Thursday, December 30, 2010

#ProjectPLN Wants Your Submissions

Project PLN is a monthly magazine that @Ktenkely and I put out for free. We collect posts from educators around the world focused on a singular topic and mesh them all into one spectacular magazine. The goal is to help us all get to know our PLN (Personal Learning Network) better and spread the great things that are happening in education. We would love your help for the January issue. Take a look at the topic below and how you can submit your post for the January issue.

January’s Project PLN topic:
Every new year brings a new commitment to who we are. We set goals to accomplish to make ourselves better people. In education, it is no different. We want to know what your goals are for making education better for you, your students and everyone around you. Education reform is going to continue to be a hot topic, so let’s show the world what teachers are going to do help. Feel free to contact though email or Twitter @projectPLN. We would love to have your thoughts ready to share by January 8th. Thanks again for your continued support of Project PLN. We hope you enjoy the holiday season!

The post doesn’t have to be a new one, if you wrote another post on exactly this topic, feel free to submit it to us! When you email us, please be sure to include your name as you would like it to appear, your Twitter handle (if you have one…you should!), and a URL to your blog, website, wiki, linked in profile, etc (if you have one). Thank you for your contributions!

Cross Posted on iLearnTechnology

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My Passion Meter

Every now and then, my passion meter gets close to zero. Near the end of the first semester it can get very low. I use different things to keep me going during the school year. Sometimes I read old emails from parents or notes from students. They put a smile on my face and get me through the rough spots of s school year. However, there is one thing that never fails to recharge my passion bar; my camp pals!

I just got back from having dinner with some great people. I seriously love these people! For the past three years I spend a week of my summer working with students at a leadership camp. I work with other teachers and college students. Many of the college students are majoring in education and camp is a great learning experience. During the week, I really get to know the other Senior Conselors (Teachers) and Junior Counselors (College Students)as I spend long hours talking about the students and the way they have grown during the week.

I love getting together with these people because it is exciting to see how there semester went. We trade stories and share the ups and downs of education. Sharing laughs with these people is the perfect medicine for a long school year. I can joke with Mike about smiling too much or teases my awesome JC Torie and have her tell me I'm sassy. Talking to Ryan and Emily about classroom stresses and goofy parents and chatting with Val about student teaching in my classroom next year are things I just love doing. I want to give a shout out to Brynn, Olompia, Laura Dee, and the rest of the gang that showed up to re-connect.

My camp friends get me fired up every time I'm around them. I get to be surrounded by great teachers and students that are passionate about education. As teachers, we are so busy inspiring the little bodies in the desks, we forget to keep the fires burning within. As we move forward to the new year, take a moment and check your passion meter. You might need a fill up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction?

Recently, there has been some talk about removing Fiction from the classroom and replacing it with more Non Fiction. Besides being a tech nerd, I am an English Teacher first. Here are some of my thoughts on Fiction in the classroom.

This year was one of my hardest years teaching the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I actually did not teach all of it. I took some passages and events and used them to teach satire, which is the true purpose of the unit. One of the biggest reasons I chose to teach selections was the fact that my students were going to struggle with making connections to the jokes that Twain had planted throughout the text. I supplemented with other short works from Twain and some pieces from The Onion. I felt ok with doing this. I wasn't happy, but I was ok.

Twain is my favorite author. I love his wit and humor. I truly believe he set the tone for modern American humor and SNL can point to him as an early forefather. Every year though, I see his great works move slowly away from the students that come into my classroom. Every year, the jokes take a little bit longer to connect. The allusions are a bit harder to find. After a decade of teaching his work, it has become painful to see the blank stare of students as I explain that the "magic" hairball is satirizing fortune tellers and their "magic" crystal balls. My Twain unit is slowly turning into a Satire unit where I pull newer material in every year. Is there going to be a day where I show nothing but Simpsons and SNL to teach Satire?

The one thing that is really tough about being an English teacher is that ever year, the curriculum gets old. As it gets older, the students are slightly removed from it. In the curriculum for my district, the "newest" piece is Death of a Salesman. That is now over 50 years old. I think Death of a Salesman is still relevant to students today and the Dustin Hoffman movie is a great performance of the work. I still love teaching The Crucible and the kids cannot get enough of Holden and The Catcher in the Rye. (I personally think they like it because I let them say Fuck. Kids.) It's Twain and those crazy Romanticists and Transcendentalists that are losing the power they once had on students. Many kids cannot see the connection of Huck coming of age and Thoreau writing that people should be who they are no matter what others think. What next?

As teachers, we have to be ok with letting go of some of the texts we grew up loving and look at some of the great newer literature out there. I'm not suggesting that departments go out and use the flavor of the month every year, but they need to be willing to be open to new ideas. The texts are classics, but the focus needs to be on the skills. If you can get kids to understand coming of age and dystopian society by using The Hunger Games, why not consider the change.  There are plenty of great books out there that appeal to the new generation of reader. Some of these new books are Graphic Novels!

It took me two years and tons of leg work to create a Graphic Novel Class. (It is officially called Pictorial Literature because community members might be bothered by having a class with the word graphic in it.) I saw a hole in the curriculum for a certain group of students and I thought a class that had different offerings would appeal to students looking for something different.

I teach Bone by Jeff Smith as an Epic Novel comparing it to The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I also teach Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Maus by Art Spiegelman and graphic versions of Poe and Twain Short Stories. I also do a cool ( I think it's cool) Dystopian Novel Unit using Watchmen, Dark Knight, V for Vendetta and Kingdom Come. Our textbook is Scott McLoud's Understanding Comics. It's been an an exciting class that is run no differently than any other literature based class. I'm constantly tweaking it and is better this year than it was last year. It's time for curricula to change around the country. No longer are the classics of my youth (I was in high school in the 90s) the classics of today's classroom.

I understand the push for more non-fiction in the classroom. Kids are going to encounter non-fiction in life on a regular basis and after school, fiction is for recreation. However, fiction can inspire. Fiction can make a person view life in a completely different way. Fiction is art. The way an author crafts a sentence or plot structure is beautiful. If we move away from fiction, are we heading toward the world Bradbury envisioned in Fahrenheit 451 (Top 5 Novel for me)?

Fiction is something very special. They are stories of people about anything and everything. Not only can Fiction be used to teach anything you want as a teacher, it can be the inspiration for a student to pick up the pen. As important as it is to help kids develop critical thinking skills, the creative mind needs to be nurtured as well and Fiction can help in that area. 

Very few people know this, but there is a collection of short stories out there by a Nicholas Provenzano.  Now, I bet that person was inspired to write by reading great works on fiction as well as not great works of fiction. Everyone has a story to tell and we now live in a time where people can share their stories with the world. Fiction plays an important role in molding creative young students. Why would we want to take those stories away from kids who are just discovering their own potential as creators?

