Where’s She Been?

So, umm, where the heck have I been?


I mean, here I am, humming along with my various educational jobs and projects and then – BAM! – nothing.  Radio silence…… (do you hear the crickets chirping from the silence?)

Well, two major things happened.  The biggest is, I had my first child.  And as all of you caregivers know, those tiny tots take up so much of your free time!  But it’s just so much fun getting to know them and interact with them, that you just sort of don’t mind putting things on the back burner.

And two, my blog decided that it wanted to delete over 50 articles that I had written.  YEP.  Not the most fun day.  And so not easy to find and reconfigure.  But, oh well, I had a bottle of wine and took six months to get over that devastating discovery and now here I am.  Slowly putting it back together, and attempting to make it the great educational resource that it once was.

I know it doesn’t look as pretty and organized as it did three years ago.  Heck — half the content is gone!  Le Sigh!  But, I’m going to be working on it now, on a regular basis, to get it back to what we all want it to be.


For those of who have been following it since 2009, thanks for hanging in there during my absence.  And for those of you just finding Education ShortList – welcome, this blog has a plethora of educational information, no matter what specific area of Education you are interested in.



Read More

Rethinking Homework


Whether we’d like to admit it or not – the new school year is upon us. I even have colleagues who are already back in their classroom. For myself, I like to look at the new year as a way to fix what didn’t work and implement new strategies that will make this year even better. One area that I’ve been taking a stronger interest in and feel needs revamping is homework. I follow the work of Alfie Kohn, in that homework is no good (The Homework Myth). Now, yes, some homework needs to be given, but if you can integrate some of these strategies, you will be able to make the whole homework situation easier on you and your students.   Furthermore, these ideas should also help your students in understanding why they are doing the work, why it matters to them, and how they can gain ownership over their assignments.


  1. Explain It
    1. A lot of times, we (the teachers) understand the purpose and value to the homework that we give; but our students may not. If you can take the time in the beginning of the year to explain what homework is, then you can create a greater sense of purpose to it for your students. I like to say, “Homework is work, done at home. You do it after class and school are over, so that you have a chance to step away from your lessons and really recall what it is that you did in class. Then the homework gives you the chance to put that learning into practice. It also lets you be free from distractions and let’s you see where you are proficient and where you still need help.” Homework is also an opportunity to come back the next day and allow students to ask teachers for clarification on areas that they might not understand; as well as allow them to interact with their classmates the next class session.

2. Make It Meaningful

  1. Students catch on quick. So when you assign homework, but don’t check it or throw it into the trash – students will notice it fast. If you can have the homework be more meaningful, then they are more likely to take it seriously and to complete it thoroughly (which is what you were hoping for anyway). Tell them what the purpose of this particular assign is and how by doing it, they are going to positively impact their learning the next day.

3. Less is More

  1. Is it really necessary to do forty math problems tonight, when 15 will do the trick? Plus, will you have time to go over it in class, fully, the next day?  Probably not. Is it going to help to have students read 30-50 pages in one night and complete a dozen short answer questions? By rethinking what needs to be homework and what can be small group or partner work the next day – you can help reduce the amount of at home work that needs to be done.

4. Conference with Other Teachers

  1. I think sometimes we forget that we aren’t the only teacher that our students see in a day. By taking some time to chat with fellow colleagues and learning how much work is being given in other classes – you may all agree about making reductions. If there are six classes in a day and each teacher gives out 40 minutes of homework an evening – that’s four hours worth of work that a student has to do in one night. Yikes.  And yet, sometimes we, as teachers, are so enthusiastic about giving our students the right assignments that we forget that they have other educators who feel just as passionate. Maybe you could switch assigning homework to every other night; or make the homework a weeklong assignment. Then you can make it easier on you and your class.

5. Make it Count

  1. Along the same lines as ‘make it meaningful’ is to make the work students do count. If students know that there is something to be gained out of the homework, they are more likely to do it; (because, unfortunately not every student will inherently understand the intrinsic value of nightly work).       Plus, by assigning a point or grade to the homework – you are also teaching your students about the values of responsibility and ownership.
  2. Even though you want to make the homework count for points, I’m not saying that you need to correct each problem or spelling word yourself.       You can create a point system for certain assignments: nightly reading chart – a check mark for completion, math and/or spelling problems – 3 points, short answer reading questions or textbook reading assignment – check mark for completion, etc. You can create a system at the beginning of the year (and review it early on with your classes) of what your expectations are and how it’s going to matter.


