Thursday, August 16, 2012

Having Fun It Is Part Of Why We Teach

I am a strong supporter of having fun and humor infused into a class room setting, but it does depend a lot on the kind of learning environment or classroom that the teacher is involved in. Military boot camp is a learning environment, and I suppose some might think of it as fun, but maybe not as fun as a high school art class or kindergarten. The personalities of the teacher and students are also a huge factor as not everyone enjoys the same things, but in general I feel fun increases the effectiveness of teaching.

I separate fun into two different areas, intangible factors such as the subject matter, personality of the teacher, and classroom setting. The other area would be more tangible factors such as entertaining technology, games, and humorous or creative lessons. I have used a variety of online games and simulation programs in my class, and some fun or humorous topics such as UFO’s, and Bigfoot to add humor to my computer assignments.

A fun learning environment I believe is brought to the modern classroom with technology. Students today are digital natives, and not only enjoy but expect some fun technological learning environments.
So the school year is about to begin, so let’s start having fun.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to School Health Tips for Teachers

Nine Little Things that Will Keep You Well

Well fellow teachers here it comes. You cannot prevent it; it comes about the same time every year. It has been enjoyable for me, sleeping in, little vacations, peace and quiet, but in a few short weeks it will be back to school time. It is a love and hate type relationship. I look so forward to being back at school, seeing friends, and my students, but by the end of summer I have grown fat, lazy, and liking it.

Back to school is also a big change for the body, and a vulnerable time to get sick, so here are nine health tips for teachers to keep them at the top of their game. Some are obvious, and some are a little strange, but they will help.

(1) Adjust your schedule
If you have been waking up all summer about the time you would normally start working, use the last few weeks of summer to slowly adjust back to a school schedule. A sudden change in schedule is not good for the body and makes you susceptible to illness. Begin going to bed and getting up a little earlier each day so that you are back to your school schedule before school actually begins.

(2) Get enough Sleep
Related obviously to the first tip, but many people just do not get enough sleep. Each individual is different, but on average you need a good 8 hours sleep. This is especially critical during the first few weeks of school as this is a time that teachers often get sick.

(3) Find time to Relax
Going back to school is a stressful time. Things at school will have changed, teachers and students have left, you have 100 new student names to learn, your schedule may be different, and I could go on for pages. Find a way to relieve stress each day. People employ a variety of ways to relieve stress; meditate, exercise, yoga, and all are excellent. Find something that works for you and stick with it each day.

(4) Eat a good breakfast
My mother told me this 40 years ago, and it is still true. You need to eat a good breakfast every morning to get your day going. If not you will hit that wall around 10:00 every morning. Teachers have you ever noticed those students in 2nd or 3rd period who are falling a sleep? Could it be breakfast?

(5) Practice good hygiene and germ control
Every teacher should have anti-bacterial gel, lotion and wipes available at all times. Go wash you hands completely a couple of times a day, and if you have a chance a good wiping down of the desks every day cannot hurt. You will be exposed to more germs in a classroom then at The Centers for Disease Control. OK, I cannot prove that, but it is many germs, so clean.

(6) Take a moment to escape
I teach high school so really only know the routine at that level, but I would imagine junior high and elementary school teachers must be machines to handle the day. I have 4 minutes between classes to get ready, some periods I need to change rooms, students come in at lunch to catch up, and my prep always seems t disappear. Try to find a few minutes each day to escape from the kids. This does not mean you do not love them; it is just good to talk to adults sometimes. I get out of my room each day during lunch or prep to talk to a friend, and relax for 5 minutes. This may be the biggest health tip of all.
Also, avoid Mr. Negative. You do not need to go complain or vent about other teachers, administrators, or students, this is to be a positive time.

(7) Avoid the teachers’ lounge at lunch
I love back to school time, all those people bringing in snacks, treats, baked goods. I gain 5 pounds every fall, but this year let us try to stay away from it.

(8) Exercise
We all know what this is about; the average person does not get enough exercise. Exercise will help keep weight off, build your body's immune system, relieve stress, protect your heart, and much more. It is the magic pill; take it once a day, or at least 3-4 times a week.

(9) Comfortable shoes
Take last year’s pair and use them for yard work. Find a good pair or two of comfortable shoes that still look good enough to pass dress code, and for you not to be teased by the students. Most teachers stand for most of the day and you will feel it at the end of the day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Must Do List For a Teachers First Day of Class

The first day or two of class is perhaps the most important time for teachers in setting the tone for the rest of the term, semester, or year depending on the length of the class. It is a teacher's first opportunity to make sure student's attitudes toward you, the course, and other students will support a constructive learning environment.

