Sunday, February 28, 2010

Think Like an Olympian

Cropped transparent version of :Image:Olympic ...Image via Wikipedia

As I was watching the closing ceremonies of the winter Olympics tonight, I thought about all the athletes and the amazing skills they have. But they don't have these skills by accident or by luck. They have them through dedication, hard work, practice, motivation, and keeping their eyes on the prize.

These are the same qualities every student needs in school. Not everyone can be an Olympic champion, but everyone can do a little of what they do. It's the same in school. Not everyone will be a genius and score 1600 on their SATs, but everyone can get through high school with a C average or above. All it takes is a little dedication, hard work, practice, and motivation. Keep your eyes on the prize (graduation), listen to your coaches (teachers), and don't let anyone or any thing keep you from your dreams.

And tonight I learned something new. I learned where Sochi is.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Human Calculator

Every once in a while you run across something that is just amazing. It's been a while since I've seen this man on television. He is a bit older, but still impressive. His name is Scott Flansburg and he's called The Human Calculator. I believe the following video says it all much better than I can. I don't know about his mathematical abilities, but his calculation skills are incredible.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Eight Reasons People Hoard

Compulsive hoarding in a private apartmentImage via Wikipedia

The last few weeks I've been watching Hoarders on A&E. Hoarding is an obsessive-compulsive disorder in which the person collects and hoards anything and everything.

From watching the show, I've come to the conclusion that there are about eight reasons people hoard.

1. Some people have had great loss in their lives and do not want to lose anything else. Therefore, they keep everything.

2. Objects are memories for many people. They fear that without the object, they will not have the memory.

3. It appears that some people start collecting things. Collections could be stamps, dolls, coins, antiques, or any other object that interests the person. These collections become obsessions and eventually everything becomes a collection.

4. The objects hoarded often have a use or future use for the hoarder. An old broken vase can be fixed and used again. A rusted tub is just too good to throw away. Objects can and must be reused. It is a waste of valuable resources to send them to a landfill.

5. Hoarders may think that the objects they collect can be sold at a future date. They believe these objects will provide future income for them and that they will only become more valuable with time.

6. Some people are compulsive shoppers. They accumulate so much that soon there is no room in their homes.

7. To let go of an object means losing control of that object. The hoarder may worry about what happens to the item once someone else possesses it.

8. Some feel that the item will be needed. Perhaps there is some piece of information in that newspaper that they will want to refer to at a later date. Those magazine articles will provide useful information, so the hoarder may keep every magazine and newspaper.

I, personally, am not a hoarder (at least I don't think so), but I do have a problem with clutter. I think that every teacher does. There are always stacks of books for research and for making lesson plans, tests and quizzes. There are piles of papers that need to be checked. There are calculators, computers, and grade books. And there are report forms for absences, tardies, parent contacts, discipline, and state reports. Teachers not only have this clutter problem at school, but it usually carries over to their home, as well, since a large portion of the work must be done at home. I think most teachers just consider this as a clutter problem, however, and would never consider it hoarding. I can see how it could become a major problem, though. There are times when it just all seems overwhelming and for the compulsive hoarder, it would be. But for the rest of us, we just keep picking up after ourselves.

I have wondered when watching the television series where this problem starts. I know that it is a mental disorder and there is some evidence that depression may be involved. I wonder how early these tendencies towards hoarding show up, especially with the large number of children on anti-depressant medication.

I think about some of the students I had in class, and I think I can almost pick out the ones with the potential to be hoarders. Some were perfectionists who would do a paper over and over trying to make it perfect. Of course this is impossible, and I wonder if hoarders might start this way. They want everything to be perfect. They want that control. Since things are never perfect, perhaps they just give up. They can at least have control over the mess.

Another indication would be to look at a student's notebook or locker. Some hoarding behavior already exists. Of course, at the end of the school year, they must clean everything up. I often wonder how difficult it is for some of those children to throw things away. Maybe they just pack it up and take it home with them.

Every child with a messy, packed locker, however, is not a hoarder. Most are just lazy and messy children. I shudder to think what their rooms look like at home.

Sometimes I think my mother still feels that way about me. I do have clutter, but I have a very small house. I try to keep it neat and clean, but occasionally the mail will pile up or the DVDs get strewn about. My mother has often said, "You need a bigger house." My reply has always been, "No, I just need less stuff." I believe we could all benefit from a little less stuff.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

If You're Sick, Stay Home

Okay, I'm still sick and don't feel like blogging. So again, this is just a short item. Whoever called the common cold "common" didn't know what he was talking about. Why is it that every cold I have seems like the worst cold ever.

