Tag Archives: teaching

2008 Edublog Awards: What Jewels Will Be Found?

     I really enjoy reading blogs of other teachers. There is never enough time to watch our fellow teachers hone their craft. Even the brief time in the lunchroom (and I do mean brief, once you deal with Bobby who lost his lunch money or Shakira who is checking out early) is only spent with the five or so teachers who have the same lunch time as you do.

 

     That is why I am looking forward to seeing the list of best educator blogs after they are published.  I hope someday to be on this list, but that is just a goal at this point.

 

     I must read educator blogs at home with a cup of coffee because our school district’s firewall screens out blogs. That’s unfortunate, because I get SO many excellent ideas for my own classroom from these fine teachers.

 

     I’m going to make it a point to steer some of my readers to the best ideas I’m seeing in other blogs. I’ll try to do a roundup of good posts I read.

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Typing Content: Or Killing Two Birds With One Stone

     At the beginning of the year, several elementary teachers I know take their students to the computer lab to type their spelling list.  This accomplishes two things at the same time (maybe more). First, they learn their spelling words. Next, they learn to type and become familiar with the keyboard.

 

     They begin to learn Microsoft Word by highlighting their list and numbering. They learn how to insert a word they forgot. This is a natural way to begin word processing which will later be used for typing reports. In our area, the majority of students do not own computers at home and there is little time in the day to teach typing.

 

I like it.

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Hustling for Part-time Jobs

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I was reading a blog the other day about financial security and the author mentioned using the time of our youth to earn some extra money and skills. Often, we think of our youth as the time to have fun and party.

Since I put myself through college without benefit of financial aid or scholarship (my parents would not fill out FAFSA) I know a lot about being young and hustling for jobs.

It served me well when I completed my education–I was used to cobbling together two-three–yes, sometimes four jobs to make enough money to live, and play, too).

While living in my run down hovels (and there were many) I housesat and dogsat for wealthy people who paid me well because I was trustworthy. Often there would be a full refrigerator that they would ask me to eat from so things didn’t spoil. At the time, I was living on a canned bean and macaroni and cheese diet, so leftover filet mignon, lobster and shrimp were heaven-sent!  There is nothing like eating steak  and duck liver pate poolside when you are living far below the poverty level. At the time, I couldn’t afford the four bucks to go to the community pool!

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When changing their decor, they would offer me their castoffs. I laugh to think I have hauled these items across the country several times and am still using many of them daily, Even then, I was a forager and happy-to-take-your- leftovers kind of person. This attitude has served me well over the years.

Not only that, I learned early on how to repair and refinish furniture.  And now, I own nice antiques that didn’t cost me very many dollars.  Because I sewed, I could alter any designer clothes that came my way to fit me perfectly. Not only that, but expensive drapery could be fitted to the home I eventually bought.

You see, folks that need dependable dogsitters, housesitters etc.. are also the kind of people who network. Suddenly, you have more jobs ( and castoff furniture, computers and clothing) than you can take. Later, they have children that they are only too willing to pay outrageous amounts to a babysitter to care for them. Still later, they want to age in place and pay you outrageously for things like: moving their winter clothes from a closet down the hallway to their own.

These employers were interesting, talented people who I learned a lot from being around. One was a world-famous artist who had done large commissioned pieces for office buildings and hotels in the large city I lived in. Another was the PR guy for the NBA basketball team there.

From these side jobs I was able to complete my education and save enough money to put a down payment on a home. That was a HUGE thing for me to do alone. This was before balloon mortgages and easy credit! Thank heavens!

Teachers are very resourceful people. They have to be. In my area, many teachers have side businesses like lawn care that they do after work and in the summers. They run camps.

The janitors at my school do home renovation and repairs. They stay busy too–try getting one to put you on their waiting list! Teachers refer them to other teachers and there is a backlog to get them to do small jobs.  They are in demand because people know they can trust them and are happy to pay extra so that they don’t have to let a stranger into their home.

