Thank God that Halloween was on a Friday this year. I don't know what I would have done if I had classes today. It was a crazy day, but that is to be expected on one of the most sugar driven, chocolate consumption, candy riddled days of the school year.
Weeks ago, I signed out the laptop cart. I knew that it would be a crazy day and I wanted to have something to keep some semblance of order in my class. Once I arrived at school yesterday I went upstairs to check it out of the library. Notice I said upstairs. My class is on the first floor. I signed the cart out of the library and proceeded down the hall to the elevator, pushed the button and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally someone told me the elevator was broken. " Are you kidding me? " Insert big groan and some expletives muttered under my breath here. As I tried to figure out how I was going to finagle getting 30 laptops downstairs, I ran into the teacher whose room is directly above mine. I asked her if I could park the cart in her room and have the students come up and get them. Thankfully she said yes!!! Whew, problem solved, so now I wheeled the cart down to her room and plugged it in. I went down to my class to wait for the kiddos to arrive.
Last Friday we were supposed to have the "Run For Hunger". Every October, our students collect nonperishable food that is donated to a local food bank and then spend one Friday running the mile. Prizes are given at each grade for the top 15 runners , both boys and girls, with trophies to the top 3 runners at each grade level. Yeah it's a huge deal, but well worth the effort. Well last week it rained, so you guessed it, it was postponed until yesterday, Halloween. That means a crazy mixed up schedule. No problem. Part of being a teacher means you are flexible and go with the flow when there is a schedule change.
First period was "normal", well as normal as a class can be on Friday, October 31. This was my advisory class. After the Pledge of Allegiance and morning announcements, I went over the day's schedule changed with the class. I let them know that the "Run For Hunger" would be right after advisory, and their lunch would be at 11:30 instead of at noon. I also had to explain, much to their dismay, that the "Run For Hunger " took the place of their gym class . Insert student groans here. Once we had the schedule taken care of the schedule we took a class picture in front of the classroom door. It was decorated like a mummy. Next we played a group juggling game that the kids have dubbed the "Bean Bag Game". Lots of laughter, lots of giggling, lots of flying bean bags, ok getting a little wild...time to end the game and color some Halloween papers.
Afterwards I escorted my class down to the gym, wished them good luck and went to take my prep period. I watched the kids run by my window and silently cheered them on. While I was prepping for the next week and the kids were running the mile the custodian became the skunk whisperer. Yep that's right the skunk whisperer. He corralled a skunk and tried to keep him from getting spooked as 300 seventh and eighth graders ran the mile around the building and over the course to the finish line. You can't make this stuff up. You just can't.
I made it back to the gym in time to see the girls get their awards. I was pleasantly pleased to see several of my girls in the top 15. Unfortunately I was too late to see the boys get their awards, but still proud of the boys form my team that placed in the top 15. After a few minutes of chaos and confusion while students went and changed out of their gym clothes, we finally managed to get back to class. I marched my class upstairs to get the computers from the fifth grade class, they thankfully were gone to do their run. I was glad I did not have to interrupt their class.
My first class was seventh grade. Student logins did not work. I had to use my login on every computer. It was time consuming , but I managed to get them going pretty quickly. The students have been learning about the geography of Mesopotamia. Today's assignment was to create a Thinglink ( see a previous post "Look What I Learned Today" to learn more about Thinglink), an interactive image. They did a nice job for the first time with this assignment. Some still need to finish them, but the great thing is they can do it at home.
First class ends, and second begins. Ten minutes and then it is lunch. We didn't even open the computers. I wanted to make sure that I could conserve the battery life of the computers since I was not running upstairs to plug them in only to get them in 25 minutes.
Lunch, back to class and started on our Thinglinks. Same as last class relatively quiet, and students engaged in their projects.
Finally, the last two classes of the day. Eighth grade was using the computers to research battles of the American Revolutionary War to create their projects, narrative battle maps. I realized too late that they could have completed Thinglinks too. Instead they were making posters. Oh well, live and learn. By the end of the day, the battery life was running extremely low on the computers. I had the students log off and shut them down. We meandered up the stairs to put the computers in the cart and return the cart to the library. I had a few minutes to chit chat with the students about Halloween and tick or treating. Still happy to see that they are still excited about getting dressed up in a costume!
There was an air of excitement in the air as I prepared for dismissal with my homeroom. It was a crazy day full of bumps, chatter, schedule changes, surprise nocturnal animals making a daytime appearance, broken elevators and sugar, but I wouldn't change a thing!
Recently I watched my high school son forage through the black hole of his back pack to look for a permission slip for me to sign so he could go on an R.O.T.C. field trip. Of course he waited until the very last minute to show it to me. The night before the field trip just I was going to go to bed. I began to wonder how many of my students do the same thing to their parents.
One thing I have been doing this year is using more technology to keep parents informed. I began using an app called remind to send quick mass text messages for parents. I love it. I have sent remind messages out about quizzes and tests coming up, field trip permission slips, letting parents know what happened in class. It is an easy way to keep in touch with parents.
Teachers need to download the free app or sign up at www.remind.com and create class lists. Once the class lists are done, the next step is to invite parents to sign up by sending home the directions and a specific class code to use. Then it is as simple as sending a text or an email.
Whoo Hoo!! Here is a badge I earned for sending messages using remind! IF you haven't already tried this. It is a great way to communicate with parents.
I am deeply saddened to hear the news that another school shooting took place yesterday. This time in Washington State. Without going into all of the gory details, a student opened fired on his classmates taking the life of one of his classmates and injuring others before taking his own life yesterday.
First and for most, I want to extend my sympathies to the victims and their families. This is a terrifying event that happened in a place that is supposed to be safe. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your families as you try to make sense of the horrendous tragedy that has changed your life forever. May your grief and sorrow be short and your healing begin quickly.
