Thursday, June 6, 2013

NC Budget Letter

The NC State budget isn't pretty this year. Education is being pulled through the mud. It might not help but I can't sit back and watch this happen without saying something. Below is the letter I sent to several house and senate representatives in NC:

As a graduate of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and currently an elementary school teacher with eight years experience in this system, I am very concerned about our state’s budget situation. I would like to take this opportunity to express some of my concerns regarding several issues which are currently on up for discussion. In my eight years of teaching in CMS, I have worked with amazing, successful and dedicated teachers. Morale in the past few years had dropped due to the state of the budget. I’ve watched many high-quality professionals, whom I respect and look up to, become frustrated and overwhelmed. Many issues we face are beyond our control at the school level, however, some are in your hands. I implore you to consider the following concerns.

  • Teacher Tenure: I work with many talented teachers. Teachers who consistently score highly on evaluations and show student growth on assessments. These teachers should earn their tenure and not constantly worry their jobs are at risk. I do understand there are teachers around our system and state that are not so great. There should be a system in place for teachers who are not successful but taking tenure from every teacher is not the best option.
  • Teacher Pay: Teacher pay has been frozen in our state for five years (I was corrected by one of the representatives I contacted - we actually did receive a 1% raise this year. However, that was eaten up by the 2% federal social security tax increase so I am actually bringing home less money.). In my eighth year teaching, I am making the same amount I made as a third year teacher. In the past five years I have learned so much from working with students, participating in hours of professional development, and collaborating with my professional learning community. I am a better teacher, yet I have received no more compensation. My life has changed in the past five years. I’ve gotten married, bought a house and adopted two shelter dogs yet I’m living month to month on less money due to increased cost of living expenses, taxes and health benefits costs. As a professional educator with a master’s degree (which I will not be compensated for if this budget passes) who consistently receives high marks on evaluations, I should not have to worry about paying my bills but I do. Like most other educators in North Carolina, I didn’t enter the field of education to make money but at the same time I can’t afford to work  for a state that doesn’t compensate me fairly. Embarrassingly, our state is 48th in the county in teacher pay behind states who are much poorer but still see the value in public education. This needs to change soon or we will lose amazing teachers who literally can’t afford to teach any longer.
  • Increased Class Sizes & Teacher Assistant Reduction: With larger class sizes and without support from teacher assistants, differentiating instruction and teaching students on their instructional levels becomes more difficult. With the current RTI model for our most struggling students, classroom teachers will not be able to provide students with intensive needs the attention they need to succeed. If the classroom teacher has more students to work with and no assistant s/he will not be able to meet the needs of all the students. I fear the result will be a sharp increase in the achievement gap that we have worked so diligently to close. Our assistants help the school day run more smoothly, from morning hall, cafeteria, car pool, etc duty, to working to provide small group instruction to the intensive and strategic students or covering classes while teachers are in IEP meetings, professional development sessions, etc. They are a vital part of the school. At my school and many other schools throughout the state we emphasize TEACHER in teacher assistant.
  • Support Public Education: Our state has some of the best public schools in the country and students come from around the world to attend our public universities. North Carolina public schools win awards, year after year, for academics as well as sports and other extra curricular activities. Please support the great things happening in our public schools by not supporting vouchers. Vouchers that are meant to give students “options” do not open doors for all children to attend high quality schools; they allow people who aren’t educators to open for-profit schools that do not make the grade or help our students succeed. Use the money you would use on vouchers to invest in low performing schools to help them soar.

Currently, there are amazing teachers sitting at home writing lesson plans, grading papers and contacting parents. If these proposed changes take place, these teachers will be making plans to retire early, transfer to other districts/states, or switch careers. Decisions such as discontinuing tenure, firing instructional assistants, increasing class size and providing vouchers may be the last straw for many underpaid educators who are working harder than ever to teach our students more with less. Please consider how these decisions will impact North Carolina’s teachers, support staff and most importantly, students.

Heather Ramsey

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Think Before You Post

My most popular bulletin board this year was my "THINK Before You Post iPhone". I got the idea from some of the iPhone bulletin boards I found on Pinterest along with the THINK poster that is popping up everywhere. I thought the iPhone would be a perfect way to display the information to teach my students to be careful what they share digitally. Over sharing becomes a bigger problem once students enter middle school and have more freedom with phones and the internet but still happens too often in elementary school. Teaching our students about this early on can hopefully prevent headaches in the future.
This bulletin board was a bit of a pain. I made it early in the school year and was very happy with it.

