Saturday, September 15, 2007

Students and Grief: What is a teacher to do?

by George Crawford

The second week of school is now over. Once again I am faced with a task that all teachers have had to deal with. Helping students learn to deal with grief. A girl in one of my classes has a grandparent that is not doing too well. She has been diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis isn’t good. This middle school age student is on the edge. She is trying to deal with the aspects of her grandmother in the back of her mind. She also has to deal with the issues of schoolwork and the daily life at school. She is sensitive and sometimes comments from her classmates don’t help.

As a teacher, I try to offer support, caring words, and share some of my own experiences. I also try to tell her that if she needs to talk that I will listen and the other teachers in the building will listen also. As teachers, what are we to do?

Every year across Maine, teachers and school staffs have to deal with the issues of grief. Sometimes the grief comes from the family of the students. At other times it comes from within the school community. Grief is something that teachers, students, and everyone have to deal with.

Things to Think About:

How can I help my students deal with grief?

What are some resources for dealing with grief in schools?

Does my school have an approach or plan for dealing with grief?


Maine Field Trips

An excellent resource for Maine Field Trips can be found at the Central Maine Self-learners Homeschool Group.


How could this listing be improved? Are there other local possibilities you are aware of that could be added to it?

Maine Field Trip Resource

Friday, September 14, 2007

Literacy Across the Curriculum

Mountain Valley Middle School is involved in the Literacy Initiative of the Western Maine Educational Collaborative. Using the materials of Darlene M. Bassett, the good people in that school will be focusing on different reading strategies every month in all subject areas. This September the focus will be on text structures and text features. Along with the monthly school-wide emphasis, students will have the opportunity read books of their choice during designated times in the spirit of SSR, FRED, DEAR, etc.

Want to know more about this program? Check with new principal, Ryan Casey, at

Literacy Across the Curriculum
Book Report Resources

Character Series: Humility

"The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature." ~ Joseph Campbell

Where does humility fit in K-12 education?

Humility Resources

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Adult Education in Maine

Yesterday I was introduced to the world of adult education. I'll be doing some work with Oxford Hills Adult Education under a federal grant to encourage student "persistence" through a variety of ways . . . including home distance learning.

Jane Courcy and Ramsey Ludlow graciously gave me a crash course in philosophy, structure, buzzwords, and acronyms used. We also passed notes and understandings of how the grant might be implemented. I have a lot to learn. :)

One document they gave me that I had never seen before is "Equipped for the Future Content Standards," which I understand is the bible for structuring adult learning. This publication has its roots back in the early 90's and yet it seems so current. I'm impressed with its view of learning and education.

I was also pointed in the direction of Project Ideal which has a handbook for adult ed distance learning.

I'll be working with Ramsey on her U.S. history course using home computers of the participants. We looked at a variety of solutions for making the connection, including FirstClass, Moodle, and other online environments. We settled on Google online services because of universality, ease-of-use and dependability. See Kern Kelly's description of the Google options here.

Yup, I have lots of cramming to do . . . but I'm fascinated with the possibilities and also on how this model might be applied to K-12.

Maine DOE - Adult Education

Adult Education Association

Adult Ed Online

Google Tools for the Classroom

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Follow up On Time vs Pay

Nancy Hudak wanted to post a response to the "Time vs Pay" post, but she encountered some problems and asked me to post her response. The following is her post:

As the union representative (MEA UniServ Director) for Aroostook County area local Associations, I appreciated Ed's comments and responded to him off-list because I only have dial-up service at home and posting a comment is problematic, at best. Today, I am at a hotel for a conference and have high-speed access (yay!) and so thought I'd try again.

What I told Ed was that under Maine law, local Associations are not permitted to negotiate planning time as part of the student day. Oddly enough, the Maine Supreme Court determined - many years ago - that planning time (as shorthand for any sort of collegial, collaborative professional interactions during a teacher's work day) is "educational policy", not "working conditions". As such, most language (if it exists) in local contracts regarding planning time is not legally enforceable. There are some exceptions and if anyone wants a short course in Maine labor/education law, let me know!

However, the problem as I see it is that if teachers are going to have regular professional conversations as part of their work, either the law (26 MRSA 965) itself has to change, the interpretation of the law has to change, or some other new law has to be put into place. Otherwise, teachers must count on local school boards/committees to see the need for professional time and put it into place. After that, teachers can only hope that no new board/committee members get elected who think planning time is unnecessary or that the new superintendent believes that s/he needs to "get tough" with teachers!

If you have a chance, you can check a new law which was enacted this past legislative session (LD 1859, which has not been incorporated into the online statutes as of yet) which does mandate some preparation time at the high school level only "to work collaboratively to design high-quality curricula, instruction and assessments [in specific areas]. It may be a start, but I haven't heard much about how it's being addressed around the state.

Thanks for the opportunity to make my pitch!


Monday, September 10, 2007

A Wow! Moment in a Classroom

I was helping out in a high school science class last week. The teacher wanted to have a tool that allowed her to post a question to her students, and get immediate feedback with students' comments showing up quickly without having to get an e-mail approval. We were going to use a blog, but then I remembered that our school had a Think.Com account. The Think site is supported by the Oracle Foundation and has been around for a while. It has built in protection against inappropriate comments being made, and in order to get an account, the administration of your school must request it. It has a somewhat cutesy interface, but the students don't seem to mind that.It also has a lot of tools built into it, many of them like the ones on Moodle or Studywiz. Well, the teacher decided to give it a try, so she posted the following question. "What do you think the most pressing environmental problem is today?" The students immediately posted their ideas, but one among them was having some difficulty. This class contained a Spanish speaking foreign exchange student with limited English. She was having some difficulty with the language. In a few moments, one of her peers who could see that she was struggling, quickly accessed Google Translator and translated comments into Spanish so that she could participate fully. What a moment! The power of the internet.....Posted by: Becky Ranks

Character Series: Compassion

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." ~ George Washington Carver


How do we encourage compassionate behavior?

Compassion Resources
Diversity Resources
Prejudice & Intolerance Resources
Tolerance Resources
Bullying Resources

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Diffusion of Authority

"A distinguishing characteristic of our nation — and a great strength
— is the development of our institutions within the concept of
individual worth and dignity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently . . . and deliberately their control and
support throughout our history have been — and are — a state and
local responsibility. . . . Thus was established a fundamental
element of the American public school system — local direction by
boards of education responsible immediately to the parents of
children. Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school
districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the
educational system that must be maintained. We believe that to take
away the responsibility of communities and states in educating our
children is to undermine not only a basic element of our freedoms but
a basic right of our citizens. "

~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Was Ike right or are his ideas outmoded?