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Friday, February 24, 2006

Community Classroom is almost there

Keeping a "common" area free of junk is always a challenge. These areas become prime places to collect things you don't want to see on a daily basis yet you hate to throw away. The problem becomes the area collects too much junk, and while everybody will agree it's junky, nobody really feels comfortable throwing things away. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what looks like junk to you or I might be a treasure to somebody else.

Enough weeding and pruning has been done in the Community Classroom what should not be there stands out more clearly and should be easier to send on its way. For bulky items, the storage trailer is a good candidate. Enough junk has been thrown away that we can comfortably walk to all parts of the trailer and get to the items that are there.

As for what DOES belong in the Community Classroom, let's be sure to put in where it belongs within that room. If one does not have time to return books to their proper place, it would be much better to hold those books in the room until there is time. Once a stack of books is dropped on a table in the Community Classroom, finishing the task is out of mind, and there is no trigger to remind the person to return and finish the job.

School year length

Do we need additional school days, or do we need to better utilize the time we have (or both)?

A recent article in the Daily Home examined this question. The article made reference to one research article germane to the topic. You can see a summary of that article, entitled "Quantity Matters: Annual Instruction Time in an Urban School System," at this location.

STIHome for teachers

Each student was given a sheet to take home telling parents how to log into STIHome. There is also a module for teachers. Here is what you can do with it:

  1. You can see your own attendance for the year. You will see the dates of your absences, the reason, and who the sub was.
  2. You can leave notes for parents. If every home had internet access, this would be the perfect replacement for the paper notes that you hope get home. With around half of our homes having internet access and half not, plus no assurance that a parent would go to that internet site daily, it is probably not going to be the best way to communicate things parents need to know tonight. It might be something that you would use to write a "congratulations"-type note. That way, the next time the parents went to STIHome, they would see a nice surprise. Since there might be times when you would send several such notes than all say the same thing, you could copy and paste the same text for different students. Just a thought.
  3. You could do lesson plans here. (You can also do lesson plans in STIClassroom.) Anything you put on the homework tab would show up for the students on their STIHome. I have not done much with the lesson plan part of the program to see how much of a time saver it would be.

You will find in your box a sheet that will have your login information. The sheet will say that it's for STICaller, but it's for STIHome. The website is To begin, you would go to this address: https://iiod.ssts.com/Home.asp?state=AL (You could then save that address as a "Favorite."

From there, select the school district and then the school. You will be asked for the two pieces of information on that sheet.

Read Across America Day (March 2

We will have a morning assembly lowed by a DEAR time. Here is the plan:

  • Assembly in lunchroom just after roll call
  • Barrow will lead Dr. Seuss song
  • I will read poem or short story
  • Leigh Davis will have cake or cupcakes that we can show the students now and that they will eat at lunch.
  • DEAR 8:45-9:15—If you have a book at home you want to read but just haven’t had time to start, this would be a great time. The kids need to see that we are ALL reading. I am reading Good to Great by Jim Collins, and I can tell you that so far it’s every bit as good as the reviews, and it’s as applicable to education as it is to corporate America.

Work for students who are absent

What do we tell parents when they want to come by and pick up student work? I am shooting for something that’s simple and not going to involve interrupting you every time a parent calls wanting to come by and pick up work.

If you have a suggestion, this would be a great opportunity to leave it as a comment so others can see what is working or what you think would work. The closer we can get to a schoolwide policy, the better. If that just doesn’t look like it’s going to be feasible, we should at least be able to get several grade levels doing the same thing.

Every day, we are all faced with our share of "urgent trivialities." Let's fashion something that keeps gathering work from being one more for any of us.

