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Monday, April 18, 2011 - Tenth Anniversary Edition

Ten Years of Educators' News (sort of)

Happy Birthday, Educators' NewsHmmmI began publishing Educators' News on April 18, 2001. By simple math, that should make us ten years old today. But that would be a lot like a couple that says they've been married ten years, but were separated a bunch of years in between! I closed up shop for the most part on EdNews two years after its inception, making only occasional postings for several years when the caseload for my special ed class was simply overwhelming. After taking early retirement in 2004 and moving to work as a teacher liaison of a prestigious school of engineering's K-12 outreach program, postings picked up a bit, but still weren't what one could call regular. Becoming unexpectedly unemployed in 2008, I resumed regular publication of this site and have continued it as I moved into "full retirement."

The graphics at the top of this section were pulled from the old Claris Home Page application, an early graphical web page editor I quickly turned to after beginning this site. I also used them here a couple of years ago when we turned eight. I still fire up Home Page from time to time when the code in an old page is so munged that Dreamweaver can't figure it out. And yeah, I quit smoking last year...but started again. Dumb!

Over the last ten years, the primary focus of Educators' News has been teaching and the technology we use to help us do that job. With the advent of the current school "reform" movement, some of that focus has shifted to news of what is going on in the name of improving education around the country and becoming a voice for reason in school improvement. I'm currently trying to throttle my political views a bit in favor of more tools and just plain cool stuff teachers may enjoy.

Today's posting may be a bit unusual. But hey, it's our birthday (anniversary).

NPR Reader

While running some errands in the truck recently, I was listening to All Things Considered on our "local" NPR station, WSIU. While Carbondale, the home of Southern Illinois University, is about 130 miles away (as the crow flies), WUSI in Olney, Illinois, a network station for WSIU is just 40 miles away and comes in pretty well at our house.

The Confession by John GrishamGetting back to my story, when I came out of one store, I noticed All Things Considered was over and recognized the voice of Dick Estell, the NPR Radio Reader. Radio Reader began as The Radio Reading Circle in 1936 on Michigan State University's public radio station, WKAR. Estell became general manager of WKAR Radio and the program's third permanent reader in 1964. Since that time, he has focused the program on presenting newly published books.

Estell was up to Chapter 8 or 9 of his current book when I tuned in, but I got interested after just a few lines. It turned out the current book, airing on NPR April 4 - May 18, 2011, is The Confession by John Grisham. After listening for a few minutes, I was hooked. I looked in vain for a copy of the book at our local discount store and the grocery's newsstand. When I got home, I checked online and found that The Confession won't be released in the more affordable paperback version until July 19. Debating trying to find an affordable hardcover copy, I noticed Amazon's used listings for the book.

Heading towards ending up this rather long and odd section posting, my used copy with shipping ended up costing just $8.51, a bit less than Amazon's pre-order price for the paperback. My savings were diminished somewhat, as my conscience got the best of me and I made a donation to WSIU that I'd been meaning to make for some time. But I do love Grisham's novels.

NPR Radio by LivioMargarita BouquetGetting back to radio a bit, I ran an ad two weeks ago for The NPR Radio by Livio. It's a product that interests me, as I can still remember our family sitting around the radio listening to the now politically incorrect Amos 'n' Andy and Boston Blackie. The name, Boston Blackie, has retained some prominence due to the Jimmy Buffett 1974 classic, Pencil Thin Mustache ("I wish I had a pencil thin mustache...the Boston Blackie kind."). When Annie and I took in a Jimmy Buffett concert in Indy last May, I noticed the kids all around us knew all the words to the song. And yeah, they had an excellent grasp of Wastin' Away in Margaritaville... as well. Annie and I ended up singing it arm-in-arm with them towards the end of the concert. (I sent her a lime Margarita Bouquet® iconfrom 1-800-Flowers.com for our anniversary a week earlier.)