I hope and pray that this kind of senseless gun violence does not happen again.
Ok, I feel like I have been neglecting my blog. I haven't posted anything in over a month. I have just been caught up in stuff, or maybe I have been just plain lazy. Enough excuses. I am here today. I am writing. I am excited to talk about my trip to Lexington and Concord today with my 8th graders.
Weeks ago, I planned and booked a trip to Lexington and Concord with the National Parks Service. I am fortunate enough to live in Massachusetts, the cradle of liberty. Tons and tons of potential field trips here to learn about colonial America and the Revolutionary War. At the time I booked the trip, I had hoped I would be a little further along in the curriculum. Though I have to admit that I am not as far behind as I feared. We are close to talking about Lexington and Concord in class.
Fast forward to yesterday. After finishing the French and Indian War with the students, I completed a simulation with the students. Most students were assigned the role of Colonist. Two students were assigned roles as members of Parliament, one as the Tax Collector and one as the King. The colonists were given wrapped candy as currency. The king sat on a thrown with Parliament flanking his sides. Oh yeah, much to the chagrin of my students I was dressed head to toe in a colonial outfit I bought last year from the Tory Tailor (sorry no pictures).
As the King sat royally on his thrown, Parliament announced some Royal Decrees to tax the colonists, a tax by the way that was intended to pay for the French and Indian War. The Tax collector dutifully went around and collected taxes. Needless to say that after several rounds of being taxed the Colonists were ready to revolt. "This is unfair!" "They can't do that!" Some even resorted to hiding goods so they would not be taxed on certain items.
After the simulation was completed and the taxes were totaled (The King earned 50% of the taxes, Parliament split 40% and the Tax Collector kept 10% while the Colonists were left with nothing or next to nothing.) we had a nice discussion of what happened and connected back to what the Colonists may have felt and why they reacted the way they did to the British Policies and Acts. Students made insightful comments and connections from the simulation in class to what happened to the Colonists.
This morning I woke up, checked the weather only to see that today it was going to rain. Uh Oh. The trip is mainly outdoors. I did my best anti rain dance and got ready for the day, pulled out my black "Got History?" t-shirt that I got from the National Archives a few years ago for just such occassions and proceeded to get ready for the day. Oddly enough, one of the other teachers also had a similar shirt on with the same catch phrase. Hers was from Gettysburg.
I have to say that overall the kids were very well behaved on the trip save a few minute incidents. One retired couple made it a point to speak to me about how nice the students were and that I should be very proud of them, especially since a few of the kids gave up their seats so that they could sit down to watch the movie too. Later on at the North Bridge, you know the one...it was immortalized in a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a retired teacher stopped me and asked about the class. She commented that this was an awesome experience for the kids. She also mentioned that the kids were engaged and it was a great way for kids to learn history. Well if I wasn't bursting with pride earlier from the first interaction, I certainly was now!
Throughout the course of the trip the students got to see some artifacts and historical monuments, listen to a costumed interpreter explain what happened, read and discuss some primary source documents, see a musket fire and view two multimedia presentations about what happened at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. I would say it was not a bad day, and all without too much rain. Just sprinkles here and there. I guess my anti rain dance worked, because the torrential downpours did not happen until we were safely back inside the school.
Yesterday in class you asked me why we need to learn about the past. Inside my head I was screaming "Because it's Freaking Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!" But I composed myself and curbed the impulse to shout that out to you. Instead what I said to you was that we need to learn about the past in order to understand the present. I also mentioned that it will help you to be able to carry on a conversation when you are older. In my haste to get your class out the door and welcome the next one in, I don't think my answer did justice to why we should study the past. There is more, so much more to that answer. So, I mulled it over and here is what I came up with.
We study history to learn about the past. Plain and simple right? Wrong? It is not that simple. We study history for so many reasons. First, studying the past puts things into perspective for us in the present. We can make connections to our own lives to learn from the mistakes made in the past, and continue to make choices that will benefit us as people.
When we study history, we define who we are, where we came from and where we are going. History is full of stories. When your grandmother tells you a story about what your father was like as a child, that is your history.
When we study history, we learn about the origins and purpose of government. This helps us to understand why there are certain laws that we have to follow and how our lives are impacted by these laws. We can also learn to make informed choices to elect people to our government offices. People who will be representing us in office and creating new laws that will effect us daily. Learning about the government lets us know what our rights are, and promotes civic responsibility.
When we study history, we learn many interesting things about the world around us. Have you ever seen fireworks? They are a beautiful display of lights in the night sky. We see them around the fourth of July. But did you know that fireworks were invented thousands of years ago in Ancient China? That is history.
When we study history, we develop critical thinking skills. These skills help us to analyze everyday situations and make important decisions about our lives. To do that,we make inferences by understanding what is happening around us and put it together with what we know about similar situations. It is these skills that allow us to have meaningful conversations with people.
Lastly, when we study history, we are able to set a course for the future. We can make predictions of what will happen based on similar events that have happened. Studying the past is away to learn and understand what is yet to come.
Justin, I am sure there are many more reasons to study history. What I want you to take away from this is that studying history is important. I want you to find purpose and meaning in class when we study history. I want you to do well and be successful in life, and for all the reasons stated above, learning about history is one tool that I can give you to help make that happen.
P.S. Don't forget to do your homework!
Ok, I know. The internet has had a deluge of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos, yet here I am posting the Ice Bucket Challenge that my school participated in today. To be fair, we have only been in school for two weeks and we were challenged by the elementary school next door. In other words...school was not in session when the tidal wave of challenges began. It is after all for a fantastic cause, so "Challenge accepted," to quote Barney Stinson.
