Alan Sitomer's Blog – July 2009 Archive (19)

Thanks to All This Guidance, I Have No Idea What I am Doing in My Classroom

Basically, I have little idea what to do in the classroom. The more guidance I am provided, the less clearly I understand what I ought to do. And I have a feeling I am not alone.

Am I supposed to teach my kids how to properly punctuate an appositive phrase? Yep. And how do I know that? Because it says so right there in the English Language Arts standards.

So, am I supposed to teach a kid that they should live their life with a sense of passion and purpose? I'd… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 31, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

Is it okay...

Is it okay to have limitations?

Is it okay not to be the most cutting edge, 21rst century tool wielding teacher on the planet without having aspersions cast on my professionalism?

Is it okay to not be the most phenomenal teacher of persuasive writing, expository writing, autobiographical writing, compare and contrast writing and creative writing ever to hold a dry erase marker?

Is it okay to feel hurt when my kids feel hurt by the budget cuts, impacted… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 30, 2009 at 10:31am — No Comments

What if we assess our schools/kids/teachers like Golf?

I love sports. I love hoops, football, baseball, boxing, soccer, hockey, tennis and so on. And when I mean "and so on", I mean, I can watch table tennis, badminton, lacrosse, rugby and golf.

Yep, I can watch golf.

But I only like to watch when there is level competition. If a game is a blowout, it's off. If a team has a 35 point lead heading into the 4rth quarter, a 3 goal lead late into the second half, an 11 run lead in the bottom of the seventh, I am usually… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 29, 2009 at 6:30am — 2 Comments

The Hero's Tale of Teenage-hood

As I write my next YA book right now, I am weighing some deep principles of story. And as I do, I realize that the reason these deep principles of story apply so well to the world of tales is because they apply so well to the real world -- to life, if you will.

For example, today I am probing the world of rich characters and what truly motivates them. Now most characters have some form of inner conflict going on in their lives -- especially when we meet them in the early… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 28, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

Just Don't Throw Us Under the Bus

There is most certainly a very interesting tidal wave on the horizon. And in the mighty seas that are swirling these days in education, that's no small feat (to create a potential tsunami that is teacher evaluation, that is. See here for the Obama chides California article which this blog post references).

Now, I have no problem with accountability.… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 27, 2009 at 6:30am — 2 Comments

Good ol' fashioned "I Give a Damn-ness"

I just ate a hotel restaurant -- not a fancy hotel by any stretch, very much a burger and sandwich type of place -- and was stricken by what seems to be a far receding quality in our country today.

Good ol' fashioned "I Give a Damn-ness".

Our waiter had it. He was friendly, nice, attentive, jocular and genuinely affable. But not intrusive. Not heavy-handed. He was just a notably good waiter, which is not rare if you are eating at a 5 star restaurant, but… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 24, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

Eat at Joe's... NOT!

An acquaintance (not a friend) of mine ate a local restaurant the other day -- at "Joe's" -- and had a bad experience. And then complained to me about it. The food, the service, the blah, blah, blah.

So, what is my opinion now of that restaurant? In an ideal world, I'd remain free of her input and go and judge it myself. However, all of us have so much going on in our lives that we often reply on the input of others to help us shape our own opinions of… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 23, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

The mysterious ways of the secret ninja teacher warrior

A part of my teaching life is paralyzed by feelings of perpetual professional inadequacy. And I feel like I am not alone.

I mean I finally get a grip on how to effectively teach theme and then I recognize the value that incorporating a classroom wiki could have. So I learn how to add this tool to my growing digital teaching arsenal but realize that there are some really high qualities insights to be gained by doing a bit more reading on using inquiry in the classroom. So I… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 22, 2009 at 6:30am — 1 Comment

I smell the future!!

In the war of digital vs. paper books, it looks like the paper tigers actually keep packing punches no one might have quite suspected they held in their arsenal. 8 tracks buckled like an accordion at the sight of cassette players. VHS tapes folded like a beach chair at the sight of DVD's. But paper books, what have they done as the digital enemy intruder sought to encroach upon their territory?

