Sunday, June 8, 2014

Blog post #11: Personal Development Plan

Personal Development Plan

Personal Development Plan

What exactly is a Personal Development Plan, and how does one go about constructing one?  I am of the belief that life is all one big personal development plan.  We make plans, and as they either come to fruition or fail, we regroup and reorganize.  I asked myself what exactly I wanted out of life, and, of course, a majority of life has to do with what one does for a living.  I have a talent.  I can sing the most beautiful opera anyone has ever heard.  I was told for the majority of my life that it was my responsibility to share that talent with the world.  Personally, I don’t find any gratification in it.  It is fun to sing, but I am not accustomed to the limelight, and do not like much attention from people in a performance capacity.  So, I decided that I did not want to perform for a living.  I changed my major from Vocal Performance to several things, and after living for a year in Yosemite National Park I decided what I wanted to do:  Major in Biology and be a veterinarian.  
Through the course of my education in biology I was blessed to work closely with professors who led me in the direction of laboratory research, which I found to be very personally and professionally gratifying.  There is something about asking a question that doesn’t have an answer and then working toward answering that question with one’s own skills and intelligence.  After I graduated with my biology degree, I had the opportunity to follow my mentor to a new university and seek my PhD in plant population genetics. 
I decided not to enter the program based on a few factors:  1.  PhDs in science can take up to 8 years to attain, and require considerable dedication (up to 80 hours a week) to lab work and research.  I don’t think my 8 year old (then 6 year old) would appreciate being without her mother for that length of time.  2.  Funding for environmental research is plummeting and no one can ensure that it will increase in the future.  Again, I don’t think my daughter would be too keen on her mom not being able to secure funding when a prom dress is to be had.  3.  As is evident from numbers 1 and 2, my daughter is my absolute priority in life.  You could say that she is my personal development plan.  In being the best mom I can possible be, I wanted to find a career that would enable me to spend the time needed with her, still be involved in research and science, and still educate people (my aspirations were, and still are, to become a college professor).  Currently, I am attaining my Master’s degree in Secondary Science through an NSA grant (Noyce Scholars Program), and so far, I am excited about the future and look forward to continued inspiration from my professors and fellow educators alike.  



My current aspirations revolve around my career and my daughter.  My short term goals include securing a position with the Mobile County school system as a high school science teacher.  This will support another goal of mine:  keep a schedule that is similar to my daughter’s so that we can spend more time together.  I would also like to travel and educate myself abroad as much as possible.  Long term goals include attaining a PhD in Education and eventually teaching at the college level.  

Strengths and Competencies

guide to competency

I believe that my greatest strength is my love of science!  I am constantly reading, researching, web-surfing, and seeking out the newest and late-breaking science trends and articles.  It is very important to me that the science I share has been tested and peer reviewed, so as not to support any pseudo-science that is overtaking the internet.  It is so important as an educator that the information that I discuss is reliable.  
Other strengths include multitasking and working well with others under stressful situations.  I have worked in the hospitality industry through the course of my education, which takes an exorbitant amount of multitasking and inter-personal communication.  The ability to personally manage time is very important both in the service industry and in the laboratory setting as well.  There is not much micro-managing involved in either field, it is up to everyone that is part of the team to make decisions based on what is happening at that moment.  
The ability to empathize and compromise is extremely important in dealing with students.  Narcissism and an impetus for success have their places in business, competitive sports, and a myriad of other careers, but in order to be a successful educator, one must know that the success of the students supersedes and in some ways dictates a teacher’s success.   Empathy and compromise are traits that I am thankful for everyday.  
A teacher must be highly organized and focused, with the ability to be fluid with that organization.  You never know what the school day will bring.  A lesson plan is like a mini Personal Development Plan:  you have a plan, but sometimes plans change depending on the situation.  
In order to be a successful teacher, one must have an extensive grasp of the subject matter that is being taught.  I have heard it said that if you teach something twice, you have a good grasp of the information.  I have a slightly different philosophy.  There may be a rudimentary understanding of information that someone has looked up and taught a couple of times, but in order to really flesh out an idea or theory for instruction, a teacher should be very familiar with the subject matter.  This will inspire conversations and ideas in the classroom that a more simplistic understanding of the subject matter cannot foster.  