In an attempt to save it for next year, I decided to run it through the laminator. It was too big so I trimmed here and there. when it finally fit through, the laminator ate it up. I tried to save it, to no avail, so my iPhone 4 got the slimming iPhone 5 update:

I actually like this one better because of the colors, because "Think before you..." is on one line and because the letters at the bottom are easier to read. I'll be keeping this one for a while... or at least until the iPhone 6 arrives. Click here to download the PDF file to create your own T.H.I.N.K. Poster!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Pintester Experiment: Wool Dryer Balls

Stepping away from my educational blog for a moment (by moment, I mean year...), I decided to join The Pintester Movement and post my entry here. When I read that Sonja was going to host the first ever The Pintester Movement, I knew I had to join in the fun and immediately knew which pin I was going to test: Balls. For the dryer.

I found these posted on One Good Thing By Jillee. They were advertised to "Save Time, Money and Energy!" I love saving time, I'm a teacher so obviously I need to save money and who doesn't want to save energy?! The premise is that you use these balls instead of dryer sheets to dry your clothes more quickly, help reduce static cling and keep your clothes smelling fresh. I recently bought new dryer sheets at Sam's (and I got like 5,000 of them or some other ridiculous number) but they stink so I don't like using them...

This pin seemed easy enough and only called for three items: 100% Wool Yarn, Essential Oil and old pantyhose. I found the yarn and essential oil (I choose fresh linen scent so my clothes would smell like clean clothes) at Michel's for around $12 and already had some old pantyhose in a drawer somewhere.
You start by making big balls out of the yarn... 
With the help of this handsome fellow and two or three episodes of Bates Motel on DVR later, I had five balls. You are supposed to tuck the ends in so they don’t unravel in the washer so I used tweezers to lace the ends back into the balls.
Once they are made and secured you are supposed to wash them and dry them on really high heat to "felt" them. I'm not really sure what this means but I followed the directions and this happened...
Oops… In Pintester fashion, I forgot the pantyhose. Believe me it wasn't on purpose. I've been looking at this pin for months so I really didn't think I could mess it up. After cutting all the messy strings off of them, I tied the balls in the hose and decided to chase the dogs around the house.
It was hilarious! They were totally freaked out. Once they started trying to eat the pantyhose-ball snake, I gave up and put them back in the washer on high heat with some towels. After drying them on high I declared them ready to speed up drying time and de-static my dryer. I put a few drops of the fresh linen essential oil on them and tested them out on my dark clothes load.
The verdict? Speed: I’m not sure if the balls reduced drying time. I shortened the drying time by ten minutes and my clothes were dry but I’m not sure if this is due to the balls or due to my over drying in the past. Static Cling: They were still static-y but they are static-y with dryer sheets so I don’t feel like I lost anything here. Scent: My clothes smell just like fresh linen… whatever that should smell like. Obviously, I didn’t complete the scientific method with this pin-xperiment but I’ll keep using the balls till they completely unravel or the dogs get a hold of them.

Be sure to check out all the other entries in The Pintester Movement as well:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tech Lab Bulletin Boards

I am the proud owner of my 6th classroom in 7 years teaching! Although I'm more excited about this move than any of my previous because it is from the classroom into the technology lab to be the school's technology facilitator! The lab has been very boring in the past and I knew I couldn't stand to stare at the white walls all day, so I went on a quest to find some cool bulletin board ideas. After scouring Pinterest and several other websites, I found several that I liked but knew I could make my own!

Click here to see Laura's websites board.
My version:
I plan to switch out the websites regularly so the kids don't get bored. Went to Wal-Mart to buy a fishing net and found the cloth in the fabric area! Had planned to just use fish cutouts like Laura but fell in love with the cloth. It's a little busy but I love it!

Click here to see Megan's keyboard.
My version:
I wanted the keys to be color coordinated to match the fingers you use to type (see the hands in the corners). I wasn't going to make this one and tried to talk myself out of it several times but just couldn't figure out what else to put on the big bulletin board. I'm so glad I made it! I'm very happy with how it turned out. I lost almost a whole day of my life, but it was worth it in the end. Shortly after I got it on the wall, someone pointed out a mistake. Do you see it?

Click here to see Nicole's Net SMART board.
My version:
OK... Nicole's is cuter than mine, but I can't draw. Plus by the time I finished the keyboard, I was just slapping stuff up on the wall. If know both pics are hard to read but the information came from Net Smartz Kids.

I am still working on a few more bulletin board and I have a word wall up too. Anything else definitely need to be in a computer lab?
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who Needs 21st Century Skills Anyway?!?

Who Needs 21st-Century Skills Anyway?

CLASSROOM 21 | by Greg Limperis

So what if the information in my textbook might be a bit outdated—Pluto was a planet at one point, wasn’t it?

