Teaching Tips and Philosophies
...With Students
These are some of my thoughts that I shared in weekly bulletins with Interventions staff and program stakeholders during my term as Interventions Coordinator for the Woodland Joint Unified School District.

Classroom Management
Active Learning Strategies
Classroom Environment Grade 4 Classroom
Great Books
Modifying Behavior
...Behind the Scenes
Samson's Thoughts -- April 19, 2004
I hope you all had a good spring break!  My family and I spent our week-long spring break traveling through Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico, where we ended at the
Greater World, an Earthship community in Taos, New Mexico.  Our purpose was to have family time together, sightsee, and take a look at available land and alternative housing communities.  Our first stop was to visit Nader Khalili's superadobe research facility in Hesperia.  After spending the day there, we left and started our sightseeing, including visiting the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, and Bandelier National Monument.

I had brought along a book for the trip (Cry the Beloved Country), but didn't even touch it.
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Felicia Samson
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I love reading; to my husband's surprise, I usually finish a novel in a weekend.  My husband takes much longer to read a book.  To my surprise, he finished reading not one, not two, three, or four, but five books during our trip.  He read when the rest of us were sleeping; he read when we were driving (when I was driving); he read when we were eating lunch!  The books were all about building sustainable housing (including earthships) -- exactly what we had been visiting on our whirlwind trip.  I suppose that being on vacation and having so many new things to see, I didn't want to do my beloved reading.  But my husband the slower reader, motivitated by the visits to the superadobe and earthship communities, and the intensity of the trip, read five books on sustainable housing.

It's amazing what intensity and motivation can do to a person!  It reminds me of why I'm a part of Alternative Education -- so that I can provide opportunities to students who learn in a "different" way.


Samson's Thoughts -- May 10, 2004
Cars, a necessity in our current day.  With cars come the regular (and sometimes inconvenient) maintenance that goes with them.  Those miles from our trip to New Mexico accelerated my car's maintenance schedule.   So, I recently took my car, Zippy 2, in for his first oil change; after all, I want him to live a full and happy life.

I drive Zippy 2 home past the Nugget soccer fields every day.  It's soccer season now.  We were passing the fields when a soccer ball lobbed through the air towards us.  Was this it?  Would Zippy 2 who had just had his first oil change, who was so carefully maintained, be assaulted and blemished by this vicious soccer ball?   Since I look at the big picture, I noticed the soccer ball and deftly slowed down, watched the ball land where we would have been and bounce across the street (whew!).

I'm reminded how I have been charged with the holistic care of Zippy 2, just as we educators have been charged with the holistic care of our students.  We need to prepare them for any curve balls (or soccer balls) that may come their way, and help with the regular maintenance that will help them grow.

P.S. (5/10/04) For those of you who read the bulletin regularly, you know that this comes out prior to the start of your day on Monday.  Why the delay?  Despite all of the planning and care that goes into situations, unexpected events will occur like:  (1) the server going down for maintenance last Friday, but I didn't know about it so I wasn't able to send out the bulletin earlier, and (2) Zippy 2 -- despite the maintenance and the avoidance of the soccer ball --  Zippy 2 developed a crack in his front windshield this weekend as we zipped down Interstate 80.  I'm not even sure what created the crack.  There was a loud POP! when we were driving, and there it was.  These unexpected situations remind me that it's necessary to remain flexible and go with the flow.  Despite efforts at best intentions, other uncontrollable events will inevitably affect us.  Have a good week, and may any unexpected events prove fruitful in the end for you.


Samson's Thoughts --  May 24, 2004

These past few weeks, as I drive down West Street trying to get to Lee or Woodland High, it's been necessary for me to take detours as the roads are being paved.  I thought the roads were done being fixed!  There was a long chunk of time when I worked at Lee that West Street was closed off, and I had to get up early to get to work on time due to the detours.  One would think that after having worked on the roads for such a long period of time, they would be good to go. 

