Sunday, December 4, 2011

Super Cute Christmas Tree & Candy Cane Monograms!


Check out all of these super cute products with friendly Christmas tree and peppermint stick monograms! There are shirts, onesies, notecards, ornaments, keychains, address labels, postage stamps, aprons, mugs, and tote bags.

All products have every letter of the alphabet available.

Click on any clothing item to choose a size (from infant onesies to adult sizes), style (from t-shirts to hoodies), and color.

Click on any item to see all the styles and colors of that item.

AND ALL ITEMS ARE CUSTOMIZABLE! When you click on the "customize it" button, you can add text (and they have super cute fonts available), you can resize and move the images, and you can even add images if you like.

There is even a t-shirt (you can change to any other clothing item) with three sets of the entire friendly Christmas tree alphabet so that you can spell out your name in these cute letters (and discard the rest of the letters).

Click, Explore, and Enjoy!  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Meltaway Mints

So my family and I went to Cracker Barrel the other day, and we saw Christmas meltaway mints. We had to buy them. It was necessary. It was the right thing to do.

Since we are firm believers in not putting out anything Christmas-y until after Thanksgiving, we put them in an autumn leaf bowl in the kitchen.

Me: I cannot stop eating these. Why did we buy them?

Mom: *Laughing* Do you have to get a handful every time you go by?

Me: *Head lowering, and laughing* No! I get up and leave everything I am doing specifically to get some!

Sad isn't it?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Products that Help Heal and Cure Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Sjogren's Syndrome, etc.

I'll never forget the paper my mom thrust in front of me at my desk. "Fibromyalgia Cured" was across the top of the page in circa 1998 word art, the yellow kind with black dots and a blue outline in impact font. Since it was 2008, the circa 1998 word art made me the most skeptical.

"Are you for real?" I think were my exact words. You must realize, at this time, I had very little hope of ever feeling well again. Going anywhere for any length of time was a struggle. After I got home from anywhere, I was exhausted and in extreme pain. And I wouldn't stop trying to teach. I was subbing on a very regular basis. I would lay down as soon as I got home, and I would stare at a plate of food in front of me for a long time before lifting the fork. I was too tired to lift it. Hunger usually made me lift the fork.

The document was written by two consultants for a company called Mannatech, Richard and Ruth Webster. I don't remember what the document said, and for the life of me, I cannot find anywhere on the Internet, now. I do remember that you could put in your phone number and they would call you. They lived in Tasmania, and they paid the long distance bill for the call.

My mom gave them my number, and they gave us a number that we could call in the states to listen to an explanation of how Mannatech's system works to cure many ailments. They called back and asked if we wanted to try Mannatech. I let my mom make that decision since I was making very little money.

They set up a system that they thought would best work for me which included ambrotose, phytaloe, phytomatrix, and plus. Ambrotose is designed to help your body heal itself, phytaloe contains all kinds of incredible nutrients from various vegetables (in fact, the ingredients are vegetables), phytomatrix was a multivitamin (I think), and I do not remember what in the world plus was.

Over the next several weeks, they told me how to increase my doses gradually to help my body repair itself, and then they helped me back the doses back down to the smallest doses that would work for me. The whole process took about three months.

After the awful effects of detox, I started feeling better. I started coming home and actually doing stuff instead of laying super still in bed. I started cooking, grading papers, playing with the dog, etc! The whole process Yet again, I tried to quit taking some and all of these pills at some point. I found that without ambrotose and/or phytaloe, I felt terrible within two days.

Like the Rice N Shine (aka Nanacea aka 24/7), it did not cure me. Heck, I have at least three autoimmune disorders for cryin' out loud! But, it did give me my life back. I no longer take the ambrotose because I take something that is even better that I will write about very soon, but I do still take the Phytaloe. I personally take two capsules in the morning and two capsules at night. And yes, I continue to eat the Rice N Shine (aka Nanacea aka 24/7), also.

There are some people out there that Mannatech products have cured. There are some incredible stories of some that have been cured beyond their imaginations. I, however, am just someone they helped a whole lot.

Like I've said before, as with all new treatments, try it for at least six weeks. Actually with this one, try it at least three months. You may feel worse before you feel better if your body begins to rid itself of toxins by taking this stuff. After three months, if you feel better, great! Keep taking it. If you do not feel better after three months, quit taking it. If you quit taking it because you don't think it is making a difference (like I did) only to have your muscles threaten to leave you for mistreating them a few days later, start taking it again.

Although I no longer have a way to get in touch with Ruth and Richard Webster, the website for Mannatech is http://us.mannatech.com.

Veterans' Day Lesson

Today is the day before Veterans' Day - the day I always taught my favorite lesson when I was still teaching. I didn't want the kids to think of Veterans' Day as just a day off. I wanted them to know why it is such a special day, and if they saw people in uniform, I wanted them to show those people respect and even thank those people for their service if given the chance.

Days like today just fill my heart with sadness and longing. I long to sit in front of a group of wide-eyed children as I tell them the story of Veterans' Day, of the red poppies, of America's White Table, of the little old men and women in uniform I used to watch cry every year as Taps was played in my high school's gymnasium...
I think I will be just as sad on Monday - the first school day after Veterans' Day this year. That day usually was full of stories and journal entries of the veterans that the kids saw in various places - from Walmart, to Applebees, to special ceremonies, to grandma or grandpa's house - and how the children thanked them, listened to their stories, watched them shed a tear when the children offered their thanks, received a poppy, served them, or just stared in awe at the differences in uniforms. Sometimes a  grandma, grandpa, great uncle, or family friend with Alzheimer's or dementia had the first inkling of being able to remember again when they put on their special uniforms once again; their stories were told with accuracy, confidence, pride, and emotion.

If you get a chance, read America's White Table to your kids - whether they are your own or the classroom ones that feel like your own for seven hours on weekdays. Thank a veteran. Go to the many places that honor veterans on Veterans' Day. Last year, I saw a ton of veterans when I went to Applebees. Applebees is the chain resteraunt who honors veterans the best in my opinion. Some resteraunts are offering free drinks or deserts - are you kidding me?! Give them a meal! Applebees does, and those veterans respond.

An old family friend came into Applebees while we were there last year. He was wearing his WWII hat and bomber jacket, and he told us stories that he had not told in years. It is special to see all of those veterans in one place sharing their lives as the resteraunt shares their meals.

After seeing Mr. French, I went through our bookshelf at home and found the book When Duty Called.. by Jerry Barksdale. It is a book of war stories from veterans in my hometown, well really my home county of Limestone. Mr. French's amazing story is in there, and I thought the kids would like to hear it. I read his story to the kids the next school day. I stopped half way through, and the kids said, "Don't stop now!" :) They needed to know what happened! (I won't tell the story here, because it will take away from the book, but it is completely amazing.) So, we spent all of our history time and our read aloud time to his story.

