Back Burners and Bedlam


I haven’t updated in a *really* long time, but I think it’s because I spent all year fully integrating my classroom blog. It’s turned into the go-to place for students to find out what we did each day. It worked best last year when I did it myself, but my goal is for the students to take it over for extra credit.

I use Edublogs because I love WordPress, and even though my district pays for Gaggle (and we get a blog with Gaggle), I don’t qualify those as real blogs. They don’t have tags or categories, and those are relevant skills for my students to learn about and use. And I also pay for my account as well. There aren’t too many things that i pay for, but Edublogs is one of them.

It was really helpful when a student was absent and I could just send her to the blog to find out what we did that day. When students forget the instructions or need more help, I send them to the blog.

I am thinking about having my students create their own blogs (which I can do here) as a weekly learning log (?) or response to the essential questions or Big Idea of the unit, but I just don’t know how easily it will be to grade them, if I would even give them a grade.

The technology goals I have in mind for next year include:

  • Fully integrate Edmodo
  • Integrate Socrative
  • Get my test banks in ExamView updated
  • Create more Quia games
  • Use my classroom games templates (maybe students can create their own games… Hmmm.)
  • I want to create a SCVNGR hunt for extra credit for my students for the following lessons –
    • Texas Renaissance Festival
    • Dickens on the Strand
    • Getting to Know Riley on campus
    • King Arthur
    • Grammar/Editing (finding mistakes)
  • Use the Eggspert buzzer with my games more
  • Figure out someway to to use my Whiteboard and e-Instruction remotes so that they aren’t just collecting dust in my room.

These are my ideas for right now. I’m sure that I’ll be happy if I can get one goal accomplished for the next year. 🙂




We could send out a survey to members (KISD?) asking them which workshops they would be interested in attending. Free for members – small fee for non-members? I think a “small” fee would encourage people to attend and perhaps JOIN TSTA.

  • A Better Beginning :Helping New Teachers Survive & Thrive (emphasizes mentoring programs – surveys, contract language)
  • I Can Do It: exciting classroom management system that offers educators a systemic way to improve classroom management
  • Cooperative Discipline:  Provides educators with the skills necessary to create a positive, learning environment by providing appropriate intervention techniques for misbehavior and preventive measures that stop most misbehavior from occurring.
  • Diversity in the Classroom:  Students will benefit from discussing and learning about diversity issues when educators create a safe, cooperative learning environment in the classroom and the school.
  • Paraprofessionals & Teachers – Building a Winning Team (emphasizes personality differences, appreciating & valuing differences, conflict management, communication & listening skills (2 days)
  • Is Your School Healthy? (Emphasizes the “sick school syndrome,” (environmental illnesses) and what the association can do)
  • Staying in the classroom and Out of the Courtroom (emphasizes “how to decrease your legal liability in the classroom)
  • Defensive Teaching: Don’t Be a Target (emphasizes “tips for interacting with students,” using good judgment,” “maintaining classroom order,” “thinking before acting,” “how to avoid becoming the next target”)
  • The Texas Code of Ethics & You (emphasizes SBEC policies & procedures; provides the “code”; discussion regarding filing a complaint; timelines; questions & answers)
  • Chapter 37: Making Your School Safe (emphasizes actual language of the law; provides steps for the teacher relative to enacting chapter 37; forms & sample memos; how the law should work at the campus level)
  • Hey, Can “They” do That? (emphasizes the Education Code and how to “break” it; reviews important sections of the code; personnel files and the law; paying for lost textbooks)
  • Safe Schools

Capturing Kids’ Hearts


From the Discussion Forum of my Lamar Class:

Part of a grant our campus received required a high percentage of the faculty to attend the Capturing Kids Hearts training to be able to build positive relationships with students. Students are greeted before entering the classroom with a hand shake and they are able to effectively communicate with students by knowing their name and things about the student like their interests, aspirations and goals.

And this guys then replies:

I attended the Capturing Kids Hearts training in 2007. It was one of the best trainings I have ever had. My challenge is the hand shaking at the door. I always have students who want to chat for a few moments before they leave the room. If I miss someone, I still try to shake their hands within the first few minutes of class. They come to expect it.

