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Tech Notes | Beyond Twitter Expectations

Tweetout Friday Coming Up Find Out More @K12Live.com

Tweetout Friday Coming Up Find Out More @K12Live.com


“Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s levels of aspiration . . and expectation..”
Jack Nicklaus


This is How it’s Suppose to Work

Collaboration, Exploration, and things like Networking are far more rich experiences when they are built on a conduit that connects people. And, although, I find connecting offline way more satisfying than sitting in front of a computer screen or my Blackberry. Twitter is an excellent connector of conversation, people, and their ideas. I always expected Twitter to deliver, because, so many in my PLN (person learning network) said it could. Now it’s paying off.

Exchanges like this thread below demonstrate one of the unlimited ways to have gratifying experiences @K12Live on Twitter:

laron-carter-twitter

Note: I experimented with Twitter for many weeks before the micro blogosphere opened it’s galaxy and rained down on me.

Time Well Spent

Discovering your own voice or style of connecting with people on Twitter is going to take time to figure out for most of us. So, hang in there if you are new to the family.

When I first began using Twitter (in Jan. of 2009) I was eight weeks into it and still wondering whether or not I was wasting my time. Then it was another month before I was able to hear my Twitter voice speak from my thoughts through the keyboard of my smart phone.

Well it’s been several months, many blog post and books on the subject, and a thousand tweets later. Now days I follow my tweeps as we say using Twitterberry and HootSuite from my application client Mozilla brower tricked out with Don Hollings Twittin Secrets Toolbar. Twitter life became even more beautiful with Echofon (originally Twitterfox) a sweet compliment to Facebook’s sidebar add-on.

Facebook’s Virtual Coffee for Revolutionaries

On my regular Monday conference call with Facebook group Virtual Coffee for Revolutionaries I mentioned that I didn’t see it possible to define social media tools like Twitter in definitive terms. I am a teacher, but I’m much more of a student filled with lots of inquiry and observation data. And my notes reveal that engaged Twitter users usually find new levels of appreciation when there’s an exchange of instant information needed to solve some sort of problem. However, I imagine the creativity of Twitter users as a networking application will open up near future possibilities far beyond our current imagination of how to use it.

Start reducing the confusion of building your personal learning network by experimenting with great online application clients [mentioned above]. Then invest time into learning how each tool works in order to leverage them effectively.

For Those Who Have Ears to Hear

My advice is to approach social media slow, the way a scientist collects data from her experiments. Teachers are privileged to private information. So, be quick to listen, twice as slow to speak, and even slower to bite off more than you can chew.

As always please comment and share.

How are you using Twitter? Which web applications and add-ons are working best for you at this time?

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to http://laroncarter.com to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Copyright © 2008-2010 | LaRon A. Carter The Guest Teacher

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Teaching Basics | Observation Teaching Power

Photo Credit by Cherice

Photo Credit by Cherice

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” George Bernard Shaw

Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 1.3

Yesterday I wrote about using basic visual observations to collect important information. In Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 1.2, I suggested caution about over analyzing what you see, you just want to collect data. Once accurate observations have been gathered of those you have been assigned to engage you can begin developing a cool power teaching classroom environment.

What the Family Sees
Lets pick up from yesterday’s blog post. The student’s home environment may be the same healthy stimulus as in your classroom or it may be totally different. Whichever the case plays a critical factor in how you are able to connect with that student. For that matter your home experience plays into this issue, but I digress for now. Interviewing the parents and guardians and making allies can make or break your ability to effectively manage student behaviors. Are you talking to the parents? Don’t be shy about contacting them.

Remember my rant on customer service in 1.1 of this series? Talking to those that know the student best can be interesting. I’ve had families that said, “Oh not my kid” and not have a clue what that rascal was up to behind their back. And I’ve had others say, “Terrence has the worst behavior of all my kids” and he was my model student. Whatever information you get out of servicing the customer is valuable when collected bias free. Your goal is to be an excellent service provider when wearing the hat of civil servant.

How the Student Sees It
One of the things that will frustrate you the most about this crazy game of teaching is how “the experts” often fail to silicate the ideas of those we serve. Sometimes I walk away from meetings think can we at least take a poll or survey. That’s what world class company’s do isn’t it? Customer feedback seems to works for them. If you’re reading this in real time it’s mid-year and you may have had a few blow ups already. Have you been able to stay on top of student feedback while trying to learn new curriculum, grade papers, and have a life of your own?

