Three Questions

What if? Why not? Could it be? sang the glowing, wondering heart of Leo Matienne” (DiCamillo, 2009).

I realize it is July and there is still another month before required teacher workdays start. However, I just finished reading The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo and the character of Leo Matienne got me thinking about teaching and planning for the upcoming school year.

I’ve always been a fan of DiCamillo’s books and did several of them as class read alouds or novel studies when I was in the classroom. I had never read this book, but my daughter just finished it and told me how great it was. I thought I would read it before we returned it to the library.

As I expected, it was another wonderful story by DiCamillo. The character of Leo Matienne makes his first appearance in chapter three and this is where these three questions are first introduced. He is described in this chapter as someone who has “the soul of a poet, and because of this, he liked very much to consider questions that had no answers” (2009). This questioning nature of Leo Matienne makes him a very important character as the story unfolds.

I still have a position as a technology facilitator, but this year I will also be teaching a technology course (a very broad topic, I know). While I am doing my best to relax as much as possible this summer, I am still thinking of the upcoming school year and what I want to do with this class.

After reading this story and the role of Leo Matienne, I could not stop thinking about his three questions. Like Mr. Matienne, I feel like I have a lot of questions to consider that do not have answers. I think these three questions – What if? Why not? Could it be? – will work as a guide not only for the start of school, but throughout the upcoming school year.

After all, Why not?

References

DiCamillo, K. (2009). The Magician’s Elephant. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

My Summer Reading Plans

I meant to get this blog out closer to the beginning of the month when summer break started. However, being that it is summer break, I got slightly distracted with just relaxing and catching up on some Netflix binging.

I have been doing some reading since the break began and have come across some books that I have found particularly interesting. Some I have read and others I am still in the process.

Measuring Instructional Results or Got a Match?

by Rober F. Mager

I know this is a job-related book, but I feel I have to do some professional reading over the summer. I heard about Mr. Mager this spring while taking an instructional design course for license certification. He has quite a few books out and I really didn’t know where to start. I chose this one because it focuses on instructional objectives and knowing whether or not these objectives have been mastered by learners.

Along with my responsibilities as a technology facilitator, I will also be teaching a broad-ranging technology course throughout the year on various topics like coding, web design, e Portfolios, and digital citizenship. These are new topics for me and they do not really have a strict set of standards to follow as some of the other cores subjects, like math or language arts. One thing I found particularly important in this book is the establishment of definitions and distinctions in the second chapter. There are several words discussed here, but I thought the explanation of norm-referenced and criterion-referenced evaluations was very helpful. The example of “The Coffee Pot Caper” in this chapter makes it very easy to see the difference between these two terms.

Practical SQLA Beginner’s Guide to Storytelling With Data

by Anthony DeBarros

This book is one I am still in the process of reading. It is a book that you read and work on examples in each chapter to learn SQL. Working with data and learning SQL has become a recent interest of mine. I have been studying SQL on some online sites, and have also been searching for a good book to use as a reference. After going through two other books that didn’t work for me, I came across this in the library. I like the layout and explanations for each of the lessons. There are files for each example, so you can copy and paste the data for a table, instead of typing it out yourself. This gives you more time to learn the important aspects of SQL. This will take me some time to finish. I am only on the third chapter and often go back to previous material or spend time elaborating with a current lesson. If you are interested in learning how to work with data using SQL, I strongly recommend this book.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

by Daniel H. Pink

I have seen several posts about Mr. Pink’s books on social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook. I was actually looking for his book Drive at the public library, but there was quite a long wait for it and this book was available there on the shelf. I’m sure Drive is as good as all the reviews say it is, and I’m sure it is worth the wait, but I am really glad this book was available.

This is another book that I am still reading. However, the first few chapters I have read are very interesting. The studies he mentions that show research on how our minds and our decisions can change throughout the day is fascinating. The idea of when to make a decision is something that never really occurred to me before reading this book. The author also includes a Time-Hackers Handbook at the end of each chapter that is “a collection of tools, exercises, and tips to help put insights into action” (Pink, 2018).