Think of it this way, people know that a criminal background check has already been done on a teacher. You are “vetted.”

Speaking of side jobs like home repair, I met a laid off computer scientist when I lived in that major city who began doing odd jobs for money when laid off. He became in such demand that he never went back to his old job because he made far more money as a handyman.

Funny aside: I met him when my VERY unhandy, young neighbor paid him a LARGE hourly wage to (I’m pausing to laugh here) change the light bulbs in his home. I’m not talking about inconveniently-placed light bulbs here or light bulbs that required the use of an extension ladder. I only wished I’d known–I’d have done it happily for half the money.

This reminds me of a side job I did for the previous owner of that home next-door. The owner was a DEA agent who would be posted to South America for a couple years at a time. He got tired of the poor job that a local realty company did renting out his home and managing repairs while he was away.  So he paid me (less than the realty company–but still handsomely) to rent the home and have repairs done. He knew how handy and frugal I was so it was really a good deal for him. Most importantly, he knew that since I lived next door, I would not rent to people who would trash his home. Although I did not take them, several other offers came to me to manage property in our neighborhood.

So let’s review (puts on teacher hat): Learn to hustle for jobs, accept any donations that come your way, (hey, you can sell them, if nothing else), learn to repair EVERYTHING, save your money and lastly (most importantly) make connections with your friends and neighbors. I’d love to have my readers tell us about some ways they have hustled jobs. Leave a comment, please.

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Curriki: My New Online Education Community (and Friend!)

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The other day I was in a panic because the activity I’d planned months before, a nice webquest of the civilization we are studying, suddenly wasn’t working due to our newly installed firewall at school.  We can, in certain circumstances, request that certain sites be restored, but the process is slow and doesn’t always mean it can be fixed. For instance, I cannot access my own blog (or any other) from school. I’m not complaining, I do understand. I don’t work on personal things at school.

 

But (o.k. a little complaint) there are some teacher blogs that have some great information I’d like to use in my planning and lesson creation.

 

….back to my (then) immediate problem—what to do when your great plans become shambles?  I tried two recently found places that have good lesson plans and background resource materials. The first is curriki, an online learning community started by Sun Microsystems to develop education resources.  There I found a great webquest that did work with our firewall within minutes. While finding it, I came across tons more things I can use.

 

Is it just me, or do other people feel like Alice climbing down the rabbit hole when they start looking for things?

 

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Eight Frugal Things in the Classroom That Have an Impact– for Free!!

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1.   ACT and SAT prep courses are great, but often they cost $$$ that some of our students don’t have. Even if schools have them for free, they may not fit into the schedules of busy high schoolers.  There are many good prep videos available on Youtube and teachertube. It’s not enough to know the material, you must also know the strategy for finishing the test in an accurate way.  In particular, I like Super Magnet Man’s guide to taking the science portion of the ACT. 

2.   In middle school, one of our challenges is to teach students to be prepared and to be responsible.  They are terrible about coming to class unprepared.  Getting a student their supplies takes precious minutes from teaching. Here are some suggestions. I keep pink paper and green pens available for borrowing. They must be signed out (a student is always assigned to this task before I begin teaching.)  I have a record of how often students are coming to class unprepared and am able to speak to parents, if needed. Sometimes being unprepared is part of a larger problem of not being on task. When parents see that 25 days out of 20 little Susie came to class without her book, folder, assignment book, paper and pencil they get a good picture of what part of the problem is.  Please note: students who speak to me privately about financial problems are always given enough supplies until they tell me they need more. I buy extra when they are on sale for this purpose.

 

3.   Teachers are extraordinary at their capacity for giving.  At our High School, athletes are supposed to dress up on game day.  For boys, this means khaki pants, dress shirt and tie.  Many students don’t have these clothes and could not afford them. Our teachers buy them the outfits and no one is the wiser.  Sometimes they are wearing a pair of khakis that a teacher can’t fit into anymore, or a tie that was given at holiday time that the teacher cannot use.  Be on the lookout for things like these. Set aside shirts that may be a little tight—there may be a boy that needs it for game day, college or job interview, or Trivia bowl competition. 