We raised over $1400.00 to donate to a local ALS foundation. It is a mazing what a group of students and teachers can pull off in a couple of days. So if you can stomach another video...
I am sorry about the video, I don't know why it is not there anymore.
Today eighth graders became history detectives as they began to examine evidence to try and figure out what happened to the "Lost Colony", Roanoke. I set this up as a jigsaw activity for the students to complete.
Each small group was given information on one theory to read and dissect. They were expected to become experts on their theory and prepare to teach the information to a different group tomorrow.
It was exciting to see the students hard at work. They were tackling many skills while working on this task, reading, inferring, annotating, discussing, collaborating and questioning.
We will continue this activity tomorrow. Students will have to share their expertise with new group members. Once all of the information has been shared out, the history detectives will have to form an opinion about what happened to the colonists of Roanoke and use evidence to support their opinion in a written report.
This activity was based on a lesson that I purchased from the teachers pay teachers website. See the link below.
I have done interactive notebooks in the past and I wanted to try them again. So I took some time today to work on creating Social Studies interactive notebooks with my seventh graders. We have been studying the five themes of geography. So today we made a foldable activity to record our notes. Afterwards the students reflected on their work to show their understanding. I had the students draw pictures on the left side of the page. Below are some examples of their work.
Today was teacher orientation day in the school. For the most part it was your normal orientation day. There were hugs and kisses as the staff reconnected and chatted about their summer adventures. There was paper work to be filled out and team building exercises. Teams met to discuss how their day would look tomorrow with the students. There was one glaring difference on our training today.
Today we practiced what to do if an active shooter entered the building. Yes, you read that right...active shooter entering the building. I am not sure how I feel about this. In this post-Columbine world it seems that schools unfortunately need to be prepared for the most dangerous, life threatening situations. Like fire drills, active shooter drills can be life saving, however I am very saddened by the fact that we need to practice active shooter drills in schools.
We have practiced "lock-down" drills in school before. These drills had us locking the classroom doors, turning the lights out and and silently crouching in the corner with the students silently in the corner away from the doors and windows. This may have lasted about 5 minutes or so, then it would be back to business as usual. The philosophy of the "lock-down" drill has changed. With students sitting in the corner, they are sitting ducks if an armed assailant manages to enter the classroom. The new thinking is that with enough information teachers can make a decision to barricade the door and/or evacuate the classroom if possible. If either of those choices is not possible, and an armed shooter enters the classroom, teachers should be thinking how to confront and confuse the attacker. Like throw a book or a desk at him/her, scream, become moving targets, etc.
The two elementary school teachers joined our staff for this active shooter drill today. There were all kinds of first responders and two volunteers to be the shooters. They by the way carried fake plastic guns for the simulation. I was fortunate ( or unfortunate- all depends on how you look at it) enough to be chosen as one of the "teachers" in this drill. Several "students" from all three schools were in my room as well as other rooms throughout the building.
First, we practiced the traditional "lock-down" drill and hid in the corner. During this simulation, we could hear the active shooter in the classroom above us as we all cowered in the corner. He was yelling and screaming what I thought was "Dead. Dead.Dead" as he pretended to shoot the occupants of the class. It may have been "Bang. Bang.Bang.", but that is not important. I was thinking Sh*!, if the shooter comes down the stairs, they could easily break down the door and we would be dead.
The second and third time we practiced the "lock-down" drills again. This time using the new thinking. Over the loudspeaker we heard information about where the shooter was and what they were wearing. We had the choice to barricade, evacuate or stay put. Every class made different decisions based on the whereabouts of the shooter. Both times I managed to get my class out of the building safely because the shooters where not anywhere near my classroom. They key was having information about what was going on in the building and making split second decisions. In practice this worked great , but I was wondering if it were a real emergency would I really have heard all of the information over the PA? I hope I never have to find out.
After the third simulation was completed, we gathered in the auditorium to debrief. It was an eye opening experience. At some point in the school year we will be practicing the same drill with the students. It horrifies me that we have to have active shooter drills in school. I long for the days in school when a child's biggest worry was forgetting their homework or taking a test.
In twelve days I will have students in front of me for the first time since the middle of June. Some of the students will be new to my classroom. I need to get to know there personalities, there strengths and weaknesses. I also will need to introduce routines and procedures. The others spent their seventh grade year in my social studies class learning about Ancient Civilizations. Hopefully they will remember what is expected of them, after a quick review, and be ready to go. I am both eager to return to work and sad to see summer go.
Since there are only twelve days until the official first day of school I need/want to be prepared. I have started thinking about different things and searching Pinterest for some fresh ideas that I can do before August 25, 2014 arrives. (Didn't school used to start after Labor Day? Also, perusing Pinterest should count for professional development.)
There are so many ideas floating around in my teacher brain that I have to get it all down on a list so I can organize my thoughts and productively complete the tasks. So here goes in no particular order...
Ok, ok I know reading my to do list is boring. I am reading it and getting bored. This is only the beginnings of the to do list. I do however feel somewhat better that I have a list of things to do and can tick them off as they are completed. I am also looking at this list and thinking OMG I have a ton of stuff to do. Time to get cracking.
I want to wish everyone a fun and productive school year.
Today my oldest son and I, along with thousands of employees and customers of Market Basket, rallied in Tewksbury, MA in support of the ousted CEO of Market Basket. This summer the board of directors for a local family owned grocery store chain of 71 stores has been at odds with each other. The beloved CEO Arthur T. was let go by his cousin Arthur S. As a result of Arthur T. being removed as CEO a work action and boycott of the stores has started.
Arthur T. is respected by his employees. Arthur S. is not. Arthur T. cares about workers and their families. Arthur S. does not. The employees at Market Basket want the former CEO reinstated.