6. Integrate Multiple Subjects

  1. Instead of having students just read 30 pages for their daily reading – can it be reading 15 pages and writing a summary? This way they are working on their reading, grammar, and writing skills? Could you have the reading assignment be taken from their Social Studies or science text? Instead of doing the normal spelling list, could they be math, science, or art terms? Could the weekly vocabulary be done the same way? When we are able to combine subjects together into a singular assignment we are giving our students more ways to gain meaningful learning from their work; as well as reducing the amount of individual homework that is given. If you can combine curriculums or subjects, similar to the way we create thematic units, then you have eliminated some of the other homework that your students need to work on that evening.






Read More

The Productivity of Your Classroom: How Business Has Infiltrated the Classroom

I believe that the debate over quality education and learning is a bunch of smaller debates that really consist of people going round and round in circles. In October, I wrote about the need for educational reform. One of the points that I touched on was the lack of teacher involvement in that discussion. In 2008, Jonathon Kozol wrote a book called, Letters to a Young Teacher. In this book, Kozol and his young teacher Francesca discuss the ‘business’ of education. Even though the book and its subjects are not part of the current education debate; the advice and knowledge of Kozol, along with the curiosity and desire to help her students – speaks to the topics and concerns of today.

In the book, Letters to a Young Teacher, Kozol discusses many topics and shares several stories about the problems facing the classroom and new teachers. One particular topic that fascinated me was how business-like education has become.

Kozol talks about the business terms that are part of the everyday language of schools; terms like, ‘productivity, on task, benchmarks, work, product, outcome, and results.’ He asks, “Where is the value in having these terms in the classroom?” Another educational writer, Alfie Kohn, remarks on how school is now a workplace, “When did it stop being about learning?”

Before reading that, I’ll admit that I not only used those terms, I indoctrinated my students with them. I taught them those words, explained the value, and pushed my students to be successful with them. Luckily, I realized what I was doing; and started to learn how to change. But how? And why? And what was I to do?

As a teacher, it is my job to teach and to educate my students. I am required to make sure they are engaged, aware, and used the lessons in the future and in more complex situations. Which comes down to, in the simplest form: work, tasks, and benchmarks. Ugh. Also, as a teacher, I told my students it was their ‘job’ to learn, that their ‘occupation’ was to be a student. Although I was hoping to have my class look at it as a positive, as a source of responsibility, motivation, and inspiration – now, well, now I feel as though it was a negative. To me, I thought that by engaging my students to let them know that they are really in control of how much and how they learn, that this could encourage them to be more involved, to want to participate more, and ultimately to learn more; to have the desire to learn more. Even though I still believe that my intentions were/are good, it was the way in which I brought it up with my students that was bad. And thus, one of the circling debates I have with myself and in education. ‘How do I get my students more involved with their learning, without them thinking that it is a job and that going to school is a business?’

I still don’t know the answer. Hmm.

Read More

What I’m Reading – February 7th

Two week ago, I wrote about the lunch programs at public schools. Since then I found three additional resources that I felt needed to be shared.

Cooking with Kids

Although this may not deal specifically with school lunches, it does deal with the food that children eat. By getting families and their children more involved in the cooking process, they are more likely to try eating new and healthy foods. Unless of course you are Jaime Oliver trying to get a group of tikes from West Virginia to NOT eat MRM. (shudder, shudder).

Hunger Free Kids Act

I like supporting my government and politicans, really I do. Unfortunately, sometimes they’re just dumb. Luckily, this bill is not dumb. Woohoo! Not only is this a new bill/act to ensure that children don’t go hungry, it also is creating federal changes to the foods served in schools. No more ketchup is a vegetable. No more french fries as a vegetable. Seriously, I love fries as much as the next person, but no, I would not considered fried anything to constitute healthiness.

Getting Kids to Combat Obesity

Genius, this idea is genius. Again, a perfect example of putting the power in the hands of the people who it affects. Childhood obesity is frightening. So instead of talking at kids and their families, why not teach the children who this epidemic affects and have them find ways to make the change. Support their ideas and encourage them too. I know that they have the real heartbeat on what is happening, because DUH, they’re kids! I guarantee you, no overweight child wants to be told that they aren’t going to live as long as their parents are.

************************************* Other Interesting Reads *********************************
Teaching Tolerance Through Social Media


Teaching Tolerance always has an article that makes its way into my teaching. These two, from the most recent issue, are them. Social Media is everywhere in all that we do (hello blog). For our students, especially our high-schoolers and college kids, they have their finger on the latest. (That’s right little sisters and brothers – I mean you three). What could be smarter as an educator, and parent, then to immerse ourselves in what our students/kids are into? And then bring about positive teachings and changes. I especially liked the dialogue with the principal and guidance counselor who see all of this social media and networking as a positive way to break down barriers, not build up bigger and taller walls.
Online Learning
As my fascination with online learning grows, the resources and materials about it grows too. I like how that works out. Here’s a local article about it, and the opportunities that are available to Oregonians. Even though I haven’t formed my complete opinion yet, I’m looking at online schooling to be very similar to the concept of homeschooling. What do you think?

