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Archive for the ‘ posts’ Category:

What should you buy for a high school grad’s party?

Ahhh, June is finally here. The time of beautiful weather, interleague baseball games, and high school graduation parties. If you’re a high school teacher, you’re probably invited to your fair share of these shindigs. But what should you bring as a gift to congratulate the lucky graduate? Aside from something with the lame pun “Congraduations” or some variation thereof? Luckily for you, you may not have to rack your brain thinking about it – graduating seniors are starting to create gift registries for themselves, like people do for weddings.

On one level, this makes sense – while brides and grooms to-be know they’ll need crock pots, silverware, and linens for a new life together, soon-to-be college freshmen know they’ll need laptops, comforters, and shower shoes. On another level though, they might not really need all that much – newly married couples have a legitimate need for household items, since they don’t live in residence halls that take care of them. Clearly, some college students have a tendency to spend money on items they clearly don’t need.

So what do you think? Are these gift registries unnecessary and rude? Or are they helpful and beneficial? Somewhere in between? Feel free to comment below.

Do you Tweet in iambic pentameter?

Do you know what I think would be real fun?
If I write a poem on this for fun!
What should you do to protect your new car?
Get our insurance, have no fear, drive far!

For those of you who may not be a poet, or not even know it (groan), I’d like to point out that I wrote that marvelous quatrain in good ol’ iambic pentameter. That’s the most common type of poetic verse: each line has ten syllables and the emphasis is on the second of each two syllables.

Anyways, if you’re looking for a unique way to teach poetry to your class, or show them the weird things automated Twitter accounts can do, have I got the Twitter account for you to follow! Check out Pentametron! It searches through the Twitterverse to look for recent Twitter posts (a.k.a. Tweets) that are written in iambic pentameter, though probably not intentionally. Then it finds another iambic pentameter Tweet that rhymes with it, and posts both at once. Be warned; it’s completely automated and has no censorship. Some of the results may be a bit vulgar. But some of them just may be the greatest poems since Shakespeare! (Note: they aren’t). Here are some of the countless examples:

Is there a mall in Denton anyway?
i’m graduating middle school today

Tonight were [sic] gonna run into the sun ….
just introduced her to the dial tone

I agree, these poems are not very good. But they rhyme and fit iambic pentameter. So watch out, language arts teachers; this computer may write poetry for your students! Or, you can use this as a fun, educational distraction and learning tool. Whatever makes you happy!

Why are men and women so different?

You’ve heard the old sayings. Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars. Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Boys are made of, well, something else, I guess. Pretty much everyone will agree that men and women tend to act differently. But why is that, exactly?

I recently read a very interesting blog piece from our good friends at Education Week that explores this very concept. While there clearly are physical differences in the two genders, are we really all that different from each other mentally and emotionally? While I won’t claim to be an expert on this subject, one could argue that it’s mostly societal. From a very young age, children are taught to interact primarily with their own gender. Parents set boys up for play dates with other boys, girls for play dates with other girls. Then as they interact mainly with their own gender as expected, stereotypes become self-fulfilling prophecies. Which is why girls wear pink and boys wear blue.

Is all of this true? I really don’t know. But this series of experiments certainly is interesting! Maybe if more teachers encourage cross-gender friendships at a really young age, society would be better as a result.

Online Textbooks?

Class textbooks haven’t changed very much over the years – your school orders several dozen of them, you have your students cover them with brown paper bags, then you grimace at the end of the year as you realize that despite your best efforts, your brand new books have been marked up and lost their shine. Then you reuse the same books for awhile until it’s time to order new textbooks! That’s been the process for as long as I can remember, and my memory is pretty terrific!

However, all of this was before the Internet was as pervasive as it is. With sites like Wikipedia making knowledge free and easily accessible, it’s only a matter of time before textbooks universally become available for free and online. Especially as states are moving to have their educational standards mirror each others’, this could drastically alter textbooks as we used to know them.

This certainly has pros and cons. In the plus column, it will save districts thousands of dollars and ease the physical burden on students’ backs. In the minus column, telling students they’ll be learning from computers means they may be Facebooking or surfing the web while they should be learning. What do you think? Is this good or bad for the learning experience?

Don’t text and drive.

Have you heard of Cow? No, not the bovine animal – it’s an English public service announcement, attempting to discourage from texting and driving. WARNING: It’s quite graphic; I do want to point that out before you click on the link. Most people probably realize texting isn’t conducive to good driving – it takes one’s eyes off of the road, and that obviously can’t be a good habit. In fact, it’s not just a bad habit – it’s epically dangerous. If you text and drive, you are twenty three times more likely to be involvedin a crash. Twenty. Three. Simply put: don’t do it.

This isn’t an earth-shattering opinion. Most people probably realize they shouldn’t text and drive – or rather, most people realize that most other people shouldn’t text and drive. However, too many of us incorrectly feel we can text and drive safely. The majority of people believe although they’re a good driver, most people around them aren’t. Admittedly, you might be the exception to the rule, able to do it perfectly safely. But you’re probably not. Have you ever heard of the Self-Serving bias? In a nutshell, it means that the majority of people think they’re above-average. Clearly, they can’t all be right, or else the word “average” would be meaningless.

Even if you know for a fact that your reflexes, driving ability, and peripheral vision are superior to most, driving while texting is still a risk you shouldn’t take. I promise, whatever message you just received will still be there whenever you stop. In 2009, texting caused a minimum 995 traffic-related deaths in the US alone – and the actual number is probably far higher. Please don’t add to it.

Using Facebook: by Facebook!

