Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
Photo courtesy of

Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Calling all thespians!

Please read the following exciting announcement from a former peer at Harvard:

Hello, everyone!

I am co-chairing a theatre education conference this summer and we are very excited to be featuring Vivian Gussin Paley (whose work first inspired me through T440!) as a speaker during our event.  If you know of anyone who may be interested in attending, please direct them to this website for details/registration:

The event takes place in downtown Chicago, July 26-31st, and we're very excited about the program overall.  Ms. Paley is currently scheduled to speak on Thursday afternoon, though we have invited her to stay for the full event (through Sunday). 

Thank you!


Leigh Jansson

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Gift of a Teacher

The following story, received from a friend, seems particularly appropriate in these days when education is being savagely attacked in the US.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.

One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.  He argued, ”What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

To stress his point, he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make? 
(She paused for a  second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 minutes without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make? 
(She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table).

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and then I make them write something worthwhile.  Keyboarding isn’t everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.  They use their brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were born with, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.   

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, not knowing that money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention to them because they are ignorant. 

You want to  know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  

What do you make, Mr. CEO?

The CEO's jaw dropped, and he went silent.


Even to all your personal teachers like mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, coaches and your spiritual leaders/teachers.

A truly profound answer!!!

Teaching is ... the profession that makes all other professions possible!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Something to chew on....

Here are some interesting thoughts from another Harvard peer on our discussion board. Perhaps the reason that businesses are finding folks with inventive, empathic, and big-picture capabilities in Art and Design schools is because (apparently until now) those schools had not yet become vocational education.

It should be self-evident that cognitive skills developed and strengthened while studying and doing art or design would be both handy and useful in myriad ways. Most likely, some of those art students will get hired and thrive in a business setting (though they may not find it as personally fulfilling at expressing themselves through art.)  But I personally am much more comfortable leaving the end consumer of education as the students themselves and NOT utility to their eventual employer.

By the way, everything I just said is equally true for the field in which I teach - mathematics. We're just more misunderstood.

I have been completely silent on this board for years..... however i've been lurking and listening.  I finally have something to offer the conversation while also in need of some advice. I've written a lengthy article about the Studio for Interrelated Media department where I teach at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Since beginning to write, I have had the Thought and Action Journal in mind. However, it is now way too long for their guidelines and I'm now looking for other journals. 

I have uploaded the current version of the article here if anyone would be interested in taking a look: 

Here's the first paragraph to wet your whistle:

"As we begin our present decade, the US is faced with a myriad of daunting problems to overcome, including an impaired financial sector; environmental challenges; an embattled health care industry and a rapidly increasing global competition to be the world leader in productivity and innovation. Daniel H. Pink has coined this new era as the Conceptual Age[1] where those with inventive, empathic and big-picture capabilities will thrive. To help solve these problems, corporations, government agencies and business organizations are looking for employees that have the skills to adapt to this changing world and offer solutions born from fresh perspectives. Many businesses are not finding these ideal 21st century employees in the usual places such as top MBA programs.  Instead, these essential agents of change are emerging from an unlikely source: schools of art and design[2].  Many companies are discovering that these graduates bring a different, yet crucial set of skills to the organization: creative problem finding and solving, information synthesis, and the ability to collaborate across disciplines. The STEM to STEAM movement has catalyzed this shift in expectations. As education governance calls for more and better science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to stay competitive, there is an increasing call to add art to that list (STEAM) as another fundamental subject to teach in preparation for the future[3].  In Boston, The Studio for Interrelated Media (SIM) at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, better known as MassArt, has developed a model program that has been answering this call in unconventional ways for over 40 years."

I'm a bit stuck as to where to go next and would love anyone's thoughts on what journal serves those interested in alternative educational models and art education. 

Thank you so much, and Happy Spring!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Power of Peer Tutoring!

In case you already were not convinced on the benefits and powers of peer tutoring, check out the following article from the most recent issue of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's Education Update.