The Language of the GameHow to Understand Soccer

by Laurent Dubois

Growing up, I was never much of a soccer fan. To be honest, it wasn’t until well into my adulthood that I became interested in the game. My first memory of watching a game with any interest goes back to the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the final match between the United States and China. I can remember being glued to the TV as both sides took penalty shots to break a scoreless draw and determine the winner. As exciting as this was, the interest never really held until 14 years later when I saw the men’s German national team play the Kazakh national team in Astana, Kazakhstan. This was the same German team that would go on to win the World Cup in Brazil a year later. Now I was hooked.

I apologize for the digression above, but I feel it is important in order to explain why this book is so special to me. I actually came across this book last year and read it because the men’s World Cup was taking place at the time in Russia. I decided to read it again this year in honor of the women’s World Cup taking place in France. I feel like I’ve arrived very late to the game of soccer and have a lot of catching up to do. This book is an excellent resource for providing a history of the game, its rules, and its players. I love the layout of the chapters based on the positions in the game – goalkeeper, defender, midfielder. The author even includes the manager, referee and the fan as chapters, too.

Since this is my second time around reading this book, I am doing it a little differently. The author mentions a lot of games and players in each chapter, so I decided to read with a computer or phone nearby with access to Youtube. When a particular game or player is mentioned, I am able to search for a video and see it for myself, as well as, read Mr. Dubois’s description. I would not recommend doing this if it is your first read. I suggest just reading it in the book and not interrupting the flow of the story/chapter.

I hope this post provided you with some reading material if you are still searching for something to read in the coming weeks. I hope you are able to find some time this summer to read, relax, and spend time with family and friends.

References

Pink, D. H. (2018). When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing. Canongate.

What is a PLN?

The last two weeks have been very busy, so I have not really had much time to get to a blog post for March. However, I did spend these two weeks getting to work with Adobe Spark for a presentation I did on defining, creating, and reflecting on a professional learning network, or PLN. The embedded presentation below will take you to the Adobe Spark I created on this topic. I hope you enjoy it and please leave comments if you feel I left something out, or you have some advice of your own to give.

I would like to add a quick note on Adobe Spark, too. If you have never used this tool for presentation, I would recommend giving it a try. I wanted to try something new and this was a nice change of pace from Slides and Powerpoint. As with most of these tools, there is enough on the free account to create a nice presentation. If you are looking for more features to add to your work, then you will need to consider an upgrade for a price.

https://spark.adobe.com/page-embed.jsPLN Presentation and Reflection

Youtube’s Free Audio Files

Since moving into the position of technology facilitator, I have been making more use of my school Youtube account. I find myself making more videos now to help train staff and students on a variety of apps or software that is used in the classroom and school. I have also returned to school for certification and now have assignments that require me to make videos.

When I first discovered this about a month ago, it was one of those moments where I thought, ‘”Why has it taken me so long to discover this and why does it surprise me that this is available?” What prompted me to write this post is that when I started mentioning these files to others at my school, they didn’t know they existed either. The best thing about these files is that they are royalty free.

To access these files you will need to go to your profile section in the top right and click on Creator Studio.

Once in the Creator studio, scroll down to Create and select Audio Library.

As you can see in the image below, there are music and sound effect tabs for you to select. Below that you can see how you can select what type of music or sound effects you are looking for based on a variety of categories (Genre, Mood, Instrument, etc.).

One way I have used this is with PowerPoint presentations. I am still trying to work on using these files with Google Slides. It is not that hard of a process, but with a busy schedule I have just found it easier to insert and audio file into PowerPoint. I also might save that topic for a future post. After showing these files to some students at my school, they also found it to be a nice addition to their presentations.

Enjoy!

2019 – The Year of Opera

It’s December 30th and the new year is almost here. I thought I would make my December post about a resolution I would like to make for 2019. Last year, I decided to make a resolution that was more about adding something to my life, instead of trying to take something away or give something up. I wanted to do the same thing this year.

I did a post back in January of 2018 about how I wanted to start learning Welsh. While there were moments throughout the year where I struggled to squeeze in a few lessons during the week, I am still studying with Duolingo at least 3 -4 times a week. I can’t say that I am really fluent, but I have learned a few words and phrases, as well as, expanded my knowledge of Welsh history and culture.

Since the start of the winter break more than a week ago, I found myself searching opera on my Freegal app. I was amazed at how many famous works are available. I began listening to La Boheme, Tosca, Madame Butterfly – to name a few. I didn’t force myself to listen from Act 1 all the way to the end, but instead I just scrolled through the opera listening for a minute or two to see if the song appealed to me. Some did and some didn’t. I even came across one recording titled – 100 Essential Opera Arias, Songs, and Overtures. This is one I have been listening to quite a bit and getting some of the greatest hits of opera. It is also increasing my interest in listening to the entire opera instead of just one or two arias.

