Sunday, January 28, 2007

Space Shuttles Remembered

On January 28, 1986, I was a middle school student at home for a teacher work day. I remember my older brother answering the phone and then telling me that my mother had just called to let us know that the Space Shuttle Challenger has exploded just 73 seconds after lift-off. The space shuttle program was still pretty new, and if we had been in school, every television would have been tuned in so we could see the take off. What made this mission different than previous missions was that Krista McAuliffe, a teacher, was one of the seven astronauts killed. A second tragedy occurred the same week thirteen years later when the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded returning to earth on February 1, 2003, killing the seven astronauts aboard.

In 1986, President Regan said of the tragedy, “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.’” In 2003, President Bush said, “Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.” As we remember the fourteen men and women who died during these two adventures, may we hope that we are strong enough to embark on our own journeys.

Wikis--Collaboration in 2007

We are developing a resource wiki based on the middle school curriculum in the state of Alambama. Our goal is to have a place where teachers can visit to get ideas, find resources, and post lessons so that teachers can work collaboratively.

This idea came about at our recent technology conference. Our system has only one school at each level--primary (K-2), intermediate(3-5), middle (6-8), and high (9-12). Since we are easily able to let all teachers in one grade level or in one department in a school work together, I felt there was a key piece of collaboration missing--more eyes looking at lessons, more brains working on lessons. After talking with our technology integration specialist, the assistant principal at our school decided this was a project he wanted to set up. It has only been up and running for about 3 weeks, so we still have a lot of areas to fill in.

As we shared the wiki with our staff, we have gotten a variety of responses. Some are very excited and immediately started sharing ideas. Others have been surprisingly territorial of their work. Questions like, "Why should we post things for others to use?" or "What if something I have done gets changed?" We patiently try to answer these questions, but we are still moving forward with our project.

Our newspaper teacher has also started using a wiki with her newspaper staff. Instead of creating a tradional paper, she has set-up a wiki. I think she has it protected so you probably can't reply on it, but you certainly can check it out.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Classroom Happenings 1/26/07

Amazing things went on at HTMS today! The 8th grade science students were spread out over campus discovering things about velocity and speed. Some were out on the mall shooting rockets made from soft drink bottles. Others were in the halls building roller coasters. Mrs. Hambey’s students dissected squids—man does that smell bring back memories of my days in science class. Mr. Brown’s class participated in a simulation designed to help students learn the workings of the ancient city-states in Greece. I loved watching each individual “city state” go from claiming all of the land possible alone to forming alliances with other city- states. We took pictures of the 8th grade students voted as this year’s who’s who for the yearbook. The focus of this year’s who’s who was the character education words we study throughout the year.

We are still hard at work with homework remediation. Unfortunately, there are still too many students not completing work on time, but we are working to help students make better decisions. We have moved into the next phase of homework remediation. Students who have been referred before for not having homework automatically go to detention. Eventually, students will grow tired of sitting in the cafeteria on the hard round seats for two hours after school. I become so frustrated when I see the same students over and over for having missing assignments. UGH!


Sunday, January 21, 2007

So Much Out There

I woke early and reached over for my laptop and began to just read. Man, there is so much out there for us to learn from. I know there is a lot of talk about helping students know how to search for quality material, but I have to say that I was a little overwhelmed looking at all there is. Internet sites, blogs, wikis, videos, podcasts--and I am sure that people are already working on something new. I wonder-are we as educators preparing our students to live, to learn, and to work in a world where these exists? I work in a very progessive district, but we still have a long way to go. I keep reminding teachers in my school that this is a marathon and not a sprint to the finish. We are all in this for the long haul. Just think how different things were even 14 years ago when I graduated high school. What is it going to be like for the kids we are currently teaching?


Monday, January 15, 2007

Pace of Change?

Driving home from Atlanta I thought about a comment that I have heard many times, "Change is happening too fast." If the change is going to be in the best interest of our students, how do we slow things down? I feel a sense of urgency and a moral obligation to do all that we can for the students currently in our school. How do I lead change in a way that takes care of the teachers but also makes things better for the students?

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Future--More Questions than Answers

As a middle school prinicpal, I am becoming more and more aware of how technology is changing the world for our students. In conference after conference, in book after book, and on blog after blog, we are being told and shown that what we currently do for students isn't going to prepare them for the world of tomorrow. This being the case, what do we need to do to improve what we do? How does a school that is a good school make the transistion to being a great school? What about the students who are in the building while we are making the transition--who will prepare them for the future?

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