Friday, July 26, 2013

Don't Jump in Front of Trains, Mermaids, and Children!!

Let me preface this post by saying that I do not generally play the lottery.  I have always been of the opinion that every day that I don't play, I win a dollar. Don't get me wrong, if the Powerball gets real high and the entire school staff is going in on a pool of tickets, I'm in. I don't want to be the only one at work the next day. But in general, I am not pleased with the odds when it comes to such things.

Last Wednesday, my wife and I took our daughters to a concert at the Camden Waterfront.  We saw Train, The Script, and Gavin DeGraw. The concert was fantastic and all three bands put on great shows. Two days before the concert my wife and daughters found out that there was a radio contest. Apparently, if you show up at the concert dressed like a mermaid, you can have a chance to go onstage with Train (Train's latest album is Mermaids of Alcatraz). My 14 year old and my 7 year old were both set on making mermaid costumes and getting up on stage.

My first instinct was to tell them that the likelihood of getting up on stage with Train at the Susquehanna Bank Center was slim. That was my adult brain working there. I didn't do that. I'm not sure when it occurs that you start realizing the odds of things, but it sure isn't when you are 14 or 7. My daughters knew that they were going to get up on stage. As an educator, I always have to remember that sometimes the worst thing that we can do for children is to limit them by our expectations. I realize that the context of this is slightly different than reading or math achievement, but the principle still applies.

So, we went to the show and my daughters got their tickets for the drawing to go on stage since they were
picture from
dressed appropriately and had their picture taken. We had lawn seats to the show and enjoyed the first two acts on a beautiful evening. Now, I should also mention that Train is my 14 year old's favorite band and this was my 7 year old's first experience ever at a concert. When it came time for them to go up to the front to see if they were chosen, my wife went with them and I remained with our things on the lawn.

As the 50 or so Mermaids began to come onto the stage I searched for my daughters' purple tank tops and mermaid bottoms on the stage and on the big screen. Lo and behold, there they were. They actually got up on stage in front of 20,000 people or so. I must admit, I started to scream my fool head off. Anyway, they were awesome up there (Here is a video from YouTube of the number).  One of my daughters got to sing into the mic and held the lead singer's (Pat Monahan) hand when they took a bow and the other one high-fived him and was having a great time singing and dancing. When they came back to the lawn my 7 year old jumped into my arms to show me the Train towel they gave her and shout how she got on stage. My 14 year old was basically shaking and stuttering in excitement and disbelief. My wife had a smile from ear to ear.

Now, why do I write this post? Remember what I could have said when they told me about the contest? I could have thrown their dream in front of the train instead of letting them be mermaids and have fun on stage with Train. I think that it is important to remember that the wonder and belief of children is something we should all respect; when it comes to crazy radio contests or when it comes to any dreams they may have.

You might be saying, "Yes, BUT what if they had not gotten on stage?" I say, "so what?" They had fun and that would have led to a great discussion on handling disappointment. Really, there is no downside to supporting them.

What do you think?

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ClassCharts - A Classroom Management Tech Tool Worth a Look

If you have not checked out ClassCharts yet, it is worth giving it a look. This past year in my school my special area teachers were looking for a mechanism to provide consistency with behavioral expectations across all classes.  ClassCharts is a tool that can give them that consistency in a unified fashion without unending meetings and set-up time.  I intend to suggest it to them when they return for next school year.

I had an opportunity to test drive the Website with a free account. ClassCharts is a free teacher tool created by teachers in the UK. As one who finds visuals very appealing when working or learning, this tool is well suited for my needs.  The ClassCharts interface provides teachers with a data-rich seating chart that provides  flexibility and customization for various classroom needs and functions.

At its core, ClassCharts is a seating chart, into which you can import pictures of the students and arrange them according to your classroom layout.  The system then allows you to add specific data about your students that can appear on the seating chart.  Some of the built-in fields include, behavior data, aftercare status, free meals, gender, group, literacy target, and reading age.  Fields can be added to meet the data needs of your classroom.  A teacher can then have the 4 most pertinent pieces of information visible on the chart, which can be printed or viewed on the computer or mobile device, while all of the other data can be seen in reports or other views on the computer.

It is a rather simple set-up and the knowledge base section of the website is quite well done. There are video tutorials for some of the main functions and informative descriptions to help with most questions. There is a digital brochure that discusses some of the major components, but I suggest setting up a free account and taking it for a test drive.

Two of the features that I was most impressed with include the collaboration tool and the ability to upload students via excel spreadsheet. Collaboration allows teachers to be consistent over the course of a day, a week, a month, etc.
By sharing students with colleagues teachers can have a fluid view of various data, including behavior.  This enables them to respond appropriately. The system allows teachers to award points for positive behaviors and subtract points for negative behaviors. Depending upon your philosophy with this type of information their are also functions that allow for giving access to real-time data to parents and the students via individual accounts. From a practicality perspective, the ability to upload a spreadsheet of students is very important since most districts can provide teachers with a CSV file that would be easily uploaded from Excel.

I can't stress enough the flexibility of the tool and its visual nature. It makes the data easily accessible and user-friendly. The long and short of it is that I recommend taking a look at this versatile tool.  It will be a wonderful way to manage some key classroom data, collaborate with colleagues, and provide substitute teachers with printed visuals that they need. Also, as a teacher created tool, using it supports innovation among educators world-wide.

Also, if you are an edmodo user, it is currently (as of this post) the #1 free app in the edmodo store and can be downloaded right into edmodo! (Note - you do not need to use edmodo to use ClassCharts)

After you try it, I'd love to hear your comments below!

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