Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Witness to a Grand Event

One of the benefits of teaching is witnessing one-of-a-kind events in the lives of my students. This semester I have the privilege of including Casey in my first-hour US History class, and he has been a true treasure to watch as his progression takes place in learning. He's a typical teenager with the exception of being totally deaf, and he continues to amaze me with his ongoing work ethic in school. Sometimes my 'normal' students lose sight of the difficulty associated with not having all of our senses, and we discuss ways which we can be more sensitive to the needs of those throughout society. They do not seek pity, only equal opportunity to interact with all aspects of our society. On a recent trip to the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) in Madison, I witnessed a day that I will forever remember as it teaches one of those lessons about inclusion and how it impacts everyone around us.

My freshmen students are once again working on their National History Day projects, and just as I did last year, I provided an opportunity for those who wanted to dig for information in the second largest library in North America. Casey was one of the first who jumped at the opportunity to make the Saturday trip, but I was unable to secure the services of the school's translator. I assured him that I would work with him closely to assure that information was found on Laurent Clerc, his chosen topic for NHD. (Note: Clerc is often referred to as "The Apostle of the Deaf in America" for his work in the early 1800s when he founded the first school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut) If we needed to communicate, we would simply write notes back and forth to one another, but as much as I was comfortable telling him this, there was the ultimate uncertainty of whether it would really work as we both expected it to.

When we boarded the van that morning, I discovered that one of my students was learning sign and offered to serve as the go-between throughout the day. This was a gift from heaven in so many ways, and as I drove the group to Madison, I witnessed an ongoing conversation between Casey and Amelia in the back of the van. Like any teenager, he was enjoying an open dialogue with his new friend, which put all my fears to rest. Inside the WHS I was amazed to see how Amelia had taken ownership of translating information from the curators to Casey. He was totally at ease with the process, understood what he needed to do, and instantly jumped into his research.

A library researcher provided Casey with a listing of potential resources, and together he and I made our way to the top floor of stacks to see what we could find. He lead the way much like an excited prospector in search of hidden treasure. Weaving in and out of a multitude of shelves, the ultimate find occurred when not one, but five racks of books were located...all on the subject of deaf individuals. It was as if Casey had found the holy grail and I took a step back to savor the moment for what it was. He was in his element like never before! Books were found on not only Laurent Clerc, but the first deaf community in Martha's Vineyard. Deaf poetry, deaf athletes, the history behind sign language, and so much more. I scanned books in an effort to help him locate information on Clerc, but he was totally able to grasp the situation at hand. We left the stacks with not only a handful of books for his project, but a hearty helping of new-found self-confidence for Casey as well.

When we drove away from the UW campus that afternoon, I saw a new side to Casey that I had yet to realize before. This was his potential for life and the impact he had on those around him. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, he was actively engaged in the process of learning. He aspired to be more than just another student and took true ownership in his education. While I have yet to see his final project, I imagine it will spark interest in his fellow students. He has raised the bar of standards in my classroom and inspires me to work all the more harder in what I do everyday. Thank-you Casey...for being you!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Daring to be Different

On a scale of 1-10, how daring are you?  (1= I play it safe   10= I’m WAY out there!)
Thursday morning's THINKING PROMPT was meant to serve several purposes. First, it provided me with a feeling of who was willing to take a chance when challenged to something new. Second, it split the classroom into factions I had yet to experience. I assured my students that there was no correct answer to their response and no one would be in any trouble. Once I qualified everyone in the class, I introduced the day's lesson on Lewis & Clark's Exhibition into the Oregon Territory. As a result of the Louisiana Purchase made by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803, the size of the United States doubled...and there was a wealth of new territory which now needed exploring. Think of the personality types this investigation required, not to neglect the high risk taking involved with this adventure.

But BEFORE we explored that trip, I wanted to circle-back to the concept of 'risky behavior' as it was making a daily appearance via the "knockout game" on national news. Before I showed the 2-minute video, I asked my class how many of them were aware of this latest teen fad. About one-third raised their hands, although they didn't know much about it. I forewarned them that the video might result in some laughter, but it was NOT to be laughed at. As they watched the newscast, they were dumbfounded as to why anyone would want to engage in such behavior. The video included interviews with teens claiming it was just for fun and how they did it on a dare from friends.

This was my chance to inject a thoughtful comparison on doing something destructive on a dare versus something positive such as exploring unknown lands in honor of your country. America was built by people who were willing to take chances, but they never did it by taking destructive measures. I included insight on using caution when friends dare you to try something which will put your life (or that of someone else) at risk. It's one thing to be brave when daring to be different, another to be stupid and insincere for others.

At a time when teens are searching for answers by investigating the unknown, this was one message which struck close to home. The tie-in to a pertinent historical perspective was well-received, and we continued with Lewis & Clark's adventure into the Great Northwest. It truly is a magnificent time in American history and led to way for another new concept, Manifest Destiny.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Instigating Influence

Whether teachers realize it or not, they impact their students in ways they never thought possible. My classroom is always open to students in the morning, and many swing by to drop their books off before meeting up with friends to walk the halls of the high school. This is nothing new as I remember those days all too well from Craig High. I have one specific group of freshman boys who are not only excellent students, but epitomize everything good about today's teens. They scream respect in everything they do and I see nothing but good things in front of them for many years to come. However, one of my teaching comrades from the other end of the building chose to make an example of one of them, selecting them out of a crowd for "taking up too much space in the hallway." This individual then escorted the young man to the Dean of Students office and asked that he be disciplined accordingly.

When I caught wind of this from the kids I found myself in a quiet rage, knowing full-well that this is NOT what teaching is all about. With nine weeks of the school year behind us, I am one of a select handful of teachers who yet to experience any discipline problems, and I have the ability to deal with any situation through simple and sincere conversations with young people. I'm beside myself thinking that some educators are looking for the tiniest opportunities to seek punishment for someone, rather than using a calm approach of one-to-one conversation. These are the times when I wish teachers could view the replay of themselves and realize the harm they do to this profession, much less the student who fell victim to their error in judgement.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Enhancing Writing Skills

Over the past several weeks I've witnessed a dramatic transformation and enhancement of writing skills by my freshman students. Having observed my son's personal dislike for writing assignments many years ago, it warms my heart to see individuals slowly coming into their own, developing their "voice" on paper in a way which demonstrates both perception and reality for an assigned topic. This past week my 1st Block class had the pleasure to Skype with nationally-acclaimed writer Ken Harris, author of the many "Don't Know Much About History" textbooks. It was an awesome experience and my students came away with a better understanding of people and events that occurred in early American history. Mr. Harris spoke about ways to work on their writing skills, alluding to the fact that it takes ongoing practice to perfect those skills. Although some in my class had used Skype at home, they had never been involved in a group call...making the experience all the more meaningful. I stood on the sidelines and watched their expressions in reaction to the conversations taking place between Mr. Harris and the class. It was everything a teacher wants...and more.