Do not buy into the concept that the fiction is outdated and not relevant to today's kids so it must be replaced. Tons of great fiction can be found if teachers and administrators are willing to look for it and spend the money to replace the older texts. I fear that the dollar and cents of the matter is what is truly dictating the slow evolution in the English Curriculum.

What are your thoughts on Fiction and Non-Fiction in the English Classroom?

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Edublog Acceptance Speech

Here is my acceptance speech for the Edublog Award for 2nd Runner Up for Best New Blog. I hope you enjoy.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Visualizing Themes in Literature

This year, I really wanted to focus more on project based learning. I felt that I was getting the best from more students when we did projects. I would still have students wrtie essays, but I always want them to do something a little different afterwards. I want to give the students to express their knowledge in different ways.

My Freshmen students have been working in Lit Circles this year with students from Van Meter, Iowa. This past unit, students have been reading Richard Wright's Black Boy. This a great book to use with students as they learn more about theme. We discuss the different themes in the story and discuss the events in the story that support those themes in great detail. After writing an essay (which I get to check over "break"), I decided I wanted the kids to do a visual representation of the the themes we discussed in class and share them with the students of Van Meter on the KidBlog.

Below you will find links to the various KidBlogs we have been using this school year. Some of the students have not posted their final project yet, but they should all be up and running by Friday. The students were given a choice of different web tools to use for this project. Many used Glogster, Prezi and Pixton.Some are more detailed than others, but I'm very happy with what I have seen so far.


Here is the assignment sheet I gave to the students. Feel free to use it or alter it in any way.

Visualizing Themes in Richard Wright’s Black Boy

Having read Black Boy and written an essay on the book’s themes, we are going to create visual representations of the important themes discussed in this unit. Using different web tools, you are going to express the various themes in a visual format and share them within your Literature Circle. Van Meter students have been reading the same story and I want you to show them what you have learned this unit. You will have three days in the computer lab to create a visual representation of your theme and post on your lit circle blog. Below you will find some options you can use to create your visual representations of theme.

This assignment is due _________________.

Web tools: – This is a graphic blog that allows a user to upload sound, pictures and video. – This is a free site that allows people to create their own comics. – This site allows you to record your voice over uploaded pictures. – This site is cool because you can upload a picture and record your comments. It also allows others to upload a comment of their own. It can even be a video comment. Very cool! – This is a cool tool because it is like a power point, but it is all web based. You can add video and pictures and share it with anyone you want.

If you have another tool you want to use, just ask and we will see what we can do.

Lastly, the students seemed to really like the project and worked hard during their time in the computer lab. It's a great way for students to show their knowledge and understanding outside of an essay or a multiple choice test.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Changing it up - My vocab lesson gets a facelift

As much as it seems like I'm always doing something new in my class, there are some things that I have not changed in the 10 years I've been teaching. I always try and evaluate my lessons every year, The really good ones make it to the next round and the bad ones are altered or eliminated. It takes work, but I feel it is needed to keep my teaching fresh. One part of my daily teaching life is undergoing a huge change for second semester.

For the past decade, I have given students a Word of the Day (WOD). The come in and there will be a word on the board. The students are responsible for writing the word down and finding the definition at home. After 20 or 25 words, the students will have one week to study and there will be a test. As the school year progresses, the tests become more difficult. The tests start with definitions and end with correct usage. This is how I was taught for 4 years in high school and I felt it really helped me with my vocabulary skills. As the years have passed, I have had students tell me they have seen the words on the ACT, SAT and other standardized exams. The lesson worked well. For me, that was proof that my lesson was a success, but was it?

As part of my vocabulary lesson, I accepted that there were going to be students who were not going to study the words. The tests were very much pass or fail. The kids that studied did very well and the kids that did not study failed miserably. As I have moved more towards project based learning, I've started to question my assumptions on who is studying and who is not. Are the students not studying because they cannot master vocabulary using memorization? Is that what is stopping them? my WOD tests are the only "tests" my students take all year. Why? Why can't I change the way I've done something for a decade? Well, I'm giving it a try.

I did not do away with the test. I'm not ready to part with my exams yet. I think I could be there next year, just not right now. I did decide to add a new element that will hopefully help some of the struggling students. As a visual learner, I thought of way to bring the visual elements I like to use in other lessons to the WOD. The AP teachers in the building have students do visual representations of Tone words. It's a cool lesson and kids decorate the room with words and pictures. I've always wanted to do something similar, but never made the connection to my WOD unit. Now, I've decided to blend the two concepts together.

The day of the WOD test, students are to submit 20 illustrated words and definitions as part of their test score. The can draw or use images from newspaper, magazines or the internet to illustrate the definitions. My hope is that the time the students spend on their projects will translate into retention. I want the kids to see the words on the exam and see the picture in their head. I really have no idea how this will work in the long run, but I feel like I needed to change it up a bit for the students who might need a change to be successful. I'm not saying that it is going to stick around forever, but I'm willing to at least look at the difference and make a better judgment on "What works well".

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Project PLN #4 - Web Tools

Here is the December Issue of Project PLN. We wanted to know what your favorite tools were and you lets us know. Here are some excellent posts from great members of our PLN. Enjoy and share!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A penny for my posts?

I was having a conversation with a non-teaching friend (Yes, I have those) and I had casually mentioned (Not casual at all) that I had been nominated for two Edublog Awards (That you can vote for here and here). The following is a recap of the conversation,

Non-Teacher Friend – Cool, what do you win?

The Nerdy Teacher – Well, I win a free Edublogs Campus subscription for one year and one free Edublogs Pro subscription for a year!

NTF – You don’t win cash?

TNT – No, just those prizes I guess.

NTF – How about a plaque or something to hang in your classroom?

TNT – No, but I get a badge I can put on my website.

NTF – Do you make any money from your website?

TNT – I use Google AdSense, but I haven’t made a cent from that.

NTF – You spend all of this time on a website and attending these conferences and you are not making any money from it? That sounds like a ton of work and money for a hobby.

TNT – Well, it’s not a hobby, it’s my job.

NTF – No, you get paid for your job. You take days off and go to conferences you pay for. That’s a hobby. It’s a well intentioned hobby, but it’s still a hobby. When you start making money, then you can call it a job.

Posting for Pennies is not something I set out to do. The one thing I can say about teachers is that we did not get into education for the money. I think it is safe to say that teacher bloggers definitely did not enter the game for money either. Money should never be the driving force in education. It’s a terrible motivator as it will only get people to do just enough to earn what they want. Passion is what is needed to make education better for everyone. Money will never create passion.When I read other blogs, it’s the passion that engages me. Using that passion to make education better for everyone is what I love to do.