4.   We have a nice tradition at our school where we bring things to the teacher lounge we no longer need and these things are either given away or sold.  For example, someone had very nice quality sheets given to them that they could not use. They were offered at half price and I grabbed them quickly! Start this tradition at your school!

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5.   I have a friend who is a very harried High school math teacher who needed her coffee first period to be alert for doing math.  She noticed that her students commented on her coffee and liked the smell of it. This grew into a tradition in her first period classes that if they brought a covered cup, she would provide the coffee. The student’s parents have volunteered to keep the supply of coffee grounds and creamer flowing.  It’s a little thing, but it really was a special touch her first period math students enjoy and brought them closer together. She says they are very close now.

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6.   Kids love traditions and special rituals.  Special occasions aren’t just for the youngest students. This is especially true for middle and high school students who are still bouncing back and forth maturity-wise between adulthood and childhood.  I like to introduce historically significant dates into my curriculum even if it’s the kind of thing we do after our work is done.  One good place for finding out Birthdays of authors or famous people, National Holidays, Monthly celebrations to use in your planning is the teacherscorner.net. The event calendar for November is located here:

 

7.   I like to keep a classroom set of plastic page protectors for using classroom copies of things. Saves money on laminating and you can always change what is in them, Or store several things in them and only use the page on top.  With these the students can highlight important text and wipe off again. Or they can use them for say, math worksheets.  By writing with a dry erase marker, they can be used again and again. A new sheet can be popped in each day! Another advantage is that it is a very “green” idea.

8.   Help Campbell Soup Company help our schools by donating to the Future Farmers of America organization. Even if you don’t have one at your school, it is a terrific program for students.  Go to check out http://www.helpgrowyoursoup.com/ . Look especially at the “Nourishing Minds” tab. When you click on the red barn, Campbells will donate $1.00 to the National FFA Organization.

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Academic Quiz Bowl Frugal Alternatives

Let’s face it, teachers are competitive people and as such, we want our students to do their best when competing in academic quiz bowls.

 

But who has a budget that will allow for a $400 buzzer system like the Geosafari Quiz Bowl?

 

Part of training kids to be part of an academic quiz bowl game is helping them with the buzzers. We have found that no matter how good a kid is at memorizing the answers, if they can’t manipulate the buzzer they are dead in the water.

 

Unfortunately, the teachers at my school do not have one of those high-priced, professional buzzers that are used at the county and regional level of competition.

 

So we improvise…

 

The most basic, yet I think beautifully frugal, idea is to have the kids hold pens that click open. Find some that make a big “click.”  Last year I had a kid whose mom worked in a doctors office donate a bunch of them (all sounded the same) that were pens given to them as a marketing ploy of some medical product.

 

The pens give the kids the experience of connecting their answer to the buzzer. Kind of like Pavlov’s dog….If they can’t do that, they won’t get to answer the question so it’s imperative they know how to do that.

 

The next solution, Eggspert, allows up to six players and lets you set the answer time from 5-30 seconds. It combines light and sound.  It sells at the academic superstore for around $40.

 

The last cheap solution I have is is to buy the hardware only for the old “Quizzard” game on ebay. These sell for between $20 and $30. Beats the price in the educational catalogs anyway.

 

Team academic bowls are a great way to motivate kids (and tightwad teachers.) Let me know in the comments if you found these helpful or have another solution!

 

 

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Cleaning White boards

Speaking of whiteboards, how about cleaning them cheaply?  I like to either use a 100% water spray (recycled spray bottle) with paper towels, or, I mix a small amount of alcohol in with the water for extra oomph. The alcohol helps dry the board.

 

If you are really interested in tested methods of cleaning whiteboards, read this.

 

It beats buying products any old day.

 

Oh, and if you write by mistake using a permanent pen on a whiteboard–write over it pressing it hard against what was written previously. It really works. I wouldn’t believe it either until I saw it!

 

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