When our Skype time was up I asked students to use a Type 2 Writing Prompt with a reflection on what they learned from this interaction, and what followed surpassed my greatest expectations as an educator as they wrote from the heart and the head. In all my years working with salespeople, few wrote with genuine passion for what they observed. This group has come very far since that first day of school and I constantly remind them that as they invest more time and effort into their writing skills they will become all the more comfortable in their approach to higher education, not to mention a greater asset to any potential employer in the workplace. They "get it" like few groups I've ever associated with and this motivates me to create more creative lesson plans.

I pity those educators who are teaching the same lessons over and over again, thinking that today's students are listening, thinking and comprehending information the way that their predecessors did 10-20-30 years ago. Nothing could be further from the truth, and those who practice this regimentation only compound an ongoing problem in education. I am encouraged by what I see and feel taking place in my classroom, knowing that my students are truly engaged and fully-vested in their education.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Who Controls Your Life?

Although I have a great group of students for AP Economics, I often turn to my freshmen in US History for input on important issues and how they might relate to them. As we near the end of our unit studying the causes of the American Revolution, I provided an opportunity for that to happen. Earlier in the week we compared ways which a colony was much like a child, depending on the parent/home country for defense food, safety. A child will eventually leave home, striving for independence and the opportunity to grow. The American colonies desired independence from England as they sought to make their own decisions. Using a graphic organizer, I'm able to arrange these concepts to compare and contrast ideas as they are offered up by my students. It provides an immediate connection to something they can directly relate to, achieving total independence from home and moving into their own apartment.

As we wrapped up a short quiz, I let them know that I wanted to add an additional question to the list. "Imagine that you're 18 years old and you just graduated from BDHS. Congratulations! You move out of your parent's house, into your very own apartment, and get your first full-time job. Here's the question for you to respond to..... WHO CONTROLS YOUR LIFE?"

Some required an additional prompt, reminding them that they had achieved independence from Mom and Dad. I was careful as to not imply in any way what I felt was the correct response. It was a true 'thinking question' for them to wrap their arms around. When they were done, I immediately assured them that any given response would be rewarded with a point. I then asked if they would share their responses with the entire class, applying the literacy skills of listening and thinking. They agreed and one by one they spoke with a genuine confidence of knowing the answer. However, to my dismay I discovered that over 2/3 of the class stated the government controls their life. The other third gave me the answer I was looking for...."I control my life." For the twenty students who listed the government, I inquired as to whether rules and laws came into their thinking, as these define rights and responsibilities for citizens as a whole.  Their feelings centered on the concept that the government provides, therefore they control.

This blew my socks off, but I wanted to assure them that it was THEY who ultimately controls their fate. I needed to be careful not to associate any feelings of politics or intimidation, rather reinforce the concept of liberty, freedom, and individual choice. These are the principles which guided our ancestors to lay claim to their independence from England, desiring full control of their lives. It is a principle which we should all keep at the forefront of our day to day living. When we lose sight of this important fact, either in the classroom or throughout society (regardless of age), we sacrifice freedoms which our ancestors have fought so hard to protect. This was time well-spent and provided a direct correlation to the bid idea for the day. My class GOT IT!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Building a Strong Foundation

With the first two weeks of school behind me, I'm enjoying this year more so in many ways. Long before I ever committed to becoming a teacher, I made a promise to myself to NEVER recycle lesson plans unless they were exceptional; leading to careful scrutiny on my part each and every day. I find my Unit Plans becoming better and better with age and experience, and my students are better engaged with the learning process. While I am not familiar with the teaching styles of other educators, I offer my students an assortment of activities during the block schedule (90-minutes per class), and I consider their ongoing feedback as a key ingredient to their long-term success.

I open each class with a bellringer which integrates one or more of the four components of literacy. Some days I ask them to write (1) a short reflection using Collins Writing techniques. Another day it might require discussion with their table partner, hence speech (2) and listening (3) skills. The final way involves reading (4) a short historical perspective which is quick and direct in its approach. Rather than just talking about old history, I choose a present-day individual for whom I can build a direct correlation with someone from long ago.

We're just beginning a unit on famous explorers and their impact on the world during a time when Europe "discovers" America. Individuals such as Columbus, Cortez, and Da Gama had to display specific leadership qualities in order to motivate crews accompanying them on long uncertain journeys. In addition to supplying an explorer with a grant, it was commonplace for the King and Queen to unload their prisons with individuals to serve as shipmates. Although this provided downtrodden criminals with a second chance, it also challenged  leadership skills of the aforementioned explorers. Leadership? This was my Friday Bellringer activity and it transitioned into everything I hoped it would....

"What characteristics define a good leader?" Responses included: bravery, sacrifice, knowledgeable, strong, inspiring, able to communicate, confident, committed, honest, and passion. We discussed recent leaders as well as figures throughout history who led their people in difficult times. I inquired as to how many in the classroom had ever heard of Zach Hodskins...and to my expected surprise, not a single individual knew of him. I added teasers about Zach being 17 years old, highly sought after recruit for college basketball, and LOTS of special-interest stories on ESPN, ABC, CBS and countless other medias over the past month. Still no takers about knowing who he was! I loaded a video clip from last night's national newscast, turned out the lights, and stepped back to view their facial expressions as they watched.... Zach was a one-handed basketball wonder! He could also articulate and inspire those around much so that Florida University has promised him a spot on their college basketball roster. Zach was a born leader!

