Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer Vacation Has Ended

I took a little break from this blog. Between my laptop breaking and just all the things that summer brought it was hard to sit down at the desk top computer. Our family hosted a child from NY City through the Fresh Air Fund Program for the first time. I had heard from others how awful there experience was and I heard how wonderful it was. I think it just depends on the child and how your family dynamics are it's like a game of chance. We won the chance and had a lovely girl about my daughters age stay with us. I hope she will be able to join us next summer. I really recommend especially you teachers like me who have time in the summer to try it. My daughter got just as much out of it as the girl who visited. Other summer things was horse riding camp. We have 3 horses that we keep on our property. My daughter decided to take her horse to summer riding camp. She had a wonderful experience but we did so much running back and forth to the barn that I don't know how people who board at the barn are able to do it.

As for art I have tested out all sorts of art projects, scoured art magazines and catalogs, and whittled down what I plan to do for the first 12 weeks of school. I will share a few art projects that I have found that are new for me this year that I am going to try:

Sax catalog mini self stick notebooks I wanted a book making project for my middle school classes to use as a sketchbook. I know the paper is small but that also makes them portable and I am going to incorporate that into thumbnail sketches.

Paper weaving baskets I have a limited budget this year as I have heard many schools do. My friend had her entire order canceled so no art supplies at all until October! Well mine wasn't that bad. However basket making materials is expensive so I cut it. I still wanted to do weaving so I picked a few different types of weaving one being the paper weaving basket.

Wood working wood whacking another thing that I decided to try, I want to try a little wood carving so I got a wood whacking assortment. I went with another teacher's recommendation to buy more than you think you need to get enough large pieces. I bought 4 bags and have enough nice pieces.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Don’t let the Arts programs fall through the cracks

I am glad that influential people are starting to make themselves heard that schools shouldn't drop the arts programs due to funding.

Education Secretary Receives Art Petition

The one thing I can say about private schools, at least ours is that they value the arts curriculums. It is a selling point for the school they have all of these great academic programs and strive to give additional programs drama, band, visual arts, dance and whatever else they can offer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

School Discipline

I was just reading the article Report: Discipline by teachers can turn deadly
I read and re-read this article looking at both views. I worked with special education in a lower rural income area during my masters program. It is rough, underfunded, understaffed, and many staff, aides and wrap around are undertrained. Many students which need to be in a closed special education class are mainstreamed due to budget. Many classroom teachers have little training to deal with the broad range of emotional and physical outbursts. I really feel sorry for the families and yes it is getting to be abuse, however they need to look at the broader reasons. If they have one teacher and 2 aides to a class of 15 special ed. Students with a broad range of disabilities it is trouble waiting to happen. Is the school district lowering the standards so students can be mainstreamed into classrooms? If those issues are happening than yes the teacher is in the wrong for physical restraint.

I remember one instance that I witnessed a lead teacher restrained a 4 year old student during nap time, which I considered more than needed since he was not in danger or endangering others. After that I went to the program director and complained only to be asked not to return. I was happy to comply with, another instance I helped restrain a student who was whipping chairs around the room. In that case proper restraint was appropriate for the safety of the student and others. Now I will stress proper restraint. From reading this article I really don't think these teachers or aides used or where trained on how to deal with aggressive students with proper restraint and it is a last resort and not intended for every day practice. I am so glad I am out of that internship it was very stressful, and not really a career path I was intending but I am glad I went through it and understand what patients and toleration that those teachers need to have to deal with a diverse range of issues daily. I think even higher of the parents, foster families and siblings. My neighbor runs a respite home for parents and foster parents of disabled children. They are staffed with a rotation of support staff and yes I have witnessed tantrum, which they walk off by going into the high fenced deck and letting the tantrum run its course and talk it out. Sometimes it takes hours of tantrum throwing a medicine ball repeatedly, yelling, and swearing. But eventually the child is back and usually like nothing even happened. I have never seen restraint needed due to the level of training that the support staff have. They know how to help the child work through emotions

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Finally a No Child Left Behind overhaul and I love that instead of just letting the politicians hash it out he is getting information from teachers, students, and parents.


"What No Child Left Behind did is, they were absolutely loose on the goals," Duncan told the Education Writers Association, meeting in Washington. "But they were very tight, very prescriptive on how you get there.

"I think that was fundamentally backwards," he said.

Duncan said the federal government should be "tight" on the goals, insisting on more rigorous academic standards that are uniform across the states. And he said it should be "much looser" in terms of how states meet the goals.

Exactly what most teacher also think!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ancient Schools

I just had to mention this article
Aristotle school to become open-air museum. Schools have been around a long time they are not a new thing. They have changed and modernized but kids=school

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wow! Why don’t you drop a bit of money lower down the pike!

I heard about this earlier from PA Harrisburg that they got some money from an anonymous source. But I just thought it was a local donor but I guess it was bigger than that from the most recent news article Mystery donors give over $45M to 9 universities. If I had a lot of money that I wanted to give toward education, maybe I am biased I would start at the other end. I would start with quality childcare centers maybe using the Keystones STARS system maybe $10,000 toward educational supplies. So many childcares I am in have one set of toys day in and day out or have enough to rotate a few times a week. The two year old program that my son goes to is expensive but it is bright, with great teachers and they do rotate the toys and make it weekly themes, they are going for the 4th star this summer.