I won't be there to encourage students to thank veterans and to show them the utmost respect, but the students who I have talked to about this subject before will certainly carry on that tradition. For that reason, I feel that my lesson will go on without a hitch even without me there - which is one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching. With that thought, I am filled with happy thoughts again, and I wish you all a very Happy Veterans' Day! 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

All Natural Healing Product for Fibromyalgia, Lupus, and Sjogren's Syndrome

So, this stuff is the first of many all natural remedies that really helped me heal.

I know I sound like I live a relatively normal life which may make you think that I cannot relate to all of you out there who are suffering with intense amounts of daily pain whether you have Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome, a combination of these, and/or similar illnesses. You would be half right. I do live a relatively normal life now.

I did at one time, though, lay in the fetal position for many hours of every day. I would cry during breaks at work (when I was working) because I hurt so much. I would cry after work, on the way home, when I got home, or a combination of these. I even would turn down going out to eat - my favorite thing in the whole wide world - to lay curled in a ball on the couch.

Been there, done that.

This stuff is the first of many natural remedies that really helped me heal. I call it "this stuff" because I am not just real sure what this stuff really is!

Did this stuff completely cure me? Absolutely not. Did this stuff help me tremendously? Absolutely. In fact, if I miss more than two days of this stuff, I regret not eating it. My muscles beg for it. It is amazing, spectacular, miracle-making stuff.

This stuff goes by many names. It was originally called Rice N Shine, and then it was called Nanacea. Now, it is called 24/7.

If you have tried it before and did not like the texture, the texture has changed several times. (And, if, by the way, you dislike many foods based on their textures and you have Sjogren's Syndrome - that texture deal is part of it. You have no idea how relieved I and my parents were when we learned that my dislike of foods for their texture has a medical reason. Yes, parents of picky eaters, if your child has Sjogren's Syndrome and does not like foods because of their textures, it is simply nature's way of keeping your child from choking on certain foods. In my experience, if it looks like it will be difficult to swallow, it probably will be.)

When I first got this Nanacea 24/7 stuff, the directions suggested mixing it with water, juice, or smoothies. It was awful. It was like drinking sand and uncooked grits in water - which is totally not ok for Sjogren's (even though I did not know I had it back then). So, when it was still that coarse, I would actually put a big spoonful in my mouth dry, and then I would take a swig of water. The stuff would sieze up into a wad that I would swallow whole. It sounds disgusting, but I actually preferred it that way. I am so strange...

Anyway, now the texture is much finer, and it probably actually would be good in a smoothie. I, however, mix it into my oatmeal with some raw honey in the morning. I did mix it into cream of wheat with brown sugar at one time, too.

I only eat this stuff on weekdays, and I eat it for breakfast. I eat breakfast at 6am on school days, and I usually do not have lunch until noon. This 24/7 stuff mixed in oatmeal holds me up that long. I am rarely hungry before noon.

I could not even begin to tell you everything that is in this 24/7 stuff; this is the website, http://www.nanacea.com/store/, for this it, though. The website describes what it is, how it was discovered, and why it is cool.  

There is a plain kind, a vanilla kind, and a chocolate kind. I get vanilla. I have never tried the chocolate kind before. I have tried the plain kind, and it just made me want to add sugar - which is probably against the point.

You can actually get some really good deals on this 24/7 stuff on Amazon sometimes, so check there for deals. Type "Nanacea 24/7" in the search box.

24/7 is not the only product I use. It has actually cured some people of many different ailments. I am not one of those people. I wish it were a cure for me. It does, however, make a HUGE difference in my health, and I would never even dream of not taking it because it helps me so much.

As with all new treatments, try it for at least six weeks. You may feel worse before you feel better if your body begins to rid itself of toxins by eating/drinking this stuff. After six weeks, if you feel better, great! Keep eating/drinking it. If you do not feel better after six weeks, quit eating/drinking it. If you quit eating/drinking it because you don't think it is making a difference (like I did) only to have your muscles threaten to leave you for mistreating them a few days later, start eating drinking it again.

I hope it helps!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cheap All Natural Hand Softener

It's that time of year again. The weather is getting colder, and my hands are getting drier. Don't you hate that? Winter = Dry Hands. Since I have Sjogren's Syndrome, my hands are especially dry and sometimes even break open.

Luckily, I have an all natural hand treatment - a super cheap hand treatment - that makes my hands soft again.

You will need baby oil and regular white sugar. I like the lavendar baby oil because it smells pretty.

Mix 1 part baby oil to 4 parts white sugar. I usually mix 4 T white sugar with 1 T baby oil, but you can mix a big batch of 1 c. white sugar with 1/4 c. baby oil if you like.

Thoroughly scrub your hands with the mixture. The longer you scrub, the better those hands will feel. Rinse thoroughly, and then wipe with a soft towel. If you have any left over, you can re-use it the next day if you would like. I usually leave a bowl of this stuff by my sink. :)

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Procrastination

I would just like everyone to know that I have been the best procrastinator ever this week.

I Turn to Food

I love food. I love to eat, so I love to cook. Since losing my teaching job, I have rediscovered my love for cooking. I have been making all kinds of recipes. Cooking and eating are good for the soul. I have made all of my old favorites except one or two. I have tried recipes that I have been dying to try. I have made whatever I wanted without regard for the kinds of meals everyone else wanted.

Know what? My family members have liked all of the things I have made so much that they have even beaten me to the leftovers a couple of times (when we have actually had leftovers).

My favorite so far has been Creamy Chicken Enchiladas from kevinandamanda.com. I could eat them every single day. Every day. If I had the ingredients, I would make them right now...and eat all of them.

My favorite dessert so far has been Sticky Toffee Pudding from Food Network. Again, if I had the stuff, I would make it right now, and then I would hide it from my family members. It is that good.

I have wanted to try sticky toffee pudding since I first tried the sticky toffee pudding ice cream from Haagen Daz. I love that ice cream. If they still make it, it isn't sold in my area. If you are reading this and work for/have some influence with Haagen Daz, please make more sticky toffee pudding ice cream. It is necessary for the morale of America - for at least one American.

If any of you find any recipes that are as amazing as these two, please let me know! Right now, I am more or less obsessed with recipes that are comforting and that look fattening at their very sight. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Ten Things To Keep in Mind While Fighting Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome, and Such

1. Keep an open mind. There are many alternative and all-natural remedies that help and sometimes even heal autoimmune disorders. Sometimes even old wives' tales and jokes on MASH really work. If something is safe, it doesn't hurt to try it out even if it is weird. I use many alternative and all-natural remedies that help me tremendously, and of those remedies I have heard of many people having results much more miraculous than mine. Which brings me to...

2. Everybody and every body is different. You are going to hear of many people having success with many different treatments, medications, remedies, etc., and those people may even tell you that they have definitive cures. Nothing is definitive. Just because something worked for me or for your best friend's cousin's mom does not mean it will work for you. Try some things to see if they will work for you, and realize up front that they may or may not work.

