Friday, March 30, 2012

Best Laid Plans

A teacher's life is all about planning.  Without proper planning not only do you feel unprepared and at a loss for what to talk to your students about each day but it's shown that good planning can decrease student led distractions (ie, your students are better behaved when you are planned!) 

Alas, even the best laid plans occasionally go awry.  This week my co-teacher and I were discussing lesson plans for our FACS class. We introduced Interior Design and we always try to tie in a fun class activity for those kinesthetic learners.  My great idea was to take them down to the parking lot armed with yard sticks and side walk chalk to make a real-life floor plan.   My co-teacher implemented the lesson on Thursday morning with great success. By the time my students came in during 4th period they were keyed up and ready to go outside.  Five minutes after we left the building heat lightening and light rain began. Had I been alone I would have stayed outside.   Being a responsible chaperone of my students I took them inside at the first sign of lightening with a promise that we could go out the next day. 

Friday arrives and with it a beautiful day.  But with 4th period again an isolated thunderstorm.  So much for a great lesson plan.  It's now time to move on to our next topic in order to stay on pace for the end of the year.

One downside to teaching?  I now have to wait until October for the chance to try this lesson plan out again.

Friday, March 9, 2012

"I" statements

Anyone who has undergone pre-marital counseling or any type of training incorporating communication skills knows the "I" statement.  This is a topic that I cover with my freshman, adolescents who are beginning to experience strong emotions yet lack higher order processing and communication skills (Santrock, 2011).

So why do we teach I-Statements and communication?  Here are some reasons from The Journal of Youth and Adolescence (Caldwell, et. al.) and
  1. Adolescents' willingness to share information with parents is a central process through which parents gain knowledge of their adolescents' lives.
  2. Adolescents whose parents know relatively more about their day-to-day lives show lower levels of drug and alcohol use, delinquency, school problems, and depressed mood. 
  3. Adolescents who communicate effectively with parents show both higher self-esteem and better school performance. 
  4. Communication is the most important part of any relationship. When both parties in a relationship communicate everyone feels calm and safe.
  5. Everyone will deal with conflict in a relationship, saying "I" instead of "You" allows the speaker to take responsibility for their emotions rather than placing blame.
Here's some basic information on I statements from The Human Potential Center
I-Statements give our partner information about us, and they do it in a way that's far less threatening than the alternative: You-Statements. They form the bedrock for cooperation because they connect people, build trust, and create healthier, more open and honest relationships. (

To create an I-Statement, all we need to do is start a sentence with an "I." As simple as that may sound, there is an art to creating really effective I-Statements. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Be specific.
  2. Avoid "oughts" and "shoulds.
  3. Avoid labels.
  4. Avoid the phrases "I feel like…" and "I feel that…."
  5. Include our feelings, not merely our thoughts.   
I statements can be difficult to learn to do correctly and even more difficult to implement in a real life conversation.  When I have conflicts in my personal relationships (as we all do) I often fail at my I statements.  I freely share this failure with my students so that they will not feel as pressured to get it right on day one.  Typically, we learn about I statements, work on appropriate statements as a group using a fictional scenario, practice I statements about silly things to each other and then use the basic I statement outline to write a note to someone who is real.  Students turn these in and I look them over only to make sure that they've followed the correct format.  The format for an I statement is "I feel ____________ when you ____________ because _____________/"

Going back to the "why" of teaching I statements, I want to share something that Sally* wrote to her mother.


I feel ___angry__________
when you ____don't answer your cell phone when I call ______
because ____I could be dying!! _________________

Clearly Sally is dealing with intense frustration, the root of which is obviously not Sally's mother not answering her cell phone but rather a consistent lack of communication in the parent-child relationship.  Sally expressed other feelings and shared additional incidents when I asked her about her I statement.  Normally I grade the I statements, give feedback, and return the papers to the students.  In this case, I encouraged Sally to share this and her other thoughts with her mother.  Research shows positive outcomes for parents who listen to their children.  Parents, "Listen UP!"  Kids "Speak!!"


Caldwell, L. L., et. al. (2006). "Predictors of adolescents' disclosure to parents and percieved parental knowledge: between- and within-person differences." Journal of Youth and Adolescence 35(4) pp 667+. 

"Dealing with Conflict." (2009) 12 March 2012.

Santrock, J. (2011). Lifespan development (13th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


As one of our school’s FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) chapter advisors I’ve been encouraging our underclassmen to prepare for next year’s service projects and competition. I have given several ideas out hoping that the students will run with them. This week one of our chapter officers, Mary*, came to me with an idea for a project for next year. I wasn’t disappointed that she hadn’t chosen one of the ideas I had presented, rather, I was both surprised by her topic and proud that she chose something that she sees as a serious problem in her community, her school. The topic Mary presented was cyber-bullying.


Bullying is not a new topic for anyone with experience in education. It has often been seen as a rite of passage, an unfortunate experience about which little can be done. Bullying is defined as unwanted, deliberate, persistent and relentless harassment. Cyber-bullying is a rapidly increasing and widespread form of bullying that children face today especially as minors use the internet and increasingly younger ages (Manuel, 2011). Cyber-bullying is bullying through email, messaging, on websites such as facebook®, or through cell phones (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010).
Cyber-bullying affects both the recipient and the instigator of the bullying. Students who were bullied felt disappointed, nervous and upset. Their relationships at school, in the family and with friends are often negatively influenced. The effects of persistent bullying can endure into adulthood (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010). Bullying behavior in youth can be tied to depression and even suicide in elementary, middle and high school students. Victims of cyber-bullying may be at an even higher risk for suicidal behavior especially if the victim already exhibits signs of depression (Gould, Klomek & Sourander, 2011).