What’s all this talk these days about teachers needing 21st century skills? What’s wrong with the way I, you or our parents learned, anyway? What is wrong with putting students in rows and opening up a big textbook to learn, anyway?

There is nothing like the sound of a textbook opening for the first time. The flipping of paper and the beautiful graphics are so engaging. I know what you are thinking; a digital textbook has that and so much more. So what if the information in my textbook might be a bit outdated—Pluto was a planet at one point, wasn’t it? The pictures are the same in the text as they are online aren’t they? I know, you can copy, save and paste pictures, text and much more into a project from your digital text but, hey! I can do that with a photocopy machine, glue and scissors anyway. Yeah, it may be messy and it may take a bit longer—but think of the great projects my students can share with each other.

Okay, so don’t tell me, you can do the same projects digitally—but add more pizzazz. What? You can add video, audio, motion and much more to your projects? Hmm, that’s interesting. What is that, you can put it online and share it with others worldwide? Others can rate the project and comment on it? They can work on it collaboratively from anywhere and at any time? Hmm, okay. But can yours be hung on a wall for others to see when you are all done? It can? Hmm.

Well, how about pen pals? Why do I need 21st century skills for collaboration? What’s wrong with students picking up a piece of paper, sitting down and writing a good, old-fashioned letter and mailing it off to someone else around the world? What’s that? You can do that instantly and get back feedback on the letter all within an hour or day’s time? You can talk with someone halfway around the world live—and face to face? Hmm.

Well, hey—how about field trips? What do I need 21st-century skills for in order for my students to take a field trip? All I have to do is load them up on a bus and we can be anywhere within a hundred or so miles within a day. I do not need 21st-century skills for that. I know it can be expensive and hard to get okays to leave the state—but it’s worth it. Oh, c’mon! Don’t tell me you can be anywhere in the world today on your field trip using your 21st-century skills. What do you mean your students took a field trip to see the Great Barrier Reef live this year? How did you do that? Isn’t it under water? Yeah, and you still went? Hmm.

Okay, but we can act out scenes in our class and create plays and share with others in the school all without using 21st-century skills. What is that you say? You do that and more? What do you mean you can create movies and share them online with the world? Yeah, our class has a boob tube. What do you mean you have YouTube? You can share all kinds of video with everyone worldwide? You can record your play and post it online? Others can comment on it and rate it? It can be downloaded and added to other people presentations? Hmm.

Yeah, but in this day of test taking and data, why would I need 21st-century skills for that? I’m good with data and a calculator. Yes, it takes a bit of time to gather that data and organize it so that it is meaningful, but I am eventually able to use some of it to help mold my teaching and drive my instruction. Don’t tell me: You can do all of that instantly and changes in your teaching happen frequently? Hmm.

I have a white board, pointer, over head projector, camera and plenty of books. What else do I need? What do you mean, you have a computer, document camera, video camera, interactive white board laser pointers, student response systems and you say you haven’t even touched the tip of what is available for you to use? Wow! What’s that you say? Your students are engaged? They’re presenting, sharing, collaborating, and using higher order thinking? That does sound fun.

Yes, I could survive and supply my students with a worthwhile education but, wow! I think yours sounds more engaging. Can I join your class? I guess I do need 21st-century skills. I want to know what this blogging thing is, what are web 2.0 tools, how do you Skype? I want to collaborate and share without leaving my classroom. I want to analyze, create, evaluate, apply, understand and remember. I want that for my students, too.

I don’t want them to feel like they are powering down when they enter my classroom. I want to meet them where they are and not expect them to meet me where I am. I am a teacher with tools available to me. I want to know how to use them. I am a continuous learner myself. I can learn these 21st-century skills. My students need them, and so don’t I.


Greg Limperis is a Middle School Technology Facilitator in Lawrence, Mass., who founded the very popular Technology Integration in Education professional learning network, reaching thousands of educators worldwide. He has shared with others what he knows and they have joined him in sharing their insights as well. Join them in bringing about change using your 21st century skills.


Borrowed from:

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I hope you all know that today is a special day!! March 14! (Ringing any bells yet?!?) If not, it's Pi Day! (3-14) Hopefully math classes will be celebrating Monday with circles, cylinders, and of course, pie!
There are all kinds of interesting things you can do like:
Find your birthday in pi! (Mine (08-12-83) occurs at digit 808,934) Exciting right!?!?
Even more fun, you could spend 5 minutes and 59 seconds of your math class listening to someone recite the first 1000 digits of that special number.
For more fun facts and interesting ideas check out this invigorating article!
Bring on the pie! I mean, PI!