The Things I do for My Students

UPDATE: Second video of another teacher added.

For our Sub for Santa drive the students at my school set a goal to raise more than $11,000! I volunteered my legs for waxing if they met that goal. They did! Here is the video. Enjoy, I did. It didn't hurt that bad, but I had to play it up for the students to enjoy it more. There is no audio, but I hope my face tells the story. Pictures here.

Free Rice Marathon

First of all, thanks to all of you who told me how much rice you donated on your own yesterday. At school, we had students down in the computer lab all day in 15-minute shifts. There were 37 computers going full steam all day. We raised just over 750,000 grains of rice for We had a great time and we thank everyone who participated. There was almost 50,000 donated by people not at our school. All in all, it was a lot of fun.

Make a Difference Wednesday!

I mentioned this website earlier and wanted to mention it again. My class has gone to great lengths to set the day aside to help raise rice for the United Nations. They wrote a proposal to the administration, they planned out a schedule, made permission slips to teachers, and passes back from the library. I am so proud of how hard they worked. So, a lot of students will be filtering into the library to go to and see how much rice we can to donate to the United Nations. The totals for the past few days are in the image below.

If you have a chance, please spend a couple minutes there and pad our stats. ;)

My students would really appreciate your help.

In other news. The SWAT team wiki is up and running. It looks great. The students have done almost all of that all by themselves. They are doing a remarkable job! Stay posted for the website for gratitude if we can ever figure out how to get the form to work.

Why do we blog and news...

Be sure to hit the SWAT team wiki link above to see how the class is doing. The temporary site for the "website for gratitude" is here. It was designed by my students, and I will let them take the reins on it.

Also, here is a neat little video about blogs. It is so well done and very creative. I love how it doesn't use any screenshots or visit any webpages to teach about blogs. So cool!

25 Days Update

Well, my students discussed, brainstormed, and came up with some great ideas for how to make a difference.

One girl, the resident genius, suggested what I think is the best idea. She wants to make a website for gratitude. People will be able to go to the website and type in a message of gratitude to someone. The web form will then email that message to the recipient. I think it is a great idea. Hopefully, it will work.

The next idea was to do something with After talking about it, we decided we would try to have the library full all day with shifts of students trying to raise rice for the United Nations. I think it will work really well, but we might not have enough time.

The last idea is one that I came up with, but it will still help. I gave the kids the idea, but they have done most of the work so far. They are making a SWAT team wiki. It will be a place that students can go to for information and tutoring. It is a big project, also. We will be working on this all year. I am very excited about it. I did blogs with my students last year, and I think this will be a good thing to do.


I Love it!!!

There are a lot of great things about the internet. I really love it. This little girl is trying to make a difference. "I can make a difference by..." is the theme for this year's Refections contest, which is put on by PTA's throughout the nation (apparently). She is trying to make a difference by doing small things, but it turning out to be much larger. Check out her blogroll of people that are helping or at least talking about it. This kind of stuff is fascinating. I will have to brainstorm with my kids tomorrow to see what we can do to win this really neat prize.

I have great students

For the most part, my students were very good for the week that I was gone. There were a couple punk kids, but other than that, they did great. They were very respectful to the sub. When I walked in the door, this was waiting on my board. I thought it was pretty nice.

Then, my 3rd period students had this waiting for me, too, along with a couple gifts for the kids.

Also, this week and next week is the Sub for Santa charity drive where the students bring money and food to make Christmas possible for some kids in our school who don't have much. One of my students brought in $150! I could not believe it. She had her dad go and talk to people at work and donate some money. If anyone reading this is interested in helping, let me know and we will work something out.


This is not exactly educational, but it is very interesting, and other people have mentioned it before. When my daughter was born yesterday (yippee!!!), I called my dad on Skype to tell him she came safely and show him what she looks like. He lives in Brazil, and so it is not easy to call and talk to him very often without Skype. Think of how amazing Skype could be in education. If I wanted to talk to an author, or a professional, or an actor, or a screenwriter, or anyone else associated with the subject that I teach, it would be very easy to do. Wednesday night I did not go to class because Staci was going in for the C-section on Thursday, but it turns out that I was sick, too. I emailed my professor and asked if we could do a Skype call, but he didn't know what it was so he would have to set it up. Turns out, he couldn't get it to work. Bummer, it would have been really neat to be able to attend my class while sitting at home.

I would really like to do a video call with someone in a profession that could benefit my English students. I do know an author, named Stacey Cochran, and maybe I could contact him and do something. I will have to try that.

A Teaching Meme

I am following the lead of an edublogger that I just learned about. I don't know any of the teachers' blogs that I read, and I only know one of the bloggers that is a teacher.

1. I am a good teacher because… I love learning and helping other people learn.

2. If I weren’t a teacher, I would be… lost! All through my life I have wanted to be a teacher. I tried to avoid it, but I knew I would end up in education. I believe any job in education is there to help students learn.

3. My teaching style is… dependent on my students, but sadly probably more authoritative than I would like.

4. My classroom is… covered in paper. I have papers all over my desk and counter top. My organization skills are in desperate need of assistance from a professional organizer.

5. My lesson plans… are online.

6. One of my teaching goals is… to start my own school (that goal is still many years away from being accomplished.)

7. The toughest part of teaching is… motivating the unmotivated, (I agree with Blair).

8. The thing I love most about teaching is… when students "get it". The "Oh, I get it now!" is the best and most exciting thing to hear.

9. A common misconception about teaching is… those who can't do, teach. (And by extension, those who can't teach, teach PE.)

10. The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching… It takes time to be a good teacher. Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint.

Educational Software Review: Mindjet MindManager 7

Update: Thanks to Kyle who commented below and solved the major issue that I have with this program, kind of. He suggested using shift while dragging. That makes it a floating topic, and disconnects the subtopic from its parent. Also, the "quick start" guide is 30 pages long!