While this was a great fell-good story, I reminded my classes that leadership does not always necessitate athleticism, strength, or money. It requires heart, compassion, and willingness to set yourself apart from be willing to do things that others would not. We discussed opportunities for leadership at school, home, and community...the little things they could do as individuals to make a positive difference in their world. While Zach Hodskins' parents provide him a great support system, this isn't always available to every person, much less every leader. Perseverance, determination, and fortitude were then introduced to the class, all of which were qualities which led to the success of 16th century explorers. (Zach Hodskins, too)

I know that I don't always have 100% buy-in from every student, but they have the fisherman's hook is actively dangling in front of them right now. I'll continue to impress upon them the qualities which can ensure their success by interweaving tales of success and failure in early American history. It's a process that works if only to plant seeds for further thought down the line. As their teacher, I have an opportunity to tie it all together and make history something to value. And best of all, this is just another reason as to why I love teaching high school freshmen!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Round Two and Ready To Go

Over the past week my back-to-school routine consisted of taking the covers off my classroom. When I opened the door to room 503, I discovered an ambiance similar to a long-forgotten mansion which lay dormant for years. Dust, cobwebs, musty humidity, the smell of staleness, and a longing for new life. All this was compounded by fallout from construction in the Science wing that is found parallel to the Social Studies hallway. It was no ordinary recovery and required full attention by my cohorts from start to finish. On Thursday afternoon the custodial staff ushered us away for the weekend in order to strip, scrub and wax our 500 hallway. While Labor Day will be a time of rest and relaxation for most, there will be many teachers like myself who will hunker down in their classrooms, prepping for Tuesday's first official day of school.

Looking ahead, I find myself in a better position to begin my second year of teaching. U.S. History for freshmen has been tweaked and strengthened in content. National History Day returns for not one, but two semesters of projects. And Economics has been transformed into AP Economics, a college-credit course with higher-thinking and intense rigor. This will be my single greatest challenge for the new school year; not so much for the content, but the goals which I've established for both students and myself. As the eighteenth AP course offering at BDHS I know there are expectations from administration, and I'm not about to back away from high standards already put into place by other AP teachers. If anything, I expect to take these standards to a higher level and beyond. It may take time to get my rhythm, but I intend to mold this class into the model of excellence for which it deserves. I have a lifetime of experiences to pull from as well as a deep pool of resources to tap into. I feel honored to have been asked to teach this class and expect every one of my students will "Strive for a 5" x 2 (one for Macro, one for Micro).

Finally, as excited as I am for my students, I'm equally pumped for the opportunity to elevate my personal learning. Pablo Picasso said it well when he noted: "It takes a very long time to become young."  These are indeed the best of times!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer Break: Rest and Refocus

For the first time in my professional life, I have "time" in my hands during the summer months. As much as I'd love to take my foot of the gas pedal, I know that much work has to be done. AP Economics will be a new course offering, and I'm intent on hitting the bulls-eye right out of the gate. This class will be the eighteenth AP course at BDHS and there are aggressive goals put into place to drive expectations for students and faculty. Goals and expected outcomes are nothing new to me as the business world is filled with these each and every day. They require ongoing focus of the task and closely monitoring student progress. Advance Placement (a/k/a AP) classes are rigorous in their approach and the learning curve is intense. As a first-year AP teacher, I now have a new load to carry and it should be an interesting experience.

And first three months of free time has been spent sharpening my skill-sets associated with creating a stimulating syllabus-course planner for AP Econ and getting up to speed with the necessary knowledge. In reflection I refer to these past days as 'intensity times ten'...cramming mega-amounts of content into my brain. It's one thing to think about Economics throughout the day, but when I start dreaming about economic principles I consider it a message from my inner self to TAKE A BREAK for a few days. And although there are still four weeks before the first day of school, there is a sense of urgency to complete the task I've started. I feel excited about diving into a new stream of knowledge, not for fear of failing, but for wanting to accomplish all I set out to do. Bring it on!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Month In Reflection

When the final school bell rang four weeks ago, I packed up and headed back home for the summer. Unlike some of my colleagues, I've made a handful of trips back to BDHS for committee meetings for spearheading our school wide efforts in 2013-14 with PBIS, but this drive time was beneficial for personal reflection on the past nine months. I once read that not taking time to reflect is the equivalent of going through a day without ever looking in the mirror. How would I know if I was truly ready, willing and able to face the future if I never looked at my performance in the classroom? This is why these past four weeks have been a necessary part of my professional career, thinking about my actions in and out of the classroom throughout the school year. What did I do well? What could I improve upon next fall? And how should I use the summer months to impact tomorrow's classroom?

So what did I learn this past year? If there comes a time in my life when I stop learning, that will be the instant I need to retire from teaching. I learned that preparation is key to not only my success, but for my students as well. I always need to have an alternative game plan in mind in order to shift gears at a moment's notice. This past year there were several times when something happened in my classroom that required more focus, a moment when shifting gears was not only appropriate, but also very necessary.

I also learning how important it was to speak in the language of my students. Not that I needed to be 'best buddy' with them, but that I often had to break it down in terms which they could better understand by associating the idea with a concept they were more aware of. The beauty of good teaching is often found within this trait, and I am confident of my abilities.

What did I give this year? Every stream has both an inlet and outlet, and it's never enough for me to be a learner without also being a giver. This is perhaps my greatest possession, being able to give back to my students. During my journey back to the classroom, I found knowledge to be instrumental in the way I understood education. Those people who shared their insight were those who I admired most. Their means of communication where laced within conversations, articles, letters, blogs, books, the internet, social media, and so much more. They created an environment which challenged my thinking in ways I never thought possible. It was NOT a one-way exchange, but an ongoing process. From this personal growth comes a greater willingness to give back. This is not an 'arrogance thing' better described as an effectiveness thing. I want (and need) to be an effective teacher. If I am learning as a teacher and then inspiring, I feel as if I am succeeding in what I do.

During this first-year teacher's time in the classroom, I witnessed both intellectual and personal growth in all my students. They provided me with memorable experiences from which I am able to build upon in years to come. And while I am far from being the teacher I aspire to be,  I am fully engaged in the process and look forward to the challenges that still lay ahead.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”  Peter F. Drucker

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nearing the end....

It's hard to believe that my first year is nearing an end, and these final days are an experience all in themselves. Senioritis runs rabid, but they remain focused on getting to the finish line. Some of my freshmen students have secured the long-awaited sense of urgency, scrambling to complete overdue assignments and pleading to retake exams originally given 2-3 months ago. These are trying times for every first-year teacher, but I am MOST comfortable in my new threads.

