Archive for the ‘about me’ Category

Class Ten – Yay me!

On Professional Development Friday we talked about Best Practices. What are they? How do you recognize them? As we began to discuss these questions Peter (co-director of the program) pointed out that we were all talking about qualities of practices rather than specific practices. Then he laid out some things to think about when planning instruction:

    • Be intentional – know what you are teaching and why you are teaching it and why you are teaching it that way
    • CREATE motivation
    • BE GUIDED by assessment
    • CUSTOMIZE to meet needs
    • INVITE meaningful Applications
      • (context of real world, of their world)
    • ENGAGE in rich (meaningful) text
      • (Broad definition of ‘text’)
    • PROVIDE sufficient time and space

All of these things speak to me, the ones that grab my attention most is “create motivation”, “Invite meaningful Applications”, and “Engage in rich text”. Without motivation, you will get crappy work, or at least work that has been done to the barest minimum and will have NO IMPACT on the students’ LEARNING! Which is the whole point, right? Meaningful Applications with rich texts. This will create Motivation. If kids aren’t aware of how and why what they are doing fits within the real world (or their world, which isn’t always the same as the real world) then they are going to roll their eyes at you and whine “why are we doing this?!” I have made it my mission as a teacher to never hear this question. It is part of my larger mission to be transparent with my students about my teaching methods and motivation.

Providing learning experiences that relate to the real world (though school is real too) is important. As an ETEP student I interned at King Middle School in Portland, Maine. It was amazing. So amazing that as soon as I was hired into a teaching position I started lauding the Expeditionary model to everyone and anyone who would listen (read more about EL). Eventually the admin got on board and sent the 8th grade team and some related arts teachers and the curriculum coordinator to attend a two-day workshop at King, provided paid summer time to plan an expedition and made a five-year plan to bring the school into EL. This past year we pulled off our first Expedition (see the Truth Posters, read the Press coverage). The seventh grade went to the King workshop last year and are planning their first Expedition for the upcoming year. It is very exciting and has led to fantastic learning experiences and demonstrations of learning.

Related to this are the three Influences on Learning:

    • Environment
    • Texts and Materials
    • Instruction

As this list appeared during the PowerPoint, I really focused on Environment, which to me includes a sense of community and the culture of the class and school. Before class I went to the Registrar’s office to get a copy of my English Degree. I want to display it in my classroom as a subtle way of showing that education is valued. I’m proud that I have my BA (my MA Ed will go up too) and believe that education is important. I think that kids will see it, look at it, and ask me about it providing me an opening to talk about their thoughts on education and it’s importance.

The sessions on specific stages of literacy development were good, strategies were shared and I always enjoy that.

Back with Team Awesome we split up and looked at our last lesson plan and talked about planning for Monday and gave each other feedback. I found this very useful. Emily asked me great questions that made me think about the big picture plan – something we’ve both been struggling with. I also found it helpful just to talk about what I’m doing and how it’s going, yes I blab on and on here but a live interactive (ahem you could comment on this post and make it more interactive!) audience is so much better. Hearing what she is doing and how it is going and trying to help her answer the questions she was so invigorating (really? am I that geeky about teaching? . . . um yes I am!). This is kind of professional development that makes me wish time would hurry up so I can get back in the classroom.

Though this discussion I realized something: I have good ideas about helping kids! Go me!

It feels a bit weird to say that, I don’t feel that comfortable patting myself on the back like that. I like to think that I’m a good teacher, but I cringe at the idea of saying it out loud for fear of the reaction it would bring. “I’ve only been teaching for three years, how good could I really be”, but within those three years I’ve watched and learned and listened and experimented and pushed myself and my students and my school to be the best we can, and before those three years everything was leading up to me becoming a teacher; working in a teen group home, the 1:1 behavior specialist work I did, the classes and discussions and choices I made have helped shape the person and teacher I am. So it isn’t just those three years, it is also the path through life that I took to get here. Just like readers bringing all their schema to a text, teachers bring all their life experience to their teaching.


Wait – I’m how old?

Today is my birthday, yes I was born on 4th of July, and yes I get fireworks every year.

