ajoBlog In Review Teaching

Teaching is a privilege!

“Teaching is a privilege.”

– Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master

I’ve had the privilege in my short, atypical teaching career, of teaching about 900+ students, in grades 6-12. I started, in my first assignment after graduate school, teaching a multicultural studies class at Fairless Middle School, teaching all of the 6, 7, and 8th grade students in a trimester fashion. It was a great experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It not only gave me great perspective, but allowed me to start class three times in one year – valuable, and very powerful for a new teacher. My 6th graders are now in high school. I hope they’re doing just fine!

When I moved on to Nordonia High School, teaching 10th grade social studies, and more specifically, modern U.S. History and Economics, I had the privilege of teaching some of the most amazing young men and women. Adjusting to a new group of people, new students, and new circumstances all allowed me to grow as a person and professional. I could have not asked for a better mentor in Steve Testa, one of the most skilled educators I’ll ever meet. Steve and I still teach a blended hybrid course for high schoolers called Going Places, even though I’ve left Nordonia.

Throughout my time at Nordonia, I had the privilege of forming special relationships with students, beyond the classroom – the kind of relationship that develops organically, and is based on mutual levels of respect, and awe, of capabilities, skills, and personal traits.

In the last year of my tenure there, a group of students, seniors, came to have lunch with me on my planning period, and I often just sat in silence, eating my lunch, as they briefed each other on daily agenda items, the latest on shopping, work, school, and future ambitions. It was a privilege to be part of their inner circle (as much as they let me…), and it was an experience I’ll value for a long time to come. I learned a great deal, not only about them, but about how young people function, think, deal, handle, and process. I hope they connect back in the future, and look forward to their future success. E, S, N, A, and S: Do well in life!

I had the privilege of working for some fine administrators, who, although struggling with various issues of financial stress in the district, managed to keep the ship afloat, and keep as all motivated. Teaching in a district, and in a building, for the last year, already knowing that you’ll get laid off at the end of the year is tough. It was a privilege to spend it with fine educators, leaders, and people. I hope they’re all doing okay.

Teaching truly is a privilege. It’s a career, not a job, and something that drives you from within. I will always teach, instruct, show, model, train, demonstrate – whatever you want to call it, I’ll keep on doing it.

In my current job, as an EdTech Consultant, I now have the privilege of working with teachers directly. I look forward to impacting even more students than before. The passion that burns inside me is just getting hotter, and I’m not about to burn out! Teaching is a privilege, and I hope I’ll be allowed to do it for as long as I live.

Assignments Going Places In Review Teaching

CLE Museum of Natural History + PNC SmartHome Reflection

We had our first trip with the Going Places program today, and it started off with a brief parent / teacher / student meeting at the high school. Andreas and Steve laid out the expectations for the course, and explained and described how trips work, the website, and how to submit reflections and the weekly assignments.

ajoBlog In Review

Unemployment – Week 2

Still unemployed, but some leads on becoming employed! Yeah!

Attended a week-long workshop for a Teaching American History Grant this week, and spent most of the time at the Cuyahoga County ESC and various places in Cleveland, like the Natural History Museum, and the Art Museum. We also took a tour of the Cuyahoga River, and visited the GM Stamping Plant in Parma, OH.

I received notice I would probably get an interview at the Summit County ESC, and at a company called Smart Solutions, so that’s good news. On the job front regarding social studies teachers, it’s pretty thin, unless we’re willing to move to Columbus, or some other location in southern Ohio. Which we’re not.


Here are the jobs I applied to:

  • Long-term sub job at Nordonia Middle School <– was offered, but won’t start until August 2011.
  • Twinsburg High School
  • Police Officer 1 at Kent State University
ajoBlog In Review

Unemployment – Week 1

I became unemployed on June 11th, 2011.

After having worked for the last three years at Nordonia High School teaching U.S. History and Economics, and earning tenure this spring, I was laid off due to levy failures. Fun!

I filed for unemployment online with the state of Ohio, and received bunch of paperwork in the mail a few days later. The PIN code they sent was invalid, of course, and multiple phone calls, faxing (yes, it’s the 1990s!) copies of my social security card and driver’s license to them, we might have rectified the situation. Now, of course, all I’m waiting on is them calling my employer to verify that I actually am unemployed, and not scamming the system.