I’m working with another school on setting up some Professional Development for their teachers second semester. I never thought this would be something I would do. I didn’t seek people out to make this happen, they found me. I have an opportunity to take my passion for learning and share it with others. Those teaches will then take what I showed them and share it with their students. The fact that I have a chance to reach more students is exciting. If I make a few extra pennies to buy a comic or two, that is great. However, money will never be my motivator. That’s the one thing that makes cents to me. (Puntastic!)

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Edublog Awards - I'm lost for words

Voting is now open for The Edublog Awards. I have loved checking out the nominations from years passed because they are such a great resource for educators. I have learned so much from the various, blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. Take a minute and see the great resources available.

I've been honored to be nominated in the Best New Blog and Best Teacher Blog. I really am lost for words. For those who know me, that is saying a ton! Thanks to everyone that thought of me during the nomination process. I only keep doing what I do because of your support and my weird obsession with pop culture. :-) Stop by and vote for your favorites and keep working to make education a better situation for all students around the world.

Eternally Grateful,



EdcampNYC has shown me, much like edcampKC did, that Michigan is in desperate need for an event like this. There are so many great teachers out there that want to improve education in their schools and classroom, but there isn't a venue available to them. Edcamps are spreading across the country because educators are realizing that it is important to get together and improve education. Education is not perfect and teachers know it. However, many of us are tired of sitting back waiting for someone to fix it for us. No longer are teachers content with just making their classroom great. Teachers now want to spread the greatness around. Now is the time to act.

I'm organizing edcampDetroit, and I'm excited about the progress I have made so far. We have an excellent venue at Wayne State University and the sponsorship of SimpleK12 and TechSmith. If you are interested in joining the team or being a sponsor, please send an email to I feel edcampDetroit can be an amazing event that can ignite the passion that is laying dormant in some teachers because of the lackluster job school districts have done providing meaningful professional development.

We will have registration up soon, but if you are interested in being part of this great event, please feel free to contact me @TheNerdyTeacher or @edcampDetroit. We want to change education in this country, but we need to start at home.

#EdcampNYC Thoughts

This was my second edcamp and it was amazing. There is something about getting together with like minded people that is very empowering. I got to meet many great Twitter friends face to face and they were just as awesome in person as they are over Tweetdeck. We had amazing conversations about all the different aspects of education. It was nice to see that no matter where in the counry you are, there are similar problems.

Some might say that edcamps are just gatherings of like minded teachers preaching to the choir. Those people should have stopped by @dancallahan's Things that Suck session. There was great debate regarding traditional school days, The Department of Education, Homework and a host of other topics. It really showed that we are all not on the same page but it's great to see the conversation. It forces educators to think and share those ideas when they go back to their home district.

The traditional conference forces people to sit in a room and listen to someone who may or may not have an opinion you agree with. edcamps really allow the participants to get involved with the discussion and play a part in the learning. If you have not attended an edcamp, what are you waiting for?

Thanks again to everyone involved in putting together edcampNYC. It was an amazing event and it was worth the trip from Detroit.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is an A worth?

As the first half of the school year winds down, I have a some students that are anxious to bring their grade up in my class. They have come to me asking for extra credit assignments to comp,eye over the weekend. When I asked them why the have this sudden urge to bring their B up to an A, all of them (8 students) said their parents promised some type of monetary reward. 

Growing up, I had friends that were rewarded for good grades. Some received $20 per A. When I asked my parents about this sweet deal, they laughed and said getting good grades is an expectation. They do not pay me to do something I'm expected to do. 

At the time, I was annoyed by their answer. I worked hard in school and thought I should be rewarded for that hard work. In sitcom like writing, my reward was a solid work ethic that payed off in college and in my career. Some of my friends that were paid for their graded had a hard time finding motivation once the cash flowed stopped. 

Education needs to be a priority for students. Students should want to learn because it important. Giving money to children for good grades is sending the wrong message. Cash incentives will only get kids to work hard enough. They will not learn, they try to get A's. 

Fight the urge to reward students with money. If a child is doing well, reward them with more responsibility. Reward them with the positive attention it deserves. When I create an awesome lesson for school, I do not get cash. I get a "job well done" from the boss. The results of hard work are the best reward. That is what kids need to learn. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

What Has Justin Bieber Taught Me About Education?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Super Secret Project is ready!

My 5th Hour Freshmen English students wanted to create a special project for the students of Van Meter High School. My other classes were working on various projects to introduce the students of Van Meter to Michigan, Detroit and our city of Grosse Pointe. They thought it would be cool if they gave a tour of the school but did it with a Lip Dub. I supported the kids in their project, but told them this project would be on them to organize and execute. For two weeks, the kids broke into groups and worked on various parts of the project. Some students were in charge of props and others were in charge of getting permission from the administration to film at school in the morning. A couple of students had their math class figure out the distance that could be covered during the length of the songs that were chosen! It was so exciting to see the students work on something they were passionate about. My only rules were that everyone participate and that they write a short reflective piece (That can be found here). Please feel free to comment on the Kidblog; the kids would love to receive feedback from other people. The kids worked hard and what you are going to see is the completed video. The students are still editing to come up with a directors cut with bloopers, credits, etc. More than anything, this truly shows what students can accomplish when they are give the chance to be creative. I hope you enjoy the video.

The songs in this video are Happy Together by The Turtles (Covered by Simple Plan), Our Time Now by the Plain White Tees and Here It Goes Again by OK GO.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I blog...

I received this email today,

I am a brand new, first year teacher over at Mason.  I just wanted to let you know that I always read your blog and navigate around to find new things for my second graders to do on the computers during center times, computer lab times, and free choice times.  I really appreciate the time you put into developing and updating your blog.  At just 23 years old I am a technology advocate in my classroom and am not afraid to use it!  Anyways, I'm sure you wonder sometimes if anyone is even looking at it for all the work you put in.  Just wanted to let you know I am!

I was late with my Tech Tuesday update this week. I sent it out at 7pm on Tuesday. I was just having a busy day and it slipped my mind. I thought about not sending it out this week. I didn't receive a single email from anyone in the district wondering where the update was, so I assumed nobody missed it. According to my analytics, around 60 people read my school tech blog. That's less than 10% of the staff in my district. This email reminded me why I do what I do. I didn't start the blog to change all of the teachers, just to help the ones that want to learn. I will be keeping this email with the collection of nice parent/student emails and letter to remind me of why I blog and teach.

If you are a teacher and you enjoy the blogs and tech pieces you read, please let the authors know through the comment portions of their blog, by sending them a tweet or send them an email. As you know, compliments go a long way for teachers.

Have a great day everyone!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Project PLN - Issue 3

Here is Issue 3 of Project PLN - The Administrator's Issue

For December, we are looking for educators to share with us their favorite web-tool and how they use it in the classroom. This is a great chance for you to brag about that awesome lesson you created using an amazing web-tool. Do not be modest! Toot your horn over the holidays. Thanks again for all of your support.