This evening I decided to make listening to opera and learning more about it my resolution for 2019. I am going to try and listen to an opera a month for the entire year. I might even look into getting tickets for an Opera Carolina performance. 

I will end this post with my current favorite from Puccini’s La Boheme – Che gelida manina. I’ve included the original text, the translation, and a video. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Italian Text of Che Gelida Manina

Che gelida manina,
se la lasci riscaldar.
Cercar che giova?

Al buio non si trova.

Ma per fortuna
é una notte di luna,
e qui la luna
labbiamo vicina.
Aspetti, signorina,
le dirò con due parole
chi son, e che faccio,
come vivo. Vuole?
Chi son? Sono un poeta.
Che cosa faccio? Scrivo.
E come vivo? Vivo.
In povertà mia lieta
scialo da gran signore
rime ed inni damore.
Per sogni e per chimere
e per castelli in aria,
lanima ho milionaria.
Talor dal mio forziere
ruban tutti i gioelli
due ladri, gli occhi belli.
Ventrar con voi pur ora,
ed i miei sogni usati
e i bei sogni miei,
tosto si dileguar!
Ma il furto non maccora,
poiché, poiché vha preso stanza
la speranza!
Or che mi conoscete,
parlate voi, deh! Parlate. Chi siete?
Vi piaccia dir!

English Translation

What a frozen little hand,

let me warm it for you.
What’s the use of looking?
We won’t find it in the dark.
But luckily
it’s a moonlit night,
and the moon
is near us here.
Wait, mademoiselle,
I will tell you in two words,
who I am, what I do,
and how I live. May I?
Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.
In my carefree poverty
I squander rhymes
and love songs like a lord.
When it comes to dreams and visions
and castles in the air,
I’ve the soul of a millionaire.
From time to time two thieves
steal all the jewels
out of my safe, two pretty eyes.
They came in with you just now,
and my customary dreams
my lovely dreams,
melted at once into thin air!
Bu the theft doesn’t anger me,
for their place has been
taken by hope!
Now that you know all about me,
you tell me who you are.
Please do!

 

Translation by Peter J. Nasou

Green, Aaron, and Aaron M. Green. “English Translation of ‘Che Gelida Manina’ From La Boheme.” Thoughtco., Dotdash, http://www.thoughtco.com/che-gelida-manina-lyrics-724324.

List of Completed Operas by Month

  • January 2019 – La Boheme – Puccini
  • February 2019 – Madame Butterfly – Puccini
  • March 2019 – Don Giovanni – Mozart
  • April 2019 – Aida – Verdi
  • May 2019 – The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart
  • June 2019 – Acis and Galatea – Handel
  • July 2019 – Bluebeard’s Castle – Bartok
  • August 2019 – Orlando Paladino – Haydn

Making the Calendar

Calendar Image

I am really trying to stick to writing a post a month and have been struggling for the past week with a topic. The idea finally occurred to me after staring at it every day since May 1st.

The image above is from a calendar we have at home on the refrigerator. One of my daughter’s chores is to change the dates at the start of each month. She makes note of any important dates we need to remember throughout the month – family birthdays, doctors appointments, or school functions. However, when I got home from school on May 1st and saw the updated calendar, I was surprised at something my daughter thought important enough to go on the calendar.

I covered the name to respect their privacy, but you can see that on May 2nd a birthday is marked. This is my daughter’s teacher, and along with making her an elaborately decorated pop up card, she also added her birthday to our refrigerator calendar.

After helping my daughter get her things ready for school the next day and make sure the card was packed safely in her book bag, I decided to take a picture of the calendar and email it to her teacher. I figured she would appreciate knowing that one of her students placed her on the family calendar. She quickly responded with, “Oh my gosh! I feel so important! Thank you :)”.

For the past week,  I’ve been thinking about the positive impact we can have on students. An impact strong enough that they not only remember our birthday, but think it important enough to put it on a family calendar.  For me, school and birthday never go together because mine is August 11.  I do not expect any of my former, or future students, to think of this during the final days of their summer break. I have been wondering, though, about other ways they might remember me and how I might have an impact on them.

