Archive for September, 2010

Always prepared! My Dropbox love.

Today I have a tool I just must share with you. If you are a teacher, student or person who ever works on more than one computer, ie: work computer and home computer, then Dropbox might be your new best friend. I have tried many means of syncing my files across my home computer, school desk top and school laptop. I tried using a “Briefcase” on my flashdrive, which works OK, as long as you remember to sync it everyday and remember to put it back in your purse, backpack, pocket, keychain, etc… that’s a lot of remembering for this absent minded teacher! The last few years I used “Windows Live Sync” but my computer on the other end had to be online for me to access the files, and it was recently blocked at school. Eh. Enter….DROPBOX.

This handy little tool is simple to use and has not failed me yet. All you do is go to Dropbox.com and set up a FREE account. You get 2 gigs free, FREE! I have only used 18% of my 2 gigs, so it’s plenty for storing the files I need to access at home and school. Anyway, when you download dropbox you get a little folder in your “My Documents” or wherever you want to put it. All you do is start saving to that folder and it will automatically update the files online. You can also download the Dropbox folder on any computer and it will automatically update the files on that computer. I have created a file for my Master’s class and my “School Files 2010-11” folder where I’m saving all my school documents. So while I’ve been sitting here at Starbucks this morning, I’ve accessed files for my Master’s project and lesson plans. It makes me instantly prepared. Love it.

If you are working on a random computer that doesn’t have Dropbox downloaded, you can always access your files online at dropbox.com. Working in the computer lab or library? No problem.

Want to know more about Dropbox? check out this quick video explaining everything much better than I can!  I love that they describe Dropbox as the “Magic Pocket”…so true.

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Basals are bad. Are basals bad? Bad basals are.

I’ve been feeling creatively dry lately! Being creative and coming up with new and interesting ways to teach used to be one of my favorite things about teaching. But lately I haven’t been able to do it. I’ve felt “blah” as I plan and work on my curriculum. And now I’ve put my finger on it.

Yesterday after school, I had one of my traditional Friday afternoon conversation with my co-teacher, Kirsten, (she is my lifeline and will be going on maternity leave in *gulp* three weeks!), I realized that a lot of my creative teaching frustration has stemmed from our new reading curriculum.  We just adopted a new reading curriculum with all the bells and whistles. There are mountains of new  materials (leveled readers, ESL resources, vocabulary cards, posters…) the materials have filled two book shelves! As you know, I had decided to go forward with Reading and Writing workshop, but as a team we realized that we might not be ready to make both leaps at the same time. So we are all working together to implement Writer’s Workshop, but we had decided to go ahead and try out the new reading curriculum.

Yesterday, I confessed to Kirsten, I just couldn’t do it. I was taught in college that Basals are Bad, and everything that I read and research about reading instruction tell me the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are good things in every reading curriculum, but they do not teach inspire kids to love reading. I love classic literature, but it did not come from my  Classic Literature text book I had to read in 9th grade. It came from late nights curled up under the covers consuming Jane Austen. There are many great stories in our crisp, new 4th grade anthology, but I know that reading a story each week and discussing “cause and effect”, “problem and solution” and “story elements” will not a hungry reader make!

Kirsten was very understanding, and while she is going to stick to the basal for the sake of her maternity sub (she’s right with me as far as inspiring kids to love reading), I am going to forge ahead on my own. I don’t think I’m going to run full steam ahead into Readers Workshop. I was a little idealistic to think I could jump back into teaching with an entire new teaching philosophy and not fall flat on my face, but I will use my beloved novels, independent reading time, and reading conferences, a sort of blend of literacy instruction styles. We’ll see how it goes! I have my work cut out for me this weekend to come up with a completely new realistic plan. Hmmm, I think I feel some creativity seeping back into this nerdy teacher’s veins.

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Race to nowhere. What do you think?

One thing I really struggle with as a teacher is the amount of Standardized Test prep we have to do to get the kids ready for our state testing. It kills me to see kids who are stressed out about a test…and they are 9 or 10 years old. I’ll never forget my first year teaching  when I asked my reading class “Why do people read?”, and the first answer I got was, “To pass the TAKS test.” Is there something wrong with this picture?

This is a video that was posted on CoolCatteacher blog last week. This documentary is sure to bring up some sensitive questions– and sure it’s sensationalized and the filmmakers have an agenda, but I’m definitely going to see it when it comes out; and I hope it stimulates some good conversation.

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Labor Day= Teacher Recovery Day.

Confession: I have started 5 or 6 posts…and simply could not finish them! I have been having a mental block when it comes to actually reflecting on my teaching, one that I am going to get over NOW! Here is a brief run down of the last two weeks.

  • I have a relatively small class this year, I started with 18 students. The unfortunate thing about having a small class is that I will get all the new kids, and in a fairly transient community like the one I teach in, I know that I’ll have quite a few new ones.
  • **New Teachers: I highly recommend making a few  “new student packets” the first week of school. Any letters, information sheets, folders, supplies, etc…that you hand out the first few days, make a few extras and put them all in a folder or bag, ready for any new students that might come! Since my class started so small, I’ve made 5 “new student” packets. Bring on the new kids!
  • I already got a new student, another girl. This year I have 13 girls and 6 boys. This is totally opposite of what I usually have! Having so many girls has made fora very chatty, dramatic, class. I have struggled to adjust my teaching to accommodate so many girls.
  • The first week FLEW by. I started Writer’s Workshop and the kids loved it. Their excitement about writing was contagious! I’ve kind of gotten to the point now where I’m going “what next” and I’m feeling overwhelmed about how to continue. I think it’s going to be really good, it’s just a big adjustment.
  • I have had a much more difficult transition back to the classroom than I anticipated. I think I mentioned before that the first day is not like reading a bike…going back to the classroom in general is not like riding a bike. All the little details and decisions that fill a classroom teacher’s day were overwhelming. I have felt like a first year teacher all over again!
  • Confession: Last Wednesday was the worst, I quit in my head several times, convinced myself I was a terrible teacher, was certain I had made a huge mistake, and had a good long cry. (Too much confessing?) But, after crying it out, and praying for perspective and truth, Thursday and Friday were great.
  • Labor Day weekend was a Godsend. I love having a day off so soon after school starts, I was able to relax and only think about school a little bit 🙂 I also whipped up a Triple Chocolate Cheesecake from scratch…like

So, here we go again for week three!

ps. I have pictures from the first week, but I keep forgetting to upload them to Picasa! Coming soon.

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