As a mother of a child who works as a part time employee I am proud. My college bound son has not been getting as many hours as he would have liked this summer. He has however been working his scheduled shifts and doing his job to the best of his ability, as have many of the employees. Stocking shelves is difficult when little to no food is being delivered to the stores. My son has also protested at his store on days he is not working and attended another rally. He has used car window paint to write Boycott Market Basket on the windows of his car.
As a neighbor of many full time employees I am concerned for them and their families. I know that this is not easy for them. They have supported co workers who have been fired, organized and participated in rallies and boycotts and in some cases continue doing their jobs. It is clear that they love their jobs, the customers and their former CEO.
As a customer, I support the boycott. I have not gone shopping at a Market Basket in weeks. I do have to admit that I miss the low prices, but I have brought my business to another grocery store.
As a Social Studies Teacher, I saw the opportunity to witness history and exercise my right to peacefully assemble. From what I understand, this work action is unique. First of all, these workers are not unionized and as stated before many are still working. They have rallied in support of the ousted CEO and want his return. This is not about improving working conditions at the stores or better health care. This is about wanting to work for a man who cares about his employees and customers.
So today I attended a rally with my son. As we arrived we were driving behind a bus a employees being bussed in from one of the stores. Chants of Artie T. could be heard coming form the open windows. We parked and walked to the rally location. People already there were cheering and chanting as new supporters arrived. Within in five minutes I ran into a couple I know from my younger son's baseball team. They are both full time employees of Market Basket and have worked there for over thirty years. I greeted them and they thanked me for coming out to support them. My son and I found a spot near the front, close to the impromptu stage for the speakers.
Music was playing before the rally officially began. Some songs were parodied to reflect Market Basket like Twisted Sister's Were Not Gonna Take It. Others were not like Hit the Road Jack. Occasionally there was an announcement to remind people to stay hydrated. It was after all very hot this morning. Several news helicopters circled above. News crews were stationed all around with cameras and on air talent. Police and EMTs were around to ensure the safety of everyone.
People of all ages were assembling in support of Arthur T. Many were holding signs, or were wearing shirts with slogans on them. Some people had noise makers and weren't afraid to use them. Others had giraffes with them. It seems to be that the giraffe has become their symbol as they are "sticking their necks out".
At 11:00 am, the rally started. Speakers, including local politicians, workers and customers, were introduced. Many led the crowd in chants,"WHO ARE WE?" "MARKET BASKET!" and "Artie T." For the next tow hours the crowd clapped and cheered for each speaker. One phrase that stuck with me was, "We are ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing."
I looked around and began to take it all in. I noticed a few people dressed in some sort of costume, although I had a hard time seeing clearly what they were supposed to be. I saw lots of signs from customers. Many of those said something to the effect of, "You can't fire customers. WE QUIT!" I was aware of all of the cameras, both professional and personal, recording and documenting the rally. I saw beach balls with messages on them being bounced back and forth around the crowd. I began to realize that this work action/boycott is far from over. Employees will continue to rally and support the ousted CEO Arthur T. Customers, all two million of them, will continue to boycott the stores. I was astounded by the outpouring of support for Arthur T. What I concluded was that one of two things is going to happen in the next few weeks. First the board will put aside their differences to reach some sort of compromise and reinstate Arthur T., or the company is going to lose so much money that they will have to start closing some, if not all, of the stores to avoid bankruptcy. Personally, I hope that the board is able to resolve their differences and keep the stores open. After all, at Market Basket you get more for your dollar!
Unless you have been living under a rock in northern New England, you are probably well aware of the protest and boycott for the grocery chain Market Basket. For those that are not native to New England, let me catch you up.
Market Basket has been a family owned business since 1915 in Lowell, MA. Since 1915 this business has grown to be about 70 stores located in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This chain promises low prices to customers. In the early 1990s the chain went through some legal trouble as the family fought over control. Fast forward to 2014. Once again the family is fighting over control.
Over the past few weeks, maybe even longer, Arthur T. Demoulas and Arthur S. Demoulas, have been the center of the local news. Arthur T. was the CEO of the company who was recently ousted out of his position by his cousin Arthur S. Arthur T. was and is beloved by his employees.
In the weeks that followed, because Market Basket employees wanted Arthur T. to be reinstated many rallies and public protests, petitions and store boycotts have been happening throughout New England. Several long time employees have been fired. These are people who have been working at Market Basket for 25, 30 even 40 years. They all received their termination papers via a courier last week.
You may be wondering what this has to do with me. Well for starters, I know many Market Basket employees including my own son. Many of my students' parents are also employees or shop there. It is for many patrons the only grocery store available to them. Many of the employees have encouraged boycotting the store. Shelves are empty as the delivery truck drivers have been refusing to deliver goods. Customers, including me, now have to shop at higher priced stores; at least until this blows over. My son has been cut from one shift and has attended the rallies and protests. When he is working, he is spending much of his shift doing nothing. There are no products to stock the shelves. Occasionally he is asked to clean or paint. To quote my son about this ," We have hit the iceberg."
As a history teacher, I have wondering is this Market Basket Mess mayhem or a learning opportunity for students to understand history as it unfolds before us? I have concluded that this will be an excellent, relevant chance for us to learn how to learn about history. As opening day draws closer, my teacher brain has been thinking, " How can I use this in class?"
One idea is to look at the pictures I took and analyze them.
There will be no lack of primary sources for us to analyze. Below are a few sources I have started to compile to use in my 8th grade history class the first few days of school. What is nice is students will have a frame of reference, because it will have impacted them in some way, shape or form. It has been lighting up the twitter sphere and other forums of social media. I think I will have groups of students looking at different sources to prepare for a class discussion. Some can look at pictures, some video clips and some newspaper articles. Look at that differentiation in the classroom! Thankfully, I have a few more weeks to work out the lesson details.
