menu   Home About Me TpT Shop Professional Development Travels  

Quick Thought Thursday: To Do What We Love

As long as I can remember, I have loved being outside.  I love to hike, bike, climb, walk along waterways, and simply be out in the fresh air, especially where there is an incredible view.  This week, as I have caught myself more and more complaining about my aging self and my aches and pains as I am reaching mid-age.  Then I read about a teacher who was the victim of a hit and run, leaving her without a leg, and I was immediately touched.


There were just so many things about her story that hit home for me.  For one, she is a teacher who seems so incredibly passionate about teaching.  And then there is the fact that she loves to be active.  It broke my heart thinking she may not be able to do those things she loves.

Immediately, I donated and then I jumped in with others to donate products for a fundraiser to help her.  But that just isn't enough.  It isn't enough because I still see the funds she needs versus what has been donated.  So, here I plead with you to donate.  Just do what you can to help her.  It doesn't have to be much, but know that anything would be significant.

I just can't imagine not being able to do what I love.  And I can't imagine that for anyone else either.

Here is the link to the GoFundMe Page where you can read her story and learn more about the situation.  If you read, you will donate!  I just know you will!  ;)

Happy Donating!

Teachers are Superheroes: Super Secondary Celebrates YOU!

We got together and collaborated for a TpT sale. Make your wish lists and empty your carts for this ONE DAY super sale on February 25th. Most stores are discounted up to 20% off. Don't forget to use the promo code: HEROES. Enjoy! 

Danielle Knight (Study All Knight)
The Classroom Sparrow
My Store! > Michele Luck's Social Studies
Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy
Mad Science Lessons
Juggling ELA
Krystal Mills - Lessons From The Middle
Teaching High School Math
To the square inch- Kate Bing Coners
Charlene Tess
Pamela Kranz
The Creative Classroom
Kristin Lee
Mrs. Brosseau's Binder
James Whitaker's SophistThoughts
Darlene Anne
ELA Everyday
Lessons With Coffee
Teaching FSL
Room 213
MissMathDork
Lindsay Perro
Liz's Lessons
21st Century Math Projects
The SuperHERO Teacher
Science Stuff
Kate's Classroom Cafe
A Space to Create
Addie Williams
Created by MrHughes
Leah Cleary
Secondary Solutions
All Things Algebra
Tracee Orman
4mulaFun
Live Love Math
Ruth S.
2 Peas and a Dog
FisherReyna Education
Rachel Friedrich
Linda Jennifer
For the Love of Teaching Math
The Career Ready Teacher
Connie

Monday Mapping: Teaching Truth & Emotion

For almost a decade, I taught in a Social Studies Department where war was nothing more than a series of battles fought in an open battlefield, and where the costs were only monetary in the eyes of the instructors.  My primary source-based lessons on war became an on-going joke to them, with my "touchy-feely" teaching something they considered ignorant and unfathomable. 

Still, I continued to teach what I felt was best, and with my interactive and experiential lessons, my students walked away, not only knowledgeable about historic events, but also about empathy, respect, and appreciation for the sacrifices made by all citizens throughout time.

Over time, the shift has come more in my direction in most History Departments with teachers addressing the history as opposed to the sugar-coated textbook descriptions of our past, but with the move toward common assessments, and common instruction, will that trend continue?

Yes - if History teachers are insistent that they know what is best for their students in their classrooms.  In an era where difference must be accepted to avoid chaos and conflict in our modern world, it is even more important that students see the reality in the past so they can better see the reality in their present.

