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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Director Bolden's Advice to Students:

Many of you know that my children attended a sleepover event at the National Archives a few week ago. That event was incredibly amazing, and worthy of a blog post in of itself. However, today's post is going to focus on one specific part of the event: a talk from Charles Bolden.

Many of you know who Director Bolden is, he is an astronaut and former director of NASA.  Some of you may have even seen the video I posted on YouTube a few years ago at the launching of the SMAP satellite. On that video he is answering a young child's question and gives a valuable response.  Here is the video, the visual is dark but the audio is significant:

 To learn more about him, read his NASA bio here.

When he spoke to the sleepover audience, the crowd was full of young children and their parents. The children raced to the microphone to ask him questions like what was his favorite food in space, and why did they have to send animals to space before they sent people. Below is my son Colton, thrilled that he was called on to ask a question.

Earlier in the evening, we had a chance to speak with Director Bolden as we completed some of the activities at the event. My daughter was so excited that he agreed to take a selfie with her after she asked!

Okay, back to his speech . Before question and answer time, he gave his two cents about space exploration. I took some notes on that and hat alone might be another blog post for the future. However, a  good amount of his discussion centered around him giving advice to students today. Since that is extremely relevant to all of you, that is what I will share!

Here are his three points of suggestion (as summarized by me!)

1. Study really hard

2. Take every bit of math and science you can.
     Elaborate: The harder the math and science class you take, the better,  It is better to get a C in a hard class than an A in an easier class.  Colleges and universities are getting smart, they are looking for well rounded students, not just students with high grades.

3. Don't be afraid of failure- you're as good as you make yourself to be.

No go back and reread numbers 2 and 3. There is so much there! I am constantly "arguing"  with teachers who think that B and C students don't "belong" in honors classes, and here is the the former director of NASA who thinks that maybe they should! I am constantly getting emails from students who are afraid of 89s, who think that that is in fact, failing. What about my cross-country athletes whose fear of failure kept them from staying on the team because running is "too hard?" What would an astronaut say to you as a response? As educators and students, getting advice is valuable. Getting advice from Director Bolden is priceless.  What will you do with that?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018

What is Holocaust Remembrance Day / Yom HaShoah/  (יום השואה) ?

Every January, the day is reserved as a  commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. It also honors  the Jewish Resistance and people who fought for them at that time (and after).  

The United Nations honors this day every year on or close to January 27th- the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. 

During their commemoration, The UN has exhibits and seminars that one can see or attend before or after. The highlight, is the ceremony held in the General assembly.  Several years I attended, and often sat next to survivors, ambassadors, activists. I've even had the opportunity to hear speakers such as Dr. Ruth, Steven Spielberg, and the Defense Minister of Israel! Each year I live tweet form the activities with my class, and then bring back countless resources to share in our classroom.  This year I was excited to attend becaue the topic was "Education and the Holocaust: Our Shared Responsibility," to learn more about what we can do in our schools to make sure that our students learn about the Holocaust and ensure that it does not happen again. 

Although I received my invitation from the United Nations, I was not permitted to go this year for various reasons.  Although this upset me, because I feel that the objective of the day is so significant, I am going to ensure that we still learn about this event, even without first-hand experience.  Sadly, we may never again have the opportunity to hear from the Survivors that spoke that day, so we should do our best to hear what they had to say.

Thankful for modern technology and social media, I spent my evening in the dancing school lobby following the "HolocaustRemembrance" hashtag from the United Nations and tried to observe the day as a second-hand experience.  I have compiled the tweets into a Storify below. 

I ask you to read through the Storify, but do not stop there. Research about the people who spoke, about the people they spoke about, about the events they mentioned. Notice who was there: what countries were tweeting? What charitable organizations? What citizens? How do they all play a role in remembering the Holocaust? 

Without a specific question, I would like this post to be an open discussion. Show that you read through the tweets,the articles, thought critically about the day's significance, and did some additional research on your own. Please do not just make your comment, but respond to the comments of others, in order for it to be more of a conversation, and not just a reflection.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Your Two Cents on Homework

Homework- it's a word that no student really likes to hear. Yet is it necessary, is it helpful, is it equitable?

These are some questions that teachers here at Morris Tech and throughout the country (and world) have been debating more and more over the past two years.

As I struggle to get my elementary aged children home from after-school activities by 7:30 at night to do homework, I often have concerns. Their homework does not take long, but I know many of you have assignments that are considerably longer. Does it come at a cost to having quality family time?  A healthy dinner? A good night's rest? What if you are like me and stuck in a house with no WiFi? Do conditions at home make it difficult to concentrate?

Yet I know the other side of the issue, I give little homework compared to other teachers, and give plenty of time to complete work in school. However, students often use that time to socialize with friends, or play who knows what game on their chrome book and respond "I'll do it at home, I do it better there." Is this poor time management, or should we give less classwork and more homework?

