Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let the trumpets sound!

I am a new blogger - and let me tell you, the opportunities and information are so endless it is a little overwhelming. But it's really exciting to join a community of educators who are blogging about serious issues, innovative strategies and well, SHARING IT!

I have worked in 4 high schools and 1 middle school, and often teachers are reluctant to share materials. I feel the opposite. Let the sharing begin! The more we can share with one another, the better. If something works, share it. If something fails, share it. There is so much debate about education in this country I think it's not just going to be fixed because someone created a website (although I think the former chancellor has some great ideas). It is going to be fixed because people are willing to learn from one another and share what works.

As the LITT (Lead Instructional Technology Teacher) at my school...(by the way, I am feeling my way through this new found position) I have something EXCITING to share because I can barely keep it in. My school district UNBLOCKED SKYPE!

Sound the trumpets. Many of the teachers in my school are unaware of what Skype is, but I really feel they are willing to learn and open their classrooms to what can happen. Our school is full of great teachers who may not have knowledge of all the technology available to them, but if someone is willing to teach them I think they'll take the plunge.

Optimism. One step at a time. Let the trumpets sound.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Transcendentalism Facebook

I was thinking about the best way to assess what my students have learned about Transcendentalism - and found a teacher who did a Facebook page about Hamlet as a final assessment. Great idea!

So, as my final assessment for Transcendentalism, I am going to allow the students to use the essays by Thoreau and Emerson, the notes we've taken and the basic ideas of Transcendentalism to create a Facebook page for someone who would adhere to Transcendentalist qualities. I borrowed the Facebook templates from a teacher's blog, which I will include on the American Literature resource page. We are jumping into this tomorrow, so we'll see how it goes and what kind of response I get.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kick the BUCKET!

As the semester comes to a close, I begin thinking about research upon our return. Last year, I was sitting on my mother's plaid couch on break and I found an intriguing video online. MTV was getting ready to launch their new show, "The Buried Life." And it hit me - since research is always like pulling students' teeth, I wondered if perhaps they would be more inspired by researching the things they want to do before they die.

I was right. They loved it. I created a multi-genre research project that gives students the opportunity to research eight goals they would like to complete in their lifetimes. Students researched anything from a tour of Europe to driving a lambourghini. For each particular bucket list item, students had to create a multigenre writing item - whether it be a postcard, a letter, an itinerary, etc.

Students still had to create a Works Cited page, cite their sources and learn the research process, but they were pretty motivated to do it because these were goals they actually wanted to complete. I am working on revising the project for second semester, but for now it is available on TeachersPayTeachers at this link:


I am definitely anxious to add the addition of a Smartboard presentation and some other interactive technology and then I'll update it on TeachersPayTeachers.

Until then, here are some items on my bucket list:

1. Finish and publish a novel
2. Start a small business benefiting teachers - giving them more time for creativity and technology
3. Mush a dog sled
4. See Aerosmith in concert (CHECK THAT BABY OFF!!! Did this in Dallas last summer)
5. Go on an African Safari
6. Learn to shoot a gun
7. Visit New Orleans
8. Get a Fund for Teachers project accepted and complete
9. National Board Certification
10. Get my doctorate
11. Get a tattoo
12. Keep working on my bucket list, continuing to add more goals!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For teachers...something inspired by an Italian restaurant??

I recently attended the World Creativity Forum in Oklahoma City. Oh, did I learn MUCH. And there is more to be said about that conference in the future.

BUT - that being said, I'd like to give a big, fat thank you to Zios Italian restaurant for giving me a great creative idea for the classroom.

I sat at the small, cozy table with my principal and fellow teacher, doodling on the table with crayons when it hit me. Wouldn't my junior American Lit students LOVE to just write and write and write on their desks during class?

So, early the morning of my return, I was furiously cutting butcher paper and taping it to each desk. We were learning about Transcendentalism, and I thought - what better way to identify the components of Trans... by having the students DRAW each element and then leave it for the next hour to guess and add their own?

It went splendiferically, and I added another notch to my creative tool belt.

Today, one of my students walked into class and said...(as the class was yet again reconfigured) "You're always trying to keep us guessing with the unexpected, aren't you Mrs. Wisehart?"

Yes, Philip, I am.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A tirade about teachers

Important thought.

There are teachers who actually work really hard to educate your students.

There are teachers who care.

There are teachers who have passion for educating - but not only that, passion for continuing to learn.

Lately, all I hear about are the bad teachers.

Maybe if we praised the good teachers, the bad ones would work harder.

I don't have to wait for superman. I see him everyday at my school...working hard to educate your students.

But they aren't just educating.

They are parenting, guiding, loving, leading, caring, growing, fostering...do I have to continue?

And I might add they are doing all these things for a meager salary.

My tribute:

Here's to Mr. Amm, who taught me how to find my passion.