Education and Training


I have a Biology degree with a concentration in Genetics and Microbiology.  This is a great basis to pair with my Masters Degree in Education.  I have the skills to fully comprehend and create lesson plans and experiments, paired with the education classes that are preparing me for classroom organization and performance.  I had the opportunity to participate in an internship at Semmes Middle School in Mobile County, AL, and shadow a science teacher there.  It was very fun and informative!  I do not have much experience with kids of that age group, and it was so great to see their enthusiasm and interest for the subjects.  Teaching was very organic there, with students promoting the lesson plans themselves through discussion and questions.  I feel very blessed to have had that hands-on experience before getting my degree in education.  As an NSTA member, I have been fortunate to be involved in several seminars and conventions that foster continued education and hope to continue to network and learn from other teachers from around the country.  I plan on utilizing summer breaks in order to maximize my continued education plan.  

How will I realize this plan?

woman thinking

I am currently working toward my Masters in Science Education, and after graduation, I plan to take a position as a science teacher at a high school in Mobile County.  During summer breaks, I will teach abroad in third world or under-developed countries for a part of the summer, and utilize seminars for continued education.  After a few years experience, I plan on working toward my PhD in education, while conducting research that I will seek publication for.  After graduating with my PhD, I will seek a position at the college level, in order to inspire and teach future educators.  Throughout this plan, I look forward to building a family life for myself and my daughter and enjoying life in general!

Lifestyle priorities

silly Lilly

Constructing a personal development plan was a bit more time consuming that I anticipated.  I have a foundation upon which I want to build my professional career, and an overall idea of where I want to go, but to really sit down and express those ideas is not always the easiest thing to do.  Throughout the process, I have kept my lifestyle priorities in mind, for without enjoyment in life, no one can really enjoy their career and vice-versa.  
I have pared my priorities down to 5 major ones:  
  1. To enjoy quality time with my daughter.  
  2. To be employed in a career that will be enjoyable and also improve the community.    
  3. To maintain my standards as a life-long learner.    
  4. To travel as much as possible.    
  5. To have the time and availability to allow my interests and influences to change and grow
I believe that in every aspect of life, if you are true to yourself and your family, if you truly love what you do, and you have the faith needed to persevere, happiness will be the only option.  

Viewable Curriculum Vitae:


Saturday, June 7, 2014

New Blog

For anyone following this blog...check out my new blog!  It covers a little bit of education, a little bit of musings and information I've picked up along the way!  


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Blog #10: What did Dr. Strange leave out?

     In this blog post, you will be researching the validity and importance of the theories of Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Evolution.  Pick one and explain why you feel it is the most reliable idea and show support therein.  5 websites will be accessed, as well as 2 that you feel lend validity for your chosen idea.

The National Center for Science Education: 

Understanding Evolution by Michael Gillings: 

The cost of Teaching Creationism by Zack Kopplin: 

banned TED talk:  The Science Delusion: 

The Institute for Creation Research: 

Blog post #9: What can we learn about teaching and learning from these teachers?

What can we learn about teaching and learning from these teachers?

Brian Crosby:  “That type of education is the birthright of every child.”  My sentiments exactly Mr. Crosby.  This man has taken “at risk” children who, for the majority, couldn’t provide the most basic personal information and turned them (over a period of 2 school years) into creative, imaginative, information-seeking members of society.  His approach is refreshing and inspirational, incorporating technology such as blogs, wiki pages, and flickr accounts and pairing them with real-time science experiments that affect not only the classroom, but a community as well.  In addition to the students participating in an experiment of sending a balloon into the upper atmosphere, they also had a creative writing assignment that explained the point of view of the balloon through its journey.  This is Common Core at its absolute best, although I would rather consider it effective teaching.  Not only was the community involved, but college professors and graduate students came to the school to assist with the engineering and technological aspects of the experiment.  If you have a great university at finger’s length, as educators, we can only hope to incorporate their expertise and excitement over different subject matter.  He ended the lecture talking about covering “the basics”;  they should be covert, hidden under interesting concepts that engage the students to learn (similar to Pausch’s “head fake”).  I like that idea...sneak the information in while the kids are having fun!  

balloon liftoff

Paul Andersen:  I enjoyed both Mr. Crosby and Mr. Andersen’s videos because I will be a science teacher as well!  Anything that will enable me to teach more effectively and entertain the students at the same time is golden.  Mr. Andersen talked about a “Blended Learning Cycle”  in which a variety of techniques are employed, such as using podcasts for supplemental lectures, online quizzes, and digital interaction.  It seems that he has a great plan and is willing to improve as he progresses in his teaching career! He has an acronym:  QUIVERS

