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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SpywareBlaster is a program that helps prevent SpyWare from ever being installed on your computer to start with. You are already familiar with SpyBot, which removes SpyBot once it is on your computer.
SpywareBlaster is available for you to install on your computer now. Here are the instructions:
  1. Go to Start and select “My Computer”
  2. Double-click in the G drive
  3. Double-click on the folder called "Stuff"
  4. Double-click on the icon that says “spywareblastersetup”
  5. Accept each of the defaults as presented.
  6. Open the program
  7. Beside “Internet Explorer protection is disabled,” click on “Click here to enable protection.”
  8. Place checkmarks in the two boxes towards the top of the screen. (Preventing Active X controls and ads/cookies).
  9. Click “Protect against checked items.”
  10. Repeat this process for “Restricted Items.”
  11. If you are using Mozilla Firefox, repeat this procedure for it.
  12. Click on “Updates.”
  13. Click on “Check for Updates.”
  14. Click on “Enable Protection for All Unprotected Items.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Announcements and Events

Stupid in America—The show "20/20" recently aired a piece entitled "Stupid in America," which was a very negative portrayal of public education in America. This letter points out the omissions and contradictions of the piece.

Walkie-Talkie—We had a couple of extra Walkie-Talkies that were not being used, and am sending one of those to the kindergarten hall that can be used when you go outside. It doesn't look the best in the world, but I charged it and it did hold a charge for the entire school day.

Six Flags—All 6 Flags participant sheets must be turned in to the homeroom teachers and then to Ms. Watts by Friday, February 24. Because they must be postmarked that weekend, there can be no late entries.

A little shameless self-promotion—I had almost forgotten I had written this and sent it to McGraw-Hill/Glencoe. I actually sent this to them over a year ago.

Next Week
  • Tuesday—Book Fair (5:30)
  • Tuesday—PTO (6:30) followed by Lightspan Orientation
  • Wednesday—David Moesher (Our Xerox rep.) is going to come right after school to give a demo on using the new copier to anyone who would like to attend.
  • Thursday—K-6 teachers meet with Author's Day Committee (2:50) in library.
  • Friday—Recycling
  • Friday—County Spelling Bee
Week After Next
  • Monday—Baymobile
  • Tuesday—Baymobile
  • Tuesday—Science Fair (Dixon)
  • Thursday—I will be in Montgomery for Fine Arts Course of Study

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Something Old, but Nothing New

Having covered lots of ground in our faculty meeting Tuesday, there's little to go over with you here. I hope you are giving thought to some of the questions that you saw flashing on the board when you came in the room. We will be revisiting those ideas in the near future.

You each come to this site weekly, but I wonder to what extent you have really explored what is here. If you haven't done so lately, take a moment to examine the links on the right-hand side of the screen. (The Calendar and Common Documents can be accessed from any computer in the school system, but not from home.) You have a very complete school calendar a mouse-click away without having to truck all the way to the office. (Remember, we are only using the paper calendar in the office to record faculty and staff planned absences.) Please take a moment to scroll from month to month and be sure your personal calendar is not missing something.

Take a look at the Common Documents. If you have not looked at the Faculty Handbook all year simply because nobody has Xeroxed the whole thing and put it in front of you, why not put that on your list of stuff to do. I guarantee you will find information there that you have not seen in previous years (and the list of stuff to add to it for next year is growing). If you are asked for a password when you go to open a document, hit "Cancel," and you should be able to get into it.

Need to look at a Student Handbook? It's there. What about that handout on how to set up a Windows XP machine? Ditto. Need a piece of letterhead? It's there.

Every passing month convinces me more and more that a key element of being productive and as stress-free as possible in the world we live in today is getting comfortable with finding, using, and storing data digitally. At Graham, we are far ahead in this area when compared to so many places, but we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Using "Wait-Time" To Make Questions More Effective

The use of questions is a primary way we interact with learners in both large and small groups. The skillful use of questions not only increases the number of students who participate but also increases their level of thinking. Frequently, teachers ask questions but give learners very little time to think and construct answers. This results in teachers either repeating the question or answering their own questions. A questioning strategy called "wait-time" has been shown to give some amazing results. "Wait-time" is a 3 to 5 second period of silence (silence by the teacher) after he/she asks a question. Educational research has shown that allowing this 3 to 5 second period of silence can give the following results.

  • The number of student responses increases.
  • Students who respond infrequently respond more frequently.
  • The length of student responses increases.
  • The depth of student responses increases.
  • Students respond with more confidence
  • Student-to-student interactions increase.

Well, you may be asking, "If this is so simple and the results so good, why don't more teachers do it?" Answer: Some don't know about it and for those who do, they find it isn't so easy. Teachers seem to have this tendency to fill any silent space in the classroom with some sort of verbalization or with non-verbal cues that communicate that an answer is expected almost immediately. Using wait-time takes a practiced and concentrated effort. One strategy is to ask a question and then not make eye contact with the class such as looking down or making momentary eye contact with a teaching visual (PowerPoint slide) while at the same time saying silently to yourself, "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi."

The above comes from the Forida State University College of Medicine.