Calendar Events

Next Week

  • Tuesday—Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing (5th Grade)
  • Wednesday—BLT
  • Thursday—Read Across America Day (Assembly, DEAR)

Week After Next

  • National School Breakfast Week
  • Tuesday—Cookie Dough Sale Ends
  • Thursday—I will be in Montgomery
  • Thursday—World’s Largest Concert (Noon on PBS)
  • Friday—Recycling

Saturday, February 18, 2006

PDWeb and Calendar Events

From all appearances, you are catching on well to how to use the PDWeb. (Note: Only certified personnel would need to be recording information here. Classified staff are not required to earn professional development credit hours.) Here are a few reminders on how we should be using the PDWeb site and what we should be able to see on it:

All of the professional development activities we had on Thursday and Friday were posted on PDWeb. Last week's post gave you instructions on how to sign up. You will get an e-mail reminder to do an evaluation for each one. Well, there really is not an evaluation to do. Just click on the link you see on in the e-mail. That will take you to what it thinks is an evaluation. You will something more than a blank screen and I button to click to submit your "evaluation." Once you have done that, you receive credit.

There are other professional development activities that are not posted on PDWeb. These activities would be the individual workshops that maybe only you attended. You can request creidt for these on PDWeb. You already have experience in doing this, because after the January 3 session, you entered everything you had done to this point in the year.

You can go to PDWeb and see all of the professional development you have received credit for this year. There is no guesswork about whether something got lost in the process.

If you had any problems signing up for a workshop or if you haven't received credit for something for any of your professional development, please let me know.

Next Week

  • Monday—Vision Screening for K and 2
  • Tuesday—Faculty Meeting
  • Wednesday—I will be in Montevallo
  • Thursday—Science Fair at Talladega College
  • Thursday—Kickoff cookie dough sale (1:30 in lunchroom)
  • Thursday—A representative from the Retirement System will be here to talk about the RSA-1 Deferred Compensation Plan and Flexible Benefits Plan. The meeting will begin at 2:50 in the library. Attendance is optional.
  • Thursday—Society of 1904 meeting in library (5:30)
  • Friday—Graham Shirts
  • Friday—Science Fair at Talladega College
  • Friday—Accelerated Reader Store
  • Friday—Recycling
  • Friday—Report Cards
  • Friday—Fire Drill
  • Saturday—Birmingham International Festival workshop (7:45 at Homewood Middle School)
Week After Next
  • Tuesday—Alabama Direct Assessment of Writing (5th Grade)
  • Wednesday—BLT
  • Thursday—Read Across America Day

Friday, February 10, 2006

Signing up for Professional Development Activities Online

This post guides you through how to sign up for the workshops that you attend on Thursday and Friday of next week.

On January 3, we learned how to use the “PDWeb” to request professional development credit for workshops you have attended. If you have lost the instructions, the website is PDweb.alsde.edu You username is your first initial, last initial, and last six digits of your social security number. (Example: bm273854) Your password is your birthday in this form: MM-DD-YY (Example: 03-17-63).

How Can I Sign Up for Workshops?
You have the ability to sign up for workshops that are being offered. In the post above this one, you saw the schedule for the 2 days, so you should know what things you need to sign up for. Here is how to do that:
  1. Go to pdweb.alsde.edu
  2. Log in
  3. Click on “PD Title”
  4. Click on “Search the PD Title Catalog”
  5. Scroll down and find the button that says “Search Now”
  6. Scroll down and you will see a list of all of the professional development offerings for Talladega City Schools. You can scroll through and see which one apply to you and which to not. To sign up for a workshop, click on “View Schedule.”
  7. You will probably get a box or two where you simply click “OK.”
  8. You will now see a list of all of the times that workshop is offered. For example, for the Data Meeting, you will see 3 different workshops. To enroll in one of them, click “Enroll Now.”
  9. If you get a warning message about a possible conflict, you can probably disregard it. This feature would warn you in case you tried to sign up a workshop that starts at 10:00 and you were already in a workshop that gets out at 9:30. The program does not realize that the workshops are only 50 yards from your last workshop instead of a 50 mile drive.
  10. After you have gotten the message that your workshop has been successfully added, you may click on the box to close the window.
  11. You may now continue registering for the other activities.
  12. You are done!

What Happens from There?

  1. Your name is automatically added to the roster for that workshop.
  2. You will get an e-mail confirmation.
  3. If something changes (the time, the date, or the workshop is canceled), anyone who is enrolled receives an e-mail automatically.
  4. After the workshop, you will be awarded your professional development credit.

