Time Management

Everybody thinks they’re busy.  It doesn’t matter if you’re working three jobs and squeaking out four hours of sleep each night or working one job and putting your heart and soul into it.  Very few people admit to not being busy.  This isn’t really because they aren’t busy, but that they don’t feel that they have a lot of free time.

If you want to be successful, however, you have to really examine your use of time.  Everyone can always squeeze out more time.  Don’t believe me?  Ask yourself if you could find time if something really important came up.  Could you fit it in?  If you get free concert tickets, could you go?  If your kid suddenly had a program, could you make it?  If you can make time for that, what else can you make time for?  Where is this time made from?

In the end, it’s just about prioritizing and managing your time.  Saying that you don’t have time is simply a way of making excuses.  It’s a cop out.  It’s easy to simply say “I don’t have time.”  In truth, you are deciding to keep your current schedule rather than trading something new in.

On top of that, I think everyone needs to take a moment and really evaluate how much time is spent in activities like watching tv, surfing the internet, texting, and any other activity that doesn’t really contribute to your life that you could find time in.  What could you be doing that would be more useful during that time?

Of course, this is all in response to someone who has only one job, doesn’t have young children, doesn’t coach an activity or club, but still thinks that she is too busy.  How can that possibly be true?

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Daily Write Plan

For those of you who have been following my blog, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been absent for a while.

I have a new plan.  I”m hoping to put in fifteen minutes of writing each day.  I’ve been needing to formulate some thoughts and have been having trouble making those thoughts cohesive and coherent.  I have so many distractions and items on my agenda that I’m not sure how to keep a lid on it all.  This is why the blog has gone by the wayside.  However, I preach–funny word for this–about the importance of practicing what you preach and how it’s impossible to teach writing if you don’t do any writing yourself.  This is what I need to be doing so that I can be better at what I do and I can think it through.

Not hitting fifteen minutes tonight, but as I advise my students, something is always better than nothing.  Here’s hoping tomorrow finds me writing here again.

Common Writing Assessment

When I go back to school in the fall, one of the problems I have to face is how to get my department to decide on how to teach and assess writing.  It’s a big problem.

We’re more or less split on two concepts:  Concept #1: Teach grammar and use that grammar to improve writing.  “How can a mechanic fix an engine if he doesn’t know what the parts are called?”  Focus on learning the names of the parts of the sentences and paragraphs. Improve writing this way.Concept #2: Drafting.  Write and rewrite.  Edit and revise.  Accept no single draft writings.

Many of my department are somewhere in the middle on this.  The problem is trying to come to any sort of common agreement on common things.  Not just assessment.  What is important?  What should every student who comes through our building learn?  After we decide that, how can we decide upon a common strategy to determine that all students have been taught the same, or given the same writing tools?

Sure, you’ll say a rubric.  I’m not sure that’s really always the best plan.  I’ve found that our rubrics either are too specific and no one likes them, or they are so generic that they don’t really make our standards common at all.  I’m not really sure how they work with the idea of editing and redrafting, either.  Plus, it doesn’t really solve our debate about grammar.

Obviously, I have my own opinions, but so do the rest of my department.  How can we come to agreement on that?

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

Emailing Teachers

It’s summer break, but I’m still dealing with the school year.  Today I received an email from a student who is upset about his final grade.  “I would love an explanation” for why his grade is so low, he said.  Despite his poor performance in the course all semester long, he fixated on the chance to raise his grade one letter.  Unfortunately, he showed up to the final class day to take his semester test and forgot his assignment at home.  I offered him the chance to email the assignment to me, but I stressed the importance of getting it to me that night.

What happened?

The next day, at nearly midnight, I received the email from him along with an excuse that he tried to send it three other times but it just wouldn’t work and while he realized it was late, he tried to get it on time, so that should count.  Never mind that grades had already been turned in. Or that he should have handed in the paper on the last day of class.  Not his fault that I didn’t get the email…

So, since it was nearly 24 hours past the deadline I had extended, I ignored the email.  Now, weeks later, he discovers that his grade is low and wants me to change it.  All because he can claim that he sent the email with his assignment attached, but it just didn’t get to me.  “The Check Is In The Mail” or something.