As you can see from the picture to the left, MindManager 7 is a product that helps people visualize information. This is a great idea because many people, especially children can understand things better if they visualize them. This program can help facilitate children's learning. Mindjet pitches this to businesses, education, NPOs, government agencies, and individuals. Academic pricing is $149.

Useful Features
Once you make a mind map you can export it in a number of different formats: PNG, JPG, TIFF, RTF, PDF, web page, and some others that I didn't even know existed. The best export is the PDF because it adds some white space around the map, and that makes it look nice. The picture formats (TIFF, PNG, and JPG) were good exports also, but they cut off the top-most and bottom-most lines on the subtopics. as shown below.
It doesn't look like it cuts the borders off too much, but it is enough to be annoying.

Another good feature is that there are plenty of things you can add to spice up your map. It doesn't have to be boring like the one on the left. You can add all kinds of graphics, pictures, arrows, and pretty much whatever else you can think of. You can also link other files to your map, including Outlook contacts, Word files, spreadsheets, websites, and more.

You can also draw relationships between different subtopics, which is very useful as well. Another good feature of this program is the ability to collapse and expand subtopics. Collapsing subtopics helps the productivity maniac focus on just one idea, not the whole enchilada.

I did not like this program. I have a real issue with programs that make me fight them. The video clip below explains one feature that really bugged me. MindManager makes you put parts of your map in certain places. For instance, if I want to place a new subtopic somewhere the program would suggest a spot. Most of the time, that is great...but sometimes, I want a bubble where I want it. I wanted the figure I was making to look nice, but the program would not let me put things where I wanted them. I am a firm believer that the software needs to get out of the way so that I can do what I need to (like Jing). This program just got in my way. I tried to figure out how to change that setting, but I couldn't find it. The preferences menu is one page with only six options.

If I wanted to move just one subtopic somewhere, then it would affect all the other subtopics and that drove me nuts. My finished product still does not look how I want it to, but it does look good enough, I guess.

Basically, I had to stop using this program because it was way to difficult to get it to do what I wanted. It took more time to figure out how to make it do what it should than it did to make a more complex map in Inspiration, which I will review next.

Lockdown Drill

We had a lockdown drill today at school and I was nervous that my students would not do well with it, but they managed to do OK, for the most part. There were a couple kids who did not do very well. They were making faces and laughing at each other. It is really frustrating that some kids (and adults, too) think that everything is a joke and that we don't need to be serious about things. Lockdowns are serious business. It is very important to have procedures in place to keep everyone safe if something were to happen...say nothing of the legal implications if something goes horribly wrong. It is really important. One of my professors at BYU-Idaho told a story about how she was shot at in the hall of a high school in Salt Lake City. These things do happen, and it is important to be as prepared as possible for everything. Obviously, there is no way to prepare for every contingency, but it is certainly worth our best effort to prepare for as much as possible without being to overcome by paranoia.

So, I sent one kid down with a referral for goofing off and the other kid I sat and talked to for about ten minutes. The student eventually agreed that he should not let someone else get the blame for something he was as equally to blame for, and he went down to the VP's office with me and fessed up to acting poorly. I sure made sure that he understood his mistake before I let him off the hook. It was a very brave thing to do, though. Too bad he didn't think of it on his own.

Congratulations, you are a genius

Take that Chris!!! Apparently you have to be a genius to understand what I write. Chris made some good comments about how this could just be randomly generated. I did the Flesch-Kincaid for the first page in Word, and I got some different results. Apparently, I write to the grade that I teach...interesting. Some people might say I act the grade I teach also.

Web Quest Problems

I make no assumptions that anyone reads this blog, so now that people are actually reading it, and commenting even, you also get to hear my reflective posts.

The problem I ran into today was explaining that they need to fill out three source cards, but there was only one for the internet in the packet that I gave them. It is very frustrating that this happened. So, I had to make more.

There are times as a teacher when you realize that it is a lot easier to change how you do things instead of dealing with the incessant confusion by your students when what you are asking them to do makes perfect sense to you. This happens a lot with me, which is probably a testament to my inability to be clear and this post is clearly an example of that!!!

Amazing! Thank you Chris

So my good friend Chris asked a question in the comments yesterday about the web quest, so I thought I would answer it. The really amazing thing is he had a perfect teaser to get me to answer it. He used a program he is working on called Jing. It is wicked awesome. It is a screen capturing program that you can use to capture video or pictures and then explain whatever you want. The only problem is that while Chris left the comment at about 7 pm, I didn't see it until 10:30 last night. As it turns out, I was so excited about how to use this program, that I couldn't go to sleep. I just thought about how I could use it. For example, more than half my students were on a field trip yesterday, so they missed my explanation about what to do to start this web quest. Now, I can put a link to the Jing screencast on my website, explaining what to do, and they can watch it before they start working. This will also be good for explaining things that are complicated when I need to show something, but don't want to be stuck at my computer. I can see how this program can be very useful in education.

Web Quest

My students started research for their web quest today, and I have to say that I am very excited about it. I wish that I could have done more for it, but I am okay with starting small. One thing that I have noticed is that while some of them know and understand how to get around on the web, they are not necessarily computer literate. Many of them don't understand what a title of a page is as opposed to the title of a site. Some don't know what the web address is. It is interesting how much I need to teach internet literacy to them as well as the other material I must teach. This is not a complaint, by the way, just an interesting observation.


I recently blogged about my new website for my students. Well, I don't think I said that I used Apple's iWeb to make it. It was a fantastically easy program to use, and the site looks pretty good. It was definitely worth it because it makes a better site faster than I could using Dreamweaver. Well, the problem that occurs is that if you screw up your computer and it starts speaking Russian and you have to reinstall the OS, and you don't save a file called domain.sites in an obscure folder, you lose everything. Yeah, that happened to me. So, I have all the files, but because I don't have the original domain.sites file, I can no longer open that website in iWeb. I cannot believe how much that stinks. What a pain! I can still use Dreamweaver to edit the site, but it is still a major bummer.