- Nick and Kelly

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Edublog Award Nominations

Here are my list of nominations for the Edublog Awards There are so many great people out there that I learn from each and every day. Here are some that I could not live without.

Best individual blog - - Kelly Tenkely - @KTenkely

Best individual tweeter - @ShellTerrell - Shelly Terrell

Best new blog - Upside Down Education by Amanda Dykes @AmandaCDykes

Best resource sharing blog - The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness - - Michael Zimmer - @MZimmer557

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion - #edchat

Best teacher blog - Philly Teacher Mary Beth Hertz @mbteach

Best librarian / library blog - Bright Ideas Blog - - @brightideasblog

Best School Administrator blog - A Principal's Reflections - - Eric Sheninger

Best use of a PLN - Connected Principals - #cpchat

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 MRPA POWershop

Hello Parks and Recreation friends! I'm so honored to have been asked to share my thoughts on Social Media and how it could help you. Below you will find the presentation I will be using and some other videos and information to look at if needed. Thanks again and I hope you enjoyed the presentation.

My Presentation

edcamp Philly


Please leave a comment if you have any questions and I will be happy to get back to you. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Everything I learned about education I learned from watching Saved By The Bell

Yup, it's finally here. The post many of you have been waiting for since I started my "Everything I ever learned" series 8 months ago. This post has been festering in my head like a zit on Craterface Coburn. Since I did not have any Beldicil handy, I figured I would type up the post on my plane ride to Iowa and back from Kansas City. I hope you enjoy it.

*Editor's Note* Before you start writing nasty comments, let's set a few things straight. This Saved by the Bell post includes story lines from Good Morning Ms Bliss despite the fact it was set in Ohio at JFK Junior High. It was packaged with SBTB and had episodes introduced by Zack. The trip to Hawii and the Jessie's Dad's wedding are also included. The College Years did not happen. They just didn't. The SBTB Wedding in Vegas is in the canon. The New Class did not happen. Nope, not at all. Let’s get started.

Ms. Bliss

I had a hard time picking out one episode to show her greatness. There is the awesome episode where she pranked herself and framed Screech to teach the kids about the legal system that really sticks out to me.  She engaged her students in a way they, and I, would remember for years. I do a mock trial to this date because of how cool that entire episode was to me. Having kids learn by doing is so important and Ms. Bliss did this with many of her lessons. She even brought technology into the classroom for one very funny episode.

Miss Bliss really wanted to teach the kids about the stock market and decided to use something called the Internet in class to have students buy and sell stocks. Zack came up with a crazy get rich quick scheme and purchased a whole bunch of stocks on margin and then the stocks tanked. While I do not recommend that teachers allow students access to their e-trade accounts, it was so cool to see a teacher using a computer in the classroom and actually allowing the kids to use it for real world learning. Real world application is something all teachers should try to keep in mind as lessons are planned. If a student can see how the skill can be used, maybe they will be more engaged.

Miss Bliss was a hard worker that always pushed her principal, Mr. Belding, to accept the different ways she would use to teach the class. She was progressive and passionate. She cared about all of her students and strived to help all of them be who they were. I like to think that I have a little bit of Miss Bliss in me and that makes me feel good. (Note: I do not suggest dating a student's parent like she did with Zack's Dad. That would just be weird.)

Principal Richard "The Big Bopper" Belding

"Woa woa woa, what’s going on here?" The calling card of a person who seemed to never know what really was going on in his school. Mr. Belding is probably not the best example of a principal at first glance, but he really does some things that are worth noting. In his dealings with Ms. Bliss, he supported her crazy ideas because he knew that she got results. Her methods were different, but her success at getting Zack and the gang to learn important Social Studies concepts was never in question. That trust in a teacher as an expert in their field is important. That type of support is something many teachers do not feel. As schools and districts move more toward cookie cutter testing, teachers are not encouraged to try new and different things. "Teach to the Test" seems to be the mantra for many admins across the country. Supporting different ideas from veteran teachers should be encouraged, but also monitored. Mr. Belding did a good job of doing both. Well, after his initial freak out.

I realize that it was easy for Belding to be involved in the day to day activities of his students because the school population was just over 38 kids, but it should not be ignored. Mr. Belding worked hard to be there when the students were doing something interesting or exciting. He was an active participant in the school's events. Whether it is a Ski Trip (The one Zack could not go to because of his grades and he got the waiter from The Maxx to play his Dad and Belding and he only really wanted his Dad's attention.) or a White Water Rafting Trip (Which was supposed to be chaperoned by Mr. Belding's brother Rod, but he bailed to hook up with some flight attendant named Inga. Also, the brothers Belding had the names of Dick and Rod. Just sayin'.). Anyway, Mr. Belding was always there for the kids and he loved his school. It is too easy for some principals to hide in their office and only see the ones who need punishment. Belding was a visible principal that was involved in the every day activites of the students and staff. He might not have alway gotten along with Mr. Tuttle, but he let the teachers do what they thought was best.

Mr. Tuttle

Mr. Tuttle was a jack-of-all-trades. He taught Glee Club, driver's training and business class. Mr. Tuttle was also the head of the teacher union at Bayside. He had a great sense of humor and interacted well with the kids. Despite his failed aspirations to become principal of Bayside High School, he worked hard to provide a fun learning environment. He was actualy one of the few teachers that liked Zack despite his crazy schemes. He supported the quiet Violet Bickerstaff when she showed the rest of Glee that she had an amazing voice. He was a very kind and funny teacher.

The thing that I liked about Mr. Tuttle is that he was always willing to work with what he had. That Glee club was terrible, but he gave the kids the best experience possible. As teachers, we often do not get the dream class. We get a collection of students with varied skills. We must always be committed to doing our best to reach as many students as possible. I'm not sure if I would use a golf cart in the school for drivers training, but then again, I'm no Mr. Tuttle.

Terrible Testaverde

Terrible Testaverde. The name invokes fear in every student at Bayside. TT was the social studies teacher that gave notes so quickly, it caused Jessie's paper to catch fire. He was known for his difficult tests. As a student, I didn't like him. He did not seem like a very fun teacher at all. He seemed to be all about tests. As a teacher, I don't like him for all of the same reasons. I understand that you should not judge a teacher based on one unit or test, but his stand and talk approach to instruction is something that kids do not respond to. Speaking at kids is not a good form of instruction, especially at his pace. There are times where we will need to give notes and talk to the students, but teachers need to change it up and try to reach the students in the class that respond to other delivery methods. Zack had such a problem with TT's teaching, that he tried to use Screech's new found future telling ability (Gained whe he was struck by lightening on Zack's roof) to discover the three questions on the huge exam that would determine their grade in class. Nothing like three questions having such a huge impact on a student's grade. I almost do not blame Zack for trying a crazy scheme. He ends up failing because cheaters never prosper, but Belding should be ashamed to have a teacher like Testaverde at Bayside. That is not learning going on in the classroom, it's rote memorization. Blech!

