Hello world!

October 24, 2008

“Everybody’s Favorite Subject” is a working title. I grabbed it from a chapter of Patricia O’Conner’s book Words Fail Me. I thought it was a clever idea.

This started as my professional development blog, my “English teacher diary” of sorts, but it has turned into my own personal variety show.

My latest post is directly beneath this one:


10 Riveting Story Ideas for #ReynoldsReno

July 30, 2013

I’ll be working on one or two of these:

 

 

Section: Topic

Angle/Objective

 

Possible Sources

Sports: “No Pool? No problem!” Feature on the West varsity swim team

West doesn’t have a pool. As a result, the swim team has very low exposure with the student body. Very few people come to see their meets, and the athletes don’t get nearly as much press as their football or basketball-playing counterparts. I’d like to explore this from the angle of the frustrated athletes who love their sport but celebrate many of their glories alone.

 

  • P. Smith – District Athletic Director
  • Various coaches, athletes, and parents
  • The “standout” athlete (one who receives a lot of awards

 

 

News: “What it’s like to be mini me” Interview with a 34 y/o Yale graduate who is 3’6” tall.

 

This would also be a great radio diary… it would force the listener to imagine what Nicole looks like in his/her mind’s eye.

Nicole D., a resident of my town, was born with a form of dwarfism where her torso is average-sized, but her legs and arms are the size of a child’s. She made it through high school and college with a great deal of success, but struggles with being a single woman in her 30s navigating the dating world, social life, and dealing with people on the street who want to photograph her because she’s “different.”

  • Nicole
  • A few of Nicole’s friends who witness how she is treated by strangers in public.
  • One of Nicole’s parents.
  • A medical professional who knows a thing or two about diastrophic dwarfism

Arts & Entertainment: Candy Crush creater King meets success from its addictive Facebook game.

Focus on the popular Facebook game Candy Crush. Delve into the history of Facebook game applications, the history of Candy Crush Saga, and a look at the King company from a business angle. How much money are they making from the general public’s addiction to the game?

  • Secondary sources: other news articles about King.com
  • Direct information from King’s website
  • Interviews with people who have self-proclaimed addictions to Candy crush

News: Leaving Long Island: Excessed teachers who find work out of state.

Thanks to Gov. Cuomo’s 2% property tax cap, districts all over the state (but especially here on LI) are excessing teachers. Some who are fairly new to the profession have given up and moved out of state to find work. I’d like to see how they are doing after they’ve completed a year of work somewhere else.

  • Director of a pre-service teacher placement program at a local college (Hofstra University, St. Joseph’s College, etc.)
  • NYSUT representative (teachers’ union in New York)
  • 2 or 3 excessed teachers who have moved off Long Island and are now teaching out of state.

 

Viewpoints: The Paleo Diet: debunking the myth that caveman eating is good for you.

The Paleo Diet has become the latest fad in dieting, but does it make any sense? Are people who follow this diet actually healthier? My answer is “no.” This could be a good op-ed for anyone who habitually falls prey to the latest diet fad (Atkins, The South Beach Diet, etc.)

  • A nutritionist
  • Someone who follows the Paleo Diet
  • Secondary sources: books and/or news articles about the so-called Paleo lifestyle.

News: When work hurts: The injured in the FDNY who keep on going.

 

 

This would be a great story – but I have to wonder if any active firefighters would really talk to me about this. I reached out to a close friend in the FDNY to assess how likely it would be to get interviews. He said people might talk to me as anonymous/confidential sources.

I’m friendly with a lot of guys who are FDNY. Many of them that I know personally have sustained some pretty significant injuries – neck injuries –  as a result of the physical demands of the job. Still, while it wouldn’t be a tough argument to go on disability, many of these guys push to forge through because they love the job so much. I’d like to interview them to see why they do it, and what price are they willing to pay to remain among New York’s Bravest?

  • Vincent Dunn – a retired FDNY chief who writes blogs about injured firefighters (www.vincentdunn.com)
  • FDNY on disability
  • Active FDNY (anonymously) who hide their injuries to remain on active duty. There’s one that will definitely talk to me as long as it’s anonymous.
  • A physician (orthopedic surgeon, chiropractor, etc.) who treats injured members of the FDNY
  • A concerned family member of an injured FDNY

Viewpoint: Want to stimulate the economy? Legalize prostitution for tax revenue.

 

(ok that’s a bad title… I admit it – but it’s SO New York Post-ish!)

 

The sex industry, legal in 11 Nevada counties, has had a positive impact on the state’s economy, and other states should seriously consider legalizing prostitution in some cities.