3.  Things always get worse before they get better. I do not write that sentence to discourage you, but to encourage you. There is usually a fair amount of detox that your body will go through anytime a medication or remedy begins actually healing your body wholly or in part. Detox for me has lasted as little as two weeks and as long as 2 1/2 months.

As your body heals, it starts getting rid of all the "bad stuff," and I guess the mere movement of the bad stuff makes a body feel bad. Detox can have many symptoms including but not limited to sweating, bad breath, cold or flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, headaches, and more. I personally usually experience the latter three. I have been through many detoxes and have learned that they are usually a good sign.

4. Listen to your body more than others' opinions. There are going to be many people who tell you that you should be doing this, that, or the other. Some will be doctors, some nutritionists, some family, some friends, etc. who will tell you what you should be doing or that you are not feeling well because you are or are not doing something in particular. If you have tried something, allowed for detox, and still feel terrible, then that something does not work.

For example, I had a ridiculous amount of people who all told me that I would feel better if I just spent more time in the sun. I have always been super fair-skinned and have always burned very easily, so I have never really enjoyed being outside. I decided to suck it up and try to spend more time outside. Everyone was saying it was healthy, so surely it was so! After a few weeks, I gave up. I just decided that it wasn't worth it to go outside. I had to make myself go out there, and I really didn't feel any better. I usually felt worse. Wouldn't you know it? I was diagnosed with a sunlight allergy last year.

5. Never try too many things at once. Anytime I have ever been to a nutritionist, herbal supplement store consultant, alternative and prescription medicine specialist, etc., I have always noticed the same thing. They try to get you to try like five supplements and two or three changes to your lifestyle. Really and truly, I do not see anything wrong with trying a bunch of supplements at once, but I do have a problem with two to three lifestyle changes all happening at once.

Pick one lifestyle change whether it is a new exercise remedy (or in my case, one at all), a new diet, etc., and notice how it affects your health. If you try three things at one time, you do not know which one is helping, which one is hurting, or if they are canceling each other out! If the first thing helps you, great! Now, try the second to see if the two lifestyle changes together will help you even more!   

6. Get a referral to a doctor or clinic at a medical-research hospital. Because of the time in my life when I got sick, I went through all kinds of tests all over the state. Then a friend of my dad told him how much his daughter was helped by a certain clinic. Their blood-work system (and I guess everything else) is much more sensitive than most (My reaction to this fact was ?!). Go somewhere where you know that your problems are seen on a daily basis and are seen by people who are researching those problems, also.

I was told countless times that there was nothing wrong with me but stress. I have Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome, TMJ, a sunlight allergy, and a partridge in a pear tree. Ok, so I don't have the partridge in the pear tree, but I do have everything else. I have spoken to several medical professionals who have explained how so many things can be missed, and it is crazy how easy it is for ailments, illnesses, and syndromes to go undetected.

7. If your doctor isn't listening, get a new doctor!
My third appointment with my first doctor after finding out I had Fibromyalgia
Him: So what's wrong?
Me: I am still having a lot of pain especially in my arms and legs.
Him: Are you sleeping ok?
Me: Yes.
Him: I'm going to write you a prescription for a muscle relaxer.
Me: You wrote that prescription two appointments ago.
Him: Did they work?
Me: I am sleeping better. Remember, last time you told me to increase the amount I take from one per day to two per day? But after taking two a day for a couple of days, I was too groggy to function well.
Him: Oh yes. So you are only taking one a day?
Me: Yes.
Him: Well, here is a prescription so that you can have two per day instead. A nurse will be with you in a moment so that you can make your next appointment. *Leaves room.*
Me (internally): REALLY?! What just happened?! *My jaw has dropped on the inside.*

I was too ignorant to know that this incident means get a new doctor. After talking with several people who suffer from Fibromyalgia, Lupus, or Sjogren's Syndrome, this kind of doctor consultation is common. I was ignorant and just needed someone to tell me what to do, so I am telling you what to do: get a new doctor!!

8. If your friends give you a hard time about your illness, they aren't really your friends. These disorders are physically and emotionally exhausting. You are not going to feel well enough to do all the things that your friends want you to do. Talk to your friends about this fact. If they are really your friends, they will stay with you long enough to know when you feel well, when to push you, and when to back off.

9. If you can avoid commitments, avoid them. The most frustrating thing for me is the fact that I will feel fine for a long time, and last minute I feel too awful to leave my house. It doesn't happen as much anymore, but it still happens from time to time. I am extremely Type A. I like schedules. I do not like having to plan last minute at all.

I have learned to tell people that I may be at certain places or events whenever possible instead of telling them that I will definitively be. If I show up, great for them and for me. If I do not show up, I never told anyone that I would be there in the first place. I make a lot less last minute, "Sorry that I don't feel well again," phone calls this way. After a certain point, people think, does she every feel well? Should we even ask her anymore? By not committing, I do not have to provide the excuse. I let their imaginations imagine whatever they want. :)

10. Pray daily, all day long, every day. I cannot stress this one enough. Without this one, the rest are not even worth mentioning. God made me. He made me with a plan in mind. He loves me. He wants the best for me in spite of my illnesses. Let Him make all of these tough decisions, because He is always right! 

My Many Thoughts on the State of America's Children Report 2011 Introduction

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all papers could just be blog posts? Papers would certainly be more heart-felt, gut-felt, and personal; they would have a voice. [Can you tell I am/should be working on a research paper right now?]

My assignment is to pick a topic based on the State of America's Children Report for 2011, and discuss that topic from a particular perspective. *Blank stare.* I have read most, if not all, of the report and am fascinated by the information it contains. The statistics in the report make us Americans seem like idiots and fools (yes, I realize that the two terms mean the same thing...) because those statistics are facts. Facts show us for who we really are; we can't run from 'em.

Well, I still do not know what I am going to write about. So, what do I do? I read the one section that I know I have not read yet - "Introduction."

I love the introduction. Can I say that? Can I say that I love the introduction of the State of America's Children Report for 2011? Am I a nerd? Absolutely.

The introduction is written by Marian Wright Edelman whom I am sure I should know, but I do not. Let me exercise some Internet ADD and look her up right quick with my beloved Google. Ok, she is the president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, and although that is great information, it really doesn't matter who she is. She wrote a great introduction.

Here are the highlights verbatim:

"Everything our nation and all of us need to know about life can be learned from Noah's Ark...

Lesson One: Don't miss the boat...God did not make two classes of children. Every single child needs and deserves a quality education.

Lesson Two: We are all in the same boat...Many Americans may not like or think they have any self interest in assuring a fair playing field for other people's children - especially poor and minority children...[who] will constitute a majority in 2019...Our states are spending three times more on average per prisoner than per public school student. I can't think of a dumber investment policy.

Lesson Three: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the Ark. Tomorrow is today and children have only one childhood. They need to be healthy now. They need quality early childhood experiences now. They need first-rate schools with first-rate teachers and stimulating high quality out of school time programs now. And they need to know that there is a good-paying job after college in their future...