I don't know where I caught this or from whom, but I really wish people would stay home when they're sick. That applies at school, also.

So many children go to school sick and spread whatever germs they have. I know that some don't have any symptoms until they get to school, but if they're sick in the morning, they should stay home.

Parents should, however, make sure they are truly sick before letting them miss school. Too often students stay home when they shouldn't and valuable learning time is missed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sick Without Worry

I woke up this morning still coughing and sneezing. My eyes are watering and I feel lousy.

But this is the first time I've been sick since I retired and I discovered something. It is a completely liberating feeling to be able to be sick without having to call in to tell someone. I didn't have to decide whether to go in to work or stay home. I didn't have to call the substitute service. I didn't have to make sure my lesson plans were turned into the office. And I don't have to worry about a pile of paperwork accumulating while I'm home.

I'm able to be sick without any worries. And that's kind of a wonderful feeling. I still feel lousy, but not as lousy.

There's only one thing I miss and that's 150 sympathetic students asking me if I'm okay and telling me that it's all right if I want to go home.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Hate Having a Cold

I'm sick. I'm coughing, sneezing, and headachy. I've already gone through half a box of tissues. I don't know where I caught it, but I look like an ad for cold medicine.

I'm in bed watching White Collar and writing this on my Blackberry. I don't feel like blogging, so I'm not going to write much.

I guess I should be happy. This is the first cold I've had since I retired. I used to get two or three a year when I was teaching. It's one of the hazards of the job.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Speech to the National Governors Association

As I was listening to President Obama's speech today to the National Governors Association, the following caught my attention. President Obama said:

Unfortunately, we continue to lag in several critical areas. Our eighth grade students are ninth in the world in math, and 11th in science. In response to assessments like these, some states have upped their game - I want to point to Massachusetts as an example, where eighth graders now tie for first in science around the world. Some unfortunately - some states have actually done the opposite — and between 2005 and 2007, under No Child Left Behind, 11 states actually lowered their standards in math.

That may make those states look better relative to other states, but it’s not going to help our students keep up with their global competitors. When I visited South Korea last year - and I’ve told this story before - I had lunch with President Lee and I asked him, what’s your biggest education challenge? And he said, my biggest issue, my toughest fight is that Korean parents are too demanding. They want their kids to learn English in first grade, and so I’ve had to ship in a whole bunch of foreign speaking teachers to meet the demand. They want their students learning everything - math, science, foreign languages - all as soon as possible. They want their kids to excel because they understand that whichever country out-educates the other is going to out-compete us in the future. So that’s what we’re up against. That’s what’s at stake — nothing less than our primacy in the world.

As he finished the rest of his speech, I kept thinking about how many times I, and the teachers I worked with, said similar things to our students. Some of the students took what we said to heart and worked hard to learn what they needed to learn.

However, there were some who simply didn't care. They acted as if we were lying to them. And when it came time for testing, they made designs on their answer sheets. Their parents didn't seem all that concerned, either. I would constantly hear comments like, "I was never good at math, either." I feel that until these students and their parents truly understand how important a good education is, it's going to be very difficult for them to ever compete locally, let alone globally.

I hope that the re-designed Elementary and Secondary Education Act will help all students and all parents understand how important education is, not just for the student and his or her future, but for the future of our country.

A fact sheet is available at:

Text of speech:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

8 Quotes by Aristotle on Education

Aristotle lived from 384 BC to 322 BC. A Greek philosopher, he was a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. Below are eight beliefs he held concerning education. It is not surprising that his teachings are still studied 2400 years later.
  1. All men by nature desire knowledge.
  2. Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.
  3. Education is the best provision for old age.
  4. It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
  5. The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.
  6. The one exclusive sign of thorough knowledge is the power of teaching.
  7. The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.
  8. Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Once a Teacher Always a Teacher

A group of people who work with my husband got together this evening to play Wii games.

What fun!

They had four televisions set up and had an amazing collections of games. There was something for everyone.

But what amazed me was that almost everyone who talked to me wanted to discuss schools or teaching or students or education.

Now, I've been retired for a couple of years, but people still think of me as a teacher. I'm beginning to think that is never going to change.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Probability is Important

My husband came home from work today and asked me in which grade students start studying probability. I thought, "Where did that question come from? I didn't even think he knew what probability was."

