New Books, New Plan

I was working in my classroom today, looking at my new Spanish novels and checking the new scope and sequence.  I have big plans, so I hope I can get this all pulled together. I cannot be the only teacher with this dream.  We, meaning teachers in my ESU (Educational Service Unit), are making a concerted effort to increase fluency using comprehensible input.

We all start a new school year with high hopes, but sometimes we get discouraged before Christmas. Let’s make a pact not to give up too soon this time.  Fluency is too important, even if we have trouble convincing parents and students of this.  I am lucky that I have the freedom to do what I know is right based on research.  Many teachers are not so lucky, so I do feel blessed.

I promise not to give up this year, no matter how challenging it gets.  My students deserve my best efforts, and I want them to experience that feeling of satisfaction that comes from learning more than they thought they could.

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Learning Time is Any Time

How many fun, learning opportunities have you and your kids missed out on due to work and school schedules?  Are your children interested in things not commonly taught in a  school curriculum?  Do they want to do internships or apprenticeships to learn a trade?  Homeschooling may be the answer for you.

The first step is to check your state’s regulations.  If you like what you see, you can prepare yourself and your child(ren) to take the next step.  You will face challenges and negativity along the way, so be armed with research to back up your position when you take your child(ren) out of school.  Many well-meaning, intelligent people are not educated about the differences between socializing and socialization, just to name one issue.  If you have done your research and feel confident homeschooling is the best option for your family, stand firm.  Some will ask about “gaps” in your child’s education.  One way to make a point is to ask the concerned questioner what s/he remembers from school.  That should take care of that.

Children can learn anywhere.  Sitting around a table or at a desk with peers does not guarantee learning.  The first rule of learning is that the information must be meaningful to the student(s).  Since I teach Spanish, let me use that as an example.  Is it necessary for all students to speak Spanish?  No.  Do I think it is an important skill?  Of course!  Could it become meaningful to a student later?  Absolutely.  Many times schools set requirements that do not fit all students, but it’s done to make sure our students have a well-rounded education.  Fair enough, but all students will not find the information I have to share as important as I do.  They may not ever need to speak Spanish.  According to school requirements, however, they must pass the class if they wish to graduate.  What if a student wants to learn Arabic or French or any other language the school doesn’t offer?  As a homeschooled student, any foreign language could count toward graduation.  Schools are sometimes limited by funding and teachers, but a homeschooled student can find resources online or at a community college to fit interests and life goals.  In Nebraska, there are Lakota-speaking people.  It is even offered at the community college.  For my daughter, this is a meaningful class.  It will also be her third language!  She is already fluent in English and Spanish.  Using her as an example, would sitting in my Spanish class for a year be meaningful?  I don’t think so!

Now picture her as a homeschooled student.  She can learn a third language that is meaningful to her and relevant to where we live.  Most parents and teachers will agree that we want well-rounded, life-long learners.  Put that in plain language: we hope students will want to learn new things forever while having a broad base of information.  If students feel “trapped” in a classroom with peers they do not like, how are we planning to accomplish that goal?  Creativity doesn’t have to be sucked out of learning; it can still be fun.  Some of us have forgotten what it’s like to be creative and have fun while still providing opportunities to learn.  Homeschooling can do that!

Ideas for learning opportunities are everywhere.  Surround yourself with intelligent professionals who can teach you and your child new skills.  An internship of two weeks can teach more than a quarter in a class if the learner is motivated and the knowledge is meaningful.  I have a friend who owns a bakery, another raises goats and chickens.  Either friend could certainly impart information to my child.  Will I give them a chance?  You bet!  If my child shows an interest in something, I will seek a way to provide information!

I am trying to pay attention to my daughter’s passions.  She loves to sing and write songs.  I support that, so I bought her a guitar.  She was invited to a cosmetology school’s open house.  She was interested, so I took a day off to get her there.  Yesterday my daughter danced for an hour just because she wanted to.  If she dances several times a week, that certainly could be called physical education!  Good for her!  That’s the beginning of her homeschool journey.  I can’t wait to see how her passions develop now that she has the freedom to explore.  She is no longer limited by a school schedule.  Learning time for her is any time.

Learning time?

Learning time?

Firefighting and Facebook

Gear is ready to go!

Gear is ready to go!

After taking the Recruitment and Retention workshop at fire school in May, I realized there’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle. I feel pressured to keep reading and asking questions. We have a lot of experienced firemen in our department, so the newbies should take advantage of that knowledge. Most of the guys have forgotten more than I will ever learn! That being said, we all do monthly training so we will be sharp when a call comes. Having the gear ready is the easy part!

Many hours have been put in to create a training center for our department and firefighters in the surrounding area. The guys want to be able to practice rope rescue skills along with everything else.

Training Center

Training Center

Our department has a brand new Facebook page: Mullen VFD Community. Go check it out. There are quite a few pictures already there, and more will be added as time permits. The new page is part of our marketing effort, so feel free to share the link, comment, etc.

A Learning Experience

Thanks to Tyler, I snapped this picture.

Thanks to Tyler, I snapped this picture.

As you can see, Grand Island takes Fire School seriously. I learned that Long John Silver’s gives firefighters a discount, too. Many businesses do the same, and it is very much appreciated.

I went to a workshop called Volunteer Retention and Recruitment. Apparently, recruitment is not a problem exclusive to rural volunteer fire departments because there were 20 of us from all over Nebraska. It was nice to meet J. D., one of our dispatchers from Ogallala. The instructors, Greg Render and Kevin Quinn, were wonderful. Lyndsay, the super assistant, kept them organized. Greg Reddin, Project Director for ADAPT, also shared a lot of information with us. Most Fire School classes run 1-3 Friday, 8-3 Saturday and 8-12 Sunday. Mine was a bit different because we were in session Friday 12-5 and Saturday 8-5 (with a lunch break, of course).

Lyndsay is enthusiastic and knowledgeable!

Lyndsay is enthusiastic and knowledgeable!

The best part of the workshop for me was leaving class with a solid plan to recruit new volunteers. Lyndsay scanned our plans while we shared in class. She will follow up with each of us as the year progresses to make sure we are on target. As a technology junkie, I especially appreciated the flash drive and CD with sample documents to use in the recruitment process.

I hope to be able to implement some of the ideas from class. Realistically, some may not work for my area, but I sure can try!

Greg Reddin, ADAPT Director

Greg Reddin, ADAPT Director

Kevin and Greg--awesome instructors!

Kevin and Greg–awesome instructors!

The Chicken Chick