Where Are the Plans from Here?
Soon, you will register for every workshop in one place. Whether it’s a workshop offered here at Graham on a professional development day, a summer workshop somewhere in our system, or a workshop offered through any inservice center in Alabama, you will be able to go to one place.

Time is saved in a number of ways:

  1. Because you can see workshops and their descriptions online, there is no need for booklets to be printed and mailed.
  2. Because your login identifies you, there is no need to fill out a lengthy registration form and no need to mail anything.
  3. The people offering the workshop have an up-to-the-minute record of who has registered without having to sort through papers to compile rosters.
  4. You never have to wonder if space is available. If the workshop is full, you will see it on the screen.
  5. If the date or time changes, or if the workshop is cancelled, you get an e-mail instead of someone having to telephone everyone who had registered.
  6. Evaluation will be conducted online. The bubble sheets you have been doing will soon become history.
  7. When it comes time for you to renew your teacher certificate, there will be no more having to pull your file and hand-copy onto a form all of the professional development you have done for the last several years. The State Department of Education will already have all of the information.

Professional Development Schedule

Here is our schedule for professional development:

Thursday, February 16

8:30-9:30 Data Meeting for K-1 in Mrs. Parker’s room

9:30-10:30 Data Meeting for 2-3 in Mrs. Parker’s room

10:30-11:30 Data Meeting for 4-6 in Mrs. Parker’s room

1:00-2:30 Plato Elementary training in library (This will be for teachers in grades K-6 and anyone else who is interested.)

8:00-11:00 Special Education Teachers—Training on the SETS program at THS. Phyllis Givens will contact you will additional information. Secondary teachers will receive training in the afternoon from 12:00-3:00. The time not spent in training should be devoted to getting all needed information in the SETS program.

Friday, February 17

8:00-3:00 Training on interactive whiteboards (Salter library). This is for those who have been identified for the training.

8:00-12:00 I will be at Salter conducting training on the PDWeb and dong a technology workshop

8:00-11:00 Work in your room, primarily geared to follow-up activities from yesterday’s professional development.

12:30-1:00 Universal Precautions in library

1:00-2:30 Faculty Meeting in library (for everyone) (Note: This is simply a meeting rather than a true professional development session. For that reason, this will not be something you will see a sign-up for on the pdweb) Agenda will include:

  1. Author Study—We will lay out intermediate goals regarding the publication of the student books.
  2. Science adoption—Mrs. Graves will update you on where we are in the process, where we are going, and your role.
  3. SACS Accreditation/School Renewal—What stays, what goes, and how to make the process run smoothly.
  4. Professional Development Money—What we have and how we can spend it.
  5. Makes Sense Strategies—Perhaps a forgotten tool. Digging the good stuff from it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Updating Your Software

You have various programs that help keep your computer safe from viruses and spyware. One thing that all of these programs have in common is that they must be updated from time to time. For example, when you buy a virus program, it protects you against all of the viruses that were known when the program was put in the package. It does not protect you against the new viruses that are created every day. Updating your software takes care of that.

What do I need to update?

Windows has plenty of “holes.” To make a long story short, every month Microsoft releases a patch which plugs all of the holes found since last month. When you access the Internet, going to “Tools” and then “Windows Update” allows Microsoft to look at your computer, see what patches you need, and prompt you to download them. Periodically, you will read in the news about some new vulnerability found in Windows that would allow someone to take over your computer. Virtually every time what you are reading about is a problem that can be fixed by updating Windows.

Virus Definitions
This is done for you at school. At home, go to your virus program and look for something with the word “update” in it (such as “Live Update”). The new virus definitions protect your computer again newly-discovered viruses.

Spybot locates and removes spyware from your computer. To update Spybot:

  • Open the program
  • Click on “Update”
  • Click on “Search for Update”
  • Put a check in each of the boxes you see
  • Click on “Download Updates.”

SpywareBlaster helps to keep you from getting spyware in the first place. To update it:

  • Open the program
  • Click on “Updates”
  • Click on “Check for Updates”
  • Click on the link that says “Enable protection for all unprotected items.”
  • Any button you see that says “Protect against checked items” is a good one to click.

