Saturday, April 21, 2012

What does your school do with its recyclables?

Lessons From the Middle: Recycling in the classroom
Krystal Mills ~ PEI, Canada
Hi everyone!

I'm so happy to be an author here on Global Teacher Connect! I'm a Grade 7 teacher and I live on Prince Edward Island, on the eastern coast on Canada. I have been teaching for 5 years now, and I currently teach Math (my personal favorite) Language Arts, Social Studies and Health.

I'd like to tell you about a year-long project that my Grade 7 Social Studies class has been working on this year. My school has been working on "PBL" or Projects Based Learning, for the last couple of years. The project that my students have been working on this year in Social Studies, has to do with "changing the world" even if it's in some small way.

Lessons From the Middle: Recycling in the classroomTo make a REALLY long story short, the class decided to begin to collect and redeem the recyclables (bottles, juice boxes, cans) for the entire school and give the money to reputable charities. I must be honest. They didn't come up with this all on their own. I saw that the recyclables in our school were not going to good use and I did "help" them to see that this would be a great task for us to take on.

I teach in a K-7 school and this project has been successful, although, a lot of work! Students must collect the recyclables from every classroom (we eat lunch in our classrooms) every 2-3 days, change the garbage bags, rinse, sort, count and label the recyclables and put them out in the locked garbage bin that another group of students  helped to make for our project. The recyclables get picked up and the money dropped off to us every couple of weeks.

It's been a successful project and definitely worthwhile. We will have made almost $1000 by the end of the school year, I predict. Our school has just over 350 students and we didn't start until the end of October. This is money that would literally, have gone in the garbage. My students are also collecting the tabs from the cans as they recycle. There is a program that they are looking into that takes these tabs and recycles them for use in wheelchairs.

Lessons From the Middle: Recycling in the classroom
Classes in the school have been applying for "grants" from my 7B class, for their own projects. My class created proposal forms and get the final say in approving another class for a grant or not, from our recycling funds. Money has gone to snow pants for a student, toys for children at Christmas, and a gift to a teacher's the new born baby who had to have open heart surgery this month. I think the funds that we have left, may go to a local family whose house was recently destroyed by a fire.

Lessons From the Middle: Recycling in the classroomAgain, this project has been a learning experience for us all. I have thought many times, though, "What do other schools do with their recyclables?" Throwing cans and juice boxes in the garbage is like throwing out a nickel each time. Sending them to the recycling plant is the other option - but still a waste of potential money for the school, students and community.

What does your school do with their recyclables? How are they managed? What is done with the money if they are redeemed?

Again, I'm very excited to be here at Global Teacher Connect and I hope a few of you comment to let me know how things work in your school.

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Teachers "Friending" Students on Facebook

One of the newest trends I've been seeing in schools is the move toward becoming paperless or “green.”  In doing so, schools are relying on the use of the internet to communicate with parents and students.
So where does Facebook play a role in this?  Or rather, HOW should Facebook play a role?  In my research, I’ve noticed much discussion about the pros and cons of teachers “friending” students on Facebook.  
 There are many negatives associated with this.  According to Education Week, “Schools in New York City and Florida have disciplined teachers for Facebook activity.”  There have been reports of teachers who were fired due to inappropriate postings by the teacher and these comments were viewed by some of the students.  Many argue that this kind of behavior oversteps boundaries that should be set by teachers.  Others believe that the reason people use Facebook is to post personal information about yourself such as relationship status and interests, and sharing this knowledge with students is inappropriate. Many school boards across the nation are attempting to set guidelines between this kind of interaction in a way that does not violate teachers’ First Amendment rights.
On the opposite side of the argument, there is talk that in the Philadelphia school district, teachers are encouraged to create Facebook accounts strictly for the purpose of informing students and parents about school-related events, topics, and issues.  One could argue that in so doing, it has the potential to give teachers an avenue to monitor cyber-bullying.
There is one aspect to this topic that I’ve heard many teachers agree on.  Adding students as friends on a personal account is unacceptable, but if teachers create a professional page that is not used socially or for the purpose of sharing personal information, then it can be a great resource to facilitate communication between students and parents. 
Facebook can be used as a tool for teachers and has the potential of being a valuable resource... if used in the right way.  So what is the “right” way.  Right now it looks as if each school district is adopting their own policies, if they haven’t done so already. 
Does your school district have a policy in place for this issue?  I’d love to hear from other teachers about what’s going on in their schools.
The Resourceful Teacher Blog
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A few weeks ago we made these wonderfully easy butterflies with the children.  March was unseasonably warm here in Ontario and we felt we needed a springy bulletin board.