I had just gotten used to telling people I was 33 (alright I didn’t get used to it, but I didn’t have to think about how old I was before answering – wait is that a sign of old age?). It feels weird to be 34, I don’t feel like I’m in my mid-thirties. But everyone says that don’t they? Seriously though, I don’t always act like a (now) 34-year-old – I can get laughing uncontrollably (Jennie says I giggle), I still think farting is funny, I enjoy cartoons and video games, I like to eat dessert first and often, I like YA books, I like to make different hair styles when I have shampoo in – mostly the mohawk (though with the little hair I have I’m limited), and other things that I’m not going to tell you about.

Here’s what I think has kept me feeling young:

  1. Jennie, she’s my wife and best friend (she’ll be in her twenties until January so that makes me feel young) and we laugh everyday together.
  2. I hang out with 8th graders as my job for 9 months out of the year – Our sense of humor overlap (see “I think farting is funny” above).
  3. I don’t take myself too seriously (actually I try not to take most things too seriously, it can be annoying to others)
  4. That’s all I can think of right now (I’m also easily distracted)

There are some things I’m looking forward to about getting old:

  1. Yelling at kids to “Stay off my lawn” (I practice inside sometimes)
  2. Being a curmudgeon
  3. Having a good reason for being forgetful.

This afternoon we’ll go get a good spot on the Eastern Prom for all the festivities (Bob Marley is performing stand-up, Portland Symphony Orchestra is playing) where we’ll eat a sushi picnic dinner from Benkay (so delicious) and birthday cake!

Happy Fourth to you!

Coat of Arms

In preparation for EDU 639 I had to create the above “Coat of Arms” Each section had a specific item that needed to occupy the space. I also had to explain my choices, which follows:

Section 1: Mythical Beast-Egyptian Sphinx (Greek Sphinx would eat those who gave wrong answers!)

The Sphinx asks difficult questions that make the person being asked to think carefully and often differently. I urge students to think by asking them questions. I urge them to think by developing their own questions and questioning skills.

Section 2: Symbol – Ying-Yang = Balance

Walking the line between covering the required content and teaching skills students need to be, not only good students, but good people is a challenge. Making the delivery engaging but keeping the focus on the content, not the technology is a challenge. Not spending all my time working and having a life outside the classroom can be challenging. That is why working to strike and/or maintain balance is so important in every aspect of  my professional and personal life.

Section 3: Color(s)

Green=Growth In the Language Arts classroom a definitive endpoint in learning is hard to find. Much of what is done is skill based and therefore practice and honing and deepening the skills is what we work on. In 8th grade, 99% of the students will not master the skills they’re learning/practicing. That is why growth is important, I want to see a progression and improvement in students.

Blue=Calm, Peace, Technology The first two words associated with this color, calm and peace, speak to my demeanor and the culture and environment I foster in the class. Technology also speaks to the environment. I am a technophile. I am on the tech leadership team. I am the go-to guy on my team and floor when it comes to technology. I view technology as a powerful educational tool for learning and engagement.

Yellow=Joy, Cheerfulness, Energy These three words describe my feeling about what I do for a living and my attitude towards the content I teach.

Section 4: Character (real or fictional) – Harold (and his purple crayon).

His creativity came out in very simple actions, “I need a moon so I’ll draw one”. Sometimes we try to do things the hard way. As a teacher I feel that simplicity is often the best, but not always the first thing you think of doing. Harold does not have that problem. To emphasize the idea of simplicity Harold appears in this section alone.

Section 5: Word – “Community”

Collaboration was one of the other words I initially thought for this section. I chose community because it encapsulates collaboration but so much more too. Community implies a common bond between it’s members that goes beyond the common goal behind collaboration. It is a safe place where people can be who they are, have their strengths celebrated and challenges supported; this is what I strive for in my class. It is rainbow-colored to celebrate diversity.