So, teach with reality written into your lessons.  Here are a few tools to help you get started:
  • National Geographic publishes incredible articles that show the real world with its beauty and its imperfections.  This article on Healing Soldiers through the use of Art, Revealing the Trauma of War, includes personal stories, and incredible images to help students better understand the costs of war. Here are other great sites with first hand accounts of war:
  • Many sites offer recorded interviews to document recent historyPBS has a number of collections, documenting everything from penny auctions and the dustbowl of the Great Depression to differing views on race with a step inside the KKK in their American Experience Collection.
  • Another incredible website is My Immigration Story which shares modern and historic accounts of the immigration experience.  The site encourages readers to share their story to help document all perspectives on coming to America.
  • And one of my favorite websites for real history is the Library of Congress.  The collections provides everything from letters to pictures to sound recordings that help tell the American story from the perspectives of everyday Americans.
  • Finally, check out your state Historical Society or Museum.  The Kentucky Historical Society has incredible personal history resources in a number of collections available online and very user friendly for students and teachers.  One of my favorite sections of the collection is this very complete account of the Civil Rights Movement in the state.
Teaching all sides of history and allowing our students to face reality can be a tough task in today's classrooms where everything else seems to be the priority, but it is doable with the right resources.  Find those resources, and do what you know will be best for your kids in the long run.

Need a jump start on interactive lessons that teach real history?  Visit My TpT Store for quality resources or simply for ideas that may spark your own lesson creation!

Happy Teaching!

Quick Thought Thursday: American Sniper Through a Student's Eyes

As a high school teacher that often watched those snotty, little freshmen grow into young men enthusiastic about joining the service to fight the bad guys (especially after 9/11), I was always concerned with making sure my students understood what that would mean for them beyond the glamorous view often depicted in American movies.


With the movie, American Sniper, still making millions at the box office and the thoughts shared in this USA Today post, it brings concern to me once again, hoping that our young men do not only see the excitement around the movie, but also see the reality that can hold so many side effects for our soldiers.

My step-father and uncle dropped out of high school at 17 years old to join up to fight in Vietnam.  While my uncle came back able to talk about his experiences, my step-dad was a different story.  His legs shook non-stop, his nightmares awoke the whole house, and his personality was darkened, all as a result of his horrific experiences.  The only information that was ever shared was that he had to do unspeakable things, and while he was never diagnosed, he was your typical definition of PTSD. 

Do our young men see this possibility when they watch the Hollywood versions of war?  Or do their minds even allow them to see reality, when they are so mesmerized by the ideas of glory and glam? 

In no way am I suggesting our young men should not go to serve.  I joined the Air Force in 1988, and my husband served in the Persian Gulf War on a Navy ship in the Gulf.  More importantly, many young men need direction and structure that the military can provide like no other institution.

Still, war should be one of those controversial topics discussed in our classes.  Invite in the Vietnam vets to tell all sides of the story.  Read excerpts from the books and letters from the soldiers who have shared their glory and their anguish.  And allow your kids (yes, they are still kids in high school) to realize that serving in the military is an awakening.  They will see things and do things not seen or done by civilians, and it will have a lasting effect on them.

In the end, students need to be aware of the risks, as well as the benefits.  Make sure they know there is a difference.

Happy Thinking!

Tuesday Travels: There's More Than Rain, Rain, Rain

When we headed to Seattle last spring, we had been traveling through rain, rain, and more rain along the Oregon Coast for what seemed like weeks.  Ironically, Seattle is known as the city of rain, yet I looked so forward to our destination, and I hoped I would be able to return to my teen years just for those few weeks as we closed in on the Puget Sound.  (See my earlier post asking Can You Go Home Again?)

Our visit to the home of the Seahawks turned out to be a mixed bag of old and new for me.  With our first week being spent on Ft. Lewis (now joint base Lewis-McCord), I was able to retrace my earlier steps, skating at my old stomping ground and hunting down the places that had emotional connections for me.  And then we moved onward to another extreme, far from the business of the city and just below the beautiful snow-capped mountains.



During our stay, we drove into Seattle for a downtown experience, spent a few days driving through and visiting remote little towns, and met up with a group of amazing ladies I'd only known online previously.  Each experience created a lasting memory, but my lunch in Snohomish with the three lovely ladies brought me great friends that I hope I never lose touch with from this point forward!  (Love you Adria Williams, Shelley Rolston, and Rachel Lynnette!)


