Close Encounters of the Teacher Kind

As I was driving to school after a bookshelf purchase from Wal-Mart, I received an out of the ordinary phone call.  Pat, from Enid, Oklahoma called.  She wanted to know where I bought colorful plastic shark teeth.  Pat, from Enid, OK is a total stranger and it took me a while to figure out why she wanted to know about colorful plastic shark teeth.

It finally dawned on me that she had seen something I submitted to Mailbox Magazine years ago.  It was a shark classroom decoration that I called Loose Tooth Louie.  Louie had a pocket on the back where I put cardboard “shark teeth” that I made myself.  When a student loses a tooth, they get to pull a tooth out of Louie’s mouth, string it on a piece of yarn and wear it home.  Somehow Mailbox had upgraded my cardboard shark teeth to colorful plastic ones and here was this woman who had googled me and gotten my phone number instead of my e-mail.

I explained the error that Mailbox had made and recalled how the whole happened those many years ago.  She seemed disappointed that I had no genuine colorful plastic shark teeth but thanked me for the information.  Perhaps I could retire and sell things like genuine colorful plastic shark teeth and such.  With the internet the way it is, with a little bit of effort, I might be able to sell out in a matter minutes with only the slightest effort to promote my wares.  Amazing!  I think our degrees of separation seem to be reducing more and more everyday.

Published in: on July 31, 2008 at 9:51 pm  Comments (1)  

Miss T.Q.

I’ve just returned from the post office after a delightful chance encounter.  As I came in, I noticed a couple of girls waiting in line with a woman who could be their mother.  One of them appeared to be near the 7-8-9 year old range.  While she hadn’t been one of my students, it was probable that she would recognize me from school and greet me with one of three hellos:

Hello, Ms. Brandon

Hello, Ms. Wrongname

or the always popular – Hey, you go to my school! (I get this more often from boys.  Does that mean the boys see ownership as a part of attendance more than girls?  Hmmm.)

Imagine my surprise when the fabulously brilliant child smiled at me and said:

Hello MIss Technology Queen!

I had to ask her to repeat it.  I really had no idea what she said at first.  Then I had to ask her if I had taught her that (not that I remember doing it, just sounds like something I might do).  She responded that indeed I had.

I truthfully told her that she’s the smartest child I’ve ever met and that with a memory like that, as well as amazing incite, she would go far.

I’m so glad I teach.  I’m also glad that I blog about teaching so that I have this episode to make me smile on the days when I’m not so glad I teach.

Published in: on July 21, 2008 at 9:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Power Teaching as Classroom Inquiry

As part of the West Tennessee Writing Project, my Classroom Inquiry will involve Power Teaching, the classroom management and learning program promoted by Dr. Chris Biffle at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. His homepage is

Power Teaching provides techniques for focusing student attention, building classroom community, focused skill and task instructions and differentiated instruction through gestures, student sharing, listening, laughter and fun.

I discovered power teaching at the end of the ’07-’08 school year and just had to try it out. We only had three weeks of school left, but those three weeks are typically difficult each year for a two reasons: The school year is finishing and testing requires changes in routines and the school year is finishing and the kids are ready for summer. Generally speaking, these two things work against each other. Discipline begins to be more of a problem, just when students need to focus for the finish.

Power Teaching proved to be the perfect tool to keep my class together to avoid the end of the year disintegration. Students enjoyed the techniques, caught on quickly and benefited academically from the thirty second micro lessons. I was surprised and delighted at how well they retained the information from the micro lessons. The only challenge for me was coming up with the gestures to go with those lessons.

I took the opportunity as a Focal Team member at the WTWP Summer Institute, to introduce the teachers participating to Power Teaching. Their classrooms ranged from kindergarten through college and they were all quite intrigued. As the month went on, we all adopted the class/yes technique to bring the class back to attention during different activities. Everyone was quite inspired when they viewed the Teacher Tube video with Chris Biffle teaching pre-service teachers about Power Teaching.

I hope that as I progress in my classroom inquiry, I will be able to convey how the process has unfolded during the new school year. My end of the year experience was somewhat different since there was plenty of groundwork that had already been established between my students and I. I anticipate that my new students will be somewhat shy about participating at first, just as the adults at WTWP were initially. I look forward to seeing how this all turns out.