Monday, August 25, 2008

The College Essay...

Welcome to my blog! As you can see from perusing my previous posts, I am relatively new to the world of blogging, to the use of technology beyond the most rudimentary of tasks, but I am so excited by all of the possibilities that this blog might offer our classes!

For our first post, I'll ask you to read at least two of the following articles regarding the college essay. Choose any two from the list provided, then respond with your insights, observations, comments, etc. Try to move beyond simple responses like, "I knew that" or "I didn't know that." Instead, reflect on your own experiences and expectations as a student readying for college admissions. What topics do you plan to explore in your college essays? What events, experiences, etc. seem like appropriate content for your essays? What insights do these readings offer on the development of those essays? These are just a few questions that you might consider...

Please refer by title to the articles that you read and use direct quotations where appropriate.

Each person is required to post an individual response, but feel free to comment upon the observations and insights of your classmates, as well.

I look forward to reading your responses...


TheAdmissions Essay Ordeal - The Young Examined Life

College Essays Nerve-racking...

Making a hard-life story open a door to college

Controversy over College Essay Sites

College Admissions ... A little guidance

U.Va. Office of Admission Essays

Advice from an expert - The Boston Globe

College applications can be too good - The Boston Globe

How much do college admissions essays matter -

Teacher Says College Admissions Essays ( (2)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Worst Teacher Ever...

During yesterday's district-wide convocation, the keynote speaker Clay Parker stressed the relationship between teacher interest and student success. Now this isn't ground-breaking theory, but it does express an idea best repeated on a regular basis.

As his presentation ended, I made my way across the rows - a salmon swimming against the tide of teachers rushing headlong to the parking lot - to one of my own high school teachers, one who embodied the qualities which Mr. Parker had described. I thought that she might want to know the impact her interest and enthusiasm had on my attitude toward learning. I didn't love Government and Economics, but I felt compelled to meet her high expectations. I didn't necessarily relish the hard work she assigned, but I felt a great satisfaction in succeeding in "Killer Miller's" courses.

There were two others teachers, now long-retired, that I wished were there as well: Minerva Upchurch and Mildred Bowries. It was Mrs. Upchurch's gentle ways and friendly honk and wave each time she drove down my street that won my affections and untimately my respect and willingness to achieve. Mrs. Bowries - she spoke my language! She combined literature with real life and made me feel the plight of Hester Prynne, still one of my favorite heroines in all of literature.

Those three names and faces stand out against all the others that Spring Branch ISD offered during my twelve years there. Human, compassionate, humorous, energetic, and enthusiastic, I would have died rather than disappoint any one of them and indeed felt a failing when I did.

I should add, though, that I had a alarmingly high number of ambivalent and disinterested teachers, too. I can think of two in particular whose character alone stymied any growth on my part: one, a five-foot chemistry teacher who wielded anger and cynicism as effectively as any weapon; the other, a dance instructor who belittled and beleaguered her students to the degree that her own program was left abandoned. Their collective cruelty stands out in harsh juxtaposition against other fading memories of twenty years ago.

Fortunately, my own students will have better teachers than I did. Looking around the crowded colliseum, I see teachers with whom I am proud to work, teachers I would choose for my own children.

I don't mean to be too maudlin, sentimental, or romantic in my depiction of teachers. I know there were those who rolled their eyes during Mr. Parker's presentation, those who said "I don't want to be my students' friend. I just want to teach and go home."

Well, I'll brush over the gross misinterpretation of interest as "friendship" and ask instead, "Really? Just transmitting the facts of French, Calculus, English, World History - whatever you teach - is enough? You could teach any audience - it matters not who they are? You don't care whether your audience is interested, engaged, and successful? Is it really just about you and getting the job done?"

Allow me to qualify for a moment: I do empathize with that kind of thinking. As teachers, we spend so many hours preparing, grading, in meetings, inservices, etc., that it would be nice to say "I am doing this much and no more." But let's try to keep our students in that list of things that we are willing to care about, shall we? Let's cut out something else, like bulletin boards, or one more worksheet, or whatever we spend our time on instead.

Mr. Parker suggested that we are all teachers because of one or two great teachers in our own lives. We live to model their actions and attitudes. But, I think we also work against the specters of those bad teachers - those who did anything but inspired.