Lesson Four: Don't listen to the critics and naysayers. Just get on the job that needs to be done to educate our children. If you don't want to be criticized, don't say anything, do anything, or be anything...

Lesson Five: For safety's sake, travel in pairs. Better still, travel in groups able to make a ruckus loud enough to be heard...

Lesson Six: Remember that the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals. We must all use our citizen power, and vote to wrest the ship of state from that small group of experts and powerful corporate leaders who recklessly jeopardized all of our lives for personal gain...

Final Lesson: Build your future, build our children's future and our nation's future on high ground. Let's leave our nation and world better than we found it - more just, more hopeful, more peaceful, more productive, and more unified. This may be the first time in our history when our children and grandchildren will be worse off than their parents and grandparents."

My thoughts:
Lesson three made me think of the movie Charlie Wilson's War. Have you seen that movie? Well, here's the short version of what I remember: It is a true story of Congressman Charlie Wilson who helped the people of Afghanistan. The Afghan people were under the oppression of the Soviet Union, so Charlie Wilson made it the business of the U.S. to supply them with weapons with which to fight back. The Soviet Union retreated, and then the United States decided to leave Afghanistan.

The most profound moment of the movie for me was at the end of the movie. Charlie  pleads with the U.S. government to extend their stay in Afghanistan if for no other reason than to build schools. He says that most of the population of that country consists of children and that the children of that country will only remember the United States as people who supplied weapons and war. Schools are necessary to educate the children who will eventually run the country. The United States government does not grant Charlie's request. They pull out of Afghanistan entirely.

The movie ends with a black screen that shows this quote from Charlie, ""These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world . . . and then we [messed] up the end game."

...and the rest, as they say, is history. Is the U.S. repeating their mistake with its own children?!

Lesson Four is the most profound part of the whole introduction to me. "If you don't want to be criticized, don't say anything, do anything, or be anything." Wow. Do we as teachers see things that are wrong with education that we can fix in our own little corners of the world but don't just to keep from being criticized? Absolutely.

To further comment on Lesson Four and to comment on Lesson Five at the same time: If enough of us teachers stood up for better instruction in which our students were taught to think instead of going along with pre-planned and scripted programs, our children would be equipped to better this world for us all. It's going to happen through them after all. Ten years is not long. In ten years some of our students could be making decisions that will change all of our lives. If we teach our students to think, this fact is not scary; it is exciting, promising, hopeful - the way children should be. We aren't called to change the whole world. We only have to change our piece; our students may do the rest for us one day.

Lesson Six: "Remember that the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals." I laughed as I read a chapter in my textbook for my issues class yesterday. The textbook is Current Issues and Trends in Education by Jerry Aldridge and Renitta Goldman. One of the subtitles on page 100 is "What Shall We Do with Dead, White, Western Men?" The point of that section of the book is that most of our practices as teachers are influenced by white men from long ago who never even stepped foot inside a classroom and most of whom did not believe in educating women. Why do we hold on to what they said so desparately?

Did you know that people who drink milk and eat dairy products on a daily basis are more likely to break bones in their lifetime than people who don't? Did you know that people who drink milk on a regular basis lose more bone mass than those who don't? There are countless studies out there about this topic including those from Harvard and many medical institutes. Why isn't this fact common knowledge then? Because the nutritional information we are given is funded by those who sell the product. Cows make milk for cows, not people.

Why do we cling to teaching practices rooted in the studies of dead, white, western men and in scripted and pre-planned programs? Because the research information we are given is funded by those who sell the products. Teachers research for the benefit of teachers; companies research for the benefit of companies.

I learned the term cultural diffusion in the 8th grade when talking about the crusades. After years and years of the Dark Ages, the people of Europe were finally learning something new because they left their European bubble to fight in Asia. Although they were fighting those people, they were learning a whole lot from them, too. This learning from each other is cultural diffusion.

Back then, and really until the last century, cultural diffusion always took time. Cultural diffusion takes no time now. Textbooks and programs are outdated before they are ever published because cultural diffusion and research are going on, being refined, and changing while the programs are formatted and printed.

I can learn from the best of the best about instruction with the push of a button on my computer. Why in the world would I wait to implement the newest advances in instruction until the next program came out when I could implement them immediately?

I wouldn't want my doctor to say, "Well, we have found a cure for Lupus, but we can't use it for five more years because programs won't be published until then." I also wouldn't want my doctor to say, "Well, we have found that the medicine you have been taking will not help your condition, but you have to keep taking it until the next program comes out in five years. We need the data that shows that your condition isn't being helped, so keep taking it...and paying for it."

?!

Teachers learn from one another every day either at school, in books, or on the Internet, and if you look closely they are all saying the same thing, "Teach them to think."

Fonts and Dyslexia & Cute Fonts and Learning

I will never finish my research paper. Heck, I'll never start it! I have terrible Internet ADD which makes me an awesome resource finder, but a terrible task-finisher (and starter...*sigh*). 

So, I was writing a completely different post, when I decided to look up a word on dictionary.com. While there, I saw this ad (isn't it odd how ad and ADD are spelled almost the same? Coincidence?):


Are you kidding me?! I am a teacher deep down into my heart. How can I pass up the opportunity to read about how to help kiddos? Ok, and I really like fonts, so I really had to take a time out to read about the fonts and dyslexia.

So, apparently some guy decided to alter some letters to make them more difficult to confuse. For example, he added a curlier tail to the letter "d" than the letter "b" so that they were not mirror images of one another. The font helped! There were less errors made and less difficulty while reading.

As exciting as that article was, my Internet ADD was implemented again when I saw a link to an article about one of my favorite fonts, Comic Sans. If I had to guess, I would guess that most elementary teachers have/use/enjoy Comic Sans because it is cute, kid-like, and readily available on most computers. There are cuter fonts out there, but if others cannot see them because those fonts aren't installed on their computers then the cuteness is wasted. Comic Sans is better for wide audiences.

I clicked the Comic Sans article link with excitement and dread. I knew that the article would either give me the reasons I should or should not be using that font with students.

In the first few sentences, the article established that the font is difficult to read. Darn.

Then the good part! Studies were conducted in which students were supposed to learn given information over a given amount of time. Some students were given the information in easy-to-read fonts and some were given the information in difficult-to-read fonts (like our beloved Comic Sans).

Who scored best? Who learned more? The Comic Sans Kids, that's who! Students who took tests with the Comic Sans font even scored better than other students. Those difficult-to-read fonts make an interruption in the brain which enhances the retention of information. I suppose it is kind of like a student who takes notes. The note-taking makes the student think about the information hard enough to write it down; those thoughts interrupt the speaker's information. The interruptions enhance retention.

