An Amazing Perk of Teaching – Outdoor Ed!

This past week, several teachers from Trinity School took 68 Fifth Graders up to Camp Will-A-Way in Winder, GA for the first our yearly overnight trips.

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We call these Outdoor Ed – outdoor education. The Fifth Grade takes two trips each year, one in the fall and the other in spring. The Sixth Grade also takes two trips, but they take on a different tone. This post is not about Sixth Grade though. Outdoor Ed is pretty much exactly what its name indicates – education classes that take place outdoors. The students rotated in groups through six different classes; the climbing wall, canoeing, two low ropes challenge courses, ceramics, and horseback riding. It is a time for team building and coming together as a grade level. Coach Brian is the trip coordinator and he instructs the students to think in terms of, “We, not me. What is going to be best for the group rather than what will be best for me.”

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Influential Albums – Day 5

The Stone Roses – Stone Roses

These guys. Talk about burning bright and burning out. That is what The Stone Roses did. I guess I saw the video for Fools Gold (Full version) on 120 Minutes then read about them in one of GQ’s Sassy magazines, The article started off talking about the lead off song, “I Wanna Be Adored”. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.

One of my college roommates, the elusive and not-heard-from-again-Tim Smith must have had the CD. It might have been a cassette, because that’s what I had it on. It was in my car and Panasonic Walkman knock off A LOT. The whole Madchester scene was big, but Stone Roses were the very, very top of the crop.

Their album cover art was inspired by Jackson Pollock and even name drop him on one of their b-sides. More on those next. “Going Down“. They are, in turn, name dropped by one of my favorite current bands, The Fratellis, on “For the Girl” – ‘she was into the Stones when I was into the Roses’

When I got to UGA and worked at WUOG I was amazed by all the b-sides I didn’t know about. B-sides in general, I think, are much more of a British band thing than American artists. I may be wrong about that, but it seems like all the best b-side songs I’ve heard are from British bands.

Anyway, The Stone Roses never took off like I think they deserved to and I think that has a lot to do with their self-destructive habits and behavior. The stories are all out there and you can read up on it if you’re interested. Needless to say, they needed to keep the ball rolling, but instead it was stopped and their career suffered for it.

Atmospheric, groove heavy, and transcendent. Those are the words/phrase I would use to describe this album. Anytime I can find something like this first album I dive in. It has not happened very often. It definitely did not happen with Second Coming. I’m not even putting a link to it.

I turned a few people onto Stone Roses, but not that many. Whatever. They must have fallen into that category of being too British. Some people can’t take that, but not me. That just makes me love them more.

They were hugely influential to other British bands as they documentary I watched on them made clear. Too bad they burned too brightly. I’m not sure they could have outdid this first album. They definitely fit into the category of “Debut Albums So Good the Band Did Not Ever Have To Release Anything Else and They Would Still Be Considered Pivotal”.

Stand out tracks for me, well, all of them. Top five from the album, in no order, “I Wanna Be Adored”, “I Am the Resurrection”, “Elephant Stone” “She Bangs the Drum”, and “This is the One”.

I got a Stone Roses collection and it’s great, but I recently went back and listened to this album, and besides “Don’t Stop” it’s an album that needs to be heard as a whole. I guess, if you’re so inclined, you could consider, “Don’t Stop” like “Within Without You” from Sgt. Peppers’. I am not a fan of it. I understand its importance and its place, but I’m not a fan.

Last thing, extended mixes. The Stone Roses had a thing of taking songs and going with them. Extended versions, not dance remixes, but just extended jams that were, I’m guessing, a BIG part of the Madchester thing. Extended dances to get your groove on with whatever was turning your groove up. I’m not sure what those kids were into. I just dug the jams. So, here’s “I Am the Resurrection” (Full version)

Just Like Starting Over

 

(Full Disclosure – this post has nothing to do with John Lennon’s song of the same title. I was hoping it would, but not happening. On with the post…)

Here at Trinity School, we are always striving to increase our ability to help our students. One of the main ways this happens is through the professional development (PD) that Trinity offers. Our PD is meaningful and impacting.