I'm not here to teacher bash or to suggest that I am as good as or conversely any better than those mentioned above; instead I use Mr. Parker's comments as a cautionary tale of what I could become. Of what any of us could become.

Although I hate cliched expression and would accuse my own students of going for the Miss America/Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul conclusion, I will adopt one this time: When your students look back on their years of education, how will you be remembered? They will remember, you know. I did. You did. They will...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's Your Move...

Always on the lookout for new books, I regularly check in with fellow blogger, Readerbuzz. A librarian and an avid reader, she always has some interesting reads posted on her site. This morning, while noodling around her page, an unknown term caught my eye: meme.

Well you can imagine that my first issue was proper pronunciation: /meem/ or /mim/ or /meemee/ ? Like any self-respecting web-crawler, I scurried to the source of infinite wisdom and googled it.

Here is what I found: as for pronunciation, the first two phonetic spellings seem to predominate web discourse. Ironically, pronunciation is the most complex aspect of this web2.0 phenomena.

Originally used in sociological and psychological constructs (Google it if you want the full discussion), the web application refers to an exponentially expanding discussion that revolves around a series of questions and answers. An author creates a series of compelling queries, publishes them, and hopes that readers will read, answer, and spread the news.

I'm not sure what the true motivation is: the thirst for answers to some of life's great questions or the desire to start a trend, to be noticed, to be noted and/or known. Somehow I'd bet on the latter. Who wouldn't want to give birth to some kind of cultural revolution? To be able to say, "I invented that move."

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, "Fusilli Jerry," explores the importance of having a "move." Although directly referring to sexual techniques, George makes an important point about "moves" in general: to Jerry he complains "You told David Putty your move and you didn't tell me? I need a move. You know I have no moves, Jerry. "

We all want something that will make us special, set us apart, define us. So, what is your move? Wait -- before you answer that question, let's put some parameters on this discussion!

First, we don't want to know about the intimate moments of your life. I'm sure there are other forums for those discussions, but you'll have to ask someone else: this blog is strictly "pg" or perhaps "pg-13."

Second, let's decide how a "move" is defined. For our purposes, a move is some act that either defines or is defined by the mover. For example, Elvis' move involved the swaying of the hips; Kramer's, falling; Johnny Carson's, the little salute... A move is some action that implicitly bears a signature.

So, I ask again, what is your move? What words, actions, habits, and/or ticks help to define you?

Questions to consider:
1. Do you have a signature move or movement?
2. A saying, phrase, or idiom which peppers your parlance?
3. An identifying mark or brand?
4. A particular article or artifact that people would associate with you?
5. A theme song?

Don't worry about sharing your carefully cultivated characteristics. We, the readers of this blog, collectively agree to attribute any moves we adopt to the original source. For example, the shoulder dance: that move belongs to Nancy. The gumbo recipe? Grandpa's, of course.

As Jerry remarks to George, "The point is when something like this is passed along, one must be certain that it's going to be used in a conscientious way. This is not some parlor trick to be used---" (

So give us your best, fair readers. We won't steal them, we won't adulterate them, but we just might copy them!

Oh, my answers?
1. Do you have a signature move or movement?
Clinched fists - my body language of choice for any activity from teaching to running to chatting at a cocktail party. (Best executed with a little wad of Kleenex or paper towel inside.)

2. A saying, phrase, or idiom which peppers your parlance?
"For lack of a better descriptor," "Well...," and "All that good stuff."

3. An identifying mark or brand?
I have lots of freckles and (I hesitate to even admit it) moles. I didn't choose these, of course, and find them enough on their own. No further embellishment needed.

4. A particular article or artifact that people would associate with you?
A can of Diet Coke. In fact, in a caricature drawn by one of my students, the "ubiquitous Diet Coke" (her words, not mine) featured prominently.

5. A theme song?
"Brick House."

Again, here are the questions to consider:
1. Do you have a signature move or movement?
2. A saying, phrase, or idiom which peppers your parlance?
3. An identifying mark or brand?
4. A particular article or artifact that people would associate with you?
5. A theme song?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My Web2.0 Training Plan

It seems that late summer and early fall are made for planning. Time to mark the calendar, to look ahead, to pencil in some events and to commit others to ink. The summer grants the luxury of taking each day as it comes, living spontaneously and as the spirit moves, but the fall demands greater focus and deliberate choices. Oh, how I hate the advent of fall...