I will also be using a history event graphic organizer. The organizer can be found here on my teacherspayteachers store.
So now I wait. I wait to see how this event unfolds. I wait to see what happens to my son's job. I wait for school to start so I can talk to my students about this.
I made it home form Kansas City, Missouri a little more tired then when I left and a lot more knowledgable on the Boarder Wars and Bleeding Kansas. I had an amazing time and visited many interesting sites and battlefields. It was History Geek Heaven!
Throughout the course of the week, we visited many sites relating to the Boarder Wars and the Civil War. Some of the places we saw were the homestead of Jesse James, the Battle of Island Mound, Lecompton and Lawerence Kansas, just to name a few. We saw a movie called Ride With the Devil. This movie was about the confrontation between the jayhawkers and the Bushwhackers on the Kansas/Missouri Boarder. It stared Tobey Maguire, The really cool thing about the movies was we visited some of the historical sites used in the movie shoot!
We also heard knowledgeable and interesting speakers. It was well worth the week long adventure! I highly recommend applying for an NEH summer institute in the future. I will be!
Cool Teachertube video on why studying history is important. Kudos to to Jhayesteach for creating it.
Ok. I am in History Geek heaven. Maybe that is a slight exaggeration. I am however in Kansas City, Missouri for a week long National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) landmark workshop for teachers. There forty of us brave souls who were selected to attend this event. We are teachers of all grade levels from all over the United States.
I left early yesterday morning form Boston and flew to Kansas City. Last night, there was a brief orientation/meet and greet. We than proceeded to go on our first field trip to the Wornall House Museum. There we got a tour from an antebellum costumed docent. She led us through the small Missouri homestead.
Picture Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wornall_House_Museum
This historical home was the home of a slaveholding family in Kansas City, Missouri. During the Battle of Westport it was used as a military hospital. I wonder if it is Haunted?!! After the tour we enjoyed some good Kansas City BBQ right on the grounds. YUMMM!
Today, Monday July 7, 2014 was the first full day of the program. It was an interesting day to say the least. We started the day with a keynote speaker to get the ball rolling. Nicole Etchison from Ball State University (in Indiana somewhere) provided us with a lecture/discussion on Bleeding Kansas.
We then meet with two gentleman who showed us their website full of primary sources and images as well as some scholarly essays on the Civil War in the west. These guys have created a great repository of information. They have vetted all of the information. Check out their website if you need info on the Civil War on the western boarders.
Next we went and had a discussion with Diane Mutti Burke about her book On Slavery's Borders.
picture source: http://www.amazon.com/Slaverys-Border-Missouris-Slaveholding-Households/dp/0820336831
I learned a lot about small slave holding families. It is still slavery, but it is a different kind of system than what was in the deep south on plantations. Farmers worked along side the slaves in the field in many cases. Farming was on a much smaller scale, therefore families had very few slaves compared to plantations.
Our day concluded at the Steamboat Arabia Museum. This was a steamboat that sunk in the Missouri River in the 1850s and was excavated in the 1980s. The ship was carrying cargo that was destined for some sort of general store. Most of the artifacts are still in pristine condition including the food! This was an incredible sight to see and an incredible story to hear.
After a long day of history and learning, it was time for some downtime. Dinner in the section of town called the Plaza, a horse drawn carriage ride through the district and out for a few drinks with some of the other teachers. Finally I am back in my dorm room. Yes I am in a dorm on a college campus. Let me tell you I am exhausted. I am excited to see what tomorrow's adventure will bring.
It is July 2, 2014. Fifteen days ago was the last day of school. Fourteen days ago was my first official day of summer vacation! I am about seven and half weeks from the first day of school. So why am I already having dreams about the first day of school?
Last night I had a dream with unknown students sitting in front of me for the first day of school. Dream really is too kind. It was more like a nightmare. What could go wrong in class went wrong.
First of all, I was teaching fifth grade. I currently teach seventh and eighth grade social studies. I have not taught fifth grade in well over twenty years, so I was flustered because I was unfamiliar with the fifth grade curriculum. Not only was I teaching fifth grade, I was in a self contained classroom. That means I would teach all subjects.
As I was writing something on the chart paper, a student answered a phone call on his cell phone in class. I tried to confiscate the cell phone to no avail. I walked over to the student to quietly ask him to turn in his phone and let him know about the school's cell phone policy. While I was trying to get the phone from the student, two boys got into a fight and three others started throwing things around the room. I had lost control of the class and we were only twenty minutes in to the first day of school. Ultimately, I had to call in reinforcements from the office to come and help.
This catastrophe of a class continued to escalate, students were screaming and jumping over desks. I felt like an utter failure. Eventually, I awoke from this nightmare wondering why I was already dreaming about school.
I think it is time for some r and r at the beach
Ok. I know. It is summer vacation, but I can't help myself. My teacher brain is getting pumped up and I am already looking at new ideas and resources for the next school year. I promise, I am finding some time for myself as a person. I did break our my sewing machine yesterday and update a t-shirt. My family and I are heading to the beach soon for some r and r. I am not spending all of my time "working" this summer.
That being said, the other night I participated in a Social Studies teacher chat on twitter. #SSTLAP . The conversation took many different directions, but one topic of interest for many people was a flipped classroom. One person in the chat put a link up to a website called thinglink.com. Of course being the curious person that I am I decided to investigate it. So today I played with the website.
I signed up for a free, basic teacher account. I uploaded a jpeg of the signing of the Mayflower Compact and I was able to annotate the picture. Check this out.