In trying to free up some space on my hard drive, I deleted some language packs thinking that I would not need them anymore. I don't know how this happened, but my OS's language is slowly morphing into Spanish and Russian. While the latter is actually pretty cool, it is overwhelmingly difficult to try and determine what the Russian words actually mean. Some are pretty easy, but others are down right impossible. This picture is pretty easy, and it is sometimes clever the words they use to describe things. I guess "Frameworks" is not translatable.

My Website

So a couple years ago, I bought a domain name and made a website. The website is actually pretty stinkin' cool, but it takes a lot of work to keep it up to date. Well, in reality, it probably doesn't take that much, since I did all the original coding all that time ago. I really enjoy making and editing the website. It is a hobby that I will hopefully be able to further enjoy as I get better at it and have more time. I use the website mainly as a launching point for my school stuff. I just updated it to have a calendar complete with assignments for my students I am breaking a lot of web design rules by doing it this way, and if my web design teacher ever found out, he would probably throw a fit. <- Go here and then click the FHMS link and it will take you to the web page that I recently blogged about. Then click on that first page to get to the calendar, and you can see what I am doing for the next couple weeks, kind of.
This is a very small side effect, but a worthwhile one nonetheless. And, I am sure I am the only one who did not foresee it. I am sure that others saw it as an important tool that we could no longer live without

 When everyone at your school is focused on learning and collaboration, they start to help each other learn different things. One teacher helped me out with something, even though there was no reason for her to think that she should help me. The PLC creates an environment of sharing. That is what is really important. When I found out from someone else that she needed help with something, I let her know how I could help her, even though it would cost me time to help her out. I must say it is very fulfilling to be in culture where competition against others is minimalized, and the overall success of the students is the goal. There is still plenty of competition, but it is healthy competition that engenders improving yourself not at the expense of others.  


The magazine Edutopia is geared toward generating/creating innovation in schools. I have a subscription to it, but I don't always read it. I like reading about doing things differently because my personality (as much as I try to fight it) is to reinvent the wheel. This article is about textbooks. I have never like textbooks, especially English textbooks. There is some good stuff there that helps some teachers (especially new ones) but at the same time, each teacher needs to do a lot of filtering to get to what he or she needs. I used the textbook last year for some parts because it had some better-than-I-had-time-to-make grammar exercises. Other than that, it was just as easy to make something as it was to go through the book and find the stuff that was relevant or appropriate for my state core standards (the stuff I must teach).

I would really like to develop a kit for new teachers so that they have something to use that is not the textbook. Time is a major factor for new teachers, and it would be really nice to get everything in one place, and actually be able to use it. I have thought that writing an appropriate textbook would actually help make teaching easier. Now, I am not going to do that, because there is no way that I have enough time for it, but I can dream, right?

Anyway, back to the point, the article above shows how insane it is to use textbooks from McGraw-Hill or the other large publishers. It would be much more effective to find a smaller niche supplier of textbooks. A publisher who published something for each state (or just for Utah) would be a great way to focus the textbooks better.


Okay, I am pretty sure that my new website is ready for takeoff. If you find any errors or something doesn't work, please let me know.

In other news, I read this blog post a couple days ago, and I love what is going on there. The idea of having a separate learning session for your kids is such a marvelous idea. I would love to be able to do that with my kids. I would love to incorporate some of these ideas into my classroom also. For example, we are reading Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick, and it would be great to host a Skype call with the author and talk about his motivation for writing the story and how he got his ideas, etc. That would be fabulous.


I recently got a new iPod Nano for my birthday/eating-tons-of-cabbage-soup celebration. It came with a game called iQuiz. The really neat thing about that game is that you can make your own quizzes, and it is very easy (or more complex, if you are interested in that kind of stuff). So, for our weekly department meetings we had to come up with pre/post assessment. The theory behind this is that we give the same test twice. We give it to them once at the beginning of the quarter, and then again at the end. This is supposed to show us how much they have improved. I am not sure I am sold on this whole idea, yet, but we will give it a shot. The iPod story comes into play because we have finished our assessment for 2nd quarter and are ready to administer it. I made a quiz (pictured above, download the txt file here, or in the sidebar to the right, at the top) for the assessment we are giving and I think that the kids will actually want to take the practice quiz because it is offered in a different format. It will help them to do well on the test, also. I think I might make a quiz to help them practice for the CRTs (state tests that are associated with NCLB) also. I remember when Apple announced that game, and I immediately thought of doing something like this.

This would work well for the students because many of my students have iPods. The only problem is that I am sure that many of them do not have the most recent iPods, the ones that you can play these games on. But, if they download the iQuiz maker (or we download them on the school computers) they can practice inside that program. There are still a few kinks to work out, but it would be really cool if this could work.

To see if your iPod will work with this game, go to this website and scroll up. The iPods above where the link takes you will work (with the only exception being the iPod Touch).

Teacher Evaluations

My principal came into my room to evaluate my teaching abilities today. I have never thought that evaluations were a big deal--last year I had someone in my room to evaluate me six times. I know I am a good enough teacher for those evaluations so I am never worried. Certainly I could be a much better teacher, but my worst days are usually still good enough for getting a good grade. A few minutes after the principal left, I got a note that said, "Please come to the principals office at 2:35." That is right after we get out of class. I have to have one more evaluation before he will actually need to meet with me, but I went prepared anyway. I was not prepared.

He told me and the other teacher he evaluated today that he was very impressed with how well we did. He said that we were in the top 10 of first and second year teachers he has evaluated in his long career. He told each of us only one thing that we needed to do better, and congratulated us the rest of the time. That fits in very nicely with the culture of the school. They focus on positive behaviors instead of negative consequences. It works even with teachers. I must admit that I went through what I did in my lesson and tried to focus on what I could carry over to other lessons. It was great motivation.