Announcements and Events

School Interventionist—Tameka Russell has been hired as our school interventionist. Many of you remember Jennifer Bryant who worked jointly with the Talladega City Schools and DHR. Ms. Russell has that same exact position. She has scheduled time every Monday to come to Graham and will be working with several students who we have identified as needing her attention. Having a person in this position gives us one more tool to help with those few families where help is desperately needed.

Posting Grades—Grade posting for the 4th six weeks has been turned on, so you may post grades whenever you have recorded all of your grades for the six weeks. The six weeks ends Wednesday, which works well with the student holidays beginning at that point. Please have all of your grades posted by the time you leave school on Friday, Feb. 17. That will give me time to check for problems, get them printed, and have them ready to go home the next Friday.

Bulletin Board Schedule—Just a reminder of which grades are responsible for the front bulletin board between now and the end of the school year:

  • March—5th Grade
  • April—3rd Grade
  • May—2nd Grade

American Rhetoric is a source for some of the great speeches of history. You can click on the "mp3" link on any speech and download it to your computer. You can then play it yourself or your class. The site also gives you a list of the top 100 speeches ranked in order and available for your listening.

Next Week

  • Monday—Vision Screening for K and 2
  • Monday—Author Study Committee Meeting
  • Tuesday—Valentine's Day
  • Wednesday—I will be in Montgomery
  • Thursday—Professional Development
  • Friday—Professional Development

Week After Next

  • Monday—Vision Screening for K and 2
  • Tuesday—Faculty Meeting
  • Wednesday—I will be in Montevallo
  • Thursday—Science Fair at Talladega College
  • Thursday—Kickoff cookie dough sale
  • Thursday— A representative from the Retirement System will be here to talk about theRSA-1 Deferred Compensation Plan and Flexible Benefits Plan. The meeting will begin at 2:50 in the library. Attendance is optional.
  • Thursday—Society of 1904 meeting in library (5:30)
  • Friday—Science Fair at Talladega College
  • Friday—Accelerated Reader Store
  • Friday—Recycling
  • Saturday—Birmingham International Festival workshop (7:45 at Homewood Middle School)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Announcements and Events

Field Trips—As you make field trip plans, if you have a student who takes medication at school, some provision needs to be in place for the student having that medication. Our options are:

  • One of our school system nurses could go on the trip.
  • One of our instructional assistants who has been trained in the administration of medication could go (Mrs. Monroe or Mrs. Jackson).
  • The child's parent could go.
  • If you are taking a chaperone who happens to be a nurse, that person could give the medication with the parent's written permission.

Staff Room—On the counter in the Staff Room are quite a few items that are free for the taking. We will let those stay there until the middle of next week and then throw away what ever is left.

Science Adoption—As you are looking at the textbook samples, first and foremost, look to see how well the book covers the material in the Course of Study. Mrs. Graves is putting in your boxes papers related to the course of study adoption. You will receive several copies of the Science Course of Study for your grade level, one for each of the publishers who have sent us materials. Mrs. Graves needs to have the form where you indicate your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice by Feb. 18.

Playground Benches—I have received input so far from one teacher on a proposed location for the new benches.

Make-up Day—Please have your students put in their planners that February 20 is a school day to make up for the day missed due to Katrina.

New events for your calendar:

February 23—A representative from the Retirement System will be here to talk about the
RSA-1 Deferred Compensation Plan and Flexible Benefits Plan. The meeting will begin at 2:50 in the library. Attendance is optional.

April 24—Scoliosis Screening for 5th and 6th grades. We will start at 8:15 and conduct this in the Community Classroom. Our nurses will conduct the screening.

April 25—During PE time, classes will meet in the Community Classroom. Joan Ludwig will conduct a lesson on drug, alcohol, and tobacco prevention with each class during PE.

Next Week
Monday—Copier training
Tuesday—Science Fair (Dixon)
Thursday—I will be in Montgomery for Fine Arts Course of Study

Week After Next
Monday—Vision Screening for K and 2
Thursday—Professional Development
Friday—Professional Development