Increase Student Engagement and Achievement with Peer Tutors
By Rick Allen

What if every school in the United States could develop a simple program that would engage and motivate students, reinforce the work of teachers, increase achievement, and promote communication and social skills?
In the recent ASCD Express article "Peer Tutoring: What Can Be Done Tomorrow Morning in Every School," Syracuse University professor emeritus Gerald Grant strongly advocates for peer-tutoring programs.
Grant is the author of Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh, which is an analysis of the success of socioeconomic and racial integration in North Carolina's Wake County Public Schools. He challenges school leaders to consider peer tutoring for their schools and districts, and he says these programs would go a long way toward helping schools engage all students in the enterprise of learning while raising academic achievement.

What Is Peer Tutoring?

In a peer-tutoring program, one student teaches another in a school setting, and tutoring can take a variety of forms:
  • In cross-age tutoring, older students tutor younger students.
  • In cross-ability tutoring, the student acting as tutor has already attained greater mastery of the subject or material being taught, while the other student might be struggling.
  • In reciprocal tutoring, students of the same age or ability take turns being the tutor.
Peer tutoring also goes beyond pairing students to correct each other's test papers or share reflections in small groups, and it doesn't need to be limited to academic issues. Peer tutoring provides a clear structure for interactions between tutor and tutee and specific goals tied to the teacher's instruction, classroom or school culture, or student motivation.
The structure of a peer-tutoring program is often derived from its goals. The goals of peer tutoring can go beyond academics to include increasing student motivation, improving collaboration, or fostering a more positive social and emotional classroom atmosphere. Some schools have used peer tutoring to increase friendships and mutual understanding between students of different grade levels, or between students with disabilities and those without. These programs may be less tightly structured, especially among high school students, with the students themselves setting the learning agenda with minimal guidance from teachers.
On the more formal side, the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) for reading and math are aimed at K–6 learners and require explicit training for both teachers and students, says Lynn Fuchs, who developed the approach with her husband Doug Fuchs. Both of the Fuchs are professors of special education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. PALS also has secondary-level peer tutoring.
PALS "are more complex and based on validated research," says Lynn Fuchs, noting that students tutoring each other are required to read the text aloud, retell the reading material in their own words, suggest the text's main idea, and do prediction activities that move beyond answering questions about the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) found in other tutoring programs. For example, in PALS for math, the player, or tutee, works through a math problem with the help of a coach, or tutor. The tutor can pose questions about the problem and check his partner's work during the half-hour sessions held twice a week. Students then switch roles. Teachers designate a new skill for pairs of students to work on for two weeks, and students may switch partners as well.

Why Use Peer Tutors?

For many schools facing greater socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, peer tutoring can allow teachers to reach more students and thus raise achievement and promote inclusion, reports Keith Topping, a peer-tutoring expert and author of the book Peer Assisted Learning: A Practical Guide for Teachers. Topping heads the Centre for Peer Learning at the University of Dundee in Scotland.
Peer tutoring offers a means for differentiating the curriculum, is usable across the curriculum, and helps students develop their communication and social skills. Topping explains in the Literacy Today article "Peer Assisted Learning for Inclusion" that peer tutoring is different from traditional high school models in which older volunteers act as "teacher surrogates."
For example, he points to Birmingham, England, the largest local education authority in Europe, which has used high school students with emotional or behavioral problems as tutors in primary schools or at schools that have students with special needs. The students "present a completely different and much more positive aspect of their personality and capability," Topping writes.

