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Springtime in Texas….

This past week we were able to complete only one full day of school.  First it was freezing rain, then came the snow – a whole four inches! This is crazy weather is typical for the part of the world, especially since the week before it hit 70F and we had glorious sunshine.  Crazy weather!

What amazes me is that this disruption brings out either the best in people or the worst, there isn’t much middle ground. Kids and dogs, it was the best….they had a ball in the snow, adults, not so much.  What seems to be the root of the problem is that daily routines get turned on their head, we are so set in our ways that the slightest diversion from the norm sends us into a tail spin.

I heard parents complaining that kids were in school rather than being kept home, kept home rather than sent to school.  Weathermen blamed for the weather like it was their fault.  Power companies blamed for outages when they were working hard to restore power, and as for the completely bonkers behavior in Walmart…..well that was unreal.

I’m going to be honest, I’m more a flip flop person than a rubber boots person.  I don’t like to be cold.  I found myself frustrated that I was getting behind with my classes, that I wasn’t at the spot I had planned for, what with tests coming up.  Then the realization dawned on me…..there is ABSOLUTELY nothing I can do about it, it is entirely out of my control, so why was I getting aggravated?  To quote the Disney movie “Frozen” it was time to “let it go”……

We did have power so I kind of liked being home. I watched my bird feeder and caught up on movies.  I even did housework and I especially liked watching the unbridled joy of two dogs who clearly lack any sense of temperature in their feet.  While I don’t care to be frozen, there is something magical about the quiet and quality of light when everything is blanketed in snow.  It’s so bright and sparkly!

I guess the expression is “make hay while the sunshines” or alternatively chase tennis balls when it snows!

Either way, roll on summer…..



Lightening does strike twice……

Success

A million years ago, or so it seems, I had an education professor who believed that the most powerful tool a teacher could have was to be reflective.  Of course, I just like all newly minted teachers, was just about surviving the day, week, semester……..reflection wasn’t a priority in my repertoire.  These days, it is one of the most important elements of my practice, not just about how I teach but how I view what happens in our school as a whole.

This school year saw a lot of changes to my school.  I admit I was a little apprehensive about how everything was going to work out, and if I’m honest at the start there were a few rocky moments.  Then a few things happened and everything started to fall into place and our little high school went through something of a change in atmosphere.

My first teaching job was in the lowest performing school, in the lowest performing school district in, get this, the country.  Something had to change, we got a new leader with a new vision for the school. One of his keys was changing the ‘anti-nerd’ culture.  He wanted the cool kids to be the ones who worked hard and were academically successful.  At the end of the year our scores went from 14% to 50%.  We had a graduation celebration, fancy clothes, limos, the whole deal.

The next year all the kids wanted a piece of the action.  The whole atmosphere of the school changed for the better, it went to prove that a great deal of hard work from both faculty and a relatively small group of engaged kids could bring about positive change for everyone.

Fast forward twenty-five years and I get to experience it over again.  Now my current school was never the ‘war zone’ I started in, it has been a wonderful place to work for the past 10 years with great colleagues and awesome students.

So what happened?

Well. for one thing a new principal with a different perspective.  Then………

We won a football game, and another, and another, the wins just kept coming.  The excitement was palpable.  Then the girls made playoffs in volleyball for the first time in forever and it reached fever pitch! These players and their coaches worked really hard and they were being successful.

positive cool

Here’s the thing that makes me feel like I’m reliving the past.  My time in my classroom has never been so good, my kids are working their hardest, I had a student, this week, tell me it was cool to do well.  Positivity, which I believe is born out of our extracurricular success seems to be contagious. And not just for the students. I’m not the only teacher loving my job, we are having so much fun, job seems like the wrong word.

In reflection, it is apparent that it is universal truth that hard work brings about success and when recognized and celebrated success, any success, academic, sporting, whatever, creates a culture where everyone wants a piece of the action.

Long may it continue…..GO REBELS!!!!

Lightening does strike twice……

Success

A million years ago, or so it seems, I had an education professor who believed that the most powerful tool a teacher could have was to be reflective.  Of course, I just like all newly minted teachers, was just about surviving the day, week, semester……..reflection wasn’t a priority in my repertoire.  These days, it is one of the most important elements of my practice, not just about how I teach but how I view what happens in our school as a whole.

This school year saw a lot of changes to my school.  I admit I was a little apprehensive about how everything was going to work out, and if I’m honest at the start there were a few rocky moments.  Then a few things happened and everything started to fall into place and our little high school went through something of a change in atmosphere.