Since Seniors finish school a few days earlier than other underclassmen, today was FINALS DAY and they closed a long-awaited chapter in their lives. Prior to taking their final exam in Econ Class, I paused to say "thank-you" to this group of thirty students. "I appreciate the respect you provided to me as well as your insight on life. You have much to look forward to, not only at Sunday's graduation, but in the months and years to come. Good luck!"  I could feel their stress and assured them that all would be well. Now, the test.....

When the final bell rang, I collected the scantron sheets and entered grades into Skyward- as is the normal procedure, then went about my business for the balance of the day. Prior to closing up my room, I pulled those Econ tests and read their "No Count Essay Response" to the following question: In a minimum of fifty words, tell me whether this class truly provided you with a feel for the subject of Economics. Do you believe you'll be able to put this information to good use at some point in your lifetime? And yes, I can handle the truth!

I expected some sarcastic responses and even prepared myself for a couple of atomic bullets. It was a wonderful way to end the day and every comment hit close to my heart. One such individual shared this with me: "Yes, I actually do believe I will use the stuff we learned in the future. I already used one piece of your advice when I wrote a thank-you card to a company after they gave me an interview. They called me back three days later and said I was the first to ever do that, and they appreciated it so much I got the job and will be moving to Iowa next week. Thank you Mr. D....this was the best class of my senior year. :)"  The balance of the written responses were just what I needed to end the day on a positive note. I did make a difference in their learning experience and they have knowledge in place which will aid their success.

Moments like this make my new career all so worthwhile. It has invigorated me to take it to another level and I look forward to taking "teaching" to the next level in years to come. I've accepted the position of AP Economics at BDHS next year, a first-time offering at our school. I have an opportunity to engage students looking to excel at a college-level course, and I'm up for the challenge like never before!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Quick Talk about Memorial Day

Today was the perfect opportunity for me to spend a few minutes to interject how Memorial Day first came to happen during the aftermath of the American Civil War. Although the fighting had officially come to an end, it was a time when our country was still emotionally torn from over four years of fighting. General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a day when soldiers of both North and South would be remembered for giving their lives for the freedom and liberty of past, present and future generations.

This weekend is the first in a series of summer holidays and everyone was looking forward to a long weekend. My students were anxious for the long weekend, but as is the case with many of our patriotic days, I fear the true meaning of Memorial Day is diluted in a pool of commercialized selling sprees. Lost is the historical significance and values we've achieved as believers of democratic ideals. When people question why this new generation of learners doesn't have a grasp of real history, I believe we have only ourselves to blame.

I provided them with pictures of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC and a stirring 3-minute video of Amazing Grace by the Armed Forces Bagpipes. 
It was laced with images of fallen soldiers and ways which they are remembered by comrades and everyday citizens. I ended with a simple request that my students take a few minutes before the end of the day to visit the school's in-house memorial to recent graduates who gave their lives in battle. One of these soldiers was the brother of a current classmate of theirs and few were aware of this association. I asked that they also spend time on Monday in reflection of the true meaning of Memorial Day, recognizing the efforts of soldiers who have defended our country. As each of my five classes departed for the day, there was a somber sense of "I got your message" amid them all. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My Best Day in the Classroom

For the past four weeks my freshman students have been engulfed in learning about the Civil War, a fascinating time period in American history. Teaching the Civil War is a challenge in that there is so much going on and a teacher can only cover so much material in limited amount of time. It's not only the battles and politics of the mid-19th century, but the individuals who impacted the fate of our United States. As a high school student I never imagined there were things happening behind the scenes, and this unit provided me with the opportunity to explore such unique things as 3D photography, commonly referred to as stereoview in its time. Nowadays students think 3D is new, but they are surprised to learn how commonplace it was almost 150 years ago. After I purchased a DVD with almost 100 stereoview photos, I was amazed when I discovered how they were digitally colored, bringing scenes to life as I had never imagined possible. My students loved it when I distributed 3D glasses, logged into my iTunes account with an hour's worth of music from the Civil War, and then turned out the lights. I guided them on a one-of-a-kind journey into the past. It was amazing!

It wasn't until the Civil War unit came to an end that I experienced my best day (to date) as a teacher, and once again I've realize the best lessons in the classroom are those made with a connection with life. When the Civil War unit began, I informed my students that I would allow them to use their notebooks for the unit final, provided they were written notes in their own handwriting. In other words, no xeroxed copies or worksheets from textbooks- rather, everything they transcribed from notes in class or taken from assigned readings. Throughout the unit I reminded them that by taking good notes and organizing them appropriately, they would improve their chances for success on the unit exam. For those who chose to ignore my warning, the day of inevitability hit home on Thursday, May 2nd. As I handed out the test, I caught a glimpse of some of their enlarged eyeballs and a sudden realization that they had made a huge error in judgement as to my sincerity of the difficulty of the test. For those who heeded my advice, they excelled like never before.

It was on this same day that I celebrated the success of two students who had previously struggled with tests such as these. Other teachers refer to 'Joe' and 'Jim' as dysfunctional and derelict in nature. They are kids other teachers quickly toss from their classroom, while I tend to tolerate and focus on ways to motivate their passion for learning. Our relationships have grown over the past several weeks after heart-to-heart talks after school when they dropped in to grab a Jolly Rancher from my candy jar. I challenged them to take my advice to prove, if only to themselves, that they could ace the test just by following through on my advice. There were times when they worked together to update their notebooks, talking smack with one another...all the while having just the tiniest of doubts in their abilities. When I finished grading their papers, I was elated to be able to place 'A+' in the top corner. They popped their heads into my classroom this morning and I sat them both down in front of me with a stern glare, then broke the news of their success. They NAILED IT like never before!

I asked if they would allow me to use their names and notebooks to share with other classes, if only to model how successful others could be by following my advice. They were proud of their accomplishment and I matched their elation by suggesting they do it again on the next test. They jumped on board immediately!  Later in the day I strolled into the Dean of Students and asked Shawn to seek out these two students at some point in the afternoon by congratulating them in person in front of their cohorts. In the past Joe and Jim have been frequent visitors to his office, always being reprimanded for their negative actions. Today was genuinely different!  :)

As the day progressed, I had heart-to-heart chats with each class in hopes they would understand the sincerity behind my words. In one of my most difficult classes, one-third of the students received an 'F' on their test, and I shared that they were capable of better work. After all, three students in this specific class earned top honors with perfect the issue of attitude and attentiveness in class clearly came into play. Rather than rubbing their nose in the results, I elected to challenge them to do it 'right' when we begin the next unit on Reconstruction. My students were STUNNED (yet very happy) to discover that Joe and Jim did something that no one expected, much less ever considered possible.