Now, I must admit that we did see a few cloudy days while visiting one of my favorite cities, but Seattle gets a bad reputation for its wet nature.  It is actually a beautiful city with an incredible skyline and amazing sites.  From Mt. Rainier in the South to the Puget Sound to the countryside just north, there are lovely visions to be seen rain or shine.


My recommendations for anyone else going to visit this beautiful piece of our nation?  There are many!
  • Take a walk downtown, making sure to stop and watch all of the action at the great Seattle Pike Place Fish Market.
  • If you like heights, make a stop at the high and spiky Space Needle that towers from the city skyline.
  • Visit the Zoo at Pt. Defiance Park in Tacoma where you can see animals on one side of the peninsula and beautiful boats in the inlet along the other.
  • Take a drive into the countryside to visit quaint little towns like Snohomish where you can find awesome restaurants, original artwork, and antiques galore.
  • Drive South the to Marina in Olympia (or any of the many marinas) where you can see every size of sailboat with beautiful sails blowing in the wind.
  • Hike up Mt. Rainier where you can travel through evergreen trees up into the clouds on this magnificent mountain.
No matter what you do, don't let a little rain scare you away from this wonderful place.  All else fails, you can always go see the Seattle Seahawks.  After all, they have a stadium that's a site to see all by itself!

Happy Travels!


Monday Mapping: Cause and Effect in the History Classroom

Students often see historic occurrences as isolated events in time, not understanding that one causes the other and that one causes the next.  In both my World and U.S. History courses in mid February, I would be in the early 20th Century, discussing the World Wars and the changes that occurred in the decade between.  While the time period lends itself to be taught as WWI, the Between the Wars Period, and WWII, it's best if students can understand all as a chain of inter-related events that brought us into the modern world, with national alliances and global conflicts that lead us straight to modern day.

While Cause and Effect are part of the CC State Standards, it is often only taught within individual units, and the Big Picture connection is left out of neglected altogether.  This method leaves students seeing this lack of cohesion, eventually learning that history is nothing but unconnected topics over time.

And teaching Cause and Effect is not the incredible challenge it seems at first glance.  And unlike many other academic routines, it can be started at any point in the school year.  Here are just a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Create a Build-Upon Timeline that students keep in their notebook and update with each unit, summarizing after each with the major causes and effects that lead from one era to the next.
  2. Add a Graphic Organizer between unit notes to connect the dots, including significant changes that lead one time period into the next.
  3. Transition into each new unit with a Flashback into the previous unit, pulling the themes together as you move from period to period.
  4. Assign Transition Essays where students conclude each unit with a culminating essay that addresses the major changes of the period and the impact they may have on the future.
Once the task is started in your classes, it can become routine with each unit, providing a concise summary of the major periods in history and their impacts upon one another.  More importantly, your students will learn the significance of Cause and Effect and have a better sense of how to be proactive in their futures.

What will you be teaching these next few weeks?  Here are my regular units for this time period:
Happy Teaching!

February Funnies: I Miss Those Kids

Teaching at the high school level is like living on a different planet.  They are "out of this world" with their ideas, their actions, and their defiance.  And I loved them for it!  They kept me young, and they allowed me the outlet I often needed from excessive paperwork, overbearing administrators, and never-ending legislation on what I was to be doing in my classroom.  But most importantly, I loved them for reminding me that we are all human, and we screw up... even when we think we've crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is!


As the sponsor of our school yearbook, I was challenged with creating lessons with no resources, working with an obscene deadline, and putting together a marvelous book of memories on zero funds.  So, what do you do... fundraisers.  Oh, Lord!

We sold ads, we washed cars (even Semi-trucks), and we passed out Bingo cards.  But the Scholar T-Shirts... Oh, they were our biggest fundraiser EVER!