Healthy Vending Machines

Never to be one to turn down chips, or Doritos (wasn’t that Superbowl Doritos commercial funny?). I do like having healthier options. Furthermore, I believe that if our school-age learners are given healthier options, that they will take them too. Although this article is more focused on the business aspect of healthy vending machines, I’m putting my attention to the ‘health’ component. I just wonder if the students will too.

Newberry Medal Winners

Woohoo for books!

Read More

Reaching Out to Educational Writers

This is another article from the new blog I am contributing to, Tchr2Tchr.

Reaching out, it’s what a teacher does every day. It doesn’t matter what you teach or who your students are, educators are always looking for ways to make that connection. Which is probably why there are over 300,000 users on Teachers Pay Teachers. We’re all just educators reaching out to make connections and help out other educators. And that’s exactly what we, Tchr 2 Tchr, want to do too.

And so, we are reaching out to you. Our members, viewers, colleagues, and friends.

Each Monday we are going to have a weekly article featuring a various area of education. And, to make this more of our blog, meaning our as all of TPT, we’d like to have you be a guest writer for the Tchr2Tchr blog.

So here are our parameters:

At least 100 words but not more than 500.

– That you are okay with knowing that we may need to edit

– Has to be on the subject, NOT just what products you have

– Seeing how you are writing the article you won’t be able to include a separate product; however, you will be able to include a link up to your TPT store, or website/blog of your choosing.

– It needs to be in at least 5 days prior to the post date, to give ample time to edit.

If this sounds like something you would like to do, please send an email to tchr2tchrblog@gmail.com If you have a particular area you are interested in writing about, tell us that too – we will do our best to incorporate everyone!

Now get writing!!!

Read More

Two Years Worth

Wow, so I know this may be tooting my own horn — but I’ve been blogging for two years now. I consider this to be quite an accomplish for two big reasons. One, I never would have thought of myself as a writer. I don’t have ADD per se, but I definitely like to be always on the move. And writing is more of a sitting still sort of action. Two, with all of the other activities and jobs I hold, I am impressed that I could actually find the time to read, research, and write anything at all – let alone for two years!

For those of you have been reading this for two years, I hope that you’ve enjoyed what I’ve put out there so far. And don’t go away just yet, because I have new ventures and projects and thoughts in my head just waiting to be written. And once I find a few minutes to breathe and sit down, I’ll be sure to get them on this blog.

Read More

Elementary School Learning

Ahh elementary school. It’s the formal beginning of our education; the foundation upon which each child starts to learn. There are no more important years for our students, then that of their elementary years. And there is no time of greater growth in our learning.

For the most part, elementary school years consist of Kindergarten to Fifth grade. And with our students being so young, little kids to older children, there’s a great opportunity to integrate creativity into our day-to-day. One aspect of elementary school that I love the most is being able to do fun arts-focused activities; drawing/painting/coloring, acting out a play or reader’s theatre, dressing up as historical characters whilst doing re-enactments. Plus, I can take my science and social studies lessons out of the classroom. How many of you have explored your school campus to see the leaves, grasses, or trees? Or maybe you’ve had your students see how many different bugs they can find and then draw their own versions? Really, being an elementary school teacher allows for versatility in the learning; which is the appeal to educators.

As our students start their learning in Kindergarten, play is a huge element; and showing them that playing can also mean learning. Our 1st and 2nd graders are like little sponges soaking up that learning and everything it means to be in school. Their joy at knowing something is a wonder to see. For 3rd and 4th graders, it’s a different type of joy that we get to experience, we see their personalities develop, along side their strengths and weaknesses. As their teachers, we have the chance to encourage those strengths, and assist with their weaknesses. And our 5th graders, still so young, but like baby birds leaving the nest – they are ready to stretch their wings and find those new opportunities that await them in middle school.

Ahhh elementary school. The building blocks to our children’s education, the start of it all. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

*This article was written by Rosshalde Pak, an admin for the Tchr2Tchr blog.

Here are a few resources that are specifically designed for elementary school classrooms. We’ve gone through and looked at them individually and highly recommend them for teachers.





Read More

What I’m Reading – January 24th

Robot Rumble


I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I really love when learning is creative. There’s been talk in the past two years about how the United States’ test scores for math and science are decreasing; and that less and less of our American students are studying these two broad topics in college. I don’t know exactly why that is happening, but I do like it when I see innovative ways to bring the focus back to real learning. Last weekend, here in Oregon, a competition was held to have kids make robots for an Intel challenge. I love it! Kids are jazzed about learning whilst learning and their interest is piqued. I don’t know an educator who doesn’t hope for that each day in their room.

