the high kids is to maintain their high grades. Having said that, the children with lower grades have nowhere to go but up. Small, incremental growth is still growth. When I ran in high school we called it “running your own race” and making a “personal best.”

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Focus on Three Things (or less) Today

tumblr_m8z4yltfxY1qiph2fo1_500If you are a high achiever who has 110 things on her/his to-do list today, this post may not be for you.  If you want to be a high achiever but get overwhelmed at times, this might be more suited to you. I was talking to a new friend, Justin, the other day through emails about how we can get over indulgent in work and actually be less effective.  That conversation made me think up a challenge post to my readers:  I want to tell you to focus on only three things today. You decide what they should be.  You’ll be tempted to focus on more, but limit yourself.

As a teacher, I tend to get bogged down in all the demands from the district and parents.  Sometimes, it can sap my energies.  The professional solution is to focus my energies with an almost tunnel vision on no more than 3 things.  I can still do other things, but my success for the day will be determined on whether I got those three things accomplished.  For example, tomorrow my 3 are: 1) Multiple meaning words, 2) Finalize my parent conferences calendar, and 3) Teach the final 2 math concepts we’ll be testing next week.  There are many other things I could/should be worried about, but these three are the most important.  I will name the day a success when these three things are done.

It is the regular attention to goals that makes me feel like a great teacher.  I wasn’t born great and I do not remain great just because of what I have done.  My puritan upbringing cringes at calling myself “great,” but I am simply referring to the data that says: I set goals and achieve them.  To me, for any occupation or endeavor in life, that is success.

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Diary Entry 7/7/2017 – I Love to Feel the Rain in the Summertime

A few cool things to share this morning, this:

My wife’s friend at work picked this us at a record store since my wife shared I was a big Alarm fan. I’m in awe!

And this …

Sarah and I went to the movies last night.

Oh and one other thing, I got called up to be on the panel Sunday on the LAMBcast. My good friend MovieROB is Leading because he won MOTM with Saving Private Ryan. I watched it yesterday while eating buffalo wings. I don’t mean any disrespect, but they were so good!

Life is good! I’ll be wise to not fly too high as it isn’t how high you jump but how straight you walk when you hit the ground again. An old church quote I picked up that has served me well.

Damien Scott

 

 

Power of Icon

Power of Icons in ClassroomKids get icons in their face every day on tv and the internet. My kids must see Spongebob in their sleep since their tv watching time seems to consist mostly of him. When they heard the song or see the icon on a fast food cup, they are dialed in waiting to take part. It’s trust built over time. Teachers have some of that power and we can use it to our advantage. Why not fill their heads with some different ones, with valuable meaning? On my desk I have a carved buffalo statue. My students walk by me every day and see it. I share with them the buffalo is a sign of gentle strength for me. Sometimes I will refer to him in my teaching, pointing out the characteristics that I admire. I even go so far as to name my student’s “Riley’s Buffaloes.” They know it’s my favorite animal, an icon is on my desk, and we identify with the buffalo by making him our mascot. In this way, I have an unwritten connection with my students. I have even developed a quick line drawing I put on the board and on their papers when I grade highly.

It’s the “stamp of Midas.” There is a power in icons visible and emphasized in class. I’ve even been looking for a buffalo puppet. I still remember icons on the wall of my childhood classrooms. One was a cat and dog together that read “Be Kind.” What a powerful icon that it stays with me even now at 45 years of age. Besides that, what a great message! That brings up my second point, to drive an icon home, you must have a worthy meaning assigned to it. As a student of linguistics in college I learned a lot about the sign and the signified. It could be a sports banner of your favorite team that gets kids to rally around your lesson. It could be a figurine or a poster. It really doesn’t matter as long as it has value to you. Kids will sense it and soak it up like a sponge. If you can tie the icon into your teaching you’ll find the power is quite noticeable, even at the beginning. The next time you are vacationing or at a sporting event, think about an acon you could add to your classroom to attach meaning to. The greatest meaning is a thirst for learning.

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