While the good news has yet to spread amongst my comrades in the Social Studies department, I take great satisfaction in knowing that kids who are often tagged as "impossible" can turn their academic lives around in short order. Their success can truly inspire it the teacher or the achieve what was once considered unattainable.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Getting Students to Believe in Themselves

I sense there is an ever-growing segment of young people, mostly male, who are unable to compile a written response to the simplest of essay questions. After growing tired and confused as to why they would choose to not answer a test question, I decided it was time to inquire as to why "John" was finding it hard to pen a few lines. In a polite manner I asked what he knew about the subject in general. His mind was in lock-down mode and he was having difficulty laying it before I supplied him with a 2-3 clue words to cue his thoughts. John proceeded to rattle off everything he knew about the subject, nailing the original essay question in a way which surprised both me and himself.

"Why did you find this specific question so difficult to answer on today's test?" John told me he knew all the information, but didn't know that this is what I was looking for, nor did he know how to get it out of his brain. While there are some educators who would simply accept an unanswered essay question, I am becoming rather insistent in finding out what my students know and why they are willing to bail ship by accepting their lackluster performance. In the real world, employers won't consider any job application that contains blank space in an area which is designated for thoughtful response. Are schools so forgiving to accept this behavior?

I am exploring new ways in my classroom to change this behavior while still retaining their trust and buy-in to my teaching style. There is a segment of students who dislike writing assignments and often ignore them altogether in hopes that they'll simply go away. They accept failure as routine and normal. My grandmother had a saying that the hardest nut to crack often had the tastiest meat to enjoy. The same holds true to a small segment of students who are often considered hopeless- the knowledge is there, you just have to crack through the barrier. There's a wonderful world of intelligent thought waiting to be revealed!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Regarding the Quiet-Learners

As a first-year teacher I often take notice of those students who lag behind mainstream learners. After all, they are the ones who need the most immediate attention as they impact WKCE scores the greatest as well as the general classroom climate. Over the past several weeks there are others flying beneath the radar screen and they deserve as much, if not more, of our notice. I refer to these students as the quiet-learners, those who ALWAYS complete their assignments on time in a thorough manner with very few errors and distinct writing styles. Some might reference them as 'gifted and talented.' They challenge us not with mischievous actions or poor attitudes, but with anticipation for more rigorous learning activities. They have my attention and I am attempting new ways to keep them engaged in my classroom. Each one is different, yet uniquely similar.

At any point in the school day, regardless of my class size, I still need to manage a wide variety of attitudes and personality styles in addition to addressing the needs of lower-level learners. It's here where the quiet-learners become lost in the shuffle, and in many ways they could very well be the reason as to why higher academic standards via the Common Core are being designed for tomorrow's classrooms. These individuals do not need our ongoing attention, but they do require both acknowledgement and optional assignments which elevate their thought process. With test grades at the 97-percent-plus level, they are already exceeding our expectations and sometimes they will not accept more work for fear of falling backwards. They're already riding a well-greased slide, but whether they realize it or not, they also need to learn something new every day to satisfy that inner thirst for knowledge. It is here that I assure them that their "safe-grade" will not be jeopardized, only weighted with greater regard and higher prominence. I am doing nothing more than coaxing them into deeper waters of higher learning. I want to stay at least one step ahead of them, ready to offer challenging lessons at a moments notice.

This is just another reason as to why I enjoy teaching at this point in my life, seeing the potential in students on both ends of the spectrum...and everything in between.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Importance of Writing Skills

When asked to respond to essay questions, my students are all too often willing to only provide basic simple answers. I remember this trick from my early days in high school as I just wanted to answer the question to make my teacher happy, then turn and run as fast as I could to avoid focus on any of my half-inspired sentence fragments. I use the word "fragments" since that's all they were at the time. I just needed to give the teacher what they thought I knew, then skedaddle back to other busy work without expanding on any ideas...and no doubt it drove them nuts! Now I find myself on the receiving end of such a strategy and I sense that I need to attack this mindset.

After handing back student exams, I pulled out my stool and asked every freshman to look me straight in the eye in order to concentrate on what I was about to say. I paused until every face was focused at me, maintaining silence until there was total calm in the room.  "How many of you are going to look for a summer job in the coming weeks?"  An overwhelming majority of hands went up and I knew I had captured their attention for the next que.  "Are you aware that when you approach a potential employer they ask you to fill out a job application which in many cases includes a question or two about WHY they should hire you? Several employers also ask questions about your life goals and even a question about how you interact with people. They ask those questions in order to see how you will respond...and if you answer with words rather than sentences, your application will go into their trash. It's the cold hard truth, and if you can't construct a sentence, you will NOT be given any consideration for employment."

I explained how my past career was involved with the hiring of people for an assortment of jobs, be it management, salespeople, truck drivers, warehouse personnel, and high school youth helping us out for the summer. I shared how I reviewed their writing skills to get a sense of how much they wanted the job. It made sense for me to hire the best candidate and if they couldn't communicate their feelings in writing, I didn't want them to waste my time nor theirs. They listened and I sensed that most of them 'got it' for what it was meant to be...a moment of greater awareness of what Mr. D wanted (and expected) from his students. "With that being said, I assure you that we're going to keep working on your writing skills in the days to come...count on it. This can be a learning experience for you in more ways than you think, so work with me!"

In the coming weeks I have every intent on allocating more time to improving their writing skills, not with huge assignments but in simple tasks which will inflict little pain or traumatic stress. In an age when young people text in abbreviated acronyms, there is all the more sense of urgency on my part to make sure they are aware of the need to have the ability to write good sentences...not just for unit exams and the accompanying essays, but for life itself.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wanting What's Best and Getting Feedback

Make no mistake, a good teacher always wants what is best for their students. We have every desire for them to understand the meaning behind our lessons, much less the knowledge that's associated with it. We want our students to perform to the best of their ability, whether or not they aspire to attain greatness. Recognizing that they are human individuals holding the ability to make personal choices (good, bad or indifferent), we need to remember that they don't always want to travel in the same direction which we point them in. We see them for who we think they should be, rather than accepting the authenticity of their free spirit. I am not advocating that they should be provided with a free reign in their approach to learning, only my acceptance that they will see things from a different perspective. However, it helps when they provide feedback on what they perceive to have learned, offering insight on ways learning has taken place.

