Over 60 Bowl of Ice Cream!

So this was fun! The yearbook staff at my junior high decided to prank me and play off of my love of ice cream.

For the beginning half of the period, a student would come in every two or three minutes and offer me ice cream, saying they were having an ice cream party because the yearbook was finally delivered.

How can I say no!

Pretty soon, the entire yearbook staff came in singing “Happy Birthday” for some reason.

I loved every minute of it!

It’s Not About You Reading Our Blogs

A few days ago I came across @shareski’s blog post about him not reading “my” (I.e. ours) blogs anymore. He name dropped John T Spencer explaining that the two of them confessed to each other they do not read each other’s blogs anymore.

I really do not care. It is not about them reading our blogs.

It is about my reflection as a teacher.

It is about me and my craft, not their blessings bestowed upon me*.

There is a far greater problem than @shareski or @johnspencer reading my blog or others.

Boring blog posts and Tweets on #edchat that all say the same thing!

These posts either talk about the anathema of grades, the gloriousness of Maker Spaces and Design Thinking, or the perfection that is all things Edcamp!

It’s an echo chamber of hyperbole…

It’s an echo chamber of hyperbole.

I thought we were all more creative.

Why read teacher X’s blog when Teacher Y’s blog says the same thing? But wait, I’ve already read that blog post by teacher Z a few months ago.

Another issue that is causing others not read blog posts I think is that the writing is all puppies and rainbows! If I wanted puppies and rainbows I would go to Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers!

Where is the critical thought?

Where is the wrestling with ideas?

Where is the earnest struggle of a bombed lesson on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in February?

“Look how amazing my students are for making this robot do a ninety degree turn!” Nope, not amazing. That is what robots are supposed to do!

“Look at this wonderful game my students created with bits of cardboard from Mrs. Smith’s new refrigerator!” Nope, that’s what kids do!

If this student’s movie is awesome and amazing, where do you go from there?

Of course there are legitimate exceptions! I’m thinking in broad strokes here.

I still think my criticisms are valid, even if it’s just that I am filling in the void of criticism!

Didn’t the Lego Movie teach us anything about everything being awesome and amazing and wonderful?

* Does it feel good to get a retweet or mention by someone, um, “famous” in the education world? Sure, but like Halloween candy, it only lasts a little while and the ultimate crash is simply not worth chasing.

Middle School Randomness

This is an old post. I am slowly rebuilding my blog from when I forgot to update my blog hosting and lost everything I had written. Thankfully I had it all backed up! This post is from April 2011! Wow! That was a long time ago!

One of the things I appreciate the most about middle school students is their randomness. With that in mind, here is a random story from this week in my classroom.

Each week I have my students complete their Writing Explorations on various topics (e.g. family, entertainment, joy and sadness). Every third or fourth week I give them Free Choice.

Every Monday I have mini conferences with the students and we talk about their Writing Explorations. The discussions are insightful and fun: I actually look forward to Mondays!

Two students in my fourth period class told me they “just wrote random stuff.”  I asked them individually, “What is the most random thing you wrote.”

Puzzled look with the sound of an empty roller coaster.

Repeat question.

Puzzled look morphs into an excited look as they skim through their writing and proudly show off their randomness.

I then had them write the randomness down because it was too funny, and err, random!

By the end of the class period, both students came up and asked if they could have a “Randomness Competition.”

They wanted to challenge each other to see who could write the most random things throughout our Spring Break.  Three pages of Randomness was their self selected challenge.

I love the excitement these two students, who are reluctant writers, have for their challenge. They even suggested I do it for the entire class.

I think I have my “Returning To School On a Monday Morning After a Week Long Break Writing Assignment.

This or That

This is a repost of a previous post that I had lost because I forgot to update my blog hosting!

Education is not a “this OR that” concept; rather it is a “this AND that” concept.

Janus – Roman God of gates, doors, beginning, endings and time.

“Or” is clean.

“And” is messy.

“Or” is obvious.

“And” is nuance.

“Or” is destructive.

“And” is human.

Do you interact with your students the same way you tweet?

Do you eat mashed potatoes AND gravy?

Which word describes your pedagogy in the classroom and tweets on Twitter?

Greatest Hits

Look at any band that has a greatest hits album out and you will hear what’s generally considered their best work. Sure, there are *Deep Cuts* that fans adore and use the lyrics as account bios. 

But think about what is not there.

Every album likely has one or two “Greatest Hits” on it. 
What about the remaining, say eight songs?
This has me thinking about my teaching my daily work in my classroom. 

Has me asking myself: What are my Greatest Hits?