I love cute fonts, and I'm gonna use 'em!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Hide Out

When I was little, I trick or treated on our super short street of a neighborhood and went to our church fall festival (which usually did not necessarily fall on Halloween). As I grew up, Halloween became something quite different. I volunteered at fall festivals (which again, usually did not fall on Halloween). On the actual Halloween day, my family would go to the movies or out to eat - anything to avoid the endless swarm of trick-or-treaters in our now super large neighborhood. Since our neighborhood is quite large, trick-or-treaters who do not necessarily have a street/neighborhood of their own come to ours. Like I said, there is a swarm of them.

There have been a couple of years that we have opted not to go to the movies and/or out to eat on Halloween. One year, my mom woke up with a mission to finish weeding her flower bed on a particularly warm Halloween day. She was going to finish - do or die. She was still out by the mailbox flower bed after dark - weeding, raking, and planting. I went outside to let her know that there was hot food in the house - and light.

On my way to the mailbox, I laughed...a lot. Little bitty kids decked out in Halloween costume attire were stopping by the mailbox and screaming "TRICK OR TREAT!" to my mom as she tried to finish up her work. As she threw weeds into buckets and a wheelbarrow, she was trying to explain to a little bunny and princess that she didn't have any candy, just weeds. One little guy (I wish I could remember his costume) innocently suggested that the candy was probably in the house, and another little kid wanted to know why none of the house lights were on (there were, just not at the front of the house) and why she was playing by the mailbox in the dark.  

I still have this mental image of my mom leaning on a rake, pushing back her hair with her gardening gloves which incidentally made a streak of dirt on her cheek, and letting out a deep sigh as she shook her head my way. I helped move the little kids along, let her know hot food was in the house, and asked her what in the world she had been thinking. She didn't know.

I don't know what we will be doing tonight, but there will be no gardening. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Story - Where I am and Where I've Been

So, some of you know (those of you who know me in "real life" and those of you who have read the "About the Teacher" page on The Box of Crayons website) that I am currently unemployed. Yep. I said it. The "U" word. The super-scary "U" word that might possibly cause me to lose you as a reader of mine because I have seemingly lost credibility to you.

I love teaching. I miss it desperately. It is kind of sad just how much I miss it. How much do I miss it, you ask? Well, I miss teaching so very much, that even though I am absolutely swimming in medical debt (some from before I ever started teaching, and some I am racking up right now) and grad school debt (which ironically is helping me survive currently), if someone came to me and legitimately offered me a teaching job but could not pay me, I would still take the job. I would take it. On the spot. Right then and there. When can I move in?

I was not prepared for the complete and utter heartbreak of not being in a position to teach. I cried for weeks. Yes, me. I tried my best to not leave the house for weeks. Every time I left my house, someone would come up to me to ask if I had a new job somewhere else, to tell me how much I am missed (some of them crying), to tell me how much they wanted me to have their child in my class this year (some of them crying), etc. Then, I would cry where ever I was - usually in the grocery store. I hate crying. I hate it.

Even when I was just at home, I had text messages, phone calls, e-mails, etc. daily from all kinds of different people (How did they get my #?!). It made me feel good that people cared; it made me feel loved. It made me cry all over again. Every time.

I don't care who you are or where you are - it is a tragedy to be taken from what you are most passionate.

In the last four years, I have had pneumonia (and learned how to spell pneumonia), completed my undergraduate internships, been unexplainably ill, graduated college, found out I have a heart abnormality (not deformity, just a weird not-at-all health impairing abnormality), substitute taught extensively, found a hole in my ear drum, found out I have Fibromyalgia, taught a bunch of leaves of absences, found out I have Lupus and Sjogren's Syndrome, participated in numerous medical and nutritional experiments, spent a small fortune on medical and nutritional experiments and needs, taught two glorious years of 4th grade, found out that I have a sunlight allergy, had a most bizarre ear infection, had a skin graft to repair my ear drum, lost my beloved teaching job, figured out a way to control that sunlight in a completely weird/gross way that I thought was only a strange joke on MASH, started a website and blog for teachers and students, and so much more.

Wow.

I know that's what some of you are thinking as you read all of that; I'm thinking it myself as I look at the events of my life being listed out that way. Oddly enough, I live a pretty normal life. What is "normal" anyway?

I no longer spend parts of my days in the fetal position out of pain. I no longer have to lay perfectly still with a tray of food in my lap while trying to talk my hand into moving the spoon or fork to pick up food and bring it to my mouth. I no longer have to take a pain pill every single day, and I have not had to in well over a year. I can work a full day of school (even though right now it is substitute teaching), come home, cook dinner, eat it, clean the dishes, and start on whatever else I want (not that I do all of those every time; who does?!).

...which is why is it so sad that I do not have a job right now!

"So," some of you are thinking to yourself, "which of those events in your life floored you the most?"
A. You have Fibromyalgia. There is no cure; we can only manage it.
B. You have Sjogren's Syndrome. There is no cure; we can only manage it.
C. You have Lupus. There is no cure; we can only manage it. Although some people have found ways to go into remission. (None of which are an option for me at the moment.)
D. You have a sunlight allergy. Avoid going outside when possible, and avoid windows when necessary.
E. You need to have a skin graft to repair your eardrum.
F. You will not be teaching this year.

Those of you who chose "You will not be teaching this year" win the prize. (OK, so there is no prize other than being correct.) I had been sick for so very long, that when I learned that I had Fibromyalgia, Sjogren's Syndrome, Lupus, and a sunlight allergy, I was just glad to learn that all of my symptoms had (a) name/names and management options. Oddly enough, the list of symptoms for each one actually even made a lot of my life make more sense. I was empowered to make better decisions for myself that had actual medical reasoning behind them no matter how wierd they seemed. The eardrum thing was just plain weird.

Not teaching is still completely and totally upsetting. Completely. Totally. Broken-hearted. Still.

Anyway... as much as I hate to admit it, God is blessing my life in the midst of all of this mess (aka not teaching). I actually have extra time on my hands to make a wonderful website full of resources for students and teachers. I have time to research all of the topics I wanted to research while teaching but did not have time to research. I have SO many super cool resources that I have found that I have a list of resources to evaluate, to format, to research, and eventually to share. I have time to complete my graduate work whenever I want instead of whenever I have a slot of time.

But how I ache for searching for a slot of time for graduate work! How I miss grading papers until 12:00am on the weekends! How I miss buying stuff for my class and my classroom! How I miss having a class and a classroom! I am such a nerd. So much so that no one outside of education will hire me because they see how dedicated I am to education. Catch 22 or what?

Will I post more about Sjogren's Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, allergies, etc.? I have no idea, but I would like to. Those subjects are not my passion, but I have learned some things that have helped me that I think may help others, too. Maybe someday. What do you think? If you would like those kinds of posts, please e-mail me at theboxofcrayons@gmail.com.

Children in Heaven

So, this morning our pastor announced that some really good friends of our church lost their infant son this past weekend. This little guy was born just a few weeks ago and has been valiantly fighting for his life ever since. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of those parents.