Grading on their National History Day projects is just about complete, but prior to giving them their final grades I felt it would be a good idea to get their feedback on the past several weeks. Using a Collins Type 2 Writing Assignment at the end of class, with a minimum of eight lines I asked my students to share three things which they had learned from doing their research. What worked, what failed, what surprises did they experience, what were their frustrations...their surprises...their roadblocks. And what did they learn about themselves after undertaking such a project? Their pencils hit the paper fast, as if they were venting feelings which were pent up inside for many weeks. But I've discovered that young people want (and need) to unleash their feelings with writing assignments, and this one would be extra-special for me as a first-year teacher!

Sitting in my apartment that evening, I read every paper which students had provided to me, taking comments to heart in ways that I cherished as being brutally honest. They hit me in a good way- some in the head and many others in my heart. What follows is just a sampling of their many personal reflections, and they're listed just as they were provided (misspellings and all):
  • I learned many things about researching. One thing is how to use Badger Link. I didn't know about that before but now I do. I learned that not all sites are reliable. Some information isn't true. I learned that when I have to to work I should use it wisely and not waste my time.
  • One thing I learned while researching was to make sure I keep a citation of the articles I use where I can find it. I also learned to make sure I have everything done well before it is due so I have time to fix things if necessary. I learned to make sure I don't mess around or I won't get stuff done.
  • I learned that I was able to write a large research paper like I will have to in college. Finding reliable sources and citing them. Also to control the schedule and get work done in the time given. Also learned about what happened after WWII and what the countries were going through. What I learned about myself is I work well in a group.
  • I learned how much you have to actually read to research to get good research...
  • I learned how to research using our school website. What I learned about my partner was that I probably won't do it again. I am more of an independent person, and I won't want to depend on someone to do something when they end up not doing it. I also learned how to organize stuff on a board.
  • I learned that I need to be more patient with myself and that I need to work more. I learned that I have a short temper but in summary I learned a lot...
  • I learned not to procrastinate the project to the last day...
  • I learned that I don't like to work with people who don't hardly work and expect you to think of most of the ideas. I learned that I have a great History teacher.
  • Setting goals helps getting the research done faster and makes everything run smoother. Slacking only leads to not doing your best and not getting the best grade you could...
  • There's a lot of reading that takes place in research. There's a lot of new info out in books and websites that I never would've known. I hate doing research because it takes too much time but you have to do it well in a research paper.
  • I learned to stay on task and get things done as soon as possible so I don't forget...
  • I learned that you should double-check your save. Sometimes a file may not save correctly. You need to manage time wisely. I almost ran out of time during the project. You need to focus. It's easy to lose focus, but you need to concentrate.
  • I learned that with dedication and effort and choosing the right partner, that it makes a project a lot more fun...
  • I learned that sometimes when your project is not doing so well you have to think on the fly. That you can't argue with your partner otherwise you could put your project on the line...
  • One thing I learned about research is that Wikipedia is not a credible site. In order to be a viable site it must have an author and a @ thing. I learned that I liked researching...
  • I realized that there are many fake sites and a lot of false information online. Its hard to research a topic you don't know much about in the start. I thought choosing what to write about was difficult in the writing process. During this project I learned that time flies so you shouldn't procrastinate anything...
  • I have learned about different search engines you can use for research besides Google. Along with that I've learned how to tell if information from a website is reliable or not and if it is considered a primary or secondary source. I've also learned how to decide what's important and whats not in research. About myself I've learned that I'm very much a perfectionist and I don't want anything to be done wrong. Also that I am able to pace myself appropriately.
  • On doing our history day project I learned how to research not copying and paste. I learned how hard it was to actually get good research that is true. One thing I learned about myself is that I need to work immediately. I can't fall behind. Once I fall behind, I have to work that much more to catch up.
  • I learned that even if your information is wrong or your project falls completely apart, you have to rebuild and redo in a rational fashion. I don't take failure well, but when I get a little help, I can keep a positive attitude.
  • I learned that working with a friend on a project isn't the best choice. Me and my partner got in a huge fight during our project and it made us fall behind. I learned that you need to work on the project not just at school, but use your free time to get the project done. Use all the time you have.
  • I learned that not everything on the internet is true and using Google isn't accurate. You have to know if there isn't one then the stuff probably isn't true. Badger Link helped a lot because everything on it was true. All the webs cited looked very accurate....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hit and Miss in the Classroom

One of the advantages of teaching four classes of US History to freshmen is the varying degrees of success I experience within any given day. Sometimes the best-laid plans need to simmer and stew within another setting before scraping them altogether, and today was no exception as my students are in their final days of assembling their History Day projects.

My objective was to have each class participate in a student feedback session when they would sit down with other groups and offer constructive input on each other's work. I reorganized the tables in my room so they represented a total of seven hexagons, placing name cards on specific sections to insure balance at the start of the exercise. Each group was given a graphic organizer on which they were instructed to place a simplified copy of their thesis and three supporting ideas. I even supplied some possible questions to trigger their thought process and upped the ante with the awarding of bonus points should a group choose to use some of the ideas offered up to them.

It would be a two-minute drill whereby one group would explain their project by their thesis and supporting data, then the other group would counter with possible ways to enhance and improve the presentation. The egg-timer icon on my computer would alert the groups when their two minutes were up, and the other side of the table would then take on this same routine. Once completed, one group would rotate on to the next table and the routine was in place. Ready-set-go....

My first hour class was somewhat dumbfounded by what was asked of them, and the two minutes would sometime feel like two hours. After the third exchange they warmed up to the idea and seemed to enjoy making their presentations to their fellow classmates. I roamed from table to table and witnessed some good conversations taking place, not to mention some outright silliness taking place. Sometimes you simply have to grin and bear it.....then wait for the next class to step foot in the room.