President Obama’s Education Agenda

Ahhh, midterm elections are over — now is the time to care again…. I know, a rather cynical view for a teacher, but I’m just over how people – scratch that, how politicians – say that they care about kids and what’s happening in the classroom yet forget to make anything happen. And now that the 2012 presidential election is looming (really looming, it’s 2 years away) skeptics wonder if President Obama is going to mandate educational reform. My favorite part of the article was the end, in which a Rep. said that everyone in politics realizes that there are serious issues with NCLB…. Umm, duh, ask a teacher and they could have told you that BEFORE you put it into law.

Thursday Round Up Video

This is a quick, fun video advertising a new blog that I am helping to administrate for Teachers Pay Teachers. Give it a look-see…don’t forget to turn the sound on.

Tchr2Tchr Blog


And here is that blog. Teachers Pay Teachers, or TPT, is a resource that I have been utilizing for a while now. I enjoy seeing teachers be able to use a variety of resources; as well as connect with other educators. That being said, I’ve joined up with a smaller group within TPT to bring a blog that highlights several areas of education. Check it out — especially since I just wrote an article for it. :-)

Read More

School Lunch Program

I can honestly say that I have never eaten a school lunch. No, wait…I did, one time, on the first day of 8th grade. I ate a hot dog, weird mashed potatoes, and a Del Monte fruit cup. It didn’t go well. And I can really truly say that I didn’t do it again. Which is one of the main reason I was fasicnated with a blog written by a teacher, who, everyday eats the school lunch and writes about it (http://fedupwithschoollunch.blogspot.com/). I really could not do that; even take away the fact that I’m a vegetarian – I really could not eat school lunch.

Something else that equally fascinated me was jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution reality show that aired summer of last year. Now that I watched with committed devotion. Previously I had followed Jaime’s journey in England to change the way children ate there (and it wasn’t pretty), so I was very interested to see how the country’s unhealthiest city was going to take his input. Luckily it worked out. Although, I don’t know what was more terrifying, MRM or the kids who eagerly ate it. *shudder*

IT was these two programs combined with my frustration/fascination with what children are eating in school, until the age of 18, to write about it.

Like the current buzz and interest in educational reform, there is more dialogue happening that deals with school lunch. I actually don’t know where it started, truthfully I’m not that concerned. I am concerned about where the dialogue is going. Fed Up With Lunch blog was featured on the Today Show, First Lady Michelle Obama is crusading for home gardens and fresh fruits and vegetables; Michael Pollan, although not directly connected to the food movement in education is a popular advocate of eating better. Even health insurance companies are getting involved. And for good reason…no for an extremely important reason – the health of our children.

The fact that everyone has called lunchtime cafeteria food ‘mystery meat’ is a telling sign. The food that our children are consuming in school can hardly be called food. The amount of preservatives and artificial ingredients is enough to make any adult shriek. But, that isn’t enough. Statistics show that this generation of young children will be the first to not live longer than their parents. I’m frightened by that, and I don’t have any kids. When children eat one-two meals a day at school, we need to be demanding healthier options. And yes, the salad bar has been around for a while — yet why would you eat that when french fries and pizza are available every day as well? Why would you care about your health and weight as a kid or teenager? Education on why eating important is actually more important than providing the healthy options at school.

I know that for all school districts cost is the most important factor. I can’t believe that a Superintendent wants to serve colored milk and count it as healthy dairy, or use ketchup as a vegetable…. And I can’t believe that when you read this article and review some of the resources, that you won’t be moved to talk to your school about what your kids are eating.


Lunch News Story from the Today Show

* Rethinking Schools Articles



*Washington Post


Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution

Secret Teacher blog – Fed Up With School Lunch

Jaime Oliver on Oprah

Huffington Post

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Campaign for a Healthy Lifestyle

School Lunches

Taking Time to Eat

Read More

What I’m Reading – January 18th

Oprah News


Anyone who says they don’t want to be Oprah is lying. She’s got it all, and heart. Even though I don’t have cable anymore, I still like to read up on the queen of daytime. I’d like to say that I am following in her footsteps, but my shoes are that cool.

An innovative classroom

I found this article after I had read the one about Khan Academy. The classroom is changing, it always is shifting a bit – but with modern technology creating new ways to teach – the change is more dramatic. I know that lessons on you tube aren’t a new concept; and that the way in which technology is being integrated into our lessons has grown (thanks to the cool cat teacher) – but this Wired article just sort of reinforced what I was already believed was going to happen.

Checking Out the Toy Aisle

As a game inventor, I was immediately drawn to this article. I know that it’s important for me to always be researching what is being sold in stores — but sometimes I just don’t have the time to do it. Since reading this article about Gerrik Johnson, I feel as though I have a reliable resource that can give me a better perspective with what’s hot in the toy stores.

Read More