Sometimes priorities bump task like interviews and recording observations off our to-do-list and understandably so. But trust me on this, if you allow customer service to fall short of your priorities you will get your head bashed by that not so friendly stress-myster guy. Find your confidence to eliminate classroom behavioral challenges by collecting accurate intelligence from observation, observation, observation. See it happening not how to get it done. Keep breathing.

This is a new series called Stressed Out K – 12 Education. Over the next several weeks we will explore classroom issues surrounding special needs, at-risk behaviors, student – teacher and teacher – parent relationships, and much more as it relates to reducing stress created from educational systems, narrow minded thinking of difficult colleagues, and the headaches of some one else’s undisciplined kids.

Copyright © 2009 | LaRon A. Carter “The Guest Teacher

Best Year Teaching: If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to http://laroncarter.com to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Teaching Basics | Who’s Following Who

Photo Credit by Nelson Lauren

Photo Credit by Nelson Lauren

“Consider your origins: you were not made that you might live as brutes, but so as to follow virtue and knowledge.” Dante Alighieri


Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 1.2

Before we get into the stink of smelly issues wrapped around your sanity and peace of mind during your first years of school, take a deep breath. If you are like most new teachers, even though it may be mid school year, you are probably feeling like you just want it all to be over right now. In the rare event of this is not being the case; this message is not for you at this time. Read on anyway and prepare for a rough forecast ahead. Don’t twist my message. Life is still good. I’m here to inspire you to assist your students (the younger the better) to become better problem solvers for themselves.

Birds of the Feather
Remember when mom and dad would monitor your relationships saying things like, “I don’t like that kid.” or “She’s not good for you.” But now that you’re older you understand that birds of the feather do really flock together even though you may have a friend or two that aren’t exactly good for you. Thank God you are older and wiser now. Keeping friends at a safe distance is easier these days. But kids haven’t developed that skill set yet. They’re still flying blindly. Here’s where you come in – But not so quick, Newbie. You’re a Semi-Pro now, a New Leader of little soon to be leaders. Fly in like the military in a Stealth aircraft.

Recon Intel Rules
One of the most valuable methods of collecting intelligence on your students is observation, observation, observation. Now you may need to implement several resources in order to accomplish this mission. I will cover observation methods from my high level Intel military perspective in later post. For now however, I want you to keep it basic. Consider using these three types of intelligence collecting methods.

• Visual (what you see)
• Visual (what the family sees)
• Visual (how the student sees it)

What You See
Be careful not to over analyze the observations you make, particularly with who your students follow. That’s a sure way to stress your self out quick. Because what you think you see may not really be what you think you see. Trust your intuition. Does that make since? Even the Secret Service didn’t fully understand what was behind the President’s social media network following when the Obama’s demanded to keep their Blackberry phones.

He built a historic and award winning political campaign from making social observations and implementing connecting systems. Systems that collected intelligence that told a hidden story (and hidden dollars) his competition wasn’t able to collect in time for a win. I’m sure they were constantly stressing over it as well. You school may come down hard on the use of new media technology in your district. They may not understand what’s going on. You know what time it is.

Document observation notes in a separate journal, voice mail, or iPod if you have to. Just make sure it’s as it happens. You want to record accurate Intel in real time, but you don’t want to be distracted to the point of being knocked off task. Take time to develop a method that works for you. The results will prove to be priceless. Record micro notes of things like: moods, behaviors, patterns, and habits; who students are connected with, customer service phone calls/visits home; and interviews with students.

To be continued . . .
I will write more about the basics of observations tomorrow. Until then, stay focused. And stay confident that you will successfully make it through this marking period even though you wish it were over. There are more than twelve weeks left. You will win!

This is a new series called Stressed Out K – 12 Education. Over the next several weeks we will explore classroom issues surrounding special needs, at-risk behaviors, student – teacher and teacher – parent relationships, and much more as it relates to reducing stress created from educational systems, narrow minded thinking of difficult colleagues, and the headaches of some one else’s undisciplined kids.

Copyright © 2009 | LaRon A. Carter “The Guest Teacher

Best Year Teaching: If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to http://laroncarter.com to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Teaching Basics | CS Connects Power Sources

Photo Credit by Marcin Wichary

Photo Credit by Marcin Wichary


“Joining together, linking with others creates an unified bond. It’s a powerful source.”

Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 1.1

Attentive Observation Can Record Volumes
A long time ago there was an elementary school age student that had made it to the end of his tolerance rope for being tardy and was being threatened with an expulsion.

The interesting thing about witnessing the principal’s hallway rants was that this kids demeanor remained remarkably calm, almost detached. I saw his body language speaking loudest of all involved. So I advocated for the nine year old by asking to buy some time. I wanted to investigate the back-story. Didn’t know if there was one, but his posturing was just plain curious to me.

Interview as a Practice
After pulling the young guy off to the side of his opened classroom door I confirmed, “Things just don’t go the way we planned sometimes, huh?” His eyes gave him away. I hadn’t noticed them before. There wasn’t much there. His stare was part detached and part sleepy. I could tell by the crusty corners. A sign he hadn’t been monitored before leaving for school.

Not really sure why I asked if he had any older brothers or sisters there at school. But asking that question became standard customer service (CS) inquiry for the rest of my K – 12 teaching career. Jeremy responded, “My older brother comes by to pick me up after school.” So I asked, “Where is he coming from when he meets you here?” Jeremy said, “He gets out early from middle school.” Aha! (Joseph A. Almeida)

Acceptable Solicitation
“What does everyone call him,” I asked. Jeremy perked up and said with a giggle, “He’s JR.”

Now it’s on. I’ll surprise JR by calling him by his name of endearment and inspire him to rise to the occasion with a little flattery. 3:23 rolled around and JR was posted right where Jeremy said he’d be. (Dakarai I. Aarons)

Mr. C: “Whatup JR? You know this kid? I’ve been impressed with the way he carries himself around here. Now I see it’s pretty obvious where he gets it.”

By now JR was acceptably solicited for me to be on his team and I needed him to post up in the paint while I drove the ball up the court.

“I need a favor from you.”

JR: “What’s good?”

Mr. C: “I need for you to suit up with this big brother thing and start getting little man up in the morning. Can you handle that?”

JR: “For sure.”

Mr. C: “I also need for you to bring him with you and drop him off here on you way to school. I figure he can get his eat on and chill in my classroom, maybe do some of that pass due homework from all those tardies he’s been getting.”

JR:“No problem, Mr. C. I got you.”

Expect to Win!
As it turns out the boys where living with a widowed grandfather who had gone back to working third shift to provide for the boys. I guess he was making it home between JR leaving for school and Jeremy waking up. Pops was elderly and often exhausted from working at the plant. Most often he didn’t realize that his grandson was still in bed until long after school started.

The whole thing was driving a wedge between the student, the teacher, and administration. A basic case of missed communication, primarily the school’s for not connecting with Jeremy’s family. Look for opportunities to service the customer throughout the day. Discover the areas needing CS and connect the power sources before getting all stressed out over low power levels. Flip it. Get your Mac on. You are a Customer Service Super Star. (The National Council on Teacher Quality)

This is a new series called Stressed Out K – 12 Education. Over the next several weeks we will explore classroom issues surrounding special needs, at-risk behaviors, student – teacher and teacher – parent relationships, and much more as it relates to reducing stress created from educational systems, narrow minded thinking of difficult colleagues, and the headaches of some one else’s undisciplined kids.

Copyright © 2009 | LaRon A. Carter “The Guest Teacher

Best Year Teaching: If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (top right column) to have future post delivered to your feed reader. Please send your friends to http://laroncarter.com to connect with me or @laroncarter on Twitter.

Teaching Basics | Smart Classroom Management

Photo Credit by Tiffany Silva

Photo Credit by Tiffany Silva


“Smart classroom management, like managing relationships, begins with engaging the idea and thinking it through.”

Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series 1.0

Re: An elementary student teacher stated that “educating” parents was like walking a fine line. When asked to elaborate she said, “Well, you never want them to feel like you know more than them.”

My Teacher is Smarter Than Your Teacher
Well. Well. Well. Aren’t we feeling sensitive today? In all of the two decades in front of the classroom as a highly qualified teacher I have been accused of mmma –a few things (I even had a student call me a brainiac mutha focker one time – Well you get the idea). Ouch. But I have never been accused of making a parent feel like I knew more than them. It was a given . No, seriously though, I didn’t come up through the education ranks with 4.0 GPA transcripts in the beginning. Hell, I didn’t read above a sixth grade level until I was twenty-nine. But don’t get it twisted my parents and I have always placed high demands on academic excellence. That reading thing is another story.