Somehow I like the idea of having a box-type radio to listen to, even if it does rely on the internet instead of the airwaves for its content. In college in the late 60s, we listened late at night on the strongest (receiving) radio we had to R&B offered up by the "gravelly, drawling voices" of DJs from WLAC, Nashville. I still have that Emerson AM-Shortwave radio that I first listened to in my grandfather's woodworking shop.

The Other Shoe

Just 24 hours after the Indianapolis Star proclaimed Indiana will pay for full-day kindergarten, it appears our Governor was choosing his words carefully at the staged "town hall" meeting with Arne Duncan on Friday. Saturday's Terre Haute Tribune-Star brought us back to reality with Sue Loughlin's Plan will not fully fund all-day kindergarten. Loughlin relates that after the Governor's announcement, "State officials later clarified that the funds for full-day kindergarten would be added to the existing full-day kindergarten state grant." A Vigo County Schools financial officer cautioned that the announced plan "does not" fully fund full-day kindergarten in Indiana. "It does not … That’s a misnomer," Donna Wilson said. "It’s important people understand that."

It makes one wonder what the Governor really wanted people to think and understand.

NASA Image of the Day

James Webb Space TelescopeJames Webb Space TelescopeA NASA Image of the Day, Next Generation Space Telescope, got me started Saturday on one of those pleasant jaunts through a number of NASA sites and images. The image shows a NASA engineer looking at the first six primary mirror segments of the James Webb Space Telescope being prepped to begin final cryogenic testing. Eighteen segments will form the full primary mirror. The telescope is scheduled for launch in 2014.

Not quite on board with how the thing will look when completed and launched, I visited the James Webb Space Telescope site and found a nice artist's representation of what the telescope may look like in space.

Along the way, I read a NASA press release, NASA Telescopes Help Discover Surprisingly Young Galaxy, that eventually led me to another article (with the same name but a different URL and content), NASA Telescopes Help Discover Surprisingly Young Galaxy on the Spitzer [Infrared] Space Telescope site. Below is just a sampling of the many images I found there. Fun food for the eyes!

An Extended Stellar Family Spitzer's Sunflower Galaxy
Giant Cluster of Elliptical Galaxies North American Nebula Sunflower Galaxy

When I wrote the feature story, Out of this World Desktop Photos, one really had to work at it a bit to find really good space images suitable for use as wallpapers or desktop images or to use in the classroom. I used to plaster my room and the hallway outside my room with fantastic space images with captions...to get my special ed kids interested and reading. It worked!

Now, it's almost too easy to quickly find incredible space images. Isn't that great!

Pics4Learning and Desktop Photos

Veggie mixMy Pics4Learning PageSince I'm already off on a picture jag, let me continue with a plug for an excellent "copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students." I seem to mention Pics4Learning about every six months or so on this site, usually just after I've uploaded something to them. While there are lots of photo sharing sites online, I especially like Pics4Learning's clear, no nonsense statement about the use of photos posted to their site: "Unlike many Internet sites, permission has been granted for teachers and students to use all of the images donated to the Pics4Learning collection."

Annie and I (and other nearby relatives) are enjoying our first heavy picking of an asparagus patch I started from seed five years ago. While we both like asparagus, by last Friday night, we'd had steamed asparagus three times during the week. So I varied things a bit by cooking asparagus, yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and portabello mushrooms in olive oil, butter, and a touch of lemon juice. Only the asparagus and carrots came from our garden, but it was good enough that both of us had it again for lunch the next day. The carrots are from last year's garden, stored all winter in our refrigerator in green bags! I don't know if we just got lucky on the carrots storing, or if the green bags are the wonder they're advertised to be.

Getting back to photos, I did a search last week on Pics4Learning for "asparagus" and came up empty. While I didn't upload the frying pan photo, I did upload four other asparagus shots.