Our church has had a six week class about Heaven. Completely lifechanging, this class. Basically, Heaven is going to be WAY more than a bunch of us Christians wearing white robes and sitting on clouds. I don't think that I necessarily thought that before, but I certainly do not now. I don't know that I thought anything before. The fact is that Heaven is a temporary place that will come down to Earth after God destroys this Earth and makes a whole new one for us!

Our lives with God will be a whole heck of a lot like they are now - just without pain, pettiness, sickness, working to make ends meet, and all the other bad stuff. It will be like the Garden of Eden - perfect. Even the Earth will be better, producing food the way that it was always meant to taste in its perfect form. No more pretty, promising strawberries that taste sour! They will all be the sweet strawberries they were supposed to be! (Why the tangent to strawberries? I have no idea...) 

I have so much more to say about the class, but here is where I was going with this line of thinking originally -

There is a passage in Isaiah that describes how Heaven/the New Earth will be:
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Isaiah 11:6-8 NLT

In fact, the NKJV version for verse 8 reads:
The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den.

Someone asked what age we will be in Heaven in one of the sessions of this class, and Isaiah 11:6-8 was read. There are clearly children of various ages in Heaven. I do not know which book the teacher was reading from when he read some commentary on these verses, but the jist of the commentary went something like this:

There will be children in Heaven. There are people who have lost their children on this Earth. Could it be possible that God is holding all of those children for their parents so that they can raise those children in a sinless, pain-free, totally-accepting, fear-free, perfect world rather than the sinful, imperfect one we live in now?

This commentary seriously gives me holy bumps. Here's hope.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Profound in Its Simplicity

My mom loves to watch The Waltons. There are a few episodes I really love to watch, but I don't love the series as much as she does. Since I love her, though, I am bound to watch a few or at least parts of a few with her. The other day I caught just a part of an episode. I had never seen this particular one before which is unusual. The Walton family has a couple for house guests. Their hospitality always amazes me. In the midst of the Great Depression, they always seem to have room for one more. The husband of this house guest couple happens to be a pilot, and their plane is parked on the Walton property.

Here is where I came in: John, the dad, is working at the mill with the husband house guest. The husband starts telling John about how he is starting to doubt his marriage. His wife is about to have a baby, and all she can think about is the baby. He doesn't feel that love for the baby yet. I commented to my mom on how awesome a listener John is, and I actually mean awesome - exceptionally great. He listens better than anyone I have ever seen. He says little, and makes what little he does say count. Anyway, after this guy has just poured his heart out to John, he asks John, "What do you think?" or something to that effect. What John says next so profoundly hit me that I have been thinking about it and carrying it around in my heart for weeks. John says, "Well, it has been my experience that people do pretty much what they want to do..." and I know that doesn't seem like anything extreme or profound yet, but the next line tips it over the edge... "Your plane has been just right over there the whole time, and you haven't left yet."

"Well, it has been my experience that people do pretty much what they want to do."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Google Reader Assignment

I read the following blogs for my Google Reader Assignment:

• CoolCatTeacher Blog-- http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/
• Will Richardson-- http://willrichardson.com/
• Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day-- http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/
• Free Technology for Teachers-- http://www.freetech4teachers.com/
• A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet http://mediaspecialistsguide.blogspot.com/
• Picture Book of the Day - http://picturebookday.wordpress.com/feed/
• A Year of Reading - http://readingyear.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

The additional blogs I read, "Picture Book of the Day" and "A Year of Reading," were my favorites. Both blogs review children's books. The "Picture Book of the Day" is the bright spot in my day. A different beautifully made picture book with a short book talk about the book is shown every day. Sometimes there are videos or other information about the book, too. This blog is an easy way to get the scoop on the newest additions to picture book children's literature. "A Year of Reading" is a similar blog, but it is written by two teachers who love to read. One is a full-time 4th grade teacher, the age I have taught the last two years, and one is a full-time librarian. They post books that are fantastic for the classroom, that motivate students, and that are fantastic literary works. They sometimes even comment on how the books can be used in the curriculum and/or integrated into different subjects in the curriculum. Both "Picture Book of the Day" and "A Year of Reading" also have Poetry Friday in which either a poem or poetry book are featured. "Picture Book of the Day" also has STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Fridays in which the picture books featured either demonstrate or can be integrated with mathematics, science, technology, or engineering! Both blogs have made me a very happy camper and have strained my amazon.com budget beyond its limits.

My favorite post, however, is not from either of these blogs. My favorite post came from http://willrichardson.com/. The post is short, simple, and to the point, but makes the reader want to read the news post from http://washingtonmonthly.com/ about its topic. The post is titled, "Might be the Quote of the Year," and simply states a quote, and a link to follow the story behind it. What is the quote you ask? Go to http://willrichardson.com/post/9343844568/might-be-the-quote-of-the-year to find out. You won't be disappointed. The quote in itself made me think about my own situation last year. In order to save money, the school system for whom I worked required all teachers and staff to remove all personal electronics - refrigerators, microwaves, shredders, etc -anything that could be plugged into a wall outlet. I rather like what the school system in the quote did better. This post made me sad, made me smile, and made a statement about our economy in relation to our schools.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Digital Citizenship, Computer Classroom Management Plan, and Eating My Own Words#

You know, as a teacher, I have always been amazed when parents made their children do way more than required for a project. In fact, I remember vividly that last year on parent conference day, I had three parents tell me that his/her/their child was having a difficult time with his/her project. The project was to find five pictures (which we did in class) and five interesting facts about a certain Native American tribe. Each student was to put all of that on a poster, and then write the same facts word for word on index cards for the presentation (so students wouldn't stand in front of the poster to read from the poster during their presentations). I had given the students an extensive list of resources to use to find their facts.

I asked each parent who voiced that their child was struggling if they were having trouble with the links I provided. All of them said that that wasn't the problem, and that they very much appreciated the links. I was dumbfounded. I could not for the life of me figure out why the students would be having such a hard time with this assignment.

On presentation day, I knew very quickly. Even though I had gone over every detail of what was and was not required for the project, ten out of twenty-four students had written full-on, typed pages of reports. REPORTS! After the first student got up there with that kind of report, I looked out over my classroom. I saw students shrinking in their seats. The students who had done what they were supposed to do were second-guessing themselves. I asked all of the students to get out their instruction/rubric sheet. I asked everyone to read aloud the part about exactly what was supposed to be on the notecards. 

Oh the faces of my students! The ones who had written reports looked at me like they had fought a bloody battle that could have been totally avoided, and the ones who had followed directions had relief all over their face and body language. My exact words? "It pays to read the directions, huh?"  

Allow me to eat my own words. Today, I have been working on my technology portfolio for my master's degree. I made the page for objective 8 today. I posted my Digital Citizenship Project that I had made in ED 505, and then I proceded to make the Computer Classroom Management Plan it requested in the directions. I finished all of the Computer Classroom Management Plan, and then I re-read the instructions to make sure I had included everything I was supposed to include. ...And...I found a very important word - OR. Or is a powerful word. The directions say to include a Digital Citizenship Project with a blog post about digital citizenship or a Computer Classroom Management Plan.