Announcements and Events

STI Professional Development—You have done a great job of catching on to the STI Professional Development program. Well over 200 requests have shown up on my screen, all of which I have approved. If you haven’t already done so, you will probably want to add that site to your Favorites list and jot down your username and password somewhere. I keep one list of all of my passwords, account numbers for businesses I deal with, codes and other miscellaneous numbers in one list, and then guard that list with my life. I have added to my repeating task list to check the site each week for training requests to approve. I will also continue to work on figuring out how we can get our workshops on the website so that you can “sign up” for stuff there.

Dottye Armstrong, teacher at Ellis, has been approved for catastrophic leave. If you would like to donate days, I have the forms.

Bulletin Board Schedule (Please put the applicable information on your calendar)

  • February—Mrs. Lumpkin and Kindergarten
  • March—5th Grade
  • April—3rd Grade
  • May—2nd Grade
PTO Board—The next meeting is January 24. If you have PTO requests, get those to Cay Davis.

Bare Books—Mrs. Parker reported that the cost of the larger Bare Books was significantly higher than the smaller ones. We will purchase just the smaller sizes for all grades.

Math Standards and ARMT—Now is the time to really look at the standards which will be tested on the math section of the ARMT that you have not covered as yet. It is critical that everything the students are to be able to do on the test has been taught prior to the test. Skipping over skills is always dangerous in math, but managing the time between now and April so that the students are prepared is crutial.

Supervision at assemblies when assembly falls during your planning time—I think each group discusssed this point. Mrs. Barrow and Mrs. Lumpkin would be happy to take you class either 1) during the assembly; or 2) at another time during the day. Either way, that would give you a planning time. Simply get with the appropriate person to make arrangements.

Highly Qualified—I spoke with Mr. Campbell again about the procedure for getting reimbursed for expenses related to your becoming highly qualified (if you are not already).
  1. See Phyllis Givens to get a form where you will list what you want to do.
  2. Sign up for the Praxis II or appropriate college class(es). You would pay for this and then be reimbursed.
  3. Present to Mr. Campbell proof that you have completed the requirements. (You passed the course or received a passing grade on Praxis.) There was also talk of if you didn't pass Praxis the first time, paying for your first unsuccessful attempt as well. They will not reimburse for more than two attempts for sure. Of course, our teachers are all so smart that wouldn't be an issue anyway!

Faculty Meeting Agenda
  • SACS Accreditation—There are some major changes in how SACS accreditation will work. During this meeting, we will examine what I know, what is still unknown, and start to get a direction.
  • Title I Schoolwide Compact—We will look at this document and determine if having one compact for all grades is the best way to go or whether a document focused on a grade cluster (or even individual grade) would be better.
  • Parent Survey—I think we will have the option of designing our own rather than using the same one districtwide. That will allow us to get the information we really want and help us to evaluate our programs.

Next Week
Monday—MLK Birthday
Tuesday—Faculty Meeting
Thursday—I will be in Tuscaloosa

Weeks After Next
Friday—Graham Shirts, Fire Drill

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Good first two days!

It’s great to see everyone back again. You look rested and rejuvenated!

Professional Development Day—From what you are telling me, the process of entering your professional development workshops electronically is going OK. I will look at the requests that were submitted around the first of the week and approve them. After that, I will make going to the pdweb site and examining requests one of the tasks I perform routinely each week. I will also be posting some follow-up information related to the technology session we had on Tuesday.

Accelerated Reader Marking Period Progress Reports—I am placing these in your boxes. As always, this report gives you an at-a-glance picture of how your students are doing. We hope to see % of questions answered correctly at 85% or higher. As the year progresses, your students are hopefully reading more challenging books. Also look at the percentage of students at risk. These are the students who are simply "not with the program." They are either scoring low on tests or are taking far fewer tests than the class as whole.

Failure Lists—I am placing in your boxes what is called a "Failure List." I am giving it to you as an example of one report that can be generated from STI. As a principal, this gives me a list of students who are having problems. I am also sharing the list with Mrs. Ford. As a classroom teacher, you may have been making some sort of list similar to this for your own purposes. Giving this to you saves you from having to compile that list for yourself. I plan to give you a new list each six weeks. Even though it's called a “failure” list, I set things up for it to return any grade of D or F.

Round-Robin ReadingAs I go in classrooms, I find we still have some of this going on. When students take turns reading while the entire rest of the class listens, the time is not being well-used. The only person learning is the one who is reading.

Computer Security—Over the holidays I heard a spot by a couple of guys named Chase and Sam on channel 6. They have a website which is really pretty good in terms of giving you practical stuff. In particular, this page that they have on computer security summarizes a great deal of information in an understandable fashion.

Professional Development—We are our own most valuable critics. This site serves as a self-check for teachers. It was prepared by the University of Victoria. This one may well be worth printing out and rereading periodically, because it is so "nuts and bolts." I would encourage you to pick only one or two points to focus on. It takes MANY applications of a concept before it becomes habit. Replacing even one bad habit (such as staying bound to your desk or lecture) with a good one (circulating among students and providing quick help and direction) can make a major difference for you.

Leave for March 17—I have already had 4 personal leave requests for March 17, which is the last school day prior to spring break. Finding subs when a number of people are out is always a challenge, especially when the same thing may be occurring at other schools.

Next Week
Artist in Residence Continues
—National "Clean Off Your Desk Day" (There really is such a thing!)
School Renewal
Accelerated Reader Store

Week After Next
Artist in Residence Continues
MondayNo school (MLK Day)
I will be in Tuscaloosa