My Top 10 Posts for March 2011

Nook Color

Image by themarina via Flickr

March has been a much better month than February, but April is coming in like a Lion, we are supposed to get between 8-14 inches of snow (according to which station you are listening to), quite an April Fool’s Day joke. Some kids are not believing that we are having a snow storm tomorrow and that the teachers are just pulling their leg a day early. Personally, I hope that it goes out to sea, but I have a feeling it is going to be a direct hit.

I have feeling that over the next month or so, there will be a couple of changes coming up here at One Foot in Reality, I just have to figure out how to incorporate them into the structure of my blog…more to come.

My top 10 posts for March were:

1.  NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011
Jan 9, 2011
2.  Mobile Me Review – March 2011
Mar 11, 2011
3.  Evernote as a Task Manager
Feb 19, 2011
4.  PAPER AIRPLANE LESSON PLAN 2010
Sep 4, 2010
5.  Evernote Review – January 2011
Jan 27, 2011
6.  iWeb Review – March 2011
Mar 13, 2011
7.  Conforming to Negativity
Mar 12, 2011
8.  The Crossroads are in Sight
Mar 26, 2011
9.  Apple Text-to-Speech – Review January 2011
Feb 2, 2011
10.  BLOGGER – MANUALLY IMPORTING BLOG POST PROJECT
Oct 31, 2010

As always thank you for taking time out of your busy life to read my blog

What have you done to make a difference today?

Is It Suck It Up Time

A pacifier

Image via Wikipedia

Back in October of 2002, when I was first hired as a second career and conditional teacher, I was complaining in the teacher’s break room to the lead special education teacher, about the amount of work that I was having to do at home and on weekends. This was just to keep up with the work I was expected to have completed for my classes and special education duties, not get ahead or find creative activities for my students to become involved with.

This was his reply:

“Get used to it, we really don’t care how much time outside of school it takes you to get the job done, as long as you get the work done. If you don’t like it, find something else besides being a teacher. We know that you can’t get all of your work done during the school day and that you will have to work nights and weekends to get it done. It is part of the job expectation of being a teacher. So either suck it up and just do it or find another profession to work in. We can always find someone else who will do it”.

This comment stuck with me enough that I put it in my journal that day and when times are difficult I refer back to it, to remind me of the attitude that many people in and outside of education have towards teaching. Just “suck it up”.

Needless to say I sucked it up and have been teaching for almost 10 years now, with a little 15 month break thrown in to spice things up and get a reality check. But as I grow older and my time becomes, much more valuable to me, I begin to wonder more often about other alternatives to teaching’s seven day a week, multiple hours after school working on school work, “volunteering for after school activities” that are expected of teachers by schools, other teachers, parents and “others” (whoever the others may be).

Our present education system is a demanding mistress, it demands that we use more and more of our personal time  to complete our school work and yet, when we discuss this “fact” we are told that we are whining and complaining and that we should be glad that we have a job and that we are allowed to teach other people’s children.  This is the education/teaching model that we have used for so long that too many believe that this is the way “life should be” for teachers in the U.S. and many other places.  This to me is the industrial model of teaching, use ’em up, spit them out, get new ones”.

Like every teacher out there, I have willingly given up my personal time and life to complete school work (in fact I am looking at about 6-7 hours work on the table beside me today after I finish this post) and will continue to do so, but I want a few things back in return for doing my school’s work, when I should be doing things with family and friends or simply relaxing and enjoying a day or two off.

First – I want true leadership – not management by objectives or numbers. Leadership is vastly different and much more difficult than management is and unfortunately, in education today the prevailing method has become management by numbers and don’t push back against the “system”. Which leadership does.

Second – If I am a bad teacher tell me that and provide me the opportunity to improve and if I don’t improve get rid of me.  Don’t use tenure as an excuse to keep me around if I have it, we all know that tenure is there as a protection against capricious dismissal, not a guarantee of a lifetime job.

Third – Show respect for me as a professional, I worked hard to become a certified teacher and I continue to work to improve my skills as a teacher mostly on my own time, not the school’s.

Fourth – Trust that I am competent at my job and let me do my job, if I am not go back to my second statement.

Finally – Do not go telling me that my student’s test scores are low, I already know that and I realize that many of the students I teach may never reach proficiency on a standardized test, no matter how well I or someone else “teaches” them.  I am a special education teacher and my students are in special education because their diagnostic “test scores” are low compared to their peers, amongst a lot of other reasons.