  • Government documents with facts/statistics about tax revenue from Nevada’s legal brothels.
  • Various citizens who have opinions on the matter.

Sports: What happened to the great American role model?

In recent years, many famous athletes have been accused of “doping.” How does that affect their popularity among children and pre-teens?

  • High school athletes (to get their reactions on doping scandals of popular athletes)
  • Statistics of jersey sales, promotional gigs, etc.
  • Middle school and high school coaches
  • Pee-Wee and POP Warner coaches
  • Parents

Lifetstyle:  Fitbit One: The weight loss tool that women wear in their bra

This would be a review on the Fitbit One, a Bluetooth-powered pedometer (retails for $89.95) that supposedly measures how many calories a person burns per day.

  • Manager of a Brookstone where Fitbit products “fly off the shelves”
  • People who use Fitbit and have achieved weight loss success
  • People who use Fitbit who have not had success.
  • An exercise physiologist
  • A nutritionist

Sports: Running for fun: Theme races have added a whole new dimension to distance running.

People aren’t just running 5k races anymore… they’re spending a significant amount of money on “theme” races (ie: The Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, The Roc Run, Color Runs, Zombie Races, etc.) Why have these races grown in popularity? And how have they reached out to a new demographic of non-competitive runners?

  • Various runners who have participated in “fun runs”
  • Dave McGovern, an athlete who owns “World Class Racewalking” and serves as the national run coach for Team Challenge, a charitable endurance training program
  • Someone in charge of PR/development for the Warrior Dash/Color Run/whatever…

 


September 11, 2010

Nine years ago, I was about a week into my first year of teaching high school, young, ambitious, and naive,  when something happened that would change my life forever. It was at the tail end of my 1st period English class when the principal broke into class with a loudspeaker announcement. As soon as he said, “good morning,” my students started to remove their blazers, thinking that the warmth and beauty of the day had inspired our principal to permit them to remove that bulky outer layer of their Catholic school uniforms for the day. That’s not what the announcement was about.

“Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center.” I went numb. I could see one plane crashing into a building, on accident, but two? My ninth graders didn’t really know how to process this information, and my classroom erupted with a flurry of noise. “Quiet!” I demanded loudly. “If you are quiet, I will turn on the radio and we’ll listen to the news.” Sure enough, the news on the radio confirmed my fear. A terrorist attack was in progress.

As the day progressed, more and more terrifying things happened. It was during my 3rd period prep that I somberly watched the first tower fall live on television, then the second. Frantic parents rushed up to our school, which was a mere 20 miles from the site of the World Trade Center, and took their children home to be with their families. Horrendous news started to flow in, including a very sad “goodbye” call that came to a colleague’s family as her husband realized that he wasn’t going to make it out of the burning buildings to safety. Somewhere in the middle of the day, I took a shaking mother to her son’s homeroom, my classroom, to pick up his soccer bag. Her husband was a battalion chief in the FDNY. She said, “I haven’t been able to reach him, I don’t know where he is.” That woman’s husband was one of the hundreds of souls lost on that day. My student was never the same after that.

When the school day was finally over, I drove home on the Long Island Expressway in near solitude. The only Westbound traffic coming towards the city was a dismal parade of fire department trucks and ambulances from various towns on Long Island, driving into the city to assist in rescue, and eventually, recovery.

I’ve written about my experiences on this day many times before, and I tell the same story. I speak of my lesson plan, of how it involved playing music (which is why I had a boom box in the classroom to turn on the radio), I speak of standing in silence with my colleagues, who were not quite yet a family, watching our world and our lives change right in front of us; I speak of the mother and her fourteen year old son who would never see their husband and father again, and I sometimes speak of the candle lighted sides of Deer Park Avenue, of waiting at my boyfriend’s volunteer firehouse for news of their brethren in the city, and of the funerals I attended days after.

As nine years passes, the events of the day are still very fresh in my memory. It shaped who I eventually became as a teacher and as a woman. Let us never forget 9/11/01.


“Classwork” May 4, 2010

May 4, 2010

To make your life easier, you will be able to open all links in a new window.

Respond to Tom Whitby’s Blog Post, “Deal Or No Deal”

  • Check out Professor Whitby’s blog post online by clicking here.
  • Out of curiosity, do you believe that teachers should have unrestricted access to the Internet in school? If you’d like, please respond by leaving a comment below.

What exactly IS the “Net Generation?”

Understanding Social Media/Social Networking Safety Concerns

  • There has been a lot of information in the news regarding a recent tragedy at West Islip High School. A popular senior named Alexis Pilkington took her own life earlier this year.  Many of her friends cried out against a popular website, Formspring.me, saying that comments left there caused irrevocable damage to Alexis. Check out “Let’s Not Create a Cyberbullying Panic” by Larry Magid to read more about the cyberbullying issue.