I love it! I see so much potential for classroom use. I could make some and put then on my class website for students to explore on their own, use them as a lesson launch or even assign students to complete one. It was not difficult to do at all. The website offers tutorials to get you started.
What should I thinglink next?
Yesterday was the last day of school. After the high school survival kits were assembled, the class trip to Canobie Lake Park, the dinner dance and academic awards night went off without a hitch I said good bye to my homeroom students, my "little historians". It was a bittersweet day. After all, I have spent the last two years as their homeroom teacher. I have watched them change and blossom into strong, quirky, capable young ladies and gentleman. Spending two full school years together we have become very close. One student described us as family.
The day began as most days do with homeroom attendance and morning routines, but this time there was a different kind of energy. There was a feeling of excitement. I spent the morning with them. We wiped down desks, put books away and completed other random things to tidy up the classroom. They were all easily distracted and many things did not get done. I sent them on their merry way to their final art, music and or gym classes for the year. With no lessons to prep for, papers to correct or parents to contact I intended to use my prep time to finish cleaning and packing up. However, I too was easily distracted and chatted away with colleagues instead of completing the tasks I wanted to get done.
The three other academic teachers and I had organized a party for the students.( I will admit that most of this was planned by the math teacher on my team.) Many students brought in cultural dishes and a variety of desserts and chips for a team lunch. When our students returned from their various allied arts classes we broke bread together. What was nice about this was that our seventh and eighth graders sat together, ate lunch and chatted with their peers and us teachers. In my room several students from all four homerooms came in. There was an impromptu Journey sing along, as one student went to youtube and found a video of the "Don't Stop Believing" lyrics and projected them on the screen. A serious game of Monopoly started in one corner and a game of Apples to Apples in another. Kids bounced back and forth between the four homerooms. There was laughter and excitement throughout.
A little bit later in the day, we went outside for some r and r. We were not outside for a long time, about 20 minutes or so, just long enough. During that time, a football was tossed around, hula hoop races happened and frisbee was played. Some students stood in the shade and laughed and talked, others were just running around, a few lounged in the green grass. It was very enjoyable.
As the end of the day was approaching we gathered our group in the auditorium to view an iMovie made by the science teacher. All of the teachers on my team submitted pictures for the movie. For the next 15 minutes we laughed and cried as we recollected the many lessons, activities, field trips and events over our two years.
And then it began. The waterworks started. The kids finally realized the finality of the day. They were no longer middle school students. They were no longer going to be in the safe comfortable school they have spent the last four years. They were going out into the unknown. They will be venturing off to their prospective high schools going their separate ways.
As tears welled up in the eyes of boys and girls alike, they all came around and hugged and thanked us teachers. I do have to say that I was a bit misty eyed myself. One boy in particular, you know the one..funny but not very motivated ..some might say lazy, came over to me. He gave me a big hug and said, "Thank you for pushing me and putting up with me for two years." I almost lost it, but somehow I managed to keep my composure.
We said our final goodbyes as a group and returned to our respective homerooms. Report cards were handed out and a few last minutes "selfies" were taken. Tears were still flowing when dismissal started. I am going to miss these quirky "little historians" whom I have grown to love, but I know that they are going to be ok.
One of my favorite projects to do with my students is make mini documentaries. This is one I have been doing for the past five or six years. It is a great project to engage students, especially at the end of the year. I book the computer cart for as many consecutive days as I can. This year I was all set. Cart booked for three consecutive days...check. Rubrics copied...check. Excited kids ...check. Technology troubles..oh no.
This project was doomed from the start. There were all kinds of tech problems that I did not anticipate. What was supposed to be a fun few days of class making documentaries turned into a nightmare for the students and a giant headache for me. Instead of giving up, we plugged away.
For starters, some students had trouble logging on to the computers. The internet was another issue. As kids were gathering resources they got bounced off the internet. We also struggled with using the movie program as well this year. Movies did not save from day to day on the students computers (insert frustrated grunts and groans here). Of the students that could successful complete a movie in the allotted time frame (because they did not have to start over three times ...more groans here) several had difficulty sharing their movies with me.
I ended up contacting the tech department at the school department. I was surprised with a quick response, unfortunately they were no help. The tech who came to help me did not know why I was having so much difficulty. I was promised that he would be back the next day to help me again, however he never returned. Like I said, doomed from the start.
I offered to stay after school for a few days to help students with their projects. A few groups took me up on it. I finagled the computer cart again for another day. Some how despite all of the obstacles that the technology gods threw our way we completed our documentaries. Middle Schoolers can be persistent when they want to be.
On May 19, 2014 I rolled out the red carpet, well actually the red butcher paper, and we had our movie premiere. I gave out "Clarkie" awards for best picture, most informational, funniest and most creative. I can't take all the credit for that idea. I saw this on Kara Wilkins' blog, a neighbor and fellow Social Studies teacher. She gave out the "Wilkies" for her movies.
Despite all of our difficulties we had a great time. Students had fun walking the red carpet. Who knew they were such hams. Below are some pictures of our successful film festival that we had in class even though I forgot the popcorn.
The Varnum School in Lowell, MA has a long history dating back to the 1850s. I am fortunate to have been a part of that history. I spent ten wonderful years of my teaching career there before it was closed as a school in 2008.
For several years there was question as to what should happen to the building. It ended up being sold and the developer/contractor is turning it into apartments for veterans.
This weekend in Lowell, MA there was something called "Doors Open Lowell."
"Doors Open Lowell offers an insider’s look into the preservation of many of Lowell’s magnificent historic buildings. It’s a free annual event held during National Preservation Month to celebrate Lowell’s architectural heritage and urban living and culture. Together these have made Lowell a creative and exciting place to live and work."