The Gang

Kelly Kapowski bugged me. I had a crush on her, but I was not a fan of the way that she led Zack on, used to toy with Slater and then cheated on Zack with stupid Jeff. I was glad that her heart was broken when she saw Jeff dance with the other girl at The Attic. Ok, I'm better. I've needed to get that off my chest for a few years. Having said that, there is something to be said about Kelly's actions and the state of education in America. Follow me on this one.

Kelly was a master at getting attention. Whether it was during her bid for Homecoming Queen or dancing with Slater to win the Dance Contest, she needed the attention. She went to great lengths to get Johnny Dakota to look at her. It was only on her terms though. I see this in many of our politicians today. When a politician is running for office and needs attention, education is always the place to turn. There will always be people that will feed into the "education is broken" rhetoric just like Kelly could count a Zack to pull crazy stunts to make her happy. The attention getting can be cute for a bit, but it eventually drives everyone insane. It actually drove AC to Jessie of all people. Politicians need to pick a side of education and work on making it better all of the time, not just when they need the attention for some votes.

Jessica "Mama" Spano is an example of everything that is wrong with our students today. She was obsessed with grades. She was so obsessed with grades that she became "addicted" to caffeine pills! (Lamest addiction ever) She was stressed out over her SAT scores and was afraid she might not get into Stansbury (The Harvard of the West). Her whole life was predicated on what she received on tests. She was by no means the smartest kid in the school. Screetch had her beat and on Valedictorian of Bayside for that graduating class, but I'll write about that later. Jessie was the student council president, worked for KKTY Bayside, was a swimmer and played Snow White in the school play. She had extra curricular activities, but I start to wonder if she truly cared about these things. Was she only concerned about using them to go to college? Is that the only reason why students do anything anymore? Students need to be taught to learn and explore, not how to to get into college. If our goal is to produce a bunch of Jessie Spanos, we are heading in the wrong direction.

Lisa Turtle was a very creative young lady. She had a keen eye for (90s) fashion and was able to express herself while creating Buddy Bands. In today's standardized test culture, where does she fit in? Would she ever be able to hold a fashion show senior year at The Maxx that would later be ruined by Screech because he saw her kiss Zack? Talents like hers need to be supported over time, not tested away. That is really all there is to Lisa Turtle accept that for one episode, her last name was pronounced (turtle-aye). Weird right?

Albert Clifford (AC) Slater was the pleasant jock of the group. My biggest issue with him is that he pursued Kelly even when she chose Zack, but settled for Jessie. The Jessie relationship was doomed because settling for something never works out. I see this in education today. Many teachers want Kelly (Project Based Learning, No Grades, etc.), but settle for Jessie (Common Assessments, Standardized Tests, etc.). As we continue to strive for change in education, it is important that we never just settle for what we have. We have to pursue what we want if we truly believe in it. Albert Clifford taught me that. Well, that and that you can never have too many belt loops on a pair of acid washed jeans.

Screech was the lovable nerd. He was the smartest person in the school, but lacked any confidence outside of asking Lisa out time and time again. Much like Slater, I give him credit for trying to get Lisa despite all of the setbacks. Once he realized she was a pain after she talked through the entire Zombie movie, he moved on to something better. Violet Bickerstaff was a good companion for Screetch. She truly brought out the best I him. Even though Screech would always hold a candle for Lisa, I feel he moved on. Sometimes, I really want to use a certain tool or do a certain project with my class, but I can't seem to get it to work right. I know of too many teachers that try for too long to make something work. As they spend that time on something not meant to be, they could be missing out on something much better. I often wonder about all of the Violets I passed up while longing for Lisas. It is ok go to keep a special spot in your heart for that one project, but try not to miss out some other exciting new ideas that are just waiting to be discovered by you.

Another thing about Screech that really stands out to me was something that happened during the last season. Jessie was stressing over the title of Valedictorian. It is something that she had longed for since she was a little girl. Jessie is the example of a grade and test driven student. Her reaction to her SAT scores only supports this further. It turns out that Screech had earned a higher GPA than Jessie. When Screech was told of this, he passed on the award because he knew it was more important to Jessie. All of the drama that ensues afterward aside, Screech's action speak loudly in education today. An award was not important to him. He didn't work hard because he wanted an award, he worked hard because that is who he was. We never heard that the robot he created, Kevin, was built for Science class, he was built because he wanted to. If Screech was really concerned about grades, he never would have paired up with Zack time after time. Screech was all about the experience of learning. He enjoyed high school and the people around him. Screech and Jessie are different in many stereotypical ways, but from an education standpoint, teachers should strive to create more Screeches and far fewer Jessies.

Zack Morris

I feel that no matter what I write, I will not do justice to my TV childhood hero. He was everything a young kid wanted to be. He was cool, dated the hottest girl in school, he had an awesome phone he carried around and he was involved in crazy schemes that always seemed to work in his favor. As a high school student, I realized how silly everything he did was and that Bayside was not a "real" high school. Now, I really look at Zack and see a student that really responded to one type of learning over all others. Zack was a Project Based Learner. Whether it was Buddy Bands, Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce, the school pond that was damaged in an oil spill or the host of other projects he was involved with, Zack excelled in those projects. Those lessons allowed Zack to dive into the material and create using ideas he was passionate about. The classes he hated the most were the ones where he needed to sit in his desk and take notes. Not being able to collaborate with his peers was the worst way to reach Zack.

I look at Zack and I see his silliness in students today. When I moved away from lecture based lessons and started using more PBL, I saw an increase in student participation across the board. Kids were excited to be part of the learning. Working with their peers gave them a chance to show off their knowledge to others. Isn't that what Zack was really doing? He needed a chance to show others that he wasn't the goofball everyone thought he was. With a little structure, Zack could have created some amazing school projects if he was given the room to grow. Belding tried very hard to harness Zack's energy by giving him chances to create things for the school. The video yearbook is a good example. The school store is another. KKTY is yet another example. When Zack was given a chance to really show what he was made of, he came through. Granted, he made calendars of the swim team and used the video yearbook as a dating service, but he helped set the radio station up to save The Maxx (with Slater's help) and exposed the sexism in Bayside's wrestling program.

Think about the students in the classroom that are very much like Zack Morris. Are teachers writing those students off as silly kids that just need some ADD meds to calm them down? Have I dismissed a student because he didn't fit my idea of a student years ago? Many people forget that Zack nearly aced his SAT. He was not a dumb student, he was a student looking for the right motivation. When a teacher gave him the chance to shine, he did. Students like Zack usually go on to do amazing things when they get out of the educational system and are free to explore what they are passionate about. Let's not make those students wait until after high school or college. Let’s give them a chance to be Zack now before it is too late. I never thought I would say this, but I would take a class full of Zacks over a class full of Jessies or Screeches any day.