Well, I unintentionallly did both. Now that I have, I decided to include a blog post about digital citizenship. This is that blog post, and the following is what I have to say about digital citizenship:

Digitial citizenship is complicated because there are so many rules, regulations, percentages, etc. There is a wonderful TrackStar ( Safe and Responsible Surfing Kids Trackstar) made by an awesome teacher (me, who is also very humble) which explains digital citizenship and netiquette in an interesting scavenger hunt, game, and interactive type fashion on a 4th grade level. It is difficult to do everything exactly right when it comes to digital citizenship, but if students are familiarized with the basics through this particular TrackStar, they can at least have enough information to always strive to do the right thing.

That's all I ever ask of my students - for them to strive to do what is right even when it is hard and even if no one else does it with them. People who do the right thing and who strive to do the right thing are few and far between, I'm afraid, and for that reason, those people always stand out. Who could want more? ...except maybe that they all read directions more carefully than their teacher...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interviews

So, I went to yet another interview today. It was a bright spot of hope in the midst of all of this unemployment. I interviewed for kindergarten. I think that kindergarten may be my favorite age of students, but I have been with "big kids" so long that I was super nervous about an interview for a kindergarten position. Kindergarteners are such babies compared to those independent 4th graders!

During the interview, most of my answers based on experience were based on 4th grade. I do not think I'm very good at being the interviewee. I am completely confident, and I know I'm a great teacher. Nerves just get in my way. I become more soft spoken than I actually am, and I leave out the "obvious" teacher answers. I forget that the "obvious" stuff is the very stuff that administrators need to know that I know! Good grief. I wish the interview was an administrator who watched me teach a lesson on the fly for an hour or so.

Anyway, at one point, I thought that my interviewer actually was impressed with me. I never at any point thought that I would actually get the job. I still don't. The reason? The same thing happens in every single interview. I have a wonderful interview. I feel that I am making a real impression on someone. Then, it happens. "Well, I will tell you that we lost four people here at the end of last year." Translation? Our first priority when hiring is to hire all of those from our school who lost their jobs last year.

I can appreciate that attitude. I really can. I am that person from my school system. The part I cannot appreciate is the part in which I get a huge swell of hope because someone calls me to interview knowing full well that there is no chance of me being the one to be hired because there are four souls who are already the priority waiting in line. I also cannot appreciate that school systems post jobs because it is in their by-laws to do so, but already have a teacher in place as a "sub" until the sub can officially be hired because the position needed to be filled immediately. Most, if not all, of the posted job positions right now are not even actual positions. Those positions were filled within the first days of school, but because they cannot be approved until school board meeting day, we unemployed get a false sense of hope. I have a sneaking suspicion that the world of education is losing money this way, and I know that it is hurting a whole heck of a lot of feelings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Post 5

TrackStar

This is a WONDERFUL site for teachers. It allows you to put a bunch of different websites with a common theme together with your personal notes for your students all on one website. There is also a database of "tracks" already made by other teachers that you can use for your class. I have included the homepage and a track I have made about archaeology. My students LOVED TrackStar.








YouTube

YouTube is great for teachers because there are so many educational videos in the YouTube database. Anyone can upload a video to YouTube, so as a teacher, I always watch the entire video clip for content before showing it to my class. My colleagues and I have also discovered that it is fun for us to get together to watch stupid clips after a stressful day. It is great if you are showing your students the Diet Coke and Mentos fountain experiment when teaching about chemical reactions or if you are de-stressing by watching a bunch of foolish guys from Alabama try to surf on surfboards tied to trucks in ditches full of water. I have included the YouTube homepage. You will have to search for the experiment (which is coolest if you watch the whole thing) and the Alabama surfing on your own. :)





My Canvas


OH, I thought of another one! MyCanvas lets you create books for FREE! I made a book of all of our photos from the year at the end of the year this past year. It is really neat because the parents have the option of copying the book to an account they create so they can add/delete pages and pictures (which changes the price). It is more personal than a yearbook. I would post my example, but two of the kids in the book do not have parent permission to be seen on the Internet by anyone but parents from our class.

Post 4

PowerPoint is one of my favorite multimedia options for my 4th grade classroom, and I use it for research projects.

Day One: I teach my students how to:

· Type

· Insert extra textboxes (they often delete them prematurely)

· Select a textbox or object

· Change font style, size, and color

· Insert clipart

· Insert word art

· Change slide transition

· Insert animations in PowerPoint

Day Two: I teach students about using the Internet, PowerPoint, and Word together.

1. I direct the students to open Google Images and ask them to type in the word "tiger." This word is not as effective for my point as it used to be, but it still proves my point. It used to bring up a picture of Tiger Woods, a tiger shark, a ship, and a picture of an actual tiger all on the first page. Pictures of all kinds of random things come up in the progression (CAUTION: One of the higher numbers does have pictures of an escort service. I try not to let them get that far!). My point is: Just because you type in a word does not mean that all the pictures will be of the word you typed in. Be careful. Go to the website that the picture comes from and read to make sure that your picture matches what you are want to find.


2. I teach them how to switch between windows (several of my 4th graders even though I am in a high socioeconomic school have absolutely no idea how to do this!) We learn that if we can't see PowerPoint anymore, we can just click on it at the bottom of the computer screen (and vice versa for the Internet).


3. I teach them how to copy and paste so they can add pictures to their presentation. We practice several times.


4. I teach them how to open a Word document that has a list of websites that are 4th grade friendly for research. We practice switching between the Word document and other windows, too. Then, we practice holding down the CNTRL button while clicking a website to open it.

Day 3-6: I let them "play" to learn. I usually give them about three days to research and to make a presentation slide that reflects their research and creativity. They get extra points for their team for extra photos and interesting facts (The team with the most points wins a prize which is usually a snack that they end up sharing with everyone else anyway.).

Day 7: I copy and paste all of their slides into one presentation, and we enjoy them together.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Post 3: For the Love of Websites :)

I love fun, educational websites! I use them extensively in my classroom. Here are some of my favorites by type:

Drill and Practice: Fun4thebrain is a free website that has long lists of games for each of the four math basics, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, for drill and practice. This is a link to the multiplication games list, http://www.fun4thebrain.com/mult.html. Some of the games are simpler than others. Some of them drill the students for a while, and if the student correctly answers enough of the problems, he/she is rewarded with an old-school Nintendo-like game. My favorite one is http://www.fun4thebrain.com/SuperStars/superStars_division.html, which is a division game but is also available as a multiplication game. Sometimes I let the kids play these games on the Smart Board as we wait for the bell to ring at the end of the day or if we are waiting to go to an assembly. Students may choose to play these in the computer lab on “website days” also.