Then I would move onto Elementary schools and gift money directly for classroom use that way it isn't sucked up into the administration void. Our school gives each teacher $100 cash for incidental supplies no questions asked what it goes toward. I use mine for the aluminum foil, starch, and other odd materials I cannot just order through a catalog that an art room uses. I don't know of any other school that lets teachers use money for odd supplies. Ask a teacher how much money they spend on their classroom a year, it is going to be at least $100. I would give teachers a $500 - $1,000 gift for supplies. If the school wants them to save receipts to hand in to show they didn't use it for a cruise fine. Though I think after seeing some of the teacher's classes and behavior issues they deal with every day, I would say a cruise may be the perfect thing for them. Then also I think every school needs a good play ground. I would give money to schools that need a new playground especially the inner city schools, schools that need wheel chair accessible units and I think even middle schools should have one. The inner city schools plant some trees and get some sod out and make it an oasis for these kids. My favorite group is Boundless Playgrounds I researched them in grad school and they have the research to back up playground models. They have it for ages 2-12, with term Beta, Alpha and Gama areas. Do the virtual tour.

Next High Schools I would donate money for Netbooks in the classroom. Research is holding for these small computers. I think that it would open a whole new type of educational experience and if used as an educational tool one site 10 ways to use netbooks in the classroom. I said high schools but this newer tool can move on down to the lower grades as well. But I think you need to be the right teacher for it, where as in high school students can independently master this tool.

Now I need to go buy a lottery ticket, maybe I can win Millions and put my money where my mouth is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The voucher system

Why oh why are you ending a program that is a success? I am all for the voucher system. I would love it to be for both private and public and allow parents no matter the income or where the live decide where their child goes to school. For example I moved to a rural area I wanted the lifestyle of horses, hobby farm, fresh eggs and the country life. We found reasonable land with the right zoning, the down side the school district is only so-so. So I pay taxes to a school my daughter does not attend, that is my choice but not everyone can afford to do that, heck we sacrifice things to do that. Why can't the tax money go into a state fund where each child get X amount that is granted to the school the child attends? If each school had to work and woo families it would achieve everything that the Obama administration wants, better test scores, the brightest teachers, equal education for any income. That is what every business needs to do if they don't they well thing s happen, look at GM and the banks!! Why not do that for the education system? Private schools do this all the time they jump the hoops get the certifications the two my schools has is the blue ribbon and middle states. Which we worked our butt of to get and I am proud of it. So far (knock on wood) even in this economy we already have an increase in attendance. If our school was a failure we would dwindle in attendance and would close, but before that our diocese (head of our school) would gut it out new administration and probably faculty adjustments. If it still failed bye-bye!! I usually don't quote Wikipedia but I like this voucher system.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So what is happening?

Why is one section of the news saying how much the government wants to push teachers, education, and stimulus money. Yet the other side is talking about layoffs, budget cuts and deficits. The big one in the news right now is the L.A. school system. They are starting to back peddling and not layoff round 2,000 elementary teachers, yet around 6,000 teachers and staff are on the chopping block. Detroit is also chopping teachers but I think that is the least of their worries.

Another "great" news story now: Does Money Lead to Real Reforms

U.S. Education Secretary
Arne Duncan has said repeatedly that he wants to use the economic stimulus aid for education to accelerate improvement in schools. He has even volunteered some ideas that he knows are not very popular. Speaking to about 400 students at a public school in Denver this week, Duncan said that kids need more time in school. "Go ahead and boo me," he told the crowd of middle and high school students, the Associated Press reports. "I fundamentally think that our school day is too short, our school week is too short, and our school year is too short." He went on: "You're competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week, 11, 12 months a year." Instead of boos, the AP reports, the students offered Duncan "bored stares."

The schools don't have enough money to pay teachers right now for the time they are in the classroom and limited supplies how do they think they will pay the teachers for additional days or longer hours! What are they going to teach with, how are they going to pay for more electric bills and add air conditioners to the schools that don't have them. He commented on the lack of enthusiasm from the students, why you would then talk to a bunch of kids toward the end of the year about keeping them in school longer. What do you expect them to do cartwheels I don't think they would even do that for Jonas Brothers and Miley was singing it to them!

Here is another article about Duncan but I do like his views on the voucher system "I'm a big believer that students and parents should have a choice what school they want to go to," he said. Yet I think he needs to really look at the education system, I don't think expanding days and hours is going help that much in the long run, nor will the merit pay, and I am not even going to get started on Kindergarten testing I'll save that for another blog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Junk food in the schools

I love this article

Get "junk" food out of U.S. schools: PTA, diet group

If my daughter's school was plagued by soda, chips and generally only unhealthy choices I would be pitching a fit too. The school she attends, the same one I work at, didn't even have a water cooler until I brought one in much less a vending machine. Now I am not completely against vending machines and snacks but I think healthy choices are in order. I don't mean just carrots and water. Take for example plain Lays classic potato chips, those small bags aren't really that bad. Kids like them and as for an alternative choice to high fat and sugar selections it is the best choice. They actually even beat out high sugar granola bars and fruit roll ups.