It seems that the secretary of their department was babysitting her grandchildren last night. She offered to help them with their math homework. The question they needed help with was "What is the probability of rolling snake eyes on a pair of dice?" Her grandchildren are in fourth grade.

She brought the question to work with her today, wanting to know the correct answer. As a group, they came up with 1/36. My husband wanted to know if they had done it right. The secretary wanted to know why students are learning probability in fourth grade.

So, I'll answer those questions. Yes, you worked the problem correctly. There are 36 possible combinations that can be rolled with a pair of dice. Only one of them can be snake eyes. That means that there is one possible combination out of 36, or 1/36. Another way to calculate this is that there is one "1" on the first die out of six numbers. There is also one"1" on the second die out of six numbers. In probability, you multiply these together. 1/6 times 1/6 is 1/36.

As for the secretary's question as to why 4th graders are learning probability, there are several answers.

First, there are several major industries that are big users of probability (and statistics). The first of those is the gambling, sports, and games industry. All gambling, sports, and many other games rely heavily on the use of probabilities to predict winning combinations and numbers of winners. Poker players know the odds of any particular hand winning over any other hand. Probabilities are used to determine how much and how often a slot machine pays out. Stats are calculated on every sport and sports figure. Even the odds of me having to put my left foot on red in a game of Twister is 1 out of 16.

The second major industry using probabilities is the insurance industry. All insurance rates are determined by the probability that a certain person of a certain age doing a certain activity will have an accident or a heart attack or get diabetes or die at a certain age.

The third big user of probability is meteorology and weather forecasting. Every time the weather person says there's an 80% chance of snow, he or she has studied the weather patterns, applied the mathematics and science and formulas, and made the prediction.

A fourth area where probabilities are used, but may not be widely known, is in the area of research. Research is done in almost every field of study from agriculture to business trends to education to psychology to medicine. Even fashion and food follow trends that can be studied. The data is gathered and analyzed and predictions are made using probability and statistics.

A second reason 4th graders study probability is so that they learn the basics they will need as they move on to more advanced courses in high school. The mathematics will get harder, as will the probability, so they need to learn the fundamentals at an early age.

A third reason 4th graders study probability is that it gives them practice with fractions and multiplication of those fractions. Students need to practice these concepts, and studying probabilities gives them another opportunity. Students also get to see how what they're studying can be applied to real-life situations.

And a final reason for all students studying probability and statistics is that it is one of the major standards that must be met in all mathematics educational programs. As far as I know, all state standards for mathematics include a statistics and probability component at every grade level. Students are tested in these different components (numbers and number sense, computation, algebra, geometry, and data) and are expected to be proficient.

No Child Left Behind states that all children must be proficient in mathematics by the year 2014. If schools do not make adequate yearly progress, then staff may be replaced or the school may be closed and turned into a charter school.

So, yes, probability study is very important and the earlier a student starts studying it, the better for everyone.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Six Reasons I Love Curling

When I was in high school, there were no sports activities in which girls could participate. If there had been, I think I would have been great at Curling.

After watching Curling in the Olympics this year (and the last couple of Winter Olympics), I've found that I love it. I've been trying to figure out why, and I've finally come to a few conclusions.

1. It relaxes me. I don't find it boring like I do with golf or bowling or fishing. But I also don't get nervous watching it like I do with Downhill Skiing or the Luge.

2. It is unlike any other sport in the Olympics. Most others require speed, but Curling requires skill and precision.

3. They make it look easy. Other sports like Snowboarding or Figure Skating or Downhill Skiing or Ice Hockey look difficult, like the athletes had to start practicing when they were three years old to get to where they are now. Curling looks like a sport you could start at any age, although I'm sure it's much more difficult than it appears.

4. Curling is not dangerous. The athletes in the other sports must risk life and limb for their chance at Gold. I believe the worst that could happen to a Curler is that he or she might trip over a stone.

5. I love that there is controversy in Curling. Many think it is boring. Many think it's not a sport at all. Imagine, of all the sports, Curling is the most controversial.

