Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Busy Times, Thoughtful Times

You know, as a teacher, it's difficult to know whether or not your students like you or not.  There's not a lot of praise in the line of work, at least not formally.  But I don't think it's why a person gets into this line of work anyway.  You have to be pretty sure of yourself, that's for certain!

This time of year, though, is a time that people, especially kids, make sure their teacher knows they are appreciated.  It comes in the form of chocolates, gift cards, poinsettias, notes, books, secret santa gifts, dog treats for my dog, and most importantly, hugs.

However, praise aside, the real gratification a teacher gets is the one that is hard won.  After going over and over a skill or an idea or a concept numerous times, and seeing the look on the child's face when they get it, it is really hard not to have that warm, fuzzy feeling.  Those are bonding times, and hopefully those moments are the ones the child will look back on some day and think, "That teacher really cared about me."

It makes the busy-ness and the work worthwhile.  I'm glad I'm a teacher.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things I Love, 2013

In looking through my old posts, I found a few of these posts, and they always seemed to be in the Fall.  I need to update, since it's been awhile, so here it is, in no particular order:

1.  Bo.  He's so fun, and brought so much to our family.  We waited a long time for a dog.  I think we got the best one.
2.  Studying.  I'm drawn to it, and am most content when I'm learning something new.
3.  Scented candles.  They always make things pleasant.
4.  Starry nights.  I love looking at the stars.
5.  Friends.  Sharing and caring is always good.
6.  A good tv show.  Like Downton Abbey.
7.  Friends and tv together.  Like a Downton Abbey tea party.
8.  Spelling Bees, when they're over.  The gasps and anticipation from the kids in the audience is priceless!
9.  Hanging out with my kids.  They are pretty neat people.  I like them a lot.
10.  A good laugh with Big Dad.  He keeps things fun.
11.  Chocolate Chess Pie.
12.  Thanksgiving at the White's.  Our kids look forward to it every year.
13.  The first fire in the fireplace.
14.  The first snow.
15.  Christmas dinner, and everything before that.
16.  College acceptance letters.
17.  A good night's sleep.
18.  My new iPhone.
19.  Still love that "Ooohhhh" when kids learn something new.
20.  Kids who learn they really do know how to write!

Things That make me go "ew."
1.  Pride-it actually makes me sick to my stomach.
2.  Peace at the cost of someone else's dignity.
3.  Deceit
4.  Liars
5.  Feigned caring
6.  Masks.

I think the good far outweighs the bad.  And I can choose who I let into my world, blood or not.  I choose those who love me and mine for who we are, and I choose to leave out those who don't have our backs.  Life is too short to be filled with junk.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Exploration and Moonshot Thinking

Our gifted class is studying exploration this year, and as always, I'm learning more than the kids.  I really wish I could have learned like this when I was their age!  The idea of exploration is contingent on curiosity, and after studying people like the Vikings, or Lewis and Clark, we came up with a list of attributes that are crucial for an explorer to have.  They are, in no particular order:

1. Goal setters
2. Prepared
3. Creative
4. Curious
5. Risk takers
6. Have a sense of higher purpose

There were more, but the class seemed to focus on these the most.  We decided to use them as a guide for their future projects.

Our task from now until Christmas is to explore the ocean.  The students are going to choose the place or thing they want to explore, and they are going to design a vehicle that will allow them to explore it.  For one year.  See, we watched this video called "Moonshot Thinking,"  and in that video there was a statement that caught our attention.  A person said, "If you want to make a car go 50 miles on a gallon of gas, you just need to tweak the engine a bit.  But if you want to make a car go 500 miles on a gallon of gas, you've got to start over."  We figure people go into the ocean and explore for a bit, and take snippets of information.  We want to explore more than the 5% that has currently been explored.  We want to explore over a long period of time.  If we are studying whales, we want to be able to follow them for a year, wherever they go.  We want to design the vehicle that will enable us to do that.  And we want to design using nanotechnology.  Especially the application of graphene and nanotubes.  So that is what we're doing.

So these 3rd, 4th and 5th graders will be glimpsing not only the world they plan to explore, but also the world of applied scientists, engineers and biologists.  It's an exciting world we live in, and worth exploring.  Why not get creative in how we do it?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Learning and Sharing

You know, learning is a lifelong venture.  I believe that to my core.  I have never felt that there will come a time when I've "arrived" in learning and can finally turn off that part of my brain and just relish in what I've learned, and only impart my wisdom and knowledge to those who know less than me.  In fact, I think I learn even from the youngest among us as well.  It always amazes me how much a young child learns in such a short time.  That level of learning would burn me out at this time in my life.

There's this children's book called "Zoom."  It's a wonderful book and kids love it. It starts off with the page above, and with each page turn, the reader is pulled back to see more of the picture.  This picture happens to be the comb of a rooster. The page after this is of two kids looking through the window at the rooster, and the page after that is the house the kids are in who are looking at the rooster.  On and on the book goes, and each page turn gets "Ooo's and Aaaah's" from the kiddos.  It's pretty fun.