                   QUestion:  have an activity that inspires questions
                        Investigate/Inquire:  research the answers
                          Video:  podcasts free for review
                             Elaboration:  reading, diagrams, instruction
                                 Review:  check understanding
                                     Summary:  quiz that tests knowledge

Paul Andersen teaching

Mark Church:  This is a social studies teacher, setting up a PBL lesson that involves early human beginnings.  The fact that the students are not only creating an idea based on a question, but using art (in this instance, a banner) to express that idea, is great for creativity.  As the lesson progresses, Mr. Church plans on asking the same question and discussing why or why not the answers on the banners have changed.  I especially like the idea of revisiting previous ideas or assumptions and addressing how they have or have not changed.  

Mark Church

Sam Pane:  Responsibility on the internet.  A very important topic in this day and age.  Students need to be familiar not only with copyright laws and licensing, but also conducting basic etiquette when online.  He began a conversation with the students discussing what irresponsibility online is and what it means, and then had them digitally construct a superhero to save the day.  The project dealt with the online community and responsibility, but also had an English literacy component that focused on telling a story about an imagined situation.  The students were very involved because the teacher made the project about them.  

Sam Pane

Dean Shareski:  This is a highlight on a school in Canada that is incorporating a History/English/Technology class throughout a majority of the school day instead of separating the subjects into block format.  The team focuses on Project Based Learning and all teachers pitch in with support and guidance for the students.  I love that the restructured day actually gives time to have a conversation with the various students and how they can even improve a “finished” product to something they can be really proud of.  The students have a sense of ownership and enjoy learning throughout the process.  

Roosevelt Elementary PBL Program:  This is basically presented in a public service announcement fashion (or advertising for the school) and is not a bad way to “sell” a school!  The hit on all the great things about PBL learning:  student choice, co-operative group work, real world problem solving skills, use of technology, teacher collaboration, community involvement, and public speaking.  Sound like a great school to be a part of!  

Roosevelt students  

The great thing about these teachers and their philosophies is that we can learn an awful lot about teaching AND learning from them!  It all comes down to personal preference in what you as a teacher want to accomplish.  I would suggest an amalgamation of the above techniques...different practices for different effects.  It is always important to remember the common thread of all these teaching techniques:  student interaction, ownership of knowledge, and collaboration on the part of teachers.  What can go wrong will go wrong, but teaching and learning are trial-and-error processes; keep at it and it can only get better!

Week 12 - ALEX assignment

Please follow the link below to access PDFs of lesson plans and workspace information:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Blog #4: How teaching is changing due to project based learning

Project based learning for new teachers may be a completely different approach to teaching than ever thought of before.  I takes innovation, imagination, patience and a love of the subject matter.

The idea behind project based learning is to develop a project wherein the students learn in tandem with working on a group project.  This is different from project oriented learning, which is still a type of regurgitation of knowledge rather than a critical-thinking learning skill.

One of the best properties of project based learning is that through the course of the project, students become familiar with critical thinking skills that come with independent learning.  This, in turn, allows the student to have an “ownership” over the material of the project, which encourages knowledge retention.  

Let me present an example of a Middle School-High school project dealing with disease outbreaks, causes, effects, prevention and treatment of various diseases.  This lesson can be found at  and includes a rubric and a suggested timeline to follow.  This is a perfect example of projects that can be implemented in the science classroom.  

Of the many things that project based learning should cover, the fact that it meet county/state/federal requirements, instill a student interest, and have a sense of community involvement are paramount.  

Hopefully, this type of learning will have a positive reaction with students, administrators and parents.  The students’ excitement will be contagious and obvious that they enjoy the work.  Project based learning instills life skills that are required in order to navigate in general society outside of academia.  These skills will follow the students for the rest of their lives.

Here is a video from explaining the concept behind project-based learning.  This includes interviews with students and instructors and focuses on a physics project for ninth grade.  