Therefore, what can you do to make the first days a positive experience for all involved? Here is a list of ideas, and these can be changed or added too depending on your subject matter, grade level, personal style, and school.

You must be enthusiastic about the class if you want the students to be interested in the material. Tell them why the subject is important to you, how it will help them in the future, or what classes it will help them with in the future.

Introduce yourself to the class, and tell them a few things about you. Who you are, where you have been, and what you like to do. If they get a feel that you are a real person, and have things in common with them, they will be more likely to treat you with respect and politeness. Everyone has had a favorite teacher in his or her life, and I doubt it was the teacher who dryly read off the periodic table from memory.

Course Expectations:
Give the class a well-designed syllabus, clarify expectations for grades, class rules, late work, use of cell phones or iPods, everything. Tell students up front will the class be hard, what is needed to pass and receive an "A". This is not only your time to set down the rules, but gives you something to go back to with students or parents if problems arise later. It is much easier to set rules, and lighten up later if the class can handle it, then try to toughen up later.

Provide an opportunity for students to ask questions about you, the class, the book, the weather, or whatever. You want the students to feel comfortable asking questions so make sure the students leave the first class knowing they can.

Give out an assignment the first day. You want the students to leave knowing this is a real class, and you expect them to work. You do need to remember that this is not their only class. Students will have between 4 - 8 classes a day depending on the high school and its scheduling. As teachers, we tend to think our material is the most important, and a few teachers give more homework then everyone else, and get away with it. A 10-minute project is not a lot, but times that by 8, and 80 minutes of work a night, especially on the first day is a lot.

More first day musts!

  1. Write your name and class on the board
  2. Introduce yourself and tell something about you and your family
  3. Tell them about other classes you teach, and student activities you are in charge of
  4. Be energized and enthusiastic
  5. A hard candy or treat for students is not a bad way to end class the first day
  6. Learn how to pronounce the students names correctly
  7. Tell them what supplies and materials they will need
  8. Hand out the textbook
  9. Write a brief overview of what you are doing today or the week on the board
  10. Greet students at the door, and get their names at the start of class
  11. Be on time yourself, do not run down to the office, and barely make it back
  12. Have your classroom arranged properly and clean
  13. Go over your class rules
  14. When it is time to start class - Start class!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Top Science Fiction TV Shows Ever

The difficult part about putting together a list of the best sci-fi television series of all time is that there are so many opinions on what sci-fi is. Then the generational thing comes into effect. Older viewers tend to like the classics more, while younger viewers look for special effects. Then the nerds find the mistakes made by the writers concerning the space-time continuum, etc.
Therefore, I just wrote my favorites down and ranked them, but I trended towards the classics. Here is my list of the top 21 TV sci-fi shows of the last century.
21 - The adventures of superman 1953-1957
This superhero show was the grandfather sci-fi. With the cast of Superman, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen going against an array of criminals. It needed to be on the list as a break through sci-fi show.
20 - The New Original Wonder Women 1977-1979
The popular series brought the story of wonder women into the modern day with a 70's flare. Former beauty pageant winner, Linda Carter played the role of Wonder Woman after a television movie with Cathy Lee Crosby failed. For the role of Steve Trevor, the producers chose Lyle Waggoner, from the Carol Burnett Show. The show lacked many things, but it did have Carter in an amazing outfit.
19 - Babylon 5 1993-1999
Had stiff competition from the Star Trek shows, but build up a loyal fan base. In a UN-style setting, an Earth alliance is trying to prevent another war like the one recently fought. Had great characters and action, but I missed most of it as I was watching "ST the Next Generation".
18 - My Favorite Martian 1963-1966
A Martian crash-lands on Earth and is taken in by an amiable young man who agrees to protect his identity. Uncle Martin's (Ray Walston) special powers, invisibility, ESP, and telekinesis regularly get his host Bill Bixby into trouble with hilarious scenes.
17 - The X Files 1993-2002
The truth is out there... but trust no-one while trying to find it. Mulder and Scully investigate the FBI's X-Files, which seem to contain a pattern of alien activities. Government cover-ups and conspiracies keeping the truth hidden. Show took sci-fi TV to a completely new level.
16 - Battlestar Galactica 1978-1980
Bonanza's Lorne Greene in charge of a wagon train of spaceships fleeing the Cylon tyranny in search of the mythical world - Earth. Production costs saw the show canned after one season, but a letter-writing campaign saw it resurface for another Earth-bound round as Galactica 1980. Bad special effects, and worse acting, but people watched.
15 - 7 Days 1998-2001
The adventures of a chrononaut, Frank Parker,- a government agent who is frequently sent up to seven days back in time to fix things when they have gone wrong with the world. Parker travels courtesy of an invention that was created using alien technology from the Roswell crash; you have to love the site. They may not have left us any technology, but they did leave us some good TV.
14 - The Incredible Hulk 1977-1982
Based on the comic book, Bill Bixby plays the on the run scientist who has exposed himself to gamma radiation - occasionally turning into the Hulk (played by bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno) whenever he gets upset.
13 - Sliders 1995-2000
A Quantum Leap rip-off, but a good one. Playing with the concept of parallel universes, Jerry O'Connell and company keep jumping from universe to universe, while trying to find their way home.
12 - Roswell 1999-2002
For those of us that just love a good Roswell conspiracy theory. This was a fun show, which played off the fabled 1947 crash site in Roswell, New Mexico. There is lots of teen relationship drama and romance while the main characters try to get in touch with their alien selves.
11 - Lois & Clark (The New Superman) 1993-1997
The Superman saga with an emphasis on romance rather than sci-fi. My 5-year-old daughter loved it, and Teri Hatcher got here start here. Not a typical sci-fi, but a good story line, and fun characters kept the family watching.
10 - The Land of the Giants 1968-1970
Irwin Allen strikes again. A suborbital ship and crew passes through a portal to a land where everything is really big - although mysteriously Earth like in most ways. The show was fun, but the series was cancelled before the cast managed to make it back home.
9 - The Wild Wild West 1965-1969
Another old classic set in 19th-century America's Wild West. Good guy spies battle villains, including height-disadvantaged super scientist Dr Miguelito Loveless. A hit for CBS and after the premiere season the show was in full color. Re-runs remain extremely popular with sci-fi fans, but hard to find.
8 - Lost In Space 1965-1968
"Danger Will Robinson!" - An Irwin Allen great. Terrible effects, but a cult-favorite nevertheless. Swiss Family Robinson gets lost in outer space when the villainous Dr Smith stows away and knocks their flying saucer out of orbit. The robot usually manages to steal the show, and fans usually hoped Will would be zapped.
7 - The Outer Limits 1963-1966
This series is remembered for a few genuine great episodes. It seemed to try to ride the fame of T Zone, but a worthwhile series. Shatner, Nimoy, and Martin Landau all honed their credentials on the show.
6 - Kolchak the Night Stalker 1974-1975
A newspaper journalist with a nose for the extraordinary tracks all sorts of monsters, demons, aliens and other creatures. I loved this show when it first came out. Then saw it on late night reruns the other day, and felt a little ashamed I liked it.
5 - The Six Million Dollar Man 1973-1978
Badly injured astronaut Steve Austin gets some 'bionic' body parts and sets about carrying out impossible missions for a secret government agency. Lee Majors was just plain cool in the 70's. Favorite - The Secret of Big Foot
4 - Star Trek the Next Generation 1987 - 1994
Set 78 years after the original, the long-awaited new Trek series featured a good cast - the most popular being the android Data, Klingon bridge officer Worf, and Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. Well written, and better acted then the original.
3 - Quantum Leap 1989-1994
Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) wanders through time, but only in his lifetime. Facing an array of moral dilemmas while occupying other people's bodies. Somewhat confusingly, Beckett appears as himself to the camera, but the characters around him see only the body he occupies and cannot see his hologram sidekick Al. Favorite is series final, when Sam talks to God.
2 - The Twilight Zone 1959-1964
Perhaps the most famous sci-fi series ever, and done in black and white. Host Rod Sterling has set the tone with those amazingly delivered monologues book ending each episode. A cult classic and still a great one to watch on those Fourth of July marathons. Favorite- loved the one with William Shatner as a freaked out airline passenger.
1 - Star Trek 1967-1969
Seeking out new life and new civilizations - boldly going where no man has gone before. Captain Kirk, Spock, and crew warp around in the Enterprise. Sorry I am just a Trekky at heart, and at one time could name every episode. Favorite - Balance of Terror

Friday, July 27, 2012

Classroom Management Strategies for High School Teachers

A key to being a successful teacher is classroom management. There are different needs depending on if you teach kindergartners or high school art students, and every teacher has his or her own individual style. A constant throughout all classrooms is without good classroom management, a teacher loses control. Once you lose control of the classroom the amount of actual teaching and learning drops.

I personally am by nature not a strong disciplinarian and like to be relaxed and fun with my class. I will never be known as that mean teacher. I am the teacher students think they can get away with mischief in class, and in my early years, they did get away with a lot.

I have however, over the years been able to find ways to combine my somewhat easygoing personality with some constant classroom rules and ideas to maintain a good learning atmosphere. Here is a simple list of suggestions I think most teachers will agree with and should use.

1) Over plan each day - You need to keep students busy working or listening. If you have dead time at the end of your class, it can be a management nightmare. Students and adults both have a hard time if left with nothing to do. You can always put part of your lesson off into the next day or even drop a few things you were going to talk about if you run out of class time. However, it is better to be over prepared then under.

2) Start the year or semester off strict - It is simply easier to loosen up as the year progresses, then to try to gain control of a class once you have lost it. On the first day of class give them the syllabus, classroom rules, and tell them what you expect while they are in your classroom. You can be funny the second day or week, but start the year formal and serious.

3) Let them know what to expect each day - If students know what they are doing in your class that day, they will have a better chance of coming prepared. There are many ways to do this. I simply have an extra white board in my room that shows what we are doing for this week and the following Monday. Find your method and always let students be prepared for the day.

4) Mix it up a little - Remember they are kids. Lecture, homework, and a weekly test can get pretty boring for them and for you. A board class is a hard to control class. I try new activities and lessons each time I teach a class to put a little more variety into for myself. I also try to have a day or two each week that we just do something different using technology. I have a marketing class that Monday, Wednesday, Friday is lecture, reading, testing, discussion from the book, and other more traditional methods.  Tuesday is a business simulation game using the computer, and Thursday is a wide variety of things. Some of the lessons may fail, but that is how you learn.

5) Move to the noise - Some teachers can sense whispering or movement, and smell fear from a desk 30 feet away. For the rest of us, try to stand and move around the class during the period, and not stay at your desk. I simply stand by where I think the talking, sounds, or distraction is coming from. Ninety percent of the time, it will simply stop, and no issue or distraction will come from it.

6) Start on time - This can be a hard for teachers that switch from one class subject to another or even have to move classrooms themselves. Students, who come into the start of class to find the teacher not ready to start work, will themselves begin to lose focus. Once a class begins to lose focus, it can take twice as long to get it back. Start on time so the students know when they come to class it is time to work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Problems teachers face in the classroom

While doing a little research this summer I came across a number of funny little teaching rules and points, and some I discovered on my own. It is late July and teachers will be back soon. So I thought I would put a list out there for levity as we wait.
This is meant to be funny, and not necessarily the way I think, though I do think a couple are spot on. It is kind of a Murphy's rule of the classroom.
1. You never have the same number of students in the room after a fire alarm as before.
2. The back of the room is never far enough away for students.
3. A disaster will occur when visitors are touring in the classroom.
4. A subject interesting to the teacher will bore students.
5. The time a teacher takes in designing a lesson is inversely proportional to how much the students enjoy it.
6. A staff meeting's length will be directly proportional to the boredom the speaker produces.
7. Students who are doing better are credited with working harder. If students start to do poorly, the teacher will be blamed.
8. New students seem to come from schools that did not teach anything.
9. Students always think other schools are better.
10. Good students move away.
11. Substitute teachers never read you lesson plan.
12. Students can use a cell phone in 23 different hidden ways.
13. New teachers always replace a teacher that had been teacher of the decade for the district.
14. The clock in the teacher's room will be wrong.
15. When speaking to the school councilor, the teacher will accidentally say: "weirdo" rather than "emotionally disturbed".
16. A teacher's new study hall will have largest number of students in several years.
17. The principal will always come in for a visit, if you have a free day or show a movie.
18. If you ever leave the class even for a moment, something will break.
19. A teacher will always miss-pronounce a word in front of the class clown.
20. Clocks will run more quickly during your prep period.
21. The problem child will be a school board member's son.
22. On a test day, at least 25% of the class will be absent
23. If the teacher is an art teacher, the principal will be an ex-coach and will dislike art.
24. If the teacher is a coach, the principal will be an ex-coach who took a winning team to the state.
25. The worst chew-out from parents always comes from an incident their child lied about.
26. Parents really believe the students story of "the teacher lost my last 4 assignments".