Spelling City is another favorite of mine. You can upload your own spelling lists for student access for free. Students can take spelling tests, or they can click the “Play a Game” button to play games with their spelling words. Hangmouse is my favorite; we often play it on the Smart Board as we wait for the bell to ring at the end of the day. This website is an example using one of my spelling lists, http://www.spellingcity.com/view-spelling-list.html?listId=2548052.

Tutorial: This website coaches students through different science “experiments” in an interactive fashion for free. This website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/ks2bitesize/science/, lists them all. I use these on the Smart Board to start a lot of my science lessons.

Simulation: This website, http://www.iknowthat.com/, has a lot of kid-friendly interactive science simulations. This particular one, http://www.iknowthat.com/com/L2?GradeLevel=-1:6&Subject=Science , was one of my students’ favorites last year. You can adjust temperatures, polar and tropical air, and humidity to discover what kind of weather those conditions would make. I usually let students independently explore one of these that are relevant to what we are studying in the computer lab because they enjoy it more and get more out of it that way. When I am pressed for time, however, I use these on the Smart Board.

Instructional Games: PBS kids is completely free. They have a wide variety of topics for all elementary ages. Some of the younger elementary games are even appropriate for older elementary. One of the Caillou games allows students to dig dinosaur bones with paleontology tools and put them together. Here is the list of all the games by topic, http://pbskids.org/games/alltopics.html . My favorite games are the ones that use Fetch, the dog. This one, http://pbskids.org/fetch/games/water/game.html , uses the states of matter to help Fetch.

Problem Solving: My all-time favorite is Poptropica, http://www.poptropica.com/ ! I’m sure most of you have heard of it. I know that some schools have banned it from their computer labs because it just looks like a video game. Personally, I think that if they have banned it, they haven’t played it. It takes a lot of problem solving and strategy to complete the Poptropica Islands. Several of them allow you to learn a great deal of content knowledge, also, like the Time Tangled Island. My favorite part is that it is free!

Cyberchase from PBS kids offers some simple games that involve problem-solving, and it also offers some Poptropica-like games also. The complete listing is listed on the Cyberchase webpage, http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/games.html . I use Poptropica and Cyberchase as classroom rewards. My students learn a lot from them but only think of them as the fun websites.

Integrated Learning Systems: Compass Learning Odyssey, http://www.compasslearningodyssey.com/, is not a free website. It is, however, a wonderful interactive website that all of my students enjoy. It allows the teacher to assign tutorials, instructional games, quizzes, and more to students. The students can work at their own pace, and any data gained from their work and quizzes are stored in the teacher’s account. I really enjoy this website a lot more than a new alternative (I will not mention the name of the new program that I do not enjoy because that probably isn’t fair to the program). I actually use this as my usual computer lab curriculum.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Post 2

Technology is improving the effectiveness of instruction in so many ways, and it seems to be a student favorite. Funding is becoming an issue, though. I know in my own school our technology budget is zero. We have SMART boards in every class, and the bulbs for the SMART boards are $299. The bulbs last about two years. A lot of our SMART board bulbs went out on us this year. We are so used to teaching by SMART board that we teachers felt out of our element when we could not use our SMART boards. What is worse is that the students felt out of their elements, too! Our wonderful PTO stepped up and was able to purchase the bulbs for us. If they had not purchased them for us, the wonderful SMART boards we use so frequently would have just been the "elephant" in the room gathering dust. It is so sad that so many school systems have to decide between technology and teacher salaries or technology and things as simple as toilet paper and soap because we know how imperative it is that students use technology for the global, technology-based society in which we live.



Student privacy and safety is another issue. Teachers want privacy and safety for their students, and most take the measures they feel are necessary for protecting students in the Internet realm. Parents, however, often have different, stricter preferences for student safety. I know in my classroom, I had several students whose parents did not want their child’s faces to appear in any school website photos. I either had to cut those students out of our photos or place something over their faces before posting their pictures onto the Internet. On another note, student privacy is violated via Internet at home, sometimes, and students bring those issues to school with them. For example, a friend of mine had a student in her class who called another child a name on Facebook. The girls used Facebook on their own time at home, but the effects showed at school. One of the girls cried almost all day the next day at school, and many of the other students took sides – creating an even bigger, uglier situation. I do not know what my friend did in the end, but she considered calling the girls’ parents and suggesting that they not use Facebook anymore or that they have new rules for the technology in their homes. She did not want to encroach on the parents’ privacy, though.



We have learned from the history of technology that the emphasis no longer has to be about how we present information to students anymore. Technology is no longer only the means by which information is delivered (overhead projectors, film, etc.), and it is no longer something that only the teacher uses. Today we have the wonderful privilege of putting the emphasis on teaching students how to find information on their own, and the students are using the technology as well. We can teach students how to properly and appropriately use search engines such as Google to answer their questions. If we teach students how to identify reliable websites, we are empowering them to independently learn on their own!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Introduction



My name is Amber. I am 25 years old. I have a chubby little, honey-colored, Cairn terrier named Buddy who rules the household, and he, unfortunately, knows he is in charge. With the exception of college, I have lived in Athens, AL all my life. I love my hometown. It is beautiful and has historic, small-town charm but has the convenience of Huntsville just next door. Our area happens to be a hub for all kinds of interesting careers. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood of rocket scientists, ministers, army officers, nuclear physicists, businessmen, doctors, and more. I graduated from Athens High School in 2004 and went to Troy University, Troy, on scholarship. I interned at Harrand Creek Elementary School in Enterprise, AL and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education in 2007. I plan to finish my Masters in Elementary Education sometime in the spring of next year.

I have taught 4th grade at Creekside Elementary in Harvest, Alabama for two years. I taught three leaves of absence at the same school the year before I started teaching full time. Unfortunately, since I am not tenured, I am currently the victim of the economy. All first-year and many second-year teachers in our school system received pink-slips last week. There is a possibility that I will be hired back within the next few weeks, but nothing is certain. I really love teaching 4th grade, and I love the people with whom I work. I miss them, and I am praying about what God would want me to do next year. I know that as a human, I have no idea what will make me happy. God does know, though, so I am trusting Him.

I became a teacher because I have the gift of teaching and because I wanted to teach in the way that my favorite teachers taught me. As a teacher, I like to have fun as often as I can! I like to teach using manipulatives, primary sources, games, technology, cooking activities, experiments, read-alouds, and picture books whenever I can. I get bored when teaching from textbooks from time to time, so I know my students are bored when textbooks are overused. My favorite piece of technology has to be my AirLiner for my SMARTboard. I can teach anywhere in my classroom with it (I usually sit on my small group table so all of the kids can see me and so I can be close to all of my materials.), and I can see all of my students at the same time. I do not have to teach with my back turned! Meaningful games saved me this past year. The value of meaningful, cheap, easy games is almost priceless. Game work gives students that oh-so-very-needed brain-and-body break and real reasons to learn material – especially in math. What 4th grader really wants to understand fractions? When my 4th graders needed to understand fractions in order to win one of our daily games, they wanted to understand!