Just this past week when the children were outside for their lunch break, we noticed that there were about 50 butterflies flying around the trees. A few days later there was an article in the local paper that the butterflies had returned earlier than usual because of the warm March weather.  It was exciting for the children to see and a great springboard to the life cycle of the butterfly.

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Build Your Professional Learning Network

Who’s writing this blog? Lots of people – each from a different place and with a different story.

Who’s reading this blog? Lots of people from all around the world.

So, each week, there will be a Getting to Know You question posted so that we can all come together as a Global Community and get to know each other better.

Do you have a question about us you would like answered? Feel free to email you question to us at heidiraki @ gmail . com.


The Everything’s Intermediate Expo has inspired me to expand my Professional Learning Network, so this week, let’s all share where we blog (personal, teaching, collaborative) so that we can collaborate further!

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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Conflicted Student

One of my teacher friends shared a story with me today that saddened my heart.  She has a student who has a pretty rough home environment.  His parents are divorced and part of his difficulty stems from the fact that he is continually pitted in the middle of his parents and is never allowed to voice his opinion or concerns.  Today he informed the teacher that he had something he really wanted to share with her, but his mom said he couldn’t.  So without too much prodding, the teacher asked if someone was hurting him, if he was hurting someone else, or if the student was hurting himself.  He replied that it was nothing of that nature, but it was about the teacher herself.  

My friend then encouraged the student that he should do what he feels is right, but if he doesn’t want to go against his mother’s word, then it would be best if he kept the information to himself.  The poor boy couldn’t resist telling, and he said, “My mom doesn’t like you.”  

Now of course there’s going to be times when a parent isn’t going to like and/or agree with the way teachers do things, I understand all that.   Luckily the boy felt comfortable telling the teacher, and she encouraged him to continue to chat with her about this in the future if he gets upset about it again. But I was just so saddened that the mom put her child in the middle of yet another relationship.

Anyone else ever had a similar experience like this or know someone who has? 

  The Resourceful Teacher Blog
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

I’m Learning How to Read

About 2 months ago, I started on a new venture.  I started learning to read in Arabic.  I know how to read in English (of course) and French & Spanish (kind of), but learning how to read in Arabic means learning a whole new alphabet and learning to read in a whole new direction.  Because of this, I truly feel like I’m learning to read all over again, and it’s really helping me understand how my students feel when they are learning how to read.  Since most people don’t remember learning to read, I thought I would share some of my observations throughout the process.  So, here’s some of what I’ve noticed so far:

1.  Different variations of a letter don’t look the same until you train your brain to see them that way.  When I began working on the alphabet, my husband pointed at two letters and called them both the same letter - Ghayn  - he couldn’t figure out why they didn’t look like the same letter to me.  I couldn’t figure out how they looked the same to him.  (In Arabic, there are no Capitols aArabic Letter Ghayn Initial, Medial and Endingnd Lowercase, rather the letters look different depending on where they are in a word.)  Then, it occurred to me that a capitol A and a lowercase a really don’t look like they belong together at all.  The only reason we know that these letters are the same is that we have train our brains to see them both as the same thing.

2.  I can sound out words very well, but have no idea what that word means.  I have taught long enough to know about the word calling phenomena is common, but I never truly understood it until I sounded out this great, long word in Arabic and realized that it head no meaning to me whatsoever.  Now, when that word is next to a picture, or written in a place in my notebook that helps me remember what it means, I’m good, but written in a random place in a book, and I’m lost!

3.  Handwriting is important.  In English, my handwriting stinks, and I’ve never really thought it was all that important, as long as it was legible.  However, I have realized that different handwritings can be like different fonts.  Just like the capitol A and the lowercase a don’t look like each other – different people’s a’s might also look different.  I can read the pretty, neat writing that my teacher uses, but have a harder time with my husband’s quickly written Arabic, or the fancy Arabic fonts that can be found on cereal boxes and billboard signs.

4.  Environmental print encourages reading.  Now that I can sound out Street Sign in Moroccowords, I am starting to make more sense of all these Arabic words that have been surrounding me for the past 9 months.  I see Arabic everywhere here in Morocco – street signs, billboards, packaging, books, etc.  However, much of the time, the Arabic words have corresponding French words, which are MUCH easier for me to figure out, so my eyes have pretty much skipped over the Arabic writing as a whole.  Now that I know what the letters are, my eyes are beginning to search for the Arabic and trying to sound out words everywhere.  (It’s actually driving my husband a little crazy – lol!)