This reminds me of our work with students.  We spend time preparing and letting others know the purpose of our work, lay the groundwork, pave the way, work hard, and still(!) have to come back to fix the minor roadbumps.


Samson's Thoughts -- May 31, 2004

Spring has sprung and birds are in the air.. and in the middle of the roads.  As I zip down County Road 102 on the way to work, I have noticed the birds that have begun to hop around in the middle of the road until the last possible second when Zippy 2 and I zoom by.  So, as I'm driving, I start hypothesizing about why these birds are in the middle of the road now (when they weren't just a few weeks ago) -- Is it because the spring winds have blown seeds into the middle of the road (for feeding their young)?  Is it because the spring winds have blown twigs into the middle of the road (for building their nests)?  Is it because... ?

Then, I arrive at work, and my thoughts about why those birds are in the middle of the road end.  Until now, when I'm writing this week's bulletin.

I realize that while in my car, I'm thinking about driving, and my surroundings (like the birds in the middle of the road).  But, once I'm out of my car, I'm thinking about something else that has more relevance to me, even though it was kind of fun to speculate while in the car.

This leads me to thinking about our students:  what they think about, and when.  When our Interventions students are not in school, most of them don't spend time thinking about learning academically, ethically, and socially.  This is why we need to create engaging programs for our students, and also to teach skills that can be used to continue the pursuit and desire for  knowledge.  We need to teach them organizational and time management strategies.  The question is:  ":How?" 

"Back Door" classes: fun and interesting classes that are standards-aligned;
--More effective time management in the classroom with the use of
sponge activities that emphasize and exemplify these values;
read-alouds that emphasize and exemplify these values;

Remember that the standards are a guide, and we should follow the SPIRIT of
the standards; your curriculum should be standards-aligned (not necessarily standards-based)-- for veteran teachers, if you take a look at your old curriculum, you'll find several activities that were standards-aligned.  Use these in conjunction with the District-adopted curriculum!


Samson's Thoughts -- June 7, 2004
"The artist alone sees spirits. But after he has told of their appearing to him, everybody sees them." --Wolfgang von Goethe

One of my hopes for Summer School this year was that students and teachers would be able to develop a sense of community across the age groups by having K-12 Summer Schools (one at Pioneer for students who currently attended/ would attend Pioneer, and one at WHS for students who currently attended/ would attend WHS; ILC and Cache Creek students would be assigned to a school).  It would have given opportunities for teachers who are isolated by grade level during the school year to see one another in action, get to collaborate across grade levels, and have given parents the opportunity to drop off all of their students in one location.

Cross-age tutoring and class presentations would be a component of these schools.   Students who were attending Summer School because they were deficient in one area (such as Math) would tutor younger students in the other area (such as Language Arts. Students in Summer School would present materials to an audience of another age group, helping to alleviate some of the fear of presenting before peers. ).  Students would feel a sense of
success and accomplishment, and begin to develop confidence in their academic abilities.

Due to some small problems -- okay, a big one that starts with "M" (
modernization that is in progress at WHS), that vision was not able to come to fruition this Summer.  Other bumps in the road included appropriate sized furniture available at the sites, appropriate reading materials and textbooks in the libraries, and also parental concern in having younger students on the same campus as older students.

Perhaps in the future,
K-12 learning communities will be a regular sight in school districts, fostering the sense of community and respect that was a part of one-room schoolhouses, and combining them with the availability of modern facilities and technology. 

Older students would have a sense of responsibility for being role models for the younger students, and younger students would have role models for their young minds.  Teachers and staff members would have the opportunity to see the growth that occurs in students.  Parents would not be rushing from one school site to another school site to see performances.  Students would develop lasting relationships with adults, and adults would develop lasting relationships with students.

It is my hope that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's statement will hold true here -- that in my sharing of ideas, they will be seen too by you.  May those of you who are on the traditional calendar have a restful, reflective, and enjoyable break.
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