I really believe in this issue, having a child that is fighting childhood obesity, I have strong feelings about this issue and have taken it into my own hands. When she was in 1st grade I started looking at nutrition and exercise classes she did not like ballet, soccer wasn't a hot thing either. She now attends the local YMCA and is enrolled in a fit for life program that teaches various forms of exercise and has nutrition. She knows Yoga, zumba, hip hop and how to use a variety of exercise equipment, she knows more than me! She has been taught how to read food label, portion control, healthy options and they taught her how to eat at a party or what the best thing to choose at a restaurant is. She doesn't always follow what she knows but it is in that brain of hers. This program is also very family oriented. Now they do all of this in a positive fun way and also work to build the kids self esteem. I think schools really need to teach these skills to all students and make it an overall goal to make sure children know how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Many schools short change students nutrition AND exercise. Some schools especially when no child left behind first was implemented, many districts started to cut, restrict and change around recess time. The average recess time for elementary was about 15 minutes. I really think that elementary children should have two 15 minute session at least for recess. If not just free play then an organized game or even line dancing time or something. I don't think it needs to be right after lunch, it can be 15 minutes for morning recess and 15 minute afternoon recess. Our school does the 30 minutes for every grade K-8 after lunch. I really think this is vital mentally and physically. I think this really helps them in the classroom. Many middle schools have limited or no recess. If I was in charge students would have recess or at least organized active play up to high school, or at least through middle school. This is in addition to PE class, not in place, and I would be happy if they made PE class every day or so if recess isn't viable for the school.     

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drug Prevention Programs

I have been trying to get the DARE program brought back to our school. We dropped it at our school due to funding awhile back because the IU stopped funding it. The 8th graders that had it in the younger grades still remember the lessons and if asked really enjoyed the program and learned from it. For students to remember lessons from 4th grade it must have had some impact! I just read an article Column: Cutting DARE funding isn't a bad idea

Rendell wants to eliminate money to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, popularly known as DARE, as in DARE to stay off drugs.

Two generations of kids have been exposed to DARE in school. Yet the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2006 that more than 43 percent of the nation's students are drinkers, and more than 25 percent admitted downing five or more alcoholic drinks in a row within the 30 days prior to the survey. Alcohol consumption, the CDC said, began before the age of 13 for one quarter of the students.

Now I hope this study was from schools that participated in the DARE program, because I know a lot stopped the program due to funding changes with the area IU, and some schools have a lot of gaps in the program such as they may have it for one grade skip two grades then have it again. Every school seemed to participate in a different way. If they get rid of this program are they going to replace it with a different program? Or just drop the entire thing all together? I am not sure what the answer is.

Either way I really didn't like the statement, Cops climbing into the trenches with kids is fine, but I wonder if they really need 80 hours of specialized DARE training to learn how to stand in front of a group of elementary school kids and tell them why drugs are bad.
What so the state saying anyone can come in and teach kids they don' training to do it? I have sat in on DARE sessions and they are good and probably those 8o hours helped hone those that already had good teaching skills. Maybe they can make teachers only take 80 hours of training. I wonder why we need the Act 48 hours anymore here in PA since we already spent 1,000 of hours in class. Now I actually don't mind the Act 48 that much I really enjoy workshops and training sessions and now the school has to pay for it, otherwise I think a lot of schools wouldn't pay anything if teachers didn't have to take a certain amount of classes.

Now I have been researching other programs besides the Pennsylvania DARE Program. I just don't like why they are saying they need to cut it, just come out and say you don't want to pay for it anymore, don't just say that these cops don't need training to come in the classroom. A few programs:

OSDFS Office of safe and drug-free schools has a few good grants and a few good publications that are free from the edpubs are:

  • Protective Schools
  • Success Stories is older but nice
  • Experiences In Effective Prevention
  • Growing up Drug Free

Other programs I have looked at

Does your school have a good program? If so let me know.

Monday, March 23, 2009

E-mail Just my take on it!

Ok a little off topic but I am beginning to hate e-mail sometimes. I just recently had an issue with it coming and responding it to it in the wrong manner because I was dealing with another situation. I know looking back I should have waited but I just jumped in and rushed it. However also the person e-mailing me should not have e-mailed that subject it was one of those you pick up the phone and call the person type of thing. This got me thinking about communication in the classroom. Should teachers use e-mail? I know one teacher that lives on it, she is always e-mailing parents and I know parents that love to have that open communication to teachers. I have also talked to teachers that the administration wants them to keep it to a minimum due to parents misusing the e-mail. Saying the teacher said this, when really the teacher meant to say something else completely different, but it wasn't communicated correctly through e-mail. It was that pick up the phone thing again. I have read issues with teachers e-mailing students, my recommendation never do it I don't care if it just says homework science book page 35, to much liability. Now talking about liability I like how this school covers themselves with a waiver. I am going to bring that up to my principal for next year. I also like this site tek mom she has some good advice for privacy. From a parent standpoint I like this e –how article and from the teacher side I like this one for priceless teaching strategies. Either way e-mail is a tool, that needs to be used wisely, or don't click send until you are sure you have clearly made your point. If it is unclear or could be taken wrong, pick up that cell phone and leave a message I want to talk to you about this ___ ___ ___, if you really want to e-mail them then say I left a message but here is the info … call me if you have questions. You will be more likely to not to have a miscommunication on sensitive issues.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What is a great teacher?

I was just browsing a few articles on Yahoo Education I like to peruse the site every so often to see what new ideas are being talked about. I found an older article with nice information about what makes a great teacher while reading this it reminded me about my daughters 1st grade teacher Mrs. Macelravy . She was the best teacher I have ever met! She looked like she came right off leave it to beaver but in color and I mean COLOR. She was only going to be here a year a military wife, our principal at the time told the faculty she was having a hard time filling the position with the right person so she chose this lady because it would give her a year to find the right permanent fit for the school.