     These are the beginning steps to a great project-based teaching strategy.  1.  Assign collaborative working groups:  from elementary to secondary school, it is important to assign groups according to even strengths and weaknesses.  If students are allowed to choose their own groups, the balance among the classroom could be skewed.  2.  Present a real world problem that the students can correct.  The students should be able to critically think a solution to a common community/world problem.  3.  Set the parameters for completing the project.  Clear parameters should be set so that the students can be creative to a point.  That way a common thread throughout the presentation would be apparant without veering too far from the subject.  4.  Teacher consultation input/feedback.  Instructor approval is required for moving from step to step in the project.  This is to ensure that the overall project criteria are met.  5.  Final project shared with larger group.  This is where the different groups present their findings in a unique way.  The entire class benefits from the different and innovative ways in which the separate groups solved the same problem.

     This diagram represents the components that are required when planning and implementing a successful Project-based learning assignment.  It should be a 1:1 pairing of significant content (which will include any federal/state/district guidelines) with 21st century skills such as online collaboration, presentation software, social media and electronic organization.  The surrounding goals ensure that the two core goals will be accomplished.  An in-depth inquiry of an issue should take place.  This could be researching a community, ecological or literary problem and brainstorming answers and solutions for them.  A driving question must be provided to the students in order to inspire a need to know.  If the students do not feel this need, the work that results will be sub-par.  The students must also be given a voice & choice, meaning that the instructor must give a type of choice in project approach, and also be open to questions or comments by the students.  This will inspire critical thinking and communication.  The opportunity for revision & reflection is very important.  Final projects should be reviewed by the teacher and students given an opportunity to reflect on the complete project and make any revisions that are necessary.  Finally, these projects should be presented to a type of public audience, whether it is in from of fellow classmates, parents, teachers or the school as a whole.  This is important so that the students can become familiar with constructive criticism and providing a more in-depth explanation of the project to people who are outside of the direct learning environment.

     There are many things that influence a true 21st century learning experience.  This modern approach is integral for any project-based learning exercise, and reinforces the creation of critical thinking skills needed for success beyond the academic scope.  We as educators must make sure that any exercise falls within the parameters of our core subject matter, but in addition to the basic information, it is also just as important to expound upon those basics in a way that students will respond to.  Creativity is crucial, as well as a sense of adaptability.  Project-based learning is about trial and error.  This form of learning needs ample time and space for revision and discussion in a collaborative manner.  Ensuring that the students understand the subject matter and parameters of the project is vital for teachers, as well as instilling and understanding of all the key components is solving the issue.  Community involvement and care also make a difference in the success of project-based learning.  Making sure the students understand that community doesn’t just include our local neighbors can be a challenging task.  Allowing students to research the global community via technology and communication reinforces the idea that it is not just about “us” and “them”, rather about “we” as a global population.  

     In closing, I would like to say that project-based learning can be a wonderful experience for both the students and the teachers involved.  When beginning to teach, this approach can feel alien in comparison to the approach that was taken when we ourselves were teachers, and can be daunting at first.  The fact is, that with project-based learning, students’ interest and exuberance increases and skills other than just core curriculum are being learned and exercised.  I hope that each of you will consider and implement this type of teaching philosophy.  It will make you and your students look forward to what each new day and lesson will bring.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Blog post #8: what did you learn from this video

What I learned from watching this video

Dr. Strange has made available a few videos of conversations with Anthony Capps.  I think it is refreshing to hear and listen to a relatively new teacher relate his experiences in the classroom.  So many times, we are inundated with the opinions of seasoned teachers, some of which are completely burned out, and forget the wonder that teaching can bring to both student and instructor!  

The #1 take home idea for me while watching this was:  TAKE YOUR TIME!  Any new technology is going to take awhile to become familiar with, and you don’t want frustration to enter the classroom atmosphere because you haven’t familiarized yourself with all the functions of the program that you are using.  What did Anthony say?  You can learn it overnight, but it has to be every night.  The ability to model technology, so that it can be used fluidly in the classroom comes from an adept use of the tool.  That way, any questions that arise from the students can be easily answered and dealt with.  Will we know all of the answers?  Of course not.  We will have to be elastic in our learning as well; understand that we as teachers do not always know how to accomplish something and allow for that community learning opportunity from the students.  

Another point that stuck with me:  GIVE OPTIONS.  Students will naturally gravitate toward their own interests and talents.  The ability to use them will encourage learning in a more natural way.  Music, multi-media, graphics, art, essays, power points, dance; all of these can be used to access learning in a creative way.  

I can see why the assessment process of project-based learning can be somewhat of a transition for parents.  We have been conditioned to wait for the progress reports and end of quarter grades in order to see where our kids are excelling and where they may need a little help.  We also depend on structured grading for any way to argue on behalf of our children...