6. Curling looks like a sport that even I could do. Some of the Curlers are almost as old as I am. I know there is no way, ever, ever, ever, that I would put on a pair of skis or skates. There is no way I would ever jump into a bobsled or on a skeleton sled (face first, no less). But with Curling, I just need a broom. My goodness, I have one of those in my hands almost every day. I'd say, I've been in training for Curling a good portion of my life.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Be Considerate

I've been playing some games on Facebook. One of them in particular puts out a lot of posts. Other friends I have who also play the game enjoy all the posts. They can click on them and add to their zoo or their farm. They can get gifts and earn game "dollars." It has been great fun.

However, in all the fun, I forgot that many friends don't play these games. The posts clog their newsfeed and it must be quite annoying for them. It's one of those things I didn't even think about until someone complained.

There is a way for them to hide the posts, thank goodness. But I really felt bad. I had been having so much fun that I was oblivious to how inconsiderate I was being.

I finally posted a message as to how they can hide all the farm implements and zoo animals that keep showing up for them. I hope it helps. The last thing I want to do is be annoying.

This is a great lesson for many other areas of our lives as well. We can be having a great time, but we forget how irritating some of the things we do can be to others.

This is especially true of teachers. Often a teacher will plan an activity that turns out to be quite annoying to nearby classrooms. Without thinking, the teacher has planned an interesting, fun lesson for the students that, quite frankly, irritates other teachers beyond belief.

Everything we do has consequences. We always need to be considerate and think about these things before we do them. If something has the potential to bother others, let them know in advance so that they can plan around it. If there is a way to resolve the situation, let them know. If no solution exists, work with them to find one. It's the considerate thing to do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love of Animals

I've been watching the 2010 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and thinking about all the students I had in class who loved animals. Everyone of them wanted to be a veterinarian when they grew up.

Unfortunately, so many of them had poor math skills. That, however, didn't seem to phase them. I guess they assumed that their love of animals would be enough to see them through. No matter how many teachers and counselors told them that they needed to improve their grades and take the tough math and science classes, these students just didn't get it. Of course, when they graduated from high school, they found that their teachers and counselors were right after all. Many were disappointed. A few got it together, did what needed to be done, and actually went on to achieve their dreams.

But for those students whose math and science abilities were not up to par, and who didn't want to do what it takes to improve, there are still many careers where a love a of animals is a requirement.

As I was watching the dog show, I thought about all the people involved in such a pageant. There are breeders, groomers, trainers, judges, presenters, promoters, and many more. It seems to me that any student with a great love of animals should be able to find a career in this field. Not everyone who loves animals needs to be, or should be, a vet. There are hundreds of other career choices. Students just need to do a little research.

Students should also remember that there are millions of animals that end up in shelters each year. Helping these animals can also become a career.

I, however, right now, am still trying to figure out how the Bichon Frise, the Schipperke, the Bulldog, and the Dalmatian can all be in the same group. How can a judge possibly choose? But that's just me needing to learn more.

Monday, February 15, 2010

President's Day

Today we honor the two most famous presidents of the United States.
George Washington, the first president, was born on February 22, 1732.
Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, was born on February 12, 1809.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Best Friends

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. The following video is what love and friendship are all about. I think we could all learn a lesson from this unlikely couple.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend, February 12-15. This is a great activity for families and for classrooms. The four-day event gives a real-time snapshot of where birds are.

And it's simple, fun, and free. Just count the number of birds you see in a time period. How many cardinals are at the bird feeder in a fifteen minute time period? How many mourning doves are in your yard during the day? Are there any owls or woodpeckers or finches?

The following is copied from the official website for the event (

1. Plan to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count. You can count for longer than that if you wish! Count birds in as many places and on as many days as you like—one day, two days, or all four days. Submit a separate checklist for each new day. You can also submit more than one checklist per day if you count in other locations on that day.

2. Count the greatest number of individuals of each species that you see together at any one time. You may find it helpful to print out your regional bird checklist to get an idea of the kinds of birds you're likely to see in your area in February. You could take note of the highest number of each species you see on this checklist.

3. When you're finished, enter your results through our web page. You'll see a button marked "Enter Your Checklists!" on the website home page beginning on the first day of the count. It will remain active until the deadline for data submission on March 1st.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Best Lesson I Ever Learned

It happened early in my teaching career. A student came into class and accidentally knocked another student's books onto the floor. Instead of doing the right thing and picking the books up, he just kept walking to his desk like nothing had happened. The other student was upset. He could have picked up his own books, but didn't feel like he should have to, since it was the first student's fault. Needless to say, he asked the first student to pick them up. Again, the first student could have done that, but instead, decided to say that he wasn't going to. Before it was over, the incident escalated into a verbal fight and almost became a physical fight.