I could have easily written an episode by episode recap and explained the educational meaning behind each, but the characters are really what made the show happen. Zack's report on being Native American or the gang attempting to film a horror movie that gets Screech hunted by the government are good examples of education and what it should be for students in the classroom. I really loved diving into the memories of old episodes and what they meant to me then and now. I've really wanted to write this post for a while and I'm glad I finally had the time to share it with my friends. I hope I have a chance to share even more with you in the future.

You know, I've always been a huge fan of The Simpsons....                                                           

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm a Tool - #edcampKC Thoughts

I'm a Tool - #edcampKC Recap

As I sit in the KC airport without access to a bathroom, I thought now would be a good time write a little reflective post on my journey this weekend.

I have never been to an edcamp before, so I was excited to see how everything worked. I'm organizing edcamp Detroit and had many questions for the KC group. To sum up the event, it went really well. Everyone knew what was goin on, sessions filled up and people were excited to share. I had planned on presenting on blogging in the classroom, but I found out Kristina, Becky and Shannon were going to discuss blogging as well. They invited me to join their group and discuss blogging from a HS perspective. It went really well. I couldn't be luckier to have those amazing women in my PLN.

I engaged in many conversations with people from all over the MidWest. Answered questions about my Blogger's Cafe and how I run my classes. I picked the brains if some very smart educators in an attempt to make my classes better. I love being surrounded by people that all have the same goal.

One of the ideas that seem to come out of many of the conversations was the tools we can use as educators to make education better. Blogging I'd a wonderful tool that we talked about, Russ talked about Evernote as an amazing tool in the classroom and others shared what they use. At the end of the Blogging Presentation (Which you can watch on U-Stream at the edcampKC wiki) I encouraged people to contact me with questions and I would be happy to help. I almost stopped myself when I said, "I'm a tool." Everyone got a good chuckle, but it is a very accurate statement. As teachers, we are the best tool for other teachers to use. We help eachother grow and become better. It is that simple to me.

I am often asked by other teachers in my building, "How much do you make/charge to work with these other teachers?" They give me weird looms when I tell them I do it for free. I guess I could charge teachers or districts to work with them, but right now I just help teachers here a d there I've developed a connection with. I do not mind being a tool for others to use to help improve themselves and their classrooms. I never signed up to be a teacher for the money, I signed up to make a difference. Edcamps make a difference and I'm glad to be part of that group.

As my plane gets ready to board passengers, I'm sad I have to leave my friends who I learned so much from in such a short time. I am excited to take that knowledge and help students and other teachers improve the education around them. I'm ok with being a tool. Are you?

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Blogger's Cafe Update

November Blogger's Cafe Update

I wanted to give everyone a little update on how the Blogger's Cafe was going.

The Good

Well, it is still going very well. I still have students that are excited about blogging and want it to be their turn every day. I have even let some students grab an extra laptop and blog because they have done such a good job in class. If it is a student's turn, but they are out sick, all arms are raised to replace them on the stage. It is just so exciting to see kids pumped to take notes and share them with the rest of the class.

The Bad

My laptops provided by the school stink. Some of them literally take over ten minutes to load up at times. They are slow moving and their battery life is next to nothing since they are 5 years old or older. Some kids have lost work when the computer just shuts off for no reason. I know this happens to many of us from time to time, but in a 48 minute class, these things can be brutal. I need to keep searching for grant money and begging the school board for cash to give me the tools necessary to really engage my students fully in the digital learning world. I know, there are schools and teachers that do not have a single computer and I should not complain. I'm lucky to have what I have, but it is not wrong to want to provide more for my students. If you know of someone who is handing out grants, please direct them my way. I've got some great ideas to share with them.

The Blah

I had a parent express a concern that their child, who struggles with typing and dyslexia, should be possibly excused from blogging because they could be embarrassed by their typing mistakes when seen by peers. I would never want to place a student in a position where they could be embarrassed, but asking a student to take notes twice a month is not a crazy expectation as far as I'm concerned. Less writing will not make the student a better writer. All blog posts can be typed in MS Word first and edited later. I understand the want to protect kids from embarrassment, but it is also important to have kids work on things that are tough so they can improve. As the semester has progressed, I've seen improvement in student writing on the blogs. Nothing huge, but little things that show they are adjusting and learning. As a teacher, that is huge. I guess that should go in the Good section. Oh well. ;-)


Things are going very well. I like what I'm seeing from the kids and would love to expand the number of bloggers. An ultimate goal would be to have all of the students take notes and share them online in one space. A parent donated a couple of comfy chairs for the Blogfer's Cafe space and the students like them very much. I've commissioned three school artists to crest some paitning to hang on the walls. I'm excited about their ideas and I hope to have those by second semester.

That's it for now, stay tuned for another update in December.


Van Meter Log 1

Off to Van Meter...

I've been very excited about my trip to #edcampKC for a while. I've had it circled on my calendar for months. Well, it's been in my iCal for months. I'm excited to see how the #edcamp runs since I'm planning #edcampDetroit. All of the info I can walk away with will be very helpful. Plus, with my buddy Kyle being there, I will be able to get all of my questions answered.

I'm also excited to be spending the day in Van Meter, Iowa. They mythical school district we have all heard and read about is somewhere I've wanted to visit since I met the VM crew in Denver at ISTE. For those who do not know, my Freshmen English students have been working with students from VM this year ovn various blogs and projects. The goal at the end of the year is to put together a joint production of Romeo and Juliet. That is a lofty goal, but we have some great students and wonderful technology that can make this possible.

I've never been to Iowa or Kansas City, so I'm a little excited to see a bit of each place, but I'm really excited to see how education works in other places. It is so easy for teachers to forget that education is truly different everywhere in the country. I really hope I can take this great opportunity to see how another part of the country tries to educate their students. I hope I get to not only see how different things are, but I really want to see how similar all students and teachers really are. We might take a different path at times, but the goal is the same. I just can't wait to see the road that these teachers take their students on.

I'll be tweeting and posting like mad these next few days, so please keep an eye out on so e cool information coming out of Van Merer and Kansas City. I'll talk to you crazy education loving teachers later.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Directions

I have been asked to be the educational blogger for The Balancing Act. The Balancing Act is a show on the Lifetime network and they needed someone to write about some education for parents. Since I'm always up for something new, you will find me posting once a week on different topics that would concern parents, teachers and students. Sometimes I will focus on the great web based tools available for parents to use to support the work teachers do in the classroom and other times I will write about simple strategies teachers use to help student be successful that parents might not know about. I'm excited about the chance to bring a teacher's view of education to parents. I don't think the average teacher is heard and this is chance to speak. Not much is going to change from my end of the site. My posts will be doubled up here on TheNerdyTeacher and at my page on The Balancing Act. I think this officially fills my schedule, but I'm sure someone (Kelly, Shelly, Shannon, Kyle, Tim, etc...) will convince me to do something else awesome. :-) I hope I provide a good voice for teachers across the country. For all of my new readers, buckle up for a Nerdy ride.