Amazing results

I usually have scoffed at the reward instead of punish track taken by many educators who do presentations of some sort. Not anymore. Today, two of my classes were really loud and talktative. It gets that way sometimes, and it can be very annoying, especially when I have been sick and don't feel well. In one class, I kept saying, "Quiet please!" and I had to say that about 10-15 times in that class. The next class was also very talkative, so I said, "I need to be able to hear you today, so I will give RATTLE cards to students who raise their hands and wait to be called on." The room was silent in an instant, and for most of the class. If they started talking again during the lecture portion, I asked a question and as I called on a student to answer, I gave her a RATTLE card and said, "Thanks for raising your hand and waiting to be called on..." That got everyone to be quiet again if it got out of hand. I was amazed. I am going to start doing some sort of class wide reward system with the students later this week or next week. I think it will help them even more.

Such a softie

Today, this seventh grade girl (not my student) was in the hall talking to some ninth graders. It is "Unique You Day" at our school which basically means that kids can dress up as whatever makes them unique. She had a tiara, and theses ninth grade girls were very cliquish. They made her feel bad for wearing the tiara and didn't have time to talk to a little 7th grader. It made me sad to see that. Sometimes I am such a softie.


One thing about change is that it can be so difficult sometimes. I am trying really hard to change the type of teacher that I am. It is difficult, because habit is so engrained in me that it seems much more natural to be that way. For me, I guess it is more natural since that is what I have been doing. I do think, however that I have noticed a change. Today I jumped on a student who would not shut his freaking mouth. It was driving me insane. I was asking for participation from the class by raising their hands, and he was commenting on everything that was said or done. After I barked at him, the rest of the class refused to participate for a short time. I am sure it is because I reacted so strongly to that kid. It was frustrating, but very enlightening. It was a great reminder that changing my attitude and changing how I interact with students does make a difference. In related news, I have noticed that I am also a better husband and father. I don't get as frustrated with my daughter, and I don't get as annoyed with my wife. Disclaimer: I don't usually get annoyed with my wife. She is the greatest thing ever. I have noticed that I am more patient, less judgmental, less rude, and more understanding.

A new take on Discipline

This summer I took a class from a lady named Leigh VandenAkker. She was really one of the best teachers I have ever had. I had a really hard time though because Leigh disciplines very differently than I do. Well, she used to. I used to think that I must rule with an iron fist, make students fear me, and "not smile before Christmas". Today drove the point home that what I was doing things very wrong.

Yesterday in class, one student was presenting what she had written, and another student (we'll call her Michelle) in class turned to the girl who was sitting behind her (the same girl she had been talking to all day!) and rolled her eyes, and mouthed "Really?" while the other girl was in the middle of talking. I stopped the girl presenting, and told Michelle that what she was doing was inappropriate. Then she argued with me, and I said that she needed to say sorry. Michelle reluctantly agreed, but maintained that she did not roll her eyes. It was not a good experience. After class, I told her that what she was doing signals to the person in the front of the room that Michelle does not like her. Michelle claimed that she does like the presenter and that she doesn't want to be rude. It ended better than I thought. This was a strategy I learned from Leigh. Don't argue, wait until after class to discuss it further, explain that the behavior puts people on different levels and then find a way to make sure that the person leaves knowing that you love them, but don't like the behavior, and then make sure that they understand that.

Today, Michelle was talking to this same girl again during a team meeting in our pod before she was in my class. The teacher she has before me jumped on her and embarrassed her in front of all the other students. I had her next and we went to the auditorium for a small presentation. I sat behind Michelle and her friend to make sure they didn't talk, and then when the assembly was over, I made my move. Our school has RATTLE cards. There are rules associated with each of those letters. The cards are given to students who are caught doing something good associated with those positively worded rules. The students can collect them, save them, then buy things in the student store with them, and then there are drawings for the whole school for cool things like digital cameras, gift certificates, and more. Anyway, the students want these. So, when the assembly was over, I leaned up and whispered to the girls, while handing them two rattle cards each, "Thank you so much for showing that you are mature and can sit through this presentation without talking to each other. I was going to move you so you didn't sit by each other, but I am glad that I decided to give you another chance. Thank you again for showing your wonderful sense of character." (The E stands for Exhibits Character.) The girls smiled and said thanks and were visibly touched that I did that. The next area we went to they didn't talk again, so I gave them each another RATTLE card, and for the rest of the day, they did not talk when they should not have.

This new style of discipline is much better because I am accenting their positive behaviors and helping them learn how to behave correctly. I don't think that yelling at them as I did in the past was as effective as quickly. Last year, they were always trying to save face, and I was backing them into a corner. I am very pleased so far.

Back to School

My new school is very different from my last school. They are very big on Professional Learning Communities here, as opposed to my old school where I rarely even talked to any of my other teachers. One thing that is especially exciting is that there are a lot of school-wide policies. Most people probably would not think that is cool, but I do. I like that a lot of things are decided for me by the administration, but they are mostly things that I agree with. Their late policy is a little lenient for me, but that is okay. What really makes is great is that the students can't come and complain that a certain teacher allows or does not allow certain things. For instance, no iPods, mp3 players, portable gaming systems, or other types of electronic devices are allowed at school at all. The only exception is cell phones which may be used during passing periods and lunch, but not during class. This is great because if those electronic devices are seen at all, they are taken away and not given back until parents come to get them. I like these new rules so far.

The other great thing is that two of my goals that I talked about recently will be very easy to do because of some other school policies. Planning will be much easier because we are required to do curriculum mapping for the last three quarters. Also, I am on a team and my department is very friendly. The relationships are already better. I don't know if I will continue going to the faculty room each day for lunch because it is very easy to fall into whining about students. I am very excited about my new school and all that goes on.