The Problem

Adolescents who are bullied may not be taken seriously for several reasons. Bullying is seen as part of growing up and adolescents are renowned for their strong emotions and over emphasis of events. Still, there are currently no federal or state laws that provide redress for adolescent victims of bullying. And cyber-bullying can be more serious than the typical form of bullying taking place in elementary and middle schools. The Internet provides instigators an outlet to republish comments to an unlimited number of students forever devastating the reputation of the victim (Manuel, 2011). A comment posted on social media such as facebook® and Twitter® can reach thousands of readers in a matter of minutes.


Researchers recommend counseling and activities to prevent bullying behavior. (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010). Messages should be accurate and should focus on the prevention of bullying rather than the potential link between bullying and suicide (Gould, Klomek & Sourander, 2011). These are best organized in schools as parents often expect the school system to control adolescent behavior both within and out of schools. Schools must weigh student’s freedom of speech with the protection of other students’ rights and reputation (Manuel, 2011).

What will we do?

How do you prevent bullying? Social scientists believe that values play a key role in explaining human behavior. Specifically, responsibility, tolerance, respect and honesty are related to bullying behavior (Aydogan & Dilmac, 2010). Adolescents turn mostly toward their peers for representation of values (Santrock, 2011). I hope that our FCCLA chapter can implement several strategies to aid in the prevention of bullying behaviors at all levels of public education. Perhaps you will see another post documenting their efforts. Where will we start?

How about here?

*Name(s) have been changed

Aydogan, D., & Bulent, D. “Values as a predictor of cyber-bullying among secondary school students.” International Journal of Social Sciences 5.3 (2010): 185.
Gould, M. S., Klomek, A. B. & Sourander, A. “Bullying and suicide: detection and intervention.” Psychiatric Times Feb 2011: 27.
Manuel, N. R. “Cyber-bullying: it’s recent emergence and needed legislation to protect adolescent victims.” Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law 13.1 (2011): 219+.
Santrock, J. (2011). Lifespan development (13th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's..... butter?

Teachers are often encouraged to implement cross-curricular strategies in their classrooms.  But what does cross-curricular mean to the teacher who is transitioning from an industry position to education?  Not a lot.  And what "curriculum" are we supposed to be crossing? The longer I teach the more I hear references to test scores in Math, Science, Social Studies and Writing.  We are encouraged to require writing in every class.  We are encouraged to reinforce math in each of our courses.  We are encouraged to incorporate science and social studies as much as possible - but how?

Integration across subject matter is promoted by teacher educators because it benefits learners of all ages and backgrounds yet new teachers are not specifically taught how to integrate alternative curricular content into their lessons (Cuero, Ruiz & Thornton, 2010). And there is a "need for professional development that assists teachers in changing their conceptual perspectives to integration while also building pedagogical knowledge related to integration of science, mathematics and literacy: (Douville, et. al., 2003, p. 388). 

For those of you now lost in the vocabulary: "Pedagogical content knowledge identifies the distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching. It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction. Pedagogical content knowledge is the category most likely to distinguish the understanding of the content specialist from that of the pedagogue" (Shulman, 1987, p. 4).

Definition of Pedagogy: the art, science, or profession of teaching; especially education.

I always attempt to incorporate cross-curricular information into my lessons. Specifically, I try to incorporate Math, Science and Writing.  This week I think I succeeded.  Not only did my students see science and math, but they had an "aha" moment.

First, I told students the capacity of a glass jar. ie, this jar holds 4 oz.  I explained that they would need to add a liquid to the jar and would need to have room for that liquid to move sufficiently.  They should fill the container between 1/3 and 2/3 full. Then I had them do some math! and convert ounces to kitchen measurements so that they could measure the appropriate amount of liquid into their jar.  They also had to incorporate ratios - they need to add a certain amount of solid matter to the jar and it had to be in ratio to the liquid (Yes, I'm avoiding giving you the actual measurements on purpose, I don't want to give away any secrets).  So, Math... check.

Now for science (and a secret). What happens to cream when you shake it?  You incorporate air, you "whip it" making... whipped cream! (imagine that)  Now, what if you whip that cream beyond recognition?  You obviously don't have whipped cream anymore.  You are changing the chemical structure of the cream.  By slamming molecules off one another (and adding a little salt) you encourage carbon chains to become saturated.  What saturated fat comes from milk?  Butter.

After 5-10 minutes of math and science I've taken my students from "Why are we shaking a jar of cream?" to "Hey, is it butter? Can we eat it?"

Yum.... cross-curricular instruction never tasted so good!


Cuero, K. K., Ruiz, E. C., & Thornton, J. S. "Integrating literature in mathematics" a teaching technique for mathematics teachers." School of Science and Mathematics 110.5 (2010): 235+.

Douville, P., Pugalee, D. K., & Wallace, J. D.  "Examining instructional practices of elementary science teachers for mathematics and literacy integration." School Science and Mathematics 103 (2003): 388-396.

Shulman,  L. ( 1987).  Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform.  Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-22.