Week 2 Hump Day

Yeah, Wednesday. Kids go home early and we stick around an hour for PD. The week is halfway over and the school year has just started and I’m more busy than ever. I can’t even keep up with grading the work I give out.

My system for grading needs some work. In elementary school we would give all the kids numbers based on alphabetical order. It seems like such a silly thing, especially since you are cheating kids of the chance to alphabetize, but in reality taking an extra 10 minutes every time you want students to hand in work is too much.

Most teachers would do well to observe the systems built in elementary classrooms. From lining up to handing in work, all of it is designed to make it easier on the teacher. Sure she is probably pretty good at wrangling cats and putting kids and their work into organized groups, but why would you want to stress yourself out like that 6 times a day. Create a system for every routine and teach it to the kids. When your papers come to you in alphabetical order and grouped by class it can save you hours of time entering grades.

Monday I had a sub. I went south to see the eclipse (totally worth it). She collected work alright, one big pile of work. Ninety students with no rhyme or reason to the collection. Build your system so the kids can do it then let them run things. This way subs won’t ruin thing for you.

Day 3 week one in the books

As the AP said as we were walking back in, no fights first week of school. While not the highest measure of success it is a success.

Actually I think we have been doing pretty good. I haven’t written anyone up, though I am keeping an eye on a few it isn’t with the intent to catch them, but rather to make sure we get them the extra help they need.

If a kid has trouble following the rules it isn’t because they are bad, it’s because they just don’t know how to do it consistently. An individualized behavioral plan, something where he or she checks in with a friendly face on a regular basis, or has a safe place to go when they are frustrated this can mean the difference in missing a few hours of instruction and multiple suspensions.

We still haven’t taught math yet, though we have had some math practice. This is not a bad thing. We are intentionally creating an orderly environment. One where the students and the teachers all know what to do and what to expect. From there we can move on with solid instruction.

Poster with lots of motivational sayings

Too much in one little space

The day before the first day of school I was talking to a new teacher about room decorations. I gave her a bit of advice, “walk though your room as if you were a student and see if there is a reconizable system in place”. It was so good I went back to my room and did it myself. All in all though I think we did a good job of becoming student centered. Maybe instead of giving too much choice to 7th graders the trick is to attempt to see the world through their eyes.

Day two it could have been better

Ah day two, the sophomore slump.

It wasn’t so bad, but started kind of rough. Someone decided to teach the kids a new slang word, but he didn’t teach them what it meant. So when I heard a kid saying it today I confronted him, but got into a argument instead. (Note to self confrontation bad).

Birds fighting

Not love birds that’s for sure

Ok except for that life went well. I taught tomorrows lesson today so I have to do today’s lesson tomorrow, but not bad I can’t handle that. I’m looking forward to actually teaching math, but time spent getting to know kids and teaching expectations is good as well. And we are creating a unified expectation, at least for the areas where it will work best so I”m happy for that.

First day of school

I was not ready to start today, but the kids they came anyway.

I’m going back to basics this year. I went full on open learning last year and it just didn’t work. I’m not good enough at wrangling cats to do that, 7th graders aren’t ready for that much freedom. This year will be very traditional and basic, but with my own flair.

Homework everyday, but the answers will be on Google Classroom. I want to convince students that practice is important.

I’ll lecture everyday, but try to keep it under 15 minutes and only in small groups. No more than 15 people at a time.

Khan Academy or Compass Learning for the rest as a second lesson on what I taught the day before.

Grades will be comprised of homework, time on computer learning, and the majority a mix of formative and summative assessments.  I still want students to remember that grades are based on learning, not the amount of work turned in.

Tuesday In Cuba

My parents went on vacation in Cuba, this is their story

Tuesday, 23 May 2016. Breakfast at the hotel.

Sunrise

First on our agenda today, a lecture by Alberto Faya a retired from the university professor of music. Great depth of knowledge and wonderful voice, he spoke about the development of Cuban music for the last 500 years. They really do not know how the indigenous peoples’ music sounded. The first music they have records of is the European sounding (15th. Century) music written for the Church.  With the African Slaves being brought they begin the joining of African/European Cuban music. He played and sang several examples as the form developed, especially the rhythmic complexity. Would love to take a class with him. Humble people became musicians, music taught us how to resist. Rhumba, conga drums and claves came from Cuba. Ba Ba Loo (Desi Arnea used to sing that) is the name of an African God.

man lecturing

 

On the way to see our next Plaza, we got a chance to ride in the vintage American Cars (how cool is that?).

