Friday, December 2, 2011

The Inconsistent Blogger is Back...With Random Thoughts

My thought was to rename this blog "The Inconsistent Blogger". New ideas always pop into my head but finding the time to post is nearly impossible.  Today I will post some random thoughts and hopefully develop some of these ideas soon.

I still need to tell you about inquiry science. The students learn more in a rigorous, thought provoking way than in any other way I have ever seen.  Here is a link to the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry.  They can explain it very well.

Inquiry can be done successfully in math, science, reading, social studies, writing, and probable any discipline.  It begins with having questions or a desire to learn something new.  Just think about how many questions come to mind every day about the world around you.

Right now I am so disappointed with the state of science in Connecticut and in the U.S.
Science is treated as a closest, not a discipline. 

You can teach reading, writing, math, social studies, social skills, technology, and engineering through science. Can you do the same through the others? 

Bobby Valentine will be a good fit for the Red Sox.  Everyday will sure be fun!

I am quite impressed with the professors at Sacred Heart University's Farrington School of Education.  They really make you learn in a rigorous, thought provoking, engaging way.

After last year's debacle, I officially passed on raising the trout this year.  (See last year)

Giving specific effective feedback really helps to improve student learning. 

Atul Gawande deserves the Time Man of the Year Award.  Just read his stuff.  He is far ahead of his time.

Making students go back to their work really helps to improve student learning.

I have heard more lightbulbs go off then any other year of my teaching career. 

Cognitive Coaching training helps people become better teachers.

Get sleep. Eat right. Laugh a lot.  This will make everyday better.

You learn something new about people you already know all of the time. 

Have fun.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another Week of Science Inquiry... Want to Know?

You must be on the edge of your seat waiting to find out all of the fascinating details of the week.  You will not be able to move on until you know what this group of teachers from Danbury, New Milford, and Newtown accomplished over the past week.  

Their work was so important they were visited by the Danbury News Times.

Their work was so regarded that they were visited by Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Their work was so exciting they landed on the front page of the Danbury News Times on August 16th.

What did this group of teachers do over the past week?

Want to know?

Well to understand you need to go back about a year ago.  Back to last August when they first met for a similar week long experience.

But that won't help because you need to go a bit further back to when the seeds of thought for this group began to be formulated.

Are you more confused?  Do you have more questions?  Do you want answers to those questions?

That is what inquiry is all about.

I will tell you.

Just not right now.

Feel free to ask.  I will let you know soon enough.  You just may be able to find out for yourself.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It is Sunday

A long way back Philly broke the summer up into parts, like one long weekend.  The part left in June was like a Friday night.  A little chunk, a break away from the daily grind.  July is Saturday.   A whole month to enjoy all that summer brings.  August...Sunday, with all of the anticipation that leads to the work week ahead or in an educator's case a school year ahead.

We are now fully into Sunday.  The thoughts of the new year begin to creep into our minds with all that a new year brings. A routine is good. The excitement of what will be is good too.

Can we hold onto Sunday just a little bit longer though?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The CMT Results are in and...They did great, again!

Just a quick blog to report the great scores again for the students at my school.  The students and teachers deserve a bit of recognition for their continued improvement every year.  All of the teachers from kindergarten through whatever grade have helped the students to learn and make the growth year after year.  It is only one test, but it is the only comparative test we have until there is a national curriculum and national test.


Percent of students at or above goal:

Grade 5

Math         94.2
Reading    85.4
Writing     91.5

Grade 6        

Math         94.9
Reading    95.6
Writing     88.7

These scores have basically gone up every year and are far above the state averages.  I won't bore you with all of the information.  It is unfortunate that the press messes it all up and finds only bad things to say for the most part.

We should be proud of our students.

(I apologize for only focusing on two grades.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Moby-Duck, A Great Summer Read

Anyone interested in inquiry, science, adventure, toys, teaching, the environment, high seas, mysteries, and basically anything else will need to pick up this book for a great summer read.

I just picked up the book Moby-Duck, by Donovan Hohn from my local library.  I was intrigued by the story since Eric Carle's Ten Little Rubber Ducks is based on the same topic.

A container ship south of the Aleutians loses two containers in a vicious storm on January  10, 1992.

One paragraph from the prologue sucked me in and I know I won't be able to put this book down.

"Follow one line of inquiry and it will lead you to another, and another. Spot a yellow duck dropped atop the seaweed at the tide line, ask yourself where it came from, and the next thing you know you're way out at sea, no land in sight, dog-paddling around in mysteries four miles deep.  You're wondering when and why yellow ducks became icons of childhood.  You want to know what it's like inside the toy factories of Guangdong.  You're marveling at the scale of humanity's impact on this terraqueous globe and at the oceanic magnitude of your own ignorance.  You're giving the plight of the Laysan albatross many moments of thought."

