Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reforms -- Ready or Not

Today's New York Times shares a story about a tug of war between unions and politicians in Chicago. The issue? Longer school days. When the teacher's union failed to approve a longer school day, politicians took the issue directly to schools, offering teachers a 2% bonus if they agreed. In a surprising move, many teachers and schools agreed, even over the objections of their union leaders. The union is pursuing the issue before the labor board, but it is far from resolved. Clearly, public sentiment nationwide dictates that unions provide more visible reforms on their own lest politicians and legislatures try to override the process. Educators can no longer sit back and teach, but we must continually reflect upon our teaching and the educational process to make sure we are doing all we can to help our students succeed. Doing anything less means that others will make those decisions for us.

Here's the article that I'm talking about:
The New York Times

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9/11

For me, the events of 9/11 became a catalyst that changed my thinking about the world we live in. 

While living in South Jersey, removed from direct contact with the events of the day, I nonetheless was shocked to see them unfold on tv. I was incredulous--could this really be happening in my country, a bastion of safety and security?  My fear erupted, and I scrambled to gather my children from their schools, uniting my family so that we could escape if necessary. While I made every effort to reassure my children that everything would be ok, I struggled to remain composed. I was shocked, scared, and confused. My husband and I could do nothing but continually watch the news coverage, exacerbating our fears.

As time wore on, and American patriots responded to the distress of our fellow countrymen, I became energized with the unity of our American spirit, the ability to persevere even in the face of ultimate despair. I saw local first responders renew their dedication to service, and I saw neighbors step up to provide the necessary support to heal our fellow citizenry. Yes, we were still afraid of unknown threats, but we were united in our healing process.

It has been a long, arduous journey for Americans, and many of us still bear the scars from that fateful day. Yet it has proven to me that the resiliency of the American spirit lies within us all. We can overcome the fear and hatred that threatened to destroy us, then and even now. I, for one, have determined that it is my duty to help combat the ignorance that leads to divisiveness. I have taken it upon myself to educate my own children about the need for tolerance and acceptance, even when others' ideas are in conflict with my own. 

As an educator, I work to build pathways to bridge the divides that separate us. I work to help my students resolve their differences, even when our ideological foundations appear to be threatened. I celebrate the uniqueness of each of my students and celebrate our respective cultures. Most of all, I celebrate the fact that I am an American. I am proud of my fellow countrymen, and I know that we share a bright future, even in the face of adversity. Together, we can achieve greatness! 

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's a 3D World

As our students become increasingly technologically proficient, it can be challenging, let alone costly, to design activities that incorporate this growing skill set. Thankfully, Google SketchUp offers a free package that easily allows students to turn a 2D image into a 3D visualization. Perhaps you are asking students to explore Frank Lloyd Wright and want them to design their own buildings, or maybe you want your 5th graders to bring their story's robot characters to life. Google Sketchup allows them to do it on both PC and Mac platforms for FREE.  

The link below takes you to the basic SketchUp site, but once you're there, be sure to click on the EDUCATION link for info. about using it with your students.  

Let me know if you end up using it!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One Spot, Thousands of Resources

Did you ever wish you could have everything in one spot without having to search multiple sources to find what you need? Your wish has now come true, at least for federal educational resources. Put together in an easy to use series of links, free teaching resources from all federal agencies are now in one spot. Get primary source material from the Library of Congress. Get beloved childhood literature. Get access to videos from NASA. Find lesson plans and more!  It sounds like an ad, doesn't it? Thankfully, it won't cost you a penny more than the taxes you've already paid, so be sure to take advantage of it. You may be surprised at what's out there!

Here's a link to the site: Federal Resources for Educational Excellence

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bubble Up

I just came across a splendid tool that is free and easy to learn. allows students and teachers to brainstorm, establish hierarchal webs, and much more. It's simplified format makes it great for students to use, yet the text buttons can be customized to fit a variety of tasks. Plus, it's easy to embed in your website or other documents. Sounds like an ad, doesn't it? Really, I'm just enthused about how I'll use it in my classroom. I'm thinking that plot sequencing and web diagrams are perfect applications. Let me know what you're doing with it!

Here's the link to

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Giving the Gifted an Education

With state budgets under fire and no quick recovery in sight, programs are being slashed at a rapid rate. Sadly, as The New York Times recently reported, gifted education programs are at the forefront of the chopping block. Some argue that the gifted students will do just fine, even if they are not offered specialized programs. After all, these are students who already manage to do well in regular classes, and they are certainly achieving on standardized tests. Yet if we are to respond to President Obama's Sputnik challenge, we clearly need to develop the inherent creativity of our brightest students, preparing them to respond to the unknown challenges of the future. Even Howard Gardner, in his recent book Five Minds for the Future, notes that this mindset of creativity needs to be nurtured. Cutting the programs that challenge our gifted students to think outside the box and beyond the ordinary does everyone a disservice, yet it is a reality that educators must overcome.

So, what can be done? Certainly, keeping these gifted programs intact is a worthwhile venture. By challenging our intellectually gifted students, we keep them engaged in the learning process, and we avoid the classroom management issues that result from bored students. Moreover, we can prepare the innovators who will tackle the rough problems ahead. However, where programs no longer exist, it is up to the individual educator to make that difference for one's students. Thankfully, in an atmosphere where differentiated instruction is valued, the efforts to challenge each student at his or her own level have enormous benefits. Research has shown that what works for the gifted works for all. The key is to actually offer the challenges that stimulate academic growth and creative thinking. If we work to serve all our students with the necessary challenges for their growth, we help our best and brightest while still serving the academic needs of the majority of our students. We owe it to our future to give all our students the academic challenge they deserve. Let's give our students the gift of good education!

Here are links to Howard Gardner's book and The New York Times article that got me thinking.

Gifted Programs Go on Block as Schools Must Do With Less

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm Learning Like SpongeBob

I've always loved the SpongeBob cartoons! SpongeBob is one of those ineffable characters that means something different to each person. To me, SpongeBob is the ultimate learner. He is fully aware of his lack of knowledge, and yet that doesn't daunt him as he plunges forward to soak up the knowledge that others around him offer. He doesn't care that he doesn't know everything. It doesn't hold him back from trying new things, no matter how great the risk of failure. Throughout, he remains upbeat and kind to his friends, bringing them along for his intellectual forays.

Even when the going is tough, SpongeBob keeps on trying. I'm still not sure if SpongeBob ever got his driver's license, even though he must have taken the test over 15 times. Despite the frustration of his teacher, he still applied effort with enthusiasm. After all, if a goal is truly important, it's worth repeated efforts to accomplish it. Mastery is worth the effort!

I think SpongeBob is a great example that we all can emulate. We shouldn't be afraid to take on new educational risks, but should relax and enjoy the challenge before us. Like SpongeBob, we should soak in all the information around us, process it, and squeeze out the wonderful juice of knowledge. Look for the knowledge others have to offer. Read the attachments for presentations you were unable to attend. Follow up on the links that others share. There's a wealth of information for the taking, and your friends have already narrowed down the pool to the really worthy material. Take advantage of these gifts that are offered to you. Don't shrink from the challenge, but explore your world and your discipline with the childlike enthusiasm of SpongeBob. You'll swell up in no time!