Emerging Asparagus Asparagus ready to pick Asparagus Dark Forest Asparagus patch

While they're not the best of shots, at least the site will have something now for "asparagus" when they get them reviewed and posted in a week or so. I really liked the feathery seedling photo at the far left and the ground level shot of our asparagus patch. But that's just me.

Several years after launching Educators' News, I decided to share some of my better photos for others to use as wallpapers or Desktop Photos on their computers. My photos lean toward nature shots and sunsets a bit, but may be useful for classroom use as well. But they are a bit unusual, sometimes.

Japanese Beetle

The "use" statement at the top of the Desktop Photos page is pretty clear:

All photos on this page are copyrighted, but may be used for desktop photos without permission or payment. All other use requires prior consent, massive royalty payments, your left pinkie finger... (Actually, I'm a pretty soft touch on non-commercial use of my photos. Just , please.)

And if you're not going to publish your classroom stuff and need to use one of my images, I'll never know. Smile

Desktop Photos

A Perfect Record Shattered

White House ResponseAfter any number of snail mail letters and emails to the President and Secretary of Education, my perfect record of never getting a response has been absolutely shattered. The email form letter shown at right (click on it for a readable version) arrived in my "In Box" at 5:35 P.M. (EST) on Friday.

I'm somewhat encouraged that the White House has now at least acknowledged my latest message to them about education "reform." It may just be that the White House is now in re-election mode and responding to letters and emails has become more of a priority in the effort to get the President re-elected.

The email/letter was sent in response to a scathing message I sent about the President's duplicity in saying one thing about too much standardized testing (concerning his children), and his Department of Education's policy of doing exactly the opposite (concerning our children). The response from the White House did not address any of the issues I raised about the President and Secretary of Education's misguided plan to continue pushing teacher evaluations based on more high stakes testing and closing neighborhood schools in favor of potentially for-profit charter schools, but instead highlighted Secretary Duncan's misguided initiative to turn school funding into a series of contests.

As I wrote a year ago in the editorial, They're Not Listening, "I really didn't expect either President Obama or Arne Duncan to pick up the phone and call me to get the straight stuff on education." When I sent my first message long, long ago, I had hoped for some kind of response from a staffer that came close to addressing my concerns. None came.

I asked in my most recent email to the White House:

When will the President address the underlying issues of communities in poverty that are the primary factor in student learning? Placing the blame on teachers and schools is dishonest and unfair.

The response from the White House contained a sound bite that danced around the issue, but provided no real answer:

A child's education does not begin and end with a school bell, and responsibility must extend beyond a school's walls. Our future success depends on a greater level of engagement between parents, communities, and schools on behalf of children.

The question remains, and the education of our children hangs in the balance.

Oops, It's Important!

I left out a very important event for teachers on our last Looking Ahead section. Secretary's Day falls this year on Wednesday, April 27. If I were making a list of school employees I want "on my side," school secretaries, custodians, and school nurses would all probably rank above school superintendent and principal!

Odds 'n' Ends

Robert King added another good column yesterday to his series about the kindergartners at Indianapolis Public School 61. Talk about progress deals with teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) kindergartners. He tells that IPS has nearly 3,900 students (about 12%) "who show up for school speaking 46 languages, but little or no English." Most speak Spanish, but there are also students who speak only French, Russian, German, Chinese, Yoruba, Dinka, Urdu, Swahili or Gujarati. He relates that instruction of the students is assisted by an ESL teacher and a Spanish speaking teaching assistant, but that it often is sink or swim for the kids. He also notes that kindergartners do better than older, new, non-English speaking students at picking up English, sometimes quickly outperforming some of their native English speaking peers.

The complete list of King's articles appears in our Educators' News Archive.

The headline for Sharon Otterman's Incoming Schools Chancellor Seeks Calmer Debate seems to promise some moderation from the new New York City Schools Chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott. But when one reads her piece, it appears Walcott is saying some of the right things while still plowing ahead with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's business oriented school "reform" plan.

