Sunday, January 25, 2009

Catholic Schools Week

Catholic Schools Week began today with a lovely mass (our new choir sounded beautiful, Mrs. Alonso!) and then Open House right after. I take a great deal of pride in the set up of my classroom, and I must say that it looked outstanding today! 

Our CSW theme this year is Catholic Schools Celebrate Service. One of the ideas that we Catholics celebrate as part of our faith is the need to serve, not only our church, but the community and our country also. Last week I asked my students to write a few paragraphs about what serving others means to them. Here are a few highlights:

"Serving others is just one of the many things that we can do to live the way that God wants us to."

"Remember that we are servants of the Lord, and our charge is to be stewards and stewardesses of His creation, including our fellow humans."

"Serving others is important to me because it shows respect."

"Every time you serve someone not only do you benefit from the experience, it makes your community a better place."

"Albert Einstein once said, 'Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.' That's what service is: putting others before yourself, thinking before you act, and executing random acts of kindness whenever you can."

I think Katie's quote comes closest to my feelings:
The world may be a big place, but really there aren't that many of us who really dedicate themselves to serving others. Isn't that why we are all here? To help a neighbor when he is in need. Or to lend a helping hand to someone who has nothing. Again I ask, isn't that why God sent us to Earth? To help each other be the 'best possible versions of ourselves'?
We will be talking a lot about service this week in my classroom and as a school community. So I would like to ask my incredibly wise PLN the following question: What does 'service' mean to you? Feel free to add your comments here, and I will share them with my students as we move through our week.

One last favorite picture from this weekend is the seventh grade's answer to the question "Can we change the world?":

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's a Sad Story

As embarrassing as this may be to admit, especially for a technology addict like myself, I feel I should come clean in the hopes that it might save someone else from the painful reality I am now faced with. [Yes, this grammar teacher ended that last sentence with a preposition...moving on.] It is a sad story I will call "From Memory to Senility."

You see, my home computer, a PC, once had a lovely memory. It held onto everything for me: photos of family, friends, students, and pets; household documents like tax information and addresses, both email and home, of friends, family, and clients (I am also a massage therapist); and, of course, school documents: lesson plans, unit plans, handouts, research, flipcharts for my Promethean activboard. You name it (because I can't remember everything), it was on there.

Did you notice the use of the word "was" in that last sentence?

Wait. Let me back up a bit (because I can't seem to remember to do that when I should).

I spent a lovely few days over Christmas at my mom and dad's house in the California foothills. We even had a white Christmas! My first in many years. I took my laptop with me because I wanted to do some organizing of files, and my dad is the King of Organization when it comes to All Things Mac! (he's a really cool guy, that dad of mine! Something I don't think I've ever told him.)

Dad and I spent some quality time in front of my MacBook, and he gave me lots of wonderful ideas on how to organize my files and photos. He also reminded me about the need for regularly backing up EVERYTHING! I've always been really good about backing up my laptop; well, at least since it crashed last year and the hard drive had to be replaced. Lucky for me, that our school computers are regularly backed up to the school server. But, after that experience, I went out and purchased an external hard drive which I use with my MacBook on a weekly basis.

The same could not be said for my PC. While talking to dad, I made a mental note to purchase a second external hard drive to use with the PC. The Sunday after Christmas I went down to Fry's Electronics (I love that place!) and purchased a 500-gig external hard drive. When I got home and started looking at my severely cluttered desktop, I thought it would be best to unclutter the desktop and do some organizing of files, photos, and various other documents.

I spent a good deal of Sunday afternoon doing just that, and was actually feeling pretty proud of my work. But it wasn't quite finished, so I shut down for the night and planned on finishing the clean-up Monday morning, after which I would hook up that lovely new hard drive.

Any guesses what happened next? I woke up Monday morning, turned on the computer, and stared at the large Windows icon on the screen, the one that's supposed to stay there for about two seconds while Windows is starting up. "Hmm," I thought to myself. "Why is it not moving past this screen?" Now, I wasn't quite awake yet, and I was in desperate need of caffeine, so I didn't quite process in my own internal hard drive what was happening. "Must just be slow today."

Unfortunately, it wasn't the computer that was was me. Slow on the uptake, slow on the back-up. My computer is currently back at Fry's, where I purchased it, waiting its turn in line to be serviced. I'm fearing the worst: loss of everything not backed up recently (I would define "recently" for you, but I'm already depressed). My brother suggests looking at this as an opportunity to start anew with a clean, fresh hard drive. I could do that.

[Yes, that's me...back in the day.]

I guess for now I'll just share my sad story with you and leave you with one question:

Have you backed up lately?
P.S. As Alice mentions in one of the comments below, Cheryl Oakes has a wonderful post on the techLearning blog called It Is Not a Matter of If...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 is here and with it new opportunities for growth, both for our students and for ourselves. I'm not usually one to do resolutions; the word has become synonymous with "failure" for me. Instead, I'll set a few goals for myself and my students for the remainder of the school year.

Let's start with adding even more technology to our curriculum! We've just started blogging and I've set up a class account on Diigo so I can teach my students how to bookmark online. I am currently making plans for working with wikis, but I also want to incorporate a little bit of techy fun for my seventh graders.

This morning, one of my Plurk buddies sent out a cartoon from a website called FunnyTimes. I decided to check out the site and discovered you can also create your own comic strips there using their playground. I'm thinking this could be a really fun way to have my students use their vocabulary words! Check out what I created this morning for the word "apathy":

Game Time by McTeach,

There is also another website called ToonDoo that is much more elaborate that I would love to explore. It has a few characters available to choose that aren't quite appropriate at my Catholic school, but I could definitely see using ToonDoo to create stories or summaries of, for instance, a current social studies chapter. I know most of my students would love it!