Ever year I appreciate to hear feedback from who this issue concerns the most: YOU, the students!
Please reflect on this issue with a well developed paragraph. Please refer to a line from either of the three articles below. Once a student refers to a line, please do not reuse it (you can comment on their response later.) The first response will be open on January 24-25. Responses to others comments will be open on the 26th only. If you have done an OTD presentation, you only need to comment once. Others will need one response, and then 2 comments). I look forward to reading your thoughts and feedback!

Time Magazine- August 2016

NJ.com- Oct 2017

Brown Center Chalkboard- August 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How can the past help the present?

The Revolutionary War.  It was over 200 years ago, but is it still relevant  today?

One of the reasons we learn history is because the past is relevant to today, and it is in countless ways. 

Many of you heard me discuss my trip to the Battle of Brandywine on Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.  Some of my innovative (and intelligent) West Point classmates have a company to help develop leaders.  Part of their process is to show how leaders of today can learn from the events of yesterday.

Your task: Look at the information from my tweets and from their promotional video.  Then you might have to do some research about the Battle of Brandywine and the Revolutionary War on your own.  What event, idea, or characteristic related to the battle could be useful for political, social, or military leaders today?

This reflection requires some research, critical thinking, and effort, and you will be proud of the connections you make.  Each student should be making a unique connection, so make sure to read any other comments first.  I look forward to reading these!

The things teachers learn about during the weekend...

Many of you know that a few weeks ago I participated in an amazing conference, called "#ECET2NJPA. (You can find out what that stands for on the image above.)

At this conference, hundreds of educators (teachers, administrators, etc) from throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania spent the weekend learning and discussing about a plethora of things related to education. I even got to give one of the presentations!

I complied the tweets from my twitter-feed that weekend and compiled it into something known as a "Storify." By viewing the Storify, you get a glimpse of some of the things we did, and some of the things we were thinking about.

For this blog post, I want you to reflect on any one tweet.  Things you can reflect on: Do you agree or disagree and why, can you contribute to the discussion of the topic, can you provide an example, etc. Each response should be about a paragraph in length.  Each student should also choose a different tweet, so you have to read the comments to see if the one you desire was choses or not already. (Therefore, the earlier you do this, the better.)

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about all these important school-related issued!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Post WW2 World and the United Nations

On May 2, 2017, our Global Studies class was privileged to visit and tour the United Nations.  In our world history classes, we learned how the United Nations was created after World War II.

To get some further information on  the functions of the United Nations, a good start would be to check out their website: United Nations

Of course, there's so much to learn at and about the United Nations, and the tour was only an hour long.  For each tweet on the Storify, there's literally thousands of pages of information that can elaborate that topic.  Your challenge is to investigate some of it! Link to Storify: UN Tweets

1. Pick a tweet (mention the time stamp in your response so we know which one you are referring to.)
2. Using the website above and other research, investigate more about that tweet.  Whether it was a painting, the Declaration of Human Rights, the Security Council, etc., there's much more to know than what was mentioned!
3. Share some of what you discovered in a well developed paragraph with specific details.  Make sure to read previous posts, please do not repeat information that is already shared.
4.  Remember that the UN was created as a result of World War 2.  Find a way to connect what you learned with the effects of the war.
5.  Vague or brief posts will not receive full credit.
6.  Make sure to save your comment before submitting, in case there is a technical issue as it posts.
7. Pick something you find interesting, and enjoy the process.  I encourage you to respectfully respond to your classmates comments!

I look forward to reading what you share!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Day 2017

As we approach another Memorial Day weekend, I often worry that these significant days are not covered enough in schools.  I hope students realize that they are not just "days off of school," weekends for sales and parties, but days that deserve reflection and even action.

You may have noticed the pictures in the room of classmates that I have lost serving our country.  Some of you may have heard me tell stories about them, and I have listened to many of your stories as well.  You may have noticed from time to time I wear a bracelet that my grandmother gave me in high school, before I went to a week of JROTC training during the summer.
These bracelets were sold in the '90s to raise money for the New Jersey Vietnam Memorial and Museum, located off the Garden State Parkway.  if any of you have been there, I'd love to read about it in the comments or hear about it in class.  These "KIA" bracelets have the name of New Jersey service men and women who lost their lives serving in Vietnam.  For many years I knew nothing about LCPL Firth's name and the date of his death.  But since it was recently the 50th anniversary of his passing, and since Google has come around since I was in High School, I was able to find out more about him.  
The first thing I discovered was a young face to the name I wore all these years.  I learned the town where he grew up in, the names of his parents and siblings.  I learned where he died in Vietnam.  I learned that he earned several decorations, including the Purple Heart medal.  I also learned that he was only 21 years old.  It seems that with every discovery, every event in the news, every day that passes, this bracelet has much more meaning.

For this blog post, I invite you to research about another service man or woman from New Jersey who lost their life serving our country.  It can be from recent or from early American history.  Each one will be significant.  Please do not just copy and paste a biography you find on-line, but take time to read it, reflect on it, and share what learning about it means to you.