The second time around with a larger class, the exercise appeared to flow doubt the result of a better chemistry of students in the mix. Again, the third class went better than expected, but it was my 6th Hour class that really got into it and benefited the most. From the very beginning each group's graphic organizer was filled with suggestions and I was pleasantly surprised by what I witnessed throughout the period. I wanted to make sure students weren't just telling me what I needed to hear, so their replies of "this really helped our project" was welcome news on all fronts.

There are days when lessons are well-received by some classes, and other times I simply feel the need to run for the hills with great frustration. Classroom chemistry can make or break a good lesson, and you never know what to expect until the day is complete. This makes it almost a 'yogism' of know, the "it's never over 'till it's over" kind of feeling. It was a day that made me glad I stuck it out, rather than scraping the plan altogether after 1st Hour. Persistence is definitely a key ingredient to success in the classroom!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pause and Take a Step Back

I confess that I have high standards for my students, but sometimes you simply have to pause and take a step back to let them experience success and failure along the way. As they continue to work on their National History Day projects, they now know what is expected of them in the way of the final product. In many ways this is like putting your new toy boat in the rapids, being aware that there are hazardous falls, rocks and boulders ahead. Some will crash and sink to the bottom, others making their way to safety by navigating around the aforementioned dangers.

With eleven days remaining in their deadline, some students are doing quite nicely. Their thesis is well thought out and the accompanying outlines are taking shape. Many have taken hold of their subjects and are exploring new knowledge in the way that we had hoped. This is when it's fun to be a teacher, to see them exploring new ways to present their ideas to interested readers. I will admit that some of it is pretty simple in nature, but this is the same starting point from which everyone once had their back foot sunk into. As one of my good friends always says, "do you remember how sloppy your first French kiss was?" Likewise this will be a memorable experience for every student in my class. They may well think back and remember how poorly conceived their projects were, but they will also recall the fun (and he headaches) they had putting it all together.

This is just another microcosm of life in the real world, and by falling down and picking yourself up off the floor, you realize your real mistake was not listening to the person who told you to keep both hands on the handle bars and avoid leaning more to one side over another. Yes, there are dangers ahead....but in the end a gentle fall with teach big lessons.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


For the past two weeks my students have been knee-deep in their work for National History Day projects, and since this is a new experience not only for them but for our entire high school, there is an air of mystery for what to expect. Anytime you ask your students to be "the first" to do something, there are feelings of uncertainty which ripple throughout the school building. It requires careful planning from staff in order to keep everyone on the same page, but it also allows some flexibility and creativeness in lesson planning. NHD is the only event I know of where students can choose their own topic, work as a team or alone as one, select one of four formats, and aspire to enter regional, state and national competition. There is but one simple requirement for which we insist on, and this mandate is that they complete a project dealing with a turning point in history.

For the most part this has been an enjoyable experience, watching students tap into their personal interests and then delving into quality research. Early on in the process we quickly identified why Google was NOT the best place to begin when looking for reliable research and valid information. So many students weren't aware of the demise of the endangered tree octopus until I demonstrated a search with Google as model was how to proceed. After all, the website has pictures and videos from people all over the world, in addition to ways which people can donate money to this viable cause. It's almost too hard to believe....until you suddenly realize that its all been a huge hoax.

This point was taken and clearly understood by most of my students until they became bored with "scholarly research" which we required through Badgerlink, a scholarly search engine. It was easy for them to sneak back to Google and type questions for which there are so many easy responses- at least they thought it was until we mandated the use of Badgerlink for their initial research. There were groans and moans from those who often like to stray from such directions, but by now they know we are serious about this project. I know that with three weeks remaining until the project due date there will be additional hurdles to jump. This week my classes will be working on thesis statements and bibliographies, and for a good segment of them this will be like going to the dentist after years of neglect. I am readying myself for the tsunami of whines, but in time I'm confident that everything will come together nicely.

Yesterday we took those students who were truly interested in world-class research to join us for a trip to the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. Few people are aware that WHS is the world's 2nd largest library for North American history, outranked only by the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The WHS staff did an outstanding job working with the kids, identifying books and articles which will they can use in their work. My highlight in the day came at 2:00 PM when none of the kids wanted to leave the library, choosing instead to sit at large tables with research papers surrounding their note cards.  Once these young people were focused and engaged in their work, it gave new meaning to the word "learning." It was an incredible sight to witness!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Semester, New Students, New Believers

As I journey further into the profession of teaching, I am hesitant to criticize my peers. Since I haven't been in their classrooms, I refuse to make any sort of judgement on their teaching styles, much less ways they evaluate their students. However, I do pay close attention to the progress of my students as well as the efforts they put forth in my classroom. Approximately 60% of my freshmen students were handed over to my counterparts this past week, and in turn I was blessed with an equal number of new faces. I found one of my classes 'stocked' with a 25% share of students who had received an "F" in US History the prior semester, a monumental challenge if I was to base my assumptions off of grades. But rather than looking at them as dumb and unteachable, I felt it best to stick to the regimentation which worked so well the first semester when all but one of my 90 students earned passing grades, and that one individual had truly earned their F.

On the first day I told all my students that if they truly wanted an "F" all they had to do was NOTHING.....but the good news was I wouldn't let them settle for nothing. Those students who experienced "Mr. D" the first semester were the first ones I went to during that first class and their testimonials were loud and clear. "Mr. D will hound you everyday for homework until you get it done!" I was NOT about to let them fail in any way, shape or form. Nonetheless, I had some doubters in the audience until they missed their first assignment....and then they discovered that I meant business.

It's not about punishment, but rather stressing the point that homework (and school) is one step away from working in the real world. In business the typical boss gives an employee one opportunity when they fail to follow procedure, and I've stressed that although I can't fire my students, I can put corrective procedures in place which will remedy bad habits. Needless to say, this comment caught their attention and the next day all late assignments were in-hand without further delay.