Here's to an English teacher who let us stand on desks and sing. Thanks, Mr. Adrian.

Here's to my Brit Lit professor, Dr. Cook, who taught me that women can be independent and strong.

The list goes on and on.

And on.

Thanks to the teachers, who despite all criticism and hardship and testing...still teach.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I believe this, too.

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

— Apple Inc.

If you really knew me...

Well, after a week of aphorisms, inferences and works cited, I am finally sitting down to do some thinking about this week's classes. On my way to pick up my always perky 5 year old from school, I picked up a folder of student writing.

We did a writing assignment in class akin to the MTV show - I do have to say that I have been using this particular writing assignment for several years, so maybe MTV owes me some money. :) The writing assignment is "If you really knew me..." and then students fill in the rest.

I required the students to write one page. They could use bullet points if they wanted, but they had to fill a page. I picked up the pile of papers expecting lots of "If you really knew me you would know I have a really cute boyfriend," and I actually got quite the opposite.

For the sake of privacy, I am not going to quote these papers, but let's just say many of the topics included suicide, loneliness, divorce, low self esteem, racism, missing lost parents, failed friendships/relationships...and the list goes on and on and on...

I tell my students (as I make a big circle with my arms) that I wish I could wrap my arms around the entire classroom like a lasso and take them all home.

In order to be a better teacher, I have to be willing to listen and learn from those I teach.

I'm learning, guys. And I'm listening.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parent Teacher Conferences: A time to cry?

Last Tuesday and Wednesday were Parent Teacher Conferences. They are often very...unpredictable, uninspiring...but often a great time to chat it up with other teachers. :) I only wish more parents would come in and be curious about how their students are doing.

But I had a moment - an amazing moment - with one of my parents. It was unexpected. Her student was doing well but for one missing assignment, and that was neither here nor there (which I told her). All he had to do was complete the missing assignment and his grade would be fine.

I began talking off-handedly about the student's participation in class...the way he had been sharing about some personal experiences. His mother began to cry. When I questioned why, she said that he had never spoken in class before. Ever.

Those are the days I love teaching...even more than usual.

(I apologize for my unadulterated use of ellipses in my writing. I just love them.)

If students have interest...then education happens

I took the above quote from Sugata Mitra...it's an AMAZING thought, and I agree with it. Much of what I do in the classroom is engaging students and finding that when they are interested...when their questions and opinions are valued, then education happens. This video from the TED talks is mind blowing:

I continually want to be able to be curious as to what might make my students curious.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ben Franklin and the Virtuous Juniors

So, on to Ben Franklin and his Autobiography. I actually enjoy this because we talk about the 13 virtues he attempted to track and implement into his life.

The first day they partnered up to create modern day definitions of virtues. They really felt I was making them think too much (They actually used these words). The next day I presented them with the arduous task of picking their own virtue and tracking it. First we went over the virtues...I will say that Chastity presented quite the conversation...but a couple of my kids really opened up and shared some deep stuff with the class.

Besides the individual virtue tracking, I grouped the students and gave them a group virtue. For that particular virtue, each group will create a photograph and a skit dealing with that virute, accurately portraying what Ben Franklin was trying to accomplish, but with a modern twist.

Today one group brought dirt in a jar. Before I knew it, ALL OF THEM were dirty for their photograph. I guessed (incorrectly) that their group virtue was CLEANLINESS, but I guess I will  be surprised when I see the finished product. I'm still stuck on the dirt in a jar part (it was a large, restaurant sized salt shaker - I don't know if they salted themselves with the dirt or not).

The point was, they were engaged. I like that part.

I will be posting their virtue skits after they are due Oct. 26.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The final product

Today we made the videos. (See my video bar for finished products)


What an amazing feeling to see these kids so proud of the work they've done. I used a flip camera, which was AMAZING! Immediate editing, title screen and credits! I was able to edit, post and upload in 5 minutes!

Of course I had the kids all sign district video release forms, so I was legit with the legal-ness (I know that's not a word, but it's late, and even English teachers like to use horrible grammar every once in a while). Tomorrow I'll make a potpourri video of those who are turning in their release forms late. I don't want to leave anyone out. I only had a couple kids whose parents didn't want them to do the video - no problem. They still did the assignment.

Today I had them write the answer to two questions correlating with the project: "Why did you choose your sentence?" and "How do you plan on achieving your sentence?"

I told them all today that I learned a whole lot.

From them.

I am really fleshing out the whole idea that I have to learn from the students to be a better teacher.

And I'm growing.





Monday, October 11, 2010

How will you be remembered?

I presented the "What's your Sentence?" lesson today. It exceeded my expectations! It was so much fun!

First, I showed the video of the Hoyt Team...the father son team who runs marathons, triathalons and ironmans together. Hoyt Team Video I asked the students to think about the two men, and how they would want to be remembered. It is such an inspirational piece, the students are speechless for the first bit after they've seen it.