 

Ray did not drive!Convertable car

Freedom Plaza

Freedom Plaza

There are four plazas we saw 2 yesterday and we see the 3rd. & 4th. today in Old Havana. We see a Catholic Church with an outside statue of Mother Teresa and Fr. Juniper Sierra and a Greek Orthodox Church.

 

 

Cathedral

Statue of Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

 

 

Greek Orthodox Church

Lunch on our own, wandering around the square. Next we went to the Modern Art Museum, which being over heated I just sat and rested. I bit over heated.

Our last Plaza in Old Havana. The Rooster & naked woman shows how mother’s worked as prostitutes to feed their families during the hard time, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Naked Woman on a Roooster

Back to the hotel to refresh and on to a Neighborhood Arts Center. It is in a poor section of town and the children come to learn art music, song and dance. We had a delightful demonstration from the children and of course they asked us to dance with them. How fun! The adults cooked and served us a delicious dinner. Home and rest.

Local Art

Our Host

 

Our Dancers

 

 

 

The View from the neighborhood

Visiting Cuba

My parents took vacation in Cuba. This is their story.

Airport in Cuba

Arrival

Our Arrival in Cuba

 

A Short (not very complete) History of Cuba

Taino People arrive from Dominican Republic 300 CE

First European settlement 1500

Because of disease and enslavement by the Europeans the indigenous people do not survive as a distinct population. Many also committed mass suicide. Many, many African Slaves were brought to Cuba to replace the indigenous people.

The Cuban people fought for independence beginning in 1895. After the USS Maine mysteriously explodes the United States enters the war. Cuba/America are the victors.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba opens in 1930, many rich Americans and rich American gangsters invest and spend time in Cuba. Cuba along with much of South America begins being ruled by brutal dictatorships.  The 1%ers pillage and abuse the rest of the society. The Amercians brought many high end American cars for their use. Those are the ones the people still use and repair, and are really, really cool.

The Cuban revolution began in 1953 culminating in Castro’s victory in 1959. From 1962 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Soviets supported Cuba. The state owned everything, people had good education and medical care, and enough to eat, but not freedom to have private enterprise or speak their mind. One side note two days before he died Kennedy had talked to Castro about renegotiating the embargos and possibly helping Cuba. But it was not to be.

The 1990’s were a difficult time for Cuba, not enough to eat, not enough of anything. In the early 2000’s new trading partners are found by Cuba and the economy begins a slow recovery. There is freedom to speak your mind. There are elections in 2018. People are starting their own businesses.

In December of 2014 President Barak Obama and President Raul Castro begin normalizing relationship with each other.

Rosalen our Cuban Guide & Alex, our Road Scholar GuideTour Guide Tour Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrive in Cuba 21 May 2016. Our Hotel Nacional de Cuba, is wonderful. We are welcomed by Rosalen and Alex and enjoy a delightful dinner at the hotel. We explore the Veranda having a mojito and listening to the strolling musicians. The ocean view is wonderful. We go to our rooms and have this same great view.some of the cool cars I mentioned.

1950's automobiles

Arrival at the Hotel Naciona

This is our Hotel Nacional.

Hotel Nacional

This is the Veranda.

On the Veranda

The Lake in Spring

It’s cold and raining, but the waves are awesome.

Some cool pictures

We stopped at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha

We also stopped at the Kenosha Museum with a fantastic display of student art.

This picture is from the part of the exhibit where they asked descendants from a Native tribe to respond to a 25 year internment of natives for political crimes in the late 1800’s.

Michael Connors
Lesson Plan 2013

 

 

 

Million Dollar Idea

I was jogging, I know shocking. My music went to commercial and the volume went up, then down. Suddenly I thought, that would be a cool innovation for ear buds. Just let them regulate the sound. These annoying commercials that blast your eardrums can be stopped.

The ear buds don’t just play at a certain level, but the put everything to the right level. They could even reduce the outside noise with ambient sound.

Then I went further and thought, in the classroom this would be awesome. everyone could have ear buds and I could talk in my normal voice and they could regulate the volume, cutting out the outside noise and student would hear me. This would be especially awesome for SPED kids would tend to get excited from too much distraction.

Then I went further and thought, wow I could have these ear buds block outside noise with a white noise, then block phones and music for students unless I let them listen, and I could shut off all noise except me when I wanted to talk to them. The control would be the bomb.

Then I realized where I was going on this. This isn’t about making the classroom better, this is giving me more control. Still a cool idea for jogging though.