Changing a School's Culture

In his book Peer Tutoring: A Teacher's Resource Guide, author Edward Gordon points out that peer tutoring can motivate K–12 students to "learn how to learn" and internalize the need for learning. Although parents may worry that their children who are tutors will neglect their own work, he notes, the exact opposite happens: tutors develop even stronger content knowledge and motivation as a result of their efforts.
In one high school in Mexico, school leaders sought to turn around the school culture through peer tutoring. The high school, the Preparatorio of the Universidad de Valle de Mexico (UVM) at Campus Cumbres in Monterrey, Mexico, had been the poorest performer of eight similar schools attached to a network of private universities in that country.
The curriculum, which is uniform across the campuses, couldn't be changed, so the school superintendent had to "work outside the classrooms," says Alline Sada, a technology integration specialist at the Euroamerican School of Monterrey in Nuevo León, Mexico, who helped UVM Preparatorio plan its peer-tutoring effort.
Sada helped school superintendent Ana Kane work with other school leaders, students, and parents to talk about school spirit and pride and the importance of study skills. The school asked its student council to create a directory of students willing to be tutors and designated tables in the library, empty classrooms, and picnic tables in the school courtyard for tutoring sessions. The student council runs the program by responding to students' individual requests for tutors, and the school's monthly monitoring system also flags students who are falling behind and refers them to the student council. The participating students receive neither money nor extra credit, and about 20 percent of the 1,500 students are involved in tutoring, usually in math, chemistry, physics, and Spanish grammar, Sada says.
"As soon as our first evaluation results were in, the improvement was obvious. With this victory, many more students joined the effort, offering their spare time to help each other," Sada says. "It's been three years since the program started, and it continues to be a success. The students have a great sense of empowerment and that keeps its momentum going." For three years, the school has ranked first or second in academic performance, and school leaders say that peer tutoring was the decisive variable.

Taking the Work Seriously

Gail Gilmartin teaches in an early intervention program for grades 2–5 at Haw Creek Elementary School in Forsyth County, Ga., and uses the PALS math program. She spends one to two weeks role-playing as coach and player with her students while they practice the component parts of the PALS approach, which includes coaching, self-talking, and practicing.
"I connected the roles of players and coaches with sports, telling students that coaches have to work harder and smarter than the players. It's the coach's job to help the player improve or think of a strategy to make them a better player," Gilmartin says.
Paying attention to the player, or tutee, is crucial, she adds: "I asked my students what would happen if their football or soccer coaches came to practice and talked on the phone, looked around, or talked to a friend instead of working with them. This comment seemed to help."

Planning a Successful Peer-Tutoring Program

Advocates of peer tutoring suggest a number of ways to help ensure that a tutoring program is successful.

Set Clear Goals

The goals—whether they are to improve students' social, communication, or collaborative skills or to provide student enrichment—must be clear when you are planning and implementing a peer-tutoring program.

Train Peer Tutors

Peer tutors benefit when they receive training in general skills, including how to present tasks, how to give clear explanations, how to demonstrate tasks and skills, how to prompt, and how to give feedback, among others, according to Topping. Teachers should identify for tutors the skills and learning goals to be covered in a session, and they should show tutors how to use any materials (e.g., flash cards, list of prompts, cues).
Topping suggests that peer tutors use a signal, typically nonverbal, to let a student know she's made a mistake, locate the error, demonstrate or model the correct response, allow the student to imitate the correct response, and then later check to make sure the student can do the work on her own.

Monitor Daily Results

In addition to observations by the teacher, students should keep records in the form of a log or diary, tutoring experts suggest. Entries should detail the materials and tasks covered and provide a summary, comments, or words of praise. As teachers analyze both the records and observations, they can determine not only progress and difficulties on the part of the tutee but also whether tutors need to be retrained.
"The main reason peer-tutoring programs fail is that tutors aren't retrained," Gordon says. He recommends peer-feedback sessions so that tutors can learn from the pooled experiences of the group, rather than just from the teacher.
Gilmartin videotapes her elementary math student coaches and players, and as the group reviews the video, each student jots down a note for each interaction. "When students started addressing how many coaches weren't 'watching and engaged,' they could see what great coaching looked like compared to others," Gilmartin notes. "It's crucial to have coaches watch students every step of the way and know when a player makes a mistake, rather than waiting until the problem is finished."
Sustaining a peer-tutoring program depends on the results it has achieved, which requires concrete data, Topping says. Increasing student achievement is a measurable goal, as is increasing social and emotional skills. Peer tutoring implemented to improve the social or emotional culture in the classroom can be measured in a variety of ways, including a reduction in discipline problems, observations of students, and various forms of questionnaires and self-reporting. Topping notes that in some projects, participants in tutoring make audio or video recordings of themselves for later review and rating.
Because of the tremendous gains her students have made, Gilmartin, a teacher for 20 years, calls the peer tutoring in PALS "hands-down, the best intervention I've ever implemented." 
Full article available at:
Copyright © 2011 by ASCD

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What DOES a great teacher training program look like?

