The tours through Hoggatt Cave began this week, and students are getting a real taste for what it's like to teach other people. It was a pretty rough start on Monday, with third graders coming in for the first time, and our Hoggatteers had to deal with some lack of attention and even rudeness as they worked through our script. Things brightened up for us shortly thereafter, and the tours are just getting better as the week goes by.
At the school year's halfway point, we have a handful of students who have achieved multiplication mastery. It is important that students become more fluent with their basic facts in order to climb into more complicated mathematics. It is nice to see that some have proven the fluency time and time again on five-minute quizzes, but I still need to see the rest of the class step up to the plate. We do have a couple who are reaching hard to get on this list, but others, for whatever reason, are stuck.
This is just the beginning of our learning about the writer of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States. Being more of a passive, introverted kind of fellow, Thomas Jefferson is a figure unlike others we have studied in our fourth grade class, and, for whatever reason, students seem to be intrigued with his life.
We understand that most of our heroes are flawed. Jefferson is no different in that sense. There are lots of little things that make some of us cringe when we hear them. Those are the events that season our history. Sometimes it is distasteful, but it is always interesting, and we are made better by learning from it.
Congratulations to the following students for earning Honor Roll accolades for the second quarter.
To have nine on the list, this quarter is indicative of our slow and steady improvement.
For the first quarter, we only had six on the Honor Roll list, with just two students having straight A's.
This time, four of these students have straight A's.
I feel like I was blessed, during the summer of 2018, to attend the teacher institute at George Washington's Mount Vernon. To study a portion of George Washington's life on George Washington's property was the richest professional development I have ever received, and it rekindled a lifelong interest in the Revolutionary era and all things colonial. Sitting on the piazza after hours and watching a bald eagle drift on the air currents over the Potomac River was breathtaking. Visiting Washington's original tomb after sunset and appreciating the fireflies was incredible. Singing and praying for our nation at the New Tomb was was chilling. I long to return to the plantation and mansion to study more.
I will not return this year, but I have been asked by the vice president for education and by the manager of education communication and outreach to review some of the 400 applications for the 2020 Summer Residential Programs. In order to fairly select the 120 residents for the six weeks of 2020 programming, reviewers will score resumes, essays, recommendations, etc., using a rubric prepared and provided by the education department at Mount Vernon. I am looking forward to logging into the online review system to read and score a small percentage of the applications from across the country. It will be interesting, and hopefully inspiring, to read how other teachers respond to the application questions.
Not only is it an honor to be a part of the selection process, but it is a small way to give back to the system that has so enriched me as a teacher in the United States.
I know there are responses to such a statement as this, but I call your attention to the only in parentheses. Yes, I realize that the football program is a great source of income. And yes, I know much of the school spirit comes from a strong football program, especially in our band of the country.
Do administrators and school boards spend as much of the budget to support the drama program, the academic team, or the science fair? Is transportation provided to these, or do parents pay the bill separately? Does anyone rally the media and the business community to charter buses to support other programs in the school with the same exuberance as the football program?
I'm not just asking; I know the answers to these questions as much as the next guy.
Yeah, I know the answers, and I get it. It's just like our economy: it's survival of the fittest, supply and demand. If you brought in as much money, community support, interest, and excitement as the football program, you would get the same love the football team gets. If there was more demand for your non-football program, you would get more supply in return. Yeah, I get it.
But that doesn't mean I like it. I'm just saying that the underdogs need some attention, too, and we just don't give it to them. Other programs need accolades, too. Other kids need to feel like winners when they are winners, too. I could go off on sports in general, but that's not what this is. In a world where self-esteem is supposedly so important, how are successful kids with different skill sets supposed to feel when it is only the big guy with the shoulder pads who gets lifted on the team's shoulders?
We should do better.
Find more opinion pieces on my Professional Pet Peeves page.
This week, we finally honored exemplary students in a SOARsembly. This assembly was postponed due to Inclement Weather Days in December.
For our class, NICHOLAS is the December SOAR recipient, having excelled at Showing respect, Observing safety, Accepting responsibility, and Resolving conflict in December.
Additionally, we honored two good citizens. Here is what I said about them:
Self-control is so difficult, this time of year. With all of the thoughts of presents, lights, sweets and treats, family gatherings, decorations, shopping, wrapping, pageants, carols, holiday concerts, fund raisers for the less fortunate, and special programming on TV, school and learning can become the last things on a person’s mind. People get cranky and grumpy, worrying about how many days are left until the holiday break. They long for a snow day. They fret about who’s going to whose house, what to wear on dress-up days, and how much they are going to eat. And that’s just the teachers. This adult stress can affect students. All of this is to say that I have two students who are still able to maintain their focus, their drive, and their happy expressions. They can still anticipate the festivities without bouncing off the walls. I appreciate their desire to keep doing their best - even as others around them struggle. Thank you, LACOTA and ELLA.