This is my third year at Trinity, and I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that I have grown more professionally in those three years than in the 18 I was in public school. That statement is hard to believe, I imagine. I am sure that you may even think that I am employing hyperbole, but I honestly think it is a true statement.

I have mentioned in a previous post that we are not only expected to continue to grow as a teacher, but it is encouraged. Opportunities abound for teachers and staff members to explore areas and techniques that will benefit us in the classroom, but also in areas of our own personal growth. The administration knows that when we are taking care of ourselves, stretching our minds, learning new things, we will be more effective in the classroom, and ultimately that is our main goal. To become the best  that we can be in the classroom so that our students will get the absolute best education they can while they are at Trinity.

So, how does that tie into the title of this post? That would be the recent addition of the concept of mini-lessons to the classroom. What is a mini-lesson? From the Web Site, Teacher Vision, “A mini lesson is a short lesson with a narrow focus that provides instruction in a skill or concept that students will then relate to a larger lesson that will follow. A mini lesson typically precedes reading workshop or writing workshop, but it can serve as an introduction to a social studies, science, or math lesson.”

I have always been a whole-group teaching kind of teacher. I have relied on my ability to hold my students’ attention through my kinetic personality and delivery as well as finding ways to help the students connect to the lesson. I think I have been successful at this, but after learning about mini-lessons and seeing this approach from some of my co-workers I have made a decision that it will benefit my students more if I adopt this method as well. It is a big change in teaching styles and one that I am attempting to make this year.

Two critical factors in successfully implementing the mini-lesson strategy are keeping the lessons short and concise and the conferencing that occurs with individual students while the remainder of the class is independently working. I’m not necessarily known for being one to get directly to the point. My students learn that pretty quickly. I am learning to cut down my delivery to the very essence of the lesson I am introducing or teaching to the class. Doing so will help to ensure that the engagement of the students will be held. One on one conferencing takes time, practice and a very different approach than a whole-group style of teaching. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m not a quiet person, but in order to not distract the other students, I am going to need to find use my inside voice.  I have one, I just don’t use it very often. Learning to be unobtrusive as I make my way around the classroom to confer with students is something that I can see may be another challenge for me.

Luckily, I have the knowledge that challenges make me rise to the occasion. I have 20 years of experience in education. I have so many tools in my toolbox (teacher lingo, y’all). Most importantly, I have the support of an awesome administrative team and co-workers who will help me with this challenge. Their encouragement, advice, and observations will guide me along this path to taking my teaching to a new level.

To top it off, I am inviting my administrators and colleagues in my class to watch me this year as I am starting over. Robert Kaplinsky has issued the #ObserveMe Challenge, a chance for teachers to invite others in to observe them in the moment and look for specific feedback on different goals the teacher lists on a sign outside the classroom door:

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I am excited about this and a little nervous. As I said, it is a big change for me, but one that I know will be beneficial for my students, and above all else, as a teacher, I want to be the very best I can for my students. (Maybe I should have had a David Bowie song in my head?)

What challenges are you facing and what goals have you set for yourself this school year? I’d love to hear from you on these topics.

 

Book Review – /The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth/ by Alexandra Robbins

preface statement – I hate that I can’t underline or italicize the title up there

book cover

I found this book on one of the tables in the Teachers’ Lounge at Trinity back in late April or early May. I wasn’t sure I’d get to it, but it’s title grabbed my attention. I started reading it a few days after I took it home and got drawn in pretty quickly.

The author, Alexandra Robbins, follows six individuals for a school year. Each one is given a categorical label along with their name:

  • Blue – The Gamer
  • Whitney – The Popular Bitch
  • Regan – The Weird Girl
  • Noah – The Band Geek
  • Eli – The Nerd
  • Joy – The New Girl

In addition to introducing each of these people, Robbins also gives background information on what she calls the cafeteria fringe – “People who are not part of or who are excluded from a school’s or society’s in crowd.” She goes on to explain how very often those who a part of the cafeteria fringe go on to much more successful lives than the popular, or in crowd, people. She acknowledges that getting through those times of lack of popularity is not easy, and is a “gut-wrenching social landscape”. Robbins backs up her claim of the cafeteria fringe’s post-high school successes with something she calls Quirk Theory – “Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting.”