I’m Seeking Input

March 16, 2010

Hello to all in the Professional Learning Network!

I recently submitted a proposal to facilitate a Teachers’ Center Workshop in my district. My workshop description follows:

In this digital age, a wealth of technological advances have contributed to a change in the way teachers teach and students learn. Unfortunately there can be a certain amount of fear and apprehension among teachers when struggling to learn this new technology for a variety of reasons. This workshop is designed to inform teachers about the latest 21st Century Internet technology to use in the classroom and beyond, and it will also give them a safe place to experiment with this technology and learn about ways that other teachers are effectively using it. Teachers will learn how to create a social network for their classes using Ning and will experiment with web services like Google Tools, Twitter and Diigo to share information.

This workshop is currently pending approval. In the meantime, I’m working under the assumption that I’ll get the green light; therefore, I’d like to gather as much information as possible from my colleagues in the PLN to determine what are the best new tools to learn (and ultimately share).

I’d like to know what YOU think is the latest and greatest in Internet technology for classroom use. Please leave a comment below and tell me what works for you and why. As indicated above, I already plan on presenting Ning, Diigo, and some Google tools (namely Google Docs, Reader, and News). What else should I know about?

Thanks in advance for your help!


Twitter as a classroom communication tool

February 3, 2010

I maintain a class blog with my 9th grade students that I use mostly to post homework and announcements, but sometimes I’ll post some additional information about class topics or links that I find interesting or useful.  I have no doubt in my mind that my students spend a significant portion of their free time online; however, the time they DO spend online is not to be wasted checking their English teacher’s blog. They have told me this. I have accepted it as a reality. In conversation with other teachers, I’m met with a certain degree of frustration. People out there tell me that I need to start blogging. So I did; I started blogging. Guess what? My students don’t read the blog! So why am I wasting my time?

In the past few years, many of us in the profession have subscribed to the idea that classroom blogging is essential to reach students in a 21st Century learning community. While I really did believe that this was true and important, I’m starting to wonder how many of my students actually care. “Blogging” isn’t cool to them; at least it’s not cool for my current chemistry of students. They’re online, but they’re playing games, they’re updating their Facebook status, they’re reading Spark Notes, they’re searching for friends on Twitter. They’re not reading blogs just for the fun of it. They’re not even checking their e-mail anymore! If important information needs to come to them, it comes through social networking sites like Facebook or via text message.

So what do we do? Do we throw in the towel and give up on this new technology that we tried so hard to learn? Do we dispute the claims of educational professionals who are telling us that this IS the wave of the future? That we MUST adapt or find ourselves behind? If this is truly the future, then when are my students going to catch up?

Just this past week, I posted an extra credit assignment on my 9th Grade English class blog. My intention was to offer extra credit for everyone, but make information about it available only online. Hey – what a great way to get kids to rise to the occasion! I even gave them some help; I TOLD them it was there. However, out of approximately 75 of my 9th grade students, a mere 4 actually completed the assignment and handed it in on time. A few more gave me some excuses about how they “didn’t know what to do” and asked for some extra time. The other students told me that they didn’t even see it, nor did they care to look.

I asked them an honest question in class, “So what do I need to do to reach out to you guys?”

“Go on Facebook,” One student replied. That was met by a few enthusiastic grins and laughter.

I explained to my students that it is generally uncool for teachers to have Facebook accounts. While I don’t necessarily believe this (I do have a Facebook account that I use to keep in touch with faraway cousins and childhood and college friends) I do believe that it is important for teachers to maintain a very private online persona that protects them from the curious cyber-stalking of their students. On the other hand, Facebook is the primary method of communication that these kids use.

That is, until Twitter started gaining popularity.

Before my school district knew what Twitter was, I was demonstrating it in my senior elective last year. At first the students laughed at me and said, “This is dumb. Why use this when you can just use Facebook.” They told me that Twitter would never take off, that it would never be cool. Well, they were wrong. Twitter is here, and it gains more and more popularity every day. While I don’t think it will do to Facebook what Facebook did to MySpace, (Who uses MySpace anymore, anyway?) It’s a growing form of technology that more and more students are signing up for and learning. It has become so popular that our District now blocks it with an Internet filter along with sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Students who want to tweet during the day do so from their cellular phones. What’s important about this? They’re using it. They may be using it to share incoherent babble with their buds, but they’re using it nontheless.