Meet the Fockers
Since the beginning of my tenure I have understood which set of keys could unlock the art of teaching. The Pro’s know beyond a doubt that secretaries, janitors, guardians (and sometimes security) are star players for hitting a few less road bumps than your knuckle-head colleague across the hall – If that’s you just keep reading. Of those mentioned, my money is on the caring parent to win MVP at the end of the day. Note: If she’s a Single Lady – Just like Beyoncé Giselle Carter was at the time of recording. . . She’s in a league of her own. You will be less stressed having the support of an active parent on your team. Just ask for help.

Play in the Majors
Trust me, if you are serious about knocking the ball out of the park at least half of the time you are up at bat. You will take time to connect with the student’s parents or guardian at least 2 – 3 times a marking period. That’s an average of about once a month, right? The key here with new students is to make your first two phone calls home CS calls. That’s right, Customer Service your accounts. I didn’t say sales calls. You have nothing to sell. You are being encouraged to make those calls service calls. Otherwise you headed down a road of unnecessary stress filled days guided by students without a license to drive you there. Do you feel me? Bite your lip if you have to, but don’t call with a bad report until you connect with your team mates. You can win this round amenities, but you have to be strategic. I’ll share more tomorrow.

Check Your Purpose Clause
What is your purpose behind trying to mange a classroom full of someone else’s kids without evoking the persuasive authority of parent power? That’s just stupid. Don’t sleep on Granny being there for you, praying for you, and spanking that butt when she needs to. Better theirs than yours. Right? When Michelle Obama met with the Department of Education staffers yesterday she met with them as a former student, a teacher, and a parent. She was in tune with the purpose behind the tasks we struggle to perform. Michelle opened with, “I am a product of your work. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the public schools that nurtured me.” In the words of our First Lady, “Roll up your sleeves, you have a lot of work to do.” From me personally, thank you for doing what you do. I appreciate you holding it down.

This is a new series called Stressed Out K – 12 Education. Over the next several weeks we will explore classroom issues surrounding special needs, at-risk behaviors, student – teacher and teacher – parent relationships, and much more as it relates to reducing stress created from educational systems, narrow minded thinking of difficult colleagues, and the headaches of some one else’s undisciplined kids.

Copyright © 2009 | LaRon A. Carter “The Guest Teacher

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (just below this article) to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Then encourage family and friends by sharing this blog address and invite others to subscribe so we get a chance to connect as well. Just send them to https://laroncarter.wordpress.com where they can bookmark or subscribe to the page. Feel free to direct message me on Twitter @laroncarter or connect on http://laroncarter.com.

Stressed Out K – 12 Education Series

a-classroom-of-indifference1

Photo Credit: ken sent me's photostream

To return to the Stressed Out K – 12 Series <click here>

Are You Stressed Out?
In this new series: Stressed Out K – 12 Education, we don’t wait for the “What If We Set Up Teachers for Success Discussion?” I will cover classroom issues surrounding special needs, at-risk behaviors, student – teacher and teacher – parent relationships, and much more as it relates to reducing stress created from educational systems, narrow minded thinking of difficult colleagues, and the headaches of some one else’s undisciplined kids.

Respect Gone Wild
One of the things I get asked a lot from new classroom teachers is, “How do I get my students back on track once I have lost their respect?”  The cry is always the same, “Their behavior is really stressing me out.” Whenever this happened to me I’d get this bubbling panic feeling in my stomach that made me want to take off running down the hallway and out of the building. There are common reasons why this may have happened to you if you are new to teaching or if you have been around a few years, but lost your footing.  Capturing kids hearts may be the goal.

Regain Traction
Over the next several weeks I will be covering situations and details that help identify both circumstances and methods to attack the problems.  Together we will bring your classroom management full circle, putting you back in the pilots seat as lead teacher in charge of your domain.  I intend to help put your feet back on the ground so you can gain more traction from all that hard work being put into those lesson plans.  You have more control that you realize.

Where Did My Focus Go?
When you first recognize things getting out of control do what we are taught to do when we discover our clothes are burning. Stop, drop, and roll.  Stop doing whatever you are doing, it’s not working anyway. Focus your attention internally.  Have you stopped breathing? Breathe.   Have you blindly ignored the source? Drop all distracting attention getters and be present.   Some times thoughts of life issues bigger than the classroom rob us of giving our undivided focus. With a little practice of the methods covered in this series you will regain focus on the things most important to your adorable students in disguise.   And finally, roll with the punches.  Yeah, yeah, I know students are throwing harder punches at an early age now days but some things never change.  The reality is you have what it takes to take those little punches and roll with it.  Taking punches better be part of your training if you plan on being Queen Bee of the playground. Until next time play to win, your pursuit of classroom happiness depends on it.