One discussion board I participate in has been grappling with this question. One former Harvard peer's response stood out to me. Here it is:

A strong teacher education center would have 1) an emphasis on collaborative and critical inquiry and 2) an emphasis on issues of power, race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and identity. By emphasis I mean several courses, listening to others' stories of personal experience, and plenty of time to digest material and reflect on new ideas and connections. 

Student teachers should take several classes that emphasize the role of protocols (such as Critical Exploration, Artist Circles, Collaborative Assessment Conferences, Peacekeeping Circles, etc.) in developing deep looking, listening, and collaborative inquiry and reflection. At HGSE, The Arts In Education program has one such course (I'm not sure which but I can find out); the Learning and Teaching program has T-440: The Having of Wonderful Ideas (Eleanor Duckworth),  and T-139: Student Work As Evidence: Investigating Learning and Teaching (Tina Blythe). 

None of the three courses I listed above is required for students in the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at HGSE. I believe it is essential for student teachers to investigate constantly their own assumptions about education and to collaboratively engage in reflective professional development about learning and teaching. They should be empowered to create such spaces for themselves, their students, and their colleagues where they can identify and pursue their own questions. After being exposed to these ideas in T-440, I felt the need to experience and explore them more fully, despite coming into the program with several years of teaching experience. For this reason and others I transferred out of TEP after the first semester and switched into Learning and Teaching where I was fortunate to take T-139, an excellent complementary or companion course to T-440. I highly recommend them both for teacher prep in any subject (academic, artistic, physical, etc.) and any age group from preschool to university. 

Power, class, race, gender, sexuality, ability, and identity are also hugely important for teacher preparation, but are often only marginally addressed. In the TEP program at HGSE, for example, these issues are condensed into modules--often meeting daily for a week, a structure that prevents/limits trust-building and authentic collaborative inquiry. Furthermore, the vast amount of information presented during these courses is overwhelming for students who are not familiar with it and frustrating for students who are familiar with it and who know that the issues require a lifetime of engagement and constant learning. Students have responded to this poor level of engagement with the above issues by planning and implementing a series of social justice workshops and by planning and participating in the annual Alumni of Color Conference.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Life Explained in Graphs

SO many of these are right-on ..... sad but true!

Your Life Explained by Scientific Graphs:


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For your amusement...

......please read the best parent email ever to a teacher. Oh boy, were we ever in need of a spring break!!

From: __________
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 8:30 PM
To: __________
Subject: ZZZZZ (Yes, this is the actual subject)

Dear ms __________ please give  [my son]  date and  time when he can do

his z z z work, because in  the end of the quarter  very hard to reach

teacher to do missing  work.Please help him,I  don't want him to hate

social  study. I don't  think he deserved to have D in 3d quarter.

Please help him.     Respectfully _________________

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Cups of Tea: Largely Inaccurate?

I truly hope the following article from BBC News is not true, but I have a feeling this is NOT the case. For anyone else who is a huge fan of the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (2006), this article comes as a shock and huge disappointment. I, for one, found his book to be incredibly inspiring and moving; these allegations are quite a let-down.

Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea 'inaccurate' - CBS

The best-selling book Three Cups of Tea, which follows the author Greg Mortenson's mission to build schools across Central Asia, is filled with inaccuracies, a US documentary says.
The CBS 60 Minutes report alleges that his charitable foundation took credit for building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan which do not exist.
The documentary also says Mr Mortenson uses the charitable group as a "private ATM machine".
Mr Mortenson denies the allegations.
In an email he sent out to supporters and news organisations on Sunday before the programme was due to be aired, Mr Mortenson said the documentary based its claims on a single year's tax return to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The report "paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year's (2009) IRS 990 financial," the statement said.
He also posted a statement on the website of the Central Asia Institute, the charitable organisation set up to finance and build schools across the region.
"I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI's [Central Asia Institute] work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students," the statement says.
Claims disputed
Three Cups of Tea was released in 2006 and became a best-seller through word of mouth.
The book describes how Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer, got lost while trekking in northern Pakistan, only to be rescued by the residents of a remote village. In the book, he says the kindness of those he encoutered inspired him to build a school.
The 60 Minutes investigation says that porters who accompanied Mr Mortenson dispute his claims of being lost.
The documentary also alleges that a number of the schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan that were said to have been established by the CAI do not exist or were built by other people.
Some principals said they had not received funds from the group for years, the report claims.
The CAI's website says it has established more than 170 schools and helped educate more than 68,000 students.
The programme also questions Mr Mortenson's financial relationship with the charity.
The charity has answered the questions put to it by the programme in a statement posted on its website.