From the parent side a lot of the parents had a few assumptions about what she was going to be like. What a surprise on "meet the teacher" day and as a teacher there I thought our nun teacher had finally lost it. She was a beautiful older blond woman dressed in a tasteful large floral print fluffy sundress with real pearl earrings and necklace, think of Mrs. Beaver with bright pink open toe 3 inch heels. She dressed like that every day! In the winter long sleeve bright colored dresses with bright colored high heel boots! What a bright winter we had and she made such a difference in one year it was like a bright Mary Poppins teacher that opened our eyes, set our standards very high. My daughter still talks about her in 6th grade. She was the BEST teacher I have ever met just read that article and it was like reading about her. While I read it that was the teacher I thought about. What teacher do you think of a teacher from your childhood or one of your child's teachers?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back to toddlerhood

I now am a mom of a 12 year old preteen daughter the dragon years and a 2 year old boy the terrible twos. Yes I have two of the "best" ages in my house at one time, I planned really well! I don't have much issue with picky eating with my toddler, and I didn't with my daughter and still don't. I hear other parents talking about how picky the toddler is mine is not and think did both of mine miss a stage? I just got this article today about Common Toddler Feeding Pitfalls, and read through it.

I guess I did something right! My son eats hummus, gumbo, salsa, pomegranates and any other weird food I give him. This also satisfies my preteen wants for new exciting food. She won't touch coffee her one show she likes icarly drinks coffee so she wanted an iced mocha, so I let her try a bottled Starbucks iced coffee, didn't go over. Her favorite is hummus roasted pepper with carrots and pretzels. SoI guess because I offer new things all the time my toddler never gets the hot dog and mac and cheese that often. This past week for lunch he had a mix of sliced salami, cheese cubes, pretzels, and mini tortilla chips with pineapple peach salsa or hummus. He likes yogurt and one of his favorite puddings is Kozyshack lemon ginger pudding. Since his center is "peanut free" (another subject I will talk about sometime) I use sun flower butter sunbutter with wegmans triple red fruit or citrus jelly selections on a mini bagel or tortilla rollup. He loves bananas, star fruit, kiwi, whole apples and orange slices. Now don't think I spend a fortune I actually love the reduced produce and meat section, bent and dents and ALDI is one of my favorite places to shop. Since I use reduced produce quickly I don't have a problem and if it starts going bad I have a goat that eats anything left. Now reading that article and looking back on the lunches packed, they must have thought I was a nut at his daycare when they first opened his lunch now they comment he always eats all of his lunch I guess now I know why they are so surprised about a toddler eating hummus.

So I guess my advice, which I give to a group of fit for life parents in meetings my daughter attends, is try new fruits. Take a walk though you're local market and pick up a mini pineapple, dragon fruit, star fruit, avocado and whatever is in season! I recommend heritage tomatoes this summer I love the colors and the flavor is the best. Grow a little garden even a little container garden, kids love planting and eating what they grow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Well I have to agree on this it is not economical and needs reinvested in a different way


Economic crisis threatens small, rural schools

When I first read this article I was expecting to read about merging classes, layoffs of teachers and/or cutting specials. But instead it was about the closure of one room school houses in the vineyard areas of California. I have to say I know it is an icon and "dwindled to 335 in 2006, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics", I thought they disappeared a long time ago. Our family went on a cross country trip and traveled through some remote area meaning a dirt road off the highway to nowhere in New Mexico I stopped and changed our two year old at. We also drove through the California Vineyards and they are very beautiful, we stopped and had the best fruit I had in awhile. However when I met people on our travels no one mentioned a one room school house I would have loved to see that. When I asked them how the school system worked around these rural areas most responses where home schooled, one person I met children went to a boarding school, and most mentioned online schooling. A few attended as a group in someone's home they were high school age so I guess it was more fun in a group and others younger upper elementary students on a individual basis similar to home schooling but online.

However after reading the article I can see way these small schools where loved. I know Pennsylvania has a strong cyber charter school system. The family farm I buy hay from three kids attend a charter cyber school, I sat down and talked with her one day and these kids know there stuff. I think these communities can pull together and keep the small school alive but with use of cyber schools, this would be much more economical for the districts and not such a disruption for the students.

Friday, March 13, 2009

4-day school week gains momentum amid recession.

The next article about mentioned that students need to spend more time in school. However schools are now looking at shortening the school week and extending the day?

I am not against this or for it. I think depends on the economic strength of the families living in the district. If the majority of the families have a stay at home parent or relative why not have off on Friday, Monday or Wednesday. But during these economic times I wouldn't put pressure on the community to fork out more money to someone to watch their child for an extra day, or a lot of children will be left on their own and that can cause trouble.

Now I have heard of one private school that a friend of mine child goes to that has off on Wednesday. Why mid-week it does help to have a break at mid-week for extra study time, large projects and group projects can be worked on. Also it seems to help the children to take a day and they have seen an increase in retained learning, because the students aren't exhausted by Friday. The old study method study for awhile take a break then go back to it you retain more of the information. Now this is a private schools the parents sending their child their know it and have made that option. They also have extra activities going on at the school on that Wednesday, so if the parent cannot take off the day or pay for childcare it is an option. This activity day Wednesday is the day the sports programs practice, academic programs honors math, spelling etc. practice. It is also times for open gyms with rotating teachers that has sport games basketball, volleyball and even dance instruction. The Library is open from 12- 2 that has it open for a place to work on projects, homework help and research. Also the other classes rotated almost like a club day art club, foreign language, and I think others that are all I could remember. So really the students if needed could be at school all day but with open ended and organized activities, but it is optional. Some kids came for an hour for a specific activity others most of the day. This free day also eliminated a lot of afterschool activities since Wednesday was the activity day, and this left more family time after school. All in all this worked. As for the public school from what the article stated this wouldn't be the case this is to save money not enrich education. If the public schools switched to this it would probably boost test scores and increase attentiveness, and maybe save a little money.;_ylt=ApvIyS5J8wZ8sUa2O_TuMZxQXs8F

In his first major speech on overhauling the country's education system, President Barack Obama broke with members of his own party and urged states to open more charter schools and expand programs that pay teachers based on performance. The president also called on states to stop "low-balling" academic standards and end the use of "off-the-shelf" student testing. "We have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short, and other nations outpace us,"

  • "off-the-shelf" student testing
  • "low-balling" academic standards
  • open more charter schools

Good let's see how this plays out in the next 4 years I hope it just doesn't become a big mess.

