Change of Address

Teaching and Technology will soon be moving to its own domain!

You’ve probably noticed a few changes on the blog already – a new header image, some deletion of unremarkable posts, and a rearrangement of categories and pages links.  If you cannot find something, you can use the search box at the top of the blog or comment on this post.

The Facebook page has also been renamed “Teaching & Technology” but for right now, the address is still www.facebook.com/katdavis.net.  Since I can only change the Facebook address once, I am trying not to be hasty changing it.

Keep on the lookout for more changes!

Solidarity

Today I wore red.  Tomorrow I’ll probably wear red again.  I support Michigan teachers.

To preface: I am only just beginning my student teaching.  I’ve never joined a union; however, I know plenty of hard-working people who are union members.

I do not have the perspective of years of experience.  One could argue that I “don’t know what I’m talking about”.  But, I am a Michigan resident and a US citizen and I have a right to my voice.  I may not be the loudest; I may not have the best argument; however I will stand up for the public school teacher and the students of Michigan.

There are worse things in Michigan right now than unions.  Unions do have some positives.  They help protect its workers through contract negotiation and represent its members when negative circumstances arise. Unfortunately, society does not function within the perfect confines of “in theory”.  There is corruption.  There are disagreements.  Unions are not exempt from these issues.  Concessions that one person is willing to give up in favor of something else may not align with every union member.

The purpose of this blog is not political—you won’t find me ranting and raving over my personal, political beliefs here—but, this is an education blog and the Right to Work legislation in Michigan does have a large impact on public education.

I support the Taylor and Warren Consolidated School Districts in their shut down.  Teachers are giving up a personal day (a precious commodity) to go to Lansing to protest in order to stand up for the rights of a good, public education for their students.

The teachers may or may not be successful in Lansing, but they are proving to their students that what they teach in the classroom, what they read in the textbooks, and what they study/memorize for standardized exams has practical applications in the real world.  Students need to see these real world applications far more often than reading and annotating books.  A good education isn’t just about memorizing data that’s already been written, but analyzing the past and the present in order to apply it to the future.

What are the students in the Taylor and Warren Consolidated School Districts learning on December 11?  Students are learning that their teachers are willing to stand up for them.  Students are learning that civil disobedience is the answer and not violence.  Students are learning that marching, protesting, and civil disobedience wasn’t just a one time thing that occurred during “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time”.  Students are seeing connections from their textbooks to the digital media that they are so engrossed in.  Students are learning that self-sacrifice may be necessary to make a point.  Students are learning that it’s not always about the individual, but about the betterment of a group.  Students are learning that when we stand together as one, we are a force to be reckoned with.

I don’t know what will happen after the sun sets on Dec. 11.  What I do know is that the sun will rise again on Dec. 12 (it will be 12-12-12!).  I have no idea how long this economic slump will last, but somehow, someway, sometime, the United States will recover.  I may have to adjust my perspective, my methods, and my location, but I will never adjust my goal of educating others.

And I think nearly every teacher will agree with me: being a teacher is not just a job, not just a passion, but rather it is a calling that we feel we must do despite the odds.

National Banned Books Week

September 30-October 6 is National Banned Books Week.  And although it may seem like a ruse by English teachers to force students into reading “old” or “classic” books that appear to have surpassed their societal relevance, it most definitely is more than that.  This week is about celebrating the freedom to read and drawing attention to the problem of censorship.

Banned (or challenged) books are books that have come under controversy for their content.  Someone somewhere did not approve of the story line, the symbolism, or the underlying message written on the pages.  That person found some friends that agreed with them and essentially, made a stink about it.  People have complained to the media, to online forums, to school boards, and curriculum directors that not only should this book not be taught in school, but it should be eliminated from existence.

Any district can remove a book from their curriculum, however, only the official complaints to the American Library Association or articles from newspapers determine if a book should be put on the “banned book” list.  Books are only put on the list after they’ve received so many complaints (more info on how the list is tabulated).  But its listing doesn’t make the book, reading book, possession of the book, or the teaching of the book illegal.  The banned book list is artificial.  It doesn’t mean much.  In fact, there isn’t even one list.