Some of the week’s conversation highlights:

Me: “The PIN code I was issued doesn’t work, and I can’t file my claim.”
Them: “Oh, all of the PIN codes we send are invalid, so you have to request a new one.”
— —
Me: “I was laid off from teaching at a high school this spring due to levy failures.”
Them: “So when does the new semester or term start?”
Me: “It doesn’t. I was laid off. I am now unemployed.”
— —
Them: “So, what about this job at Kent State University?”
Me: “That was a workshop. Two days. No healthcare, etc.”
Them: “So, when does the new semester or term start?”
Me: “It was a workshop. 16 hours worth of work. No benefits. Not full time employment.”
Them: “Oh, okay. When does the new semester or term start?”
Me: “It doesn’t.”


Here are the jobs I applied to:

  • Portage Lakes Career Center
  • Olmstead Falls Schools
  • Summit County ESC
Economics History In Review

Q4 Week 7 – In Review

The week started off on Monday with most, if not all, of the Sophomores attending Physics Day at Cedar Point. I don’t think I had more than 6-7 students all day. The few Juniors that showed up for Economics entertained themselves, and none of the Seniors were in attendance due to prom weekend’s extended activities! I spent the day planning for an interview at Summit County ESC, and preparing the rest of the week’s lectures and activities.

On Tuesday we began a unit on Civil Rights by seeing a short video on Rosa Parks from, which helped the students better understand the events around the bus boycotts, and how that eventaually led to desegregation of not only busing, but the rest of society as well.

On Wednesday, we reviewed and debriefed the video in preparation for the primary document activity starting Thursday. Thursday started with “late start”, where students show up two hours later, and the staff has professional development in the morning.

4th and 7th periods were able to get started on Thursday in the IMC, investigating nine primary documents around the bus boycott, noting what they had learned in their self-made learning log.

On Friday we got all the classes up to speed, and worked on analysis in the IMC.

In economics, we charged hard with lectures on Taxes, the Government, and Fiscal Policy. Some of the Seniors will be taking the econ final exam next week, a little early, so hopefully they are preparing themselves for that. The rest of us will wait until finals week for the final exam. All of the review terms are available here, so please make sure to check them out.

On Friday in Economics, we took the day off since it was such a nice day out, and I introduced the students to a Swedish game called Kubb. It’s a lawn game that involves quite a bit of strategy and skill, especially the longer you play it. The students enjoyed it a lot, and I’m thinking we can probably throw in another day or so next week, depending on how classes go.

Here are the Kubb World Championship Rules for those of you who want to investigate more, or make your own set!

In Review News

Q4 Week 6 – In Review

In US History we finished Space Week with the last episode about the Hubble Telescope and the International Space Station. Students were surprised to learn that there are people on ISS right now, circling the earth as we speak. We debriefed on Tuesday, working mainly from the Space Week packet they had been working on concurrently throughout the week. They had great follow-up questions, and each period of discussion was different from the next. Exciting, not only for the students, but for me as well! We mentioned the fact that the next-to-last space shuttle is about to blast off, and June 2011 will see the last space shuttle launch ever. Talk about living history!

On Wednesday we had a workday for chapter 17, Kennedy and the Cold War, and students prepared by reading the first few sections, and working on their study guides. On Thursday, we collected homework, explored a segment from the Century series. Friday was Space Week wrap-up, where we collected their Space Week packets, and took an end of unit assessment test (25 questions). In most classes we had time to finish out the Century series segment, and reminded the students about their trip to Cedar Point on Monday (Physics Day 2011). I’ll see them back on Tuesday!

In Economics, on Monday, we discussed GDP and the impacts on the economy it has, and what it’s used for. We explored what GDP / GNP does not measure, such as life quality, clean environment, and social welfare. We were reminded of Barry Schwartz’s talk on choices, and how choice can impact overall societal welfare, and why GDP is not the only factor in exploring whether or not a country is well off. Additionally, we discussed the suicide rates in Japan, and how even though they are well off economically, as measured by GDP per capita, the leading cause of death for males 18-34 is suicide.