From the article:

Obama Details Plan for Overhauling Education

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What a Great Idea

I just finished reading an article from the Scholastic Administrators Magazine

Boston Reinvents Teacher Training

How to recruit, grow, and keep teachers in a tough urban climate. From what I read this program seems to be a nice step toward using local resources to fill hard to fill teaching jobs in the inner city areas and keep them!

Former Boston superintendent Thomas Payzant, who helped start btr, recalls that his biggest problem with new teachers was not subject knowledge or pedagogy, but under-preparation for the environment.

"What we were getting when teachers arrived in Boston classrooms were people who were pretty well grounded in content and had some sense of how to teach. But they were not well prepared for such a diverse student body with high percentages of kids from low-income families," says Payzant, now professor of practice at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. "That absence of experience with diversity often resulted in their lack of success."

"In a striking shift from traditional teacher training, which leans on book learning followed by general classroom practice, the Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) program operates on the premise that to succeed, new teachers need amped-up self-awareness, help translating theory into practice—and loads of classroom time with a mentor teacher in the district where they will teach"

AWSOME! I wish more teacher preparation programs would give upcoming teachers more time mentoring in the classroom, instead of just a few weeks of student teaching. Many teachers leave the teaching field due to being overwhelmed, unprepared, and realizing this was not the job they thought it was. What a waste of money and time. In Pennsylvania student teachers pay for the 15 hour class and get placed in a classroom as free labor while they learn. That is OK if you can afford to do that. In this BTR program these students receive a stipend not much but it helps get them in the program and allows them to continue it. I had to take leave from my job to student teach, I was married at the time so I had the backup system to handle the pay cut for a few weeks, but I went back afterward. In this program I am glad they get a stipend otherwise I think most could not afford to be in this program.

The Elephant in Urban Education
a glossed-over reality of inner-city education is that the teachers are mostly white and middle class while their students are typically minority and poor. BTR confronts this issue head-on. At least half of the residents chosen each year from a huge applicant pool are minorities (53 percent this year). It's also rare to visit a workshop for site directors (BTR leaders in each school who guide mentor-resident relationships) or a lecture for residents where race and class are not on the agenda.

BTR leaders want residents to consider how identity and experience affect the way they teach—and how their students learn. "I came from a white, suburban, upper-middle-class background. I was in all honors classes and never gave any of my teachers a behavior problem in my life," says Sarah Gross, a 2005 BTR graduate whose frank tone relays a comfort with her transition from business consultant to high school math teacher. "I would have no idea how to deal with a kid who swore at me or said they would go out into the street and become a street pharmacist."

I LOVE it, how else are you going to get kids to love to learn then if you have been there and can relate to them! Of course I am a white catholic school teacher who went to catholic school so I am in my element and I am good at it. I have worked with poor rural as well dealing with migrant workers, rough farm kids who don't think they need school and parents who ask "why they need this". I can work really well with them I can relate with them I have three horses, chickens, a goat and even two Border collie that heard. I can go over feed tags and % of protein versus fiber, how much each animal needs to be at optimal level. Then all of a sudden these parents who say why, say teach him that so I don't have to waste feed. All of a sudden these kids are in Agriculture College learning about animal nutrition.

I have never been thrown into teaching in an inner city school. I would love to try it, would I succeed? I don't know but I am also a half full glass person and love the challenge. Whereas this program takes those who have familiarity and have been through the same things they can relate and hopefully succeed with these children. I can't wait to see in a few years how this plays out keep your fingers crossed and maybe other areas will copy this program. This summer our family is hosting a New York City kid through the fresh air program, I have read about the program for years and finally going to do it. I have a coworker who said it was the worst experience she ever had and talked to another person at our church who has done it for 20 years. It may be the worst experience I ever have…it could be one of the best or just so-so. Let's just wait and see.

All Blue quotes come from this article which can be accessed:


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

To Pay or Not to Pay?

I feel like I am always talking about Obama but he is always in the news about education lately. This time the article titled Obama, taking on unions, backs teacher merit pay. It caught my interest either way I will not get merit pay so you can call me an unbiased onlooker. The main reason I am in a private school so most likely it will not affect the private sector either way. I have researched about merit pay before I see the good things and the bad parts. One part that I never like is it usually highly based on test scores and not what happens in the classroom. I don't mind testing students to find out what they know, are weak at and to identify problems. If a student drops dramatically in a subject, you can research and retest to see exactly where and why? Yes it could be the previous year's teacher or this student could have had other issues on test day.

Here is a fictional example:

Last year's Bob a 3rd grader did really well in the reading comprehension. Now Bob is in the 4th grade and bombed the reading comprehension and other scores lowered this year. WHY? Is it because of last year's teacher didn't teach certain materials? Or if you look at it this new 4th grader he just had a new baby brother a week ago that has kept the entire family up all night this past week. I would guess the baby may have had something to do with it. Between family stresses, excitement, lack of sleep, and disrupted routine he was not at his optimal test taking capacity. But the test would not show that. This is a good example. I know you can think of all the other not so good reasons, divorce, hunger etc. Now this is only one student.

