I've just got to share the good stuff I read.

I love to read. I read every chance I get. If I read something really good, I want to share it with my friends and co-workers. I make copies of magazine articles, read aloud to my students, tell others about good books I'm reading, and keep a book with me at all times.

I love teaching and learning new things. I need a place to share some of the lessons and what my students and I learn. Since my teaching situation is different from everyone else's in my school, I would like to tell all of you in the blog-o-sphere about these great lessons.

Feel free to share what you are reading, teaching and learning with us in the comments.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

History with kids

Last week I started meeting with my students. They started school the week before but I had to test new students and attend a workshop, so Wednesday was our first meeting of the year. I decided to read a couple of books about the national anthem since everyone is now singing it every morning. The first book was by Peter Spier and was an illustration of the words of all four verses of the song. That really interested the boys because of the "bombs bursting in air" parts. It was hard for them to wrap their minds around the idea of no cars, phones, cameras, etc. at the time the song was written. Another picture book told the story of how Francis Scott Key came to write the poem/song. I had forgotten the background and even why we were fighting the British. Again, the kids were interested and now, I hope, more motivated to sing every morning.

Once again, building background is so important for these students. Not only do they not know the national anthem, even though many were born in the US, but most of the adults at school assume that everyone has some familiarity with the song.

This leads me back to my rant about testing. It is so unfair to judge teachers, students, schools, and communities by one test score. There is no way to show what students know by this method. Now the mania is pushing down to kindergarten when the person in charge of instruction wants to know how many sight words a kindergarten student should be able to read by the end of the year. What? How about one-their name. Or a few-like McDonalds, Wendy's, Cheerios, stop.

An idea that some pencil pusher in some office in DC extrapolated from business-not education-has us going in exactly the wrong direction to keep our students learning and motivated to be the type of innovators we have had in this country in the past. Check out Susan Ohanian's website for more about our unfair testing system.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Finished The Help

Okay, I finished reading The Help. For the most part I really enjoyed it. The story idea was interesting and kept my attention. The details drove me nuts. I have heard that other Jacksonians of my age also had problems with the details. If a writer is writing fiction, I understand that characters are made up and if the settings is made up, that's fine with me. But if a writer writes about a real place, he/she should get some basic info correct. There should have been someone reading it from this area who was also familiar with the time period. I don't think the author was alive in 1960. She should have checked with people who were. The end notes said she asked her father for info about Jackson at the time. Apparently he wasn't paying attention. Oh, well. It was a good book except for that.
First day of school tomorrow. After three days of meetings and talk about testing, testing, testing, I'm not sure anyone will really feel like teaching. I have a little encourager to share. I'm a little hesitant to share but feel some of my coworkers really need a boost of something positive. I heard one teacher has applied for a job in another field because she is so unhappy. I know I'm not in charge of her happiness but I feel like I should do something to encourage her. She is a good teacher. Teaching is hard enough without sitting and listening to rants about test scores. Help me, Jesus.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reading Council Pump Up

This past weekend I attended a workshop for reading council leaders in Dallas. It was filled with reading teachers, professors, and other reading professionals. Everyone was to bring a book to share/trade with someone. I took a lot of time deciding which book to take to share and then when time came to trade I was too shy to share it. What's wrong with me? I couldn't go up to a complete stranger and start a conversation. The directions were to choose someone from a different part of the country to share. I thought we would be paired up or grouped up by the leaders. I remember an activity my psychology professor had the class do when I was at U of GA. He turned off the lights and we were to go around the room silently greeting others-shaking hands, etc. I stood in the corner until the lights were turned back on. The book sharing activity was like that. I just couldn't go up to someone and start talking. That seems so strange to me because I have no trouble talking before groups of people when I do presentations. Weird?

The workshop was very helpful and I have lots of ideas for improving the state reading council. But my job is not starting new local councils, I'm the treasurer. I hate being the treasurer but I don't want to give up the job either. When I think about the whole organization, national, state, and local, I find that I most enjoy the time in my local council. I look forward to sharing with other teachers in my area. The state group seems like a bunch of people who are either pushing their own agenda or just too busy to do much. I don't want to be part of the downfall of this group. I joined because of one outgoing person. I wanted to be her friend and part of the vision she had for Mississippi. Now she has retired and moved away. No one has come along to take her place as a charismatic leader. I know it won't be me but we need someone to inspire us soon.