Tuesday we began a unit on global poverty using a DVD called “The End of Poverty“. The film is very effective at communicating the global conditions regarding poverty (but some found it difficult to follow due to the multi-linguistic approach, interviewing many Spanish, French, and Portuguese speakers), and students were exposed to what it means to live on $1/day or less. I posed the question of how much they spend before getting out of bed in the morning in our online discussion/reflection piece on the movie, and many, either online, or in class, really took that to heart.

On Thursday, we debriefed the movie using some Six Hats strategy, but going “old school” this time, using colored sticky notes, and organizing our stuff on the chalk board. We ran out of time towards the end to come full circle, but I think students gleaned what they needed to in order to better appreciate global poverty, its problems and challenges, and hopefully, they keep mulling over possible solutions in the next few days. Or not, since prom was last night… :-)

Friday ended the week with a combination chapter test over the last few chapters, consisting of a 34-question multiple choice assessment piece. Most students seemed to not have too much trouble with it. I guess it’s all relative; if you studied, it wasn’t that hard!



In Review News Teaching

Q4 Week 5 – In Review

What a week! In USHIST we’ve been exploring the US Space Program, focusing on the NASA missions using a series produced by the Discovery Channel called “When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions”, and it has had some terrific consequences, both for me as a teacher, and for the students.

In the beginning, many students assumed the series would be just another review of what they thought they already knew, like “Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong is all there’s to it, right?” Wrong! Based on the commentary from the students, they have been surprised at how much they liked, and how much new stuff they have learned. And, the best part of it, they have seemed to actually, truly, and fully, enjoyed it. Space Week – A Success! At least in my book.

I was absent on Friday, attending a Digital Humanities conference at Case University in Cleveland, and learned lots of new stuff. Makes me think about the future, and what some of my long-term goals are, and how they might be modified, etc. Especially now, since I’ll be let go from my job due to the levy failure, I’ll need some new ideas on how to re-invent myself, and emerge on top. After all, the family has to get fed, bills paid, etc… 32, with two kids, new house, and no job. Great!

In Economics we’re fast-tracking through some material that mainly requires the exploration of vocabulary and how the different business structures fit in real life. I’ve provided lots of real-life examples, and we’ve had some good discussion on how and why the different business structures function in the actual market place, as well as what the costs and benefits are in regards to each other. I gave them an artsy assignment for Friday; to create simple cartoons depicting economic concepts based on‘s model. We’ll see how that went when I get back on Monday.

I got an idea for how to finish out the Dr. Seuss Project from two weeks ago, and I’ll get to work on that on Monday. It includes setting up an Omeka database, scanning all the pages in, then entering them all in as data points into the database for future use. I figure that would be a good solution to keeping the material around for a long time. I’ll be using as opposed to an actual native install of omeka, as the .net version affords more simplicity, and quicker management. I hope.

Economics History In Review

Q4 Week 4 – In Review

In US History, we began the week with another work day due to circumstances last week, and it fit in the schedule just fine. Students worked on their 16.3 homework, and we talked about the upcoming week. Tuesday we started our culminating activity for the Cold War by seeing the animated version of Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book, which parables the Cold War, but in a Seussical fashion. Students compared the Butter Battle to real Cold War actions using a T-chart, and we ended the class with a group discussion on the items.

On Wednesday, we started on our one-page Dr. Seuss inspired Cold War adventure, where I asked them to create a page to go in a book. The requirements included an illustration in color, a paragraph using Seuss rhyming scheme, and weaving in of Cold War terms. If they made up new words, they got a small bonus! I provided the markers, paper, colored pencils, about 20 or so Dr. Seuss books from Stow Library, and of course, toast. I brought in my toaster, several loaves of bread, and butter – all so we could have our own in-house “Butter Battle”. We enjoyed the toast, and we got a lot done. Thursday we finished up, and Friday we ended with The Week in Rap, presentation of our Dr. Seuss pages, and preparing for Space Week.