Now I know if an entire class scores go down it gives you reason to look. I'll give you my schools example.

My school is a private school based near a military facility that rotates yearly, so some classes can see a 10% of the class changes each year just due to military and then regular influx of new students and others leaving the school. Most of the time the scores don't change to drastically, but the ones that do you can look and see that is the class that had a big turnover in students. However most students are good academically so it is rarely an issue the new students are usually at the same academic level as the ones leaving so it stays balanced.

Now I haven't looked at inner city and very poor district test scores recently (since Grad school 7 years ago) but I am interested to see if it has changed. I know from the ones I researched in grad school many students routinely move from district to district. The one in our area is a poor rural area with a lot of trailer parks with single mothers/low income families on subsidies and migrant workers with children. Students move from one trailer park to another depending on housing funding, job changes, and new boyfriends etc. So an average of 15% of the class is different students with a broad range of test scores. I went in and gathered on site research from parents, teachers and students about why test scores for classes changed and those where the reasons for the class turnover, rural poverty. One class had a 40% turn over, up from 25% the year before mostly due to migrant and housing subsidy changing the address and school. Those teachers are screwed they can get the test and teach the exact answers for next year's test until the child could take the test with their eyes closed and still have a completely different class take the test next year and get low scores. So merit pay if only based on tests will only go to rich and stable school districts. Leaving the poorer and less stable school districts with lower pay teachers and disgruntled teachers that may move on to a higher paying district. Do you hear the plug being pulled yet and teacher's moral going down the drain! Stable is a key word that a lot of people forget about in education if students move from school to school to teacher to teacher then gaps form in information learned which does show up in testing. This is the reason for the tests to see what NEEDS to be taught!

Now most in my school that change are military and they expect to move so most are very picky about what is taught and what is not. One parent I knew scanned all tests and other important documents onto the computer and kept a log of what was taught and not, so gaps could be covered when they moved to a new school. Now most military families stay in an area for 3-4 years. But some do move more frequently this one did almost every year or two, so that is why she was so picky about curriculum and content, she was highly educated so had the resources to cover gaps in her child's education. The families that I am talking about rural poor may expect to move but have no plan in place when it happens or resources. Then migrant workers expect to move and have no resources and the families are not educated.

I have read about performance based testing, portfolio use, and differential assessment but I haven't seen a good model yet on how to transfer that into the merit pay, to many political and administration hands in the pot. Maybe they will come up with one time will tell. A quote from the article says that it will not be based solely on test scores and those in the high poverty areas could be helped. I hope he means it and it is not just for the cities poverty! The rural and now some suburban areas, especially in this economy, are becoming "poor" due to job loss. This can transfer over to children and school achievement.

"Van Roekel insisted that Obama's call for teacher performance pay does not necessarily mean raises or bonuses would be tied to student test scores. It could mean more pay for board-certified teachers or for those who work in high-poverty, hard-to-staff schools, he said. However, administration officials said later they do mean higher pay based on student achievement, among other things."

You confused me already just in those few sentences. Time will tell…


Article about Merit Pay:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Do You Have The Balls to Use These In Class!

Using exercise balls instead of chairs in the classroom. The balls are most common in elementary classrooms, but I don't see why high school and middle school couldn't use them, where high-energy students can wiggle while they work.

Check out the news story and photo from

What did you think I was going to be!

I love the idea of this!

I have been making my daughter use one of these off and on while using the computer. She really doesn't like to use it but after reading more about it I think she needs a larger one, I have a medium, a larger one would let her sit comfortably so her arms rest correctly. I picked this picture because it shows how each child's desk and ball are customized to fit them correctly. From my experience this is very important for it to work comfortably. I would use this if I wasn't in the art room. The children are already standing, moving and rarely sit, unless they are disrupting the class. However if I ever go back into the regular classroom I would do this in a heartbeat.

I have always been the kind of person to do and then ask for forgiveness of the administration. So far I haven't ruffled too many feathers I am just considered the crazy art teacher. Now get paid to present workshops about my craziness! We just had the head of our diocese (what public would call the super) come in and observe the school yesterday. The one came straight to my room after the meeting to see what new things were happening. Of course I was having the kids work with plaster so everything was a mess, the floor, the kids, ME, and the hall leading to my room! It was like a little white road to my room. I forgot they were coming that day! Oh well I guess I can be messy since it is the art room.

Here is a Video and two news stories about a class that did the switch.

Then a training and school supplier for these balls

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The new type of prank calls (spoofing) that won’t have you running after your refrigerator.

I was reading an article in the e School News Technology News for Today's k-20 Educator March 2009 issue titled Hackers' latest ploy: Spoofing 911 calls. I was totally shocked at this type of "prank" calling and didn't even know it could be done. In general, and I am no expert, how it works is using the computer to make a call you can hide where the call originates from. It has been used by companies for a long time to hide the actual call back number from your caller ID system, showing a generic company number and is perfectly legal. Well some teenagers and college agers are using this technology to make prank or what is now called spoofing calls to 911. Many calls end up in swat teams being called in and schools being evacuated. One large arrest of 8 people who made a minimum of 300 calls to 911, one being a call that had real sounding gun shots and people moaning in the background. The 911 system is not set up to handle this type of calling. Fixed lines and most cell phones come up with an address or registered to someone. To update the 911 system it would be costly, some are using technology to collect IP address that call in. This may not help the short term they will still need to send people out but some accountability may be established. I am now curious I use Vonage a computer based phone system, so I am going to check about how this will come through on my local 911 system.