Reflection #3: On Integrating Technology

The school I just finished the year at is not that technology advanced. They do have some technology (some that I didn't know about until the last day) but it is not that great. The computers that I hunted down for my room were eMacs 700MHz, running Mac OSX 10.2. They were very slow and many times did not work how they were supposed to. I did have a SMARTboard in my room, but I never had time to learn how to use it, so I didn't use it. I did try a couple times, but it was more difficult than I wanted. As I have mentioned before, my 9th grade honors class did individual blogs each week. That was a neat experience, but I have a different plan for next year. I want to have a blog for each class, and then each class will have one day to go down to the lab and do their blog. It will be very important for me to teach them that this is not just some other assignment. I need to incorporate research, good writing skills, correct grammar usage, and internet safety. If I don't include these things, it will be virtually worthless because they will just be doing an assignment, and not effectively using technology to better their experience. I have decided to use a class blog because it was very difficult for grading and tracking to see who did their assignment when every one of them had its own url. At my new school they have opaque projectors which are basically overhead projectors that you don't need transparencies for. They are really slick. You can put the student's paper in there, right after they wrote it and then critique it and give them immediate feedback. There are video projectors on the same site since opaque projectors are discontinued but we had those at BYU-Idaho. I didn't think they were that great.

Changes I need to make regarding technology next year:
  • Use technology effectively to enhance education, not just to use it for the sake of using it.
  • Use technology to make my job easier, not harder.
As part of my requirements as a first-year teacher, I have to fill out these forms that are a total joke. There is about a half a page to write about what I have accomplished this year as a teacher. They want me to reflect on my year, but only give me limited space to write it down. I have issues with forced reflection: I hate it. I see the immense value in reflection and goal setting, but struggle when it is forced upon me. I hope that in the next week, I can finish all the reflections I have on my mind, but I will just take it one day at a time. I have really learned a lot in my first year of teaching, and hope that I can take those lessons with me next year to my new school.

The ninth graders went to Lagoon today. I went with them since I have mostly ninth graders. It was a pretty fun day, and the new ride there, Wicked is just that, wicked. Not the best roller coaster I have been on, but it is pretty cool. While at Lagoon I didn't do much supervising of the kids (since that would be impossible). I just hung out with 7 other teachers who went also. A couple days ago I thought that maybe I would rather not go, and just stay at school for the day with no students. I would be able to get a lot done. I was entertaining that thought because I don't really have a very good relationship with most of the teachers at my school. There are a few that I do feel some rapport with, but not that many. I have thought a lot about why this is so.

First, I spent most lunches in my room. At the beginning of the year, it was because I had so much to do, and I never felt like I had enough time to prepare for everything. Once I got things under control better, I stayed in my room for lunch just for some peace and quiet. It was nice to be able to read the news and each lunch without the noise of my students. Not that I don't like the teachers I work with, but the faculty room was sometimes not that quiet either. Towards the end of the year, I stayed in my room still because I had not been in the lunch room all year, and the other teachers had established cliques, and the couple times I was in there, I felt left out. That is certainly not their fault, but rather mine. In addition, one excuse I made for why I didn't eat lunch with others was that the few times I was it seemed like there was a lot of complaining about students, administration, our jobs overall, etc. going on. I used that as an excuse to keep me away. Even though I love teaching more than anything else I have ever done, I still complain. I guess that is just part of the dark side that is always creeping to the surface for me.

The second reason that I didn't establish many relationships with teachers is because I was too shy to go out of my way to make more friends. This is not in my character at all. Since I got married, my wife has become my best friend and the one that I turn to for everything. She is wonderful, and is probably the greatest person ever invented, but thinking that she was the only person I needed as a friend was an incorrect assumption on my part. I have learned some amazing things from those teachers I have built a relationship with (teaching techniques, curriculum suggestions, project ideas, classroom management hints, and much more). I need friends at work, people that can help me and that I can help when needed. An excellent example of this is that there have been two field trips in the last couple weeks where I and other teachers needed someone to take the students that would not be able to go. When teachers emailed asking for help, I was reluctant to volunteer to help someone that I had not built a relationship with already. When I needed help, the only ones who volunteered were teachers that I had built a relationship with. If I had done better earlier, I would have been more willing to help others, and I think they would have been more willing to help me.

The third reason is that I haven't really felt like part of the faculty. I know that part of it is because I am new, and part of it is my own insecurities. I always feel like I have to be the center of attention or else people don't like me much. That is silly. It has taken me a long time to realize this, but there is nothing wrong with being in the background for a while. I don't have to be the most important one in a group to still be important to that group. And why do I even need to be important? I can just be there!

Changes to make regarding relationships:
  • Each lunch with the other faculty members. I need some time with grownups. (And sometimes, it is okay to vent!)
  • Go out of my way to make sure other teachers feel that I appreciate them and notice the good things they do
  • Make sure that I volunteer to help others when they need it (within reason, without overextending myself) so that I have a way to build a better relationship with them
If I can build better relationships with faculty next year, I think that I will see some great changes in my own teaching ability, my happiness at the school, and networking for the future. Making friends is always a good idea. Making friends with teachers who care about what they are doing is even better. I am a social person. Sitting in my room during lunch when I knew I could be out making friends was totally foreign to me. I still don't completely understand WHY I chose to be lonely.


This is a sad post. I have a student that we will call Liza. She started out the year with a little bit of rockiness--trying to find herself, dealing with moving to a new area, and deciding what groups she would identify with. We had authority struggles while she was still a loner, and then I saw that she befriended a semi-goth but very bright girl and I thought she would do just fine. A couple months into the year, a girl named Rachelle moved into our school and was clearly not a good girl. She constantly skipped class, didn't do her work, and had an awful mouth. Then, with about two months left in the year, Liza started hanging out with Rachelle. It was amazing to see how fast her grades dropped in all her classes. Her attitude was a complete 180 degree change. She swore constantly. She stopped wearing her pajamas to class and started wearing the same style as Rachelle. It was really interesting to see how she went from being relatively good to sliding down this slippery slope to be like Rachelle. It is so tragic that Rachelle had SO much influence on Liza. I knew Rachelle was bad news as soon as I met her. I wish I knew how to teach my students to choose friends that will help them grow into better people, not denigrate them into followers of filth.