Our principal was one of those that had a kind heart, but she was simply unprepared to do the job she was in.  To make matters worse, she could not remember student's names.  To counter this deficit, she decided to make the word SCHOLARS the "go to" term for our school.  We heard it every morning on the announcements, saw it on all the posters, and read it in the school newsletters.

To commemorate our year as her fine scholars, my yearbook staff decided to create T-shirts to sell to the student body: Proud to be a FCHS Scholar!  One problem...


When the shirts came back from the printer, we had a little problem: the h was gone and we were "Proud to be FCHS scolars!"  Oh, our principal flipped out!  She demanded we trash the t-shirts.  Now, I am usually a rules-follower, but we had invested too much in those shirts.  I couldn't just throw them away.  Yet we knew we could not sell them at the games as planned.  And that's when the underground movement began.

We were slicker than the bootleggers of the Roaring 20s!  The t-shirts, now deemed contraband, were sold out in a matter of days, and the demand for more was incredible.  What did I do?  I ordered more!  My classroom had shirts stuffed in every cabinet, and sales were conducted with a lookout standing in the hall.

All of those kids are grown and gone now.  They've finished their degrees, some have married, and some already have children of their own.  But, when I need to laugh, I just think about them sneaking through the halls with the forbidden shirts, and I have to giggle.  My scolars!  Oh, I loved those kids!

So, what did I learn from this situation as a teacher?  
NEVER trust a student to edit the final draft.
And SOMETIMES it's okay to leave out the h.  
It's better than ordering T-Shirts without the r, right?

Want to laugh your stress away?  Read all of the February Funnies from the Secondary Smorgasbord! sponsored by the ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures.
Secondary Smorgasbord February Funnies Linky

Happy Laughing!  





Quick Thought Thursday: The Title of Teacher!

If I had not been called to teaching as a career, I would have gone to Law School to eventually become a judge.  I am not shy at all about sharing my opinions, and being able to rule my opinion on cases would have been the ultimate high for me! 

Now that I've retired from the classroom, I sit home and watch Judge Judy rule on ignorance, and I am often wishing I could take over her robe upon her retirement so I could slay those fools that actually agree to the swatting they deserve on public television!


Today's show really caught my attention; it was a simple employment dispute, but the message shared by Judge Judy quickly shifted from the dispute to the State of Education in America

Watch this short clip HERE!

Finally, we hear from a public media source the value of a TEACHER.  While it is only on Judge Judy, it is about time that the title TEACHER is more understood to be someone who is trained in EDUCATION and knowledgeable about the skill of TEACHING

Bravo, Judge Judy!  I concur 100%.

Happy Thinking!

Tuesday Travels: Into the Pacific Northwest

Traveling from Northern California to the Oregon Coast last year was one of the most beautiful drives we have ever taken in our motorhome.  Over the multi-day trip, we went from beautiful countryside, along amazing winding rivers, and finally to the Pacific Coast.  Despite the beauty of the trip, Steve will swear this was one of the most challenging drives he's ever completed.
Our stop in Cave Junction, OR was just supposed to be an overnight stay, but turned into a 2-day adventure.  The quaint little campground was family run, and they were very helpful in providing us ideas for the cool spring day.  Their suggestions led us to a beautiful river we walked beside for hours, a handful or crafty gem stores, and a family thrift shop where we met and talked to a young girl confused about her academic future for well over 90 minutes.  While this was not a locations where the sites were over the top, the connections and conversations made it a stop to never forget.


Florence, Oregon was our next destination.  To get there, we drove south to the coast of California, and then back north up the Pacific Coast Highway.  This became Steve's greatest challenge as the winds off the ocean blew way up onto the road, requiring great focus and strength in keeping the coach in the lane.  Still, once the drive was over, we found that our destination was going to be another of those wonderful stops that would leave us happy for our choice to travel the west.


