Excuse me? Could You Repeat That? Bloopers

Two hours ago my daughter was to return home from college. It is now 11:30 p.m.

Imagine the shock we had when we got a call and she said, “The signs for Richmond have disappeared” and after she told us what mile marker they had just driven by, their location was close to Winchester. The driver had not seen the I-64 exit. We are going to rendevous somewhere here in the eastern part of the state, but who knows when that will be. Thus, I am at the computer cleaning out old files. I came across something I had saved from the Internet of church bulletin bloopers — classic examples of what happens when rules of composition are not followed. I was laughing so hard that my family had to come back to the home office to see if I had maybe, just possibly, finally “lost it.” I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

=>Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
=>The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
=>Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community.
=>Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.
=>Miss Charlene Mason sang “I will not pass this way again,” giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
=>Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
=>The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: “Break Forth Into Joy.”
=>Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
=>At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What Is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.
=>Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
=>Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
=>The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
=>Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.
=>The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
=>Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
=>The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
=>Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

Teacher Quotes to Ponder Over the Break

I had planned on the last post being my last for the holidays, but alas, it wasn’t.

I’ve noticed that the stress level of teachers recently has been rocketing to levels that I’ve never witnessed before. It must be due to a myriad of reasons–too long for here–but one common reason seems to be testing anxieties. Smiles, zeal, and passion seem to be changing to tension, stress, and anxiety. The once-heard, “I’ve got a great idea for a unit/lesson/theme/bulletin board” is now “I wonder how we can fit this in to testing review?” and so on. Are classrooms across the nation changing into the making of widgets?

A worrisome observation. I often wonder how I can encourage teachers who are overwhelmed and how to help them. I’ve tried contests on the blog for free lunch duty. I’ve posted scavenger hunts in the xerox room with the winner getting a free lunch duty. I’ve suggested morning Starbucks Sessions and having a mini-workshop on things non-tested. My colleagues even came in with an Espresso machine and free food. In spite of these, there can still be that deer-in-the-headlights look. When I suggest ideas, one of the common responses is, “I’m overwhelmed and too busy to fill-in-the-blank!!!!” It’s not that it’s ME, but the overwhelming stress and pressure. Oh, what can a TRT do to befriend a teacher?

As I was cleaning my filing cabinets in my cubicle this morning (all classes were in the cafeteria for a Christmas program), I came across a file of quotes I had collected for introductions for my speech writing. I took some time to read all of them, remembering why I had chosen them: they reminded me why teaching is the most honorable of professions. Yes, the pressure is out in the stratosphere, but you have a vital and important job. You are needed and appreciated. So, my friends, please take some time to read these and remember why you became an educator in the first place:

=>At a conference on education, a vote-conscious state senator boomed from the speaker’s platform, “Long live our teachers!” From the back of the hall came the query, “On what?” (Bennett Cerf)
=>If you study to remember, you will forget, but if you study to understand, you will remember (Anonymous)
=>A college degree and a teaching certificate define a person as a teacher, but it takes hard work and dedication to be one. (Paul McClure)
=>The pupil who is never required to do what he cannot do, never does what he can do. (John Stuart Mill)
=>The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without his teacher. (Elbert Hubbard)
=>Theories and goals of education don’t matter a whit if you don’t consider your students to be human beings. (Lou Ann Walker)
=>Great teachers empathize with kids, respect them, and believe that each one has something special that can be built upon. (Ann Lieberman)
=>A good teacher, like a good entertainer, first must hold his audience’s attention. Then he can teach his lesson. (Hendrik John Clarke)
=>Speak when you’re angry, and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. (Laurence J. Peter)
=>What we learn with pleasure we never forget. (Louis Mercier)
=>I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. (Charles Dickens)
=>One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen. (Phillip Wylie)
=>There are two kinds of teachers: The kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just give you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies. (Robert Frost)
=>I had a professor who started every class with, “So what are you excited about?” (James Hallmark)
=>Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. (Robert Frost)
=>I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. (Albert Schweitzer)
=>Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. (From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss)
=>The best index to a person’s character is how a person treats people who can’t do them any good or can’t fight back. (Abigail Van Buren)
…and finally…
=>Let the radiance of my enthusiasms envelop the poor courtyard and the bare classroom. Let my heart be a stronger column and my goodwill purer gold than the columns and gold of rich schools. (Gabriela Mistral)

I wish you the merriest of Christmases and time to rest. Blessings to all,
Brian

Merry Christmas to All!

christmaswreath.jpgSometimes we learn life’s lessons best through difficult times.

About four summers ago my wife and I came into some extra money (for those that don’t know what this means, it means that you have more money than you expected–SURPLUS–hard to comprehend, isn’t it??) and I thought it would be wise to start getting things repaired on the house. Although this seemed the logical decision, my heart wasn’t in it. My wife had quit her job as a first grade teacher to be a full time mom, and thus with income cut in half, that meant I would have to pick up summer jobs: summer school for nine summers. This particular summer I was writing curriculum, and even though my stress was reduced, I felt obligated to keep on top of all the repairs.