  • "On teacher layoffs, Mr. Walcott said he would continue Mr. Bloomberg’s push to overturn a law requiring layoffs by seniority."
  • Walcott defended the value of standardized tests, while offering what appeared to be lip service to "the need for a broad curriculum, not one based only on test preparation."
  • "On charter schools, Mr. Walcott said opponents had to understand that the real issue was parental choice, a mantra of the charter school movement."

Otterman notes that Walcott emphasized his role as a listener, "a sort of listener in chief," who plans "to visit so many schools that the city’s reporters would have to wear track shoes to keep up."

Many of us still remember the President and Secretary of Education's much heralded Listening and Learning Tour, where neither one listened nor learned much from students, parents, and teachers about what it's going to take to improve our nation's schools. If they would actually listen, there are many qualified folks in the field, not people who are trying to make a buck and/or a name on education "reform," who could help them formulate a plan to improve schools that has a chance of success. Joanne Yatvin's An unorthodox school reform blueprint might be an excellent place for them to start listening and learning.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker testified in Washington, D.C., on Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Capital Times associate editor John Nichols tells in Walker admits it’s all about union busting of Walker's response to some tough questioning from Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Nichols writes of the exchange:

"Your proposal would require unions to hold annual votes to continue representing their own members. Can you please explain to me and members of this committee how much money this provision saves for your state budget?" asked Kucinich.

Walker tried to avoid the question.

Kucinich pressed him. "Did you answer the questions?" the congressman asked. "How much money does it save, Governor?"

A reluctant Walker finally responded: "It doesn’t save any."

Dave Mosher brings us up to date on anti-science bills around the country in 7 Science-Education Battlegrounds of 2011. Mosher covers pending and sometimes dead legislation in Tennessee, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. I'm a person of faith, but like many science teachers around the country, I don't have a problem with the theories of evolution, the big bang, etc.. That appears to be what scientific research supports. My God is big enough that He/She could have used the big bang and evolution in the creation of the universe and man. For Him to have done so doesn't denigrate God, but merely shows His glory.

And Michael Winerip's In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education lists the private schools attended by some of the biggest movers and shakers in the current education "reform" movement. Don't be put off as you begin to read his article. Winerip's sarcasm takes a bit of time to brew.

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Earth Day 2011Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Interesting Spoof

Valerie Strauss today shares a research spoof from Education Tweak, an irregularly published PDF newsletter, Teacher Effectiveness Linked to Height — Stunning report. While funny, I actually liked the second and considerably more irreverent story from EdTweak's current issue (392K PDF document) a bit more, Governor Walker Says He Did It To Impress Michelle Rhee. A more serious, but rather whiny guest posting on The Answer Sheet blog carries information about a report by the Educational Testing Service of "16 variables that impact student achievement," most beyond teacher control.

Diane on the Cathie Black Debacle

Diane Ravitch's What Did We Learn From the Cathie Black Debacle today on she and Deborah Meier's Bridging Differences blog is possibly one of her best postings ever. Diane blasts Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his selection of Cathie Black for NYC Schools Chancellor and in a wonderful exercise in sarcasm, "lauds" the Mayor's choice for a replacement, Dennis M. Walcott: "Unlike Black, who had no experience or qualifications whatever, Walcott had spent 18 months teaching kindergarten in a daycare center many years ago."

The Morning After

Wet! Wet! Wet!Cold, dark, & wetWhile yesterday's posting carried the title "Anniversary Edition," today's could easily be called "The Morning After" edition. It's dark, rainy, and cold outside this morning with the regional radar suggesting only the dark and possibly the cold will improve any time soon. After working all weekend on our Anniversary Edition, I planted potatoes yesterday afternoon instead of looking for cool technology tools and interesting education stories for today's EdNews. Other than Diane Ravitch's delightful posting, there's not much going on out there in education news today. That may well be a good thing, as my wonderful wife, Annie, took me out to dinner last night to celebrate ten years of my neglecting her and other responsibilities to work on Educators' News. I enjoyed lots of liquid painkiller refreshment to ease my aching back (remember, potato planting?). Hence, the Morning After edition.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Houston Handgun Incident

Juan A. Lozano relates in Kindergartner brings gun to Texas school, 3 hurt that three kindergartners sustained non-life-threatening injuries when a loaded handgun fell out of a student's pocket and discharged Tuesday at a Houston elementary school. He writes that "all three children were in stable condition and seemed to be in good spirits at Texas Children's Hospital.

