Monday, October 26, 2009

Budget cuts...

Today was the day the budget woes became official. The superintendent and the business manager presented what our district will be doing to try to deal with $570,000 less for the rest of this year.

Schools are in a hard place..what do you do when 80% of your budget is already spoken for by contracts and yet you have to cut this much money. But, as scary as that is - you know that next year will be even worse. Then the contracts will be on the table.

So - we need to be creative and positive and trusting. It's hard to be all those things when the future looks precarious. But, if we begin to loose even one of those descriptors - things can spiral downhill very quickly.

As a new person in a different position - it's really hard to know what to think or what to do.

So - I wait and hope and wait...

maybe I'll read a bit while I wait...that can only help right???

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reading as a job

This weekend I read. It was wonderful and it was work and it kept me from interacting with my family and it kept me from getting my homework done and it was wonderful!

I was totally immersed in the world of Gregor and the Underland.

This is a series of 5 books by Suzanne Collins. She is some kind of writer! I absolutely LOVED and HATED Hunger Games and Catching Fire! They were wonderful and awful and I couldn't put them down. They are also a more high school theme.

These books are also WONDERFUL and AWFUL! and I loved them and couldn't put them down. They are more focused on a Middle School audience.

I just want to say how amazed I am at Collins. She creates a world so detailed and interesting and repulsive and alluring all at the same time. Each of these stories made me so happy to live in the time and place that I do. But, each of these two very different settings haunted my thoughts and my imaginings for a long time.

Collins has a knack for creating characters that you really relate to. In Gregor some of those characters are giant cockroaches, rats and bats. Yes, you read correctly - giant bats. and they are the good guys!! Each of these characters are human sized and larger and they can all talk.

So how in the world do you bring life to a clicking cockroach? You have it become totally and completely mesmerized by a sweet two year old girl and then have the little girl be as taken by the cockroaches. Weird and wonderful...

Gregor is an eleven year old boy who is drawn in to the prophecies of the Underland as their new warrior. He is called on to be so much more than his 11 years should need to - but he understands the responsibilities and really tries to live up to the Underlanders expectations. Yet, under all he is just a boy. He reminded me so much of Katniss in Hunger Games. Both were asked to carry devastating responsibilities for others and yet their true nature was not subverted!

The world of the Underland is constantly at war. Yet, there is a governing code of honor between species. When the line is crossed late in the 5th book it is devastating and brutal. Contrast that to the world of the Hunger Games where the very idea of children fighting to the death is not really a code of honor - but rather brutal survival and anything goes.

Even though they may sound a bit gruesome, I would recommend both of these series with no reservations. They are amazing.

When I finished reading the 5th Gregor book today, I felt a bit hollow. Although the series ends with this book, the story does not. All the ends are not tied up. The imminent danger is passed, but life is not all neat and tidy.

I think that is my favorite part of all of Collins books. Life is not all neat and tidy, but the characters don't expect that. Rather they are immersed in ebb and flow of life - and the never ending cycle of war and peace and war and peace.

Maybe that is the real theme of all of these Collins books regardless of the series. Ending the cycle into which you have been born. Opening your eyes and helping those around open theirs as well. Seeing what the possibilities are - hard as they might be. But, really imagining a future that is different from where you are. It's hard work to create and sustain that future! That's the part that I like!

So - Suzanne Collins... You rock!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Who are blogs for? I've been thinking about that a lot lately. After our ITEC time and all the talk of PLNs I was all fired up. I've been reading more blogs, adding ideas to this blog...


I'm talking to myself. Does that negate my PLN? So - if I am using this blog to rumintate on what I'm reading that's still ok, isn't it.

It has made me understand how important it is to provide an actual audience for students as soon as they enter the world of the blogs. If you want to be read and heard..we as teachers need to make completely sure they will be!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

David Warlick and ITEC day 2

Again the future was a big part of the keynote on day 2.
David Warlick's take was a little different...

His beginning premise was...
for the first time in history - we are preparing our student for a completely unknown future.
What do our children need to be ready for this future?

>Make sure they can teach themselves
- stop integrating technology for the sake of integration and make it a new
-this is what our students will need
>Teach students to be digital detectives.
-teach them to ask questions of print - not blindly accept as we were taught to
-teach students to find out who is publishing the website, is it legitimate,
is it current

Warlick's Contemporary Literacy

>Exposing what's true
>Employing the information
>Expressing ideas compellingly
>Ethical use of the information

He also said that schools who have dropped the arts are no more than factories!!!
That got a big cheer!!

I then attended three workshops that he led...
1. PLN - professional learning networks
2. RSS - Really simple syndication
3. Second Life

He was an excellent speaker - pleasant southern drawl and incredibly thought provoking ideas!

Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink and David Warlick both shared an understanding about our students futures that sort of haunts me.

Pink quoted an administrator who said..." We need to prepare kids for their future not our past."

His ideas focused on the current school system as very left brained...linear, sequential, a list of facts or processes. This prepared students for jobs that were the same way.

Today - those jobs are not on the continent. Instead our students face a future that is constantly changing - filled with tools that are constantly changing

is 21st century skills were...
>Design - thinking about the way things are put together - ideas and items
>Story - beyond the facts - the delivery counts
>Symphony - seeing the big picture
>Empathy - seeing another's view
>Play - obvious!
>Meaning - purpose

Finally, he applied this to education this way..

1. Explore new metrics - we need a different way to test
2. Get real about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) employers want more than students who know the content
3. Rethink motivation - study results say that rewards stifle creativity!!
4. Promote and defend autonomy - need self direction
5. Infuse arts education throughout the curriculum - change it from ornamental to fundamental

ITEC ponderings...

I must start out by saying I dreamed about ITEC last night...very scary. I was sitting in a perpetual audience listening to David Warlick and imagining my future. When I woke up this morning it all made sense to mid-morning I have absolutely no idea what ah ha moments I understood.

But, does that show you what an effect this conference had on me?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tomorrow's presentation

Tomorrow I will attend ITEC and I will co present a workshop in the afternoon. Phyllis, my mentor, friend and elementary librarian, and I will lead a workshop on Elementary Tech Clubs. We have been leading a Tech Club at our elementary school for the past two years and are going to share our experience.

This is the third presentation we've done together...the past two were about podcasting and I was incredibly nervous...

This time - I am not. I'm not sure why that is...I think it's becasue I feel much more connected to my content and we aren't dependant on technology for things to go well.

I made an animoto video showing an overview of club meetings and a short iMovie of 6th grade testimonials. THey both turned out really well. Animoto is so cool! It makes everything look so sophisticated and important when it's actually a dump and mix program. I love that kind of thing!!!

Anyway, we shall see how everything works out...