Then this woman chimed in with this:

Capturing Kids Heart is a training that I have been hearing a lot about lately. I do believe that it is a wonderful training, however, it is exactly what elementary teachers have been doing for years. We greet students at the door with a hug or high five, they feel safe talking to us. It is nice to see older grades buying into the same philosophy
Mr. Tool is now the expert on this program, and decised to school her with this todbit:
It’s a lot more than greeting them at the door. It’s about accountability in their work, their lives, and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect too. However, you are right in the similarities in greeting the students.
Her repsonse?
well I most certainly did not mean that it was only about greeting students at the door. I do actually realize that there is more to it than that, such as the disciplinary side, and the accountability of it as well. I just was commenting on the statement that many people have made about greeting at the door. Elementary students often feel much more respected by their teachers than older grades, this is because we have worked hard to create that atmosphere in the classroom where they will not be put down or given a sarcastic comment by students or teachers when they make a statement or ask a question. That is lost somewhere in the older grades as students are beginning to feel more self-conscience about themselves and insecure. Capturing Kids Hearts helps older grades and even elementary ones, grasp the concept of allowing kids to learn and work in a safe environment.
My reponse to the whole Capturing Kids’ Heart bandwagon?
Before Capturing Kids’ Hearts can work, there has to be a culture that supports it. I attended that training in 2001 in my former district, and I have seen first hand that a handshake in the morning doesn’t mean anything if that is all the students get. It’s not that my colleagues hated kids of their jobs – it’s that there were so overwhelmed and overworked. I think any principal who tried to implement programs like that should make sure that the staff is supported first. I just go back to If You Don’t Feed the Teachers, They Eat the Students.
The Tool responds to me:
I understand your frustration. I speak from a perspective of working at a school in the Houston ISD that has seen the enrollment drop from 1500 to 800 in the last 6 years because parents do not want to send their children to the “gang” school. A few former students have been featured in Texas Monthly magazine and Dateline NBC, and it wasn’t for the good that they were doing. A former student of my school now sits in jail, charged with killing another student’s mother. I understand overwhelmed and overworked. I understand being cursed out, students not doing their work all the times, high absence rates, etc. I stay focused on those that are there and when others come back, I focus on them too. It is frustrating, but the bottom line is that I set the tone in my classroom. My expectations are set extremely high for my students, even when I am told that they cannot do things. I set my students up for success, even the 16 year in the 8th grade who reads at a first grade level. (There are others similar to that student too.) I spend time at the beginning of the year working with my students to create their rules and they “police” the class themselves. Capturing Kids’ Hearts works in my classroom because I established the culture that supports it. Ninety-five percent of my students passed TAKS last year. Forty-seven of the 151 made commended performance. I have learned that sometimes you have to feed yourself.
Oh, how I wanted to post what I really thought about him and all of his classroom accomplishments. How GREAT he is. How he must LOVE his classroom. But I didn’t. I just posted this:
No frustration on my part. I’ve just seen the program fail. Flip Flippen does not have a magic band-aid – even if the program is good and worthwhile, it can still fail if the culture doesn’t support it.

The role of the AP is create a campus climate – I disagree that teachers have to “feed themselves” – that just seems go against everything that has been presented in this program.

Did I cop out? Am I being too sensitive? For some reason, this struck a nerve with me. Ticked me off. Perhaps because I’ve seen it fail in at inner-city school with at-risk students. Perhaps because I’ve had this pushed down my throat without any support. Perhaps because I suspect my principal was rewarded with kickbacks for promoting this to other districts. Perhaps because I went to school with their poster boy of success, Junior.
I don’t hate the program. But I get angry with this guy’s self-righteous tone. His superior attitude. His “feed yourself” comment.
I hope to God this man doesn’t ever become MY administrator.

