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February 2009

My 6th Period class

Every year I've had a class that drives me crazier than most.  It's usually an afternoon class and it's usually a large class.

This year its my 6th period class.  There are 26 students in the class.  They are loud and they have the largest number of students who are not passing. 

I have also had a few students transfer from other class periods in to that class, and they all agree I'm a different teacher during this class period.  I've yelled at these kids, I've slammed doors, and thrown packs.  I don't do things like that during other class periods.

Every other one of my classes come in, sit down, turn on their computers and get to work.   The only people who get up are those who want to go to the restrooms, and they do it one at a time.  The other classes all wait to quit until the bell rings.

Not this group, they are screaming and they are running around the room. They quit 5 minutes early and start running around the room again. They interrupt me and each other.  Yesterday one of the students took another student's iPod. 

I've been working hard to get them to behave as well as my other classes -- it really does affect passing rate.  My passing rate is lowest in this class and highest in 5th period, who truly are my best behaved. 

Besides I don't like being a crazy woman.

My latest technique has been to have a Power Point presentation on the wall, and have their screens blanked out and start with the Power point presentation immediately as soon as they are quiet.  However, they then tend to quit a bit earlier, but I'm working on it.


Still loving my Zune AND my Zune pass

Right now, I’m listening to a Jimmy Buffet album – using my Zune pass and Zune software on my PC.  All day today I had my Zune plugged into my speakers at school, and while my students were working I was listening to music I’d downloaded on the Zune.  It’s great because I can keep it near to my keyboard and just press a button to turn it off.

I thought using one device was a really good idea for a long time.  I was using Napster To Go with my phone, and the quality of the playback sucked, selecting music was a pain, downloading was a pain, and finding the music to play it was a pain.

The Zune works SO much better.

Though, if they come out with a version that has bluetooth so I can use bluetooth speakers, I’ll be buying a new one and this one will be for sale.  In fact, I’ve just ordered a bluetooth transmitter from Amazon (Sony) and I’m hoping it will solve the problem.

I have some Jabra Bluetooth stereo headphones that I bought from Buy.com and really love them.  They are light weight, no wires, and very good quality play back.  I like them much better than any of the earbuds I’ve tried or even the over the ear type.

My pass renews this weekend and I’ll be able to “buy” more music which will be nice.  I am hopeful that the renewal process will be smoother – last month I got to school without “renewing” my music and very little of it was available for play.  That was a bit disconcerting.

And … almost forgot … really wish that Audible.com worked wirelessly like the Zune software does.  Or that the Daily subscriptions would work more seamlessly.


Student Arrested For Classroom Texting - February 17, 2009

One of my twitter follower’s commented he thought this story was stupid:

Student Arrested For Classroom Texting - February 17, 2009

As a teacher I applaud it.   Here’s why.  I’ve been there.  I’ve been the teacher with a kid that wouldn’t behave and I believe it was handled exactly the way I would handle it.

a) kid is texting in my class

b) I tell kid to stop – they don’t – I ask for phone

c) I don’t get it, so I call security and have them deal with it

I finish teaching and no longer have problems with that child.  I have no idea what the consequences are because I’m no longer involved.

Now that sort of thing happened when I got the lovely position of teaching repeating Algebra I.  A special set of Algebra I classes for students who had failed it before.  Oh, and I had 30+ students in each class.  Blame Katrina for that part of the problem. 

That school year I held the record for the number of referrals.  Oh, and by the way I have the reputation of being a very strict and very good teacher.  I usually write less than 5 referrals a year.  I think I am at two now, and both times the kid walked out of the class on his own.

Here’s what happens now:

a) kid is texting in my class

b) I say: please put the consumer electronics away (avoids the not a cell phone argument).

c) kid puts it away and I get on with teaching.

Difference:  I am teaching Computer Science and my largest class in 28.

And by the way, I had the highest Classroom Effective Indexes in the school with the above group.


Please read the directions!

As a past winner of the STEM award for my district, I have to read this year's applications.  I have done this for two years and I am always discouraged.

Please read the instructions.  I did.  And I was very careful to follow the rules.  If you want an award, follow those rules, and get someone else to help you read them.

I don't know how the other evaluators handle this, but if you don't follow the instructions, I'm automatically going to give you a low rating. 

In fact, two of the applications were from people who didn't teach a STEM course.  Guess what, you got a 1.  One applicant single spaced their application.  Guess what, you automatically lost two points.  Worse yet, you didn't answer the question correctly so you ended up with a score below a 5 on each count.

I also took off if you wrote past the one half page and what you wrote didn't add to your essay.  Also, have someone else read the essay and use the spell check and grammer check provided by the word processing programs. I also took off for typos.

The good news is that there were several outstanding essays and best yet, one of them is a guy I know and really respect.  I think he'll make the top 5 cut because he DID follow the directions.

When I wrote my essay and they asked what was unique about my classroom, I focused on the technology tools i used.  I was looking for that in the essays and that's what got people points.  It's a STEM award, and its to encourage innovation in the classroom.  Show you how you innovate!  Don't tell me you use the principals of learning because we always do.

Here's another question that the answers all dissatisfy me. It's about evaluating students with tools beyond standardized test courses -- I like to emphasis the tools that use the standardized test scores precisely because we and the students live and die by them.  Especially if you teach an AP class, you darn well be better using those scores to improve your teaching!

The moral of the story:  read the rules and follow them carefully and you'll come out ahead!


Really Love My Zune

Got a 120 gig Zune for Christmas -- husband gave it to me a few days before Christmas so I would have more time to play with it.

Absolutely love it. 

I use it to listen to Audible Books, especially the New York Times Audible Edition each day. Like the other podcasts too, especially Scott Haselman's.

Music in my classroom.  I hook it up to my desktop speakers and listen to music while my students are working.  It's great because I can easily turn it down when I need to, or stop it.  Kids are listening to their music, why can't I listen to mine?

Music at the doctor's office, especially the chiropractor during physical therapy.  Makes it good faster.

Some while I am walking on the treadmill but I usually watch TV.

Videoes in my classroom -- I download videos I like, hook the Zune to my projector and good to go.  Quickest, smallest way to do that.

Dog videos and dog pictures.  Gives me an easy interface to share my pictures with others.  Much easier than my Windows Mobile phone.  And videos are even easier.

Also love the wireless sync. Can remotely login to my Zune computer, pick music and update while I am anywhere in the house.  Do that for Podcasts too.

I almost forgot -- my favorite part of my Zune is Zune Pass.  I hate the idea of iTunes, loved Napster to Go and Zune Pass is even better.  And worth the money.


Why I hate the Dell Foundation

Hate is a little too strong and while Michael and Susan Dell mean well, I don't think they get high schools.

They have been funding proograms to encourage small schools but hopefully didn't express the criteria well enough.

They think a small high school has around 250 students. However most communities think that it is more efficient to house 5000 in one building.

Solution: Break the 5000 into groups of 250 and call them separate schools. Then the community gets the grant money and are happy.

I honestly don't think that this solves the problems large schools have and I certainly hope it was not what The Dells meant.

By the way I think the perfect size is 1000. Big enough to offer good electives but small enough that everyone pretty well knows everyone. We're a bit larger right now and there are some students and even teachers I don't know.