Of course, this isn’t the way all parents react to project-based learning or grades in general, although it is wise to keep in mind that this is a very different way of learning for older students and parents to understand.  If we can make PBL a norm in the classroom, we will ensure that innovation, hard work, and discipline make it into the next generation’s tool box for life.  

Blog #7: 21st century learning and communication tools

21st Century Learning and Communication Tools

In this blog, I will talk about classroom technology tools that facilitate teaching and learning processes in the classroom.  As teachers, we need to constantly be on the lookout for new and exciting ways to engage our students to do the best work that they can possible do.  The key word here is ENGAGE.  The resources that we have within our grasp not only make lesson plans easier, they also make them more fun to create and implement in our classrooms.  

Let’s start with Schoology.  It is a social network for the classroom and has a user interface very similar to that of Facebook.  Logins are required, and the ability to link to a certain school is available in order for teachers and students to see what the entire school/department is doing.  This is more than just a social platform though.  This site aids in the day-to-day management of a classroom, be it tracking grades, online discussion, or taking quizzes and tests.  The App center provides access to tools like Evernote (this can be very useful in student collaboration) and Remind101 (this is a secure way to instant message students and parents).  

The next interesting tool that I found was Open Study.  This is a social study site where students can ask questions, get tutored by their peers and offer assistance to others.  There are also study groups available per subject area and students can enter any one of these and discuss and study in a forum manner.  This site seems to be fueled by advertisements, which shouldn’t be too much of a distraction because we see them all the time on our free phone apps, but could potentially be a deterrent for advocation by administration.  Still, this tool is very handy when it comes to students accessing each other globally for homework/project help.  The problem I found is that it automatically links to Facebook, and your personal profile picture is visible.  This can easily be changed by going to profile settings, but for teachers, it may be something that sneaks in without notice.

The last, and in my opinion, the most interesting tool that I found was GlogsterEdu (short for graphic blog).  This is an interactive, poster-like way to ‘Blog’, but really it can be a tool for project information, lesson planning, and homework assignments.  It creates a visually attractive format for organizing information.  It is currently $95 for 1 teacher and up to 125 students, or $390 for 10 teachers and up to 250 students.  Although quite pricey, it is a stimulating interface which I believe will keep students’ attention throughout the course.  It can be set to private, with the administrator deciding what content will be available for public viewing (certain projects or blogs).  Wikipedia states:  “Glogster is a part of the Creating category in Bloom’s Technology Taxonomy. Students create a digital poster with interactive elements such as video, images, and audio. This allows students to express themselves individually.”  I couldn’t agree more.  The utilization of digital media is important in education today, and will prepare students for a more competitive working environment in the future.  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Alabama Virtual Library

As I do not have access to an iPad, and truly do not anticipate that the majority of my Title I students will have access either, I will focus this project essay on the Alabama Virtual Library.  

The Alabama Virtual Library is a group of online databases that has been made available to teachers and students for aid in classroom research and instruction.  It also has a few resources on career seeking and employment opportunities for adults located in Alabama.  

How can you make sense of it?  The best way to identify what to search for is to first identify what exactly you need.  Students can readily use this website to access anything that they may need for a project:  images, websites, magazines, statistics and even differing viewpoints on certain subjects.  The website itself is very easy to navigate and leads you to both simple and advanced forms of searching for what you need.  

For example, a high school science class could be assigned to review certain journal articles on the research topic of their choice.  There would be no way to access these articles through the internet alone.  The Alabama Virtual Library contains the EBSCO database system which houses hundreds of journals from science to history and language.  Through this website, peer-reviewed journal articles can be accessed, allowing students to be exposed to real-world, current scientific progress, and be able to get a feel for how the scientific community exchanges information.  

There are a variety of other databases that can come in handy as well.  For Alabama history classes, there is Alabama mosaic, a resource that contains different archives that students could use as a reference for a project.  Britannica offers Ebooks for reading, on topics from history to science.  Discover America is a book collection that covers all 50 states.  My second grade daughter is doing a project this quarter on Mississippi and I plan on accessing the eBook for it.  Illustrated science is another collection that discusses different organisms and has full photos to accompany the information.  This could be be used to supplement a lesson plan in a middle school biology class.  