Scenes from Week 1

This was a fun first week of school! Lot’s of positives and any negatives no longer are running through my mind!

First staff photo in a really long time!

My kiddos helping me set up my class!




First day of school for my daughter and my 20th first day of school!


TA watching the women’s Olympic soccer game!


Two former students came by after school today! Thanks for stopping by Jewel and Yuto!


Music in Class

Music is playing in my class all day; the only exception being when I am talking with students. I believe music to be a calming, comforting tool used in my class.
Many times, my students can tell what mood I am in upon walking into class and hearing either the deceptively soft melodies of Elliot Smith or thespeed and intensity of Anthrax.
I had a professor in college who played concert videos of YanniJohn Tesh, and Celine Dion in between classes.  At first, we laughed and mocked her. There was something really odd about watching one of these videos prior to an English 101 class.
One day a friend of mine borrowed one of his mom’s Yanni concert t-shirts and wore it to class, hoping the professor noticed; she did. After the first two weeks of the semester, I began to notice that all of us students were in the lecture hall, sitting in our chairs watching Celine Dion rock out with her electric violinist, at least five minutes before class officially started. (HERE it is, if interested!)
In my iTunes I have a folder called “Instrurock”. Technically, the contents are mostly “Post Rock” (link to wiki). But the great thing about these bands is that, ninety-five percent of the time, there is nsinging.
I generalize this music as being modern versions of Rush‘s “La Villa Strangiato”.rrA key aspect of these bands, in addition to having little to no singing, is that the music is hip enough for the students to not have a Pavlovian negative response to Classical music. I frequently see students tapping their foot with the beat.
Another way in which I use music in my class is as volume control. I point out to my students that there is music playing in Target, yet the workers are still doing their job and people can still talk. My students know that their volume should not go above the volume of the music (of course, there are times when we are louder, much louder; but, that is circumstantial.).
Here is a nice song by Godspeed You! Black Emperor that is representative of the soundtrack in my class while students are writing or working in groups. I particularly like how the song slowly builds to a crescendo, adding subtle layers of nuance: a nice metaphor for writing and creating.

The Photography Interviews: Matthew Needleman

Below is the fifth installment of an ongoing series on photography and those who are doing amazing things with their cameras. I have reached out to many people in my Instagram feed, all who have captured and held my imagination, and asked to interview them about their art. There are teachers and non-teachers in this series, but each one brings something that can be applicable to the classroom.

I encourage you to check out their Instagram feeds and ask them questions!

Matthew Needleman, @needleworks, shares his talents with us in this post. Stellar work. A true professional. When I want to be inspired by composition done right, I head strait to Needleman’s Instagram feed. There is a peaceful silence about his photographs that is unique, even when he shares pictures of inherently loud places.

What is your primary camera and/or camera app (stock camera/Hipstamatic/VSCO…)

\r\nI use Apple’s native camera app 99% of the time.  Camera+ is good when you need separate control over focus and exposure like in a concert.

What are your favorite editing apps?

Instagram, Snapseed, PhotoWizard, Mextures.

What is your favorite picture and story behind it? (Please include or link)? 

My favorite recent photo is this one.

Although the ground was sandy, I cloned the ground up to the sky and made it look like a dessert scene.  I’ve taken several photos at famous landmarks but this was the first time I actually created the setting.

Can you share a tip?

Make sure to consider the entire frame.  Spend a little time editing your photos (enhancing the contrast and popping the color are something I do for almost every photo).  Post only your best work online.

Who and what are your favorite photographers, communities, and hashtags you really enjoy and learn from?

Nicole Dalesio (instagram:  @magrelacanela) was my inspiration to start editing photos and post them on instagram.  Josh Johnson (instagram: @joshjohnson) is a great community to connect with other photographers and get daily inspiration.

Why do you take pictures?

It’s faster than making movies. It helps me express myself and have a journal of moments from my life. Posting pictures on Instagram has helped me connect with others and discover new people and places.

How long do you wait to edit a picture after first taking it AND how long do you wait from when you first take a picture and when you post it.

If I’m at a live event, I try to post a photo as soon as I can because it’s cool to see other people’s photos and feel like you are a part of something larger.  Normally, however, I wait until I get inside to edit and post.  I’ve learned not to post photos when you’re outside because it’s difficult to see how they really look.

Mobile photography in the classroom, any thoughts and/or suggestions?

In my classroom I would follow Josh Johnson’s daily forums and work with students to create work to post to the forum.  Photography supports English Learners in particular to develop vocabulary.  However, all students can benefit from the creativity and the learning the comes from getting instant feedback online by examine which photos get the most likes.

Thanks again Matthew!

Next up…Don\’t know yet! LOL!