Wednesday, August 31, 2005

There're coming!

Tomorrow is the first day of school for students. AARGH!! I think I'm ready to start again. I'm actually looking forward to some aspects of the year ahead, and even got some good news regarding my class roster (can't be too specific here!)
Also found out that I've been accepted to the Administrative Services Credential program I applied to. That's good. I'll talk more about that later, though.
Alright, bring 'em on!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Meetings are fun!

Today was our first official day back at work. I’ve been back a few days on my own, setting up my classroom and kind of puttering around, but today was the first “real” day. We had our district convocation (ie: pep rally) and staff meetings. We even got some really good news, which I can’t go into right now.
Overall, today was good. I’m the History department “coach,” so it was my job to run our department meeting this afternoon. We went over some test score information, looked for some trends, and did some introspection as to the strengths and weaknesses of our program. We came up with some solid ideas as to how to address some of our shortcomings, gave ourselves a few pats on the back for our accomplishments, and basically mentally prepared for the year ahead. While we still have considerable work to do, I think we’re heading in the right direction. And though it might sound like it here, I’m not really talking about improvement in test scores. That’s certainly an issue, of course, but what we’re working toward here is student achievement. We’ve got kids who aren’t making it, and not just in History. Kids who are falling by the wayside, and we need to find a way to reach as many of them as possible, which we can only do if we actually put names to the test scores. I think we can do it, if we are willing to make the effort.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Almost time...

Kids come back to our school a week from tomorrow. Today was the first day I spent in my room. On the good side, my water fountain and faucet are finally fixed, after 4+ years out-of-order. Also, I have new glass for my window/sliding door, removing scratched tagging from who-knows-when. On the minus side, we were supposed to get new front doors... mine is one of three classrooms yet to be finished. Also on the minus side, this is a pilot year for texts, and I don't have the pilot materials yet.
On the whole, should be a pretty normal opening. I'm wondering, though, how many preps I'm going to have. Could be two, could be three. Might even be four (Lord, I hope not!). I should be able to find that out tomorrow.
This year we'll be starting "looping" with our Honors History classes. I had 8th grade last year, so it's not going to impact me very much, but I'm looking forward to it. I think spending a little extra time with the same kids will have a positive impact on their learning. And we can't forget: 8th graders take the History/Social Science Standards test covering grade 6-8 standards here in CA. I feel a lot better being the one who's teaching them 2/3 of the content they'll be tested on if I'm the teacher of record when the take the darn test.
This is going to be an interesting year, I think. I'm going back to school for a second master's degree, this one in school administration. I'm not sure that I want to do the principal thing, but neither do I see myself spending my entire career in the classroom. The Admin credential will open up some possibilities. But, regardless of how I plan to use it, going back means two nights a week, 4-9pm, in addition to my normal work load and family stuff. When I got my first masters we only had one kid. Now it's two (the older one is starting Kindergarten this year), not to mention I'm a little older. Oh, well. That's why there's coffee, right?

Update: It's three preps: 1 section of 8th grade US History, 3 7th grade World History, and 2 7th grade Honors World History. And the door should be done before kids arrive next Thursday.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Not too surprising, really.

I can't say that I thought the questions were all that good... I'm probably more centrist than the options allowed me to be, but it was kind of fun anyway.

Your Political Profile

Overall: 35% Conservative, 65% Liberal

Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Imagine the fieldtrip possibilities...

There's a company planning to build headstones with embedded flat-screen video monitors (read the story here). Apart from questions about who would approve the content (family/cemetary/nobody) that the "stones" would play, I think this would be awesome from a history student viewpoint. Walking through an old graveyard, looking at headstones from 100+ years ago imagining who the people named were, what they did, what they saw , gives me a feeling of being surrounded by history. If those headstones were more interactive, think of the things we could learn!
OK, maybe it's a little morbid, but I still think it would be really cool. Imagine if they had these during the Civil War... Gettysburg would be even better! Or how about Arlington? Normandy?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Video Games

Interesting story from the UK regarding the academic value of video games.
I'm not sure that GTA: San Andreas is going to be in the curriculum anytime soon, but I am willing to concede that the skills students apply to their mastery of video games can be applied to the world at large, much like skills learned in the armed services can be applied to civilian jobs.
I don't think, though, that we'll see US state governments spending money to investigate a skill set that is not represented on standardized tests anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ok, I think I'm ready now.

This post by Abigail on Social Studies made me think about a student I had a couple of years ago. She had a host of medical problems, the most severe of which resulted in frequent fainting spells (Long QT Syndrome, which is bascially a long pause in the heartbeat, resulting in drop in blood pressure and unconsciousness). I wound up carrying an ammonia capsule with me all the time in the event she "went down" in class (she did... twice in class, at least that many times on the school grounds, even during our district-wide disaster drill!) When she came to my class, I got a literal laundry list of medical concerns with this student, and couldn't help but wonder how I was going to handle having this fragile thing in my classroom.

I really had nothing to worry about.

True, she did have plenty of medical problems- wound up having at least two surgeries during the time she was in my class, one of which was to install a pace maker at the age of 14!- but she also had a real desire to learn and a stubborn streak a mile wide. (Here's an example: she tried to break out of the hospital so she could come to school on the last day of the year! )
This kid got something out of my class. She still calls and visits, considers history her favorite subject. I reached her, somehow. I even gave her a nickname she uses to this day.

When I get frustrated and burned-out, I think about her, hope she's not the only one I've helped, and I can go back to work.


This is a truly scary story. I don't know what I would have done in her place, but I doubt I would have returned to the school in the fall if that principal was still there. I understand that administrators need to be careful around parents, but this is beyond messed up!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Blog Dominoes

Man, this blogging thing is like making a row of dominoes... you read one, and it leads you to others. Pretty soon, you've got dozens of blogs to review every day, not to mention comments to read and make yourself. Then you've got to write your own entries, refer to the blogs you've read, and start the cycle all over again.
Anyway, I really like the Personal Contract idea on Steve Dembo's Teach 42 blog from yesterday. Every year our school makes goals. We write them up, turn them in, and usually forget about them. Not exactly a tool for reflection on our teaching/learning processes. Steve's contract is a combination of personal and professional goals (sort of a set of new school year resolutions) for the coming year. I hope that it works for him, and I hope that his administration plans on using the contracts in some constructive fashion.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Here goes!

OK, I've built the classroom blog, now it's time to put one together for my professional/personal amusement. I've been reading several teacher and educational technology blogs the last few weeks, along with David Warlick's Classroom Blogging: a teacher's guide to the Blogosphere, and it's pretty amazing what's out there in terms of teachers reaching out to one another. This is an awesome profession!
Now, about me: This year marks my 9th in the classroom, teaching 7th and 8th grade history. I have a masters in Educational Technology and am going back this year for my Administrative Services masters/credential. I'm married (8 years next May) to a wonderful, understanding, supportive-and of course beautiful!- woman, and we have two great sons (ages 2 and 5). My wife is also in the biz (elementary assistant principal), as are my sister, her husband, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. Family dinners can be interesting, especially for my non-teacher relatives!
So, what do I hope to accomplish with this blog? A couple of things, really. First, it's a place to vent some of the frustrations that go along with this profession. I don't want to turn this into a complaint forum, though. Instead, I hope that it's a place to find some solutions to the frustrations. Second, I want to build professional relationships with educators outside of my own district. While I enjoy working and socializing with my colleagues, I think it's worthwhile to expand my circle of resources as far as I possibly can. Third, and most important, I think it will be fun. And really, why do it if it's not going to be fun?
I hope you enjoy reading. Please comment early and often!