What a waste of resources and these students cannot be dumb kids that are doing this so what a waste of brains. If you want to play with computers so much volunteer your time to schools, churches, daycares anywhere do something constructive with your time. I guess he schools need to create a new part to their curriculum computer ethics. My husband is teaching a graduate class on computer ethics but maybe it needs to be taught in elementary, middle, and high schools as well.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The voucher System

So many issues around the voucher system the good, the bad and the ugly!

I myself am for a voucher system and have been even before my child began going to a private school. Schools are a business and a business to educate students. Yes some public and even private schools fail this. The difference is the public schools continue to fail and fail and fail, just Google Philadelphia School District a big one in the news for failure. Then families move from the failing districts it is like a cattle herd running leaving the weak in the dust. Those who cannot afford to move stay and suffer with what is left. The failing private schools just close no endless cycle. However those schools that succeed and get top marks private or public are sought after. Ever hear of a waiting list for those sought after private school places, means they can ask for more tuition meaning better education, more supplies and higher paid faculty with better education. Those public school districts that succeed grow and the community grows with it, which also brings in economic increase to the area. One example is

One really good document that gives what a successful school district is:

School Voucher links;_ylt=AqUlnEvZ6jsXPXvQOJ83LZtQXs8F

Monday, March 2, 2009

Is everything going to be about colleges?

So far everything has been for the colleges. I am a strong advocate for Early Childhood Education and the “Specials” (art, PE, music etc.). Early Childhood Education is crucial for later education success. Some programs such as Head Start and other ECE programs could use funding and incentives to get quality teachers into these programs. Because so far the majority of infant – preschool programs pay nothing!

Some have wonderful teachers and this is usually in the private sector headed by churches or organizations because they may not pay much, but most of the teachers do not rely on this income. It supplements the family income, they get tuition discounts or it is considered a service to the organization. Well maybe in this economy as jobs dry up some schools may lose some of the good teachers to other professions that pay higher wages. That is what I consider my job. I work in a Catholic school I make far less than my public school neighbors, but I consider my lower income a donation toward the church so they have a quality teacher in the Art classroom. This is a subject that not all schools public and private have a teacher for.
I believe college and vocational schools are extremely important but the other end of the education is just as needed as the latter.;_ylt=AkZaTJcUGvON5xbGteZEAb1QXs8F

Sunday, March 1, 2009

3 opinions

Obama's Education Remarks Get Mixed Reviews

From this article three give their opinion:

Jonathan Schorr, partner at NewSchools Venture Fund, a San Francisco-based group that seeks to improve public education, gave Obama high marks for pledging to increase the share of college graduates. According to the Los Angeles Times, the percentage of American adults of all ages with a four-year bachelor's degree was estimated at 17.1 percent in a recent Census survey. Schorr told the Times, "Anything that moves us in the direction of more of our students attending college is welcome and recognizes the economic realities we're living in."

Mike Petrilli, vice president of education programs at the conservative Fordham Institute in Washington, blogged that he was disappointed Obama did not address the causes of failure in schools, which in his view include tenure policies that make it difficult for schools to fire bad teachers: "I'm looking for substance, not sound bites. From where I sit, it looks like the education system just walked away with $100 billion in new federal spending, and all us reformers got in return was some poll-tested language [from the president]."

Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University, took Obama to task for promising to expand charter schools. She told Politico's "The Arena": "Doesn't he realize that they are a deregulation strategy much beloved by Republicans? Deregulation works brilliantly for some schools as it does for some firms. But it produces many losers, too. If he thinks that deregulation is the cure for American education, I have some AIG stock I'd like to sell him.";_ylt=AuxwH9JZbDoOG5eVL7fUVy1QXs8F

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Education and Obama? And my daughter’s equine math problem, yes it ties in!

I have been following Obama in his education statements since he started his campaign. Though most will not affect positively or negatively the private schools at all, so far. I am interested in how he is going to improve education in the United States. One recent article:

Feb. 25 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama pledged U.S. government support to make sure the U.S. has the world’s highest graduation rate by 2020, instead of one of the top high-school dropout rates in the industrialized world.
“In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity -- it is a prerequisite,” Obama told a joint gathering of the House and Senate in a speech last night.
Half of U.S. students who begin college never finish, and slightly more than half of Americans have a high school diploma, Obama said. Obama called the combination a “prescription for economic decline.”
Dropping out of high school is “not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country -- and this country needs the talents of every American,” Obama said. “That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that the U.S. was ranked seventh among nations in the proportion of adults 18 to 34 enrolled in college. The rate was 34 percent, compared with 53 percent for top-ranked Korea, according to the data, cited by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonpartisan group in San Jose, California.
Just 39 percent of U.S. adults had an associate’s degree or higher, compared with 55 percent for Canada and 54 percent for Japan.
The $787 billion economic stimulus bill that Obama signed Feb. 17 consolidates tax incentives for higher education into a $2,500 credit that could be claimed by most working families. And it makes college-related book and computer purchases eligible for the write-off for the first time.
Author: Robert Greene in Washington.;_ylt=AvLCG4ZS8jn2xZmMS6zaKlJQXs8F

I am glad he is looking at the national drop out rate, however I hope he also looks at the reason why the students drop out? Two good article reading on this issue has these statistics:
When 500 dropouts, ages 16-25, were interviewed, they gave many reasons for leaving school:
• 47% said classes were not interesting
• 43% missed too many days to catch up
• 45% entered high school poorly prepared by their earlier schooling
• 69% said they were not motivated to work hard
• 35% said they were failing
• 32% said they left to get a job
• 25% left to become parents
• 22% left to take care of a relative
• Two-thirds said they would have tried harder if more was expected from them.