But then I relate the book to life.  I ask them, "If each page represents something big you've learned that changes your view of how the world works, and this entire book is a lifetime, where would you say you are in this book?"  The responses are wonderful.  The 5th graders and most of the 4th graders get the question and what it means.  And quite developmentally so.  They give answers like "Maybe two or three pages into the book."  I had one third grader, though, tell me he was close to the end of the book.  I said, "Really?  Because I don't think I'M even halfway through it!"....just to give him some perspective.  But he thought a second and said, "Yeah.  I'm almost to the end.  I'm pretty smart."  Mind you, all of these kids are gifted kids, so they will get questions like that, but this child's answer makes me smile every time I think of it.

I have been asked lately, however, to teach adults.  It's pretty humbling, because I am only a few steps ahead of others, but there it is.  My expertise is about gifted kids, specifically those who are twice exceptional and may have some learning difficulties.  I'm concerned about the RTI process in our schools, because kids who are gifted, but have learning disabilities, are not being identified.  There was a time when students were identified with full out educational psych evaluations, and it was easier to see if a child had a learning disability with that information. The current system is reliant on teacher knowledge of what a twice exceptional child looks like in the classroom, and that training just isn't given.  I teach gifted kids at two schools whose combined population equals 1100 students.  I have one twice exceptional student.  One.  Out of 1100.  It's sad, because that means there are quite a few students who are not receiving the services they desperately need.

We've zoomed in on education over the last 15 years or so, but I believe it's time to zoom out.  We need a paradigm shift in regards to how we are serving our students.  THAT's some knowledge I know I can impart.  If I'm wrong, I'm willing to learn.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Unloading these thoughts

I've learned a lot these past few years since returning to the States.  I enjoy learning, and realized recently after taking survey after survey, that it is a hobby of mine.  I was thinking about possible hobbies when filling out personality profiles for school ( I'm an INFP, for those who need a little TMI), and it suddenly hit me that I gravitate toward learning new things.  Sad, but this is my exciting life.

The down side to all of this learning is that it starts to jumble up in my head.  I have all of these thoughts and connections going on, but they just sit there until I need to use them.  It came in handy this Summer when I was tasked with putting together the training for our staff retreat.  (Funny side story, my principal told me how impressed she was with all of the neat information I put into the training, and I think she thought I worked to find all of those things over the summer.  I didn't.  Instead, it was me finding in the recesses of my brain these remote things I had learned about years ago, and I finally found an application for it all! It was a glorious moment. LOL!) Other than these fleeting moments that are few and far between, my brain is just a tangled web of connections of new information, which then requires the pondering of said connections, and then....overload.

Well.  One of the things I learned about last year was about how the brain learns.  It seems our brain is more like a computer than we realize!  When a computer has too much information in it's storage system, it begins to freeze.  Processors slow down, and something has to be done with all of this stuff.  So files are transferred and downloaded into a separate storage in order to free up space.  Such is the state of my brain.

The downloading of my thoughts will once again take place on this blog.  It's not necessarily for anyone else's benefit, even though this is a public forum.  I only have 12 readers.  This is for me to be able to unload some of the things I've been learning, and if others learn, too, or are even prompted to think further on my thoughts, then more power to ya!

Let the downloading begin.

Sunday, March 03, 2013


This perfectly imperfect life has been busy lately.  It's been awhile since I've posted.  But life is full and I'm continuing to learn and grow.

I love learning, and I love the fact that the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.  I talked about this with my class early in the year.  I teach third through fifth grade gifted and talented students.  It's a fun job, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  The way these kids make connections to the big ideas that we're learning always amazes me.  I think in 3rd grade I was in Mrs. Assim's class, and fighting over teams in kickball.  I do remember reading "Little House on the Prairie" as a class, and when the tv show came on, we wrote the producers and told them that their Mr. Edwards looked more like Pa in the book than the Pa they chose.  But that is the extent of my 3rd grade remembrances.

There's a book called "Zoom."  It's a wordless book, and it's great for gifted kids, because just when you think the book is almost finished, the illustrator zooms out some more and adds to the big picture.  I won't give it away completely, but I love showing it to new classes because there are always audible "Aaaah's."  This year, though, I took the book and related it to learning.  I pointed out that many times we learn and think we've arrived in our knowledge and understanding, then a "Zoom" will happen, and we'll realize we really didn't know as much as we thought!

As a funny little test, I asked the 5th, then the 4th, then the 3rd graders to relate their learning to the Zoom book.  I merely asked them, "If this book represents all of the learning you will do in your life, what page would you be on now?"  5th graders were the most conservative, but that's probably because developmentally they would get that kind of question better.  But they still saw themselves as about a fourth of the way through.  4th graders saw themselves a little more than that, I I had one 3rd grader tell me he knew everything he needs to know.

I let them talk about it a few minutes and debate, and then I stepped in and said, "What if I told you I think I'm not even halfway through this book?"  The conversation quickly shifted, (except for the boy who still thought he was through the entire book) and a paradigm shift took place.

It's the thing I love about teaching gifted students.  They get stuff like this.  They enjoy  thinking in terms of "what if" and in seeing possibilities.  We have some real future leaders in this group.  I'm glad I get to say I knew them when!