Mr Weis’ Classroom Blog

June 17, 2009

Greeting the Summer with a very long post

Filed under: Announcements — mrweis @ 6:42 pm

After a short delay, I’d like to bring you several things that I hadn’t gotten around to putting on the blog yet.

Promotion

The fifth grade promotion went quite smoothly and I was proud to see all the students up on stage.  For my contribution I shared a poem I wrote for the occasion.  Several parents asked for a copy, so here it is.

Too fast too slow, to gather here
to settle seams unraveled here
I felt unfinished for all the year
yet this is where we are

I found a moment the other night
writing phrases meant to incite
to decipher or maybe to delight
with esteemed and grown-up wit

And yet with every paragraph
I found I was writing at the behalf
of adult insight of the staff
the kind that paints us best

But on this day you desire truth
and from the perspective of the youth
you deserve a message that does not dupe
but prepares you for what’s next

So I would like to now impart
a few pieces of advice to start
you off before you soon depart
onto another school

Please remember every Friday when
the week has finally come to an end
please take your gym uniform my friends
and wash them every week

It’s a lesson I learned the hard way
When after the weekend, I came back to play
and my locker smelled like rotting decay
beware those stinky sweats

To be honest, sometimes in middle school
they may sound a little cruel
but even though you think your outfit’s cool
your parents probably wont

Your parent’s might not appreciate
they might even enter into debate
just calmly smile, nod, and wait,
this isn’t a battle you’ll win

I’ll tell you now that what you know
is often despite what we say is so
but when we shout an order of yes or no
what we truly mean is think

Think about what you have learned
empathize, know other’s concerns
know that your actions will return
right back to you and yours

As adults we make some mistakes
we’re nervous of decisions that you make
sometimes to benefit our own sake
We tell, not let, you learn

It devalues you when we tell you
exactly what to say or do
without letting you pursue
a solution you explore

But please still listen to the advice
your parents give, to be precise
Before you act, please think twice
and know you will make mistakes

It’s part of growing up you see
mistakes are common,  so I make this plea
it will be better, I guarantee,
to remember that we all stumble

And adults here, now please reflect
on how it is we can expect
our children to learn if we project
an image of perfection

For if we do not try and fail
and take the risk when we feel frail
and work at it till we prevail
we cannot ask the same

To dismantle ourselves a little each day
appreciate the dissonance it can create
it is what allows us to relate
to eachother when we learn

It’s something I reflect on every day
about all I do, and all I say
things can and do often go astray
its how you react that matters

So now it is with a heavy heart
I will say goodbye as you depart
please remember you’ll always be a part
of all I learned this year.

State Websites

Over the last week, we spent some time learning the basics of web page design.  The students used the program iWeb and worked in groups to create small webpages about different states in the US (and also D.C.)  To create the pages, we followed several steps.  First the students created media libraries by creating a folder, renaming it, and using google image search to find and copy pictures representing their states.  The students then did a little research on their state to learn more about its history, flag, bird, capital, and flower.  Finally, the students created several pages about their state including a welcome page and then linked the pages together by adding hypertext.  My brother came in one day and helped the students export their files and then upload them onto his website.  You can see the finished projects at http://mrweis.com/states/reports.html . Keep in mind this was only working for a couple days on the last week of school, so they aren’t very exhaustive sources of information, but they do show a general understanding and ability to design a basic website.  (Just a note, several of the features including a slideshow and movie were not working with firefox the last I checked.  They should work fine on other browsers.)

State Websites

What I’ve been thinking about lately…

This week I have been attending a series of math workshops required by the state because of our Program Improvement Status.  I’m trying my best to take something meaningful away from each day, and I’d like to share something we read yesterday for homework.  It is an article titled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants written by a man named Marc Prensky.  While I don’t agree with everything he writes, I think it raises some intersting questions about the intersection of modern technology and communication and the role that it is playing on transforming students, teachers, content, and the pathways that we use to transmit that content.  You can check out the article we read here.  On Prensky’s website you can read other articles that he has written as well as watch some videos of him.  If anyone would like to offer your opinion on the matter in a comment, I’d be happy to respond to you.

A Parting Message

As a final message for the moment, I’d like to publish a letter that I gave to each of my students on the last day of school.  It doesn’t even begin to express all that I’m feeling about the end of this school year, but it is a start.  If any of the letters got lost among all the papers on the last day, here it is. I’ll try to get into a regular habit of posting interesting education related pieces for the rest of the summer, so check back every once in a while.  Take care.

2009
To the Students of Room 202,

It is very difficult for me to describe how special this past year has been.  For 179 days I have stayed up late, gotten up early, rushed to make copies, and then frantically cleared copy machine jams.  I’ve sharpened pencils in the morning and picked up those same pencils off the floor at recess, lunch and after school. I’ve politely stated “different word,” reciprocated gifts of smiles, and counted fingers, claps, dings, and seconds.  I have smiled when I made a spelling error on the board, cheered for successful mental math, applauded the completion of puzzles, and colored in doodles in the margins of tests.   I have worked my way through 4 packages of brightly colored pens, 3 ink cartridges and a small forest of trees in paper.  I’ve sighed, laughed, whispered, shouted, and cried, sometimes doing more than one at the same time.  I’ve skipped breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to get in a few more minutes of work, and transformed Sunday into another workday.  I’ve confiscated 21 cootie catchers, and asked for the scissors to be put away everyday.  I’ve proudly hung drawings up on my refrigerator and the walls of my bedroom, and I made it a point at dinner to tell my housemates at least one amazing thing I saw a child do every day.  My hope has been shattered when I’ve seen poor choices, and my optimism has been restored when I have witnessed acts of pure kindness and selflessness.  I’ve searched for ways to make learning fun, interactive, community-based, and accessible to everyone at their own skill level.  I’ve always believed there is room for growth for every person in the classroom, including myself.