During the incident, I did my best to keep it from turning into a big fight, but I was inexperienced and just kept telling them to stop. I tried to reason with both of them, but there was no listening to reason. I thought the student who knocked the books off should pick them up and asked him to, several times. As it turned out, I ended up sending both students to the office where they were both punished with an in-school suspension and detention.

Later, the assistant principal came to talk to me about the incident. She wanted the details so that she could explain to the students' parents why their children were in detention. I went through the entire incident. When I was done, she just looked at me and said "Why didn't you just pick up the books?"

I was floored. Suddenly the fight between the students had become my fault. I was upset that she was blaming me and it evidentally showed on my face. She explained that the students would get their punishments and that they should have controlled their behavior in the classroom. But she also explained that if I had just picked up the books at the first sign of trouble, there would have been no problem. There would have been no verbal fight. There would have been no students sent to the office. There would have been no incident reports to write. There would have been no punishments. Class could have continued and learning could have taken place.

I'll tell you, I didn't like it. And even though I hated to admit it, she was right. It would have been such a simple thing for me to do that. That's all I had to do. Just pick up the books and avoid the whole situation.

The next time a similar incident happened, I took the assistant principal's advice. The whole episode was over in a matter of seconds. Both students apologized to me and said that I shouldn't have had to pick up the books. No one got in any trouble. Class started. Students learned.

And I learned that I didn't always have to punish students for misbehavior. I learned that I could correct their misbehavior in much simpler ways. It was a lesson that stayed with me for the next thirty years. It was probably a more valuable lesson than all those I had learned in college. And it was so simple.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Dog Ate My Homework

My neck hurts. It's hurt for about two weeks and now hurts down my right arm and into my hand. When I type, my neck hurts. When I click the mouse on the computer, my neck hurts. Now, I could use this as an excuse for not blogging, but I refuse. As a teacher I have heard so many excuses over the years, I refuse to use them myself. Some of them, however, are pretty good. Here are the ten that I heard most often.

1. My sister got sick and we were in the emergency room all night.
2. I was at my dad's over the weekend and I left all my books and papers there.
3. My homework is in my friend's locker and he's home sick today.
4. My tutor can't help me until next week.
5. I had a game last night and I left my books on the bus.
6. I asked another teacher for help and she confused me.
7. Our power went out last night and I couldn't see to do my work.
8. My mom cleaned my room and threw out a bunch of papers I needed.
9. I spilled coffee all over my homework and didn't have time to recopy it.
10. I got called into work and didn't have time to do my homework.

Amazingly, not one student, ever, used the excuse that his dog had eaten his homework. I, on the other hand, had a cat that like to chew the edges of paper. He would put bite marks all along all four edges of a piece of paper. They were messy perforations and occasionally, he would get hold of a student's paper, one that I was checking. Yes, there were several occasions when I handed back a paper to a student and had to say, "I'm sorry, but my cat chewed your paper." And that was the truth, not an excuse.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dieting is Hard

Today Michelle Obama gave a speech about childhood obesity. In fact, everyday, someone is lecturing about America's problems with weight. There are thousands of diet books, millions of magazine articles, and dozens of television spots all dedicated to helping people get fit and trim. And they all make it sound so easy. But the truth is, it's one of the hardest things a person can accomplish.

A tobacco user can stop smoking or chewing. An alcoholic can stop drinking. A drug addict can stop using. A gambler can quit gambling. But an overeater can't stop eating. S/he must learn to deal with food in some other way.

And it's not like we don't know what to do. The rules are simple. Eat fewer calories. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Eat whole grains. Eat less red meat and replace it with more legumes and healthy fish. Eat much less sugar, salt, and saturated fat. Eat more fiber. Exercise more.

And yet, we keep getting fatter and fatter, myself included.

So what's the problem? One part of the problem is time. After working all day, who wants to have to spend time fixing a meal when fast food is so convenient, cheap, and easy to clean up?

A second part of the problem is motivation. Most of us can be motivated to eat healthy for a while. But lifetime motivation is a whole other story.

A third part of the problem is cost. The foods we're supposed to be eating are the most expensive. It's not right that a huge, greasy hamburger from a fast food joint should taste so good and cost so little. Preparing a meal at home of salmon, steamed broccoli, brown rice, and apple slices will take much more time to prepare and will cost much, much more. And if you're like me, there will be a huge mess in the kitchen to clean up.