Favorite Blogging Site

I started blogging at Blogger (link takes you to my Blogger blog). I use(d) WordPress in my classroom (a separate blog that the students use to write about what they are reading). When I started blogging more regularly I decided that WordPress was better suited for my needs and wants. I posted this poll (and information) when I first migrated over to WordPress but would like to see if I can get some more feedback. Which do you prefer: Blogger or WordPress? If you use one of these sites or another site to blog let me know and tell me what you like/dislike about it. If nothing else it is another place to get your blog address posted.

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My brother

I saw my brother last week. I picked him up at work and we drove back to his apartment, talking about books, music, television shows, and movies. We have almost identical tastes in all of these things – there are genres that our interests don’t overlap on but basically our preferences match up. I love my brother. I know that, as family, I have to, but if we weren’t related I think that we’d still be close. We don’t hang out as much as I’d like, we live 45 min apart & are busy, but we at least talk pretty often. I admire my brother in a lot of ways. He is a musician, taught himself to play guitar (base and lead, electric and acoustic), drums, piano, some violin, and probably whatever other musical instrument he could get his hands on. He wrote and performed a song for my wedding – it brought tears to my eyes, it was sweet and funny and he was sick the day I was married but he went on anyway. He’s generous in a way I have a hard time being. Did that make sence? I think so. . . The point is that I love my brother and wanted to boast about him a bit.

ETEP E-Portfolio

I was one of a handful of people to create an e-portfolio for my exit presentation from USM’s ETEP program. It was a great way to showcase my technological tendencies and make it available to potential employers more readily without worrying about when I would get it back. I post a link to it now because I’m thinking about how I use technology in my classroom  and how technology became so pervasive in my teaching(a post dedicated to this topic will follow when it’s ready). So here is the link, check it out. ETEP E-Portfolio

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Solstice – December 21st

We woke at 6AM, much to the chagrin of my wife who would have liked to get up thirty minutes later, I preheated the oven and fed the cat and dog. I am up at 4:55AM Monday through Friday so I was pretty functional at this hour, I popped some cinnamon rolls into the oven and started coffee brewing. This is about when Jennie realized what time it is – a groan a bit of complaining follow. I smile and nod and know that when she’s more awake she will be more appreciative of being up. Henry (our chocolate lab) is excited and a bit concerned that both of us are up so early, he alternates between the two of us, keeping his eye on us so that he doesn’t miss anything. We planned to exchange gifts after greeting the sun but, due to my tendency towards rising early, we opened presents first. Then, with our thermals on, mugs of coffee (for me) and tea (for her), and the dog, we pile into the car under a sky that is beginning to lighten.

We decided to become pagans about 3(?) years ago. Neither of us have any buy into Christianity. I’ve attended church (Congregationalist) regularly in the past, I’ve read the Bible (on my own), and went to a Catholic school for my Freshman and Sophomore High School years. While the church I was a part of was (and probably still is) very open minded, there was a gay couple that were members, I never really believed what was being preached. Do the lessons make sense? Yes. Are the basic morals ones I agree with? Many are, yes. Paganism is rooted in Nature, this is something that I believe in and can relate to which is important in a belief system.

The streets of Portland are virtually empty; delivery trucks, business men and women, and us are the only ones out. We arrive at the Eastern Prom (where else to catch the first rays of the sun?) and find that there are other pagans there. They are ringing tambourines, and hopping up and down (from cold or as part of the ritual wasn’t clear). We get out with the camera and dog and await the sun to make it’s entrance.

Just as an aside: Henry showed us just how awesome he is during this outing. He was off-lease (not unusual) and spotted another dog on chasing a ball on the hill above us. He made a move to run towards them but it only took a “Heyyyy” to stop him. He still looked and whined a bit but he made no further attempt to leave our side. Later, while playing fetch, a man was walking down the sidewalk and passed pretty close by. He saw him and paid attention to him as he walked by but made no move towards him. This is huge! He has always felt the need to greet others, especially humans, but our little puppy is growing up into a well behaved dog – we’re so proud.

With frozen noses, rapidly cooling coffee, and numb fingers we greet the sun and make our way back to the car, commenting on how much we enjoyed this experience and the behavior of Henry. This is something that we will continue to do in years to come. A truly great day.

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