Have you ever learned another language?  Share some of your experiences here.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources     Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources 

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The Enabling Parent - Part 2

Here’s how I responded to the Nancy the Enabler.  I first took a deep breath.  Ok, I took about 5 deep breaths, and prayed a short prayer called, “Lord help me not strangle this woman.”  Then I told her in the calmest voice I could muster, “Your child needs to remember to get his work done without my prodding.  He had the test on his desk all day as a reminder that it needed to be completed.”  

She didn’t like that answer.  So she asked again if I would reconsider.  Well, since you asked again a second time, I guess I’ll change my answer (I hope you caught the sarcasm).  So I elaborated, “I wouldn’t feel right about giving him more time to complete his test since he had it on his desk all day, and that’s plenty of time to finish his test.”

She still didn’t like my answer and asked again if I would reconsider since her son didn’t know when his free time was, and I didn’t give him a reminder. I replied, “So, you’re saying you would’ve liked for me to stop what I was doing and say in front of the class, ‘Now, *student’s name* remember that this is your free time and we agreed that you would work on your test during your free time,’” I kept explaining, “I didn’t remind him because I didn’t need to.  He’s in 4th grade and needs to learn to be responsible for completing his work in a timely manner. He’s depending on me to remind him to complete his work, and we need to break that habit.”

And guess what: she still didn’t like my answer.  So finally I said, “Look, I’m not trying to be harsh.  I want your son to be prepared for 5th grade, and if I give him even more time to complete his test then he’s not going to be prepared next year. In 5th grade he won’t be allowed the entire day to finish his test as I allowed, let alone another day you’re asking me for.  Hopefully he will use this as a learning experience so it will help him the next time he needs to complete an assignment. I understand that you disagree, however I’m not going to change my mind.”

Then she just stood there and we exchanged an awkward silence.  Then she walked away.  And her son, who was listening the entire time, gave me a hug before leaving.  

That hug made it all worth dealing with her and I walked away with a small on my face.

Continue to part 3 to read my thoughts about the mom

 The Resourceful Teacher Blog
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Learning About Synonyms

If you teach English, you might like this idea.

We used Dr. Seuss' book My Many Colored Days as inspiration for this artwork.  We talked about feelings and synonyms for the traditional feeling words.  We splatter painted and added the synonyms to the art.  You can get the template for the center buttons on each piece and read the details at my post all about it here.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

The Enabling Parent - Part 1

Don’t you just love how parents like to have important meetings at the spur of the moment? You know, like you’re prepared for anything and have all the answers without preparation for their questions? Well that’s what happened to me today.

Here’s a little back story before I tell you about the Enabling Mom. One of my students didn't finish his math assessment yesterday. We took the assessment in the morning and he was the last student still working on his test, so I told him he could have the rest of the day to finish it during his free time. Long story short, the kid didn’t finish his assessment because he chose to do “fun” things instead during his free time. At the end of the day, I collected his test, graded it, and he received a 50%.

Today as I was supposed to be watching the kids during after school dismissal, the mom (let’s refer to her as Nancy the Enabler) marches up to me wanting to have a long discussion about why I should allow her child to have extra time to finish his test. I then proceeded to inform her that her son didn’t chose to finish his test during his free time. Nancy was still very insistent that I allow her son the extra time since it was basically my fault for not reminding him. Hold on! Here’s what I wanted to say in response, “You’re crazy, woman! It’s because of your enabling that he’s become codependent. You remind him too much about what he needs to get done so he’s not learning responsibility.” Of course that’s not what I really said... I do love my job and intent on keeping it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Enabling Parent to see how I really responded.

  The Resourceful Teacher Blog
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Global Professional Development

In my “past life” as a teacher in a big county in the state of Georgia, United States, I never considered professional development – unless my principal asked me to present something to the staff.  Otherwise, it was always taken care of by the school and/or the county.   Even in tight times, when there wasn’t money to pay for presenters to come in, there was always some sort of development happening, because the schools would pool resources and pull from different staff members etc.  Everythings Intermediate Expo - Global Professional Development

My current school is great, but we are a small school and our teachers mainly speak a different language from the language of the country.  So, this often leaves us reaching for professional development opportunities.  Needless to say, when I presented the Everything’s Intermediate Expo to my principal – she was very excited.  I personally can’t wait to see what the other teacher presenters have to say.  I have recorded a presentation on strategies for teaching English Language Learners.  There will also be presentations on: Integrating Technology, Using Interactive Notebooks and Modifying Math Instruction.

