Do you find a lot of students using the blog?

Do you find a lot of students using the blog?

1.  I get the most hits the day before a test when kids go to it to review.

2.  I also use it to post assignments, etc when we use the computer so I know they know how to get there.

3.  I like using it because it keeps all my videos, etc in one place for me makes it easier for me to find stuff the next year.

4.  Parents have been pretty grateful about it.  I have on dad who is making his son look at it at least once a week to watch the videos on stuff we have already done and he liked my calendar feature.  Said he has been enjoying learning with his son, which was my original intention of building an online presence.

5.  Most parents were impressed during parent teacher conferences.

6.  I do still have some kids who do not have the internet though so I haven’t flipped the classroom where I only do the application in the classroom and have them go over notes at home.

7.   I like using it for posting my notes or gallery walks in the room.  I then absolve myself of needing to help them make up notes because it is available.  I've had some kids say ok and then come back the next day with the sheet completed because they went on the blog.

8.  It eliminates the issue of students missing the video in class if they are absent.

9.  My  blog is mobile friendly whereas edline I don’t think is or at least wasn't until recently.  (Lots of my kids don’t have computers, but have a phone they can use)

10.  I think advanced uses it the most and reviews the most.  The on level kids are kind of hit or miss or depends on the assignment.

11.  Once I didn't have enough time to get a list of the concepts for the kids that would be on a quiz so I told them I would post it by 4 PM after school.  I did and several of my students thanked me the next day, telling me it helped them.  So offers a way to project educational power beyond the classroom, which is something I really wanted.  

12.  My favorite thing about it is that it doesn't require a password like edline.  There is no excuse.  If you can use Google you can find this blog.

13.  I also really like this simple kind of web design.  I don’t have the skills to do anything really cool, but it helps me get my fix of fiddling with computers.  I guess the career test was right.  I enjoy web design, but I don’t know if I’d ever want to make it my job.  Kind of a fun hobby for me.

14.  It also helps me manage civ lab and give me a running account of what has happened in the game, which is something that was always hard for me to remember.  Plus, other schools can see what my students' governments are doing.  

So In short, I do find that my students use the blog.  I have some more than others that use it regularly, which is probably true about anything in the classroom.  You should give one a try.  It has helped me manage my classroom and helped students be more successful.

Breaking Bread with Family During The School Day (Catholic Schools Week Lunch)

When I was a kid I attended Catholic Grade school.  Immaculate Conception helped me become the man that I am today and I did make some good memories there.  School is very different now than it was then, but I did receive a good foundation in skills that I would need for high school.  I am sharing these moments from my childhood to remind me of the parts of school I did enjoy and to show how I came to some of the conclusions I did today.  I hope to share some of the moments with my teachers who inspired me to become a member of their profession. 
So many good teachers were swept under the rug of the reforms that happened during the No Child Left Behind Era.  Sometimes I think we forget there was a time where teachers worked hard, taught children, and inspired them to live their lives on their own terms, without the threat of the assessments of doom that ripped away funding.  They did the job because they believed in it in some shape or form.  They wanted me to grow up to be a productive human being.  They wanted to have a hand in that future.  They wanted to help mold the next generation of doctors and lawyers and teachers, etc, etc, etc.  And they did it all because they believed in doing the job not because someone constantly threatened to fire them.  Think about that.  I am writing this because someone thought I should know how.  That is where it ended.  To me that is powerful stuff. 
I know there were teachers who obviously didn’t, but I don’t want us to only take away from the legacy of those who did a good job.  The world seems to be so full of negativity right now.  So here I am sending some positive thoughts out into the universe… 

Below is a passage about how much I loved Catholic Schools Week and the special lunch.  I know I am romanticizing it now and feeling full of nostalgia, but it was important to me.  So important I am now sharing it with you.  What memories do you think the children of today will remember about what we did?   Hopefully, they will look back fondly…

Breaking Bread with Family During The School Day (Catholic Schools Week Lunch)

One of my favorite times of year was during Catholic Schools Week.  The week was a celebration of Catholic Schools across the nation and all week we had special events that made school so much fun.  All throughout the week there were fun games we played, events that involved the entire school, the book fair, and one day where a parent was allowed to bring in food to share a meal with us during the day. 

I think the day that was my favorite was the day that my Mom brought lunch to school and we would share that lunch on a blanket in the gym.  At the school I went to we didn’t have a cafeteria and hot lunch was a special treat that was available once a month.  The hot lunch was usually pizza from the same pizza location and, to be frank, it was just ok.  Having milk with pizza was never all that tasty and we did get different kinds of ice cream on those days, but you had to eat the ice cream first before it melted and by then the pizza was kind of cold.  I always ordered it because I enjoyed getting something different once a month.  But when Catholic Schools Week was in session my Mom would ask us what we wanted and it included any kind of fast food we could request.  I usually would request Burger King or maybe McDonald’s chicken nuggets, which were a foods that were reserved for special occasions.   

