Fort Herriman Middle School


A Learning Experience
August 26, 2008, 8:56 pm
Filed under: internship, learning

A couple months ago, I commented on how great it is when learning is frustrating. Well, it is still great, but sometimes it is not that great. As you may have noticed, I took off all the posts from my internship this summer. My principal made a good point, she said that I was privy to a lot of information and that I didn’t realize how much trust I was given.

I know that I make mistakes and that I am not perfect, but I sure don’t like being told about it.

The feelings that I experienced when she told me were very conflicted. I was sad, hurt, offended, suddenly aware of the weight of that job, and extremely grateful that she told me how she felt. It is not fun to be called out, but it is sometimes needed.

Thank you Mrs. P. for a wonderful internship, and helping me learn something that was hard to swallow, but needed to be said.

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The Message didn’t Stick
June 11, 2008, 11:49 am
Filed under: EC, funny, learning, technology

I am participating in a program by our school district called the Engaged Classroom. I (and two other teachers) are going to have a mobile lab with a bunch of other technology to use for the year, and hopefully create some good projects and learning opportunities for our students. This is exactly the type of thing that I have wanted to do for a long time, so I am glad that I now have the opportunity.

Kelly and Darren are doing a great job teaching a very technologically diverse group of people about the different tools we should/will be using. They are experiencing what any other person teaching about technology will experience: sometimes, people just don’t get it. Even if they say, “Yes, teacher, I understand what you are asking and I will do it from now on just like that.”

After learning how to use Diigo (which I finally kind of understand now, thanks), Wikis, Google Docs, and plenty of other collaborative web apps, one student wanted to share a link with another student. So, this is what she did:)

You gotta love that. The image is backwards, and it is because I took it from Photo Booth and didn’t have the energy to mirror the image so it came out right. Call me lazy.

Honestly, the worst thing in the world to me (not really, but a close second to getting stung by a jellyfish) is writing out by hand URLs. Talk about torture!

So the real question is, what is this person going to do with what she has “learned” this week? I am most certainly not mocking or poking holes in the wonderfully developed program. They have done a lot to make sure that they are following up; we must make a portfolio, attend monthly meetings, and teach others about the same things we are learning. This is a large beast to tackle for them, and I am excited to be a part of it.

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Twitter Backfires – One Week Later
May 7, 2008, 8:46 am
Filed under: learning, problems

I have received a lot of great comments on this post, and I figured I should respond in the comments, but then the comment kept getting longer and longer, so I am just going to do a blog post.

I understand what most of you are saying. I think what I am still struggling with is that this class really has been my worst. When they are here, I have a sick feeling. This is my fault. I have been so fed up with their attitude, passive-aggressive behavior, backtalking, and all the other things they have been doing that I just don’t know what else to do with them. It was not a motivational thing. I motivated my students with negativity a lot last year, but it is not effective, for me at least.

The real benefit to this all happening is that they have actually listened to what I have said since this incident. They are not just blowing me off. I think that we listen to each other more. This week we have been doing state testing, and I was not looking forward to dealing with them while those who finished early goofed off and weren’t respectful of the other students. But they have been doing a really good job. I haven’t had that sick feeling this week. I know that kids can and will be kids, and I am okay with that. It is the over-the-top aggression and disrespect that drives me nuts. I said it before, do I deserve respect from this class after calling those girls out? They certainly have not thought so.

Image Credit: Road to Well Being

Paul, great link! You are right on as usual. Both the students and myself had a blind spot. They were blind to how they were making me feel, and I was blind to how they felt about me. Now that something is out in the open, we can start to have a conversation about what is going on. Hopefully, it will lead to something productive. This class has been much better this week. I don’t think that it is because they are trying to please me. In my opinion, they realized that I am telling other people about them, and they don’t want to spoken ill of. (And that would be bad, talk about losing trust!) Either that, or they realized that I was serious, and they don’t want to be “the worst” at anything. Or maybe, I just got it off my chest, so now I am not as annoyed. Who knows?

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Collaboration Does Work
May 7, 2008, 8:45 am
Filed under: collaboration, leadership, learning

I have mentioned that I am impressed with my school this year. I enjoy being in a place where most teachers respect and have concern for others. This year we filled out a rubric to see if kids qualify for Foreign Language in 8th grade. My big problem with the rubric is that it tends to put all the good kids in Foreign Language and all the bad kids in Reading. That is not a good combination. I raised a question about it, and although those who I asked seemed to say, “Well, we know more about the situation than you, so stop making waves” they were supportive after I persisted in expressing my concerns. It led to some quick changes to the rubric, and they were able to change things to be better. I suggested we have an application for the students to fill out that would help them decide if Foreign Languages were right for them. This is what it looks like. I am glad that these teachers and counselors are willing to work together to come up with something that is hopefully better.

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Jigsaw Planet
May 6, 2008, 6:17 pm
Filed under: internet, learning

I don’t know where I found this, but it is pretty cool. You make online jigsaw puzzles. No signup required and it is fun. Give the two below a try and let me know what you think. I think I could make a few of these and use them as some sort of learning object in my class. It would at least be a fun way to kill the last five minutes of the day on those days.