So I really don’t give a rat’s ass what some politician’s artificial standards are for my individual students. I care about my students and the progress they are making, many times on things that can’t be measured on a test like: positive behavior, coming to school, smiling in class, being in a safe place, not saying hurtful things to a peer, helping a peer, reading a book and enjoying it for the first time in their life or simply a student saying “thank you” and mean it. These things and many more, mean more to me and the students than some snapshot score of where they were yesterday, will ever mean to either of us.

However, I also know in today’s climate that the things I discussed are not going happen anytime soon in most places, there are just too many incentives not to do them. Instead I fear that expectations and conditions for teachers in many areas will get worse (maybe a lot worse) in today’s management climate of management by numbers, accountability, standardization and data collection.

I read this article from the The Star.com –

Saving public education: Why teachers matter by Rick Salutin

this morning which sums up a lot of the issues and what I am thinking pretty well.

You know something else, I am getting tired of “sucking it up” and my personal time has become too valuable to continue to have to simply “suck it up”.  I want to do things that I am passionate about and want to do, not something that I am forcing myself to do because it is what is expected of me and so many others.

Ah decisions, decisions.

What have you done to make a difference today?

Week In Review – March 27, 2011

I haven’t been posting much lately, life and school have had a habit of getting in the way. The end of the 3rd quarter is next Friday, which also happens to be April 1st (actually rather fitting). Between starting or completing a few personal and school projects, grading, special education paperwork and planning a couple of new lessons it has gotten a little crazy and something had to give.  So I gave up trying to write on my blog for a while.

So the school year is 3/4 over and there are just over 70 days left before school will be let out for the summer break.  Like many other teachers this year, I am coming to a crossroads in my professional live and have a lot to think about between now and the end of the school year.

My post from yesterday “The Crossroads are in Sight” was not a “pity party” post, it was simply asking for advice from people that I have come to know over the past 3-4 years, if it came across any differently, it wasn’t meant to be that way.

Below are my top 5 posts for the week:

1.  Mobile Me Review – March 2011
Mar 11, 2011
2.  NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011
Jan 9, 2011
3.  The Crossroads are in Sight
Mar 26, 2011
4.  Evernote as a Task Manager
Feb 19, 2011
5. PAPER AIRPLANE LESSON PLAN 2010
Sep 4, 2010

As always thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

What have you done to make a difference today?

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Have You Ever – Meme

The meme shirt

Image by mezzoblue via Flickr

Taken from Mr. T’s rants and raving I liked the list and decided to see what I had done and not done.  Was kind of fun thinking back on some of the stuff that was on here and also kind of scary some of the things that I have done.

Cross out what you’ve done.

graduated high school.
smoked a cigarette.
kissed someone.
gotten so drunk you passed out.
ridden every ride at an amusement park.
collected something really stupid.
gone fishing.
watched four movies in one night.
gone long periods of time without sleep.
lied to someone.
snorted cocaine.
failed a class.
been in a car accident.
been in a tornado.
done hard drugs.
watched someone die.
been to a funeral.
burned yourself.
run a marathon.
cried yourself to sleep.
spent over $200 in one day.
flown on a plane.
written a 10 page letter.
gone skiing.
been sailing.
had a best friend.
lost someone you loved.
shoplifted something.
been to jail.
dangerously close to being in jail.
had detention.
skipped school.
got in trouble for something you didn’t do.
stolen books from the library.
gone to a different country.
dropped out of school.
been in a mental hospital.
watched the “harry potter” movies.
had an online diary.
fired a gun.
gambled in a casino.
had a yard sale.
had a lemonade stand.
actually made money at the lemonade stand.
been in a school play.
taken a lie detector test.
swam with dolphins.
gone to sea world.
voted for someone on a reality tv show.
written poetry. 
read more than 20 books a year. gone to Europe. 
used a coloring book over age 12.
had surgery. 
had stitches. 
taken a taxi. 
seen the Washington monument. 
had more than 5 im’s/online conversations going at once.
overdosed.
had a drug or alcohol problem.
been in a fist fight. 
suffered any form of abuse. 
had a hamster.
pet a wild animal. 
used a credit card.
gone surfing in California.
done “spirit day” at school.
dyed your hair.
gotten a tattoo.
had something pierced.
gotten straight a’s.
been on the honor roll. 
known someone with HIV or AIDS. 
taken pictures with a webcam. 
started a fire.
gotten caught having/going to a party while parents were gone.

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The Crossroads are in Sight

Frazzled

Image by karindalziel via Flickr

It appears that I am coming to a crossroads in my professional life as a Special Educator or even as an educator – yet again.

When I came back to teaching in October ’09, I really believed that this was what I was meant to do and I relished being back in the classroom. I would like to believe that I am a pretty darn good special education teacher and I think a few others do also.