The American Library Association has several types of lists available depending on years, race of the author, book title, and more.  One list is a PDF of Books Banned or Challenged in 2010-2011 that includes such books as The Hunger Games, Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank), and The Koran with explanations of who challenged them and for what reason.  I wasn’t surprised by some of the classics, but definitely by The Hunger Games.  Another one of their lists, the Banned and Challenged Classics has many books that most people know to be as the banned book list.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has a PDF list on their website entitled Challenged Books from 2004-2011.  It seems they’ve listed nearly every books that has some literary content and worthy of study in an English class.  Books such as Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and Hamlet(yes, Shakespeare!) are listed amongst Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Lovely Bones, and A Christmas Carol.

People will continue to object to books as long as authors continually exercise their right to free speech and freedom of the press.  Books that make readers think, reflect, and change their mind on how they view the world will always have to fight against those who want to control the message. How influential are they?  The Library of Congress has assembled a list of Banned Books That Shaped America (published on www.bannedbooksweek.org).

Students are always asking, “why do I have to learn this?” or “why do I need to read this?”  Sometimes, the questions need to be, “why can’t I read this?” or “how will I change by reading this?”.  I’m all for trash novels that keep people reading or motivating them to walk into a bookstore (or whatever method of obtaining books they prefer), but there are books people need to read because that author had something to say.  And 50, 100, 400 years later, that message still is important.

So this week, go read some Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, or Mark Twain.  You could also read The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), 1984 (George Orwell), Catch-22 (Joseph Heller), The Jungle (Upton Sinclair), A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), or even The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien).

And if you really like one, there is a website, OutofPrintClothing.com where you can buy shirts inspired by classic book covers.

Lastly, dare others to read banned books with website badges and Facebook cover art.

But don’t let me tell you what to read or not to read, go find out what these rebels with a cause wrote about.  I triple-dog dare you.

 

 

Redesigned Layout for Teaching & Technology

It has always bothered me that the theme I loved the most for this blog took about 20 seconds to fully load.  Most people do not want to wait that long.  But I just could not give up the design.  Behold!  I found a new theme that enables so many customizations that with a few saved images, some combining in Photoshop, and a few hours later…presto!  I have a similar look to the blog, but it takes 2 seconds to load.  I am quite happy I was able to keep the elements I most desperately wanted and dump those I did not.  I still might do some minor tweaking of course…it’s just my nature!

Another new addition to the blog is a Resources page.  There you will find links to all sorts of education related material, from lesson plans and videos to Web 2.0 tools.  If you have a resource you would like included, you can comment on the page, email me, or post on my Facebook timeline.

Oh and one last thing, the most frequently visited post is 1895 8th Grade Exam: True or False.  Have you seen that?  Don’t forget to check out the Answers to the 8th Grade Exam as well.

Malware Noticed Removed

In case you have not yet noticed – the malware notice on katdavis.net has been removed.  Thank you Johnathan from GoDaddy who answered the phone and helped me identify the .php files.  GoDaddy also did a virus scan of the site and found some bad files in my wordpress database.  Most likely, a bad plugin update.  Everything is back up working great and clean!

Malware Attacked katdavis.net

My website was hacked :(  It took me about two weeks to finally understand why Google Adwords had suspended my account and the several emails I received about my website being malicious.  Unfortunately I had contacted both GoDaddy AND Google Adword to figure out what was going on and all I received back was some canned responses.  I finally had enough today when I went to click on my website access Moodle and a warning page popped up that the site has been found to be an attack page.  I called GoDaddy and worked with the guy to find some .php files I didn’t recongize and so I deleted them.  I uploaded a fresh copy of my files from my hard drive and submitted my site to Google to review and take off the malicious warning.  Still waiting…but it’s only been 5 hours.

Luckily I don’t collect private data from anyone so no one’s identity was comprimised.  I don’t really have anything worth stealing – perhaps some documents on Moodle or my blog posts.  I’ve had the domain since May 2005 and the hosting at GoDaddy for 3 years.  Eventually I was bound to be hacked – but the timing isn’t good – I’ve just distributed fliers for tutoring this summer and seeing that sign would be terrible.

Technology and the Death of Bin Laden

Last September 11 I wrote a blog entry about my memories of that fateful day in 2001.  I was in a classroom – and I heard the news of the attacks via technology.  My principal used a PA system, my teacher turned on CNN, and through the use of video cameras I saw the towers fall.

The whole tragedy was masterminded by one evil man, Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda.  For years he taunted the American people from the mountains of Pakistan by releasing videos to media outlets.  And it was technology that aided a small group of American soldiers to find and kill Osama Bin Laden.