My heart wasn’t in it, and since I had worked so long for so many years , we had never taken a vacation as a family with the girls. After discussing my plan with my wife, we decided that it was more important to invest in time with the girls and not the house. As my mother used to say, you can’t take a U-Haul to heaven!

The vacation was what was needed to reduce stress. We took late night runs for ice cream, explored The Mall, watched people, and a sundry of other activities. Returning home, I still looked at an unrepaired house (did you know you can get duct tape that matches the color of the cabinets?), but also looked at children that I had invested my time and love. The lesson learned was yet to come.

For awhile that September, we had a category 5 hurricane approaching the Virginia coast, and we even had begun deciding what to pile in the trunk of the car and called family to see who we could stay with. The forecasters were even predicting that many buildings would be flattened.

One night I stood in the backyard looking at the house as I prepared for the hurricane, I thought: if I had spent all that money on repairs and not my family, it would have been for naught. What would my children have remembered? That the house was more important than they? That’s when I determined that investing in people was a treasure that would last forever. Teaching is an investment in the future, and we as teachers do this every day. Thus, what’s the point?

Take time this Christmas to be with those that need an encouragement and time. Recharge your batteries. Read a book. Watch five movies in one day. Watch the sunset with a friend. Put your watch in the drawer. Call somebody up that you haven’t talked to in a long time. WRITE a letter to an old friend. Buy somebody a gift AFTER Christmas for somebody that can’t return the favor. Listen instead of talking.

Enjoy your Christmas, and please take time to read a wonderful column that a great writer, Kerry Dougherty, from the Virginian Pilot, wrote. It’s well worth your time: Go.

Merry Christmas!

I had a Dream Last Night and What Does Have to Do With Test Scores?!?

OK–stay with me on this one:

Background information:
–My wife and I met each other in second grade (awwwwwww!).
–This summer we celebrated our 25th anniversary.
–I’m madly in love with my wife. She’s my best friend. My heart still pitter-patters when I walk in the front door (well, go through the front door) at the end of the day and I see her (Honestly!).

Last night I had a dream that I was walking through the mall, and my wife came towards me who was still in high school. She was still in the 1970’s and I was in 2007. As she approached me, I was shocked, as if I was on some TV show. My wife approached me and seemed to recognize me. In order to make a long conversation in this dream short, it went something like this with me saying:

“Hi!”

“Man, you look OLD! How are you doing?”

“It’s 2007! You and I got married in 1982!”

By this time, her eyes were popping open, not only from the shock of time passing, but marrying ME. She gasps, wheezes, and says, “Oh, no! Please tell me this is a nightmare!” I went on to tell her what the future would hold: all our parents would die before we had our first daughter; we’d lose five jobs in three years; we’d live in a reconverted gas station between two swamps, complete with a poisonous snake, black widow spiders, and rats; we’d work in Asia where our place would have rats and roaches so huge that you could saddle them up; we’d have multiple health scares, we’d move away from home because we couldn’t find jobs since she’d work at a day care and I’d sub for three years; we’d be financially destitute at times that we couldn’t even afford to buy school pictures of our daughters; and well, you get the picture.

I told her that we wouldn’t remember those horrible times as much as much as how we clung to each other. “The two of us will remember the good times and our love will grow stronger and stronger each year.”

She looked up at me (in the dream), and said, “How can so many hard times be so memorable?”

“Simply put, we learned from it and internalized what was important.”

Now, what does this have to do with testing?

I’m researching for my VSTE presentation in February, and I’m amazed how many great technology has made learning easier in the classroom. My biggest frustration comes, though, in how to get past the, “How is this (my research and ideas) ever going to help TEST
SCORES?”
What do students remember the most today: the content (metaphor: how my wife and I are happy in spite of crises), or the multiple choice: not means “get rid of three”, so I remember #20 back then was choice C!” (metaphor: my wife and I don’t remember what we had for supper in March in ’85 as well as how hard life was.) Will students remember taking the test, or the purpose of the lesson?

I think of one student who was taking Trigonometry at a local high school. This is not SOL tested, and thus the teacher was free to teach beyond multiple choice. The student, normally one who got 95% and above on tests, came home with a 65%. He/she panicked when the first test wasn’t in multiple choice: He/she had to WORK OUT THE PROBLEM without the comfort of “50/50” “Best answer” and so on. All students in the class panicked, not being able to take intelligent guesses.

I’m not sure how I’m going to address the Test Score Dilema, but one promising blog I found was Student 2.0. Students are able to post essays, and to be honest, they are quite good and causes one to THINK. Take a look and see what you think. Do students learn more, and score higher, when they are enjoying writing instead of being bored to death?

Also, I’m interested in your comments.

Wikis, Blogs, and now Mashups!

Microsoft.comA teacher in one of my buildings approached me one time and said, “Aren’t you working yourself out of a job?”

“That,” I said, “is similar to a mother saying that she’s finished housework and can take a rest.”

In the three years as a TRT, my list of things that I want to learn is building (I still am trying to learn Sony Vegas) weekly and I want to learn and teach them all. Some things I categoize under the Someday category, and there are things that come across my desk that are Wow–learn now! I recently learned about another category that goes on the list of more important things to learn and do (yes–I know: that list is HUGE).

