Healthy kids in middle schools

As a future Health Education teacher, I was researching through the web to help me become a more effective health educator. I came across a topic in the health education area that caught my eye and it was about children’s mental health and one person who speaks about this topic is Julia Steiny.

She mentions how vital it is to put children’s mental health as the primary in education other than their physical state of education. When it comes to Putting Kids’ Mental Health at the Center of Education people assume that its always the opposite and that other aspects of health education should come first such as substance abuse, sex education, nutrition, and physical education. But she mentions that the first thing that should be taught or educators should be aware of is the state of the child’s mental health and educate them about it and its different perspectives of mental health education.

When kids aren’t using pro-social ways to meet their needs, doctors often prescribe psychoactive drugs to manage the unwanted behavior.  While I generally hate the impulse to pass laws to legislate every little thing, giving a kid psychoactive drugs without talk therapy really should be illegal.  Drugs can’t get to the bottom of a problem or teach a kid pro-social skills.  Drugs can be hugely helpful by supporting people in the throes of therapy, unpacking painful experiences.  But too often drugs are just excuses to avoid the harder issue of helping kids form the strong, caring relationships that are an everyday safety net.

Mental health education of children

I think that as a future health educator, I will be able to implement and incorporate and start off with each student’s mental health and ask them about the topic or subject and what they think about it when it comes to their mind and provide me with a lot of feedback. Also, I think it will benefit the children more and have engage, be interested, and be active both now and in the future.

Autism

 

 

The blog I found myself drawn to is Thoughts of an Autism Teacher. I found this Blog while looking for teachers and classrooms for kids with special needs. I’m interested in this blog because the blogger seems very interested and engaged in her students. She posts up the most interesting little projects and ideas for the classroom, which can certainly make a difference for children with Autism. I’m currently a substitute teachers aid for children with special needs. Majority of the students I work with have Autism. Everyday I learn something new and  each day I work in different classrooms with different teachers. Each teacher has their own unique way of setting up their classrooms with their own special reasons and solutions.  As you spend time with different teachers, you begin to see the “method to their madness”.

The blog Thoughts of an Autism Teacher can build a connection with my peers by help them understand the difference between a basic classroom and a classroom for children with autism and special needs. Reading thorough this blog has helped me  have a better understanding on how to work one on one with my students and understand why certain teachers avoid a visually busy classroom.

“One mistake I see sometimes in other autism classrooms is the overuse of visuals. What, you say?? Visuals are so important to students with autism, right??

Yes, visuals are important. However, some teachers take this a little too far. If you have TOO many visuals…

1) They lose their meaning. Student’s don’t know what to attend to.

2) They can be too visually overstimulating and distracting.

I like a lot of the suggestions from the blog, Clutter-Free Classroom. This blog is not actually an autism blog, but many of the concepts apply. Classrooms that are clean, organized, and minimize visually stimuli create great environments for our kiddos to learn.”

Not only is it important to research what teachers had to blog about Special needs, I was also interested in the parents perspective. Understanding a condition inside out can also make a difference. Working with the parents and parents working with the teachers can help children make little changes day by day.A more personal blog coming from a  parent whose daughter has Autism is, Child’s Work, Child’s Play Blog. The author of this blog is Jessica, and she reaches out to other parents and help them with little tips here and there on how to cope with different situations for Autism. Her personal posts are touching and you can feel the love that she has for her daughter. Jessica not only reaches out to parents, she also gives brilliant ideas for activities and art for teachers. One the most inspirational and touching post she made is Finding Happy ( MUST READ ). With the recent tragedy that happened in Connecticut, I believe people need to learn and understand that Autism is not the blame, and sometimes you come across people with ignorant remarks and comments just because they don’t understand.

On a more personal note, I recently realized how much people are clueless about this condition. I had a conversation with a close family member and they actually questioned Autism and practically tried to make it an issue regarding the Connecticut shooting, at that point I was in tears, trying to explain to them what autism really is. Working with these kids you begin to have connection you didn’t even know was there. At that point I realized how much I truly love working with my kids. With one explanation at a time people will eventually wiser about the condition and stand up for these innocent children, teenagers and adults.