In a related story, Emily Lumina shares some views about Education Changes After Columbine Tragedy Source of Security, Terror.

Brizard to Head Chicago Schools

It appears there will be no honeymoon period in the press for Jean-Claude Brizard, Rahm Emanuel's choice for Chicago Schools CEO. Maybe it's just the news sources I visit, but no one had much nice to say about Brizard. Failing finding a nice article, I settled for a biting but coherent one from the Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn, Our kind of guy to lead Chicago schools. He wrote:

Can Rochester, N.Y., superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard pad a payroll? Skirt the rules? Spend frivolously? Distort statistics to make himself look good? Infuriate his constituents with a high-handed style?

Check, check, check, check and check.

Wow!

On the Blogs

I haven't done this section in a while, but always enjoy visiting the blogs of teachers still in the classroom. They have a special perspective on kids and education that can be inspiring, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking.

Of all the blogs I visit, Mike Doyle's Science Teacher consistently entertains me and usually is an uplifting experience. In a recent posting, Fear, fatigue, and failure, he moves from writing about digging clams and fixing his clam rake to eating overwintered kale and brussels sprouts, followed by schools in crisis and teacher professionalism. He worries about how his students, fatigued from the rigorous school year, will do on the big tests. And he winds up talking about a robin's egg he found in his garden. That's a lot of territory to cover, but when you read his blog, it all fits

Teachermandc wistfully asks, Who’s Looking Out for Tiffany? Tiffany was a neighborhood friend of his daughter, left behind in the old neighborhood in an underperforming school. Teachermandc moved his family (twice) to find the right school for his children. He asks what happens to those children whose families lack the wherewithall and/or motivation to seek out a better learning situation.

Mrs. Lipstick, along with several of my other favorite teacher bloggers, is expecting this year, so her delightful postings on Organized Chaos are a bit less frequent. But she has one that will have you laughing if you've ever had that special, active child to monitor, teach, protect, and discipline on a trip to the zoo (or...wherever). We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, How about you, you, you... is a great read.

Getting a bit into the political spectrum, Tim Furman moves outside his typical School TechConnect themes in The New Soft Bigotry. Furman shares his views and his outrage at the recent revelation that many of the movers and shakers in the school "deform" movement never attended a public school.

This edition of On the Blogs is pretty brief. A few of my favorite bloggers have just quit posting without explanation. (That happens, sometimes.) Others are so heavily into local and national politics about school "reform," I find their writing a downer. (EdNews is guilty of that one, too.) Sadly, several others have "gone Hollywood," writing about making presentations here and there or linking to their postings on other, national publications to the exclusion of writing about their kids. Presenting and writing professionally can be a big rush. I've done both, but teaching (in a good situation) is far more satisfying. It's really easy to slide into self-promotion when presenting and/or writing.

Weather RadarThis section was written Tuesday night as a wide band of strong thunderstorms rolled in. Warning sirens from the nearby Merom Generating Station interrupted my writing as Annie and I headed for the basement (while it hailed outside for several minutes). When the sirens ceased their wailing, I finished up to the sound of a strong, but not damaging thunderstorm.

Annie's mom had called earlier from western Illinois to warn us of the severity of the band of storms. They had golf ball sized hail in their area. Ours was only pea sized! But there are a lot of folks around the country who've suffered mightily from the recent spate of severe storms.

