Can I Have a Little PLN with My PLC?

One thing I have found is year has been blogs and twitter. I went from page to page of my favorite blogs finding information to use in my class. Then I found Google Reader. Great place to put my favorite blogs in one place. Then came twitter. Following some of my favorite educators from around the country, I have found some great information and ideas that have helped my class. When I got my iPad, I found Flipboard and that brought it all together. There needs to be a Flipboard for my computer.

These tools have become a major part in my personal professional development. I am building a personal learning network. I feel that as a teacher, I need to become a Master Learner. This is the way to do it. Learning from others in the field. Sharing information we have learned and tried. Hearing ideas we can try or modify. Learning.

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A Testing We Will Go

It is that time again to see how well the students learned the lessons we tight them this year. It will also help us know how our new ideas worked and if they understood the concepts. This is an exciting time for me because of these reasons. Testing is a pain and does not always reflect what the students learned. I don't know if there is a surefire way to tell what the students have learned. I still find myself wondering where I learned some of the information I know.

As we did last year, we a having the students explain each answer as they take the test. We have the students fold a paper so there are 16 squares (eight on each side) and they explain why their answer is correct. After they have finished each page we look through it to see if they have explained their answer, no matter what they answer is, and then we collect the papers. Once the tests are completed, we shreds the papers. Last year the student scores went up quite a bit from the previous year. Every student went up. This has really given students an opportunity to show what they know and to explain why they chose that answer.

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I Found Life in Death Valley

Every year my little family takes a pilgrimage to Death Valley National Park. It is always sometime in March or early April. The tradition was started when my father-in-law lived in Death Valley Junction with his parents and took care of the Armagosa Hotel. After he was married, he and his wife lived at the hotel and had their first child there. It became a part of them and borax was in their blood. After moving out, the kids grew and the trips started. Each child got married and every year the trips became part of their tradition also. It became a family reunion, of sorts, each year.

When I joined the family it became part of my family tradition that started with learning and exploring and enjoying. We go to see the same sights every year: Bad Water, Devil's Golfcourse, Artist Palette. We visit the hotel and hear the stories about living there and what it used to look like. We learn from the ranger talks every night at the Visitor's Center. And we try to see something we have never been to, each year.

But it has become something more for me as a teacher. It has become a time to rejuvenate, learn, and prepare. After the first couple of years I started bringing a few things I could work on while in Death Valley. I started with the plays my class did at the end of the year. I would work on each Shakespeare play by bring the audition papers and deciding who would be each part. We were coming in the first part of March back then. When we decided to do movies as a grade level, I would work on finalizing movie parts. Then I started to bring a book to read that had to do wi what we were learning as a team and pull out my favorite parts.this year I have a grat book by Richard St. John, "8 to be Great". We are preparing for end of year testing and the kids have Spring Fever. I need a break and this is my time to reflect on what needs to be done and come back ready to focus the students, because I am focused.

We have quite a few breaks through the year, but we load them up with yard work and vacations that make us more tired. Each year we need to take a little focus time to recharge. No expectations, no agendas, just focus time. Read a book to get us back in the game. Ponder the happenings of the year so far. Far away from the things that will get us back into the ruts, yet close enough to keep us focused on the end result. Students.

Thank you, Death Valley. Thank you for getting me back into the groove. Thank you for allowing me the time to use your beauty, your hikes, your space to clear the cobwebs of repetition and see through a new lens at the time I need new focus. And thank you, sweetheart, for providing me with the opportunity to be in Death Valley each year.

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How Would We React?

Watching and listening about the tragedy in Japan has brought sadness and urgency. I worry about those that are missing and their families that do not know. But I saw a great story about how people waiting in line are not fighting, arguing, or stressing out about not getting food or water. They wait patiently for their turn in the store or to get their ration.

I am one that has a 72 hour kit for each member of my family. I also have a small food storage for emergencies. I have a friend that told me I need to purchase weapons of some kind in case there is an emergency and people wants my food. We need to protect what we have. As I watch Japan I wonder if we will we be helping those around us or fending them off in an emergency? I am hoping for charity to win out.

In this global world we live in we can see the need around us so much faster than we had in the past. We understand more about people near and far. We hear more about the love and hate around the world. Information about emergencies comes so much faster now. We are helping those that are far away, as in Haiti, Indonesia, and Japan. Even those in our own country, like New Orleans, we have helped. Will we help those that are next door? I think we will. When it comes down to a serious emergency, we will help. We need to help. We need to get to know those that are close to us. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs have made us pay attention to things far away, but knowing our neighbors is important. Technology has brought the world closer and made it easier to help those in need. It has also made us a little more distant from those close to us.

We should be like those in Japan that are patiently waiting for help.

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