Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The caption on my blog states, “Follow one teacher as she rides the rails of education in America's public schools.”

My train has derailed. Maybe I drove it too fast; maybe the rails became slippery with the icy attitudes of colleagues. Maybe the ballast needed refreshing, or maybe I derailed because they didn’t want to fund my train. Either way, in spring I fell victim to RIF.

Many teachers have received their pink slip due to “Reduction In Force.” For you fellow teachers out there I know you empathize and feel the same pain I do. Regardless of why your district riffed (and we all have our speculations- from legitimate to sabotage, and I won’t get into my thoughts on that here), there is little anyone can do, short of giving you a job, to make you feel better about it.

To be honest I complained about teaching. I was furious with a society that doesn’t adequately fund schools, prepare students for the real world, teach parents how to be better parents-- but that continues to pay stuffy ol’ teachers who have well worn out their enthusiasm for learning, let alone teaching. Complain I did, but I loved teaching.

I loved staying up late to color posters, write meaningful assessments, and test out the latest technology. A long day of playing games, singing songs, writing notes home, and filing endless paper work was somehow enjoyable. Stress could be melted with the teacher’s drug of choice- walking into the local office supply store. I liked the challenge of pinpointing the exact learning disability of a student, or trying the zillionth disciplinary intervention. And yes, even those moments of playing “what’s that smell” and “how did THAT happen?!” have fond memories for me.

I was not lucky enough to get hired back. I did everything, went on interviews, created multi-media portfolios, stayed in regular contact with the district office- for whatever reason my train stayed off the track, and wouldn’t budge. Eventually as the new school year started and I still hadn’t heard anything, feelings of great sadness, depression, and bitterness took over my once happy and creative self. For me, I wasn’t just loosing my job (though not knowing how you are going to pay your mortgage produces all of these feelings too!); no, I was loosing my identity. “Teach” isn’t something I did, it’s something I was.

Despite any residual feelings of bitterness and sadness, I owe it to myself, and my readers (whether 2 or 200), to continue to tell my story this year and share my experiences in education. After all, my experience is a HUGE part of education in America’s public schools, this is happening everywhere! Many districts are cutting some of the best teachers our country has to offer.

Our trains have to take alternative routes in life. It’s what makes life exciting, and if we didn’t have feelings of anger and hurt, then we would never know feelings of happiness and joy.

For now my train is on a detour; I found a position with a great education company here in my town, which is allowing me to stay connected to education while at the same time allowing me to have a very stress-free pregnancy!

Will my train return to its original route? I hope so, but in the meantime I’ll keep chugging along.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Using Del.icio.us Link Rolls

Del.icio.us was first introduced to me by a friend months ago, and I have found it to be an incredible time saver ever since. Did you know you can easily put your del.icio.us links on your googlepages website? (Or your frontpage OR Moodle site?) Here's how:

  • Log into you del.icio.us account.
  • Click on the "help" button in the upper right-hand corner.
  • Under the title "sharing" click: "a guide to sharing bookmarks"
  • Click on the button that says "link rolls"

Now you are ready to decide what kind of links you want shared. For example, let's say that you tag several websites "poetry" and you want all of your poetry links to appear on your website automatically as you tag them.

  • Under "Display Options" select how many links you want to show (I usually want all of them- so I put in 100).
  • Next- give it a title...maybe "My Poetry Links"
  • Notice the right hand side of the screen will show you a preview of what it will look like.
  • Click on the additional options you would like (bullet point, icons, etc.)
  • Click the button that says "Only these tags" and type in the tag you want to share (so in this example I would type: poetry
  • **I recommend you click off the boxes that are marked "show your del.icio.us name" and "add me to your network" buttons, unless you are okay with your students having access to see all of your links.

Once you have made all of your changes, and the preview portion of the screen is too your liking, scroll back to the top of the screen where you will see a box with some code. That is the code you will want to cut and paste into your googlepages html box (or any website/blog you are using with html capabilities).

By doing this you have just saved yourself hours of plugging in each link into your web page. When you stubble upon a great website you want to share with your students all you have to do is tag it in your del.icio.us and it will automatically show up as a link on your class website!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Google Does it Again!

It is no surprise that Google makes my train whistle, I find their applications essential to making my classroom life easier. A couple of weeks ago Google launched their newest application: Google Sites, which I have found to be a blend between Google Pages and a wiki site. I am currently experimenting with the different uses for this site and will keep my readers posted on the progress. In the meantime- you may want to take a detour to check it out!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Station Stop: ICE Conference (Follow-Up!)

A huge thank you to all who attended my presentation, "Classroom Websites Made Easy," yesterday at the Illinois Computing Educators annual conference! I really appreciate the enthusiasm of the participants- despite the technology problems we had! Our googlepage site decided not to load properly throughout the presentation (and yes, this was the essence of the presentation) but we rolled our way through it and I hope those of you who were able to attend left with some great tips for your own classroom websites!

I would also like to thank all the people working with ICE conference for the excellent organization this year! I am always impressed at the incredible diligence and forethought the committees have and the attention to detail. I am already looking forward to next year!

If you missed the presentation you can download my handouts and outline to the link at the left. Googlepages has been an incredibly easy and FREE way to create classroom websites and I encourage you to test the waters at creating your own class website. Stay to tuned to Teacher Tracks for more details of my journey through education!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

It all starts with your google account.

Not just a search engine anymore; google offers numerous services for its users- tools that have great applications for teachers and the classroom.

Among my favorite include blogger, google page creator (where I curently make and house my class website and team website), gmail, picasa web albums, igoogle, google maps, google reader, and google docs- and that's not even the half the "cool stuff" available.

You can't have any of the fun without registering for a google account though, so if you haven't registered for one at http://www.google.com/ or http://www.gmail.com/ then do it now!

Note: If you are thinking of making a website using googlepages for a team, where you want multiple people to be able to edit the pages you may want to create a generic account with fake names and information so that multiple people can use the information. Yes, this will mean that you will have log in and out of your personal google account to access your team account (which is kind of a pain) but that way team members won't get your personal information.