I know that obesity is dangerous. The list of medical conditions attributed to overeating gets bigger everyday. There's diabetes, cancers, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and more. And these are showing up in young children. Just yesterday, I heard that when autopsies of toddlers who've died in accidents are performed, there's already the start of plaque build-up in their arteries.

There's also the social stigma that every overweight person deals with. People watch what you put in your grocery cart. They watch what you eat in restaurants. They'll whisper and laugh behind your back, or worse, right in front of you. This is an unimaginable burden for school-age children whose peers can be so rude.

When I was in high school, the "fat" girl in class weighed about 180 pounds. Today, she's likely to weigh 300 or more. I remember how embarrassing it was for one of my students who could not fit into a desk and had to sit at a table instead. There's just not anything that can be said to make that situation better.

So what can be done? Well, like I said, there are already a countless numbers of resources out there and we already know what we need to do. It really comes down to how much a person is willing to take before he or she is willing to change. How many medical conditions can be suffered through? How much ridicule can be stomached? How long is a person willing to sit on the sidelines while his or her friends play the game?

When overweight people have had enough, they'll make the change. Unfortunately, by that time it may be too late. The best thing is to never let obesity start.

And all of this is so much easier said than done. Dieting is just hard.

Monday, February 8, 2010

On Track For Graduation

I went to the hairdressers today for color and a cut. The person working on my hair (and with my hair, it is work) has a daughter who is a senior in high school this year. A few weeks ago, the girl, and then her mother, discovered that she was behind in credits and will not have enough to graduate.

What a shock! Fortunately, in the school where she attends, online courses are offered for students who need to make up credits. There is also a community college that offers correspondence courses. Well, the daughter signed up for several online courses in order to get those credits.

Last week, the mother discovered that her daughter wasn't keeping up with the online courses. Needless to say, mother was more than a little upset and from what I could tell today, I do believe the daughter will be getting those courses finished and will be earning those credits (whether she wants to or not).

My advice today is for all students to make an appointment with their counselors and check on credits. Make sure you are on track to graduate on time. If not, find out what you can do to get on track. Don't get yourselves in a situation where you have to make up credits three months before graduation. It's not a fun place to be.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Today I was thinking about a method of adding and subtraction using your fingers. I saw a classroom of children do this on television years ago. They were so fast, much faster than the adults sitting there with calculators. The method is called Chisenbop. The following videos explain it well, but don't really show the speed that one can attain.

The first video is of a teacher explaining Chisenbop. The second video is of a five-year-old boy using it to add. It really is pretty amazing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It Has To Be Done

I can't believe it.  I forgot to write today.  I got busy doing other things and it completely slipped my mind.  

This used to be one of my greatest fears when I was in school.  I was always afraid that I wouldn't have my homework done or that I'd forget the due date of a major project, lab, or paper.   I can remember being up all night making sure that work was completed and turned in on time.

I think that's one of the things that amazed me most when I started teaching.  There are students who don't care if  assignments are turned in at all, let alone turned in on time.  After all the years I taught, I never did understand that attitude.  I still don't.

That's why I'm writing this at midnight.  I can't help it.  It's got to be done.  And it's got to be done on time, even if it's at the very, very last minute...which this is.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hunger and Fullness

Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, was on the Oprah show today. During the interview, he made a statement that really made me think. I may not have this quoted exactly, but he said "If you've never been hungry, you can never be full."

It made me think of so many of the students I taught, as well as a couple of my relatives. These were children who were given everything they ever wanted without having any responsibilities. They had all the best toys and the latest fashions. They went to every movie and concert. They were always over-indulged. They were never "hungry" for anything.

Now, as adults, they're never full. They're not full of an education or a desire for knowledge. They're not full of a job or any kind of motivation to get one. They're not full of any kind of gratitude, always thinking the world and their parents owe them. They're not full of any kind of accountability, always blaming others for their misfortunes. They are depressed, miserable adult children who have never learned to be adults.

I believe a little "hunger" earlier in their lives would have been a good thing. Perhaps it would have created a desire in them for fullness, instead of the emptiness they currently have in their lives. I'd like to think that something in their lives will eventually spark that desire and give them the fullness in life that every person should have. I still have hope for them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Feel Smarter with Google

A teacher friend of mine (we are both retired now) was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. She could remember almost everything and her brain contained an amazing amount of information and trivia.

