Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Ed Show Tonight! MSNBC

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I got an email near the end of the day from Washington D.C. to see if I wanted to be on the Ed Show. Ed Schultz is horrified at the way that our New Jersey Governor is attacking public employees and I am too.

I'm a full-time teacher. Last year I won the New Jersey Teacher of the Year title and now I am in the running for the National Education Foundation Teaching Excellence Award. I'm very excited about all of the acclaim and honor that I have received. There are many good things about being recognized, but one of the best is having a bigger microphone to share the excellence of my colleagues.

Tonight, the taxi was waiting for me at 4:15 in front of my house when I pulled up from school so I ran in to get dressed in a flash. We hit the traffic on the G.W. Bridge and then got into midtown without a whole lot of fuss.

Before speaking on the Ed Show, I thought a lot about the way our Governor said that people shouldn't have pensions and about how he wanted to expose the unions and tell the truth.

I feel that what Governor Christie is doing is creating a giant myth about what is happening in our classrooms and is somehow engaged in an anti government worker public relations campaign. How is that possible for the leader of my state?

In order to attract the caliber of professional that we want to be teaching our children, we need to offer a reasonable package to them. I just read an article that the number of people in California who are seeking to get certified as teachers is down 40%!

We are at a time when we need to recruit and retain these talented young people, not attack their salaries, dishonor their work and call their professional leaders "bosses!"

Tonight, I felt so upset with Governor Christie and frankly baffled about why he would launch such an attack on his own public employees!

Tonight on the show, I felt that I was able to say much of what I wanted to say, yet I could have gone on.

Maybe Ed will invite me back some time.

Governor Christie needs to understand that teachers and public workers are an important part of the excellence of our state. If not, he seriously threatens to shortchange the future of our children and that would be inexcusable!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thumbs up to film making!

Here I am with my wonderful digital arts trainers - Ben and Caitlyn - from the Pearson Foundation.

I snapped this picture as they were rolling out the laptops and cameras that the students used to make movies all week. We bid our farewells and I thanked them and the NEA Foundation for making this all happen for me and my students.

We made the films in my two senior classes - about 50 students combined. The students made more than 20 different 2 minute and 30 second movies about our Spanish class and me. I was the topic, but the tools and instruction will be useful to them in other contexts of their lives.

On Monday, we debriefed to see how they had enjoyed the experience. Everyone had positive things to say which included things like...

I liked having the creative freedom to make something I am thinking!
I liked having the chance to say what I feel about you! (awwww!)
It was fun to switch things up and have a totally different kind of learning!
This was a great group experience!
I can't wait to see the movies - when can we see them?

Ben and Caitlyn uploaded the student films and took them back to use for the final movie. One of my students - Fred - is really into film making so he spent a lot of extra time putting together a polished film. Other students also made use of extra periods to get editing done and to brainstorm ideas. It was a terrific work environment.

I loved seeing how the students connected with the project, the work and with each other. I am inspired to keep doing video projects like this in class - now, where can I get about 10 flip videos??? Hmmm.......I'll have to work on that!

The Ed Show

I got a call in study hall yesterday from MSNBC to see if I would want to be on the Ed Show last night. The situation was that our Governor Christie treated a teacher poorly at a Republican Town Hall meeting last Friday when the fellow was only asking a question! Ed Schultz was interested in my response.

I had seen the film of the teacher and read some articles about the Town Hall meeting and was horrified to see how the Governor ordered this elementary school teacher off the stage and asked a state trooper to accompany him! Incredible!

I really don't understand why this happened! The teacher was asking about the municiple cuts that are affecting our classrooms, our staffing and what we can provide for our children and the Governor just wouldn't hear it!

Why not? I see that he was blocking dialog and was unwilling to respond to the questions he was asked.

I wouldn't allow such behavior in my classroom!!!

Under the lights, when you are asked questions on live television, you respond the best you can, but I have found that some really great answers come up just after you are off the air!

Here's the clip of what I said - just copy and paste it into your brouser to view!


Besides that, I would have added that the Governor must come to the table to engage in dialog with his state's teachers. The NJEA is working hard to be a proactive partner for educational reform and we need to all put our heads together to come up with the best solutions for the children.

We cannot afford this name calling and poor treatment. It is intolerable and inappropriate. We cannot permit our elected officials to belittle, demean and disregard teachers! Those days must be over and done. They should never have happened, but since they have, it's time to see this as a bad time which we must dig ourselves out of to start anew.