TSTA and other plans


Just a few of my ideas that I am posting so I don’t forget them:

1. Monthly TSTA happy hour.

2. TSTA workshop with different members presenting on different educational topics.

  • What to do when a colleague plagiarizes
  • Preparing for a long-term sub/emergency sub plans
  • Authentic learning
  • Preparing for PDAS
  • Technology
  • Klein ISD board meeting updates
  • Texas/National educational policy
  • How to file a grievance
  • What really is a hostile work environment

3. Research versus book report – KISD really needs this.

4. Start saving up my projects for reading/TAKS tutorial classes

5. Start saving up authentic technology assessments for publication

6. Lesson plans for J and J

What are some other topics that teachers might be interested in for professional development?

End of Course


I *love* that we are supposed to be field testing the English I EOC test this May, and we still have no idea what is going to be on it. Namely, the essay. Compare contrast? Personal narrative? How to? I think we pretty much cover everything else in the TEKS, but I’d kind of like to know this little tidbit.

I’ve heard now that schools who are on a 9 week schedule can give the EOC tests at the end of the 9 week period and *not* at the traditional semester. That makes me happy. I also heard that the students can take the tests as many times as they need. Again, more happy.

But what happens when a student fails a test? Since it’s only worth 15%of their grade, can they fail the test and still pass the class? What’s this I heard that a student only needs to pass 9 out of the 11 (12?) EOC tests? How many EOC tests will there be? What happens when a student switches schools mid-year? What happens when a student is denied credit for a subject? I want to heard definitive answers.

I heard through the grapevine that they hired a new secondary ELA coordinator – from an elementary school. In most cases, I’d laugh it off as rumor, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I understand that having a middle school and high school coordinator is asking a bit much, but can we *please* get someone in there who at least is certified to teach high school? Is that asking too much? Maybe THAT is why we haven’t heard anything about the EOC, since it won’t affect elementary or middle school students?

The other subject areas know what is going on. Just not ELA. And today, TEA announced that the STARR test will replace the TAKS test for K-8 students. I wonder how much I’ll hear about that?

And on that note, I think I’ll save the rest of my snark for later.

Hands on


As the title of the blog implies, there is more than one way to skin a cat. And there is more than one way to teach English.

I think in analogies. I teach in analogies. For me, it’s all part of the “Riley Show”.

I have costumes – I wear red stockings when we read about the Wife of Bath. I wear a fake seagull around my neck when we read Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I wear horns and a tail and poke students with a pitchfork when we read Paradise Lost. I have students try on a chain mail shirt when we read Beowulf.

I teach kinesthetically – I show them how to remember that Ireland is *not* a part of the UK. They learn how to figure our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person voice. I show them how to “neuter” words to turn them into contractions. Yes, I teach high school English, but it can be done.

I don’t expect everyone to teach just like me – it would be pretty boring to have crazy hype teachers all day long – but I do expect some passion out there. I expect teachers to take pride in their lessons.

We had a PLC meeting today about reading, and even though we are not all doing the same thing, I think that everyone got some new ideas and tools to teach. I was able to take an old lesson plan and spice it up thanks to some of the other teachers present at that meeting. It’s just so… invigorating to see plans come to fruition.

Still Wobbly


We only accept new students twice a year, so the start of a new semester is always exciting for our campus. I was really excited – I even had my lesson plans ready to go for the next three weeks. And what happened?

Chinese food. Bad Chinese food, that is.

Monday night, my husband and I got food poisoning. I spent all night (read: no sleep) being sick. I could barely use my cell phone, but I managed to call a co-worker to get a sub for me. Around noon, the fever got to me, and I started to get delirious, convinced my principal thought that I was merely hung over, since it was a three day weekend.

I took today off as well, and am supposed to be absent tomorrow for a textbook committee, but I just can’t bring myself to go. I’ve already missed two days – basically the first day of school, and I think my priority right now is with my classroom.

I hate missing school and I have never missed the first day of classes before.

I’m still a little wobbly, but I’m way better than where I was this time yesterday. I question whether I should have went ahead and gone to school today, but I don’t think I could deal with it. I’ve slept most of the day, and am still hesitant about eating solid food.

I don’t know where I get it from, but I have a serious guilt complex when I miss work. This time? Not so much.

I really have no idea what my classes have done the past two days – I suppose I’ll just call those two days a loss and start tomorrow with my original lesson plans.