Indiana - Another One Bites the Dust

With apologies to Queenicon for using their line, Indiana is joining the list of states to limit teacher bargaining. Indiana bill on teacher union rights heads to Governor tells that the bill to restrict Indiana teachers' collective bargaining rights to wages and wage-related benefits has now passed both houses and goes to the Governor for certain approval. The AP's Deanna Martin relates that this bill is just "the first part of Republican Governor Mitch Daniels' sweeping education agenda to make it to the governor's desk." Still to come are school vouchers, greatly expanded charter schools, and merit pay with a state recommended evaluation program.

30 Easter Egg Tulips, $30

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, HST!

Rose of GalaxiesWe're a few days early on this one, but since the event date falls over the weekend, here goes!

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched April 24, 1990, from the space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-31. Its discoveries have revolutionized astronomical research. "To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's deployment into space, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, pointed Hubble's eye at an especially photogenic pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disk that is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said of the event:

For 21 years, Hubble has profoundly changed our view of the universe, allowing us to see deep into the past while opening our eyes to the majesty and wonders around us. I was privileged to pilot space shuttle Discovery as it deployed Hubble. After all this time, new Hubble images still inspire awe and are a testament to the extraordinary work of the many people behind the world's most famous observatory.

Great Space Puzzles from Melissa & Doug

Space Voyage Jigsaw Puzzle Solar System Floor Puzzle

Image links above are to Amazon.com.

April Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight - Tomorrow Morning

Space.com columnist Joe Rao relates in April Meteor Shower May Be Outshined by the Moon that viewing conditions for the April 16-25 Lyrid Meteor Shower may be spoiled by the Moon in its waning gibbous phase (approximately 68 percent illuminated). That's too bad, as Rao says "The April Lyrids have been described as 'brilliant and fairly fast,'" often leaving "a shining trail behind it for a few moments."

A Stellarium representation allowed me to look ahead at the conditions for viewing the shower (early Friday morning):

Lyrid's source

SpaceWeather.com adds some background about the shower:

Lyrid meteors appear to stream from the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra.

The true source of the shower is Comet Thatcher. Every year in April, Earth plows through Thatcher's drawn-out dusty tail. Flakes of comet dust, most no bigger than grains of sand, strike Earth's atmosphere traveling 49 km/s (110,000 mph) and disintegrate as streaks of light--meteors!

Meteor Showers Online has a good page on the Lyrids. And Skyscrapers, Inc. (The Amateur Astronomical Society of Rhode Island) has a great listing of all the meteor showers for this year.

Even with the moonlight issues, I may be laying on a blanket in the yard early tomorrow morning!

New Series on the Planets

Scientific ExplorerScience Girl has started a new series on her Scientific Explorer blog, Secrets of the Solar System. Her most recent posting, Mercury, hints than she plans to cover all the planets (and possibly some stuff in between and beyond). Her coverage is complete, but probably intended for a high school audience.

Note: If you're looking for something a little more elementary on the planets, check out the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Welcome to the Planets site. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was still teaching, I made up a set of worksheets for my special ed kids to go along with the original Welcome to the Planets CD. They're a bit dated now, but still available for download on our Freebies page.

Community Schools

Today's posting was shaping up to be Space Day come early until I found an excellent column on Education Week about the schools in Evansville, Indiana, making good use of community resources to improve their students' lives. Mary Ann Zehr writes in School's a Community Effort in Indiana District:

Within just a couple of days last month, a nearby Wal-Mart store agreed to a request from one of Ms. Johnson’s staff members to pay for shampoo to help a family get rid of head lice, a representative of a local women’s shelter agreed to counsel students involved in texting or receiving nude photos, and a social worker for a public-health organization offered to find someone to chat with a parent about the side effects of medicine being considered to help her son stay focused in the classroom.