If this isn't pure real life inquiry, I'm not sure what is.  It sure is a great example for teachers of inquiry science.

Happy Reading.

Here is a link to an NPR story on the topic

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Oh That State Budget

The Connecticut budget situation has now begun to severely affect the lives of many children across the state.  Funding for most inter-destrict grants has been eliminated at this point due to the ongoing budget negotiations.  This means that many students who have an opportunity to attend a camp that provides the experience of hiking, beach activities, a trip to Mystic or the Bronx Zoo, a visit to Talcott Mountain Science Center, along with many other fun and educational activities will not be able have camp.  This adds up to 600 students just for the organization that I work for.

Many of the students that attend these camps are unable to pay for camp.  These camps are virtually free for all who attend.  Now these kids will not have camp.  What a disgrace.

Please call Governor Malloy's office to express your concern that students attending inter-district camps will be unable to have a once in a lifetime experience that many of the children could not otherwise afford.  It is not too late for them to hear the message.

The phone number is 860-566-4840.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Workshop Week and Then Some!

My fellow DESICA science cohorts and I have spent the last week in professional development, with two more days to go this week and five more days to go in August.

Why in the world do we do this to ourselves?

We drag out of bed in the summer pre-dawn hours to trek across the state to Hartford or Danbury.  Is this what we had in mind when we first became teachers?  No. Summers off with days on the beach, watching the sunset in the evening by some dock of the bay wasting time was more of what was going through my mind. I think we ask "why" basically everyday.  None of us seem to answer the question because we all know and understand without saying.

Most of the presentations and activities are excellent, some are not.  That is true for any type of professional development though.  Overall we have learned a great deal about teaching and learning and have made incremental and in some cases vast changes in the way we instruct on a daily basis.  This goes not just for science, but math, reading, writing, and social studies as well. We have developed connections and resources that make our jobs so much easier.  We have support from colleagues and peers from other towns in Connecticut.   We are more confident in our daily instruction.

So back to the original question.  Why do we do this to ourselves in the summer when we don't have to be attending professional development?

Beneath the chatter of being tired, mileage on our cars, missing our families, or plain old goofing around we all have a deep unspoken understanding that we are there to help improve the science instruction in our schools.  If we can begin to improve our instruction in our classroom, then begin to help others in our school, we will systemically be able to improve science instruction and learning for all of the children in our schools.  If this can be done in science, it can be done in all the other subjects.  Slowly but surely I think we can get there.  It is all for the kids!

This is why we go.  Even though it would be nice to sleep past 6:00 am some day.

Happy Independence Day.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Year End Reflection...The Good, The Bad, and The Trout

Another school year has come to an end.  A pattern is beginning to come forth.  First a flurry of blog posts in September and October, excited at the beginning of a new year.  Then November, with conferences and turkey, a slow down.  Here and there posts resume in December and January.  Then my brain issues a cease and desist blogging order once CMT season comes upon us.  I feel too worn down  at that point to spend any excess energy on Saturday night reflecting.

I wish I could keep it up and post at least once each week.  Maybe next year.  Maybe this summer. Who knows?

There is a need to tie up loose ends though in 11 steps.

1.  This year of trying to do inquiry science has been an overwhelming success. Using new techniques to teach science, and math and reading too, has been fantastic.  I feel more able to let go and let the inquiry process lead students to new discoveries, learnings, and understandings.  They learned more than they ever have in the past.

2.  Pets and I have never had the best relationship. The trout are a fine example of my poor pet parenting.  The trout eggs caught a fungus that I didn't notice until it was far too late.  We saved three trout that did hatch.  We got a new delivery of trout from another school that had too many. The tank had issues.  Well, it was the tank owner that had issues.  I didn't take care of the tank very well.  The students reminded me of this each day as the water turned greener and murkier.  I just figured that's what happens.  We'll let the tank do what it does.  This was quite the bad mistake.  One morning I came in and the fish were gasping.   I have never done emergency CPR on a fish, but decided to just bring the ones who were not floating upside down to Mr. Stentiford's room.  He is the Mariano Rivera (the closer or the guy who gets the save) of the trout world.  Most made it.  Some didn't.  I got rid of the water and soon after, the tank.  No more pets for me.  Well the rocks on the window sill have made it a few years.

3. Graduate science education classes at WCSU were hard, really hard, and really confusing. That's all I have to say about that.

4. We had a great class this year.  The students learned a lot and sure taught me a great deal each day.  I know I learned more from them than they did from me. I also have the greatest teaching partner in the world. Thanks for everything Gael!

5. It is easy to get caught up in the daily hoopla in a school.  I think I have learned to just stay in the moment in the classroom and deal with the important part of school, data collection and RTI forms.  No, just kidding...teaching and learning.