However since the new year something has really been missing and I can’t put my finger on what it is. The person who used to jump out of bed at 5:00 A.M. to get ready to get out the door and face the challenges of a new day at school, now grunts and groans about having to get up and go in, procrastinates and finds other things to do, where I used to live my life around being a teacher.

Whatever the factors causing this change are, they seem to be a pretty big deal, because I find myself not wanting to go to school more days than not. Oh I still go and do what needs to be done, but it isn’t the same.

What are the reasons for these changes? I am not sure but over the course of these next 75 days, I have to figure it out. If I do not find out what is missing/wrong or if I do and I am not able to rectify whatever “it” is. Then I will be forced to look very carefully at what being a Special Educator or an educator means to me and what my choices will be.

Is it simply the time of the year (as one person suggested) and it will pass? Or are other teachers feeling this way too?  I am searching and scratching my head for answers.

I hate heading towards the crossroads again, so soon.

What have you done to make a difference today?

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Week in Review – March 20, 2011

This was one of those weeks that was. March is the longest the stretch, most students don’t realize how close to the end of the school year they are and April break is a ways away. It seems that student behaviors have been a bit more than interesting than usual during the past week. Other teachers agreed with me on Friday, so I guess I am not just imagining things.

Things got so crazy this week at home and in school  that I chose to drop out the iFacilitate course which is too bad, because it had a lot of great information and looked as though it was going to be very good for me professionally.  I had to make some choices on what I could do and where it was a voluntary course, that was what went.

Here are my top 5 posts for the week:

  1. Mobile Me Review – March 2011 – March 11, 2011
  2. NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011 – Jan 9, 2011
  3. Evernote as a Task Manager – Feb 19, 2011
  4. Teachers – What Are You Planning – March 19, 2011
  5. PAPER AIRPLANE LESSON PLAN 2010 – Sep 5, 2010

Thank you everyone for taking the time to read One Foot In Reality.

What have you done to make a difference today?

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Teachers – What Are You Planning

This is the time of year when many teachers are wondering how many days are left before school is out for the summer break. Admittedly, I am a bit of a geek and at the start of the school year I started a countdown timer set for one week beyond the published end of school date for my district.

I live in Maine and fully expect to have between three and five storm days beyond the three built into the schedule, over the course of a school year. So how many days are left before June 17th?

Screen shot 2011 03 19 at 8 34 16 PM

Today’s date – March 19, 2011

With only around 80 days left before schools are out for the summer for most teachers, it also means that many teachers are starting to think about their future. I know I am.

The current budgetary crises has many teachers worried about whether between now and the end of the school year, whether they will be given a pink slip or be told that they will not have their contract renewed and be searching for a new job in or out of teaching over the summer. Others will or are rethinking their decision to be a part of a profession that has become so maligned and continuously bludgeoned by politicians, media pundits and others. Some have realized that they are not cut-out to be teachers and are leaving the profession and others will be told they need to leave teaching by their administrators (more than many believe).

Unfortunately, so many more teachers are going to leave because they are tired or disagree with the direction that education seems to be going in America (standardized testing, poorly designed and implemented accountability schemes, common core standards, etc. to name but a few issues). They are burnt out or just beat down by a system that continually asks more and more of its teachers and gives much less back to them than it has in the past. They are the teachers who will retire, leave teaching for other opportunities, jobs or get a different job in education, but not in the classroom where they are really needed.

I love teaching and where I am currently at is just like every other place I have worked, it has its good and bad points. I am not some wild-eyed dreamer or downtrodden pessimist who believes that things are either all terrible or fantastically great and that the grass is always greener on the other side. I would like to believe that I am a proficient special education teacher who has a good handle on my position’s responsibilities and am considered an asset (not an ass) where I am employed. Time will tell.

Personally, I am still a probationary teacher which means there is no guarantee that I will be asked to return next year to teach in my current position, the school has the option to renew my contract or not. If they do choose to ask me to return, then I will have to decide what my answer will be?  I don’t really know the answer to that question yet.

Luckily I have almost three months before school ends for the year and another month or so after that, to think carefully about my future as a teacher and review factors that I believe are important to my family and me before I have to make that decision. My wife and I are honestly discussing the pros and cons about whether I should return or not, or possibly even more important what we will do if I have that choice made for us.

The reality is if you don’t think, attempt to plan ahead and talk with your family, life has a tendency to bite you square in the butt. So while I would like to believe that I will be asked to return next year, I do have to figure out what I will do if I am not or if I choose not to return. Like they say – “life is all about choices.”

