Is Being a Creative Teacher & Being Efficient with Paperwork a Contradiction?

Or is it just me?

As part of my job as  a counselor I have to address, fill (with various papers) and mail out  315 envelopes to schools around the country, according to a list of names.  Some envelopes are filled with five pages, others with thirteen.

I’m incredibly slow.

It’s not that I’m disorganized. Rather just looking at the size of the pile gets me down.

I also get distracted with odd thoughts as I work, such as:

*Hmm, what an unusual name this student has. I wonder if she gets teased because of it.

*Hmm, this place is so small they don’t even have street numbers for the address.

*Who is this school named after? I wonder who he was…

And, of course, I am writing this post instead of working!!!

To Use “Moodle”, “Wiki”, “School Program” or Just Say “FORGET IT”?

I’m currently using Wikispaces as a class site. It’s main use is for homework: the students go to the homework page, download a worksheet that either “stands alone” or is based on a link to a picture or video clip they must watch.The they email me the homework (gmail).

A number of people have recently told me about Moodle. Some recommended it strongly, one said it is more work that its worth.  I also discovered this post by Michelle Reckling on the pros and cons of Moodles. Unlike Michelle, my students do not use it anywhere else. Hers do and yet she reports they don’t like using it and that she is unable to get support from others.

The fact that you can see exactly which pupils have logged on when and done what sounds attractive. I currently keep track of the homework on an excel sheet that I have printed out so the kids can see it too. However,the fact that the moodle looks unattractive does not sounds appealing.

I AM afraid of the extra work using a MOODLE may cause. I’m learning all about using technology in the classroom all on my own and it is very time consuming as it is. I still can’t tell if the benefits will outweigh the effort.

The school computerized grading system has an option for sending emails to students through their files and even attaching a document. I don’t know if links stay “clickable” when sent this way. It would be more work for me to use that instead of the WIKI.The emails can be sent to multiple pupils but only those registered in the same group. I have 9 groups.

On the other hand, it’s not an outside system, students don’t have to get used to  new things. Also the parents have access to it. That, on the condition, that the students haven’t lost their password. I have a few that say ‘I AM NOT going to spend 5 NIS ( a bit more than a dollar) to get a new password! But those students don’t do homework anyway. Using this school system may help encourage the students to monitor their school grade file.

The WIKI is totally open to anyone. I’m already using it. I know I haven’t yet learned all it can do. Maybe I should just stick with it? Or would my life actually be easier once I have a moodle running and can track the homework?

Open to suggestions here!

Close Encounters of the “You are STILL teaching?!” Kind

At the supermarket this afternoon, while trying to choose the nicest carton of strawberries, I discovered that I was standing next to someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

She was a teacher at the high-school when I arrived, 22 years ago ( I taught elementary school before) and we were both there for about five years. Then she left the school and teaching.

Turns out that after several years of doing other things she went back to Education, is completing her P.H.D and has become involved in counseling programs involving computers.

I tell you this with the utmost respect – it’s great what she’s doing.

But then, each one of us standing over the supermarket cart, comes the inevitable comment – so you are still doing the same thing, huh?  I proudly smiled and said “Sure am!”

I don’t feel I’m doing the same thing at all!  I turned the classroom into a learning center, I’ve been experimenting with “reverse reading” and “teaching unplugged” and finding ways to use the Computer-Without-Internet in the class and more!

Since I began blogging, I’m not bothered by the fact that there are very few people I can share this information with. I just say that I’m happy to still be at the school. Here I have an outlet to share my feelings that every school year is a new year, never been a year like the previous one!

Saturday’s Book: “South of the Border West of the Sun” by Haruki Murakami

I went to the library to look for Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the end of the World
which Tyson recommeded, but they didn’t have it. They did have this one by the same author.

It’ s a good book!  I wouldn’t call it his best but I enjoyed it.

Also just read a short story of his in the New-Yorker. He definetly uses a recurring theme of a girlfriend / wife vanishing which causes the man to reexamine his life. Saw in both the book and the story and in previous books.

Goal 30: Sneaking General Knowledge in Through the Back Door!

This is the last of the 30 goals challenge! It has become such a part of my life that I will miss it!

Although writing about a project was suggested (and turning my classroom into a learning center is certainly an ongoing long term project which I initiated), Sandy Millin’s post relating to stamps inspired me to take this post in another direction completely.

When our boys were young both my husband and I encouraged them to collect stamps. Stamps were not themselves the end but rather a great trigger for igniting curiosity about the world we live in. As the stamp collection grew so did their familiarity with the Atlas which in turn led to accumulating information about these places and the people who live there. Long after they stopped collecting stamps they remain very curious about the world.

Many of my own students have an extremely limited view of the world. Some students, due to the unfortunate combination of having a hearing problem and a problematic family background have a dismal lack of general knowledge. The passion I have been trying to pass on to them is this curiosity about the world we live in. I don’t know if some of the students will remember any of the English I taught but perhaps they will remember that in other parts of the world it rains in Summer!