A colleague starts his own blog for students!

Now, we know I have to be rather anonymous when making my blog posts for the sake of my identity and those of my colleagues. However, one of my colleagues read my blog and decided he wanted to start his own, but he wants his to be for his sixth graders. Cool, worthwhile, and something I can totally support? I think so!

Check out its beginnings here. The teacher writes:

I just want to let you know about the video blog I started for my students, just in case you see them on it in the media center or computer lab. I have been posting these videos to the blog in an effort to communicate with students and reinforce what we’re doing in class.

If they are supposed to be working on something else, of course, kick them off of the blog. I don’t want it to be a distraction. If it becomes a problem at all, please let me know.
Here is the link:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oh, how funny our students can be!

So, a close friend of mine recently found this link: which took test answers of students comparing things - metaphors, analogies, etc. I'll paste it here for easy reading.  

I thought of all my teacher friends when reading this, and I'm sure you all have some priceless stories of your own! 
June 19th, 2007 by admin

Apparently, the washingtonpost held a contest in which high school teachers sent in the “worst” analogies they’d encountered in grading their students’ papers over the years (I place “worst” in quotes because many of these actually strike me as quite witty). The top 25 of these have been circulating around the “Sandra Bullock” (”net”, get it?) recently, but I decided to post all 56 that I was able to find. Here they are, in their order of objective funniness (in my opinion):
  1. Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
  2. He was as tall as a 6′3″ tree.
  3. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
  4. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
  5. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  6. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  7. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
  8. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  9. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  10. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  11. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
  12. The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
  13. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  14. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
  15. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at asolar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
  16. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
  17. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  18. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  19. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  20. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
  21. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.
  22. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
  23. Even in his last years, Grand pappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it hadrusted shut.
  24. He felt like he was being hunted down like a dog, in a place that hunts dogs, I suppose.
  25. She was as easy as the TV Guide crossword.
  26. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.
  27. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  28. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  29. “Oh, Jason, take me!” she panted, her breasts heaving like a college freshman on $1-a-beer night.
  30. It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.
  31. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
  32. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
  33. The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can.
  34. Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.
  35. Her date was pleasant enough, but she knew that if her life was a movie this guy would be buried in the credits as something like “Second Tall Man.”
  36. The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.
  37. The red brick wall was the color of a brick-red Crayola crayon.
  38. She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.
  39. Her pants fit her like a glove, well, maybe more like a mitten, actually.
  40. Fishing is like waiting for something that does not happen very often.
  41. They were as good friends as the people on “Friends.”
  42. Oooo, he smells bad, she thought, as bad as Calvin Klein’s Obsession would smell if it were called Enema and was made from spoiled Spamburgers instead of natural floral fragrances.
  43. The knife was as sharp as the tone used by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) in her first several points of parliamentary procedure made to Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) in the House Judiciary Committee hearings on the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton.
  44. He was as bald as one of the Three Stooges, either Curly or Larry, you know, the one who goes woo woo woo.
  45. The sardines were packed as tight as the coach section of a 747.
  46. Her eyes were shining like two marbles that someone dropped in mucus and then held up to catch the light.
  47. The baseball player stepped out of the box and spit like a fountain statue of a Greek god that scratches itself a lot and spits brown, rusty tobacco water and refuses to sign autographs for all the little Greek kids unless they pay him lots of drachmas.
  48. I felt a nameless dread. Well, there probably is a long German name for it, like Geschpooklichkeit or something, but I don’t speak German. Anyway, it’s a dread that nobody knows the name for, like those little square plastic gizmos that close your bread bags. I don’t know the name for those either.
  49. She was as unhappy as when someone puts your cake out in the rain, and all the sweet green icing flows down and then you lose the recipe, and on top of that you can’t sing worth a damn.
  50. Her artistic sense was exquisitely refined, like someone who can tell butter from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
  51. It came down the stairs looking very much like something no one had ever seen before.
  52. Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who means to access\aaakk/ch@ung but gets T:\flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake.
  53. You know how in “Rocky” he prepares for the fight by punching sides of raw beef? Well, yesterday it was as cold as that meat locker he was in.
  54. The dandelion swayed in the gentle breeze like an oscillating electric fan set on medium.
  55. Her lips were red and full, like tubes of blood drawn by an inattentive phlebotomist.
  56. The sunset displayed rich, spectacular hues like a .jpeg file at 10 percent cyan, 10 percent magenta, 60 percent yellow and 10 percent black.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Great Resource for Struggling Teen Readers