The lunch itself was really nothing all that special except for food that I requested to eat with my Mother and so was seeing her during the middle of the day.  There were times seeing her was not so great, like the time in first grade we went to look at my classroom after lunch and on the sticker chart I had very few stickers for good behavior compared to all the other kids full sticker charts.  (We had an interesting conversation that day…)  But mostly I enjoyed seeing my Mom and enjoying a nice lunch with some good conversation, before showing off some of the things I did in school with pride. The hardest part was eating lunch in twenty minutes, since that was how long we got to eat and everyone was always rushed, but that was the policy of the school.

Another aspect of the lunch that I enjoyed was that I also was able to see my brothers during the day.  We all attended the same school by the time I was in Junior High/Middle School and it was nice to see them during the day.  We normally were all in different sections of the building and couldn’t see one another, but on the CSW Lunch day it was special and we all could get together to share a meal.  My Mom took requests from all of us and she picked up whatever we wanted, even if the restaurants were located in different places across town. 

Other times my Dad also came when he switched jobs to a new firm near our house.  It was nice to see him as well, but most of my memories involved just seeing my Mom because my Dad worked about an hour’s drive away from our house.  My brothers got to see him more at these functions because he worked so close he could come home for lunch, but I was on my way out the door at the time before Dad making an appearance became a regular occurrence.  

My Mom really made the day special, which we always capped off by going to look through the book fair after lunch.  She would let us go through the entire thing and pick whatever book we wanted.  Both my parents always valued reading, but my Mom must have been determined to make sure we all were sound readers.  She always took us to the library during the summer so we could participate in the summer reading program, which always had fun little prizes after reading so many books.  She also helped us pick out books when we were younger and when I once said I had no idea what to read, but  I loved sports she talked with the librarian one day that I didn’t go to the library with her to find middle school books on sports.  I still remember one being about a soccer goalie who wasn’t very good, but had his moment in the sun when he made the game winning save and a really interesting book called the Tennis Menace, which I really enjoyed reading.  Thanks, Mom! 

Needless to say, when it came to the book fair my Mom was always supportive and offered to buy us all one book each.   During the year we never really received gifts and most of the books we did get were usually presents at Christmas, our birthdays, or some other holiday.  I always took care to pick out a book that I liked, usually picking some kind of sci-fi adventure like the time I picked a fun Hardy Boys/ Tom Swift Ultra Thriller that I read like a million times.  Other times if we didn’t find anything my Mom kept her word and took us to Borders or Walden’s Books to make a selection, such as the time we went to the mall and I picked out Jurassic Park that I ended up reading until it was worn.

Once we picked out our books it was usually time to go back to class, since recess had ended. (30 minute recess = 30 minute teacher lunch.  Not much has changed I guess.) If we had time I usually took my Mom to look at my classroom and talk with my teachers, but usually it took a while for all of us to pick out a book.  So once the bell range we usually parted with her, giving her a quick hug, and saying good bye.  Going back to class was always hard because the last thing I wanted after having a nice lunch and getting a good book was to learn other things for what felt like eternity.  In reality though it was not even two hours before the day ended and I went home to see her again. 

All in all, this day was one day a year that was just spectacular.  Sometimes I wish I could do things like that again.  They were so much fun! 

Thanks, Mom for making it special!

The SOLE and Sugata Mitra's Experiment

This year I am expanding the use of the SOLE in my classroom.  Last year I did one.  This year I am planning on doing at least one per quarter.  The students usually struggle with this at first because it is hard and is not like anything they have had to do before.  I also had to make some packets of information to help them get started because I don't always have access to the laptops in our school.  I will let you all know how this goes.

Last year the kids really enjoyed working in this fashion.  I do have one group that seems to not understand that I am not going to stand over top of them the entire period and they just sat there, with a few slowly getting into it.  I am already getting the complaints that it is to hard, but with some encouragement with options as to what they might be able to do to organize their thoughts.  I had another child today tell me she loves just sitting there listening to the teacher talk.  They are pushing back because I am pushing their boundaries and their skills.  It is working.          

We are going to be doing a SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environment) activity that will help students make their own pathways to the events of the early formation of the United States.  I challenge all of the tens of thousands who read my blog daily (HA HA!  I know.  I have delusions of grandeur!) to give one of these a try.  Here is where you can download a toolkit that will help you get started.  It really is a cool thing to watch the children do.  

Here is a video that chronicles Mr. Mitra's findings:

Being a Teacher and Staying Fit

Mostly teachers care an awful lot about their students and other people, plus their development.  The only problem with this line of thinking is that we neglect ourselves.  Those outside the profession seem to think that we have a daily allowance of time to take care of ourselves and everything that we need to take care of in our lives.  This simply is not true and most of the time we spend a whole lot of time preparing and obsessing over what we could have done better.  I know that I often replay the events of the day in my head trying to figure out what I could have done to be more successful.  Plus, many of us have families that depend on us to be there when we are home.  When is there time for us to keep an eye on ourselves?