I used to marvel at her ability to discuss almost any subject that came up in the classroom, the teacher's lounge, or in faculty meetings. From mathematics to social studies to cooking and cleaning, she seemed to know it all. I longed for a brain like hers.

My brain, on the other hand, remembered much less than hers. My advantage was that I always remembered where I had learned something, whether it was an encyclopedia, the Internet, a particular magazine or book, or even a television program. I might not remember the actual piece of information or trivia, but I always remembered where I could look it up.

But now, with the Internet and search engines, I almost feel like I'm on equal footing with those super-intelligent people. I don't even have to remember (although I still do) where to look something up anymore. I just have to search. I am constantly amazed at the amount of information available to me by just typing a few words on my keyboard.

However, even with all the information available to me at my fingertips, I still won't play Trivial Pursuit with her ... unless I have access to Google. Something, however, tells me that that's probably against the rules.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Facebook Impressions

I have quite a few teacher friends on Facebook. The other day I was looking through some of their profiles and photos. Most of them have pictures of their children or vacation sites, but there were a couple whose photos showed them at parties.

Now, I know these teachers and I know that they do not party all the time. They are hard-working, concerned educators who would do anything to see their students succeed. And yet their photos would give the impression that all their free time is spent consuming beer and posing for silly photos. There was one set of photos where the teacher had a beer in her hand in almost every picture.

I'm a firm believer that a teacher should be able to live his or her private life in whatever manner they choose, but posting photos on Facebook suddenly makes a person's private life very public. And if the teacher has chosen to "friend" any of his or her students, those students are going to have a very different impression of their teacher.

I know how students talk about their teachers. They're always trying to find out about their teachers' private lives and share the information with their classmates, friends, parents, and family. One student I had in class about 5 years ago worked at the local grocery store. On one occasion, I had purchased a box of Garlic Mashed Potatoes. She waited on me and evidently thought Garlic Mashed Potatoes was an odd choice for a teacher because she announced to the entire class the next day. Even today, when I see her at the store, she'll check my cart to see if there are any Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

If she was this concerned about one box of instant potatoes that a teacher had in her grocery cart, imagine what the student say about a teacher whose every photo shows him or her drinking. I personally think it should be the teacher's private affair, but once it's on Facebook, it's public. Teachers across the nation have been fired or asked to resign because of incidents like this.

All teachers should please rethink the items they post on Facebook. They should also reconsider "friending" students. It's a dangerous combination that could cost a teacher his or her job.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day

The Groundhogs are in conflict. If a groundhog sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, then there will be an early spring.
  • Punxsutawney Phil (Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania) ~ saw his shadow
  • Chattanooga Chuck (Chattanooga, Tennessee) ~ saw his shadow
  • Staten Island Chuck (New York) ~ did not see his shadow
  • Shubenacadie Sam (Nova Scotia) ~ saw his shadow
  • Wiarton Willie (Ontario) ~ saw his shadow
  • Jimmy the Groundhog (Sun Prairie, Wisconsin) ~ did not see his shadow
  • General Beauregard Lee (Atlanta, Georgia) ~ did not see his shadow
  • Dunkirk Dave (Dunkirk, New York) ~ did not see his shadow
  • Malverne Mel and Malverne Melissa (Malverne, New York) ~ saw his shadow
  • Brandon Bob (Brandon, Manitoba) ~ saw his shadow
  • Balzac Billy (Balzac, Alberta) ~ did not see his shadow
  • Gary the Groundhog (Kleinburg, Ontario) ~ did not see his shadow
  • Spanish Joe (Spanish, Ontario) ~ saw his shadow
  • Sir Walter Wally (Raleigh, North Carolina) ~ announced at noon
  • Octoraro Orphie (Quarryville, Pennsylvania) ~ stuffed animal, does that count?
  • Holtsville Hal (Holtsville, New York) ~ saw his shadow
  • Buckeye Chuck (Marion, Ohio) ~ did not see his shadow
  • Manitoba Merv (Winnepeg, Manitoba ) ~ did not see his shadow
I think what all this means is that we will have an early spring ..... in about 6 weeks.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just Keep Smiling

Today, for a short period of time, the sun was out. The temperature was almost 40 degrees. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood.

I was grocery shopping and everyone was smiling. It was kind of weird because everyone has been pretty grumpy lately. Today even grocery shopping was enjoyable.

And tonight we just got another inch of snow.

What can I say?

Keep smiling! Winter is half over!