It's Not About the Money, Money, Money ... But It Kind Of Is

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan /

This post is less about literacy and more about teaching in general. Teacher salaries, actually. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway), that teachers don't do what they do for the money. But money does help. Especially if you like to feed your family, wear clothes to work, and have indoor electricity. Which I do.

Backstory: At the end of the last school year, I stepped out of the classroom. I had the opportunity not to return, and I took it. Teaching was a second career for me, so I had a full set of professional writing, editing and publishing skills to fall back on. For the past several months, I've been freelance writing for a local Internet marketing firm. This past week, I was offered a part-time/temporary job as a special projects editor with my previous publishing company.

And this is where I'm headed with the whole teacher-salary thing. My part-time work will total 151 hours over the course of about 6 1/2 months. And I will make just $1,000 less than than what I was making working 50+ hours/week as a teacher from August-May. With my part-time gig, I will have no work to take home. I still get to take my girls to school every morning and pick them up every afternoon. I get to work with people who value my opinions and my ideas. And, I get a week in Las Vegas come October.

This speaks volumes about teacher pay, doesn't it?

Thanks for reading! It keeps your Mind Full of Literacy!

Flipping Out in the Elementary Classroom

Image courtesy of James Barker /
I've been hearing and reading quite a bit about flipped classrooms lately. It's the latest trend in education. Traditionally, the movement has been reserved for lecture-heavy high school and college courses. But it is starting to trickle down to the elementary level where it would serve more to build background knowledge ahead of classroom instruction. 

Here's how it works: Flipped classrooms put the lecture part of instruction at home and the homework part of instruction at school. In other words, instead of the teacher introducing a topic and assigning homework, instruction is provided via technology (videos, DVDs, thumb drives). Students watch the content at home in preparation for class the next day. Class time is used to discuss the information, participate in a project or complete assignments that would have been given as homework under the traditional teaching method. The goal of flipped classrooms is to make learning more engaging and interactive for students as well as to give teachers more opportunities to provide individual or small group instruction.

Obviously, there are pros and cons. The biggest obstacle is access to technology. You can call this the Digital Age as much as you want, but there are still many, many families in this country who do not have computers at home. Additionally, there will always be a population of students who do not complete their homework for reasons that stretch way beyond laziness. We have kiddos amongst us who face unfathomable obstacles every day that prevent them from doing school work.

On the Pro side, a flipped classroom could be just what students who struggle with processing issues need to be successful. Watching content in the comfort of their own home, where they can pause, rewind, and review the information as many times an necessary can help them keep pace with their peers. They could jot down questions and topics for discussion ahead of time, which would allow them to collect their thoughts and participate in class in a way they might not have been able to before.

I'm taking more of an interest in this new trend because the school district in which I live is currently rolling out its Future Learner Project (FLiP). It's a multi-year implementation that started with a small pilot group of its 5th grade classes this year. To solve the technology problem, the district plans to put a take-home laptop into the hands of every student. But beyond just handing kids the devices, teachers will engage in extensive professional development to ensure they are comfortable using the technology within a curriculum that correlates with a flipped classroom as well as the Common Core Standards.

I'm hoping this flip won't be a flop because I really can see how this could help students at all learning levels. It won't be easy, but it's achievable. How about you? Is your district looking into flipped classrooms? Thoughts?

Thanks for reading ... It Keeps Your Mind Full of Literacy!

Travels With Myself & Two Others: Taking Literacy Learning on the Road

Photo credit: nosha via photopin cc

(First, a quick shout out to Martha Gellhorn, whose memoir Travels With Myself and Another ranks as one of my all-time favorite reads. Obviously, my blog post title is a play on Martha's book title.)

In a few weeks, I will travel with my twin daughters to Florida for vacation. It will be a learning experience for all three of us. For me, I will learn whether I have the patience and courage to travel with two six-year-olds without losing either my mind or one (or both) of them. I will also discover just how strong my map-reading skills are as I navigate a rental car around central Florida. Time to beef up my document literacy skills ... or just use GPS. The girls will expand their boundaries significantly. Our trip involves new forms of transportation (airplane, monster-truck eco bus), new sights, new sounds, new tastes, and new people. Authentic learning at its finest. Travel and reading. Two of the best forms of education.

In a fun coincidence, the February 2013 issue of The Reading Teacher (International Reading Association) includes the article, Literacy on the Move: A Journal for the Journey by Dr. Laurie Curtis, an assistant professor at Kansas State University. In the article, Ms. Curtis lays the groundwork for an interesting project that involves incorporating literacy learning with travel. Designed for students who must miss school because of family travel plans, the project provides a way for students to connect their school studies with the real-life experiences they will have while on their journey. Essentially, instead of assigning "make up" work, the teachers involved in this project created a traveling journal assignment of sorts. Before they leave, a student (and possibly her parents) conference with the teacher about the assignment. The student receives a folder that contains a U.S. or world map, colored pencils and paper. As they travel, the student colors in the areas of the map that pertain to the journey. Along the way, she collects print resources and journals each day about her experiences. The type of journaling completed depends on the student's age and level of literacy skills.When the student arrives back in class, she conferences again with the teacher and then creates a presentation to share with her classmates.  The activity supports both the Common Core State Standards and the four literacy strands. 

Although my daughters and I will travel during a scheduled school break, I am thinking about putting a journaling packet together for each girl. Not only could it help them make stronger connections with their experiences, I think they would find it fun with the end result being a unique souvenir of their first big traveling adventure.

I'd love to hear what ideas you have to help students  - or children in general - connect literacy and learning while traveling.

Thanks for reading! It keeps your .. Mind Full of Literacy!