Personally, I tend to neglect myself.  For years I thought I could find happiness in only my work or focusing on one thing at a time.  The only problem was that every day I ended up focusing on only my work I neglected myself so bad that I one day woke up and hated what I saw in the mirror.  I had not noticed that for several years my eating habits had become terrible, I was getting sick, and I was constantly crashing as a result of the amount of cola I was consuming.  In short I was miserable.  I had just finished fighting off a bout of bronchitis and I could no longer walk up stairs without being winded or needing to take my inhaler.  I could no longer breathe.  I had a serious problem.  So I decided to do something about it.

Now, I am not in top physical condition today, but I did commit to taking care of myself.  I looked around and found (Steve has a very positive way of looking at fitness and the world.  Give him a look.  they helped me change my outlook and mental state.) and began reading about something called a paleo diet.  It just seemed to make sense, but I soon discovered that I needed some carbs in my life or I just felt horrible.  So what I decided to do was commit to eating vegetables and fruits with every single meal and balancing the other two out while removing as much processed food as possible.  I also cut back on the sugar (I love Coke and drinking more water instead of soda was really hard!) and started trying to commit to making decent meals for diner.  I also started using an app that tracked my running statistics, which helped motive me and showed all the effects of the terrain called run double.  I even completed the couch to 5k program from last March to last August.  I also committed to swimming on my off days or days I couldn’t run (Like when I felt something pop in my leg!).

I also have bad shoulders from several dislocations and started trying to build the muscles up.  I was having trouble keeping my arms up or holding things over my head.  So I started a regimen that would help build muscle strength in my shoulders and help my build muscles in my core area.  The activities were so painful I let out yelps of pain.  On the days I went to the gym people looked at me like I was crazy as I groaned and moaned doing my arm exercises with my 8 lb. weight.  At this point I have some more muscle in my shoulders and I no longer am in serious pain.  I think it was as painful as it was because of the scar tissue that I have in there from the separations and dislocations.  I thought about quitting many times, but stuck with it.  I am glad I did.

My results have not been startling.  I have lost maybe 2 pant sizes and about 10 lbs.  I can walk up stairs.  Overall,  I do feel better.  I feel more confident in my abilities as a human being.  I feel stronger.  I guess I just have more confidence, which translates to me being more confident with my students.  We cannot forget that without taking care of and loving ourselves can be begin to help others.  I think that at times we have to remember that we are people to and deserve to take care of ourselves.  It is ok to let the papers go for one more day.  Just get outside and do something!   Anything!  Just take a walk.  That was how I started out.   I just took a stroll when I could.  Take small steps.  In the end it will be worth it.  Just commit to changing one small thing at a time until you start seeing results of a healthier lifestyle.

I hope to stick with it through this holiday season and as it gets colder.  This time of year is usually a real doosy for me that starts with Halloween Candy  progresses to thanksgiving feasts and ends with the holiday cookie binges around Christmas.  Started running again yesterday and felt pretty good.  I am in a better position than the last time I tried starting exercise.  I also had one of my students ask me this past week, “Mr Schwarten are you getting skinner?  You look different than you did last year...”  I just smiled and said thanks for noticing my hard work.   Happy exercising!      



When I first began teaching I found that keeping everything in order was a serious challenge.  I remember that first quarter I had piles and piles of materials sitting on a shelf/radiator cover.  At the time I didn’t even have a filing cabinet!  When quarter two arrived I decided that I was going to be more organized and have not ever looked back.  I still get chuckles from my fellow teachers, since I still have piles all over the place, but they are my piles and I know what is in them.  Below are a few things that I have done now that help me stay organized and help learning flow better in my classroom.  

      1. Use a bin with file folders for all the classwork that the students do in a quarter: This helps me when students come asking for missing work from when they were absent.  I just always need to make more copies.  

      2.       I have used bins this year to put the textbooks and other materials on the desks at the table groups.  This has made getting and cleaning up textbooks much easier.  I used to keep them under the desks, but then half the time they were destroyed.  Now I can just have one student per group get the bin and everyone has a book.  I also put folders in there if there is a reading that I have copied. 

      3.       I have a cart that I put the papers the students are going to write on for the day right in front of the door when they walk in.  Most don’t miss it and grab the paper.  Took me years to figure out that unless it is right in front of them the middle schoolers/9th graders will not pick it up.

      4.       I have a student keep my classroom library clean.  This was something I hated doing so I just assigned a student who wanted to help.  Much cleaner and organized.

      5.       Building systems of expectations that the students are supposed to follow:  I have all kinds of things that we do on a regular basis so the classroom activities move smoothly from one period to another.  After all, in a crisis situation we are all just a product of our training and the classroom really is no different.  The most obvious is doing a do now/objective sheet that gets students clam and seated while I take attendance.
Why kinds of things do you all do that helps make your classroom run?