I usually follow other people's schedules rather than develop any of my own - with the strictures of school-year calendars, lesson plans, athletic schedules, social events and training plans, what time is left for self-made plans anyhow? (I must sound much the victim here - forgive the plaintive tone: it is not as I intended, and I will see if I can right the situation as I go...)

A great fan of the calendar, my husband's planner gleams with dates color-coded by event, organization, and/or key player. and Want to know where we will be in January of 2009? Well, the chances are that his Alma-mater (The University of Houston) will play in one of three bowl games, and they are likely to play in cities x, y, or z, so those dates and places are already penciled in...

I will admit that this detailed planning does help to add some structure to our lives. To play off of my beloved, Robert Frost, something there is that loves a schedule!

Rather than a rigid graphic depiction of life's commitments, I like the idea of the calendar as a plan for my future - a way to achieve my goals. Some of you are thinking that the difference exists only in semantics, but I beg to differ: the difference is in philosophy. Although I resist being tied down to dates and times, I embrace the idea of growth and progress. And, if a calendar or training plan will help me progress toward those ends, then I embrace it.

Along those lines, I am developing a plan for my nascent web2.0 skills. A firm believer in the adage , "Use it or lose it," I worry that all I learned this summer will fade into the institutional, antiseptic mist of the school year. I hope that our friends at library2play will continue to augment their blog and training plans, but in case they don't I have come up with one of my own.
My ideas follow, ordered only by the chronology of the Library2play blog. I welcome any ideas or further suggestions that any of you learn2players or any other technology-savvy readers might have...
Well, that's enough for now. It is still summer, the temperature has dipped below 100 degrees, and the overgrown bushes on my back patio beg for trimming.

Items in black print have received no action; green, done; pink, in progress.

1. Modify my avatar and maybe put one on my mhs website? Is that possible?
Yes, this is possible, but I haven't done it yet.

2. Put a link from on my mhs website to my blog?

3. Ask vwb how to put the proper citations on my flickr photos.
(Since I am always after my students about proper documentation, I can hardly demand less of myself.)
Received instructions but haven't executed them yet...

4. Limit the time I spend on mashups or image generators to 10 minutes. Seriously!
Nice thought, but have you seen my voki? Hamnet, the cyberpig?

5. Figure out how to retrieve files from Google notebook;
figure out how to delete items from Google reader;
decide whether I really want to have an rss reader.
Have contacted a fellow blogger who reported success w/ Google reader; waiting for response.

6. Delete my account with Library Thing and update my account with Shelfari.
Deleted account with Library Thing,
started updating Shelfari account,
removed Shelfari widget from my blog.
Thinking of another way to include my novels and reading list.
Will have to consult librarians' blogs to see what they do...

7. Decide who to include in my "circle of the wise."
I added a two blogs that deal w/educational technology to my list.
There is a third that I want to include, but it is not one that is regularly updated, so...
Change in plans here: Since very few of our learn2players are still blogging, I deleted my bloglist, at least for now. Once people are up and posting again, then I'll start adding again.

8. Find out which learn2players are going to continue to blog.
(This seems inextricably tied to number 7).

9. Completely revisit Delicious and Technorati, Rollyo as well.
I didn't pay enough attention to these topics the first time.
I think, though, that Delicious really serves the purpose that I want Rollyo to...

10. Decide which to pursue for use with my class:
a blog, a wiki, or a ning?
Maybe get some group feedback on this one...

11. Look at the list of 43 things that inspired this initiative,
and see what I can add from that list.

12. Get the advice of other learn2players
and see what their recommendations are.

13. Seek students' advice on new and emerging technologies.
They are always ahead of the curve.
(As was so painfull apparent this afternoon as a former student
informed me that the term web2.0 is already passe. Huh!)

14. Find out what a meme is...
Done. See 8/6/08 post.

15. Update and revise newsfeeds.
Ahthough I never linked these to my blog, I have updated my google reader,
eliminating those that I rarely read in hopes that I might
actually read the ones remaining.
Maybe I need to put these widgets on my blog.
I'm more likely to check them there than the google reader page.

16. Clean up my blog!

I have started this process, eliminating my blog list, list of students' favorite words, and Shelfari widget.