Can You Hear Me Know?

“Hello world!” That’s how I started my very first blog post on a long forgotten blog years ago. I’m really excited to share my thoughts with everyone in The Balancing Act family and can’t wait to see what parents from around the country have to say on important educational issues. I hope to create an open dialogue with parents to discuss ways to increase student achievement. I’ll be answering your questions, sharing studying tips, showing you learning strategies and other great ways technology can be used to help students in school. Like all things, we need to start at the beginning. The teacher and parent relationship needs to be established to truly help students.
I am often asked by parents, “What can I do to help bring up my son’s grade?” It is such a great question, but only if it is asked at the right time. When I receive that question in mid-September, I can help the parent help the student and things tend to work out. When I receive that question three days before report cards are sent home, there’s not much I can do. Communication is the best way to save a student from falling too far behind in school.

Like any relationship, communication is key. As a parent, it’s important to start the school year asking teachers what they use for communication. Does the teacher have a class website? Do they respond quicker to email or phone calls? Do they use Twitter? Does the class have a blog that tracks assignments? Are grades posted on-line? These are important questions to ask a teacher early in the year. Sometimes “Back to School” night is a month into the school year and that might be too late for some students. Once a parent establishes contact with teachers, it is important to keep in regular contact and keep the teacher informed.

As a teacher, there have been too many times where I have tried to work with a struggling student and found out they were dealing with problems outside of school. One time, I found out a student was completely deaf in one ear 4 months into the school year and he sat in the back of the room! Keeping the teacher informed of life outside of school is very helpful. It allows teachers to keep an eye out for things or bad habits that could form. One parent emailed me to let me know their son was going through a bad break-up with a long-time girlfriend and he has been bummed out lately. I took that info and made sure to include him a little more in class conversation and pay extra attention to his behavior. Like all teens, it lasted for a week or so and he moved on. Keep the teacher informed and many problems can be prevented in the long run.
I’ve always said, “If my biggest problem is an over-involved parent, I’m doing ok as a teacher.” Don’t be afraid to make contact with teachers and create a healthy relationship. Parents and teachers want what is best for kids and communication is a sure fire way to see that students are successful.

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"All right, then, I'll go to hell"

I was typing up a document to share with my kids on how to properly embed a quote in a paragraph for an essay. I needed to create a paragraph off the top of my head centered on a different story so the students could see what it would look like in practice. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of my favorite books and that is what came to mind when I thought about writing a paragraph.

The one quote that came to mind was this one from Huck near the end of the book, "All right, then, I'll go to hell" (Twain 210). I love this quote because Huck has decided to help free Jim despite what society says about slavery. It's an act of independence. Huck says his moral compass is more important than that of others. I was struck by this and thought about the work I've been doing in class with my kids and realized that the quote has been my motto all year. I needed to post my thoughts now before school started.

As more and more people continue to pressure teachers to follow the standardized testing routine, I decided I'm going to be project based and have fun while I do it. If teachers want to shake their finger at me and suggest that I'm doing kids a disservice, let them. I'm going to do what I think is best for the students in my classroom. I feel that is my responsibility. I feel so much better that this quote came to mind. I've been worrying about my decisions to go this way, but Huck reminded me that society doesn't always know what is best.

For all of the teachers out there doing something different, know that you will have a nice seat in hell next to me and Huck Finn. Have a great Tuesday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Calling all Admins to #ProjectPLN

Are you an Administrator? Have you always wanted to share one good piece of advice to other Administrators? Do you want to give one special little tip to teachers that could help them with the administration in their building? Then you have come to the right place! Project PLN is looking for articles from administrators that give advice to other admins or suggestions to teachers. There are many great admins out there and we would love for you to share your thoughts and ideas with a wider audience. These articles do not need to be very long or even new. If you have an old post that you would like us to post in the November issue of Project PLN, please send it to

If you would like to write a brand new post just for us, that would be great too! The new posts do not need to be very long, just long enough to impart some of your wisdom. Please pass this along to other admins you know so they can share their wisdom with teachers and admins from around the world.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I hope you will consider sharing your thoughts with the rest of the PLN. Please send all submissions by Sunday November 7th.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Social Media, Technology and Education

I was thinking about posting this on my blog that goes out to my district. Does this sound too harsh? Thoughts would be appreciated.
I was honored to be asked to speak at the 140 Character Conference in Detroit on Wednesday. I was asked to talk briefly about the impact Social Media is having on education. The interesting thing about this conference was that it was not an education conference. I was not surrounded by like-minded teachers preaching to the choir. I was surrounded by business men and women from all walks of life. These were people that were coming into this conference expecting to hear about best business practices they could incorporate into their work. I realized that I was going to speak to an audience that had already formed some opinion on education. If recent news is any indication, the opinion might not be a good.
The talk went really well and my ideas and lessons were well received. I was actually a trending topic on Twitter in Detroit. even wrote about what I said here. I was shocked by all of the positive feedback because it was so quick through Twitter. People let me know how they felt as I talked. Imagine if our classrooms ran that way. Think about the possibilities of instant feedback from students as we lectured. Questions could be asked by anyone and everyone. Conversations could be had without speaking up while we talked. These things are possible through social media.
One thing that really struck me at the conference was how positive everyone was. I have found that too many teachers are negative when new ideas are presented. I know I have been guilty of this from time to time and need to work hard to stop. However, maybe it is time to start looking at how things could work and how we can try to make them work instead of all of the reasons things are going to fail. As a certain Science teacher said at a recent staff meeting, we learn as much from failing as we do from our success, if not more. Not every new idea is going to apply to every teacher in every content area. However, that does not mean that all new ideas should be blocked out. Education is getting a bad reputation because there are bad teaches out there in the world. These are teachers that refuse to grow and change. Education is a constantly evolving world. I'm not doing the same thing I did 10 years ago because the kids are not the same and I'm not the same. Yes, it will take hard work and some long hours. If you became a teacher expecting it to be easy, you are in the wrong job.

Lastly, I really think I started to understand why people have such an issue with education. We (The entire educational system) are usually the last adopters. We are the last ones to look at new ideas or technology and incorporate them into the schools. There is a struggle to get everyone on board. By the time it finally happens, the idea is old and something new is already here. As teachers, it is our job to accept some change and see how we can connect with our students. I'm not suggesting everyone throws out all of their amazing lessons and replace them with new ones centered on gadgets. Technology, ideas, innovation are not “all or nothing” concepts. Everyone needs to look at what works for them and take baby steps in the right direction. The problem as I see it is that too many people have their heels dug in.

