Flip the Switch

I am amazed at the number of students who enter my 7th grade classroom already believing they are a failure, dumb, or can’t do any better. Where does this “Learned” mentality come from? Does it come from parents? school? peers? I want to know who takes a child’s natural motivation to learn and turned it off?

My son, Griffin, amazes me everyday. He has apraxia, which has made it hard for him to learn how to sound out words. He did not speak till 3 1/2 years old. Most people don’t notice his difficulties now because he has worked hard everyday to learn to read and speak. He asks the most amazing questions. When watching the World Series this year, he asked about why their wasn’t a DH in the Giants ballpark? He gets frustrated to the point of crying if he can’t understand your answer. He loves to learn and always wants to know more about how things work.

When I see students at school, who feel they can’t learn more, I want to share Griffin’s story. Often they don’t connect. Middle school students are going through a period of self-centeredness that make it hard to connect to others experiences. Making the connection personal seems to work best.

This two weeks ago, two female students did not get a single answer correct on a 9 question vocabulary  quiz. They both are friends and shared that it was “hard”. When I asked if they studies, both answered “NO, because it was hard.” So how can it become easy if you don’t study? “I am just not good at science!”  Wow, what a vicious self-fulfilling prophecy.

A colleague asked if she could help them on the retake. I passed on the need information and the Quizlet link. After being forced to go over the information “100” times. Both girls scored 100%. The next day when I saw them in the hallway they were beaming with pride. “I didn’t think I could do it” one shared. All the teachers in the hallway helped them celebrate the success. This past Friday, we had another vocabulary quiz. These two girls both aced it.

I hope we flipped the switch of self doubt for these girls. Teachers need to focus, one child at a time, on turning the love of learning back on in their minds. It will make all the difference!

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama-

First I want to write you to congratulate you on your re-election bid. I voted for you a second time. I feel you earned my vote by being a champion of the working class and focusing on treating everyone with equity. Your first term was hampered by partisen politics, but your efforts were valiant. The Detroit Metro area where I live has greatly benefited by your administrations “bail-out” of GM and Chrysler. These companies are now helping this area revive. My sister-in-law was recently hired by GM after many years of work as a “contract” employee before enduring a long period of unemployment.

Now for my humble request: I ask that you cancel the upcoming inaugural celebrations. Yes, you need to be sworn in on January 20th by noon. Since it is a Sunday, I have heard this will be a private ceremony. I feel that is all  any President needs. Our country is in the process of rebuilding. Many citizens are trying to get back on their feet. Millions unemployed or underemployed. Do we really need a Full week of festivities at expense to the tax payers? At this time when our country is considering cuts to Social Security and medicare, should Washington “insiders” be seen partying in the streets? Even if the party is paid for by private donors, is this the image our country needs now? Can’t the money be better spend somewhere else? Haven’t you spent enough time “hobnobbing” with the rich and connected during the campaign? Shouldn’t you show your family values and spend your time with your family? I am sure your girls have missed some quality time with their father.

Our country does not need the image of a second term President attending a weeks worth of Gala Balls, showing Mitt Romney what he missed out on. Our Country needs a leader, like you, who has the courage to change things and create images that impresses on the next generations. In lieu of the tradition inaugural balls and festivities, why not tour the countries schools to inspire the next generation. Help teachers and students celebrate all the successes and encourage them to move forward.

Mr President, I hope you read my letter and have the courage to act upon it.  Thank you for your time. Please continue to move Forward over the next 4 years.




Todd Bloch

7th Grade Science Teacher

Warren Woods Middle School

Warren, MI

Lurking on Twitter: Voyeurism at its finest!

When you hear the term voyeur, you mind starts to think about Peeping Toms, and old ladies peeking out of windows from behind curtains. The word has negative connotations. I have recently found that being a voyeur can be a good, if not a great thing.

Twitter gives it users the ability to be voyeurs. Users can lurk on twitter, following hashtags, chats and people. What I am talking about has nothing to do with intimate behavior. I am referring to following peoples thinking and learning on Twitter. Watching people engage in conversations about learning and how they learn is powerful.

On Twitter, groups of people gather to discuss a plethora of topics daily. By following people who think creatively and share openly, an voyeur can learn many wonderful thing. I have personally learned the following:

  1. How to use multiple web applications
  2. Standards based grading systems
  3. Homework policies
  4. About Digital Citizenship Resources
  5. and many more ….

I have found my most powerful learning comes from watching educational leaders and authors show how they learn on twitter. I have followed numerous chats where respected educational minds have lead the discussions and followed discussions. Where questions are asked and answered. Where a group of leaders leads each other in their own discovery of how to lead best. Twitter has the power to connect minds and it also has the power to be transparent and show the collaborative learning that true leadership comes from. Remember being a voyeur on twitter can be a great learning experience.

Simple Free Learning Tool / Quizlet

This is my first review as a blogger. I hesitate for a few reasons, mainly there are many reviewers of web applications. Secondly, I do not blog to sell products, I blog to share my opinion and inform other educators of what I see and do in my classroom.

Our middle school staff has been talking lately about how to have students acquire needed content vocabulary. Students seem to understand concepts but lack the subject specific vocabulary. Over the years I have tried many different activities to help enrich students vocabulary skills, ranging from flash cards, match up games to written definitions. a few years ago, I hear about “Quizlet.com“, which is self-described as “Simple free learning tools for students and teachers.”

Quizlet comes as described: a free, simple to use tool for all. For starters, you don’t have to even sign up for an account to use all of the wonderful tools that it has to offer. So, you can try it out without signing up for an account. Nice feature. When you first arrive on the site you can search for “sets” of vocabulary by subject. It is very easy to find “sets” that others have created and you are free to use them  as you see fit.

Quizlet is set up to help student learn their vocabulary: spelling and definitions. The program will create flash cards, word games and quizzes to help a students learn. If you cannot find a “set” of vocabulary pre-made for your use, you will have to sign up for a free account and input your vocabulary based upon your needs. Often you will find some of your needed vocabulary available, which you can copy and then add the words that were not available.

A student just needs the address for your “set” of vocabulary (no account needed) to access the tools to study the vocabulary. The students can play games with the vocabulary on-line or print off flash cards to study offline. If you are working with ESL or students with speech and languages issue: Quizlet has the ability to read aloud the words and definitions. Personally, my 8-year-old son, who has apraxia has used Quizlet to help him learn to pronounce words. I have used the this feature as well when refreshing my spanish skills before a trip. The programing is able to translate to/from Spanish, English and French.  Which will help in World Language instruction.

I feel that Quizlet is a great tool that all teachers should have in their toolbox for vocabulary acquisition. If you have not checked it out please take the time to do so. The features are simple to use for students and teachers alike. I have been using it regularly with my classes this year and have seen great results.