6.  I definitely have the greatest colleagues at my school and in my DESICA cohort.  I learn from all of them all of the time.  They are all so creative and share wonderful ideas.  They are pretty funny too.  Good old sophomoric humor can sure get you through a crazy day or a three hour lecture or both.  Thanks Todd and Peter, (and Gary too).

7. It is important to remember when dealing with people (and we deal with hundreds each day) to remember that each person has their own unique qualities and has wonderful things to offer.

8.  Teaching, although not the most lucrative business in the world, rewards the soul.  All it takes is the one student who evaded you all year to have tears coming down their face on the last day of school.

9. It is easy to think back to the lessons that didn't go well, the learning objectives that flopped, and the bad days you had. But as  Lee Iacocca so bluntly said:

"So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late."

10. We'll follow that with Mr. Walt Disney's vision:

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things,

because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."

This is what keeps us going each day!

11.  I'm curious to see what next school year will bring.  I am more curious to see what wonderful adventures lie ahead this summer.  

As the kids in grade six say: "H.A.G.S!" (This means have a great summer for those of you too old to understand Bieber Fever.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Demitasse: The Most Delicious Coffee and Snacks Just Waiting for You in Sandy Hook Center

(This is a repost of part of a blog entry from August)

My New Favorite
A small coffee shop with good coffee and atmosphere closed last summer in Sandy Hook, Connecticut (a section of Newtown) called Mocha.  This quaint shop overlooks a rambling river called the Pootatuck.  A new place Demitasse took its place, so I thought I would give it a try.  Holy cow, I downed this cup in minutes.  After asking a few questions, I learned they serve Willoughby's roasted coffee out of Branford and New Haven.  This is near my home.  I happened to have an appointment right across the street from the Branford Willoughby's shop a few days later.  Reasonably priced, flavorful, leaving you wanting for more. It is just a bit difficult to get to, not on my ride anywhere.  I will go out of my way for this cup though.

I try to go there at least oncer per week.  It is always the best cup of the week. The pastries, including blondies, pecan bars, and various cakes and snacks are a must.
Coffee.  What else can be said.  Other thoughts come to mind, but I will save that for another day.  In the mean time, greet good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, with an unforgettable cup of Joe.

Please feel free to add your favorites to this list!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Trout Story Continued

I forgot to continue the saga of the Trout.  I'm sure you have been on the edge of your seat. The suspense has been built to such an incomprehensible level that the blog page counts are going through the roof.  I know you all want to know what has happened with those fickle fish delivered back in November.

Well we stared out with 199 eggs.  We now have eight minuscule fish swimming freely in a tank fit for sharks.

What happened?

Fungus happened.

Within a couple of weeks of resting comfortably in the tank, the fish developed a quick spreading fungus.  When I say quick, I mean one morning there was nothing, then in the afternoon the eggs were covered in a suffocating fungus that could not be removed.  Only three of the eggs were spared.

Those three littles did make it.  We received a donation from Mr. Roody of about twelve fish or so.

They were enjoying there time in the free waters of the tank.  Then one morning, about seven went missing.  We looked all over, checked the filter, the tubes, the chiller, even on the floor.  Nothing.

This is still a mystery.  Even some of Mr. Stentiford's disappeared.  Some were in the filter, some unaccounted for.

Now we are trying our best to keep these eight healthy and ALIVE until they are ready to reach the open waters (tiny pond).

Wish us luck.

Next year we're raising worms instead.
This is what the fungus looked like.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Tutor's Perspective

I am lucky to be able to work with students outside of school on a one to one basis.  Unfortunately in the classroom you don't have the opportunity as often as you would like to do as much individualized instruction. It is quite interesting to learn about how and what other grade levels and other schools teach.  The methods are all different.  As a tutor, I need to adapt to those methods to help the student make sense of the information from which they will be assessed.

I can only feel like I am making a difference when my students are feeling confident and successful.   Some days they are confident and surely there are days when their level of confidence and understanding makes it quite difficult to help further their understanding.

I think the greatest thing I have learned as a teacher is that each student is an individual and my teaching methods need to be different for each student in order for them to be successful.  It has taken a long time for this realization to set in.  How I approach each student needs to be slightly different in order to get the best out of them.  Working individually with students has allowed me to develop new techniques and tricks to help students.  Often I am able to take these "new leanings" and apply them in the classroom.  I can see more clearly where students have difficulty on a certain topic.

One week not long ago I had probably my most gratifying week as a Tutor.  Over the course of three days one student got an A on a re-test they previously failed.  One student whom I have worked with for years passed his private school entrance exam with flying colors, and my little Kindergartner had mastered her sight words for Kindergarten and no longer needed her mom to sit with us while we worked.

Each of these students along with all of the others have taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  I am proud of them.  I am proud of all of my students.  I guess this is why I would not change my chosen career path.  You never stop learning.

Now, lets get back to school!