Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Using Video Essay - Resources!!!

I realized I hadn't posted any resources in a while so have some free resources for using videos in the classroom including some advice on teaching students on how to use the video editing software.

If you want to see what else I have resources for, visit here.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

An Ode to Wikipedia

It is National Poetry Month and I'm an English teacher. I feel like I should participate and write a poem.

Now, I am not a very good poet. I know the techniques, styles, and how to read them but when it comes to writing, I'm not the best. However, I should practice what I preach to my students and be willing to take a creative risk.

After much thought, I have decided to write an ode to Wikipedia.

For those of you who may not know, an ode is a poem where the author talks about one specific thing they find amazing and praise worthy. There is no hidden meaning in this poem unlike "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats. I just really like Wikipedia and my ode will tell you why.

"Ode to Wikipedia" by Dailyish Teacher

You are misjudged and feared by many
Schools see you as a shortcut
Making classroom information as worthless as a penny

"Why should I learn this?"
Students cry out
"I can just look up the answer on Wikipedia!"
As the teacher sits at her desk and pouts

"Curse you Wikipedia!"
Many frustrated teachers yell
"I already have to deal with Facebook and Twitter
And kids constantly on their cells!"

But I know you better than that Wikipedia
Where others see a shortcut
And the easy way out
I see a way to get out of a rut

"In a world of instant answers
How do I teach a student
That not doing research and trusting everything written
Is an act most imprudent?"

I searched and I searched
All of the lessons were tired
They were out of date and not relatable
It was time for them to just retire

Then it hit me
Like when the name of that guy that escapes you
When you're watching a movie
And you remember his name five hours later out of the blue

I shouted with glee
"You're perfect for this job!"
So I sat down to plan excited as can be

First I needed to put myself in my student’s shoes
And think about why they used Wikipedia
The answer was quite simple:
Wikipedia is easier to use than any encyclopedia

Why waste time looking up information in an old book
Or typing things into a Google search
Only to sort through thousands of results when the information
Was all at one site thus simplifying research

“But anyone can edit!”
The logical side of my brain screams out
“How do I make the kids see
That you can’t trust the information without some doubt?”

Turns out Stephen Colbert already did the work for me
In his quest for “truthiness” he created “Wikiality”
Where he encouraged enough people to agree with his “facts”
In order to “bring democracy to knowledge” and increase his reality

He used satire to show the flaws
Of a system that allows edits
From anyone no matter their knowledge
Without having the proper credits

By showing the clip
I can allow my students to see
The dangers of Wikipedia
Since an edit can be made without a degree

Oh but Wikipedia
I know you are not all bad
Because there is so much good
That those that think otherwise make me sad

Although anyone can edit
The entries are policed
By those committed to making sure
That misinformation does not become an untamable beast

When edits are made
They need to ensure they have the proper citation
To include in the reference section
So that they ensure a well-information nation

If the source is deemed unreliable
The information is deleted
And the editors can discuss why in the “Talk” page
Which can sometimes can get rather heated

Many want to include opinions
But Wikipedia will not allow such things
Since the information is supposed to be factual
And not have made up information sit on top like kings

Although that is all fine and dandy
Many things go unnoticed
And opinions sneak through to confuse the reader
But that is where the lesson of research comes into focus

“You can use Wikipedia”
I tell my shell shocked students
“Just always go down to the reference section
To make sure the source is good and not a nuisance”

I sing your praises Wikipedia
Because now that my students can use you
They no longer try to hide things and now will actually
Do the research to ensure the information is not untrue

Although you are a shortcut
You are a good one
My students are now willing to do research
When before they were willing to do none

Since you require a reference page
I am not afraid to send students to you
As long as they know to check those citations
To make sure they are not taboo

So thank you Wikipedia
I owe you more than you can ever know
My students are learning good research skills and their ability
To know what is reliable and what is not continues to grow

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I'm Not Superwoman and 3 Other Things I Learned This Week

So I may or may not have had a slight break down last week.

It was one of those weeks where I was not only emotionally compromised due to the anniversary of the death of a coworker and friend, but my grades were due and a bunch of stuff for grad school was due as well.

The only shining beacon is that spring break started last Friday.

::cue sounds of angels singing::

I am the type of person that decompresses by being alone. Unfortunately, Saturday and Sunday were spent with family and friends from out of town so it was not until Monday that I actually got to decompress.

In the past two days I have drank some wine, slept A LOT, drank a little more wine, read for pleasure, drank just one more glass of wine, and finally was able to gain perspective on the entire ordeal.

In total, I learned five things. I'm going to put them in a list because I love lists.*

What Daily(ish) Teacher Has Learned Since Last Thursday

1. I am not superwoman.....

I wish I could stay on top of my grading AND my grad work while I am coaching softball (with no assistant coach ::cue crazy smile::) all while still having a social life. Needless to say something had to give and sadly, the thing that gave was my sanity.

I can't do it all.

I can't do it all.

I can't do it all.

I say it over and over again because I can actually say it now. Growing up, my mother and I would get into the biggest fights ever because I would refuse to ask for help because I didn't want to seem broken or weak.** I have slowly gotten better over the years but it took until this moment to fully realize that I really can't do everything.