Copyright © 2009 | LaRon A. Carter “The Guest Teacher

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (just below this article) to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Then encourage family and friends by sharing this blog address and invite others to subscribe so we get a chance to connect as well. Just send them to https://laroncarter.wordpress.com where they can bookmark or subscribe to the page. Feel free to direct message me on Twitter @laroncarter or connect on http://laroncarter.com.

To return to the Stressed Out K – 12 Series <click here>

Make a Profound Impact New School Employees

A lot of school buses

Photo Credit wheany

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”  Will Durant

My first guest teaching assignment was something out of a storybook.   After thirty years of searching for a purpose driven life, my reason for being on earth seemed clear that day.  Finally, I got it right with God.  It was my birthday and I had prayed the night before for a picture of the class to document that moment in time.

A young girl approached me, as I sat writing a note to the primary teacher explaining my day with her art students from Indianapolis School #44.  A Polaroid Instamatic camera hanging from her neck contained two slides of film.  She asked to take my picture for her scrapbook. I responded, “Only if the one I take of the class is a good one, because if not, I need the second shot as well.”  And to my surprise she simply said, “OK.”  I remember thinking, “This teaching thing is going to work.  You tell them what you want and they just do it.  Psych. 

What followed in the days to come often resembled a good dream gone bad.  What could have possibly gone wrong?  The best way to explain it may be to look for what went right in my earlier classroom experience.  I managed to tap into a positive vibe the morning of my first teaching assignment.  My expectations were so high that even my words aligned with the very thing I wanted to happen.  I confessed, “

Today I will take all of my life experiences with me and produce a great first day of school.  My mood, thoughts and actions create the weather of my classroom. 

I understand that everyone comes into the building with their own set of issues, so I’ll greet each child with a warm smile and comforting handshake to ease fears of separation.  I believe in my ability to be sensitive when needed.  My response in all situations determines whether I am in control of a crisis.  A child’s dignity will always be in my forefront.  My confidence to lead these young people has been crafted from years of living life, learning from the master leaders who have gone before me, and if all else fails – I am a Marine.”

You may not have a military background that precedes your first day as a schoolteacher but if you take on the challenge of earning the title of “Teacher” you will without a doubt go to war long before entering your classroom.  One thing I realized from the start was that our battles in education are more spiritual that anything else.  Maybe that’s the revelation churches had in the beginning of American education. 

Understanding the source of your children’s academic challenges is the beginning of improved classroom management and living with less stress as a teacher.  Progress in the development of humanity as we know it is depending on your ability to teach young people how to become better problem solvers for themselves.  But, how can we teach problem solving skills if we ourselves are limited to managing minute-by-minute classroom situations.  Pointing the finger at parents, students and administration won’t solve the problem, trust me. 

When you are given the key to your classroom you are symbolically grasping the cornerstone key to unlocking the minds of decision making far greater than those you will be held accountable for on your school’s AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). 

Coach John Wooden wrote, “Success is a peace of mind, in knowing you’ve done your best, to become the very best that you are capable of becoming.”

This quote, jumpstarted change in my thinking process.  Helping students and myself to gain understanding of this wise knowledge over the years has made a profound impact on the hearts and minds of those I teach. 

None of it could have been accomplished had I not learned to eliminate stress of the unknown by monitoring the words I spoke.  Creating a confession of the thing I wanted to happen instead of what I was seeing.  Recognizing each child to be an individual being of thoughts, emotions and physical makeup made teaching personal.  Then redefining what I thought to be success by the renewing of my mind, to know that I know I am in a constant state of being the very best I can be.  And best of all is confidence of knowing my students are modeling their teacher.  Who said you can have whatever you like?

Copyright © 2009 | LaRon A. Carter “The Guest Teacher

P.S. If you have been inspired from this article please consider leaving a comment and subscribing to the RSS feed (just below this article) to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Then encourage family and friends by sharing this blog address and invite others to subscribe so we get a chance to connect as well. Just send them to https://laroncarter.wordpress.com where they can bookmark or subscribe to the page. Feel free to direct message me on Twitter @laroncarter or connect on http://laroncarter.com.