Monday, August 8, 2011

Who Wouldn't Want to Go to a School Like This?

I have to admit, I'm a little jealous of our students:  I would have given my right eye to go to a school like ours as a teenager!  Not only is it a gorgeous, spacious, and clean building; we do an incredible amount of extra things with the students.  The school is divided into four houses, just like at Hogwarts (from the Harry Potter books).  The houses compete in various games and competitions throughout the school year.  I learned yesterday that my house is Morrison (our color is green . . . uh oh, that's Slytherin's color!).  There are also "Homeroom Wars", in which homerooms compete against one another.  Additionally, we have fantastic drama productions each year.  Perhaps the most enticing thing to me, however, is the technology.  All middle schoolers and high schoolers (and their teachers) get school-issued laptops, and we're making the most of them in the classroom!

I can't believe all the awesome "techy" tools I get to use as a teacher:

  • As I mentioned before, no textbooks for my history classes!  We're trying out an online program that grants us access to loads and loads of primary documents, so that our students can learn history without constantly being bombarded by bias.  Oh, they'll still get some, of course, since it is impossible to completely remove bias from any subject, but at least it won't be as overpowering as bias tends to be in most history textbooks.
  • With the enthusiastic support of my HOD (Head of Department), I'm pioneering the use of the Kindle app (it can be downloaded onto computers by students who don't have a Kindle reader) in my tenth grade Modern World History classes.  With that, they'll be able to download autobiographies and other useful books for free, which will help immerse them in history better.
  • I just got my Moodle account set up today.  With Moodle, I'll be able to have the kids do their bellwork on their laptops rather than wasting paper (plus, I'll have constant access for checking their work), set up discussion forums, and even administer quizzes online (which I don't actually plan to do; I prefer to quiz the old-fashioned way, on paper).
  • We're using for all essays, papers, etc.  I used that program in college, so I'm quite familiar with it.  It's a plagiarism checking program that figures out whether students have copied work and even tracks down where they got it from.
  • We have a really good online program called PowerSchool that makes gradebooks easy to maintain and readily accessible to parents, in addition to its other charms.  It also makes attendance, discipline, and such easy to track.
  • My classroom has an excellent speaker system and computer projector, so no annoying, old-fashioned overhead projector to battle with!  Instead, I can use slideshows, show DVDs, utilize YouTube where appropriate . . . and of course, I plan to use Prezi (it does presentations that are even neater than what Keynote and PowerPoint can make) from time to time.  I bought a clicker with a laser pointer in it back in the States, which will allow me or students to move about without being tied to the computer during presentations and lectures.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"