I do not “protect my Tweets” as some do. I don’t tweet about anything inappropriate. In fact, most of what I tweet about is education related (minus the occasional rants here and there about Big East College Basketball and Lady GaGa…I am human after all!) In my eyes, there is no reason why I should hide my Twitter identity from my students. Since such a large percentage of our society has an online presence, I’m OK with sharing this one with the general public.  If students want to, they can search for me on Twitter simply by typing in my name.  Some of them have done so and have started “following” me, and I “follow” some of them in return.

I had the idea in class today to post my Twitter URL on the blackboard. It came to me after the discussion I had with my 3rd period class about the lack of traffic on my class blog.  So, I invited kids to “follow me on Twitter” if they knew what that meant. Some did. Some said that they thought it was weird, that they’d never want for me to “follow” them back and see what they’re doing on a day-by-day basis. That actually brought up a good discussion about privacy – I informed them that they should really be “protecting” their Tweets if they don’t want adults seeing what they write. Many of them have started doing that, and I’m glad. It keeps them safe.

I posted my first school-related announcement via Twitter earlier this evening. It was a link to a class blog post regarding a school-wide fundraiser and service project. I don’t know how many of my students will be driven to look at it, but at least I used one more technologically-relevant method to share information with them.

In doing this, I’m trying to get in the habit of posting to Twitter more often. I think it’s OK to continue my fun tweets about Syracuse Basketball – it shows them a side of me that they might not see in class… and it’s a fun side, so who cares? I will, however, make a conscious effort to post the same kinds of things on Twitter that I would have posted on my class blog: links to study guides, music, video, discussion questions, and historical footnotes on the Web. Maybe it will work, and maybe it won’t. Either way – it’s an easy way for me to use a popular website as a classroom communication tool, and it is not nearly as time consuming as updating a blog that only a few people check.

*Please leave a comment and say hello if you found this post via Twitter.*


2009 in review

December 21, 2009

I haven’t been very good about maintaining this blog. Hopefully that’s something I can change for 2010. I’m not really “into” making New Year’s Resolutions, but there is something about the idea of a new beginning that almost feels like a natural time to reset.

2009 was good to me. I finished up my Advanced Graduate Certificate program in Educational Leadership and passed my School District Leader exam. It was tough! I had to take a train into a Pearson testing center in Manhattan and literally spend most of the morning and afternoon sitting at a computer answering extremely difficult multiple choice questions and penning essays on a word processor without a spell checker! Once the exam was finally over, my brain felt kind of fried.

Now that this is all over, I think I’m going to stay in the classroom for at least a few more years. Many of my colleagues seemed interested to go for an administrative position early on, but I think that most of us have opted to take a few more years to think about it. The program was extremely valuable in my eyes, but there is something about teaching that I would certainly miss if I made the jump to “the other side.”

I started teaching two new classes this year: AP Literature and Composition and Journalism and Media Studies (which includes publication of The Bull’s Eye, our  school newspaper). I must admit that I feel very comfortable in that Journalism class, but AP Lit is challenging (challenging in a good way, though!)

I have a few professional development activities lined up for 2010. Although it is very far away at this point, I’m planning on attending the Long Island ASCD Spring Conference in May, which is a workshop with Mike Schmoker.

I don’t know if I have any readers out there, But if I do, I wish you all the best in 2010!


Summer: A Time to relax, re-invent, re-charge…

July 1, 2009

I have been neglecting this blog. Oops.

Truth be told, I’ve been consumed with work for my internship in Educational Leadership through SUNY Stony Brook and the Smithtown Teachers’ Center. I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with various administrators in my district and I’m learning a lot about what it means to be a so-called “educational leader.” Despite the seemingly incredible work load, I am having a good time with it.

The end of the year snuck up on me, however. I still feel a little odd about not having to do any schoolwork at night, and this weekend’s lack of paper-grading was somewhat surreal. It has been a long year.

I’m currently participating in one of the College Board’s  Summer Institutes for teachers of AP Literature & Comp. Yes, I’ll be teaching AP for the first time next year, and I’m pretty excited about it! I wish I could say that sitting through almost seven hours of lecture a day was academically stimulating…but I don’t want to tell a lie! At least there are only two more days left, and the coffee is free!

July is suddenly upon us; this is my month to work on schoolwork and re-charge my lessons for next year. I say this because I have until August 4th to complete my internship hours, and I’ll be running my youth cheer camp starting next week. Yes, I’m still in work mode. As I said earlier, it has been a long (and busy) year. I think I’m going to give myself a full three weeks in August to relax and not think about school “too much.”

And people say that teachers “have summers off.” Ha!