The book is divided up into six parts, late summer-early fall all the way to late spring-early summer. In between each section Robbins introduces new ideas, explores different perspectives and shares stories of current well-known people that were not part of the popular crowds when they were in high school.

As I got further into the book I was amazed time and time again with how horrible high school students can be. I saw myself as part of the fringe when I was in high school, but I was really a floater – I could move pretty easily between groups at school. I did not fit into any easily definable category. I wasn’t a jock, but I swam for my school and played softball and basketball for a church league. I definitely wasn’t a nerd, my grades were far too low to be considered that. I didn’t drink or do drugs, so I wasn’t a stoner. I liked punk rock, but also many other types of music, so no to that too. I had the good fortune to be able to make the choice to walk away from the popular crowd at the end of 8th-grade. I say this as opposed to those that were never given the opportunity to be part of that crowd, more than an arrogant boast.

Robbins’ stories of her subjects are fascinating, sad, alarming as well as funny and touching. One of the subjects has an interesting twist that I won’t spoil. I highlighted over 30 parts of the book that struck me. There really are too many to go into, so I’m just going to try to hit some of the ones that really stuck out to me – positively and negatively.

The whole idea of popularity is split into the standard way of looking at it – the opinion of a person from another to perceived popularity – “how students rank a classmate’s reputation rather than their personal opinion”.

The part I am going to include now really blows me over. Even reading it again for this part just leaves me speechless. This comes from the mini-chapter, Understanding the Popular Bitch

When I asked a popular boy from Arkansas how people at his high school treated               students who were different from others, he said, “We crushed their dreams. We             had a kid who wanted to be cool, but he wore eyeliner, so we invited him to a party,         got him drunk and pushed him into a fire and then some guys peed on him when he         passed out. He moved the next week. [Supposedly due to technicalities, charges               against the aggressors were dropped.] We cut off a Pentecostal girl’s hair and hid             her skirt in gym class, just because we were all Baptists and thought Pentecostals             were weird. We felt it our right to do whatever we pleased. Part of being cool was             uniformity and anything that isn’t part of our hive mind needs to be mocked.”

I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.

There’s nothing at all that get me to understand that mind set. Nothing. And the thing is, those kids were probably seen around their town as good, upstanding Christian boys and girls. It’s madness!

There is a section called, The Courage of Nonconformists that I really liked. I’ve always considered myself a nonconformist, and in high school I embraced that. Reading this section made me feel good about that, especially with all the science Robbins includes that shows how our brains are mostly hard-wired to conform. Looking at my daughters now, I can see some of the same non-conformity that I had. GQ had and has it in equal, if not greater quantities than I do.

Robbins talks a good bit about how school systems are designed to get kids to think inside the box when almost every article written about what America needs to do to get education back on track is help to develop students that can problem solve, and almost all of those articles mention students that think outside the box are the ones that are usually best at doing that. I have been fortunate enough to work in three schools where the usual is not the case.

The last part of the book that I’ll talk about is the end where Robbins gives three sections devoted to what students, parents and teachers can do to help this situation. For the students, it again is a little heart-breaking. To be told to hang in there, it will get better seems so shallow, even though it is, for the most part, true. I don’t know how many students will read this book, but I think if they do they can find some hope and some connections with the subjects. I guess the part about the parents seems to be what GQ and I naturally try to do for The Girls. I think the part about what schools can do may be just as hard as what students can do. So much in education is set in stone. So many rules and laws and standards come from people that are not in school buildings daily, with the students. Everything Robbins says is necessary, but not easy to attain at all. However, if an administrator or teacher reads this book and recognizes some changes they can make to help students on the fringe feel more valued then that is a step in the right direction.