Fro - online jigsaw puzzle - 63 pieces

If you want to try one that is really hard, try this one:

AmForkTabernacle - online jigsaw puzzle - 120 piecesAmForkTabernacle

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Twitter Backfires!
April 30, 2008, 9:13 am
Filed under: learning, reflection, twitter

It all started two months ago when I caught three girls cheating on a test. I made a poor decision and ripped up their papers in front of the class. Those three girls have been inciting the rest of the class for a couple months to near rioting. This class has been very difficult to deal with despite many long talks with many students. It is very frustrating. These students know exactly how I feel. Well, they should know. On Friday we had another talk about how they should behave and what is expected of them. Yesterday, I posted this on Twitter:

Whenever my students need an assignment, I direct them to my website and tell them to print things off my calendar. I have found out that a lot of them get to my Web site via search engines. What do you suppose is one of the results when you search for Jethro Jones? It is not my Twitter page. Nor does it rise to the top when you search for my name and Twitter. But somehow, the above Twitter post was one of the top results because one of my students asked me today, “Mr. Jones, why do you think we are your worst class?” I asked why she thought that, and she quoted the above Twitter post nearly perfectly and told me that her mom found it when trying to find my website. My class was surprisingly good for the fire drill, even though I didn’t expect them to be that good. So, one other girl asked why I hate them, and after being corrected, asked why I dislike them. I made sure that those were their words. I explained that they are my worst-behaved class. It doesn’t mean that I hate them or dislike them, but it does mean that they drive me crazy and that they can be very annoying. I told them this. I have not kept it a secret from them before now, and I have not tried to hide it from them. As I said, we have had many long chats about this. This girl’s mom was not upset or so the student said. She thought it was pretty funny, actually. The students were good today after another long chat. They also were much better at keeping the others on task.

Now that you have the background, here are my thoughts. First, Why were they so upset about this despite the nearly hundreds of times I have talked to them about it? They all knew about the Twitter post before they came into my class, because this girl probably told them all about it in first period. I think they were upset because it was public on the internet, and people could find it. They knew they had the fire drill yesterday, and so they finally understood that I thought they were my worst class (despite the fact that I have been trying to tell them that for weeks). Second, it is hard for these seventh graders to disassociate negative things. Just because they are my worst class does not mean that I hate or dislike them. They don’t understand that (hopefully) adults can separate the two feelings. I told them that they annoy and frustrate me, but that as soon as they are doing what they should, those feelings go away. Third, how in the world did she find that. My website was above all the possible Twitter statuses even when I searched for “jethrojones twitter”. I guess she could have found her way to my blog but I don’t know. Crazy. Fourth, this has definitely reminded me that what I write is available and can be found. I need to remember that. I don’t usually post anything controversial, but even things like this, that can be found by the mom of a student in that class, are fair game.

So, the real question is should I protect my updates so that I can’t be found on Twitter or searches?

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Learning is Supposed to be Frustrating
February 7, 2008, 2:20 am
Filed under: learning, reflection, wiki

So, my classes have been working on the Campaign Trail Collaboration wiki with a bunch of other schools around the country and world. It has been an interesting learning experience as wikis are still very new to a lot of people. It is interesting to see who excels at it and who does not. Most don’t. It is surprisingly difficult for some people, even parents. That is completely understandable, though. It took me a little bit to understand the nuances of a wiki as well. This video from the “CommonCraft Show” helps explain it much better than I can.

Learning is supposed to be frustrating. If it is not frustrating, you probably aren’t learning. I like to think of it as a piece of wood being carved into something beautiful. If the wood were still alive, surely it would hurt and be painful. But, the benefit is that it is becoming something great and beautiful. That is how learning should be (notice I didn’t say education!). I am sure that some people are going to get upset and say that learning should be fun/enjoyable/safe/whatever other positive thing you want to contend it should be. Joseph Smith said:

I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else…all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304).

You can still enjoy learning even if it is frustrating.

I had a parent who actually emailed me with some valuable reflection about her experiences working on it with her son (and husband). I include it here with her permission:

Hi Mr Jones,

Just wanted to give you some feedback on the Super Tuesday activity M participated in. It absolutely got him involved in tracking the candidates and was valuable for the opportunity to work with others as he added to the state info as it developed. We did not see any info entered from other students on his state. Could it be because we were not looking in the right place? It has the potential to be a great collaborative activity working with others to track the election process. That is the whole point for this, to be a collaborative effort. It helps people work together and learn together.

We were a little disappointed this morning to find the updated info that he had entered at 9:30 pm last night was gone this morning. We did not print out a page from that time, but he did print one out this am to turn in to prove he was filling in the info on [his state’s] primaries. Here they learned on their own how to adapt to a new medium; they didn’t know what the protocol was, but were able to figure it out on their own.

This was the first time he ( and his father and I ) had ever used the wiki page. Not surprising, but now they have used a wiki, and the next time their child has to do something with technology, this experience will help define their approach to a new one later in M’s career. We spent a lot of time figuring out what to do and how to get to the appropriate areas, so maybe in the future a bit more detailed instructions would be helpful. I am assuming she means better instructions than “Here is the wiki page. Do it.” 😉 I didn’t give very good instructions, that is for sure.

It was a great experience for M in using technology and working with the computer. He was copying and pasting results repeatedly to update the info, which really made him get comfortable with going between windows, etc. This is a great skill for him to learn. He will be able to use this later, I am sure.

We’ll be interested to see if M did this assignment as expected. It was a good learning experience, and a little frustrating too. Thanks for your help. Since this is my first time teaching, I don’t even know how good of a job I did teaching it. How can I give someone a bad grade for making a concerted and valiant effort when the directions were so poor to begin with?

R

I did spend some time with the students teaching them what a wiki is and how it works, but I didn’t teach them well enough. We were able to get on the computers and edit some wiki pages, but they still didn’t get it. Showing the video posted above really helped them out. That was a very positive thing to do. I should have done it earlier.

So, what have I learned?
1. I need to give clear concise directions that are easily understandable.
2. It is okay if learning is frustrating.
3. 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