Give a bunch of kids some K'NEX building pieces (tools, not toys!), a little guidance, and some safety goggles (because they make us look so cool!), and you have our Motion and Design unit, one in which students have designed vehicles to meet specific challenges and learn specific principles. We've been working way behind schedule in this science unit, but we are almost finished. Our next unit is Electric Circuits.
Before this becomes an issue - before the weather gets warmer and before the hormones fully kick in - we need to talk about hygiene and body odor. One of my least favorite tasks is to teach hygiene. If I had my "druthers" I would avoid the topic altogether.
Sometimes parents and kids don't realize it, but kids are going to be making a transition to puberty soon, and with that come changes that tend to sneak up on us. The biggest issue they presented on The Brady Bunch in the 70s was the time when Peter's voice changed. They even sang a song about it.
This is a relatively harmless message considering the massive list of changes these kids really face. The chorus of the Brady Bunch song even makes it sound like everything is just as natural (which it is) and simple (which it is not) as it can be.
Autumn turns to winter,
More than voices change. Please understand that body odor does not need to be a problem. Bodies, hair, clothing (including underwear and socks) can emit unpleasant odors when kids do not keep them clean. Soap, shampoo, and deodorant are must-haves in the battle to avoid being offensive in this realm. Please discuss and instruct your children about keeping clean. After all, it could be a health issue, as well.
If that headline sounds strange to you, it's because you're not familiar with Educationese in the 21st Century. You see, these days, we're trying to keep students engaged; that is, we're trying to keep their attention while increasing their thinking, communication, and problem solving skills.
Sometimes that means the teacher has to get out of the way and let kids talk, wrestle with materials and information, and struggle against obstacles. I've written recently about losing the art of teaching to the science, concerning the current trends in our profession, but engagement, in my opinion, must lean heavily on a teacher's ability to creatively guide students and provide freedoms without losing control of the class. All the data collection in the world will not allow for that kind of magic.
Speaking of collecting data, however, we even have the opportunity for more of it in the area of student engagement. Some of the staff in our school take the time, a few times a year, to roam from room to room to analyze how deep students are getting, how engaged they are in conversations, and how high their thinking levels are when provided tasks. After this, the collected data is pooled and reported to the teachers. We discuss it and think of ways to improve upon it for the future. We make suggestions to each other about how more teachers can achieve more engagement for more students.
We don't always stay at the highest levels since some instruction is best presented during direct instruction, but we want to avoid times when the class is disengaged completely. Whenever possible we want to push the envelope and let students do the thinking.
So, if your child reported to you that we had a bunch of people visiting our class, Monday, this was the reason. They were collecting data to see how engaged we were.
The following is a message from Kid President to all of us -
because all of us need to be "pep talked".
The world needs you to stop being boring...Everybody can be boring, but you're gooder than that.
How is it possible to keep from being bored? Is it possible to keep from boring my students? Believe me, there are times when it is a struggle to stay awake, to stay focused, to stay interested. Sometimes it's hard to care. What do I, the teacher need to do to keep my students engaged in the many lessons and transitions that we experience each day? What do students need to consider in order to stay on task?
If life is a game, aren't we all on the same team?
We get glimpses of this in our classroom, but we're certainly not 100% there. In fact, last Friday, there was a moment when one of our classmates needed to feel some love and support from more than just another adult. The moment came, and (with a lump in my throat) I made a big deal about it. I think it was a time when the whole class felt the magic of eye contact and serious talk. We came together with one goal, and we felt it.
You got air comin' through your nose. You got a heartbeat. That means it's time to do somethin'.
I get it: sometimes I don't want to do anything, either...but life is not a Bruno Mars song. Kid President, you have correctly identified the best proof we have to do something. As long as we are breathing and our hearts are beating, let's continue to learn and improve. Let us continue to help one another.
What if there really were two paths? I wanna be on the one that leads to awesome.
I happen to believe there are more than two paths. I also believe that only one of those many paths leads to "awesome". Sometimes we find it hard to find the right path, but it's there. It may be a narrow path, a "road less traveled," but it still exists, and if we are persistent searchers we can find it. I love that Kid President identifies the destination of that path as "awesome". Whether you believe that path leads to a tangible reward, an intrinsic reward, a successful career, a happy family, or Heaven itself, awesome is a destination to shoot for.
It's like that dude, Journey, said, "Don't stop believing...unless your dream is stupid. Then you should get a better dream."