Using satellite technology, President Obama addressed the nation and the world in a live press conference.  Simultaneously, the announcement was streamed live on various news websites.

I, along with many friends I know, flooded the social networking sites of Facebook and Twitter to share our thoughts and feelings as the news progressed.  I couldn’t keep up my comments fast enough!  I am very happy Osama Bin Laden is dead.  In my mind, it is 9 years, 7 months, and 20 days overdue.  But unfortunately, this doesn’t mean the war is over.  Like a poorly written essay, there is no objective that will define the end of the war.  There are just rambling run-on sentences about Osama Bin Laden, weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein, freedom, eradicating dictatorships, democracy, oil prices, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, etc.  But I am very proud to be an American today, celebrating a monumental achievement that will alter the course of the war.  And I am also proud that I have the freedom to express myself and not live under tyranny.

Technology facilitated the nearly instantaneous transmission of events that are occurring/occurred.  No more than 30 years ago I would have had to wait until I saw the paper Monday morning.  Instead, I got to watch the address to the nation rather than hear someone reporting on it.

I can’t wait to see what new technologies will develop in the coming years.

Judgement Day: MTTC Exams

The new semester began last Tuesday.  I am looking forward to some of the projects and readings this semester.  A bit intense, but not as much as the previous semester.  I have enough  reading and writing in both languages to keep my busy.  Freelance work too.

So here is how it all went down:

6am – Crawl out of bed.  Notice the sun is not up yet.  This is a depressing start.

7am – Arrive at Hart Middle School.  English exam up first.

7:15am – Find classroom. Two pieces of ID checked, signature, and a thumbprint to prove I’m me.

8am – “You may begin now”

8:20am – Nearly fall asleep at desk.  This is going to be a long day.  Take a min to rest, then continued with renewed alertness.

10:34am – 100 multiple choice questions mostly centered on writing, some on literature and I’m done.  Freezing and starving, I head out to lunch.

10:45am – Arrive at Panera.  Broccoli and cheddar soup, hot chocolate.  Mmm

11:15am – iPad studying the history and culture of Spain.

12:45pm – Head back to Hart.  Not looking forward to this Spanish exam.

1pm – Two pieces of ID checked (again), signature (again), and a thumbprint to prove I’m me (again).

1:05pm – Notice I know a few people from school – go over to chat about classes.  Overhear that many people are taking this test for the second or third time.  Say it’s rare for someone to pass on their first try.  I hear it has nearly nothing to do with Spanish language and all about minor cultural details that are not taught in any Spanish program.  I get discouraged, head to my desk.  Begin to freeze.

1:45pm – “You may begin now” (again).  Taped recording won’t start.  Confusion lasts a minute, then it’s on.  I have trouble hearing words in the passages and am not entirely sure I’m answering the questions correctly.

2:05pm – Commence multiple choice section.  Very confused – I didn’t know I had to memorize the dictionary, what are these words?

3pm – Very frustrated.  I have never learned this stuff about foreign language standards, which period did Person X write in, or which countries Spanish is an official language (apparently it is not in Belize).

3:15pm – Begin to doubt 3/4 of the Spanish department at the local high school could pass this test.  So random and obscure facts that are not needed to teach intro to Spanish.  Recall hearing that most schools in MI won’t let you teach in your minor – not qualified enough.  Very frustrated I’m torturing myself for nothing.

4pm – Realize my neck is not sore for sitting here for hours taking a test, instead, I’ve got a migraine.  Great.  Just peachy.

5:12pm – Done.  Spent nearly 7 hours (not including breaks) on testing today.  Way too cold, head throbs way too much, and blood sugar is dropping fast.

5:30pm – Startbucks.  Venti hot chocolate, no whip, slice of banana bread.  Munch in car while waiting for the hot chocolate to melt the ice chunks in my blood.

5:45pm – Home.  Frustrated and angry that I don’t believe I passed the Spanish exam, but happy I think I passed the English.  Homework will have to wait, I am exhausted.

Here’s to hoping I’m an insanely good player of eeny-meany-miney- mo with a side of educated guess.  Will know my scores on February 4.

Sleep, homework all day Sunday, then its time for more class on Monday.