Simply fire back more shots across the bow than anyone might have expected they… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 21, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

Facebook Makes Me Feel Like a Wee Bit of a Jerk

I can't say I am the biggest fan of Facebook. Maybe I am just from a different era, whatever. And not to sound like a snob (I know, too late for that, right?), but I can't say that I am all that into striking up really long social network conversations with people I only kind of knew as bare associates 20 years ago. But ever since I joined Facebook once upon a time ago, I get all these "remember me" notes that seem to require 15-20 minutes of thoughtful written response if I am going… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 20, 2009 at 6:30am — 1 Comment

Score one for the Ol' Bugger: The Persuasive Composition Still Packs a Wallop!!

As Jim Burke has mentioned - quite brilliantly - writers today (and of the future) will require compositional skills in formats that consist of 3,000 words, 300 words, 30 words, 3 words and no words. (I am paraphrasing here; he's much more eloquent.) The point is, that literacy is increasingly more diverse than ever and the challenges we face preparing our kids to successfully tackle the demands behind placed upon them are both dynamic and shape shifting.

However,… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 17, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

The D'Oh of Being a Teacher

I've read scores and scores of books on the art and science of teaching. Many of the big names, lots of small ones, folks who have had some genuinely brilliant stuff to say and others who struck me as flat out nincompoops. But I think that one of the most important things I have taken away from all my "studies" is something about which everyone in our profession needs to be frequently reminded.

We flub. We mess up. We make mistakes... on almost a daily… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 16, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

Loving the Bad Guy

Had an exceptionally interesting conversation today with my literary agent about the need for an interesting villain in fiction. He spoke quite eloquently about the idea that the strength of a hero is really predicated on the force of opposition that your hero must face. After all, a weak villain doesn't require any great, spectacular heroism to conquer -- and this a problem with a large majority of the slush pile… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 15, 2009 at 6:30am — 2 Comments

Librarians are my Homies!!

I am immensely proud of this picture. The people you see include 1) Jacqueline Woodson, an author who has won the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newberry Honor Medal, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement as given by the American Library Association 2) Ann Martin, President of the American Association of School Librarians 3)… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 14, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

Goodness, do I really understand how much things have changed?

I was a featured speaker on the President's Panel of AASL this Saturday for the American Library Association's annual conference. (Took place in Chicago this year... what a town!)

So much great info, so many great people and so many great, mind-blowing ideas came at me from so many different directions that it's virtually impossible to keep up.

Yet, through the speaking, the book signings, the… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 13, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

National Standard 1.0 has got to be...

No one asked me but...

Considering that a bunch of high-fallutin', really smart, really accomplished folks are now getting together to concotuate national standards (and you wonder why they didn't invite me to the party?) I figured I throw in my own 2 cents.

All I ask is that they give me one standard. Just one. The rest, I'll leave to the professionals.

Standard 1.0: Have fun!

That's right, have fun. Enjoy your class, enjoy your… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 10, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

What kind of Neanderthal schooling is being provided by you Philistines?

School budgets need to be cut! But you better not shortchange MY child's education. This is the schizophrenic mantra being shouted by policy-making parents today.

On one hand, when they put on their bean counter hats, they see the excess, the fluff, the areas which can "justifiably" be scaled back. On the other hand, when they wear the hat of a being a parent and they look at the education that their own flesh and blood are getting in our schools, suddenly it's a whole… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 9, 2009 at 9:13am — No Comments

Why We Need to Teach Sex Ed in Our Schools

For those who wonder why we need Sex Ed taught in our schools, I offer this story, the tale of the teens who mistook a woman's lovemaking cries for assault and promptly beat the crap out of the man with whom she was amorously copulating.

But the question arises as to which school personnel are qualified to handle such a delicate, senstive class. Good thing we have teachers such… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 8, 2009 at 5:01pm — No Comments

My 3% Pay Cut... What Does It Really Mean?

I was just informed that my pay was being cut 3% for next year. The vote of the school board in regards to the issue of cutting my salary was unanimous. Budget issues. Belt tightening. Everyone taking one for the team.

Things is, I kinda get it. I mean we are facing huge budget issues, folks everywhere are tightening their belts and if everyone doesn't chip in a little, then there is no way to make up for the fiscal shortfall and keep our schools running.

But the… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on July 7, 2009 at 1:00pm — 3 Comments


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