I haven’t tried using stamps with them (I don’t know if I could have interested my own boys in stamps today – we rarely get any letters with real stamps on them anymore!) though after Sandy’s post I just might give it a shot! But here are some ways I try to sneak general knowledge in through the back door:

* When I teach comparatives and superlatives, I write sentences such as “The longest wall in the world is in China”. Then I add,  “It can be seen from space”. The year after the tragedy of the Columbia (the mission included an astronaut from Israel), this lead to a question from one of the 10th grade boys: “How do we know it can be seen from space?” I explained that astronauts had told us about it (I know, there are sattelites too, but didn’t mention that then).  The boy then exclaimed “But all the astronauts blew up so they couldn’t have told people about what they saw!” I then shocked him completely by my insistence that there had been other astronauts before the tragedy. “But Ilan Ramon was the first astronaut in the world” he protested!

* I’m blessed by having a brother in law who is a photographer. Until fairly recently, when he moved completely to digital photography, he would give me large quantities of photos that he printed that weren’t good enough. Besides using them to cover old binders and surfaces, livening up the worn things, there are educational purposes I use them for, which I’ll leave for another post.

While rummaging through the pictures the students sometimes ask questions.  One pile of pictures happened to be from China. After seeing some pictures of huge parking lots filled with bicycles and pictures of street life, a pupil (17 years old!!!) asked me: ” There seem to be a lot of people in China. Are there more than in Israel?” We have a map of the world in the classroom and can see where the photos were taken. I particularly love it when a pupil looks at a photo and sighs, “Oh, I wish I could go there” and I reply, “you can! This one was taken right here in our beautiful country!

* I have a photography book presenting Israel from a bird’s eye view. The students have a page with sentences describing some minor element on pages of the book and they have to flip through it and write the corresponding page number. This leads to all sorts of questions. The sentence “On this page you can see animals that came from Africa” was very difficult for some students. The picture was of zebras at the Safari Wild Animal Park in Ramat Gan. They knew what zebras were and most had even visited the park. They didn’t know that they weren’t natives of the city of Ramat Gan!

I’m a long way from where I want to be – those of you who have read previous posts know that I’m often frustrated by some of the students lack of curiosity and interest in the world. But teaching English as a foreign language lends itself so well to learning about the world that I will continue to try to ignite sparks of interest! That’s my passion!

I “CLOUDED” my site too!

David Dodgson suggested making a WORD CLOUD  of one's blog.
Having seen David's cloud and Cecilia's Cloud and
Sandy Millin's CLOUD I decided to follow suit!
Here it is:

word blog cloud
I'm somewhat puzzled. Some things are obvious. The words
"goals" and "project"
are very prominent because of all the posts related to the
 30 goals project I'm participating in!

It makes sense to me that the words
"fascinating" "excited" "intriguing" appear because I feel
all these things about the new blogosphere
 experience!

Family is very important to me though I suspect the word
 is fairly large because some of my Saturday's Books
have been devoted to books all the family can enjoy.

But why is the word "students' so much smaller than
on other people's blogs? I thought I had been
writing quite a bit about my students! Puzzling...

Goal 29 – Why I Didn’t Attend the “Virtual Round Table”

Goal 29 of the 30 goals challenge is “Present Your Ideas”. Which makes perfect sense since participating in this whole project emphasizes the benefits of sharing for everyone involved! I think sharing is part of a teacher’s psyche – especially those on blogosphere! We’re excited and have to spread the word!

I can’t tell you exactly what the VirtualRound Table (which took place this weekend) is because I didn’t attend, but it sounded to me like a “Sharing Fest”! LOTS of the fascinating and exciting new teachers I have recently “met” and whose blogs I follow dedicatedly participated with intriguing names of sessions! Saw some excited tweets too!

So, where was I?

Well, since we’re nearing the end of the 30 goals project I can say that the project promotes balance too. I know I did the right thing not attending, even though I was tempted.  What should I have given up? Not go to work on Friday and Sunday? Skip Friday night dinner with the extended family at my in laws? Not spend time catching up on my grading and attendance records that have to be typed  up? Not watch a movie with my husband?

Did the right thing.

Maybe next year it will coincide with Passover vacation.

Maybe there are other interesting online conferences coming up – hadn’t even known about this one till quite recently!

I plan to stick around!

Goal 27: The Shortest Post Yet!

Goal 27 of the 30 Goals project is “Establish a Web Presence”.

A photographer named Naomi Epstein from Chicago is at the top of the Google search list but then I am  here:

http://shemaenglish.posterous.com/ (Hebrew Counseling Blog)
http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/ (Professional Blog – English)
http://englishcenterlakash.wikispaces.com/ (Exercises for Students)

http://www.etni.org/hearing.htm (section on ETNI site for English Teachers)

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