I think that The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth should be required reading for anyone going into education. I also think that anyone considering being a parent, or has recently become a parent should read it also. It’s eye-opening on many different levels. I think that anyone who relates to children at all can find something that they can use to make a connection where there might not be one currently, and again, that is a step in the right direction.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is available for Kindle (currently $2.99!!), hardback and paperback.

30-Day Writing Challenge, Day 24 (Day 23 Prompt) – My Favorite Relative Outside of My Immediate Family

So, because I am giving my students the option of doing the weekend prompts, I’m choosing to do Day 23’s prompt on Day 24. To paraphrase Mel Brooke’s, it’s good to be the teacher.

My favorite relative outside of my immediate family is my mom’s sister, Mary Alice Wood. She is my mom’s older sister and she has always done a great job of being a part of my life and now my family’s life.

When I was younger she would take me to Turtle’s Records & Tapes for my birthday and let me buy myself a record, tape or CD. She would often question my selections and look at (and read [aloud!]) the lyrics, which my parents never did, and that was embarrassing sometimes. Especially when I was really digging Adam & the Ants, “Prince Charming“. I don’t know why the official video isn’t there on You Tube, but it’s not. Anyway, she always gave me the choice to get whatever I wanted.

When I was getting ready to go to college she gave me this advice: Make sure you talk to friends, especially older friends, to find out which professors are really good and which are really the ones you to stay away from. That’s some advice that I should have taken when it came to my Southern Lit class at UGA. That class resulted in the lowest grade I ever received in writing a paper, along with the comments,”This is barely legible.” and “I don’t know how you ever made it this far writing like this.” Up until that point, I had made really good grades on all of my papers. After that, it completely knocked me for a loop and took several classes to get my writing mojo back.

As I got older, got married and had kids, Mary Alice continued (and continues) to be interested and involved with what is going on with me. As GQ developed herself into the author, Angel Lawson, Mary Alice has kept up with her releases, asking her questions, recommending her books to friends of hers, and buying copies to share with friends. She shows the same level of interest with the Girls.

I don’t get to see her as often as I would like, but whenever I do it’s always entertaining and there’s always interesting conversation. I’m very thankful for Aunt Mary Alice.

30-Day Writing Challenge – Students’ Posts

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The kids of Team Benefield have been doing a nice job of keeping up with the daily challenges. They aren’t writing as much as I had hoped, but they are doing it, and they are willing to share it with me. I’ve picked 3 topics to share some of their responses: 5 Problems w/ Social Media, 10 Interesting Things About Me, and A Place I Would Live, Even Though I Haven’t Ever Visited.

It’s interesting to note that many of them think that social media accounts are open and available for everyone to see. It was a reoccurring idea in the 5 Problems post. I will have to make sure they know they can change the privacy settings, but of course, since they aren’t 13 they don’t have one. (Uhhh…right)

5 Problems w/ Social Media

Andrew 

  1. It’s not always private
  2. Someone that you don’t know can look at your pictures or posts
  3. You can get hacked
  4. You can get tracked down
  5. Some things are inappropriate

Claire 

  1. Too much time posting so kids don’t do HW
  2. Posting and seeing inappropriate things
  3. Anyone can see your posts
  4. People can track you down
  5. Kids download without parents knowing

Marshall 

  1. You can do things you don’t mean
  2. People can get mad at you
  3. It can be dangerous
  4. You can be stalked
  5. It can be awkward

Finn 

  1. Hackers can hack you
  2. Inappropriate pictures
  3. Inappropriate comments
  4. Forgetting password
  5. Anyone can read your stuff

Grayson 

  1. Wasting time
  2. You can lie about your age
  3. Inappropriate pictures
  4. Sharing personal information
  5. Sharing someone’s picture when they don’t want it seen

Katrina 

  1. Anyone can see everything you post
  2. Some people post inappropriate things
  3. People can trace you
  4. People get addicted
  5. Strangers can track you

Kiki 

  1. Anyone can do anything and not get caught
  2. Inappropriate stuff can be posted
  3. No parental controls
  4. Nosy people stalking you
  5. MAPOTI!