What is it I repeat almost daily in the classroom? Learn from mistakes. That's right. We often make inferences and predictions that turn out to be incorrect. Does that mean we were wrong? That we failed? Absolutely not. It just means we stop, adjust our sights, aim again, and keep going!
What will you create that will make the world awesome?
Hmm. That's a great question. It's also a call to duty, isn't it. We could all answer that differently. I don't want to say the possibilities are endless, but they're probably pretty close to it.
We were made to be awesome.
Agreed, Kid President. The alternative would be to acknowledge that we were made to be pitiful, lazy, and immoral. The alternative to being awesome would be that we were made to be pathetic losers. I happen to think I am "gooder than that". Aren't you gooder, too?
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls,
and it looks like work" (Thomas Edison).
Awaiting the Awards Assembly
Saturday was the first Math League competition for Cecil Floyd's 2013 team. Students boarded the yellow Joplin Eagles school bus, early Saturday morning for the trek to Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.
After only a handful of coaching sessions, students faced this experience with gusto and dignity. Once on campus, students were escorted to a nearby little-theater classroom, where they answered questions on two tests, the first in Math Concepts and the second in Problem Solving.
While Mr. Culbertson and I were proud of BRENDEN who received Honorable Mention for his performance on the Concepts test, we were especially impressed with the attitudes and behavior or all of Joplin's competitors.
Parental Support Appreciated
Joining us on our journey were students from Stapleton Elementary School and South Middle School. We rode together, waited and tested together, ate breakfast and lunch with each other, and cheered for each other when the awards were issued.
It makes me proud to see our students know how to represent our school district with decorum and sportsmanship. I watched our students as they cleaned up after themselves, treated one another with respect, and accepted each other as peers (and I can't say the same for some other schools). Among some 375 competitors, our mathletes put forth a noble effort (All scored reasonably on the tests.) and made the day pleasant.
Our appreciation is extended to the parents who supported their children by attending the competition with them. Your involvement does not go unnoticed!
Now we look forward to our regional contest in the spring. Weekly tutoring continues, this Monday and Tuesday.
In addition to the fourth graders, we also took a fifth grade team to this contest. They competed in Concepts and Problem Solving, as well as a team round. Also (Proud Dad Alert!), if you will indulge me for a moment, my own daughter, independently representing herself, brought home an eighth place ribbon in Concepts and a third place trophy for Problem Solving in the third grade division.
The "third annual" Cecil Floyd Art Walk is scheduled for next Tuesday, January 29. I am so glad, and have always been proud, that Joplin Schools still values the arts of all types for our students. Nationally, however, teachers are struggling to keep the art of teaching from being overshadowed by the science of teaching.
Sometimes we wonder if student assessment numbers are more important than the students themselves. Are we more concerned with scores than we are with motivating students to wonder, explore, and discover? Is the same consideration given to a teacher who has a special spark with students? Or, at the risk of mixing metaphors, do we "paint ourselves into a corner" in our efforts to get everybody "on the same page"?
“Each morning, waking, the soul should feel the urge to rise to the ideal
person one ought to be from the person one is” (Leroy Brownlow).
Usually, on Fridays, students in our class have the opportunity to recognize the people surrounding them. These recognized students are then issued a little button to wear during the day, so adults and other students in the school can see they have exhibited good behaviors. As the teacher, I do nothing to influence these rewards, and truth be told, I do not always agree with the decisions made by the students. They are solely based on peer opinions, and I don't always see the things they see.
These awards, pictured at right, are for a variety of behaviors. I try to stress that if they want to receive one, they need to work on it throughout the week and not simply leer longingly into the eyes of their classmate as they choose a recipient. I have also stressed that if they wish to win someone over to conducting himself or herself in a civil manner, they may want to reward little improvements rather than select only the person who is the most or the best at something.
It's just one more way I try to reinforce positive behaviors in the classroom, but I thought it would be interesting to allow the class to have the influence in selecting the recipients.
...to our class, Kyndel!
You shall henceforth be known as...
Work + Play = Plork
Here's a bonus video from last Thursday's surgery.
Nominations are still being accepted for the annual Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Golden Apple Awards. The awards, presented by Empire District Electric Company and Missouri Southern State University, recognize excellence in the teaching profession. The nomination deadline is February 4.
I was the first Cecil Floyd teacher to receive this honor, in 2004. While I am not eligible to receive it again, I will help by proofreading your letters to nominate another teacher.
Nomination forms are available at all Joplin public and private schools or click on the link below. All nominees will be recognized at a reception on Thursday, February 28, and the four award winners will be announced at the Chamber's annual banquet in April.
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