What Is Working?
The schools that seem to be more successful are trying the following:
• evening classes
• more GED opportunities
• tutoring
• allowing students to return when older
The traditional high school format does not meet the needs of many students living in today's society. They need to see relevance between what they are learning and the need in the world for the information.

I think many schools teach too much toward the test rather than give the students the information they need, reasons why this information is necessary later in life. My daughter yesterday said that very thing why will I need to know this math later what will I ever use it for? She is only in 6th grade!! So my example to her how did I figure out what and how much to feed our three horses. In general if you don’t know anything about horses this is the basic equation:
Age + Level of activity/function +
Metabolism level + Hay/pasture quantity & quality
Protein amount + Amount of extra calories needed
14% to 16% are required until the horse is about 2 years old. After that, protein requirements drop down to fairly low levels of about 10%. Protein levels stay low until horses hit old age. When horses get old and require more protein in the diet is up to the individual horse but most go up to the 14% to 16% level again around the age of 20. The metabolism level of horses is certainly an individual characteristic and can be somewhat breed specific. Thoroughbreds and Arabians are somewhat notorious to be “hard keepers” requiring more feed to maintain body condition. Morgans, Quarter horses, Warmbloods, and ponies are often “easy keepers” requiring very little feed. Horse feed diets are typically designed to be fed at rates of anywhere from 5 lbs. to as much as 8 lbs. of feed per day to a 1000 Lb. horse
I gave her the feed labels for sweet feed, grain mix, hay nutrition facts, and beet pulp. I also gave her this print out
Here is the info I gave her on the horses:
32 year old Shetland pony 525 lbs, low activity level, and low metabolism
7 year old warmblood spotted draft, 1500 lbs, low activity, and medium metabolism.
10 year old mini, 300 lbs. and overweight, low activity, and low metabolism.
She looked it over and said how you figure this out. So I showed her. Now she knows why % and math is important for me and that was only the winter month feeding they have a different equation for each season!
When done I gave her the feed calculator online to see if she got close.

Can you figure it out??

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cell Phones

My husband has an advanced degree in instructional technology and is currently teaching a graduate level course in cyber ethics. So lately I am always hearing about new trends from cyber space ethics. The recent discussion he had with his class was the ethical debate over Obama’s Blackberry. He also occasionally volunteers at local high schools as well. So I hear lots of terms about cyber bullying, teen hacking and other teen computer issues. So I feel fairly well informed.

In my middle school art class we have recently finished an advertising poster contest about school bullying. Many of the students now add computer and cell phone use into the theme of “school bullying”. Now I don’t know if they will win the contest because I think a lot of people don’t think of that as “school bullying” it happens outside of school and at home. Bullying has now moved from just in school to in the student’s home life, they cannot escape.

Now 6 years ago when I started having the students create these posters students really didn’t think about cell phones and computers as part of school. It was present I heard of issues of IM bullying from other middle school teachers, However it wasn’t considered “In School”. Now students have been informed and seem to be getting the message and I hope parents, teachers, administrators, and the general public have. I am interested in seeing what posters win and if any have computers or cell phone images.

Here comes to a new thing I have been hearing about since last year but has now made national news, cell phone sexting. Now my teen daughter has a cell phone and lap top. She also knows unlike a lot of parents that my husband is very savvy about computers and if needed could hack in and find out anything he wants to know about her activity on the computer. However… the cell phone I am not so sure on what parent control features are available for parents. Can I check on it, can I check through the provider and know what is being e-mailed? Will most parents even think about it? I am! Right now, I am 99% sure she probably wouldn’t do anything right now, but what about someone sending something to her? Could happen if not now, possibly later. Some schools are now sending out safe sexting messages.

Here is my question should they or should it be a parent area? If so will most parents be able to approach this subject? Or as some I have talked to will say well at least they aren’t doing the REAL thing how can it hurt them? Ever hear of My Space and Facebook, well I have and it is in the college age and some high school age groups as a form of harassment using video or pictures of people. This will only move down the ages probably has already started and soon you will hear about 3rd graders in the news.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Why blog about education?

Why blog about education?
1. I am a Catholic School Art Teacher.
2. I have a passion about curriculum.

Not just art but across the board curriculum. I started out in art with Associates in Visual/Fine Arts. I realized I needed more than an AA in art. The birth of my first child introduced me to Early Childhood Education. So I took a few early childhood classes and enjoyed the education field. Went back to school for Bachelors in Art Education and minor in Early Childhood Education and kept going Masters of Early Childhood Education with emphasis on Curriculum and Instruction. I have presented workshops locally and nationally on a variety of curriculum topics.

I choose the private education sector because of the curriculum flexibility. I noticed many public schools are just teaching a very archaic curriculum view. Now not all! Same for the private schools all are not equal. I have just noticed awesome schools from both, the so-so schools and then lastly the ones that just have failed students for a variety of reasons. Just for my area I liked the local private school. We have the middle states accreditation and the only blue ribbon school for our diocese (public schools would call it a district in our area). Enough about me how are local schools in your area?

Here is an interesting read about education in America in gerenral

One specific article I think all educators and parents need to look at