This little coastal city was a diamond in the rough.  From the rocks lined up along the coastal inlet to the little shops downtown, the touristy location was filled with memories to be made.  But before we could start making those memories, we stopped in for lunch at the Beachcomber Pub where we found incredible food and a touch of home: the UK Basketball team in action.


Unfortunately, our stay was not bright and cheery for long.  After the first few days, the rains came in and it rained and rained and rained... Well you get the idea.  It rained so much that we finally packed up early and headed back inland for a stay in Salem before heading onto Portland, our next scheduled stop.




Overall, Oregon was absolutely beautiful.  The coastline was one that would not serve well in southern California, but it was amazing for the adventurer in me!  Around every corner was something to be seen, and in every wave came a fresh new start to the beauty that was all around.

Happy Travels!

Monday Mapping: The Importance of Creativity

Not all students learn in the same way.  We've heard this over and over, yet we seldom here that not all students can present their knowledge in the same way, which is just as true.  Despite this fact, assessments have become more and more "common" and creative students have been pushed into the test-taking box.

In my Social Studies classroom, creativity was not only allowed, it was appreciated.  Every unit concluded with both a culminating project and a written test.  In addition, my tests were a mix of multiple choice, graphic organizers, mapping, and essay writing.  This gave all of my students a fighting chance to show what they actually knew!


More importantly, allowing my students to be creative in their assessments fostered their skills in developing quality products that shared information through their chosen creative outlet.  And that has definitely paid off!  My proof?  Here you go:
  • The young man that worked himself to perfection on my project assignments to produce masterpieces that not only showed the facts of historic topics, but shared the emotion of the events in a way no common assessment every could went on to graduate from Savannah College of Art & Design and now works on producing for MTV.
  • My sculptor that often brought me to tears with his depictions of the faceless in history is now a professional sculptor with his own store and online presense.
  • My quick witted essay writer who insisted on getting his opinion into every topic we addressed now writes for a University and has completed an internship at a news producer in New York City.
  • The young lady that had to share everything she knew through performance went on to work off Broadway in New York City where she has her hands in performances on every possible topic that rocks popular opinion.
  • My creative writer who explained the Middle Passage with great detail from the perspective of a mouse aboard a slave ship is now a professional writer for a reputable media outlet.
  • And the list could go on and on...
Students are not one size fits all in their learning, nor in their ability to show us what they know.  The state and national requirements that claim current testing methods are fair and non-biased are dreadfully wrong! 

So, if you are tenured and safe in your teaching position, do what's actually right for our kids!  Teach with creativity and assess the same.  Allow and encourage difference.  Spark what matters in your students' imagination and step back to watch what happens!

Here are just a few ideas!
And there are so many other options; Just ask your students!

Happy Teaching!

Quick Thought Thursday: Losing the Love of Learning

I am a lifetime learner.  I am one of "those" students who love to sit at the front of the class, and a great teacher can bring me to tears as I listen to the knowledge they are willing to share.  And I learn for the sake of learning, currently enrolled in a Graduate program, despite already having my RANK I, Master's Degree, and  a Post Masters Certification and Focus Area.  While I would love to add a Doctorate to the list, I haven't found that perfect program to get myself there.

So, what's the problem?


Yesterday I spent 30 minutes on the phone with one of my current professors over a simple logistics issue.  Since I travel full time, and I am not in my home state to perform school observations, as required in the course, I wanted to make sure it was acceptable to do them from my current location.  Instead of a simple yes or no, I was lectured about being enrolled in a course that I didn't plan to "use" and taking classes that served "no purpose" for me.  His words, not mine.

I argued that they were useful to me and did serve a purpose.  I love to learn for one, but I also like to stay up to date in my field.  How is this wrong?

What is even more frustrating is that this is NOT the first time I have heard this from a professor.  I encountered 2 professors last semester that could not understand why I would take classes if I did not intend to apply for the degree.  They both suggested that I was "wasting time and money."  Wow!

The message I, as the student of these professors, get is that learning is no longer valuable.  It's all in the piece of paper that follows the completion of assigned courses.  This saddens me.