 

In The Shadow of Others

 

One step at a time

I was researching for an informative blog on Google.  I saw and read many blogs, but out of the many, the one that really caught my attention is the “wearenewyorksbrightest.”This blog is of a Middle School math teacher, Mr. Yang, who teaches in the South Bronx. He shares his first year of teaching experience.

I find this blog really interesting because Mr. Yang really enjoys what he does and it shows in his blogs. He even shared several lessons he learned as being a teacher. One lesson he shares is “always stay organized- you never know when your organization is the only thing that can keep you and your students sane”. That is an important lesson because if the teacher is disorganized then only one can describe how the class will be. I really enjoyed reading a couple of his postings. I cannot wait to read all of them from the start. He seems like a very passionate and enthusiastic teacher and I wish to have the same attitude when I start my teaching career. The reason I chose his blog is because he became a teacher in 2011- a new teacher. The advice and lessons he posts on his blog can help prepare me. I want to join his conversations and be able to ask him couple of my own questions. The information he has to provide can mentally prepare me in becoming a teacher. Another lesson he shares is “never try to juggle two physical tasks at the same time”. That is a problem I have, I take on too much as once. I will definitely read his lessons over and start to work on it myself.

I am interested in this piece of conversation because it’s a guide for my future career. I believe becoming a follower of such related blogs would help me get started on building strong connections with my peers. This connection would also allow me to feel more comfortable and more prepared for my teaching career. Looking through “wearenewyorksbrightest.” blog, I can truly say, Mr. Yang would become my role model. In the way he is so passionate about teaching and how he does not waste any time in educating his students. He stays on top and this is very important. There are a lot of teachers out there who just teach for the sake of teaching. However, this teacher he truly loves his job and willing to help students in whatever ways he can. I am so glad I was able to find this blog- it makes me feel like I am a lot closer to my dream than I was ever before.

 

From Foreign Language, to Programming Language, and Back Again

It’s true, I’m not studying to be an educator in the traditional sense of the word. That may make it seem like I’m different from the other arcade players since my goal isn’t to be the influence in a classroom. Despite that though, we’re not that different. I do want to be an educator, by making smart software that teachers. While I may not be an  influence in the classroom, I hope my software will one day be.

I’ve had a chance to look back at how I came to the conclusion that software can improve the way we learn, and it all started with a fellow who goes by the name of Khaztumoto. Some years ago, after a fateful post-new years hangover, I had a strange introduction to Japanese culture by way of a DVD that I accidentally obtained. That’s another story, but it ends with me deciding that I absolutely had to learn the Japanese language.

I didn’t know where to begin, but the google-fu was strong in me and I turned up Khaztumoto’s blog, All Japanese All the Time. Before even reading about the study techniques he was advocating, I was sold on the opening of its about page:

I am your host, Khatzumoto. My zits have been photoshopped out of that picture. I learned Japanese in 18 months by having fun. In June 2004, at the ripe old age of 21, all post-pubescent and supposedly past my mental/linguistic prime, I started learning Japanese. By September 2005, I had learned enough to read technical material, conduct business correspondence and job interviews in Japanese. By the next month, I landed a job as a software engineer at a large Japanese company in Tokyo (yay!).

Khaztumoto improved upon a method (perhaps invented) by a couple Poles who essentially went from zero English ability to fluent simply by learning 10,000 sentences (it turns out there might be something to that number). He did so in an obsessive way in which he brought Japan to the US, immersing himself completely in Japan and Japanese in everyway imaginable. But what I was most keen on was how he went about actually studying 10,000 sentences. With software, of course.

The software was basically a simple flash card tool, I don’t remember the name, what was important was that it was using an interesting algorithm by P.A. Wozniak (who coincidentally hails from Poland), which was producing incredibly promising results in his own flash card-like program, SuperMemo.