I don’t mean to sound like I am looking for acknowledgement from my students or parents. I think the only reason I emailed a picture of it was because I am a teacher and I know how much a little gesture like that from a student can mean. The image above and this blog is more about having a reminder of the importance we might have on our students and never know about it. And the importance of passing something like this on to a teacher, especially when it is Teacher Appreciation Week. To get an email like this can do wonders to inspire a teacher, or give them the motivation to get through a rough day, week, etc. I also have this image printed out on my desk now to remind me that maybe I am on someone’s calendar. Maybe I made an impact on a student like this. It’s enough to change my mood and get me back into a more positive frame of mind. Making the calendar – a small, but very significant achievement.

 

Welsh – A New Year, A New Language

2000px-flag_of_wales_2-svg

It’s three weeks into the new year and this is my first post in a long time. I thought about making a resolution about blogging more, but I know that might not last very long. I try to blog about things I do in the classroom and with education in general, but I thought I would go a different route with this blog to start off the year.

Since the winter break in December, I have been reading a lot of blogs and tweets about taking better care of ourselves in order to avoid teacher burnout. There’s also the common phrase among educators about being lifelong learners and a constant pursuit of perfecting what we do in the classroom. I could relate to a lot of what I read and began to do some reflecting on my own life.

I realized that I have been doing a lot of one-sided learning. Most of it leaning towards the professional part of my life and very little on the personal side. I hope to change this in 2018. I hope to find a balance.

I have always wanted to learn a language and have tried several times with several languages. In high school, I studied Spanish for four years and tried to continue in college, but wasn’t successful. I taught English for two years in Taiwan and studied Chinese quite seriously while I was there. I even continued to study when I returned to the States, but found it harder and harder to find time and people to practice speaking the language. From 2011 – 2014, I lived in Astana, Kazakhstan where I taught at an international school and tried to learn Russian while I was there. I even met my wife over there who speaks Russian, and I still have had a hard time learning the language. Three languages that all ended with me losing interest and giving up. It’s been really frustrating, but thanks to Netflix and an app called, Duolingo, I think I finally found a language I enjoy and one I can make a hobby, not a requirement.

One of the types of series I like to watch on Netflix are the British dramas, particularly the mysteries. It started with Midsomer Murders, followed by Foyle’s War, Luther, George Gently, Sherlock Holmes, and then finally a suggestion by Netflix for the series, Hinterland (Y Gwyll in Welsh). This series blew me away and had me hooked from the start. The stories can be a little dark and heavy, but the scenery of Wales is beautiful and the acting is really good. I was also fascinated how the titles of the opening credits were in both English and Welsh. It was such a strange looking language with double consonants and very few vowels in such long words.

I was watching Hinterland late at night on January 4th, 2018 while trying to get my eight month old son back to sleep. I decided to check the Duolingo app on my phone for the Welsh language. If you are unfamiliar with Duolingo, it is a really great app for learning the basics of a language.  I think it does a good job of introducing basic vocabulary and simple, useful sentences. Welsh was one of the languages they offered, so I immediately open it up and began learning the language. I have been on a 13 day learning streak ever since.

Duolingo13days

For me, the other languages I tried to study just didn’t work out. Looking back on all these experiences, I realized that I took the enjoyment out of learning the language and made it feel more like a requirement, not a hobby.  I should/need to study Spanish or Chinese because it could mean good job opportunities. I should/need to study Russian because my wife and her family speak Russian (some of them also speak English). I don’t feel like this with Welsh and I hope I don’t end up making the same mistake. I really have no reason to study this language other than the fact that I saw it on a Netflix series and became curious. Of course, I have already had the usual questions from friends and family like, “Why are you studying that language?”, “Does anybody even speak Welsh anymore?”, “Isn’t that a dead language, a waste of time?” There was a brief moment when I heard these questions that I thought maybe I am wasting my time and should be learning a language that could possibly better my career chances and possibly earn more money. This line of thinking just puts me back in the vicious circle and defeats the point of having a hobby.

No, I am sticking with it because it is a language I WANT to learn.  I have enough to do that is required and essential for me to be a better teacher and do the best for my students. For me, it’s not just about being a lifelong learner, but about being a balanced lifelong learner. I need something in my life that will challenge me and give me a new perspective, but also allow me to enjoy myself and take a break from all the things I have to/should/need to do.