Audrey 

  1. Instagram – it’s a good idea but random ppl can create a fake name and act nice, but they could be a weird murderer
  2. Snapchat – random people can see ur story
  3. Accounts can get hacked
  4. Ppl use it to bully or be mean
  5. Ppl can track you

Lawton 

  1. People insult
  2. Post inappropriate things
  3. Leave footprints
  4. People hack other people’s accounts
  5. People spend too much time

 

10 Interesting Things

Finn 

  1. I play PS4
  2. I like cats
  3. I play tennis
  4. I have a sister
  5. I am neighbors Mellow Mushroom
  6. I wear glasses
  7. My eyes are blue
  8. My favorite color is green
  9. I have a cat named Pete
  10. I have a cat named Poggi

Marshall 

  1. I collect lots of memorabilia
  2. I have over 100 stuffed animals
  3. Ketchup is my favorite food
  4. My favorite movie is a lot of the Star Wars movies
  5. My dad and I enjoy watching the Red Sox
  6. My favorite player is David Oritz
  7. I enjoy volunteering
  8. My favorite subject is social studies
  9. I dislike hot dogs, especially at Yankee Stadium
  10. I love hockey!

Claire 

  1. I have 2 cats
  2. I can now swallow a pill
  3. I play tennis tournaments
  4. I have curly hair
  5. I wear glasses
  6. I didn’t apply out
  7. I am allergic to carrots
  8. I suck at golf
  9. I love tennis
  10. I want to go to Woodward

Andrew 

  1. I play baseball
  2. I have a pool
  3. I have two sisters
  4. My middle name is Michael
  5. I play football
  6. I play basketball
  7. I have been at [this school] since I was three
  8. I don’t have a pet
  9. My mom is a substitute
  10. I like golf

Katrina 

  1. I’m allergic to Iodine
  2. I hate vegetables
  3. I’m allergic to dead bugs
  4. I’m lactose intolerant
  5. I love white chocolate
  6. I love Reese’s cups
  7. I don’t like to brush my hair
  8. I love the Beatles
  9. I love to listen to old songs
  10. I love to listen to Spanish songs

Lawton 

  1. I own two guitars
  2. I like Star Wars
  3. I have an electric car
  4. My birthday is tomorrow
  5. I’m going to Galloway next year
  6. I have an Ipad Pro
  7. I love to draw
  8. My Dad’s b-day is the day after mine
  9. I have my own theories about Dinosaurs
  10. I found a coin from Trinidad and Tobago in my Backyard

Kiki 

  1. I take college courses
  2. I am German and Polish making me a “Peace child”
  3. My initials are MAD
  4. My cats have nerdy names, Saturn and Spocky
  5. I am ambidextrous
  6. I am going to Zanzibar
  7. I went on a plane at 4 months
  8. I’m livin’ by the river
  9. 97 year-old piano teacher
  10. My eyes change with the seasons

Audrey 

  1. I have 2 dogs
  2. I have 1 turtle
  3. I play softball
  4. I have brown hair
  5. I applied out
  6. I have a sister
  7. I play basketball
  8. I like climbing trees
  9. I’m a lefty
  10. I like ice cream

Grayson 

  1. I love to bake
  2. I am allergic to peaches
  3. I’m pretty (according to Claire)
  4. I wear glasses 😕
  5. I also wear contacts 😊
  6. I like fruits and veggies
  7. My eyes are hazel
  8. I’ve worn glasses for 3 years
  9. I’ve had braces before
  10. I am a UK fan

Where would you live even though you’ve never been there?

Andrew  – I would want to live in California, or the Bahamas, or Great Britain

Claire B- New York City!

Marshall  – I would live in Fiji

Finn  – I would live in Hawaii even though I have never been to it

Grayson C- I would live in the Galapagos Islands. There are so many cool creatures and the water is beautiful!

Audrey  – I would live in Dubai because I’ve heard the buildings are awesome

Kiki – I would live in Australia in a heartbeat

Lawton – Australia

Katrina – I would live in Australia even though I’ve never visited it