Chances are, you probably have or know of some really reluctant teenage readers. No matter what you present to them or how you sell a book, these teens would rather text, be online on Facebook, or just avoid the print media -- especially books -- at all costs. Fear no more!

My colleage passed on an invaluable link you may find helpful with your students and/or children!

You’re probably familiar with It’s a Book by Lane Smith.  (If not, you’ve got to read it.) I’ve included a link to a student-friendly video clip from Amazon™(Maybe some of the people cutting school budgets in areas of literacy need to see this too).

Friday, April 15, 2011

This made me smile.....

Every so often an email or kind word comes your way that can't help but make you smile and brighten your day, even just a little bit. That something happened to me this morning when I received this parent email. This is JUST the kind of encouragement and feedback I needed to help me through the rest of the week leading up to our long-awaited spring break. Enjoy!

Dear Mrs. LaBanca,

We were elated to learn of Emily’s designation as “Student of the Quarter” for the 3rd marking period. She was so excited that she made a point of calling us at work when you got home from school to tell us the good news.  

This type of positive reinforcement goes a long way to helping her become the type of student we all know she can be. As with all awards, it is often the people who work behind the scenes who deserve much of the credit. She has received a nice combination of encouragement and discipline from all of her 8th grade teachers, but especially from you.

As parents we entered this year with a goal to help Emily set a higher standard for herself as she prepares for high school. You have played a major role in making this happen. Not only through what you’ve taught in the classroom but the extra things that you have done for her as well. The important life lessons she’s learned in your class, the Shakespeare workshop and now this award; you are a great educator! Most adults can look back on their school years and identify the one or two people who made a difference in their lives. We’re convinced that Emily will readily acknowledge that you were one of these people. We are truly grateful for your efforts.


This is why I do what I do for my students every day, folks! 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

For Dancing Fans in the DC Area!

I just heard about this upcoming event and thought a few of you may be interested in attending this weekend. Enjoy!

If you are a fan of tap dancing or great dancing in general, or have a child who dances, this message is for you!

Chloé and Maud Arnold -- sisters who are products of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, graduates of Columbia University in NYC, and world-renowned professional tap dancers, choreographers, and teachers -- are 'bringing it back' to the DC area for the Third Annual DC Tap Festival, April 15/16/17.

The DC Tap Festival will feature over 30 master classes in tap dancing, musical theatre, spoken word, as well as history of tap discussions, tap jams, a student showcase, and a 'cutting' contest. the highlight of the weekend will be an all-star performance Saturday, April 16th at 8 pm at Duke Ellington School for the Arts Theatre in Georgetown.

To get all the details about class registration, the concert, etc., go to<>

DC TapFest offers discounted tickets to MCPS family at the group rate and also has scholarships available for classes. Donations to sponsor a child are tax-deductible.

Featured artists this year are Grammy Awardee and recent "Dancing with the Stars" runner-up Mya, the amazing DanceWorks Company from Taiwan, Emmy Awardee Jason Samuels-Smith, and child prodigy Little Luke (who appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show after his debut at the 2010 DC TapFest.