We must look forward to a new day of collaboration in which we come to terms with the issues that we face in the 21st Century, in our classrooms and in our profession. This is what is right. This is what we need to be doing.

No more blocking dialog. No more grand standing. No more, Governor Christie - please!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cell phones in class, anyone?

On Wednesday, December 1st, Northern Highlands Regional High School was the recipient of a wonderful Professional Development program. Angie and Sandra, from the Pearson Foundation, flew out to New Jersey to introduce our staff to the use of mobile devices as educational tools. The training was part of the NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence!

We were all very excited to get this training. Thirty staffers volunteered to attend the after-school session, including our school's Superintendent, Mr. John Keenan and our Principal, Mr. Joe Occhino. I was also thrilled to have our Technology Director, Mike Rightmeyer, present and actively engaged in our shared discovery.

Staff from every department participated in our exploration of the use of 21st Century tools. Julie Goldberg, our school librarian and PD coordinator even canceled a previously scheduled meeting to attend and to allow others to get involved.

This is the way great communities work - we all come together to learn and to support each other. I was particularly impressed with such participation because it was the Wednesday after Thanksgiving and everyone has so much on their personal and professional plates!

In our workshop, we looked at the best and worst-case scenarios of mobile phone use. Mobile phones have more power than a room could house, when computers first came out years ago, and our students love using them.

How do we direct this use?
How can we empower our students to engage in meaningful work with their own electronic devices?
What do you do if some students do not possess this equipment?
How do teachers balance individualized electronic engagement with teacher directed activity?

We talked about all of this and watched some serious and humorous video clips to inform us and to prompt discussion.

Then, we went right to texting, polling and connecting with the use of these mini computers!

Most folks came away thinking that they just might give this a try at some point in the future. We grew and enjoyed the shared learning!

I was so happy that the NEA Teaching Excellence Award included this staff development from the Pearson Foundation! It's the first prize that I have ever received which included a gift for my colleagues.

The student newspaper was really interested in what we were learning and I got an inquiry from a student reporter.

In the end, this staff development encouraged teachers, students and administrators to put their heads together around how we might consider inviting these powerful new technologies into our classrooms. That's a fantastic outcome!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 4 - we are editing!

Today's job is to take disparate visual records and make them all into a story.It's fascinating to see what the kids want to film!

The students receive some direct instruction about how to blend the different layers of a film (music, visuals, speed). It's amazing to see how we can create a perspective by choosing this image or film clip rather than that. Good thing I like the choices the students are making!

Tomorrow - the film must be completed. What an awesome, community building experience this has been. Only one day left!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 3 - the movies come together

Here are Ben and Caitlyn teaching my students the use of camera phones.

It's Day Three and the students are in constant motion. They are taking "B" footage of the building and all around. I learned that this means "background" footage. Then, there are these action shots. Maestra throws the ball. Maestra discusses healthy foods in Spanish. Maestra is flying across the room with a red cape to help a student with the imperfect and the preterit. "Super Maestra!", as they called me, is at it again! It's hysterical to see what kids of ideas the kids come up with.

Today, they were still filming, but they ended the session learning the basics of video editing. Tomorrow and Friday, we wrap it all up.

In the end, there will be many movies that are 2 minutes and 30 seconds long and then there will be one which will be shown at the NEA Foundation's Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala in February.

I would love to have all of the movies, to treasure each shot and angle. How cool is it to have students make a movie about what THEY think is important about you and the class?

Maybe we should all have such an opportunity. It's Reflection with a capital "R" because we get to see how what we do every single day reflects back on us from a student perspective. Maybe I will make up a project that is similar and do it every year.

I would ask the kids questions like:

"What do I do that you like?"
"What learning engages you?"
"What types of things that we do are fun?"
"What would you rather I skip?"
"What do you remember from a month ago?"
"What do you think you will always remember?"

Those are MY questions, but I'm not the one who gets to fashion the questions for this student-driven video. I won't even know what the finished product looks like until it's all done - it's in their hands.

Here are a few photographic highlights from Day 3. Enjoy!

Here, the kids are filming students as they talk about what it's like to be my student!

"O.K., we have these story boards, footage and notes. How can we bring this together to make a film?"

"Let's take a breather for a moment and smile."

This group is happy about their work!