See, this is why many teachers shun technology.  Sure, it offers a number of clear advantages, but it also offers more and more ways for students to blame their failings on the teachers.  Sticking with traditional methods, teachers are used to the “my dog ate my homework” or even the more modern “my printer ran out of ink” excuses.  New excuses make for new headaches.  Sigh.

Now I have to wonder:  Am I better of saying that I will only accept paper assignments that are hand-delivered, or do I need to come up with some sort of email policy that will eliminate this kind of excuse making?

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

Failure is not an Option

My building decided that the needed a new “vision statement” for our school.  I was in the group that was discussing the possible phrases we would use.  The idea is that this will be a publicly posted sign that is clear and purposeful about what we as a school really want for our students.  The phrase “Failure is not an option” came up and many people really liked it.

I did not.

My wife has a marketing degree and we’ve discussed the importance of including positive words in slogans and how negative words can have the opposite effect in marketing.  Posting the word “Failure” all over the school could certainly be detrimental.  I argued this point…but I was the minority. The principal was sure that it was a short and clear statement that everyone would understand.

Do you agree with them, or with me?

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

Reviewing Avatar

I’m finally off to watch Avatar.  Because it has inspired so much talk and won some Oscars, I plan to write a review of it.  Mostly, I’m going to see it for the 3D effects, but I’ll see what the rest of the movie is like, too.  I’m not expecting it to be the best thing since sliced bread, but I also am assuming it won’t be terrible.  So, I think I’m in the right mood to approach it.

More later…

Teacher Pay

This is mostly a rant.  I know I said I wasn’t going to do it anymore, but I had to bite my tongue in public–though maybe I shouldn’t have–so I feel the urge to put it out somewhere.  More about regular educational issues later.

Why is it that because teachers get summer’s off, that is the biggest reason why teacher pay is considered adequate.  Most folks I talk with don’t actually know what teacher’s make, but because they “only work 9 months a year” it seems a fair salary.  An antagonist was “only joking” but kept pushing the idea that everyone has to work long hours, but they don’t get summers off, so that’s why they get paid more. So, my brother asked the antagonist what other job requires a college education with those long hours.  He replied with “doctors and lawyers come to mind”.  So, I did the math.  If I earned a doctor’s salary in my state, but subtracted out three months pay, I would still get half my salary again.  A 50% increase in pay.  How is that fair or equitable?

The thing is, it’s really not the pay that frustrates me.  It’s the notion that teacher’s don’t work very hard.  They aren’t really full time workers:  It’s just a part time job.  Why the lack of respect?  How can it change?

Part of the problem is that so many people, both young and old, don’t see that high school did anything for them.  They look back and don’t remember suddenly learning how to communicate their ideas well.  Instead, they remember wasting their time diagramming sentences.  Just this week, a friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that she had to study algabraic equations to graduate from college.  “When am I ever going to use this?” That is what she’ll remember of her education.  The time she felt was wasted.  Since most young people don’t realize that they have slowly gotten better at reading or writing, they don’t think anyone helped them with it.  They just blame them for making all of the hard work.

This is not true of everyone, obviously.  But it seems to me that more and more people have this attitude.  If that’s the case, how can we possibly improve education?

Ugh.  It’s March.  March is a bad month.  I’m looking forward to Sun in April.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

Any Reading is Good Reading

Today I received the latest copy of the NEAToday Express in my email.  In it was a link about reading called “Is All Reading Good?”  I have some thoughts that may not be totally organized.

The focus here was about younger readers and whether popular books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Junie B Jones series were good for students because they modeled poor grammar and behavior.  There are camps on both sides of the issue, but I thought this line was most true:

“I think you should be glad they’re reading anything at all,” says Patricia Edwards, distinguished professor of language and literacy at Michigan State University.