September 11, 2001

Nine years ago I was in high school.  It was just another day in September.  My first period was marching band and second period was writing lab with Mr. Frank.  He was the Latin teacher who had been with the district nearly 60 years.  He didn’t really like teaching 10th grade Writing Lab, but it was his only section.  Shortly after 8:00 our principal interrupted classes and told the teachers to check their email.  Mr. Frank hated interruptions (I found that one out later when I broke my ankle a month later), but he did without a question.  My friend, Matt, who sat behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “This is something really bad, I can just feel it”.  He was right.  Mr. Frank gave us no preamble, just turned on CNN.  My jaw dropped to see a smoldering Tower and chaos in Manhattan.

A code yellow was issued for the school, which meant we were in a semi-lock-down mode, but could move about the building.  At the time, several companies world headquarters were within miles of my high school and no one knew where the next target may be.   I was numb that day.  Most of us were.  Teachers gave worksheets as optional to give us something to do if we needed busywork or gave us a forum to talk, or helped us any way they could.

I saw live on CNN one of the towers fall.  I heard the camera crew and news anchors cry out in disbelief when they were caught off-guard.  It just crumbled.  A 100+ story building that took months to build, reinforced with rebar, full of people…it just collapsed.  I couldn’t speak, I just pointed to the TV.

Around lunch time I heard about a plane crashing into the Pentagon.  That was even harder to accept.  The Twin Towers, a terrorist attack, it kills a lot of people.  But the Pentagon…then I began to see it was an attack on our country, our government, our people, our beliefs.  And my head swarmed with thoughts.  What have we done that made someone so angry that would concoct such an idea?  Who would have agreed?  Who would have followed through and flown a plane into the tower?

I don’t exactly know when I heard about United 93.  I believe it was in the afternoon when the police connected the plane crash to the terrorist plot.  Those people are heroes.  They took back the plane and crashed it, knowing all possible outcomes involves their deaths, but they weren’t going to let the plane crash into the White House or take anymore live than who were on that plane.

And bringing this all back to teaching…terrorism in schools occurs too.  I’ve seen Micheal Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine.  It’s one of my favorite documentaries.  What type of courage will I have if faced in that situation?  I really have no idea.  I think it’s a gut reaction.  It’s in the moment.  You don’t plan or prepare for bravery (well, unless you’re an officer), for many, it’s a split second decision.  And if I’m ever in that situation, I hope I choose wisely.  That’s the best I can do.

I will never forget September 11, 2001.  I honor the brave men and women of rescue teams that saved as many as they could and who perished attempting to save more people.  I honor those who died on 9/11/01 or thereafter due to injuries or side effects.  And I hope those saw some second chances at life, used those second chances to the best of their abilities.

Introduction to Teaching & Technology

Re-examining one’s life though soul searching and academic assessment is best done before attending a post-secondary education institution.  I earned a bachelor’s degree in what I love – writing.  A jack-of-all-trades degree in a demanding field had endless possibilities.  Six years after I made that decision – 2 years since I graduated – the type of job I want do not exist or are dwindling faster and faster.  My degree allows me to work in public relations departments, a part of my degree I thrived in – but with budget cuts, the in-house public relations team will always be on the chopping block and include high stress in small groups.  I don’t want my work rushed because management feels an in-house marketing team should be able to create marketing material in half the time because they work in-house.

With my job outlook waning, I decided now would be the best time to earn a master’s degree.  Numerous friends, family, and acquaintances encouraged me to think about a career in teaching.  And so I thought, looked at the master’s program and the nearest university, and decided it was a route I wanted to take.  However, my bachelor’s degree did not meet state requirements to earn a master’s in teaching.  For a year I am taking classes in English and Spanish to meet state requirements before I enter the master’s in teaching program at Oakland University (Rochester, MI) in the fall of 2011.  After student teaching in the spring of 2013 I will have earned teaching certificate.  I will take 2 more classes to earn my master’s degree.  My prerequisite classes are through two online distance learning programs – 1 at Rio Salado College in Tempe, AZ, and 1 at University of Indiana.  I also will take classes at Oakland University and the local community college.

This blog will encompass my experiences and reflections on my road to becoming a teacher, my thoughts and opinions on literature I read, and discussions on education in the news.  I encourage you to share this blog, suggest items to be discussed, and communicate with me about your experiences.  My goal as a teacher is to infuse technology and pop culture to assist in teaching English and Spanish to high school students.  By using TV shows, movies, the internet, and other technology, I believe I can encourage more students to be passionate about reading stories deemed classics.