One of the more interesting databases I found was the Opposing Viewpoints tab, which led to a site that has links for differing viewpoints on subject matter, statistical information, news, journal articles, magazines and websites.  It seems very extensive and helpful no matter what a student might be searching for in a project.  

For images that are needed for projects or presentation, EBSCO hosts an image collection database, where a student can search for an desired image and also pinpoint which journal they would like it to come from.  

The Oxford English dictionary is available here, as well as Encyclopedia Britannica; there is a student research center, a medical search engine, and a history reference center.  All of these databases could be useful to students, and as the class utilizes this tool, more and more can be achieved through the use of it.  

The thing that I most like about the Alabama Virtual Library is that students in any Alabama school have access to a bevy of information all in one location that they might not know how to search for in a traditional search engine.  Also, as far as journal articles are concerned, a subscription is needed to access most articles, and a database such as EBSCO allows free access to otherwise blocked information.  It is imperative that students have access to current research in the humanities and sciences in order for them to understand how these subjects are approached in the professional world.  

Blog #6: What can we learn about teaching and learning from Randy Pausch?

What to say about Randy Pausch?  The words amazing, charismatic, funny and sincere immediately come to mind.  In 2007, his “Last Lecture” was all the rage.  He appeared on Oprah, tED talks, and many other televised interviews.  I never actually sat down to listen to the lecture, so much of what I heard about it was impressive enough, and everyone that spoke of the man couldn’t help but tear up.  

I, like many of us, have an exceptionally busy life.  Full time student, full time waitress, full time mommy, seriously part-time girlfriend (my boyfriend is writing his dissertation, I’m just trying to keep up with homework), and these are just the immediate pressures, not to mention extended family, friends and associates that may need any myriad of things done.  

When I finally (and forcibly, since this was a homework assignment) sat down to listen to this wonderful man speak, I was blown away.  My favorite quote:  “Always have fun.  I’m dying and I’m still having fun!”  How can we enjoy life with all the stresses and responsibilities if we don’t continue to have fun and view life with a childlike wonder?  How can we as teachers, take from what Pausch is trying to tell us and communicate that to our colleagues and students?

I’m going to skip right to the first head fake, forgive me for ruining it for anyone that hasn’t seen the lecture.  The lecture is about achieving childhood dreams, and at the end Pausch tells us that it is really about living life, because if you live life to the fullest, your dreams will present themselves to you.  I cannot agree more.  For any of us to become a successful teacher, it needs to be a part of a dream of ours.  It needs to click, to feel right, to be an organic part of our journey.  I didn’t intend to become a secondary teacher when I was a freshman in college (which was a long long long time ago), but my journey to achieve my goals and dreams has naturally led me to the place I am today.  I could not be more delighted.  I am a life-long learner.  I can’t stop it, wouldn’t even if I could, and with this delight of learning comes a compulsion to share the knowledge that I have, the excitement that I feel about my subject of study.  This, paired with an almost annoying optimism, is what makes me excited about teaching.  

hopes and dreams

So we’re all frustrated, busy, end-of-semester freaking out.  Pausch talks about brick walls as well.  Sometimes a brick wall can be a failed exam; financial aid that was cancelled; the death of a loved one; the abuse occurring at home; the car breaking down; the child getting a viral infection; an administrator that won’t allow you to move forward with an idea...any small thing can seem insurmountable under stressful situations.  Are you being called?  Is the brick wall insurmountable?  Pausch states that “Brick walls are there to stop people who don’t want it badly enough.”  I am in complete agreement.  When we graduate and become teachers, we will also have brick walls that rise up to obstruct our progress.  How will we deal with them?  

Dr. Pausch gives a list of ways in which to deal with brick walls, or in other words, live life:
  • be earnest
  • apologize
  • focus on other people
  • get a feedback loop and listen to it
  • show gratitude
  • don’t complain just work harder
  • be good at something
  • work hard (didn’t he say that already) :)
  • find the best in everybody

He went into detail about each bullet point (I won’t give it away, watch it for yourself  ), but what struck me the most was that every point has a few common threads:  humility, hard work, and grace.  Too often, when we think of success, we come up with an image of gleaming teeth, dollar bills, maybe a fancy car (or ten).  I think we have lost touch with the small, everyday successes that come from chipping away at those brick walls:  the AHA moment of a student, the accomplishment of just one more homework assignment in the pile of twenty, a sandwich brought by a loved one when you are too busy to eat, the smile of your healthy child.  