Reflection #1: On Planning

As I finish my first year teaching, I have opportunity to look back on how the year has gone and see where I have been and what I have learned.

#1. I did not do a very good job at planning. That is a real struggle for me. One thing that I am really good at is "winging it" and the problem with that is that I don't plan ahead as well as I should. For instance, I would plan my days by saying, "What do I need to do tomorrow?" There was no over-arching plan for the whole, or even for the whole quarter. One thing that I liked about college was that each teacher gave a syllabus for the whole semester. That made it really easy to budget my time as a student and plan for big assignments. It is a little easier in college to use/create a syllabus, because there is less new information, and more depth. In middle school, at least here, it felt like there was a lot of new information for my students. I don't think it is impossible, but just more difficult.

Contributors to #1: Grad school made it very difficult to have enough time to prepare really well each day. Homework, research, class time, and driving to and from school during the week takes a lot of time. My own laziness makes it hard to plan as well.

Changes I should make regarding #1:
  • I should create an overarching theme for next year.
  • I should give a syllabus for at least each quarter.
  • If I know where I am going, it will be easier to get there.
If I can do these things, I think that I will have a better year. Knowing when and what I need to do for my students for the whole year will make the day-to-day planning a little easier. That way I can have an idea in my mind of what we need to do.
I used for my students' blogs.

I didn't like it that much. It was nice for each student to have their own blog, but I think that I next year I will have a blog for the whole class, ask questions, and have students posts their responses as comments. I use blogger for my personal blog and for my education blog . I think I will like blogger better than this 21classes. I set up an account at Google so that my students could all have email addresses that are and that has been nice. I have had a couple students get on at home, and chat with me during class to make sure they understand the assignment. That has been a very worthwhile experience. Right now, I email the students a question at the beginning of the week, and they post the answer on their blogs. The thing I didn't like about 21classes was that they had ads to support it if you don't pay. The problem is that their ads were like this: "Are you GAY? Take the quiz and find out now!" I am not sure that I would like my students to learn about their sexual orientation while doing an assignment for my class. The site costs $8.95 a month to use without ads, and there aren't really any other benefits. Blogger also has a much better design. The other problem with is that customer service is non-existent. There is no option to go back to the ad-supported site (as I was planning to do over the summer) without deleting the entire thing. That is kind of frustrating. Also, when I have problems, and I need to know why none of my students can post on a particular day, I try to contact someone, and there is no phone number or anything like that, so I have no way to contact them. Any email links to report problems all pop up with my email address in the field. It sounds very sketchy and probably is. I will delete the whole thing as soon as all my students finish their blogs, so I don't have to pay for another month.

Thanks for the optimism, brother but...

My class average for my ninth graders on the CRTs was 48.68/85 (57%) and my seventh graders scored an average of 69/82 (84%). I figure by posting this now, I can get my info out before it shows up in the newspapers, and therefore it will be old news by that time.

The good news is that now that I have been through it, I know how to prepare for it better next year. Even though I will not completely teach to the test, I can still improve my teaching. I will be requiring more writing next year, and I hope that will help my students do better. I will also hopefully give more tests than I have this year. Being in a testing situation often does help them do better on tests. I just didn't have time to write tests. When will I ever have time for anything?

In other news, I signed up for my ARL courses to get my license. I will take four courses this summer and they recommend that I only take two. After this summer, I will only have two more courses to take, and then I will have my required courses completed. I am really excited to get this done. It is difficult trying to do grad school and certification, but I am sure it will pay off in the end.


This week we are doing Language Arts CRT (Criterion Referenced Tests). There are four sections and it takes one section per day and a makeup day on Friday. It is so boring because I have to walk around the room all day and make sure my students are marking their answers in the right place. I know there are some things on the test that I specifically taught my students, and other things that I even thought were hard when I took the test. Hopefully, my students will do well, otherwise, I will have my name in the paper--and not for something good.

Creativity in Punishment

I really like thinking up ways to creatively punish students. This student continued to text on his phone during class, even after I asked him to stop. In reality, he wanted his hair cut anyway, and I suggested that we do this to teach the other students a lesson...but don't tell anyone.

Great Teachers

This morning I emailed a bunch of teachers, that I did an inservice with earlier this year, asking them for help about how to teach Greek and Latin roots to my ninth graders. It was really neat to get five or six responses in just a couple hours. I really appreciate that.

Ran across something...

I saw a link to this Flickr member's account. He is pretty amazing. Etchasketchist.

My teaching situation

Well, it turns out that I will have a job next year. My school is overstaffed, and I will be moving to Fort Herriman Middle School. My principal thinks that I will like it there, although she wishes that I could stay at my current school. It has some neat technology bonuses that go along with it. I hope that I will be able to incorporate the technology in a good way. I am pretty excited about it. My principal did say that if there is another opening at my school, she is going to be very angry if I still go to Fort Herriman. It is nice to be appreciated, I must admit that.

Student Blogs Update

This is the situation with my student blog class. They are coming along relatively well, but the students still need a little help understanding what it is all about and why they are important. Part of the problem is that I am not sure how to teach them how important it really is. I know that it is. I am sure of it, but it is difficult to get it across.

Another problem is that we only have six computers in our class. I have 23 students which means that four days out of five, students will be separated from the group working on their blogs. They are still getting used to the blog setup, and it takes them the whole period to do the assignments, and they are not that long. I have to guide them through each step for the whole time. It is not their fault. I sprung this on them, and they don't know how to do everything, so it is obviously partly my problem.

