at Cattleman’s Club in Middle River, MD


Check out my new blog which has a different format than this one. My new blog is less about me blogging and more about people in the Baltimore region discussing what is working and not working in Baltimore’s schools. Hopefully the blog will provide a place for educators, parents, students, and community members from all over Baltimore to collaborate together. So…check it out:

I’m taking a graduate class on giving professional development, and the topic I have chosen to focus on is incorporating more engaging activities into my developmental college students’ computer lab time. Rather than only using the publisher’s program that comes with readings and skills to master by answering multiple choice questions on topics such as stated main idea, implied main idea, making inferences, determining fact and fiction, and determining tone and purpose, I’m thinking that incorporating social media outlets like blogs and wikis would be more engaging, motivating, and authentic.

I obviously have experience putting together a basic blog, but I am brand new to wikis. My professor gave us some time in class to attempt to create a wiki, so I got a very rudimentary feel for what a wiki is, but I still have a long ways to go. I wonder if I could somehow incorporate Twitter into instruction in my developmental reading courses? I love Twitter and have found great resources and met many people who have shared interesting perspectives and given me great advice.

Exploring outlets like blogs, wiki, and other forms of social media sounds exciting, but the incorporation also requires careful planning. An educator cannot simply create a blog, post a discussion starter, and expect students to make things happen.

Detailed explanations of expectations must be set in order to make a blog successful. I have learned this through trial and error with my students. When asked to respond to another student’s blog post, students may respond by saying “i agree.” Notice that (1) the response is only two words long (2)”I” is not capitalized, and (3) there is no evidence that the student even read the blog post at all. Students may provide a little bit more information with a response such as, “I agree babies catch on to what adults do.” Notice that (1)this is a complete sentence consisting of nine words (2) “I” is capitalized and spelling and punctuation are correct, and (3)this response does not show evidence of higher level or critical thinking.

Just as with other strategies, students need to see modeling of what is appropriate before they can be expected to perform tasks independently. This not only applies to blogs, but also to any other forms of social media that are incorporated into instruction.

In addition to education, I also care about the well-being of animals! Last year I did the walk, but I didn’t do the fundraiser; I only donated my own money. This year I am trying to reach a fund-raising goal of $200. I’ve never really attempted to raise money for a cause before, so we’ll see how it goes!

To donate anything (even $5 helps!) check out the link:  March for the Animals

Here are my two rascals:

I changed the background of my blog to spice it up a little.

In reference to the title of this blog, yesterday in my class a student became frustrated when I revealed answers to the classwork before he had completed the assignment. He said, in an annoyed voice, “Give a brother some extra time!” Then he pushed his paper away from him and said that all he needed was more time.

I find that some students in developmental reading courses tend to process information a little slower than what is considered normal, so I generally allow all students to have more time, especially on quizzes.  The college I teach at, probably along with all other colleges, “is committed to the philosophy of nondiscrimination for individuals with disabilities.”  Students may not realize it, but colleges are “in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.”

What the above information means is that students can apply for services such as additional time, taking a test in a quiet setting with less distractions, having a note-taker, having font enlarged if they have poor eyesight, etc. I tell my students that if they had any of those services in high school, they can receive them in college as well. I even know a graduate student who utilizes disability services. Once students apply and are given documentation, their teachers have to comply with the services by law.

Having a little extra time, as my student would have liked to have had, makes a big difference for some students and may be a determining factor in whether or not they are successful in college.

I finally got around to watching the documentary Waiting for Superman last night. The film came out at Redbox, so I went ahead and spent my $1 to see what it was all about.

Several children and their parent are interviewed for the film, and in each case, the parent is passionate about seeking better education for his or her child. Each parent ends up entering his or her child into a lottery. The lottery has been created because the demand outweighs the space and resources in the school for students, so by law the schools are required to hold a lottery where the children are chosen at random. The students who are not chosen go home defeated, often with crying parents.

The mother of Bianca, a little girl from Harlem says, ““I don’t care what I have to do. I don’t care how many jobs I have to obtain, but she will go to college. And there’s just no second guessing on that one.” Then she adds, “You don’t get a job you get a career. There’s a difference.”

The parents interviewed in Waiting for Superman know that there is great value in a quality education, even if they themselves did not receive one. Watching the parents fight for the best for their children reminded me or Dr. Ben Carson’s mother, who only had a third grade education, yet made her two sons spend time reading books in the library and limited their use of television.

The parents in the film may not have received a high level of education and they may face struggles such as unemployment and having family members with substance abuse problems, but they are well aware that education is key to success.

When listening to “dropout factories” talk about their schools, it becomes very obvious why parents invest a lot of energy into finding better schools for their children. For instance, in reference to a failing LA school, a man says ““We lose 800 kids between 9th and 10th grade.” He goes on to say that many of them are on a first to third grade reading level and have been pushed through the system. Who would want that for their kids?

I have been reading a book for my graduate class called A Path to Follow: Learning to Listen to Parents. One point made in the book’s forward that I found relevant to this film is that “In some cases, parents believe that academic development is a domain of teacher expertise and responsibility.”  Some parents may not question the quality of their children’s education. They may assume that the schools are doing enough for them, and may never give much thought about the idea that the education system may be failing their children.

The only aspect of the film that stuck out to me as lacking was the fact that competent and incompetent teachers were represented in the film, but we only saw competent parents. What about the parents who are not questioning the quality of their children’s education? What about the parents who are drunk on a Wednesday afternoon, or who never help their children do any homework? What about the parents who say “get out of my face” or “I’m going to sell you to the cashier.” What about parents who are still teenagers and are more involved in their own life that that of their child? In order to present an unbiased view, the film should have addressed the fact that not all parents are that actively passionate.

The children waiting to be chosen in the lottery were sitting in those rooms because their parents or some adult who cared about them had advocated for them. What about all of the children who do not have an advocate? When a school takes a pool of students who all have someone advocating for them, the results are bound to be more positive than if they were taking a legitimate sample of the population. Unfortunately, all students do not have parents who have the knowledge, passion, or strategies necessary to advocate for them. Where were those kids during the filming of Waiting for Superman?

By the way friends, I just created a facebook page, so check it out!

The pictures got slightly out of order. They are from this morning…Didn’t get to see the president, but he drove right by.