Zehr also tells about how the Evansville Vanderburgh Schools have enlisted "churches, social service agencies, nonprofit community groups, and other local organizations" to "built a web of support to nurture schoolchildren across the entire district from 'diaper to diploma.'" She also notes that the system has won some serious federal assistance for their efforts, including being part of the federal Full-Service Community Schools Program. "The 23,000-student Evansville Vanderburgh system was one of 11 school districts that received grants from the $10 million competition for that program in fiscal 2010. The Evansville grant is for $2.5 million over five years."

Earth Day Tomorrow

Earth DayIf you're looking for some last minute classroom Earth Day activities for tomorrow, here a few links:

I also ran across a page of Earth Day images this morning on MyCommentCodes. I'm going to stick my neck out and use one at right, but I do wonder about copyrights on the images. Any use you might make of the images on teacher-made worksheets and such should qualify as "fair use."

Odds 'n' Ends

Kids doing floor puzzleThe image in the Lyrids section above came from a screenshot in Stellarium. Stellarium is a free, open source planetarium program, available for Macintosh, Windows, and Linux. It's one of those things you really should have on your hard drive for times when students ask, "What was the bright star in the sky around xx P.M. last night?" It only took a few minutes to set Stellarium to the date and time I wanted and snap the screenshot. I cleaned it up a bit in Photoshop and used the Mac-only GraphicConverter to add the arrows (easier to do in GraphicConverter than Photoshop).

When I was writing the Hubble section a couple of days ago, I thought about how cool it would be if I could find an HST floor puzzle or jigsaw. I didn't find one, but did find the Melissa & Doug brand puzzles shown above that seemed appropriate.

Floor puzzles were a real lifesaver the last year I taught. I'd chosen to take the K-3 section when my K-6 special ed room was split into two sections because of way too many kids with way too many exceptionalities. As with most activities with my kids, anything you wanted them to do, you really needed to teach them how to do. So I spent several enjoyable periods on the floor with them doing mostly Melissa & Doug floor puzzles. Later, they were able to do them independently as individuals or small groups. (We had a lot of floor puzzles.)

And although it's become common to see recognizable student images on teacher blogs in recent years, I still can't bring myself to do so. I've used smileys to obscure the faces of the kids facing the camera. The one girl who isn't facing the camera is the subject of what I wrote in my online bio:

What it doesn't tell about is seeing the moment when a child finally comprehends that those black ink splotches are letters with sounds that make words with meaning. On days like that, teaching is the greatest job in the world.

I hope you're having a day that feels like that.

Friday, April 22, 2011 - Earth Day

Earth Day Photos

Sometimes it's hard to know what to publish here on Educators' News on occasions such as Earth Day. I decided yesterday that I'd share a few warm, earthy photos from our free Desktop Photos page. Each photo is linked to a larger image, but you can access a variety of sizes on the Desktop Photos page. I hope you enjoy them.

Hummingbird

Mist on reservoir

Apple Blossom
Sunburst
Mourning dove
Sunset
Sunflower
Another sunset
Gloxinia blooms

A Political Comment from EPI

Just from the images above, one might say that they are blessed just to be alive in a world of such beauty. I've been blessed in many, many ways. Even with the growing aches, pains, memory lapses, and other problems of aging, I'm fortunate that I when work pretty well dried up for me, I had a small teacher's pension and Social Security to fall back on. That way, I could be retired instead of unemployed.

An email yesterday from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) contained a reminder of some of the disturbing things currently going on in our nation's capital. It also contained the "short, humorous video" embedded at right, Work 'Til We Die, released by Strengthen Social Security, a coalition EPI helped found. The text of the email read in part:

Want to work ’til you die? Right now, politicians of both parties in Washington want to make you work until you are 69 or 70 before you can retire and collect Social Security, which you pay for.

Not only that, but Republicans in the House of Representatives recently passed the Ryan budget plan, which would turn Medicare over to insurance companies and give seniors a voucher to buy their own health coverage – costing them $6,000 more a year when fully phased in. And the Republican plan would raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, from 65 today.