Anyone who has worked with unmotivated readers knows what a challenge it is.  Many teachers or parents believe that if they model reading “good” books that students and children will follow suit and be uninterested in fluff reading and will only read books that inspire them or demonstrate proper attitudes.  Maybe that’s true.  In my experience, however, I have not had that kind of luck.  The true test has come down to the question of “Will the student choose to continue reading this book if I no longer require it?”  More than once, we’ll reach the end of a novel unit and a kid seems to be enjoying it but can’t seem to finish within the allotted time.  Despite the fact that he enjoys the book, he is quite happy to set it aside and never finish it if it is no longer required.

Really, though, we’re also talking about book banning here.  If we’re going to stop allowing kids to read books because they don’t have proper grammar or the protagonists aren’t of the right character value, it’s not too long before we are burning piles of Slaughterhouse Five in the middle of the street.  (I should know because I work with a teacher who was there in North Dakota for that “proud” moment.)  We’re no longer censoring for just sex and violence, but if a kid calls another kid “stupid”?  Are we pretending that doesn’t happen in school?

In short, we must encourage students to read.  Anything at all.  A comic book is better than nothing.  If they enjoy one form of reading, there is a chance for them to enjoy other readings.  If you pull a book out of their hands and scold them for reading this “offensive” material, they may never read again.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

My hopes for today’s inservice

Today is a holiday, so rather than having classes, we are having an inservice.

Recently, I visited with administration and tried to share some constructive criticism with the ways that inservices have been done in the past and ways they could be more beneficial and helpful in the future.  After that, my principal asked me for a list of possible activities for an inservice day.  I obliged him with a page full of possibilities.

Of course, I was ignored.  Instead, we are doing a “team-building exercise” in the morning, and having department “show and share” meetings in the afternoon.  Whoo.  I’m excited.  It’s too bad I couldn’t schedule a root canal today.

So, my hopes for today’s inservice are these

  1. I hope I learn one thing
  2. I hope I don’t partake of the usual complaining.
  3. I hope I don’t fight with someone.
  4. I hope I end the day in a good mood.
  5. I hope I have some time to work on lesson plans.

That’s it.  That’s really as high as my hopes can get with the way our teacher inservices generally go.  It should be better.  These days should do more.  Unfortunately, that will only happen if an administrator has the courage to change things.  That doesn’t usually happen up at the top.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

Fighting Negativity

Been busy lately.  Writing the blog has dropped to the low priority lately.  However, I do miss working out my thoughts here, so I’m back again.

Recently, I’ve felt that my school has been increasingly negative.  Teachers constantly complaining about administration, new technologies, policies, and students, of course.  The complaining has stretched from lunch time, to hallways between classes, to department meetings and then the final straw was an email sent out to my entire department.  Constant complaints.

I try to be positive.  I’m generally one of the most positive people in the school.  I do it by ignoring complaints, focusing on achievements, and when there are problems, I try to focus on solutions.  I’m the guy who says stuff like “Don’t say why.  Say why not.”

However, when people put their complaints down in words, and these are not constructive criticisms, these are simply complaints that serve no purpose except to bring everyone down.  How do you react to that?  Do you write a response?  Do you tear their criticisms apart?  Do you ignore them and try to rise above?  Do you write your own compliment email and come across all flowers and rainbows?

I’ll tell you what I want to do.  My colleague sent out an email complaining about a new piece of technology that is supposed to help us save time, but ended up costing an extra couple of hours for this person.  It was written as though the person was very magnanimus in trying to use this “new-fangled technology.”  What I want to do is mimic this letter. Only my letter will explain how WELL the technology worked and how much time it saved me.  I’m not sure if I could write it in a way that wouldn’t be sarcastic.  Which would be negative.  Which would make me be exactly like those I’m trying not to be like.

But how do you fight it?  Just let them spew their negativity?  Continue to plug along doing the best I can and hope people follow my example?  It seems to be a loss either way.  How do you fight negativity?

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

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