 

What More Politics – Why Trump is Good for the Country

Disclaimer

This is mostly an education blog, but education is a subversive activity,

Book Cover

I really should read this book one day

so I’m stuck talking politics a lot lately. There is much injustice in the world and for me the big injustice is the lack of resources we give to education. Both in the underserved school district where I work and in general. While I would love it if the military had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber,

text quote

Maybe Robert Fulgram or maybe just a random PTA mom

I’ll be satisfied if I worked in a school where I didn’t have the nagging worry of asbestos in the floor tiles. With all that said here is my political piece for the day.

Why Trump is good for the country.

If Clinton had won, we would be stuck in another 4 years of obstructionism, with fake concerns about how there might or might not be voter fraud which lead to disenfranchisement. The slow grind towards civil rights would wear down even the most ardent supporters. And in the end little or nothing would actually change. With Clinton’s loss however, the liberal voters have sent a clear message. “We are sick and tired of Republican lite candidates.”

Of course the Washington Democrats aren’t listening. It will be a long four years.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mrs. Clinton. I think she is one of the smartest people on the planet. I think she cares deeply for the vulnerable. I think she would have been a president we could all be proud of. But in the end she was working within the system. And for some reason we want the system to be torn down.

Maybe it is because for eight years the GOP has obstructed progress and they only grew in power,. Maybe it is because we finally realize that there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator (even if it comes in the form of a democratically elected congress). Maybe, it is because promises have been made and none of them kept. It doesn’t matter, what is done is done and we are left to pick up the pieces.

Facing prospects such as an EPA that may not exist in four years, an energy policy that wants to go backwards, and a school system that may be sold to the highest bidder (think vulture capitalists breaking up a large company). One might be tempted to think progressives have lost. You would be wrong.

Instead of dragging an unwilling population, kicking and screaming, into modern society we get to define what a modern society is and is not willing to accept. We will not drag others we will simply go there and stand our ground.

The alt-right can mass thousands of trolls online to fight, smear, put down, and even dox good people. The left can motivate millions of people to actually stand up and take action. And what do those actions say:

We are setting the agenda for our future.

All people are created equal – this basic tenant about America has a capital ALL. Not just white property holders, not just men, not just anything. ALL and they can vote, hold jobs, buy cake, etc…

Privacy is important – Governments and corporations cannot have access to us or our metadata without asking first. The net is neutral, Comcast and ATT do not get to decide to charge more for Netflix.

Truth – There is a difference between news and propaganda and we will need to define that line.

Social Welfare – Do we really care about our children and elders? How much are we willing to actually do for them? How much will that cost?

The American Dream – Is it to become rich or is it to become free? Money is not God – The definition of success is not measured in dollars. Who is allowed to dream that dream?

This and more, we will spend the next fours years leading America towards greatness. Or we might all burn in a nuclear annihilation. Either way, it’s a step up from the current administration policies.

 

 

Writing Curriculum

I’ve been off for two weeks. By off I mean I’ve been at home writing curriculum for third quarter. Except this week I’ve been spending 4-6 hours a day in the classroom.

Man I love these long winter breaks we teachers get. I get so much done.

I’ve come to realize I suck at writing curriculum. I don’t like it, it is no fun and in the end it often looks too much like a textbook.

angle grinder and work glove

I wish my day were this easy

If you read my earlier post this year I had grand plans on going PBL. Then reality hit. I have middle school students, they don’t want to actually work.

Well that is a copout they want to work, they just don’t want to work on the things I want them to work on. I’ve never seen so many kids work so hard to avoid work in my life.

Then there is all the work they put in towards hiding their phones and sneaking in games on the computer when my back is turned. Oh and throwing  pencils. That was a thing this year. 300 golf pencils this year wasted.

students texting

What I’m using the calculator

We’ve had more trouble than you can shake a stick at in the building this year. a new principal, messed up scheduling, toooooo much drama even for middle school, and life in general.

total drama all stars

I’m head the Technology Committee, which has kind of drifted for the past few months so I have to get that back on track. I’m also on the Building Leadership Team, which has been working hard to right the ship which is the school. I’m was also part of the Scheduling Committee.

I never knew you could spend so much time on a schedule, but it was really enlightening. Who knew a scheduling expert was needed, but I’m glad we hired him. Lots of opportunity to make the school equitable for all.

Anyway, long story short we have reset the school. I’m reenergized and ready to teach 3rd quarter. I wasn’t so sure I’d be ready at the beginning of break, I was pretty low, but I’ve got a new plan for engaging students. It may not be PBL, but it will include student choice and hopefully some students will choose the projects.