Many of you are in the same situation as me, have you started to think about what you plan to do?

iWeb Review

IWeb

Image via Wikipedia

iWeb is on my Mac and is part of Apple’s iLife family of programs. I have opened iWeb up a couple of times before, but I didn’t really know how to use it and didn’t take any time learn how to use it. While I am trying out MobileMe, I figured that I would attempt to setup a website/blog and experiment with iWeb to see how it works and if I liked it or not. This is my reaction to using iWeb and whether or not I would use it in my special education classrooms.

Being a blogger, I wanted to try to setup a blog using MobileMe and iWeb to see how they worked. So I resurrected my old “My Thoughts” blog and attempted to blog using those tools.

Product Name: iWeb
Company Name: Apple
Type: Desktop Application

Website: “Web design for the rest of us – Designing a website may seem difficult, but with iWeb, it’s easily within your reach. Create your site using themes. Customize it with photos, movies, text, and widgets. Then publish to MobileMe or any other hosting service. iWeb even notifies Facebook when your site changes and adds a link to your profile so your friends stay up to date”. Taken from iLife ’11 Apple website

Below is a screenshot of iWeb
Screen shot 2011 03 13 at 4 53 31 PM

How much does it cost? It is included as part of the iLife ’09 Apple program that comes with your Mac computer, but it does not appear in the Mac Store’s version of iLife ’11 or you can purchase iLife ’09 through various retailers. I could not find iWeb in the Mac App Store.
Is iWeb easy to use or is there a learning curve? iWeb does have a learning curve. Setting up the blog/website was not intuitive, because you have to create your site and then re-direct it back to MobileMe, which requires extra steps in the site creation process. Also you have to ensure that you re-direct the site before attempting to change it over to MobileMe for hosting otherwise it become a more difficult task.
The actual use of iWeb to choose a theme for the website was straightforward, but the customization/personalization process was not intuitive for me. Creating a blog was easy, but setting up the sidebars, so they appear the same on all of your blog related pages – I still haven’t figured out. I also still have to learn how to make your post template, so that when you create a new page it looks the same as what you have published previously. There is a learning curve that would frustrate many of my students if they had to use it to prepare their posts for a blog. If you are familiar with Pages, iWeb should be easy to use.
What I like: iWeb integrates easily and quickly with other Apple products like iPhoto, GarageBand, iMovie and other Apple products in a synergistic manner.
If you like how Pages works you will like how iWeb works, they are very similar.
Screen shot 2011 03 13 at 5 20 46 PM
Now that I am more used to the Inspector and how Apple’s user interface is setup, I can zip around in most Apple products pretty quickly.
When I finally figured out which theme and my blog’s setup, that it looks clean and uncluttered.
What I don’t like:
The hoops you have to go through in order to setup a website.
That I can’t figure out how to create a static template for when I add a post.
How do I ensure not to publish a post to the Internet that I don’t want to. As most bloggers will agree, some of the best posts that we write are the ones that will never be posted and shouldn’t be – for whatever the reason. iWeb does not have a draft mode that will not be published when you update the entire site.
How would I import old blog posts to my new Apple hosted blog other than to cut and paste them in?
The limited number of themes available.
Screen shot 2011 03 13 at 4 54 02 PM
This might seem a large number of themes, but there are only three, maybe four that I would personally use and then I would go in and personalize its appearance to meet my preferences.
If you do want to play with the code on your theme, I didn’t see where that was an option.
The limited widget options.
That while iWeb can publish to non MobileMe hosted blogs that the process is not as easy as clicking a button to publish to a different blog.
Do my students have easy access the product? iWeb is installed as part of the iLife program on all MLTI laptops. So all the students that have a MLTI laptop available to them have iWeb.
Do I currently use iWeb in my classroom? No, I only tried it out for myself last week and I believe that initially my students would quickly reach a frustration level with iWeb, until they got used to how to use it.
How does iWeb apply to Special Education? Much like my previous post where I reviewed Blogger, iWeb would allow Special Education teachers to provide multimedia lessons to students very quickly and easily. It is an alternative to a Learning Management System such as Moodle.
iWeb would provide a way to provide authentic feedback to students on how they are doing and can help teach civility in commenting or disagreeing appropriately with someone else when commenting or reviewing comments on a blog. There are many different things that blogging can teach a student and any medium that helps students to read or write more is worth attempting with students.
Special Educators are finding that there are a number of other Special Education teachers who blog and that many of them share the same frustrations. After reading these blogs and participating in the Twitter #chats (#spedchat) many what to add their experiences and insights about special education to the conversation and might find that an MobileMe hosted blog through iWeb is one of the ways for them to add their thoughts to this community of educators.
The reality is that iWeb was not that easy for me to just start using and publish to a blog. I really think I could get used to iWeb’s idiosyncrasies, if I could figure out how create a static sidebar that appears the same across all my blog’s pages and if I didn’t have to reformat my new blog posts to have the same formatting as I customized previous ones to look like.
These may seem like minor issues, but they are not if you are attempting to provide a consistent look and feel throughout your whole blog. I do like the final result of how my blog’s home page turned out and how clean it looked. That is the look that I would like for my primary blog eventually. I hope that Apple is updating iWeb to enable it to work more easily with other blogs and make it easier to create a website instead of the present multiple-step process
Recommendation: The present combination of iWeb and MobileMe works, but it is not as intuitive as my present combination of MarsEdit and Blogger. I don’t believe that I will change my primary blog to be based in iWeb at this time. iWeb to me is a great concept, but compared to other blogging or website creation tools it is not as intuitive or easy to use. I am looking forward to the next version to see the improvement that Apple will make to iWeb.
FTC Disclaimer: No one has paid me or provided me with services or products to write this blog post. I have written this post based upon my experience with using this product and they are simply my thoughts about it.