Everything's Intermediate Expo - English Language Learner StrategiesWebinars are a great form of professional development.  They give you a chance to attend seminars without the need for travel – and they are available to everyone who has a computer with the internet – making them a truly “Global” form of Professional Development.  Plus, you can attend in your PJ’s if you want to!

What is professional development like at your school?  Could you benefit from a webinar like the Everything’s Intermediate Expo?

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources    Raki's Rad Resources

Raki's Rad Resources on Teachers Pay Teachers Raki Shop - Quality Resources for Quality TeachersRaki's Rad Resources on Teacher's Notebook
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Parent Communication

Many teachers know that to one of the keys to successful teaching is parent communication.  There are many ways we can communicate with parents: conferences, phone calls, emails, and/or notes sent home.  The easiest way for me to communicate with parents on a consistent basis is by sending notes home.

Usually, when I want to communicate something to parents I have a form I’ve filled out and sent home.  I have created forms for just about everything!  Here are some forms I use to communicate with parents.  You can download the forms by clicking on the link.

1. Daily Behavior - Whether it’s good or bad, I like parents to know how well their child did in my class today.  

2. Major Incidents - When students have a bad day or if another student involved your student in something serious, there’s a form for that.

3. Thinking About Behavior Sheet - I have students fill out this form at the end of the day if they didn’t have good behavior.  It’s a chance for the student to reflect on his/her behavior, recognize what he/she did wrong, and make plans to change it in the future.  

4. Absences - When your student is absent and you want to communicate with the parent what he/she missed that day, download this form.

5. Tardies - If your student has had a large number of tardies, fill out this form and send it home.

6. Missing Assignments - Any missing assignments that you want parents to know about?

7. Missing Supplies - If your student is missing any classroom supplies, fill out the form and send it home with a due date on it.

8. Redo Assignment at Home - If you want your student to redo an assignment at home that they did poorly on in class, download this form.

9.  Redo Assignment in Class - If you had your student redo an assignment in class and want to communicate with the parents that you let their child have a 2nd chance, grab this form.

The Resourceful Teacher Blog
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Getting Rid of Plastic Bags

Part of being a part of a “global teaching community” should be getting our students involved in the collaboration.  From now on, each month Global Teacher Connect will host a collaborative project, hosted by one of our authors, which will allow you to get your class collaborating with other classes around the world.

I am Heidi Raki of Raki’s Rad Resources, and I am proud to be hosting the first collaborative project.  My project is focused on Earth Day and plastic bags.  Living in Casablanca, Morocco, plastic bags No More Plastic Bags Collaborative Project(called “micas” here) are everywhere!  When you go to the store you get them for everything and they end up all over the place, in the street, on the beach, in the water – it’s just kind of atrocious to look at.  So, for Earth Day, I am going to talk to my students about choosing not to use plastic bags.  Then, we’re going to take home and hopefully sign a “Bag Free Pledge” to go bag free until the end of April.  Each day (starting on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 and ending on Bag Free Pledge Form FreeMonday, April 30, 2012) I will ask my students to tell me one time that they, or someone in their family chose not to take the plastic bag.  I will record their anecdotes and post them back here.  If you would like to participate in this collaborative project you can also post your students anecdotes here.


To participate in the Getting Rid of Plastic Bags Global Collaborative Project, follow these steps:

1.)  Add an initial comment to this post telling us where you are located, what grade level you teach, and how many students will be participating.  (Also open to homeschooling parents – you’ll just list one or two students, instead of 20!)

2.)  Grab a Bag Free Pledge Form to use with your class – it has been translated in French and Spanish and is available via Google Docs.  Talk to your students about how plastic bags are bad for the environment (here are a two sites you can use:  How a 10 Year Old in India Got Rid of Bags, Video on Using Green Bags from Australia).

3.)  Check back at least once with anecdotes from your students between April 17, 2012 and April 30, 2012.  You are welcome to share anecdotes as often as you would like, but please share at least once.  (Please share using first names only, if you are not comfortable using first names, give each student a number and use their number to share – ie.  Student 1 said “xxxx”.)

4.)  Read the anecdotes from other schools with your students so that they can be aware that we are all working together to rid the world of plastic bags.


Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources      Raki's Rad Resources

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