I’m sure you have your fair share of Facebook horror stories – cyberbullying, hurt feelings from comments that weren’t intended to be read, public comments that should remain private, etc. However, even though Facebook seems to be all anyone’s wants to talk about for the past seven years or so, it’s still quite new. Although school counselors and teachers today have to respond to online crises, they probably haven’t received much training in Facebook etiquette, how to respond to cyberbullying, etc. Even if they have, odds are it pales in comparison to the training and expertise they have to offline issues.

Realizing this, Facebook has taken the initiative to better educate school counselors and other professionals. It recently created a new resource, “Facebook for School Counselors” to help give some assistance on the subject. It also has links to other helpful resources – some on Facebook, some off Facebook. While it’s not a thorough and elaborate study (it’s only nine pages), it’s still a good start. I encourage all teachers, and especially all school counselors, to take a look at it.

But enough about me – what do you think? Is it too short? Just long enough? What other resources have you heard of to learn about how Facebook impacts your students’ lives? Feel free to comment below!

Finally focusing on fitness

I think we can all agree that a certain level of physical fitness is important to have. In addition to feeling better, there are many benefits of being physically fit, including career success, higher IQ scores, and better grades. So clearly, we should encourage our students to get off their couch and go for a walk a bit more often. As teachers, it’s your responsibility to teach children subjects such as biology, German, and Calculus. And The Art of Walking. However, is it your responsibility to make sure your kids are physically fit?

Well, yes and no. On one hand, you can only do so much; I’m sure every teacher has had at least one student with the potential to earn excellent grades but not enough drive to come close. Fitness is no different – you should give your students a little push, but ultimately, results are up to them. On the other hand, in many cases, students desperately need that push to get started. You can’t ignore your students’ academic growth and hope they learn. You also can’t ignore your students’ exercise and diet routines and hope they stay healthy. That’s why I applaud Richmond schools’ recent decision to place a heavier emphasis on physical fitness.

Considering childhood obesity rates have increased more than 300% over the past 30 years, we all need to do something about this. I only hope more school districts take this lesson to heart!

Twitter for kindergarten

As you may know, we’re all about Twitter here at Insurance. And if you didn’t know, now you do! Follow us @Teachers_Insure! Twitter’s great. While it can be used to share information that frankly, nobody really cares about (oh, you had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch? Fascinating.), it can also help us stay in touch with those we don’t talk to on a regular basis, let them know what’s going on. Or, it can be used for five-year olds to post about their day to their grandparents.


That’s right; Twitter has become so pervasive that even kindergarteners are using it! Not a group to let the facts that they can’t type or read get in their way, a class from New York City is now posting about what they did that day so their loved ones can stay abreast of their development. Technically, it’s a licensed, literate teacher posting the blog, so it may be slightly less impressive than I’m letting on. Still, it’s pretty neat, don’t you think?

I wonder if more teachers of very young children will try this idea. When kids go home and their parents ask them what they did that day, they often say they don’t know because they literally don’t – their memories still aren’t very strong. Now, thanks to the wonder that is the Internet, parents can now find out about their children’s day without having to talk to them! Maybe this has some downside…

Are children hungry to read “The Hunger Games”?

If you pay any attention to pop culture, you’ve probably heard the hype about the recently released movie called The Hunger Games, based on a bestselling novel of the same name. It’s been a smashing financial success so far. The sensation of both the book and movie raise some interesting questions. Certainly, one of them is whether or not a story like this is too graphic for its intended “young adult” audience. However, I’m most curious about the trend among successful literature aimed towards young people.

Recent, very successful series of books such as Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games have sold millions of copies and inspired hundreds of thousands of children to read. Considering how important reading is, at a time when younger people read a lot less than ever before, these books have done a great job getting children to read when they otherwise wouldn’t. However, the books then become movies – although some children will certainly still read them, some won’t and just watch the movies. I can’t begrudge the authors for selling the movie rights for millions of dollars, but this trend cannot be good. Can it? You tell me.

The first Harry Potter book was published in 1997. The first movie wasn’t until 2001. The first Twilight book was published in 2005. Its first movie? 2008. Finally, The Hunger Games (novel )was published in 2008; obviously, its film came out a few weeks ago. There’s a several-year period lag between books and novels; maybe it doesn’t make a difference by then. Or maybe, the hype surrounding the movies increases the sales of their booksas counterintuitive as it sounds, these movies may make children read more. What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below!

Researching in the Wikipedia Age

As you may have heard, after almost 250 years, Encyclopaedia Britannica has decided to stop its print edition. Instead, it will shift its attention to online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. I must say, this announcement is making feel a bit nostalgic – do you remember back in the day, when you wanted to look something up, you had to (gasp!) open a book to find the information? Whether or not you remember that, whether or not you like it, you simply must face facts – as Bob Dylan knows, times are a changin, and as an educator, it’s your responsibility to make sure your students are prepared.

Thus, we highly advise you make sure they know how to properly research online. One of the major draws of authentic encyclopedias like Britannica is you know its information is factually accurate. However, one cannot simply find a random website and trust the information is accurate. Otherwise, we’d all believe in tree octopuses. One of the most popular sources of information, Wikipedia is surprisingly accurate, considering anyone with Internet access can edit most articles on a whim. However: anyone with Internet access can edit most articles on a whim!

Teaching students how to sniff out fact from fiction is no easy feat, and it’s not something that can be taught in a few hours. However, a once-valuable skill is quickly becoming a necessary skill. Not only for research, but to avoid online financial scams, protecting ourselves if we try out Internet Dating, and more. Are you doing anything to help your students’ online research abilities?


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