The real issue here is that while I am helping them on the computers, most of the other students are goofing off and not doing their work. That is really difficult. I can't be helping both at once, and I need to do better at this. I would really love a computer lab that I could use, but the one in the library is booked forever, and the other one has old iMacs that are really slow, and would not be very good. It is quite frustrating...if only I could have one of those mobile computer center so that all the students could be on at once at least once a week. I would really like to do my entire curriculum online and not have them turn in anything on paper. I think that would be great. I need to find a grant for that mobile lab.

A Great Video

This video is a little like the one I posted previously, but it is better and longer (about 8 minutes). The really neat thing about this is that it was made by someone at my school district. I need to get in touch with this guy, and see if I can't get him to help me get some better stuff going. The website he links to is pretty informative.

Exciting News

I am happy to say that I have started integrating technology into my classes more. I am starting with my Honors class because I can trust them a little more than my other classes right now. We have a start page through Google that we use, and a class blog site. This is exciting because I have wanted to get something like this going for quite some time, but never knew how to do it well. The host seems like a good fit since I can be the administrator of all the students' blogs and not worry about them wandering around in cyberspace.

My one problem was that on every page I visited on the blog site, there was an ad that said, "Are you Gay? Take the quiz and find out!" I am pretty sure that I don't want to my students to be learning about their sexual orientation in my class. So, I had to buckle down and start paying for this service, but it is only $9 bucks a month, and the school is paying for it, so it is not that big a deal.

The other interesting point about all this is that I finally found a use for my personal website. I have to own a domain for the Google Apps thing to work out. Since I have the domain name already, it is easy to incorporate that.


My curriculum professor, Dr. Cliff Mayes, defines synchronicities as those little things that happen that show that you are teaching some sort of eternal truth. He gives the example of a clock stopping in his class when he was talking about Time (not the magazine).

A synchronicity happened when I was discussing the rebuttal paragraph with my students. That paragraph refutes your opponents claims when you write a persuasive essay. My students were talking about how students should have cell phones in class, and I said, "Your opponents will argue that cell phones are distracting, so you need to tell them why they are wrong. You need to prove to them that cell phones can be in school without being a distraction." Right as I was finishing that sentence, my cell phone rang.

Did You Know?

This is a video that was created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod (I am not sure if this is the correct link for Scott McLeod, and if it is not, I will quickly change it as soon as I know). Globalization and The Information Age is really what it is about. I don't know how many of these claims are true or correct, but that is not important. What I believe is important is the idea of what is behind this. The world changes fast. We need to be prepared for it and make sure that those over whom we have stewardship are well-prepared for it also.

The Power of Sex

As part of our Greek Mythology unit, we are watching Disney's "Hercules". Don't get me wrong, we already watched Jason and the Argonauts. During the whole movie, some of my students are talking. At any point during the movie, there is at least one student talking, not paying attention. However, there is a part where Meg sings about how she isn't really in love with Hercules. That was the only part in the whole movie where everyone was focused on the movie. Nobody said a word once she started singing. It was really interesting to watch how they were all mesmerized. They focused on her and the singing, and when it was over, they were able to talk again. I would say that it is the power of Music, and not sex, but during the other songs, they were not as interested in the movie. These 7th and 9th graders are experiencing "love" for the first time and I really believe that these segments in movies appeal to them.

Image source:

Teacher for the Day Update

My student who taught last week wrote up a little response to what she thought of being a teacher for a day:

Being a teacher is not something that I would become when I grow up. A reason is because it's boring and you don't have fun. Besides, all the "students" ignore you and do whatever they want. It's hard being a teacher because you have to to [sic] thing so you can answer the students' questions, even though some questions are dumb, you still should know the answer. Now I know that it's not easy to be a teacher, it is actually pretty hard.

I am glad that she was able to understand something from that experience.

Sure, Go Ahead

One of my students (one of the instigators in my most unruly class) asked if she could teach today. I said, "Sure, go ahead!" She was probably just kidding with me, but I said she could go ahead anyway. She was excited at first, but then realized how hard it is to control this unruly class.

At the end, her frustration level was so high she said, "Mr. Jones, your job is so boring. If I were you, I would quit!"

It was very interesting to see how quickly she gave up. I don't really blame her, her class makes me question whether I should give up. Just kidding, sort of. It will be really interesting to see if her behavior changes in the future.


Very Scary

The Breaking Point

My honors class is usually a little rambunxious. They are full of energy, and there are a few boys that are certainly filling the role that boys are "supposed" to fill. They are always walking around, yelling, fighting, etc. The girls also fill their stereotypical roles well: they talk constantly, they flirt, they write notes, etc. It usually is not that big of a deal, but today was supposed to be a fun day. We just finished talking about voice in writing, and so I wanted to show a video (below) that showed how their writing is much more entertaining when their voices show through. Well, my class was talking the entire time and so I said, "Okay, class, if you guys want to continue acting like second-graders, I will treat you like second-graders." So, I made them all put their heads down on their desks, printed up an assignment for their homework, since we weren't going to do it in class, and then typed another assignment for the weekend. I really like that class, but they were so unruly today, I knew that I needed to do something to nip it in the bud. Only one student apologized after class was over. They had their heads down the entire period.


I read in one of my books that a good way to help students understand voice in writing is to have them rewrite nursery rhymes using different voices. Well, I thought that would be a great idea, so I decided to try it. Well, when I announced it to my first period class, I realized that most students in my class are minorities, and they don't know what nursery rhymes are. Even though every culture has short, moral stories that teach us lessons, they are not called nursery rhymes in every language. That was something that I had never thought about. I am taking a Multicultural class right now and that is why I thought of it, but it is interesting to see how I need to change my curriculum and lessons to adapt to those that may not be aware of how Americans do things.

Root Canal

I am getting a root canal tomorrow, and I can't wait. I know, it sounds crazy, but my students seem to have plotted against me to be major pills today. It is interesting because I know that they are not plotting against me. The truth, and I think it is a difficult truth for some teachers (especially me) to accept, is that I simply did not plan a good lesson today, and I am not doing well in the classroom management area. It is really frustrating, because I should be doing better. And I know that I can and have done better. I have always found that if I know why I am failing in a certain area, it is easier to deal with. It is easier to realize that it may just be a fluke. It is easier to realize what I need to improve on. The really amazing thing about today is that one of my most troublesome and rebellious students actually did the work today and did very well.

