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Friday, December 18, 2015

Tis the Season To Get Fired...

Just because you have information about something, does not mean you are responsible for disseminating it without thinking of the consequences. This substitute teacher found out the hard way recently after being fired from her job after disclosing the "truth" about Santa Claus.

"Santa Claus & Easter Bunny" issues are sensitive subjects especially in the lower grades. I had to handle a similar situation a couple years ago in a 2nd grade classroom.

Even if the kids are insistent to know the truth, it should come from a parent. Even then, the youngster might not be quite ready.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

The Hour of Code...

My first exposure to computer programming was via a programming course through the mathematics department at San Jose State College in the late 60's.

Our assignment was to design, code, debug a simple add/subtract function calculator designed to run on an IBM-14xx?  series computer.

Program code and data was input on 80 column IBM punch cards and output was on high-speed line printer paper. This took several cycles of run, error, debug, and retest cycles to end up with a working program.

This intro exposure to software was followed by Fortran and Cobal programming courses that paid off with my first programming job at the test division of Fairchild Systems Technology in 1971 followed by a 30+ years of designing and coding programs for embedded microprocessors with several Silicon Valley companies.

State of the art programming has come a long way from my "assembly language" expertise as evidenced in the PBS Hour of Code project. The intro "Angry Bird" sessions are simple to understand and use.

Kids who want more can progress from this level to the more advanced programming levels at their own pace. Click the "Hour of Code" link below to start the online version or download the app from the "App Store" links


PBS KIDS released its first coding app called PBS KIDS ScratchJr. This comes at the right time, as Computer Science Education Week kicks off on Monday (December 7-13). As part of next week’s activities, the international launch of the Hour of Code takes place to encourage young children to learn this vital new language that will be part of the future of learning.

Designed for kids ages 5-8, PBS KIDS ScratchJr enables kids to create their own interactive stories and games featuring their favorite characters from Wild Kratts, Nature Cat, WordGirl and Peg + Cat. 

By snapping together colorful programming blocks, children can make characters move, jump, dance and sing. In the process, kids will learn to solve problems, design projects and express themselves creatively.

The app is free, and can be downloaded on the App Store and Google Play.

PBS KIDS ScratchJr Features
  • Colorful Programming Blocks: Snap together the color-coded programming blocks to create sequences of actions that cause characters to animate and interact in fun and exciting ways.
  • PBS KIDS Characters and Backgrounds: Create projects based on PBS KIDS shows and mix-and-match over 150 characters.
  • Paint Editing: Create unique characters and backgrounds.
  • Voice Recording: Use the recording tool to add sounds and give voice to projects.
  • Story Starters: Find inspiration with in-app story starters! Each Story Starter features a different set of characters and is designed to encourage children to edit and complete the story however they would like.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Yodeling Pickle...

Every teacher seems to have his or her own way of getting the classroom focus back to the subject at hand. Sometimes they revert to the kindergarten clapping cadence, (clap, clap, pause, clap, clap, clap).

 Some use gentle soothing musical chimes, musical instruments, sing and repeat cues. A few can be found here on YouTube:

All of these work pretty much for the classroom teacher and sometimes work for me.

If that doesn't work, my backup attention grabber is to walk toward the "homework box" on the board with the dry-erase marker in hand to add letters to the word "HOMEWORK". It works MOST of the time to get the class back under control.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine gave me a joke gift of the "Yodeling Pickle" also works pretty good as an attention grabber.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Brain Farts...

One of the hardest things to do in the classroom is to recover after committing an unintentional brain fart (...look it up). The older I get, the more frequently I find myself susceptible to occasional lapses. I sub in so many schools and grade levels that, while I recognize most teachers by sight, I sometimes blank on hard to remember names.

I have been in Mr. White's class several times these last couple of years. You would think that a name like 'White' would be easy enough to remember right?
I mean it's even printed on the bottom of THE LESSON PLAN!

So while dictating the instructions for the next lesson...

Me:  "Ok class, listen up! Mr. Brown would like you to take out your notebooks and turn to page ...."
Kid1: Who?
Me: Who what?
Kid1: Who is Mr. Brown?
Me: Mr. Brown, your teacher.
Kid1: You mean Mr. White?

Now forgetting the teacher's name once and being reminded isn't total devastation. I'm pretty sure associating a name to a color has contributed to similar lapses so we had a little laugh about it and went on with our day until....


Later in the day, I referred to Mr. White as Mr. Brown a second time!  That set off a chorus of laughter at my lapse, deservedly so.

Me: Ok, for the rest of the day your teacher's name is now "Mr. Brown or Mr. White", whichever one I screw up. Now let's get to work.....)

For the rest of the day, I intentionally continued to use 'Mr. Brown'.

Several days later, I ran into Mr. White on the playground and he said he had a good laugh about his new "name change"

Monday, October 12, 2015

Unintended Consequences...

It was "SAFETY" day at the country club elementary school. The school distributed to all 350+ students a personal-emergency combination "whistle & signal light" key fob. The school's instruction to the kids was use them only to summon help in case of emergency.  

They were handed out to all students during the first hour of class time.

You can guess what happened. A kid with a whistle can't resist the urge to make noise. Make that 350+ kids and you would have thought that "the big one" earthquake happened during a mass kidnapping at the first recess. Even a school wide, loudspeaker broadcast instructing the kids to "knock it off" and repeated instruction what an emergency is went ignored.

I'm sure the parents picking up kids gleefully blasting whistles as they hopped into the back seat really appreciated the school's attention to the safety of their children.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

There Ought to Be a Law...Kendamas

I saw this posted in the middle school classroom I taught today. YES!!!

You can't have toy guns on campus.
You can't draw a picture of a gun in class.
You can't do "finger" guns in class or on the school grounds....but

YOU CAN fling a wooden, tennis sized ball on a string and bean someone in the head with one of these things!

More than once I've experienced a near miss when a kid lost control of his Kendama in the classroom or on the playground. 

A while back I was covering a middle-school multimedia class that had video equipment and a green room for the students to make their own commercials and display them on wall sized HD flat screens. 

The class was pretty much done near the end of the period. The lesson plan indicated that any spare time was to be used to finish any incomplete work, have quiet discussions, read or...let them play with their Kendama's.

The last option ended when one kid lost control of his and missed what must be a very expensive wall sized flat screen by no more than an inch.

Monday, September 07, 2015

When It Rains, It Pours...

While we Californians wait for the real stuff, (we're still collecting shower water in buckets to flush the toilets and water the plants). Subbing jobs, on the other hand, are coming in like rain barrels of assignments.

The year I decided I wanted to cut back to only 2-3 days a week, the district raised our daily per diem by $15 to $135/day.  

Assignment requests started BEFORE the first day of school and I'm still getting requests for assignments out into the first three months of 2016.

Last week, we were out for the evening and returned home to find ten missed calls from the automated sub system.

I was talking to one of the teachers this last week to discover what's going on. She told me that new (Common Core?) training that entire grade levels are required to take this year are happening during class time.

The school administration essentially told the teachers that they are experiencing a shortage of returning subs this year and that they (the teachers) would be responsible to arrange for their own substitute during these training periods, as the district will be too busy to handle the load.

Makes me wonder how far doubling the substitute teacher per diem might go into solving the backlog of assignments. I might even consider going in 3-4 days a week.