February 2012

Monthly Archive

cruel consequences

Posted by on 05 Feb 2012 | Tagged as: caring, children, passages, Uncategorized


So sad, so terribly sad

murder and abuse happen in large and small ways, all around the world

every day;

and every time,

every day,

it is a tragedy.

Sometimes it is spectacular, headline grabbing, internationally noted.

Sometimes it is quiet, hidden, and personal.

And every time

it is a tragedy.

No child should be subject to pain unnecessarily.

No child should be taken from this world deliberately.

All children should experience love, security, and nurturing from all the adults in their world.

All children deserve to live.

We need to do a better job of protecting our children.

RIP, Charlie and Braden

Vote for Kids

Posted by on 05 Feb 2012 | Tagged as: children, citizenship, editorial, Uncategorized

hoping this won’t sound too preachy…

In Washington State, at least on our side of the mountains, there are many school districts with levies on the ballot for February 14. These are “Maintenance and Operations” levies. Most of them are replacements for expiring levies (there is a two-year limit on levies) and are not asking for an increase in funding. Some districts appear to be asking for LESS money than in times past.

What does this levy (tax on property) pay for?

  • Building maintenance and operations (heat, lights, repairs, custodians, etc)
  • School buses, fuel and drivers (especially important in rural districts that also historically are low income and with few options for transportation)
  • Specialist Teachers (music, art, physical education)
  • Instructional Materials (textbooks, consumable materials -lined paper for early elementary students, etc)
  • Support Services for students with additional needs
  • Fees for out-of-district services (in my district this also pays for our high school students who attend out of district)
  • Other necessary expenses that are not (fully)funded by the State or Federal sources

How important is this money to the local schools? Depends on the district, of course, but for us it pays nearly 30% of the expenses each year. Until the state begins to meet its constitutional (state) obligation to fully fund basic education, these levies are even more important.

Clearly, more affluent districts find it easier to raise money to support the schools. Less affluent districts find it more difficult, and generally have fewer options if a levy fails. All districts depend on the levies to supplement the incomplete funding from other sources.

Why should you care if you don’t have school-age children?

The children in school today will be working within ten to fifteen years. They will become responsible for the maintenance of public facilities, the preparation of our food, the care of elderly and infirm patients, the transportation of people and materials, public safety, national defense, medical services… and so forth.

Without a well-rounded, competent education today’s children will not be able to provide the goods and services that we need. More than “reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic,” courses in social studies, the arts, sciences and physical education provide critical thinking and lifelong skills and dispositions that help our children develop into healthy and capable adults.

One of the ways we keep our country strong, and our families safe, is by making sure the children have the best possible chance at life.

Please, vote to support your local schools. And, pay your taxes.

And, as you can, volunteer time to support schools, libraries, senior citizens… continue to make space in your life to make the world a better place. It’s not just self-preservation, it’s the right thing to do.

A really good teaching moment…

Posted by on 01 Feb 2012 | Tagged as: Learning Styles, reading, teaching, Uncategorized

I was in a friend’s elementary classroom for a couple days, and was able to create a couple lessons (one social studies based, the other language arts) in advance. They were engaging and most students were very successful. I will probably repeat those lessons in other classes since they worked so well. Perhaps because I had spent time thinking about the capabilities of students at that age, or this particular class, I was already “tuned in” to possibilities when an opportunity for in-the-moment lesson creation occurred.

I was in need of an activity to fill a gap between when one set of kids finished a math activity and the others were still working on it, with half an hour or so left to go in the class.

From experience, I know that kids at almost every age need to work on how to “do” story problems in terms of interpreting from the words to the concepts they need to engage. I also knew this class was working on multiplication: basic facts as well as how to interpret real-life situations that use multiplication.

I know that when kids can work together that it supports many learning types and issues, and that the process of thinking about a good story problem and writing it down engages many areas of the brain. What I think I would do next time is add in the idea of drawing a picture to illustrate the story problem…

Other experience, as well as research I have done, tells me that “content area literacy” (the current buzzword) is something that all teachers should be thinking about. In other words, even in a math class, there are things to read, write, talk about, present…

So I decided to use several things:

  • group work (mostly self-selected groups)
  • student-generated story problems
  • student presentation and explanation
  • individual thinking work
  • whole-class discussion

Most of the groups had about 15 minutes to generate two or three problems (which meant that they also engaged in self-monitoring for time, complexity of task and “keeping it real”). A few kids were not able to participate because they took the entire time to work on the previous activity. One or two students managed to individually write story problems!

We had about twenty minutes to share, and got through all (or most of) the groups, choosing their best story problem.

Listening to them, reading over some of the work a few turned in (I hadn’t asked them to turn in their work, I will next time), I discovered things about what they do and don’t understand (formative assessment). What I didn’t expect to get from the experience was the robust understanding of how the kids are connecting different parts of mathematics and literacies. Or not — the insights into why they might be struggling in specific areas were good for me to get.

The kids were:

  • engaged
  • productive
  • cooperative
  • respectful
  • learning!

And when it was time to go to lunch… they actually wanted to stay a little longer!

Yep. A really good teaching moment.