Irony and Punishment

Today, my students wrote five paragraph essays on a subject of their choice. They had to write two essays. Let me back up. One of my students has been throwing paper into the trash can like basketball. He and some other kids got really into it and it got out of control. I asked them to stop many times but this kid repeated the same thing every day. So, yesterday, he started it up again, and I said, "You better not let that leave your hand!" Of course, he did just that. I grabbed a referral and wrote it out. He was not stoked to get a referral. But, instead of handing in the referral, I waited and thought about what to do.

If my students did not want to come up with their own topics for the essays, I gave them two ideas. First, they could talk about students who get in trouble should have to do manual labor for a punishment instead of detention, where they just sit there and "think about what they have done". Their second option was to write about whether teachers should be allowed to show PG-13 and R rated movies in school. Many students chose those. Curiously enough, I decided to make this student who was throwing stuff come into my room for lunch detention and pick up all the pieces of paper on the floor (I made sure my room was extra messy). I got that ready for him in my prep period, 4th, and he came sauntering in 5th period (and, I think he was happy that he had not been pulled out of class yet by the vice principals; he probably thought all was forgiven and forgotten). When I sat down to grade his essay today, I was very shocked to read his introduction:

"Some people believe that instead of detention or suspension the students' punishment should be labor. I think that we should not do labor and that those people are wrong. First, labor is not part of a school situation for punishment. Second, labor's not something you should do in school. Third, if you're going to do that, you might as well send them to DT"

The really great thing is that he had one more class before lunch and so he had time to think about that, and then he actually had to do the chore. It was great. You cannot buy opportunities like that. By the way, I guess that DT is something that is like jail, but not entirely.
Okay, I fixed the comment moderating. I didn't know that I set it up that way. Sorry, sheesh!

One of my students suggested that I hide a dollar in the mess, and tell my students that if they find it, they get to keep it. Well, I thought about it and decided that they would probably make a bigger mess. I asked my last class if they would clean it up, and they all did it without complaining. They didn't have a problem. I didn't have to do anything.

The Vicious Cycle

Some of my students don't have very good lives. Low-income, low self-esteem, low expectations for themselves. It is tragic. It hurts me to see it. One of my students today refused to do any work because she is having a bad week. Sadly, this happens 2-3 times a week and so it has become a bad habit. I had my own struggles growing up and finding out who I was. The thing that my students do not understand is that they can change, both their lives and their situation. They need an advocate and someone on their side. Most importantly, they need education. Education can change their lives in ways they cannot even dream of. If they want to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty, they need education. It is their best key at getting out. They live in a cycle that drags them down and once they are in it, the task of getting out is overwhelming.

My sister spoke about another cycle that is difficult to get out of. Once you get upset or mad, it is so much easier to stay upset and mad than it is to be happy and positive. Usually, you need someone to educate you about how to be a better person to be able to pull yourself out of it. I believe that we all have a little bit of godliness in us. We have absolute power inside of us, but we need to find a way to tap into that. In my sister's case, the staff at her doctor's office taught her how to tap into that. For my students, I (and every teacher) needs to be that one person that can help them tap into their powerful reserves. They have the potential in them, but it is easier for them to continue in their vicious cycle than to strive to change their surroundings.

I will be forever indebted to my sister, Andrea, and her husband, Jason, for lighting that light in my mind. They provided the strong hand that I needed to guide me out of my painful choices and on to the road that I am on now. I am truly happy. I did not get here on my own, and I can only pay back those who helped me by helping others who need someone like them. Hopefully, I can be the kind of teacher that inspires and uplifts students to reach for the stars and go beyond.


I am trying to teach my 9th and 7th grade students about organization. Sometimes the best example is the null example. So, when my students came into class, they were greeted with a giant mess. The desks were strewn all over the place, and there was paper all over the floor. The really great thing was that they were not expecting anything like this. I am really particular about how the desks are organized and they were blown away that the desks were strewn all about the room.

My tardy policy is that students must be in their seats when the tardy bell rings to be considered on time. So, with one minute left in the passing period, I let them into a room where their desks were strewn all over the place. Obviously, only one or two students were able to get in their seats in the right place. So, most students got a tardy. Later in class, I reorganized the desks how they should be and told them they could remove the tardies if they all were in their seats in less than a minute. They all did well with that, and nobody received a tardy. We talked aobut how it was easier to find your desk and be on time when the room is organized how it should be. They seemed to understand that well.

They needed to come up with five reasons why organization is important in writing. They mostly did well on that. One student had a really interesting idea: your writing should be organized to help save wildlife. He said that the wildlife is saved because when you are organized you don't waste as much paper restating what you already said, and your rewrites are more apprpriate and you don't need to rewrite as much. Although he was trying to be a smart-alleck, he did make a good point when he was pressured to continue developing that thought.

The reason the floor is so messy is because I passed out their papers by throwing them in the air. They could, if they wanted, get their papers from the floor and some of them tried, but it was very difficult to find them when they were not organized.

The lesson ended with them trying to organize themselves for getting into their seats within 30 seconds. Only one class made it in that short time. The others were not able to organize themselves at all. So, it appears that there are still struggles to overcome, but hopefully, it made an impression on at least some of them.

About this Blog

I am 2nd year teacher of 7th grade language arts in Utah. I also am enrolled in the Executive Leadership program offered through Brigham Young University. I see this blog as an opportunity and place where I can express my feelings and thoughts. It will allow me to reflect on the things that happen to me. It is a place where I can put my ideas where they will hopefully never go away. As I said in my very first post, I hope that it will be beneficial for me and at least one other person.

Have a good life.