I recently completed this book, authored by Shelley Burgess and her writing partner Beth Houf. Shelley is the wife of educational writer and publisher Dave Burgess, who spoke at an event I attended in November. Before this book, I had read Dave's original, Teach Like a PIRATE, which spoke to the presentation styles of unique and memorable teachers.
Having said this, the book begins with an empowering statement:
PIRATE leaders know they have it within them to help make miracles happen for kids, so they work to make the kinds of schools where teachers are encouraged and supported to design the amazing learning experiences kids deserve - experiences that are both rich in content and wildly engaging. They are intentional about transforming schools into extraordinary places where students and staff are willing to go the extra mile because they feel safe, valued, and supported by leaders who believe in their ability to create magic in the classroom. Because of that belief, PIRATE leaders value and tap into unique talents and gifts of every crew member; they collaborate and aren't afraid to have others take the helm, PIRATE leaders embrace the notion that their primary role is culture first, culture next, and culture always.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the word miracle in the first sentence, but otherwise I understand the sentiment here. Burgess and Houf describe a staff they trust, a staff that is not afraid to try new things and take risks, a staff that makes mistakes and uses them as stepping stones to create a culture in their classrooms that transforms the culture of their building. That is exactly the place I want to work.
This year's Hoggatt Cave billboard is up and ready. This year I used plastic letters made for an outdoor sign.
(I am told there are some errors.)
A poem by Wendell Berry says, "The impeded stream is the one that sings." Much of my personal teaching philosophy is rooted in that thought - the belief that obstacles and struggles make us stronger people.
Read more about the application process on my Teacher Institute page.
Sometimes we need to appreciate what we have.
Take some time to watch this video:
Now for some questions:
The principal sent this message to teachers on Thursday:
Happy New Year!! I hope you have all had a restful break. I’m looking forward to getting back into a more normal routine.
We all make jokes about getting back to work, but we know we have to do it. It is a fact of life. As educators, most of us probably realize that there are students in our classrooms who can't wait to get back. It could be because they are addicted to learning and love the whole process, or perhaps they need the security and normalcy of a classroom with a respectable and steady teacher. I pray it is not because they are in an unstable or dangerous situation at home, but we all know that's a possibility as well.
When I saw Principal Bozarth's message above, my sarcastic brain came up with all kinds of return comments before finally settling on some more thoughtful ones:
Are you implying that I have to set my alarm? Ludicrous!
Teachers meet on Monday, but students return to school on Tuesday. Let's make this year one of spectacular academic growth and personal development!
Perhaps you would be interested in some of the larger events that will occur in the upcoming year (barring any changes):
One thing we don't realize is that you never know where history will be made. While the events above will happen, only a few of them will make the history books. History that sticks is usually something unexpected, and it is our reaction to those events that make our place in history revered or repulsed.
I will make mistakes. As much as you may think otherwise, I am not perfect. I will misspeak. I will do things wrong. There will be times when it be necessary to apologize for a weak choice that I make - probably something I say that should have been said differently or left unsaid altogether. I pray that others will be patient with me as I continue to develop and react to my own humanity.
I will keep trying new things. Yes, I still want to acquire new knowledge for myself and apply it to develop wisdom, and yes, I do want to experience events and places I haven't yet experienced, but to even try new things in daily life my be something of a joy, as well. Whether that means trying new foods, performing different tasks, or meeting new people, I hope to boldly seek out and discover new adventures.
I will fall down. This may seem like making mistakes all over again, but it isn't. This one is less by choice. Falling down means that things will happen to me that are unexpected and undesired. I'll be tested here in how I react to tragedy and bad news. Hopefully I can bounce back from hurtful things in my life with respect. Hopefully my reaction to obstacles in my path is a positive example to those around me.
I will lose my temper. One reaction we probably all struggle with is that of losing our temper. We are quick to anger and quick to speak when we should instead remain calm. For me, I tend to hold back until a point of eruption and then let it all out at once. I know it will happen, but that doesn't mean it's something I just accept as reality and continue to willingly do. We should all work on our tempers.
I will cry. One way to react is to cry, and I will cry. There will be moments of laughter and smiling, this year, but I must be ready and admit that tears will also fall. I know from experience that I cry with empathy as well as cathartic times. I will cry during movies and reading books. I will cry with memories of the past as well as with the possibilities of the future. I will cry.
I will forget. Perhaps forgetting is the wrong word to use here. I may actually remember events, but what I mean here is that holding grudges and regretting events in my life are not positive. I need to learn to forgive others and find a more positive way to spend my thoughts. I need to push negative thoughts aside and not allow them to dominate my life.
I suppose these things are normal for most people, perhaps even for everyone, but I wanted to think a bit about them during the opening days of the Roaring 20s, because bringing them to conscious thought will help me confront them more directly and efficiently.
One last thought is that I will do each of these items in view of other people, and I need to be all right with that. There is no shame in letting people see my faults as long as my reaction in every case is one of humility and sincerity. It is a personal duty to show others my imperfections and let them in on the roads to recovery. Perhaps in doing so, others (including my students) can also find positive roads to dusting themselves off and finding a forward-facing road on which to walk.
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