Archive for March, 2013

Viva La Spring Break!

March 28, 2013  |  2 Comments
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Mama and Baby Celebrate Spring Break!

 

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to muster up enough energy to write a blog.  Or really, do anything more than take care of my baby, kiss my husband on the forehead, check the Huffington Post and go to bed.  And oh, yeah, teach full time too.  (obviously, my priorities are not hard to see through).

Mostly, I blame the Educational Industrial Complex for this.  i.e. Test Prep.  i.e. Pearson.  i.e. Ed Reform and all the suckers who buy into that political bullshit.  I’ve decided to lay all that to rest: Spring Break is HERE! April will soon be here! Summer peeks through the murky depths of test prep season!

I’m not going to rehash the atrocities of The Test and its current effects on sound pedagogy and student (and teacher) engagement.  Instead, let’s focus on the glamourati for the rest of the year: Spring Break, Soleil’s First Birthday, and The Awesomeness of After the Test.

Cornelius in his Spring Break outfit.

Spring Break

The Manhattan: both the whiskey and the city @ Morton's Steakhouse

The Manhattan: both the whiskey and the city @ Morton’s Steakhouse

Those who work in industries that do not award sporadic vacations like Spring Break may sometimes balk at the nifty 10 day collection of free time that’s given to educators and students nationwide.  True, it’s nifty, and perhaps a little unfair.  However, without it, schools would implode.

The Minor family Spring Break is going strong! It began with Pajama Day, and was met with a Date Night where the parents drank actual Hard Alcohol and stayed up for a late night movie at the IFC. Ironically, we saw a Michel Gondry film focused on NYC youth called The We and the I.  Excellent film, go see it.  Another Pajama Day.  THEN SPA CASTLE.  Words can’t express the gratitude we have for the Koreans and their amalgamation of spa services for the people of NYC.  A-MAZING.  We continue to pajama it up, and are looking forward to our weekend excursion with our Georgia Family in Athens, where Soleil will be baptized with her cousin Matti by their Grandpa Reverand Minor!

Soleil’s First Birthday

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Soleil, sporting her Michelle Obama DVF outfit (via Gap) at 11 1/2 months.

Soleil’s first birthday is coming soon! Last Spring Break, Cornelius and I walked and walked and walked all over the city anticipating Soleil’s arrival.  She chose to come on the last day of Spring Break, and it was the sweetest moment of our lives. This year, her birthday (April 15) does not fall on Spring Break, which is fine. Instead, it always falls on tax day. Hah! We are happily enjoying all aspects of Soleil and most aspects of parenting.  The one year milestone for babies is a reflective time; bittersweet in a nutshell.  But that’s for another post.  We love our baby girl.

The Awesomeness After the Test

I love when the Test is over.  It’s blissful.  Serene, really. Firstly, teaching gets exciting again.  There’s units like “Rebuilding Reading Life.” Yes, yes, and YES.  That is the kind of stuff I love to teach. I’ve been a bookworm all my life, and there is nothing more exciting than  letting all my biblio-love infect the kids I teach.

Additionally, shared struggle is always something that brings people closer together.  And when kids, teachers, and colleagues have to go through something like test prep together, when it’s over, everyone embraces.  Both literally and figuratively.  Class community is at an all time high, teachers get chummy with each other again, and  the Last Day of School is in sight.

Last day of School? Enough said.

Viva La Spring Break!

School on a Saturday!

How I Roll.

School on a Saturday!

March 9, 2013  |  Teaching  |  3 Comments

I’m hanging out with a few thousand of my closest teacher friends today at the college as we are hosting a day of free professional development for teachers from all over the country. There are more than 100 seminars and sessions today — all aimed at the art and what in recent years has become the politics of teaching.

I’m leading two groups. My first one is one at noon on the “bring your own technology” movement that is changing how many schools interact with tools like cell phones, tablets, and laptops. My second session is on a more familiar topic — struggling readers.

I’m looking forward to sharing ideas across the day. As we work together, I’ll be posting resources here and to my twitter stream on the right. If you are not in NYC today, check back often, and follow along @MisterMinor #TCRWP

Resource Update:

-Corn

Developing and Using Tech Tools (For Teachers)

Sometimes the tech scene can be hard to navigate.

Developing and Using Tech Tools (For Teachers)

March 7, 2013  |  Teaching  |  24 Comments

Editor’s Note: I originally designed this post as an in-house thing for the members of my think-tank, but then I was thinking how cool it would be to toss this out to the world so see what all of you think. Shoot me your ideas in the comments section or tweet me @MisterMinor Tag your tweet #TCRWP so everyone can get in on the action…

Muse-like.

Muse-like.

What a week for the EdTech crew! All the news coming out of South by Southwest has been incredible. People have been sharing best practices all over the place. The #HipHopEd weekly chats (Tuesday nights, twitter heads) have been powerful and fun. To top that all off, I’m in a think tank with some amazing educators at #TCRWP, and we are trying to sythesize all these good ideas into something sustainably powerful for teachers.

Here are a few ideas that we’ve got cooking (this is not a resource page as much as it is a think aloud/lit review):

  • Video or audio podcasting can be a big thing. We just have to figure out what the best use for it is. We are thinking that the use of podcasting can vary by community. Aside from it’s traditional use as a subscription/RSS based outlet for audio or digital content, we’ve been thinking that for teachers and coaches it’s more practical to view podcasts as possible one-time dispatches to your people. Kind of like email, but better… For example, if you have something special that you want to share with your team or if you want to celebrate student/staff accomplishments, one can consider podcasts over email. Additionally you can use them to share student work. Everyone wants to be famous, so creating an audience of parents or community members and podcasting work out to them can be powerful. We found that one of the best ways to get podcasts out to parents is by using QR codes. (More on that soon.) The easiest podcasting tools for teachers seem to be the iMove and GarageBand software that is already on your Mac. Money invested = $0.00. That is what we love the most about all of this.
  • Scan me with your cell phone, and I will take you to my leader.

    Scan me with your cell phone, and I will take you to my leader.

    Using QR codes to give fast access to digital content is perfect for school. QR codes are everywhere, and it’s a cool way to get all of our mostly analog friends (some parents, community members, principals, that teacher down the hall that calculates grades with an abacus) in on the action without having to explain to them what we are talking about. You’ve seen them. they look like E.T.’s fingerprint or something (Photo below). Basically, you can assign this visual code to any web-based content, (think of it as a visual web address) and when someone scans it with the camera of their smartphone, it takes them directly to your content. You can put these things everywhere — on notes home to parents, bulletin boards, flash cards… If you don’t mind ads, one of the best free sites for creating QR codes is QuikQR.

  • My Colleague Brianna has an awesome blog that she started during our think tank sessions. I’m starting to think now that if you are a teacher, you need a blog. You have an audience (students, caregivers, community). You have something to say (you are an educator). You need a venue. This can be that venue… There are a few different paths you can take. Everyone has different preferences. I tend to roll with WordPress. If you want lots of kids and parents involved, Edublogs is a great option. Google’s blogger suite is easy enough to master during a prep and robust enough to make you feel like you could work for Facebook. (Don’t go work for Facebook. Their founder tried to teach middle school. We should all keep our day jobs.)
  • We’ve also been thinking about gear… What is the minimum amount of stuff that you might need to get your classroom/practice decently into the 21st century? I’ve tried to just stick to the hardware that most schools have already invested in… I really think you can do a lot of cool teaching moves with just a:
    • Computer or Laptop
    • iPad
    • Projector or Smart Board
    • Mini Speakers

We’ll keep thinking about this. Let us know what you think.