Above all, for 179 days I have been privileged to spend my days with twenty eight people who consistently show me the beauty of teaching and learning, of working together with the noble, underlying goal of helping each other.  At the promotion ceremony today I shook hands and gave hugs to students, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I feel exceptionally blessed for the opportunities and trust given to me by each of your families.  I feel exceptionally thankful for all of you who put your trust in me and afforded me the opportunity to enter into a process of teaching and learning with you.  I know I wasn’t perfect, but I can promise you that I gave my all every day.  It is my hope that each of you comes away from this past year with a greater appreciation and love of learning.

I wish you each a lifetime of building and nurturing a personal appreciation for learning.  I know you all have incredible potential and hope that you each find happiness wherever you go.  Please know that my door will always be open to you.  If you ever need help, academically or otherwise, give me a call, send me an email, or stop by the classroom.  Whether it is editing an essay, fundraising a field trip, attending a sports game, or completing your calculus homework, I promise that I will always do my best to make time for you.

I have one final token of appreciation to offer each one of you.  As you have undoubtedly come to understand this year, I am a lover of language and words, and so I thought it fitting to present each of you with a special word that I chose specifically for you.  Learn it, use it, and own it; it is for you.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Adam Weis

June 3, 2009

“The key to being a comic book artist…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mrweis @ 10:29 pm

is to be fearless.”  Quite a profound statement, I thought, especially coming from a high school student.  Yesterday, as part of the events leading up to the BAM Summer Book Jam, our class was visited by Adele Moss and Leslie Bloomfield, Berkeley High students, and writers, illustrators, and publishers of their own comic book.  They explained to the students how, starting in 6th Grade, they began to create and self-publish their own comics and how they were able to get their comic called Hector the Collector carried at Berkeley’s own Comic Relief comic book store.  The two young authors/ artists then led the students through a brief activity about unleashing the creative process to create their own super heroes and super villains.

hector 4

You can check out their website here for biographies and more information about their work.

Coming back to the initial quote for a moment, I think it is an important statement about taking risks, especially in our creative endeavors.  As children grow up, risk-taking in the arts and writing is far too often squelched by fears of peer rejection.  It would serve us well as adults to model the daring creativity that we so often encourage our children to apply to their writing, art, acting and dancing.  So here is my challenge for everyone reading my blog (potentially a couple hundred a day now, although I’m not sure who they all are).  On one of those warm, lazy summer afternoons or evenings in the coming months, instead of clicking that remote over and over, instead of putting headphones on, and instead of hiding out in a movie theater, take a moment to be fearless and create something together with your child.  Over the summer I’m going to do my best to update the blog every once in a while with crafty and imaginative activity ideas.  I’m hoping to hear back from some of you through comments or email, to let me know what you are doing.  Maybe you could even send me a picture, scan or video, that I could help you share.  Just a thought, but one that I hope works out.

Homework:

  1. Language Arts:  Finish final draft of first persuasive essay.
  2. Reading: Read for 20 minutes and turn in pink reading log.

June 1, 2009

Cycling Safely

Filed under: Announcements,Homework — mrweis @ 8:38 pm

Today we were visited by a couple really nice folks at Cycles of Change who lead a great day’s worth of activities teaching the students about bicycle safety.  We started off the day with a presentation on the rules of the road and ways to avoid the most common kinds of bicycle accidents.  We then had a helmet fitting, bicycle fitting, and learned the ABCD Quick check (Air in tires, Brakes working correctly, Chain on correctly, Drop the bike about 2 inches, and check any Quick release levers to make sure they are tightened.)

Here is a video review of an ABC Quick Check (without the bike drop, but with a bit more information about each element of the check.)

The bicycle inspection was followed by drills on the yard, and then drills on the intersection of Mylvia and Virginia.  After practicing stopping, signaling and turning, we embarked on a neighborhood ride and looped around to Ohlone Park.  We then rode back to school, had a wrap up session and then the students went to Science.  The whole day went pretty well, especially for it being our first time working with Cycles of Change at BAM.  To get a better picture of the day, or rather pictures, head on over to the flickr page and look through the Bicycle Field Trip set.

Bikes

Thanks to Maya and Tommy at Cycles of Change, all the students, and Francoise for helping to make the day so much fun and full of learning.

Homework:

  1. Language Arts:  Write a min. 1 page, 4-5 paragraph essay about how you can ride safely.  Follow the prompt and the graphic organizer on the homework page.
  2. Reading:  Read for 20 minutes and fill out pink reading log.

Mr. Weis

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