brick wall

As teachers, it is our job to enable the dreams of others.  We are not just transferring information back and forth like unfeeling computers.  Also, we are not meant to meet just the basic requirements that our jobs provide for us.  We are meant to go above and beyond for the pure delight of learning and teaching something that we love.  If we are not on track to attain our own dreams, how are we ever going to garner inspiration from our students?  Day to day life can be very grinding.  The strongest willed can be whittled down by stressors and the only thing that can overcome the stress, the brick wall, is this:  humility, hard work, and grace.  Pausch understood these things long before he was diagnosed terminal.  His “last lecture” was not presented because he was dying, it was presented in order to show how to best live:  have fun, surmount those brick walls, and live a life filled with dreams.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blog #5-Questions

Asking questions in the classroom...It seems like a simple small concept in comparison to creating a lesson plan, making sure you understand the concept enough to answer, and staying within the parameters of the course goals that have been set up for you to follow.  When you really think about it though, questions are what stimulate all of these goals.  What lesson plan will I use for this subject matter?  What questions will the students ask?  Have I hit upon each course goal for this unit?

Questions are unequivocally the driving force for knowledge.  Anyone can sit through a lecture, but to really retain information and knowledge, a certain repertoire must be created between the instructor and the students.  Questions provide the bridge between “I’m not sure”, and “Oh, I see!”.  It is our responsibility as teachers to ask the right questions and have our students formulate their own in response.  In this blog post, I will attempt to cover a bit about the best way to ask questions in the classroom.  The subject is so important, however, that I feel the information could be the subject of a whole semester course for teachers.  

confused student

Questions are possibly the most important resource in our teaching toolbox.  Questions can be used to tease out answers, or stimulate more questions.  They can be a conversation dead end, or lead to a more complex and rich experience.  I believe the most important function of questions is to ensure that the knowledge that you are passing forward is being understood at the intended level.  Ben Johnson said in a blog post:  “If they do not know what they do not know, there is no way that they can ask a question about it”.  It is up to the instructor to ask pertinent questions in order to ensure that student comprehension is occurring.  Questions should be thought inspiring, multi-leveled, and should be stimulating a critical though response.  A great question is often the only one that needs to be asked, the one question will propagate many others in its wake and this process will emphasize what the students need the most help in understanding the subject matter.  

How do we as teachers know that we are asking the best questions?  Well, for a new teacher, this really depends on trial and error.  Parameters can be followed, such as following course goals, preparing questions in advance and building them into the lesson, and keeping track of the questions that generate the best responses, whether they be asked by you or the students themselves.  Even with great attention to detail, and following personal parameters, some questions will emerge as giving better results.  The best strategy is to read your classroom.  Wait for answers, give the students time to get their thoughts together, and once they are answering, do not interrupt and definately show interest.  Respect goes a long way in a classroom setting (and really in any setting).  When asked a question by a student, keep them thinking by explaining and asking open-ended questions while inviting extended answers.  This goes back to the idea of “intellectual ownership”  in which the students participate fully in the learning process, and will retain information more efficiently because they themselves helped to propagate the learning process.  

excited students

If questions are the driving force for knowledge, who should be asking them?  The answer:  everyone.  Teachers should ask questions of the students in order to facilitate the knowledge cycle between themselves and students.  They should also ask questions of themselves throughout the lesson planning process to ensure that the knowledge is fleshed out and ready for presentation.  Students should ask questions of the teacher in order to facilitate self-awareness and critical thinking.  They should ask questions of themselves and each other to stimulate group learning and refine knowledge.  A teacher should be open to moving the lesson in a different direction if a provoking question is asked by a student.  This gives another opportunity for “intellectual ownership” and provides an opportunity for the student to have made a major contribution to the learning process.  

The process of questioning alone is a complex one.  Questions can take on many meanings and facets, and bring about a myriad of conclusions.  Closed questions can be answered with a simple yes or no.  Managerial questions are asked with the intention of keeping up with student organization (lab notebook, journal, time management, etc.).  The best and most effective type of question is the open question.  This type of query requires and more complex, thought out answer.  Instead of just one word, the student is challenged to formulate a well-rounded, critically thoughtful answer.  Open questions can also be multi-layered, meaning that a series of questions is asked, with the first being fairly simple and the remaining taking more and more time and thought to answer.  This is especially effective in the science classroom, where the building of knowledge from simple to complex seems to be a successful teaching method.  A teacher should practice asking “good” questions, that is, ones that focus on real world issues and resolutions that the students can connect with.  

global learning

The good (or great) questions should occur at each step in the learning process, throughout the lesson.  There is no one time that questions should be entertained or allowed in the classroom, rather, it should be an organic, natural process.  At the beginning of class, questions can be used to reintroduce and cement previous lessons into students’ minds; during the lecture, to stimulate and cultivate a critical thinking response; and at the end of each lecture, so as to flush out any misunderstandings or loss of subject matter.  