In Economics, we spent Monday and Tuesday continuing on the Food, Inc. / Six Hats Project, which went really well. Those projects will be graded soon, and we’ll present them next week (or at least a selected few). On Wednesday, we began a new section Market Structures, with discussions on Perfect Competition, Monopolistic Competition, Oligopoly, and Monopoly. Lots of vocab, and understanding what they different structures do, and how they operate. I showered the class with examples of where to find the different structures in real life, and we touched on non-price competition, especially how it effects the gas station markets around our school, and really everywhere. With gas prices at $4/gallon, it’s starting to hurt… How will that impact the other services the gas stations provide? Will you still get that drink if you’re shelling out for gas?

On Friday, we ended by playing Monopoly, using a quick start method, as well as using some financial tools allowing us to play without using the cash money, which makes for a quicker game. Read more about how we do that here.

Economics History In Review

Q4 Week 3 – In Review

Here’s to another short week, since today, Friday, we’re off school. It also happens to be Earth Day!

In US History we started the week off by testing for chapter 15, which went well overall, with averages for all students in the mid-70s. I’d like to see that average be raised up, and continue to work on strategies that will achieve that goal, but so far, no luck. I think it comes from systemic problems, like lack of truly valuing deep learning among students, poor study habits and test preparation, etc. And of course, I have something to do with it, but with the strategies I’m implementing, one would think it would go better…

We continued the Cold War, and focused on political terms like brinksmanship, massive retaliation, etc. and discussed the real outcomes had we ever experienced World War III. Students were amazed to learn the true power of today’s nuclear weapons, as opposed to the ‘tiny’ bombs we dropped on Japan at the end of World War II.

In Economics, we started a project on industrial food production by seeing the movie Food, Inc. If you haven’t seen it, you should! It will change the way you think about food, and challenge comfortable notions about how our food is produced. Yes, it’s produced, as opposed to grown…

Students are now busy working on a Six Hats project, sorting out facts, problems, solutions, emotions, and benefits as part of the project. Their online spaces will be displayed here sometime next week probably, after scoring, and will be open for the public to see. So far, after two days in the lab / IMC, it’s looking good. Most students are off to a good start, and I expect great outcomes.

Economics History In Review

Q4 Week 2 – In Review

Week 2 of Q4 seemed to be the week where we ended units, and took tests, at least in Economics. And I guess, the History classes are taking their tests on Monday for the Cold War unit. The weather finally started to get nicer, and one could definitely notice the students getting ready to head outdoors. We’ll see, maybe we have to go out to the courtyard next week to enjoy the weather while having class!

US History finished their intro to the Cold War where we had examined the ideological and philosophical differences between the United States and the Soviet Union. We saw a few clips regarding the atomic bomb weapons testing program in the United States, and looked at fallout maps. Furthermore, we used materials from the Century series to explore the home-life of Americans, the beginnings of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis, the beat movement, and so on. All of this will take us into the 1960s in the next few weeks, and I look forward to a discusssion on the film 1968, with Tom Brokaw. I’m thinking about showing some scenes from Easy Rider, but haven’t decided yet! Of course, we did not forget the Korean War, and we explored why it was indeed the forgotten war, and what the differences and similarities are today, fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Economics, we dove into the Prices chapter, and tied it all together, working both supply and demand to create scenarios. The students read about Big Oil, on why gas prices are so difficult, and we did quite a lot of practice work on single and double shifts on S, D, and P graphs. Many find it difficult to get it just right, and I think that stems from much needed practice, and their willingness to struggle on their own a bit, rather than being shown in class directly. My goal is for them to think on their own, and be able to explain scenarios with graphs, not simply regurgitate answers on a test. We finished the week yesterday with a unit test, and by the looks of it, some will have to come back Monday to finish it.

Oh, I almost forgot – in US History, we spent Friday in the IMC Lab working with the Guidance Department in career tools, a valuable exercise, where students got an idea of what they might like to do in the future, and what it takes to get there, what kind of classes to take, and how to prepare in college. Well done Mrs. Lewis!

That’s it for this week. Next week we look at the Cuban Missile Crisis in History, and begin a new unit in Economics.