Friday, September 28, 2012

Visiting Author

Ms. Julia Cook, author of numerous children's books, visited MMS today, sharing with us the writing process and many of her books. Our favorites were about boogers and potty training. Thanks for visiting us today, Julia.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Getting Ready to Go

Farther Along...

...but still not there.

Our First Ropes Challenge

Not high up in the air, but still a challenge. All of the group has to get up in the air with arms linked. The students are not told how to do it, only what they can't do. Lots of problem-solving going on.

Leadership Training

Our first activity at the Arkansas 4H Center. Our class officers and student council members are undergoing the ExCEL leadership training. We are on the ground now but will be in the air in a couple hours. Whoo-hoo!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mulberry Parade

Ms. Tvrdik, MHS Agriculture teacher, dressed up as a gypsy and drove her buggy in the Mulberry parade. She and all of our FFA students represented Mountainburg well at the Crawford County Fair this past week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

6th Grade Library Opening Day

The 6th grade library located in Ms. Holcomb's room opened yesterday. With several guest speakers, students from the high school, and with cookies, the 6th grade classes celebrated, read, and enjoyed a good day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"I Got Dragon Pride"

One of my middle schoolers came to me this morning, showing me her nails, saying, "I got Dragon pride!" Cool.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curriculum Content in the Age of Common Core

     I ran across an interesting article on a blog today entitled “I Never Needed to Know That.” The blogger noted things that he learned in High School that he never used. He mentioned Algebraic equations and the like (sorry Mr. H). A lot of good points were made in this article. Is it necessary to be able to do 35 long (I mean really long) division problems without error? Does knowing how to identify the difference between a demonstrative pronoun and a demonstrative adjective demonstrate intelligence or ability outside of a worksheet? (I can do that, by the way, in both English and Spanish. Don’t I sound smart?) Furthermore, technology truly changes the game. Do we need to teach certain skills that are easily and readily taken care of by assistive technology? For instance, while I did a walkthrough in physical science today, a question came up in discussion and the students turned to me to see if I could figure out the answer. I said I would give it a shot, so I literally spoke to my iPad (Google App) and had an answer in .024 seconds. How does this kind of technology change our curriculum?

     The article truly did cause me to stop and think about what is necessary in our curriculum and the changes to it over the next few years. Should there not only be a “canon” in our literature (Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe, and Dickinson) but also in the content of our other subjects (mitosis, Antietam, chemical equations, and polynomials)? Do we have a duty to pass on a cultural literacy from this generation to the next?
This question has been floating around the hallways, emails, and meeting places of MHS this year. We began a discussion this summer about the changes coming and needing to come our way: Common Core State Standards, the needs of our students and their futures, amazing and breath-taking technological advances, and least importantly, new testing requirements. These have caused us to stop, evaluate, re-examine, and re-vision what it means to do school. We know that change in education is coming and absolutely necessary, but how far, and at what cost? Do we sacrifice content at the altar of process and product? In other words, does content go by the wayside as we begin to focus on creation, delivery, and collaboration?

     Our middle school PE/girls basketball coach recently sparked further conversation on this topic by speaking of the need for a cultural literacy, a shared group of knowledge that ties us as a community (in the larger sense) and provides us the shared thinking needed to discuss ideals and what it means to live together in this country. He shared a book with the English teachers called Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch. As all good English teachers do, our English teachers shared what they read with everyone else, inspiring a daily email and daily “bellringer” in English class wherein students and staff are given five terms from what Hirsch thinks every American needs to know: Here is today’s list:
Actions speak louder than words
act of God
I got four out of five fairly easily but had to Google acrophobia—fear of heights. I knew it was fear of something. So I got a B+ today.

     As a principal, this discussion about our profession and our practice encourages me and excites me. I know we will be making changes in the future. I also know some things must stay the same. But to have my faculty actively engaged in this discussion strengthens me and sharpens me as I try to be an instructional leader to my school.

     I have much more to say, especially concerning how we handle content when we do live and teach in a different world and different setting from our formative educational years, but I will save it for another blog post. Please, give me your feedback in the comments section below.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Labor of Our Teachers

Well, Labor Day has a little over an hour left, and I am working. I have been working all day. Perhaps it has been the same with you; nonetheless, we set aside this day to honor all who work and labor. Truly all work (legal, ethical, and moral work, that is) is honorable. From computer programmers to grocers to machinists, labor finds a place of respect and dignity.

I am in the education business, though. Every day I have the privilege of seeing teachers teach, students learn, and progress being made. As principal, I have the greatest job in the world. Just as an obstetrician has the joy of seeing human life form in the womb, I get to see human potential come to life in my school.

And I think that what teachers do is that important. Just as doctors make decisions regarding life (breathing, heart-beating kind of life), teachers help create a life (future, enjoyment, and possibilities) worth living.

Teaching is not easy. We do not get to pick our students. We do not control their home life. We do not work in an environment where all outside factors can be set aside, such as in a factory or even in a retail store. We are given living, breathing, hormone-laden human beings. Some are malnourished, some are over fed. Some are worked too hard at home, some are never challenged. Some sleep too much and some barely get peace and quiet to rest. Some are ignored outside of school, and some have everything done for them. And then some have the perfect balance and have exactly what they need. Regardless of what happens outside of us, they come to us, and we are charged with shaping their lives.

Educators do a vital work. Each moment counts, each lesson counts, each word of praise counts. You know that is true because you went through school and had those experiences--some good, some bad, and some forgettable. Vital--thank you, teachers, for picking up the banner and making the difference. Thank you for shaping lives in this labor of love called teaching.