In conclusion, questions are one of the most important aspects of teaching in the classroom.  They can inspire, facilitate, continue a thought or stop one.  In order to successfully teach, great question asking must be practiced, and like any skill, with practice, comes mastery.  

Thanks to Ben Johnson's blog 
for references and quotes

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

C4K summary for February

For this assignment, we have to read and post on multiple student's blogs, ranging from kindergarten to high school.  

The first week, I was assigned to a student named Brad in Ms. Toal's class.  His post was on a photography project that represented the alphabet.  For every letter, there was a picture representation that the students had to create and turn in.


Hi Brad,
I love photography too!  My favorite things to photograph are my cat, dog and little girl.  It sounds like you had fun doing this project with your friends.  Keep up the good work!
The second week, the blog readings increased to three students, and I was assigned Boden, Rhy and Kaitlin.  
Boden's post was about his friend Eric's birthday party and playing at an arcade and eating pizza.
Hi Boden,
My name is Leslie and I am a student at the University of South Alabama.  We have been assigned certain blogs to reply to, and my teacher gave me yours!  It sounds like your friend’s birthday was great!  It was nice of you to give Sam your tickets, I’m sure he was excited about that.  The nerf gun war sound like the best ever, but I’m sure the doughnuts were tasty too!  I’m glad you had fun at the party!
Rhy posted about people that he knew in Dubai, and how hard the move to America was for him.  
Hi Rhy, 
My name is Leslie and I am a student at the University of South Alabama.  We have been assigned certain blogs to reply to, and my teacher gave me yours! It sounds like your school had a lot of international students!  Many times, people move from country to country for anything from job opportunities to reconnecting with family members.  It’s hard to say goodbye to good friends, but if you can keep in contact with them, it makes it easier and gives you a pen pal to write to!  Hope you are enjoying your new friends at your new school in America :)
Kaitlin's post was about her Amethyst birthstone and birthday.  She had an image that she called a Tellagami (not sure what that it, an avatar?) but it was very pretty.
Hi Kaitlin I,
My name is Leslie and I am a student at the University of South Alabama.  We have been assigned certain blogs to reply to, and my teacher gave me yours! Purple is my favorite color, so I have a lot of Amethyst jewelry!  My birthday is in April 1977, so my birthstone is the Diamond, which is the most expensive, but I prefer something with more color.  I love your Tellagami, it’s pretty cool!  
The last week we had three more students to post to:  Aye Cee (high school English), Max (10th grade), and Tayler (7th grade).  
Aye Cee posted a short story about bullying in the classrooms and a great way to prevent it.  
Hi Aye Cee,

My name is Leslie and I am a student at the University of South Alabama.  I am taking a class where I read different blogs and leave comments for the authors.  I love your short story on bullying!  If more people were like Andrea and Rashaun, we wouldn’t have as many problems in schools today.  What a great way to make someone feel welcome and comfortable.  Hope you keep up the great writing!

Max posted an introductory blog about motocross.


Hi Max,
My name is Leslie and I am a student at the University of South Alabama.  I am taking a class where I read different blogs and leave comments for the authors.  I don’t know anything at all about motocross or dirtbikes, but I am interested in learning about both.  I know it is a very physically taxing sport, but can also be such a great time!  Do you just mudbike, or do you use ramps and try tricks too?

I couldn't view Tayler's post which was supposed to be a poem about colors, so I left this reply:

Hi Tayler,
My name is Leslie and I am a student at the University of South Alabama.  I am taking a class where I read different blogs and leave comments for the authors.  I can’t seem to access your poem or image...did something go wrong?  

I like posting to student's blogs, I am still a little on-the-fence about correcting any grammar or spelling that I see, because I feel that might be their teacher's responsibility.  Also, I don't want to come across as too brusk or judgmental.