My wife, Annie, is almost ten years younger than I. While I'll be grandfathered in (in more ways than one - eight grandchildren to date) on Social Security, she will probably have to work until...she drops? That certainly won't be true for Congressman Paul Ryan and other leaders in Washington pushing these proposals. Annie has faithfully paid into the system, but may run out of years before she ever collects a dime in Social Security. That's not fair!

No one wants to pay more taxes, but we do have important programs to support. Here in Indiana, Governor Daniels' property tax "reforms" have made funding for Indiana's schools and cities a disaster. Looking at what I "saved" in property taxes under the Gov's cuts, I'd gladly give it back and more to have decent roads, fire and police protection, and adequately funded schools. But, of course, Mitch is rich and has no empathy for those his policies so severely impact. And...he wants to run for President.

The Republican War on Education

The ProgressiveOur May issue of The Progressive came in the mail on Wednesday. Just the cover art of this one issue is worth the subscription price to me. It depicts an elephant with a burning torch burning books and a schoolhouse! Once inside, Ruth Conniff's excellent feature story, The Republican War on Education (excerpt), tells it like it is. She writes, "On education, money is lined up against students, teachers, and local communities - from the inner city to little farm towns."

Sadly, I haven't found any online access to the article for non-subscribers. The good news is that a year's subscription runs just $14.97. Of course, while the late Senator Everett Dirksen was famous for the statement, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money," for most of us, $14.97 here and $14.97 there...is real butter and egg money! Interestingly, the Dirksen Center says its archivists "found no evidence that Dirksen ever uttered the phrase popularly attributed to him." How sad. It was such a great "quote."

Update: The Republican War on Education is now available free online from The Progressive.

Amazon iconMammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys Teachers!

Walt Gardner is on a bit of a roll on his Reality Check blog, with an excellent posting on Wednesday, Why Become a Teacher Today? I had reason to contact Walt yesterday, and he wrote back, saying, "When people are anxious, they look for scapegoats.  Teachers (and other public sector employees) serve that purpose so well." He also added, "On Friday, I write about what I believe is a preview of the educational landscape of the future." I'm afraid we may need to change the words of the popular Ed Bruce/Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson country hit to "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Teachers!"

There goes another 99¢ on iTunes.

Ramblings of an Old Geezer

I either got inspired or went around the bend a little yesterday and ripped off another column, The Morning After Edition.

Tuesday morning dawned, and I once again started from scratch for the day's posting. I spent over an hour hunting for relevant material, but wrote little. I finally took time out to check the site stats for Monday and was right back where I'd been several months ago asking myself, "Why am I doing this if almost no one reads it?"

Clipped - Snowplows and Education

I ran across this item a couple of days ago when trying to find a link I'd posted long ago. It comes from the February 17, 2003, posting of Educators' News. While our snowplows are gone for now, I think the message still rings true. I just wish our President, Secretary of Education, Governor in Indiana, and other "reformers" could get the message:

Anne, Julia, and I were on our way home from Terre Haute to rural Sullivan county yesterday in a storm that had ranged in two days from rain to sleet to snow. I thought to myself, "Where is the highway department?" Visibility was terrible. The roads had a layer of ice covered by drifting snow. As we drove on, I saw the flashing yellow lights of a snowplow ahead. We were actually following the snowplow! The highway department was there and had been there, according to news reports, for some time. They simply were overwhelmed with the severity of the storm and were doing the best they could with the tools at hand under conditions over which they had no control.

I think the general public is in much the same position on education as I was about the highway department. They really don't see much of what we do. Our task is so overwhelming at times, it appears we have accomplished little when we're putting forth a tremendous effort...doing the best we can with the tools at hand under conditions over which we have little control.

I shared the clip yesterday with our President and Indiana's Governor.

I do hope you can put aside all the craziness in education "reform" for the weekend and enjoy yourself.

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