To my surprise, via social networking, I found out that the Varnum School was on this year's list of buildings to tour. Several of the teachers from the last few years the school was open planned to gather and tour the school. What we found was amazing.
Long before I even started working at the school, some slate chalkboards were covered up with cork boards. When the contractors removed the cork boards they found some surprises.
I only wish some of these amazing discoveries were in my old classroom.
My Classroom...Then and Now.
It has been almost six years since I set foot in the Varnum School. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same. The contractor is trying to keep the integrity of the building in tact. Walking around with my former colleagues brought back many wonderful memories of teaching fourth grade at the school. It was as if we had never left.
Today I made a happy discovery. I have always been interested in family history, asking questions listening to stories, looking at old photos. Since becoming a history teacher my interest has included primary source documents too. Today after MCAS testing, I was chatting with a few of my students about my family history. We began looking at some digital family documents that I have collected and noticed some inconsistencies. Upon further exploration of the documents, I discovered that my grandparents were married 100 years ago today! Coincidence or not I thought this was cool.
We began by looking at my grandfather's draft cards for World War I and World War II. There were some inconsistencies with the spelling of his name as well as the year and place of his birth. Unfortunately, I do not know why, though I have asked my surviving uncle this before. The kids and I chatted some more and inferred that the place of my grandfather's birth my have been hidden due to political reasons. Notice the date and place of birth.
After that we looked at some of the other documents that I have collected, but never really looked at carefully. One of them was a page from a registry of marriages from the Registrars office in Worcester, MA. My grandparents are listed third from the bottom. Interestingly enough I was amazed to realize that today is their 100th anniversary. My students thought it was cool too.
We looked at a birth record for my uncle as well. We noticed even more discrepancies.
This is from a birth register. My uncle, Adam Polanik was born in August 16, 1915. We called him Uncle Eddy. I am not sure why. There is a notation that his entry was corrected in 1944.
My Uncle Joe was born February 10, 1917. A correction was made to his birth record too on the same date. I know that a correction was made to my father's birth record after my grandfather died. On this birth record, my grandfather's name is spelled differently again. This document said that both my grandparents were born in Poland. The previous record for Uncle Eddy said that they were both born in Austria.
We had a nice class discussion about discrepancies in official records and about validating information. It was a nice little journey of self discovery too. I hope this has sparked an interest in learning more about their own family histories. I know that I have some more research to do.
So I want to say Happy Anniversary to my paternal grandparents. It was nice spending time with you today.
Recently in class my seventh graders compared and contrasted the Ancient Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta. As a class we read and annotated a few articles on Athens and Sparta. Next we broke into small groups. Each group was given two hula hoops to create Venn Diagrams, sticky notes and markers. The groups worked collaboratively to compare and contrast the two city-states. Afterwards we got a chance to share out and made a class chart.
This week we began talking about the causes of the Civil War. We have been researching and discussing the various events, acts and compromises that ultimately tore this nation apart and sent it to war.
Our discussion today included the term popular sovereignty. Looks good, but I think we need to work on using the term in a sentence.
Today was the first day back form April vacation and my day started at 5:30 am when my alarm summoned me out of sleep for the first time in over a week. I now ...Wah wah wah. Showered and then rousted the rest of the family to start their day at school. ( My husband teaches special education and my boys are in High School.)Next, I made lunches for the four of us. I should make them the night before, but I don't. By 7:00 am everyone has left for school. I quickly gulped down something that resembled breakfast, grabbed my computer and printed a graphic organizer and an article for my first academic class, packed my school bag (including the donut holes that I bought for my homeroom advisory period. The ones my sons wanted but didn't get.) and headed out early. I wanted to get to the copy machine before there is too big of a line, the paper runs out or the machine jams and needs to be repaired. I was at school by 7:30 am.
At school, I unpacked my bag in my class, grabbed my lunch and the printed papers and went to sign in and make copies. I only had to wait a few minutes for the copier. I copied what I was going to use with my 8th grade classes. After making copies, I went in search of the two class sets of books I was planning to use for my seventh graders. I found one set, but only one copy of the other set. Another teacher has already checked out that set. (We are doing a common assignment that we planned together before vacation. I was just hoping that I would get to the books first.) So now I proceeded to go back to the copy room and copy the chapter from book that my seventh graders would need for class. I had another short wait for the copier. Once it was my turn the copier jammed. Grrrr. The second copier became available and I jumped in to make my copies there and proceeded to unjam the other machine. Black toner smudged my hands. Luckily no one else was waiting to copy.
The warning bell rang at 7:58 am. I ran back to my room with the stack of the copied chapter and quickly put my objectives up for my classes. 8:00 am and the bell rings for the students to enter the building. Now the fun begins.
8:00 am- I am standing in the hallway next to my door greeting my 8th graders as they enter the room. I reminded them to turn in their cell phones, sign in on the smart board and sit down. Someone asks to use the bathroom already.
8:15 am- Morning announcements begin. National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and announcements.
8:20ish I review the classroom rules and expectations for homeroom as some seem to have forgotten over vacation.
8:25 am - I ask students to share out what they did over vacation. Most said video games. I notice an 8th grader sticking stickers of cent signs all over his face. Really...this is 8th grade. So I asked what he was doing. I should know better. His response, "This just makes "cents" to me." Ha, Ha, Ha. Ok, moving on. It is advisory period. For the months of April and May we are supposed to be doing some kind of community service. Before vacation my class wanted to plan to sell popsicles next week to raise and donate the money to the cancer walk that student council is participating in on May 18. I thought that was a great idea, so we pitched it to the principal to get approval. Today we were supposed to begin organizing and planning. Schedule who is selling when and at which lunch, make posters to advertise our event, and work on securing donations from a local grocery store. That was the plan. We did not get approval to do this activity. So now I have nothing. The kids sat and talked the rest of the advisory period. A few girls help me change a bulletin board. We rearranged the desks into a u-shape configuration.
