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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Teaching is Busy Business



Timken Roller Bearing Co., calendar, September...Image by George Eastman House via FlickrCrazy days. Peek into the window of my classroom a moment. It is easy to think that other teachers are super organized or super-something -- when really teaching is really busy business.

When Answers Aren't Discrete
Today, we started the stock market game in my ninth grade class. We've spent the last two days learning about stocks as part of a spreadsheet model we're doing. In addition to buying and selling stocks, we've set up spreadsheets pulling live data from the web as they track and write reports on their stocks.

"I want you to know more than how to do formulas in spreadsheets but to be analysts," I said today.

I had several upset students between the two classes:

"But Mrs. Vicki, you have to tell us how to make money in the stock market and what to buy," they exclaimed!

"No, I don't. In fact, if I knew that I'd probably be at home trading on the stock market." 

And thus, launched a whole conversation about the realities of life and the fact that often there aren't "answers" but rather "journeys" of learning and also people who are good at things and those who have other talents.

"But how can I make money in the stock market if you don't tell me how to do it," said another.

"Buy low and sell high," I said with a lopsided grin.

Then, we discussed a conversation about understanding trends.  Ah, ha - I think they understand now why I talk about wanting them to understand change and how to predict it.

Getting the Message Across
We're finishing up our films for the Flat Classroom project in tenth grade.  One of the parents on the bus to the state game said their child was checking the Flat Classroom ning while traveling on the team bus to the state football game to see if his outsourced clip had been delivered to him.

In fact, the other night, his dad had knocked on his door with his son stomping to the door and saying:

"Awww dad, you ruined my voiceover! I'm going to have to start putting a sign on my door when I'm working on my film!"

Kids are running around the room talking about "ripping film" "kroma key" "voice overs" and rendering and every so often you'll hear

"Quiet on the set" 

as someone films or records for a brief moment. We've had some wiki problems lately and so we're working on making sure all of the holders for the video are ready to receive them.

Overall, these films are looking like a nice batch from a very imaginative group of students. It always amazes me how each year they seem to need me a little bit less, however, I still play the role of pushing them to make it better and improve things (especially their sound which kids often seem to ignore.)

Others complained because a student from another school used copyrighted music on their video and I don't let mine - so a quick message and reminder to the other teachers that according to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that often we can receive takedown notices and have to comply. We want our kids' videos to stay put!

eFolios and Porfolios
My eighth grade keyboarding class is finishing up their porfolio due next week and today I had kids filming their keyboarding "instruction" video (I start the new semester showing last semester's instructions for how to type) while others were polishing up their photo essay, writing blog posts, tweaking MLA papers and printing out their Toondoo explaining the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.

Additionally, I leave the Ning chat up for this class as they use the backchannel very well to help one another and ask me questions. I've found it to be useful when we are in the final days of projects such as this when information needs to flow rapidly and we become a sort of search engine for "how to" information for one another.

Simulations
Accounting is another story. I teach debits and credits by hand because I think that is the best way to truly cement the learning of HOW accounting works into their minds. I'm prepping them for a simulation that takes about 5 days. They will journal, record, and produce financial statements for a business for 30 days worth of transactions. It is open notes and open book but closed teacher and closed "friend" but I've found that those who've resisted my accounting wiles end up learning accounting anyway by the time they are done.

Other things
Today I had to clean up all of the lighting equipment and have to remember tomorrow to go take down the fabric we were using as our chroma key (green screen) on the side of the stage.

At 11:00 am - a whole 2 hours early-- 500 poinsettias were delivered for my National Honor Society to deliver all over town and with the threat of rain and a tornado watch, I had to cut my accounting test in half so I could get my students out there to help us with the poinsettias.

At the same time, the huge box of stationary that was sold by our students going to China was delivered! Throw on top of it our assembly for winning STATE (13-0 - WAY TO GO) in football this year and the city showing up unannounced to install a super new higher speed modem! Whew!

I just got off elluminate with my dear friend Julie Lindsay as we continue to work on our book deadlines for the Flat Classroom project, plan the conference in February, and work on meeting the needs of teachers for Digiteen and look ahead at the Net Gen project in the spring.

Oh, and Weight Watchers rolled out a whole new program yesterday so I'm having to swap over - upgrade my iTouch app and learn how to track the new Points Plus program (which I think I'll love but still it takes time.)

These are the days
Yet, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm busy. So busy. Working very hard. Doing what I love. Being with people I love.

Tomorrow I'll jump on a plane after school to zip to Louisiana to spend time with my friends at LACUE and then be back by 10:30 pm Thursday night.  Next week I'll do the same heading to Memphis, Tennessee for the Mid-South Technology conference.

Really, as I look at the craziness of these days these are really blessed days.  You know, what could be worse than being bored? Yes, I'm tired and ready for Christmas break. I've got presents to wrap and food to cook, and yet, somehow in the midst of this craziness this is fun.

Keeping the Main Thing Front and Center
The only thing is that I want to make sure I spend time on what is the most important: relationships.


Thank you for the opportunity to share with you the craziness of these days. Also, for those who think teaching is just sitting in a chair all day and grading papers - think again.

It was funny to see how many teachers dm'ed me today on Twitter when I shared some of the nuttiness about how busy and crazy it is to teach. I'm sure that each one of you could share a super-crazy day just like this. 

Teaching is busy business.

And yet, never forget and I will probably tell you a thousand more times:

Teaching, my friends, is the most noble calling on earth (next to parenting.)  Never forget it. Retain your nobility. Nobility begins and ends with how you act - how you treat others - how you remain professional.

You are noble. Remember it. Be it. Do it. And never forget when you so so hugely busy that sometimes eye contact and a kind word from you can mean more to your students than anything else you could do!


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