What is a Mashup (besides sounding weird)? The term comes from hip-hop terminology of producing a new song by combing two or more songs. This term has been borrowed for a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool (thanks, Wiki). One example might be if I would put a Google Maps location on a website of Civil War battle sites that you can visit.

The distinictiveness of a Mashup is that you can act like an HTML programmer without having to be one. You now have a way of making a website or add a feature, like a mashup, to existing blogs or webpages. A Mashup is a web application that combines content, such as pictures and videos for research from more than one site. For the techies out there, a Mashup is sourced from another party via a public interface, or API.

However, if you’re like me, words will go in one ear and out the other unless I see one in action. At our department meeting on Friday, we were introduced to Microsoft Popfly, and everyone in that room was astounded and immediately hooked (a review can be found on C/Net News). After reading the aforementioned article, why not create an account and go in and discover what you can do? Website: Microsoft Popfly

A Prime Example of a Powerful Presentation–Avoiding Powerpoint Poisoning

VSTE logoWhile my mind and brain are at a holding pattern at 20 years of age, the lower part of my body is going on with life anyway, dealing with the reality of 49 years of life.

My brain thinks, “Yo, dude, we’re 20!” and my lower extremities think, “Yeah, right.”

I tend to ignore pain, and recently, while helping host a couple from France at the Archives and Collections at Colonial Williamsburg, I was having a “Wow!” moment seeing behind the scenes, not realizing that the searing pain in my knee was trying to send a signal to the brain (“Yo! I’m 20!”) that something was wrong. To get to the point of this diatribe, I was told by my doctor that I have arthritis in my knee (Knee to brain: “We’re in trouble down here! Note how swelled up I am!”) (brain to knee: “Shut up! I’m having too much fun! I’m 20!”).

So, the most comfortable spot to stop pain was, I found, to lean sideways on the office chair at home, prop my left knee on the third desk drawer that’s propped slightly open, being careful not to hit the drawer pull, and prop my right knee against the computer desk. Turn the chair sideways enough to face the monitor, and, voila, the pain disappears!

I spent my time exploring Classroom 2.0 looking for groups that might give me some pointers for my VSTE presentation in Roanoke in February (reaction: stomach tension, knees knocking, and subsequent pain), I came across [trumpet fanfare, please, complete with pipe organ] an eye-popping, head shaking, WOW, blog for how to present well, thanks to Nancy on one of our recent conversations regarding Movie Maker.

Please check it out! Your time will be well spent, and if you’re a presenter, it’ll make a difference!

Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? and the posting: Presenting about presenting by Scott Elias

Visit the White House–Sort Of…

whha_logo.gifFrom the White House websiteOne of my hobbies, or interests, is history of the White House. In fact, one of my dreams is to be able to see the upstairs of the White House and visit the Oval Office. What are the chances of this? Probably about as much as striking up a friendship with Zachary Levi (“Chuck”), or winning a zillion dollars, or being mistaken for Brad Pitt.

The biggest let-down of not winning Virginia Teacher of the Year was not because the folks in Richmond thought somebody else was better than I, but that was my last chance for getting my foot in the Rose Garden. So how else do I visit?

Have you heard of the website The White House Historical Association? This is a fabulous website to take students to if you want to learn the history/background of the President’s House, get lesson plans, teaching guides, etc.

Examples of things you can see:
=>Primary Document Activities: Go
=>Music Educator’s Kit: Go
=>Art Educator’s Guide: Go
=>Examples of lesson plans: Go

The White House official website has a fascinating page about life at the White House with virtual tours, historical photos, facts, art, and what happens at Christmas. For example, here’s a pdf of their booklet given out at the White House Christmas tours: White House tour book Check it out!

What Have They Done to My Blog?!?

I opened up my blog yesterday and noticed that EduBlogs took my favorite template! Aarrrgggghhhh! I was able to personalize it to my taste by uploading my pictures, and the theme is no more! I also liked this template with the way the tabs were arranged at the top, the fonts that were easy to read, and the overall look. Now I have to take what they have given me :-(. I also have a new laptop that has a few keys that tick (see! I couln”t get the “s” and “d” to work, so I had to BANG them to work!). However, I shall adjust to new things as I tell my staff to do, and smile through the process.

This has been good as I learned to let go of a comfort zone and adjust to something that I id (there it goes again…) didn’t want to do. Is this what some feel like with adjusting to technology trends? I’ve seen many adjust, even though they were scared, and grow tremendously.
Sigh…..one must practice what they preach!
UPDATE: Patience is a virtue: my old theme is back!

Give Reading Some Time!

clipart.peirceinternet.com/educ.htmlFeeback is GOOD. Teamwork is GOOD!

One of my Reading Specialists asked for some good links for Reading websites, and thus I appealed to our Language Arts guru, Ruth, for suggestions, and here are some of her favorites:

===>CyberGuides: Novel units: Go
===>Read/Write/Think: Supplements for the classroom: Go
===>Comics and Reading: Go
===>Game Goo: Learning That Sticks: Go
===>Resources for the Elementary School (U.K): Go

Do you have favorites you would like to share? Please send me the link in the comments section!