By far, one of toughest things to learn is your own failings.

2. ....but I am superwoman to my students

I have talked before about how my students value me beyond what I'm teaching them in the classroom and although that is nice, it isn't what made me think of that this time.

On Thursday, we had a half day and I happened to have all of my sophomore classes that day. The day before, their research project that they have all been stressing over was due.

I could have given them some bonus assignment on Shakespeare (our next unit) or actually tried to teach. Instead, I gave them coloring pages.

Yes, I gave a bunch of 15 and 16 year old students coloring pages.

They were beyond excited.

As they walked out, a lot of them said to me "Thank you. I really needed this" with a look of gratefulness on their face.

Although I am not superwoman, I just saved my students from having a break down by giving them 30 minutes of freedom from high school
I even got in on the stress relieving drawing craze

3. Laughing is vital to survival

If it wasn't for laughing, last week would have been worse off. And, it isn't just about yourself laughing, it is about making others laugh as well.

For example, I am an avid Doctor Who fan and so is one of my fellow English teachers. When the Weeping Angels came up on my daily calendar of Doctor Who villains, I freaked but knew I had to play a practical joke on my coworker since she was also dealing with stressed out sophomores. So this is what I put in her grade book when she wasn't in her classroom

If you have no idea why this is freaky, see the video below***. Regardless, for any Doctor Who fan, this is something that is going to make you jump and freak out as it did to my coworker in the middle of her class.

I know her sense of humor so I had no fear she would laugh. It was a good and much needed laugh for her which also helps me because I know for a moment that I brought a smile to someone's face.

4. My students will constantly surprise me

I felt like giving up. I was realizing why nearly half of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years.

It is stressful. It is time consuming. It is emotionally draining because of how much you care.

You care and you care and you care yet you feel like this article from The Onion (that has NSFW language).

Recently, I gave them an assignment to look at a story from a different perspective and create a podcast about it. The goal was to put them in the shoes of someone else and to see the story through their eyes. I was expecting kids to do this last second and not put a lot of thought into it and just tell the same story I had heard over, and over again.

Although I got that, I also got some really really really awesome ones that made me so happy. The stories they were able to retell were AMAZING. They really grasped the concept of a podcast and two boys, who are on the quiet side, were able to actually tell a story in an amazing way. I put together a video of their podcasts so you can enjoy my student's work as much as I do.

Seriously, It is wonderful and I was pleasantly surprised. It is times like this that I remember why I do what I do.

I learned that I love teaching and even though I am stressed, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

*if you think that is strange you have obviously never hung around teachers who, by nature, break EVERYTHING down into lists for students.

**The short version: I knew I was smart but hated that I just couldn't remember to do or complete things which I felt made me appear dumb so I refused to ask for help since I wanted to prove that I could do it. Curses of ADD

***Yeah, I'm just giving you a link to the video and not embedding it because they freak me out too much. Go here to get the short version as to what they are.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Magical Formula

Dear stressed out self of the future:

I totally know how you are feeling right now. I was grading until 3am last night and woke up again at 5am to finish said grades for my 7:40am deadline. I'm so far behind on grad school that I'm afraid I may not graduate, and I have no idea how I'm teaching the next unit.

Yes, spring break officially started an hour ago but I don't get to take advantage of that. I have a softball game that is 45 min away and coming back, with the oh so lovely traffic, will cause my spring break to start around 7pm tonight.

Did I mention I also have only 9 players for today's game?

You may be wondering why I'm writing this since all it seems like is a pity party.

That is exactly why I'm writing it.

Seriously future self, you're so stressed that you just want to curl up and cry because of the exhaustion and never ending load of work. You feel like you never have time for yourself because when you do take a night off from grading/planning/prepping to cope with the one year anniversary of a friend's death, you actually end up feeling worse because you ended up not being prepared for work the next day and end up in a frazzle.

People are going to tell you that you assign too much work or that you can't let the little things get to you or that it isn't the end of the world.

Future self, screw them.

Every assignment you give to your students is designed as part of a larger purpose. Those assignments should be graded because if you don't grade, your underclassmen will fail since their paper writing isn't developed enough yet. You also can't "go easy" on them when it comes to paper writing because they won't become better writers that way.

You know it isn't the end of the world and you know that you should let the little things go. However, you also know you have ADHD which makes these things nearly impossible to do. You struggle to remain focused which leads to disorganization which then leads to guilt and anxiety because your failings are hurting your students. You then get frustrated when no one believes you because "ADHD is a kid thing" and "everyone now has ADHD." You feel alone and isolated because no one can seem to comprehend that you actually want to let the little things go but doing so makes you think that you have completely failed.

Future self, I wish that I could tell you I have it all figured out. That I know how to get out of the hole you're in and not make your job consume your life. I wish I knew how to be an effective teacher without having to give up so much of my time that I don't feel like I can ever relax again.

I honestly don't know what to do or say to you.

So why do I write this future self?

I write it because I want you to know that you're not alone. I'm where you are now. I know how you feel and although I'm talking to myself, it is always nice to know someone else feels the same way you do.

Now future self, I must go and see if I can find this magical formula to combat this overwhelming stress.

Hopefully, I can give you an answer soon.


Your past self