Clips from last year's TapFest:

Chloe & Maud Productions present local 6-year-old tap prodigy to Ellen DeGeneres:

NBC-4 covers the 2010 DC Tap Festival Concert:

FOX-5 Morning News (part 1):

FOX-5 Morning News (part 2):

Thank you!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Our Newly Retired Principal Leaves Parting Words

In February, our principal unexpectedly went on leave and then retired from her post, where she has been for the past 14 years. She began working at our middle school when it was still a junior high and has seen countless changes, updates, and improvements since that time. Check out her farewell interview below:

Newly Retired Principal Carole LeVine Reflects On 14 Years At Ridgeview Middle

LeVine unexpectedly retired in February and Montgomery County Public Schools has begun a search for her replacement.

Ridgeview Middle School's newly retired Principal, Dr. Carole LeVine, was a driving force behind the current construction updates at Ridgeview, as well as many transitions over her 14 years as principal. Her unexpected departurefrom the school was a surprise to the school community and she will be missed by many. Patch recently corresponded with Dr. LeVine via email about her career at Ridgeview.
Patch: You began at Ridgeview as a new Principal in 1997. What was your previous position before you became the principal at Ridgeview?
Dr. LeVine: Before being appointed as the principal of Ridgeview Middle School, I served as Assistant Principal at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring for four years.
Patch: What do you consider to be the most important achievements of your tenure at Ridgeview?
Dr. LeVine: As an educator I have always thought of achievements in terms of the students and the school community. When I began [as principal here], Ridgeview was an intermediate school and the last mid level school to move to the middle school model. I'm very proud of our work during those early years of change and transition. We established teaming, grade level wings, and did a great deal of outreach to the community to establish trust in the middle school philosophy. I'm proud that co-curricular collaboration, teaming, home/school partnership and the focus on children and learning evolved as core tenets of the school culture.

I am also proud of every teacher and staff member who has been part of our staff over the years. The goal has always been to find excellent teachers and staff who care about kids,  are skilled in their field, and are willing to doing whatever was needed for the school. As a school community we celebrated many successes and weathered challenges together. We helped the students, families and each other through the events of September 11, the sniper attacks and the blizzard. We raised funds on behalf of charities and local families in need. Ridgeview teachers, staff and students have received local and county recognition and the academic achievement of our students has continued to increase. I am proud of the school/community partnership, our outreach to the Hispanic community and celebrations such as the Heritage Cafe.
Patch: What changes, both positive and challenging, have you seen in the student population over your years at the school?
Dr. LeVine: While there have been changes in the student population over the years much has remained the same. Students enter the sixth grade as children. They are unsure, trying out different identities and styles, and grappling with establishing friendships and social groups. They are awkward, self-conscious, funny, and will do whatever is asked of them if they know you care. By the time they leave eighth grade these students are nearly unrecognizable. For most, there have been dramatic physical changes, and they are self-assured, and poised for success in high school.
The changes I have seen in the student population have paralleled the changes in our culture and society over the years. As the stress on families has increased, children often feel that stress and bring it with them into the school environment. Technology and the media have opened vast possibilities for children, increasing communication and learning but bringing implications for student safety and well being. The social role models for 10 to 14-year-olds have also changed dramatically and impacted students in how they dress, speak and act.
Patch: Parents noted your "hands-on" style and were very surprised with your sudden leave and subsequent retirement. What details would you like them to know about your current situation?
Dr. LeVine: I have appreciated the notes and messages from the community. In the letter announcing my retirement I shared that I was retiring due to family and personal health issues. It was a very hard decision. Over the past month my mother's health has stabilized and my own health is improving. In time, I hope to be able to continue working and using my skills to benefit children and education.
Patch: What would be your suggestions of important characteristics that the county should look for in hiring your successor?
Dr. LeVine: When a new principal is selected it is a collaborative process between MCPS and the families and staff of that community. The school community has had the opportunity to express the priorities that are most important to them. I trust in the collective wisdom of the parents, teachers, and members of the staff in describing these characteristics. They are all committed to the school and to the education and well being of the children.
Patch: Do you have one memorable moment to share from the past few years at Ridgeview?
Dr. LeVine: During my tenure as principal our school community has focused on securing improvements for the school facility. With an HVAC system that functions poorly and a design that made navigating the building a challenge, families and staff members have worked long hours over many years for change. It has been exciting to finally begin construction and watch the work get underway. With the ramp gone and the new front office bump out nearly complete I am thrilled that the improvements are finally underway.
Full article available at: