Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Autographs Lost

Here are some other examples of awesome signatures while I'm still awake:

That's Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Here's Larry Bird.

This one is that of Samuel Longhorn Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. I like how he merged them.

This one, if you haven't guessed, is the signature of Pablo Picasso.

This one is someone you may not recognize. This is the signature of Mr. Walter Simonson, one of my favorite comic book artists. He writes his name so that it looks like a dinosaur. I see a stegosaurus in there, with the big back, with the smaller head and tail. Simonson is a master of the craft, and it is apparent even in his signature. Let it be noted, however, that Walt Simonson doesn't exactly use cursive.

And last but not least (for now), Thomas Edison's clear cursive signature is capped off nicely by his huge up-swirl that passes over his whole name. I like this one a lot, but it could be because when I sign my name, the line that crosses through the t in Carter passes through the whole configuration.

Let me add that Mrs. Niemiec, 5-1 mom from this past year, has one of the coolest signatures I have ever seen. Mrs. Wampler is in complete agreement. Wow. To lose that? Whether it is print or cursive, I can't tell. But yes. Everyone needs to have their unique imprint on the world. Let's not miss out on the opportunity to do so while we still can!

This is part of what may be lost if we don't continue to nurture cursive writing. But it may have to be from home. We may not be allowed to do so in the schools for much longer.

Pen to Paper

If there's one thing that education has dealt with recently--and there have been plenty of other things as well--it's the debate over cursive writing. Last weekend on the NPR podcast A Way With Words, a caller asked the question as to why cursive writing wasn't taught in schools anymore. This question was first raised to me about a year ago while I was at karate camp, after it had been a featured debate in the newspapers when the Common Core Standards were introduced with cursive having been replaced with keyboarding requirements at an earlier age.

First, I will say what frustrated me about this. Until this Common Core Standard was settled, no one even mentioned it. As a teacher, people disagreed with me if I didn't require them to use cursive and people disagreed when I'd make the kids write in cursive. So the fact that, as a fifth grade teacher, I'm not required to require cursive writing, allowed me to just say, "Write however you want." What I did do was have my students pass a cursive writing test before they were allowed to choose.

Honestly, as a teacher, when I'm grading the kids' papers, whether it be a long-form writing piece or a spelling exercise, I just don't notice whether they wrote in cursive or not. I'm more concerned with whether things are spelled correctly or the quality of the writing itself (not the handwriting, but the other kind of writing). Many students come to me unable to write in cursive for various reasons, and some of them just need to work on their handwriting period. Unfortunately, we aren't really supposed to give a grade on handwriting, more of a pass/fail. Most students don't have handwriting bad enough to fail in my opinion, so normally I would try to leave it blank, or fill it in with my judgement on the A-F grading scale. I've been accused of being pretty lenient!

What the hosts of the program came up with was that it's hard to argue with the Common Core Standards in the fact that keyboarding will better prepare the children to be successful for their future careers in adulthood, but that it was sad that we are cutting ourselves off from the past when we do this. Many families have letters from their grandparents to each other or different people in the past, and not being able to read those is a true loss.

Playing devil's advocate here, we have been more and more cut off from the past as the years have gone on in this sense. We've all seen pictures of the actual Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and doggone it if any one of us can read that without squinting to translate. If you think you have a hard time doing it, your kids just look at it and instantly give up. So did I when I was their age.

Back to not playing devil's advocate now, I wholly agree that it is a beautiful art form. People used to take very good care to make sure their handwriting looked amazing. My mom's handwriting is really nice looking, and I remember her saying that, when she was a girl, she tried to write like her grandmother. The idea that kids could one day look at their handwriting like they look at Thomas Jefferson's...well, that's painful to think about.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to think. I agree that keyboarding is best to get the kids ready for their careers (you don't know how many times we hear the words "21st Century Learners" in a given school year), but this... I don't know. Not to get overly dramatic, but it's kind of sad that we're seeing it go by the wayside.

Anyone who has ever seen my signature knows that it is not recognizable as even being letters. But it's mine! I'd hate to think we're letting go of that as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

For You Who Hate to Read

Let's say you're not exactly the most eager reader. You know if it's you. If you were one of the ones who "suddenly" had to go to the bathroom whenever Mr. Carter would start his reading conferences (which meant silent reading time), then you're one of them. You're one of you. Admit it. In fact, if you are one of you, then you're not even reading this right now. You're instead playing Call of Duty or whatever other mind-numbing inactive "activity" (a misnomer, as the base of that word is active) you're engaged in right now.

Well, it's my hope that, if you're not going to get outside and get some exercise--or, at best, if you're looking for something to do when the sun goes down--you will at least read something instead of laying around with drool oozing from the side of your mouth.

And assuming that you're wondering what you can read as the ooze congeals, why don't you try some of these books, recommended for people who hate to read:

Akiko and the Planet Smoo by Mark Crilley

This series of books is one that my students used to love. The characters, the interplanetary adventure, and the humor all make this a book that is not only easily read, but it's hard to put down. My students used to beg me not to stop reading when I would read these books. In fact, I had a 20-year-old former student look at me in disgust when I told him that no, I did not read these books to my students anymore.

Admittedly, the first volume is merely the first chapter in the first adventure of Akiko, an Asian fourth grader living in the town of Middleton, USA; Spuckler, the space pirate; Mr. Beeba, the erudite lover of literature and education; Gax, Spuckler's trusty rust-bucket assist; and Poog, a floating head with a slight grin and a way with soothing anyone. But it's okay, because the characters (okay, maybe with an assist from Mr. Carter's voice box, but that's not all of it) are well-fleshed out, the adventure is real, and the books are very well-done. The adventures don't stop at the first four, but if you can track these down, then read them. You won't be sorry.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DeCamillo

Maybe this and Akiko have one thing in common: both were authored by people who used to e-mail back and forth with the 5-1 classroom, but the reason for that fact is that I love this book. I loved it long before the movie came out (and the movie is exactly like the book). This book is so good that it is the one book in which I will read a "bad word" out loud to the class when I read it out loud. (It's the h-word, in case you were wondering.) But it's so well-written that it never comes off as offensive.

In case you're unfamiliar, the story is about a girl who lives in the panhandle of Florida as the daughter of a preacher in what amounts to a trailer park. She finds a dog in a grocery store (a Winn-Dixie, of course) and the mutt becomes a catalyst for the people of the town--the kids, the crazy witch-lady (who really isn't), the mentally handicapped man who works in the pet store, and that just scratches the surface of this incredibly heartfelt book. I read this in one sitting. Honestly. It's just that good. And it looks like a girl book. So girl or boy, this is good. I would recommend this book to my grandma.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Yeah, I realize that this is pretty much the only book (or series) that most of you read over the past school year, assuming you're one of the bathroom-lovers I spoke of earlier, unless you read the first chapter of The Hunger Games before giving up because it had so darn many words), but this book is just plain funny. Honestly, I laugh out loud about every other page when I'm reading these books. So yeah, I can't fault you if you like these books. But I can fault you if you're a non-reader and you haven't even tried them.

Yeah, you, bathroom-lover. I'm talking to you! Read these books! You can even enjoy them in the bathroom. But we all know you never really needed to use the bathroom.

But you will be if you don't start reading.

Please don't be amongst the uneducated non-book-readers. Read. Read anything. Come on! And looking at pictures doesn't count. You're not fooling anyone, least of all yourself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Looking Good

Went and saw Mr. Gary "Sgt. Pepper" S. this evening at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital. Members of last year's 5-1 class know Gary as one of their classmates during their final year at Woodbrook. He was having his infamous "chest hole" repaired.

You may remember his stories of being able to eat cereal out of his chest because it was concave. Well this as of yesterday, it's not going to hold cereal anymore; it looks totally normal. He was pretty darn tired while I was there this evening--on a lot of pain-killers, obviously. He had been up walking earlier today already.

When I left, he had been dozing off for awhile. Can't imagine going through that and still feeling up to anything. It was bad enough when they worked on my belly, I can't imagine them ripping into my chest like that.

Get well, Gary! We're all pulling for you.

This Includes You

Monday, June 11, 2012

Keep On Truckin'

Last Thursday (I apologize that it's taken me so long to update this), I talked about how I had been taking all of these little classes over how to do seemingly-simple things to enhance the learning experience for CCS students.

I've really enjoyed doing this. Sincerely. I love it any time I can improve as a person. It would be easy for me to just relax all summer, but while my schedule is pretty simple with the mini-classes and the tutoring that I do (okay, along with karate), it's really pretty relaxed compared to the school year. I go a little crazy whenever I'm not trying to learn something myself. In fact, just today I was at Home Depot and saw that this weekend there is a class on how to install a ceiling fan. I'm taking it. And I will probably buy another ceiling fan when it's over, just so I can put one in my office all by myself.

This is the same reason I started taking karate. Part of the reason I did it was so that I would remember what it was like to be a student of something. I thought (rightfully so) that it would help me out as a teacher. There have been MANY times that I wish I could treat my classroom exactly as if it were my dojo, and could just hand out push-ups to the kids when they do something wrong.

More importantly, though, it taught me how to approach math and reading from underneath. How to get under the kids and push them up, because that it so much better than reaching down and trying to pull them up. Trust me. I've learned this from my senseis (the teachers who teach me) approach teaching. I have tried my best to take this and apply it to how I teach what I teach. In my never-to-be-humble opinion, I'm good at this with Social Studies. But I think I'm improving on this with reading and math. It's always a learning process. Even for a teacher.

I received an e-mail earlier today from Divy, who was in my math class. I never knew him to be an artist. But it seems he's been trying to improve himself by becoming an artist. (Most mathematical brains aren't known as being particularly artistic.) Here's the picture he sent me.

I think this is brilliant. I had never known him to be artistic, but he has shown a lot of improvement with the muscles, the ripped clothes, and the angry expression on the face. He is expanding his horizons.

I've heard from the Niemiecs and the Hurdles that they are planning on choosing things to do things as a family to improve themselves (see the Ted Talks post from last week...). I love this. I've been taking a picture every day. Some are better than others, but that's not the point.

But while we're posting pictures, I'm going to post one of me and my niece, who is three years old and has been working at improving herself as a dancer (and, unintentionally, at being incredibly cute). This was taken last Friday, after her very first ballet recital...

So if she is trying to improve herself in this way, I think you all should too!

Every time I am driving down the road and I see someone out their running, obviously trying to lose weight, I think that is awesome. Any time I see someone come into the dojo for the first time, I am inspired. Any time I'm visiting my parents and see how much they're working to improve their health, it shakes me to take attention of my own wellness.

Needless to say, I am constantly inspired to become a better person by not only my students, but also--equivicolly- the people around me.

Never stop learning. Always keep reading, listening, and improving.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Technology and Me

I've actually had a lot of fun over the past week taking a couple of courses through the school corporation that will hopefully make me a better teacher. As I've said many times, I'm pretty much Amish when it comes to computers, despite what you may think of me as a blogger. I've never thrived at things like functions, Excel, or even Word.

But this week I've taken classes both on Excel and on Safari. I now feel like I can manipulate Excel as if I was Mr. Vahle, and I feel great about showing videos on class the way I want to--as snippets of lessons, illustrations, and talking points through Safari. I'm sure everyone remembers me trying to work with the "new fangled technology" like an old grandpa, but after this week, I'm looking at it from the point of view of a young whipper-snapper. Next week I take a class on Google Docs, so watch out. People will be coming to me for tech advice.

Huh. Maybe I can get an iPad and know how to use it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Silhouette Just Out of Sync With the Speed of Light

We are now under the Transit of Venus!

Venus is passing between the Sun and Earth as I type these lines. This is a very cool thing. I'm sure everyone was careful looking at it and that no one has burned-out retinas right now. Of course, if your retinas were burnt out, then you can't read this blog right now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Midnight Path

A late and big thank you to Mrs. Saam for leading Woodbrook's team for Relay for Life over the weekend! I did not stick around long enough to find out the final take-in from the event, but I do know that while I was there, I got to see Mrs. Saam and Maria (and Maria's little brother, with whom I briefly had a lightsaber battle), Mrs. Larson, Nurse Barb and her family, and Ally Eaton.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed just getting to go and enjoy the event (with Team Woodbrook and the Adamson's Karate team) without having to be in charge. So THANK YOU to Mrs. Saam and all who volunteered for Team Woodbrook this year.