My first teaching job was in the lowest performing school, in the lowest performing school district in, get this, the country.  Something had to change, we got a new leader with a new vision for the school. One of his key was changing the ‘anti-nerd’ culture.  He wanted the cool kids to be the ones who worked hard and were academically successful.  At the end of the year our scores went from 14% to 50%.  We had a graduation celebration, fancy clothes, limos the whole deal.

The next year all the kids wanted a piece of the action.  The whole atmosphere of the school changed for the better, it went to prove that a great deal of hard work from both faculty and a relatively small group of engaged kids could bring about positive change for everyone.

Fast forward twenty-five years and I get to experience it over again.  Now my current school was never the ‘war zone’ I started in, it has been a wonderful place to work for the past 10 years with great colleagues and awesome students.

So what happened?

Well. for one thing a new principal with a different perspective.  Then………

We won a football game, and another, and another, the wins just kept coming.  The excitement was palpable.  Then the girls made playoffs in volleyball for the first time in forever and it reached fever pitch! These players and their coaches worked really hard and they were being successful.

positive cool

Here’s the thing that makes me feel like I’m reliving the past.  My time in my classroom has never been so good, my kids are working their hardest, I had a student, this week, tell me it was cool to do well.  Positivity, which I believe is born out of our extracurricular success seems to be contagious. And not just for the students. I’m not the only teacher loving my job, we are having so much fun, job seems like the wrong word.

In reflection, it is apparent that it is universal truth that hard work brings about success and when recognized and celebrated success, any success, academic, sporting, whatever, creates a culture where everyone wants a piece of the action.

Long may it continue…..GO REBELS!!!!

The Only Constant is Change…….

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One of the teachers at school has this mantra, “it’s all about how you look at it”. This has been something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the summer.

Schools, like any organization, go through periods of change. Some we are OK with, others not so much. So at the end our year we had a group of talented, energetic, fun, and ‘student champion’ faculty take new paths.

Unfortunately, these paths take them away from our school. This has given me cause to take a deep breath, and ask myself how will we/I manage? It’s not going to be the same……this thought compounded because two people who are moving on have been champions for me.

So this weekend the pragmatic voice in my head finally spoke up. No one has died, it will work out fine. It’s all about how you look at it…….
We will have a group of new people, new personalities, new energy and new ideas. This might just work out well.

So for my friends moving on to new places, thank you for everything you taught me. Thank you for your time and willingness to try new stuff. Especially thank you for your patience with me and our kids. Oh, and thank you for only holding me back when the result would have been the need for bond money (!).

To our new colleagues, welcome to the family….bring it on!….let’s see what you got!

And to use my favorite phrase…it’s all good!

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Brutus and the Fifty States……

Posted on

Do cats have a mega plan to take over the world?

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Apparently what sets primates above all other animals is the opposable thumb. You know where you can touch your thumb to your fingers hold stuff, like a pencil. The other thing that makes us smart is the ability to problem solve.

This morning while feeding my tribe of felines I watched Frankie confront a problem; how to get the last smidgen of kitty food out of his can without the can scooting across the counter. His solution was to use his dew claw as an thumb to hold everything still.

I think I should be concerned, I have long suspected the cats are in charge. If I see Frankie picking up a writing implement I’ll let you know.

Going old school, Biology style……..

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Sometimes it is good to go back to basics.

Let me say this first, I am a huge fan of technology. The resources we have now are limitless. I started teaching in an inner city school – my students really did not have a lot in the way of interaction with nature. Now, a few minutes on the Internet and they have access to more nature, more ecosystems and more life than anyone could have imagined possible. This is a good thing.

That being said, at my end of year review with my students I asked them what they enjoyed most and what they found most helpful for learning. Their answers were almost unanimous and surprised me.

I thought the thing they would have appreciated most was the fact that they always had free access to their smart phones and could look up something whenever they wanted.

[side note: the BYOT policy we instituted this year has been liberating for ME!!! I have saved so much time and energy not getting uptight about cellphones, IPODs etc. I have taught so much more and policed hardly at all. I say run with it, embrace it and pick a battle you can win, cause technology in the classroom is here now, so make the most of it].

Anyway, the most favorite and most learning the students had was when I gave them rats and asked them to investigate the body systems and how they worked together. This is straight out of the Biology play book circa 1950! The pictures above show them doing their dissections and renacting one using a class mate!

You always know when it’s a good activity when every other teacher in the school knows what is happening in your room, because the kids are all talking about it. That is a good indicator for engagement. Funny thing is I thought they’d all be squeamish and gripe. I even had a simulation all ready to go.

So I asked them why they enjoyed it so much. It was a simple response…..”because its real.”

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