I am becoming a huge believer that the reasons as to why students fail one class and pass another in the same subject area is directly related to the approach which teachers take early on in establishing routines and expectations. The spring term will clearly provide me with an opportunity to prove or dispel this theory, but for the meantime I'm intent on having all students on board with completed assignments. No doubt this will require the ongoing assistance of parents, but last fall I learned the importance of getting them on my side early in the game with constant communication at various stages of the semester. This is done with personalized letters, an invitation to Parent-Teacher Conferences, e-mails, and links to my wiki-website. My students may think they are only one week into the new term, but they're actually knee-deep into the process of learning a huge lesson for later in life.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Learning the Importance of Modeling

As much experience as I thought I possessed, as a first-year teacher I'm still guilty of making assumptions about students in my classroom, and when the Constitution Announcement Project came to an end last week it was clearly evident in the group work which was submitted for final grading. For a first-time project, I was pleased with the results as a good segment of students demonstrated both interest and creativity in their final exhibit; however, it still fell short of my expectations. Amongst the eighteen groups, I was expecting to find one or two which excelled far beyond others, but there was little difference in the overall quality from one end of the spectrum to the other.

As I reviewed each of the posters, I recall pointing out specific information regarding historical facts dealing with ideas, people, and places associated with the signing of our Constitution in 1787...but no one took advantage of these, focusing instead on information which was readily available via aquick-n-easy Internet search via Google. In other words, they took the easy way out rather than seeking new information and content. I thought back to the first day when I assigned the project and how I supplied each individual with both rubric and resource report forms. From what I was able to survey no one worked from these sheets, and by all implications they made the assumption that I wasn't going to hold them accountable, despite my warnings.

It was then that I questioned myself about whether I had truly modeled it properly to the class as a whole in addition to each of the self-assigned groups. Even though I brought current day newspapers into the discussion, I didn't get them to lay their project side-by-side with one of those papers. I hadn't created my own project with which I could use to display the classifications of extraordinaire, above-average, average, below-average and not-acceptable. In return I was forced to accept work which was below their true capabilities, lowering my standards to ensure passing grades. (despite my adjustment, no one received a grade higher than C) Although I turned my head this time, I scolded myself for not modeling this properly for my students, making a promise that it would never happen again.

Despite my failings, I know my students came away with a better understanding of the events surrounding the creation of our Constitution since their final exam scores reflected a retention of knowledge. However, deep in my heart I now realize that it could have been better....and it will be next time I assign a project of similar magnitude. Over the next six weeks, my students will be knee-deep in research for our school's first National History Day project. As a result the lesson which I learned will surely benefit the way they not only gather information, but also in the ways which students present their ideas to the itself raising the standards of quality for all.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

One of My Keys to Success

With but one week remaining in my first semester of teaching, one of the keys of my success has been associating myself with the extra-curricular activities of my students. It's more than just showing up at the popular sporting events like basketball, but catching a hockey game, wrestling meet, school musical and more. It's identifying students outside of my classroom environment by cheering them on in the arenas of sports and other out-of-class activities. Students enjoy the concept of having 'fans' in the stands and the concept creates empathy and goodwill on a scale of massive proportions. They see me as someone who takes a vested-interest in both their team and school, in addition to generating conversation in the classroom as well as between periods. I am amazed at how much time students invest in these activities- both in training, competition, and performance. As much as I want to say "I wish you'd put the same amount of time into the homework I assign," I know that this isn't the venue nor approach I need to take. High school students are keen at assessing who is doing all they can to help them succeed both in and out of the classroom, and this is just one of the many proven ways of building that bridge.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Now It's Their Turn

My freshmen students teach me important lessons about teaching, most of the time without their knowing of it. When I returned from the holiday break, I sensed it was time to turn to another one of the examples put forth in my education at UW-SP. Although my students had been away from the classroom for almost two weeks, I wanted to turn them loose on a project in hopes that they'd discover new information in a context which mirrored my lessons in the past few months. My high school has a computer lab like so many other schools, but in my conversation with students I came to the realization that their teachers were somewhat reluctant to use this 'teaching tool' as they could. And so, my New Year's lesson would take the form of something like a webquest with groups of 4-5 students. Using the concept of creating a front page to a newspaper, I asked my students to image themselves back in the year 1787 when news of an innovative concept called "The Constitution" was revealed to the country. They were employed by a newspaper within one of the thirteen states and it was their job to communicate this "news" to the public.

I laid out the entire process with a packet which contained resource forms and story-board outlines, along with suggestions on dividing up the various responsibilities as reporter, graphics, layout, and general editor. Three class hours would be dedicated to the computer lab, but it was of utmost importance for groups to recognizing who was doing what and by when as deadline dates provided accountability and demonstrated the importance for the task at hand. An attached rubric noted how each segment of the project would be graded and with 50% of their Final Exam grade at stake, most students realized how serious I was with the project. Knowing that young teens need to get their information in various formats, I downloaded an assortment of helpful links on my class wiki and showed the class how they could easily reference these from home. The school librarian had also set aside a list of books which I had provided to her, and in addition, I supplied her with a copy of the lesson plan so she was aware of what the students might be looking for in the way of resource assistance.

Then the moment of truth for identifying who was going to be in each group. I was torn between whether I should assign working groups of four members or let them make their own choices. Rather than sticking to my guns, I elected to oblige by those of the class...which was to chose their own partners. I gave them two minutes to break and reform within their groups, and then reminded them about the importance of the task at hand. I went around to each group and asked one individual to serve as Team Captain in order to allow me easy-access to monitoring their progress. And since this was going to play a huge role in their final grade, I noted where each individual was with regards to their class grade as of that moment. I made this information 'public' to the group as I needed to stress how much this could help each individual. Some of my students got off to a horrible start with their grades last September, but this was a 'golden opportunity' for them to change all of that. For those students with current grades of 'A' -it was their moment to shine by pulling it all together for this project.

At the end of that first class I felt good about the prospects of this working, but after I unveiled it to the other three classes I was extremely pumped up as I drew from their excitement of doing "hands on work" in the computer lab. The first session in the computer lab was a real eye-opener as I watched each group begin to tackle the task. While there was the occasional comment of "I don't understand how to do this," I witnessed some good learning taking place as students undertook the challenge. In fact, I would describe it as 'high energy times 10' and then some. I made my rounds with each group, demonstrating the task with a large blank piece of paper along with a sample of today's front page from the local newspaper, pointing out features and characteristics of layout and design.

Although we still have two computer labs forthcoming in the next two weeks, I sense some good things taking place within the minds of my students. Some of who were rarely engaged have suddenly come to life again, and those who excelled with the subject of History remain focused with the task. Best of all, I feel invigorated by their learning and I look forward to seeing this come to fruition in the final two weeks of this first semester. Stay tuned.....