9:07 - I line the kids up for their allied arts classes, music, gym, art. They all go to different ones. Now is my prep period. I post my attendance. I only have one absent. Twenty-eight out of twenty-nine are present. Amazingly the girl who usually misses Mondays is in! I check and respond to emails. A few of my seventh graders walk in with the Grecian Urns I assigned for extra credit. Four out of fifty-five students took the time to do it. I made sure everything was set for my classes. Objectives...check. Materials...check. Warm-up activity...check. Up to the library to sign out the computer cart for next week. I return to my room and go to my desk to finish the plans for this week. I started them last night, but did not finish. After finishing my plans, I made sure the materials for tomorrow were all set, then I reread the chapter from the book my teacher leadership group is reading. We are meeting this afternoon. A quick glance at the clock tells me I have time for a quick trip to the bathroom before the students return.
10:04 am- My homeroom starts drifting back to class from Allied Arts. Back at the door to greet the students again. The Music students arrive first, they are the closest. I quick head count tells me all are back and ready to go. I review the objectives and instruct the students to create a KWL chart in their binders. We are beginning the causes of the Civil War today. I am looking to see if anyone knows anything before we delve into the lesson. I stress that we are talking about what caused the Civil War, not the war itself. First the students had to list what they know about the causes. Most of the students knew that slavery was a cause, but that was about it. After a quick share out, we went to the next column- What do I want to know? Once again, I stressed that we were talking about the causes not the war. I even had a few kids repeat what I said. The kids asked questions about how long the war lasted, and when the war was and who won. Seriously guys??? Some of you even repeated back to me what I was looking for? I even gave an example," Was there a lot of violence around the issue of slavery? Was slavery the only cause of the Civil War?" This class at least, raised hands and participated in a discussion. After the K and W of the KWL chart I asked the students to put the chart to the side and we read an article about the causes of the Civil War. We began with an independent read. They were asked to read the article to themselves and circle anything that might need clarification and underline anything that was important to them and write their thinking in the margins. After a brief discussion to clear things up and share their thoughts, we read the article together. This time, I shared my thinking about the article. As it was projected up on the board we made annotations in the margin together. Class ended with us returning to the KWL chart and filling out the last column, What did I learn. There was good participation from this class.
11:15 am- Time to switch classes. The students exit and line up across the hall for their science class. I wait for the science students to come to me. I ask the students to line up, because we are getting new seats. This is the same lesson as the previous class. They are quiet and do their work, but if I ask a question all I get are crickets, blank stares and puzzled looks. No one raises a hand, no one asks questions, no one responds to prompts from me. Time to light a fire under them.
12:15 pm- Class is over. I escort the students to their lockers to switch out their books for their afternoon classes. Now they talk. We return to my room, put the books down, rather throw the books onto the desk and hope they don't land all over the floor. We line up for lunch.
12:25 pm- Walk students to cafeteria. Get my lunch from fridge and meet a few teachers in the teachers room. Half way through the school day and 20 minutes to eat. Pick the kids up, and switch classes. The last class grabs their books from my room while the 7th graders line up outside my door.
12:50 pm- With my lunch still in my hand, I chat with my seventh graders and say bye to the 8th. I quickly assign the new seats and we start over again. Review objectives, warm-up activity. Explain what we are working on. We have been studying Ancient Greece. This week we will be completing a W.A.R. ( Writing about Reading). I hand out the article I copied. We read and annotate, then write down the information we will need to complete the W.A.R. on a t-chart. Next we read the article in the book and take notes on a t-chart. We are explaining the origins of democracy in Ancient Athens and then comparing the democracy from Ancient Athens to the United States democracy. We cannot annotate the article in the book, but we will make do. The two different texts are meant to be used to aide with research. They students are engaged and working on the task.
1:45 pm- Classes switch. Same lesson again on democracy. Worked out a few glitches from the first class and things went smoother.
2:40 pm- Class is over. I send my last class to their lockers and back to their homeroom. I stand at the door waiting for my homeroom to return. As I welcome them back, I remind them to pick up their cell phones ( as if they would forget those) and ask them to sit down and wait for dismissal. After a few minutes, I have to ask someone to remove their baseball cap, helped another pick up the contents of his backpack that was dumped all over the floor because he forgot to zip it up and remind three students to sit down until they are dismissed. By 2:50 all students are dismissed.
Time to check and respond to emails again and head to my teacher leadership meeting after school until 4:00pm. I am taking notes. We discussed scheduling for next year(Yikes-already?)and the remaining two half days to plan the professional development for the staff.
4:00 pm- The meeting is over. On my way back to get my stuff from my class, I stop and chat with a team member for a few minutes before heading home. He was working on his school "stuff".
At home, I hang out with my husband for a few minutes. He has a Special Education report to write. I head to the gym. Treadmill, elliptical, home to feed my brood.
7:00pm- Check and respond to school emails again. Read an article online about teaching that caught my eye on Facebook. Correct papers. I forgot to bring home the rubric before vacation. I could not correct the summaries that the 8th graders completed on the historical book, Lyddie, during vacation as I planned. It's ok, because I did correct another set of essays during vacation as well . Reading and correcting 55 book summaries will take me to about 10:00 pm. Thankfully work for tomorrows classes is all set.
Tomorrow it starts all over again.
I am a future empty-nester with two boys, a husband and a passion for writing, creating and teaching. I teach 7th and 8th grade Social Studies in Massachusetts. I am a self proclaimed history geek and proud of it! In my spare time ( Spare time, ha ha that's a joke! ) I enjoy photography, reading and hanging out with my family.