I challenge all teachers to pick one new tool out there and work with it. Play with it. Find out how it works and how you can use it in your class. By the 4th marking period (April or May) incorporate that tool into a lesson in your class. It doesn't have to be something super complicated. Everyone should choose a tool for their own skill level, but commit to mastering something and using it in class. No matter what content area you are in, there is a tool out there that can make class a little more exciting for your students. There is a tool out there that can inspire students to think differently about a project or idea. If every teacher picked one tool every year and shared that tool with others, we would all be masters of technology and students would be better for it. Who's willing to take the challenge?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My First Thoughts on Attending #140Conf

I wanted to jot down my first thoughts on attending and speaking at the 140 Character Conference in Detroit. These are just some quick thoughts for now and I will write a larger post in a few days. I wanted to focus on the first few words that came to my mind as I drove home.


It was really nice to be surrounded by people that feel the same way about the power of Social Media. From a local point of view, it was also nice to be surrounded by people that love the city of Detroit as much as I do. I couldn't help but feel that I was just surrounded by good people with the same goal. As the one of three or four teachers that Tweet on a regular basis, it was nice to be surrounded by people who were all on the same page. Even though I had not communicated with these people over Twitter before, I felt like we had a common bond over a shared experience. Social Media is cool that way. It reminded me a bit of ISTE in Denver and that made me feel very comfortable.


As teachers, we are all very supportive of what each other do. It's nice to share our lessons with other teachers and get feedback. At #140Conf, I shared my class blogging and the Romeo and Juliet joint project with Van Meter and the response was amazing. I received a ridiculous amount of @ mentions from people who not only loved the idea, but wished their kids could have me for a teachers. Some even said they wish they could have me as a teacher. It was a very weird feeling because I think it was the first time I received real feedback from non-educators, parents of students or the students themselves. It was a very nice feeling. Some of the tweets I received are up their in the realm of letters from students. I saved some of those tweets as a reminder of why I work hard on my lessons.


I felt respected as an "expert" in my field. I use quotes because I think it is so weird to use that term for me because I still see myself as just another English teacher trying new things in the classroom and their are many of us out there that do the same thing. Too often, teachers are not afforded the same respect other professionals receive for some unknown reason. It is a little sad that I should get so excited for receiving respect, but as a profession, we do not get enough of it in the professional realm. Hopefully speaking at #140Conf and similar events not dedicated solely to education will help change that.


This is funny to write at the moment because I'm so fried. My brain has been in overdrive since I woke up at 5 this morning. The reason I'm exhausted is because I've been spending my day thinking about all of the amazing ideas I've heard about. I wonder how I can get my students involved in these amazing movements in the city I love dearly. I felt the same way after ISTE and when I come back from my Leadership Camp where I work with Student Council kids from all over the state. The one thing these events have in common is passion. Everyone involved with those three events are passionate about what they do and that is why they are involved. With a country filled with passionate people, I find it hard to believe that public education is failing everyone everywhere.


#140Conf is a game changer for so many people and the projects they are passionate about. I feel very lucky to have been able to go and listen to other people talk about the city they love and the different ways they want to give back. I also feel very lucky that I had a brief moment to speak up at the end and defend the amazing public school teachers out their that are having a tough time right now.  It was a rare opportunity to speak to non-teachers and let them know that there are teachers out there working hard to change education. Too many times we spend most of our time "preaching to the choir" on Twitter. I was lucky to steal a moment and let everyone know that public education is not perfect, but teachers are working hard to make it better every day.

These are just some of my initial thoughts on the #140Conf. It was an amazing event and I'm excited that @jeffpulver has promised to bring it back next year. If he comes close to your town, please make a note to go and see the amazing ideas in your community. It will change your view of Real Time Communication and the way it impacts you.

Ok, I need to unplug for the night. More to come later this week. Thanks again to each and every person that RT or @ Mentioned me today. I couldn't do anything without the support of my PLN and all of my followers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mentoring and #Edreform: Together At Last

Education reform should always be a topic of discussion. The main reason is that nobody is perfect. No country has a perfect educational system. It is important to strive to make tings better all of the time. There are many different ways to change the current system, but I think there is one that can have a positive impact on teachers and students.
Mentoring is something that is in place in some school systems, but not all. I've heard of mentoring programs in certain school districts that match up teachers with new hires for the first 3-4 years of teaching. After those 3-4 years, the mentoring programs ends for the new teacher. Why? Are we to believe that a teacher knows everything they need to know after 3 or 4 years? Mentoring programs should last until retirement. Professional development should revolve around the mentoring relationships created. I propose a more rigorous mentoring system that provides help for all teachers regardless of age or experience.

Teachers should be paired up with another teacher in their department for the first 3 years of teaching. Teaching within the content area is tough for a new teacher and they can use all of the help the can get. After the first 3 years, teachers would be then be paired up with another teacher from a different discipline. Math teachers and English teachers or Art teachers and Science teachers. These teachers would participate in Professional Development offered by the district together. They would work as a team as the explore new and interesting way to instruct students. They will be there to support one another as they try new things. Pairs of teachers could be matched with other sets of teachers to form larger groups to explore larger ideas. The main purpose is to connect teachers in a school with other departments and see teaching from other points of view. Every couple of years, pairs should be switched to all teachers to experience different points of view.

To spice things up, administrators should be thrown into the mix so they can see first hand what learning and teaching is from the perspective of teachers from all age and experience levels. This new mentoring program will not be easy to install overnight and some veteran teachers might need to double up to make sure everyone has someone to work with, but this mentoring program can change the culture of learning in a school. No longer will teachers feel like they are alone in tackling problems. Departments will get to share ideas with one another on how to improve student performance in different areas. Younger teachers will be able to share new strategies with veteran teachers and veteran teachers will be able to share tried and true practices with the new teachers. Mentoring is a way that allows teachers from all over the building to work together to help all of the children in the school, not just the ones sitting in front of them.

I keep reading about districts that are trying to create new evaluation systems to "encourage" teachers to "work harder". Teachers already work hard. For those teachers that need help and encouragement, a new evaluation system is not going to help them. It will only drive them to do the minimum and fear asking for help. Districts should focus on the wonderful resources available to them. The biggest and best resource available are teachers. We want to help everyone, that's why we are teachers.

For those of you out there do not have a mentoring program, start one yourselves. Find a teacher, any teacher, and spend some time with them. Ask them how tings are going and offer support in any way that you can. You might be surprised at the positive impact a few kind words have on a colleague.

Mentoring can improve education if it is set up the right way. We have good mentoring programs, but should we be ok with good?