We took a few minutes to talk about these men - and how they will be remembered. Then I presented Dan Pink's idea, "What's Your Sentence?" by showing this video from Dan Pink's website. We came up with a sentence for both Dick and Rick Hoyt and talked about why they would choose those sentences.

Then we talked about the students - and what their sentences would be. They each had one single piece of paper and started brainstorming. The kids came up with some pretty amazing sentences: "He told his story and thousands quit smoking." AND "He led a team to victory." AND "She changed the world - the world didn't change her."

Tomorrow I am cracking out the flip cam and we're going to make a video for each class. Of course, they are filling out release forms and I sent home parent letters - but I CANNOT wait to see the culmination of these projects. The kids (11th graders) are really excited about it, too.

I created a YouTube channel called teachlivelearn that I will start uploading these videos to, so I will post as soon as I start...it's just exciting to see the students thinking about how they want their lives to go - how they want to be remembered. I told them it's just one step closer to actually reaching their goals. Many of them chose making others happy as their way to be remembered. I was REALLY PROUD.

Great day.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thinking about homework...

Tonight I watched the documentary,"Freakonomics", and it got me thinking about incentives and homework. Essentially, it got me thinking about homework, period.

I have never been a fan of homework. My husband brought up an interesting point: "Do 90% of the jobs in the work force give outside 'homework'?" My answer, of course, was no (although as teachers I think we give ourselves more homework than we should :)). Most of the time the work is "busy" and really doesn't serve to "engage" the student in learning what we want them to learn.

As I was browsing the Teach Paperless blog, I saw he also brought up some interesting thoughts about homework. I, too, saw Alan November this summer, and he talked about the fact that lecture should very well be on a podcast or video for students to view, and that classroom time should be spent collaborating on the work TOGETHER. Engaging as a class in learning, practicing and accomplishing - students even teaching one another (when we are willing to give up that power in the classroom).

I have been thinking a LOT lately about how much I allow the students, through inquiry, to help move the classroom through the learning process.

And I guess I really feel like homework doesn't accomplish any of this. It just gives students more work, more stress, and frankly, less time engaging in the world around them. If we're going to give them something to do at home, let's make it MEANINGFUL, REAL TO LIFE...something the students might want to do anyway outside of the school day. Let's teach them to practice learning in their everyday lives. Let's challenge them to use technology.

I can't wait for Monday.

What's your sentence?

On Monday, I'm going to introduce a new idea to my students, thanks to Daniel Pink! I'm going to use this video to introduce it:


I plan to play this video and talk with them about what they want their sentences to be...how they want to be remembered, and what steps they'll be taking to achieve those sentences. I think I'm also going to use the question Steve Jobs talked about in his Standford Commencement address. He said when he gets up every morning he looks in the mirror and asks himself "If this were the last day of my life, would I be doing what I'm doing today?" He says if he tells himself no more than 3-5 days, then he knows there's something he should change.

After my students create their sentences, I'm going to use my flip camera to make videos of them holding up posterboard of their sentences written out. I'd like to make a video for each class. Should be a good culminating activity. It also moves toward what I've found to be the revelation of my teaching career:

I want to become a better teacher by continuing to learn from those I teach. Teaching is only made better by learning, and living is only made better by learning. In order to teach, I have to learn - and the only way to live is to continue to do both. I'm excited about this new adventure.

I'm also anxious to continue working on my goal to make my classroom entirely paperless. I am inspired by the writer of the blog Teach Paperless: http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/. I think with the way education is moving, this is a perfect way to move forward. I posted my project at www.donorschoose.org, and we'll see what happens! I've already had one donor, and I'm hoping for more.

Well, so begins my blogging career. I've piddled around with it before, but I'd like to start blogging what I'm doing - and as I learn, I can share. This might just merely be for myself, but maybe it will go somewhere!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stolid Student Moments 1

So, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some moments I experience in the classroom that both amaze and confuse me as a teacher. Although I absolutely love and adore my students, they often say things that...well, seem to be...impossible.

A couple weeks ago I was presented with a problem. Often, I tell my students there are no stupid questions. Which is absolutely true. HOWEVER, there ARE questions that can cause some laughter later (but it takes everything in me to contain myself when this happens).

Back to the problem.

We were talking about college.

And one of my students wants to be a cheerleader in college.

So, she asks me a very pertinent college cheerleader question.

"But, Mrs. Wisehart! I thought the Dallas Cowboys had a college?!!"

Maybe they should get on that.

Seriously Kayden

Sharing Kayden escapades is of the utmost importance. Being a working mom and a pastor's wife can be stressful and wonderful at the same time. But just a quote from Kayden can keep me going, that's for sure! Here's the latest:

"Mom, I'm 5 now. But don't worry. I'm the same person."

Phew. I was worried.