I want to be one of those little old ladies that still waddles onto campus with my cane or walker, sitting in the front row, listening intently for the knowledge the professors have to share.  And these current professors won't deter me from that goal. 

Sadly, the generations behind me may get these current messages about education and will no longer have the same love of learning that I developed as a child.  So sad for our kids, and even more sad for our world.

Maybe my professors, and many others, need to read my book!  It may help them understand that learning is not about a degree, but more about a lifestyle!

Happy Thinking!


Tuesday Travels: On the Mountaintop

After working the California League of Schools Conference in Sacramento, we were both tired and ready to rest for a while, but we had no idea how much rest we could get at our next destination!


In getting directions together for our stay at Lake of the Springs Resort in Oregon House, CA, it appeared that the location was a bit remote.  That was an understatement.  While we were only about 35 minutes from Beale AFB and the commissary there, we were about 45 minutes away from any other civilization.  This reality forced us to shop well at the commissary, and we resigned to the fact that rest would be our focus for the two week stay.


Despite our first fear of having too much time on our hands, we were quite surprised by the amazing scenery and entertainment that met us at Lake of the Springs.  For one, the views were spectacular.  We woke up each morning in the clouds and had the privilege of watching the sun rise and the clouds drift out of the valley just outside our door.  And looking over the valley below us was so inspiring from the varied shaped trees to the amazing architecture of houses that sat on the cliffs.


All during the day, we were visited right at our campsite by a number of creatures!  The deer came to feed on the little berries growing in the trees around us, and they would spend the day feeding and grazing in the grass.  And from the row over, camping neighbors came to visit us as they walked each day, sharing ideas and recipes.  But the most interesting visitors were the ones who sat down at our picnic table and shared their lives with us, far more than we needed to know, and offered to share their medicinal supplies!  Uh, wow!  No, we don't!  But, thank you for offering!  OMG!  We finally felt like we were officially in California! 


And that was it!  Peace (offered through a number of outlets!), beauty, and rest with a mountaintop view for two weeks in Northern California!


Happy Travels!

Monday Mapping: A New Reading Guide with a Twist

Helping students get the most from reading texts is every teacher's goal, but often a great challenge.  There are a number of reading tools, graphic organizers, and anticipation guides out there, but it's important to find what will work best for your students.

My latest creation is a tool that I hope will not only help student organize their reading, but also encourage them to read more!  I want them to learn that reading can be all for the BRAGS...

As they learn the acronym, BRAGS, they can better retain and recall information they have collected from selected texts or on covered topics.  And it's simple to follow!
  • B is for BRAINSTORM!  
  • R is for READ!
  • A is for ANTICIPATE!
  • G is for the GRAPHIC ORGANIZER!
  • S is for SUMMARIZE!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/BRAGS-Graphic-Organizer-for-ANY-TOPIC-Brainstorm-Read-Anticipate-Graph-Sum-1665640
And for those who have Brag walls or hallways, these would be great to show what your students have learned on a topic or lesson.  More importantly, this tool can help students retain the information and recall it as they need it for assessments or future lessons.

Imagine this during a unit test:
Teacher: Why is your test blank on the causes of the Great Depression question?
Student: I can't remember it.
Teacher: Do you remember your BRAGS?
Student: Well, I know what I brainstormed.
Teacher:  Great!  Then imagine your BRAGS sheet in front of you.  Walk yourself from B to R to A to your G and then your S!  I know you can do it!  And then I can BRAG about your test score!  :)

But, keep in mind that each student is different!  Find the tool that works best for each, and have them available for your students.  Who says every student notebook needs to look identical?  What matters is what they learn and how they are able to use that information in the future!

See my SPRITE Social Studies Graphic Organizer for a more in-depth study of Social Studies topics!  FREE in my TpT Store!
Topic-Based SPRITE Organizers also available!  See them HERE!

Happy Teaching!