Week In Review – March 13, 2011

This was a pretty good week, I finally feel as though whatever was pulling me down health-wise is gone. Now that I have a brain again, I can see some things that I need to change and am going to work on those over the course of the next few weeks. Below are my top 5 posts for the week based upon page views:

  1. NOOK COLOR – REVIEW JANUARY 2011 – Jan 9, 2011
  2. Evernote as a Task Manager – Feb 19, 2011
  3. Mobile Me Review – March 2011 – Mar 11, 2011
  4. Conforming to Negativity – Mar 12, 2011
  5. PAPER AIRPLANE LESSON PLAN 2010 – Sep 4, 2011

I haven’t been writing a lot of posts since I started the iFacilitate Course, but will post as I get time.

What have you done to make a difference today?

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Conforming to Negativity

I was reading The Art of Non-Conformity blog this morning and it got me to thinking (I know a dangerous thing to do) about how in reality I am very much a conformist, just like many other teachers. I talk and say how I want to change things or that I want to do this or that, I might even think about how I would like to do things differently.The truth is that I tend to go along with what other people tell me I should do most of the time. Once in a while I might surprise myself and others, but really not all that often, I tend to stay between the lines and conform.

While I was growing up conformity was an expectation at home and at school, we were not expected to “stand out”, speak up too much and if we did or tried to, we were “taught” to get back to our “place”. I learned to stay under the radar, be successful enough, but not too much, so you didn’t get knocked back down with well aimed comments or worse, from peers and adults who would all too often, do what they thought was necessary for you to stay where you “belonged”.
When I went in the military immediately after high school, it was a place where conformity is a job requirement and the lessons I had learned in school served me well. In the military everyone had their place in the pecking order and it only was when you tried to go outside “the book” or above/below your pay grade that it caused problems. I quickly learned that those who stood out or were different, had a much more difficult time being successful or got quickly cut down to size by the system.
This meant that I learned to let someone else be the lightning rod and either garner the glory or suffer the consequences, while I was protected in my ability to do a good job in relatively obscurity.
Our present education system requires conformity of its educators and punishes or gets rid of those who do not conform to the system. There are many stated and unstated (but understood) assumptions from your peers, parents and administrators, that most educators must adhere to in order to remain a part of the education system. I don’t believe there are that many teachers who are “rebels with or without a cause” that remain teachers, without learning to conform to at least the edges of acceptability in their schools. It is just too difficult and stressful to remain on the outside looking in.
If you don’t follow or attempt to go beyond or around the system, you are looked upon with suspicion at best or hostility at worst. Then it becomes a difficult work environment, in which you have to make some choices: leave, constantly battle against the system or try to do a good job, while not rocking the boat and stay just under the radar. Most go with the last one.
Our education system was designed to prepare students to conform to a world that no longer exists and as part of that system the teachers had to conform to the system as well. Unfortunately, we have continued to perpetuate this requirement to conform to those who are teaching today even though the world has changed considerably in that time.
In today’s world teachers are under attack from politicians, former business leaders, pundits and the host of others who have never taught in a classroom, our nature to conform has become a challenge not an asset. We are so used to simply doing what authority tells us, that we just do it.
Sure we grumble, moan, bitch and complain about what we have been given to do, but when push comes to shove, most of the time teachers simply batten down the hatches, do what we need to do, while the storm rages around them. Then after it is over, look around to see what kind of mess there is to clean up.
  • Isn’t that what most of us are doing today?
  • Isn’t that what they want us to do?
  • What can we do differently?

The last one is the million dollar question.

What have you done to make a difference today?