Sure it would be possible to have thousands of index cards. Sure it would even be possible to implement the algorithm without a computer. But realistically the algorithm is too complex to be calculated in one’s head, so traditionally index card based flash cards used much simpler, less efficient algorithms like the Leitner system.

Animation of the Leitner system sorting

Animation of the Leitner system in action. Box 1 contains cards that need to be reviewed sooner rather the later. Box 3, contains cards that don’t need to be reviewed for a while. In practice there can be any number of boxes and review intervals. It might help to see Box 1 as items that need to be reviewed today; Box 2, three days; Box 3, one week, and so on.

But now that we have computers practically all the time, be it on our desks or phones, why not use the more complicated and efficient algorithm that offers up to 96% retention rates? Not only does learning with software make save time studying over using less efficient methods that are brains are capable of computing, but it saves space, adds convenience and never makes a mistake.

I was never able to follow through on Khaztumoto’s methodologies, but I did begin wondering about how software in general can be used to improve the learning process for any given subject. More than that really. I created a web-app to help students learn kanji in context, and eventually ported it to iOS. It’s not what I want it to be though (only 3½ stars in the App Store), and don’t have the time to improve it or add some of the new e-Learning ideas I’ve come up with right now — however, since this is my final class, depending upon how the job market is, I soon may.

It turns out Khaztumoto and I have somethings in common: we both studied computer science, have Kenyan heritage somewhere down the line. Because we have similar interests, it’s not surprising to me that we both turned to software to make learning more effective. So, I still read his blog occasionally, and follow and unfollow him on twitter (depending upon how psyched up or bummed out his realist motivational tweets make me feel).

If I am to ever make an application that makes language learning easier, it will have been in-part to the ideas that Khaztumoto continues to share with the global community.

Whether it’s for my software iterations, or iterations of myself, I’lll end wtih one of the most valuable lessons he’s shared:

 

‘thresh·old’ to the Future

Health, many people fail to realize, exists in a dynamic state. Like I mentioned in my earlier post 

I’m EXTREMELY passionate about the subject, BUT I’m not only pitching the typical diet and exercise speech you hear everywhere else in the world, INSTEAD overall well-being.

I decided to come into the Health Education field when I was a 17 year old Senior at Flushing High School sitting in my health class realizing that I was just a few months away from college and didn’t even know and understand the anatomy of my own body. I watched some students struggle with grasping information thrown to us in a quick 14 weeks. And while some students looked to know all this information Ms. S gave about sex, drugs and other topics, you would’ve thought I was the 40 year old virgin who favored simple living and was unaware of the true world that exists around her, but instead lived in a giant bubble.

This is when I used myself as an example and said the topic of health education, not just sexual education, should have presence in earlier age grades.

I went on a search for issues in Health Education and found great interesting blogs in the field of education by Julia Steiny

… a writer and education consultant who’s been working on kids’ issues for over 20 years.

Her blog post titled “Put Kids’ Mental Health at the Center of Education” sheds light on another dimension of health that society is not used to hearing about and one rarely associated with children, mental health.

— Kids’ mental health is at least as important as their physical health.

YESSS – I’m very much interested in Julia Steiny’s thoughts because as a future health educator, my plan is to move children and bring to parents’ attention that a healthy child and practicing living a healthy lifestyle is not just about how you eat and how fit you are. Though those are important, it also has to do with relationships children encounter all throughout growing as well as making sure their minds are healthy amongst the other dimensions. It seems to quickly be forgotten that kids can share the same feelings as an adult such as bad moods, insecurities and trouble fitting in. Steiny says,

… the mentally healthy are those people who feel able to identify their own needs and issues, and can negotiate for themselves civilly, within the context of a community.  Kids and adults alike must learn to take responsibility for their daily moods, feelings and the nasty messages they allow their heads to tell them. (Like: “I’m too weird to have friends.”) Those who can’t manage feelings on their own need to talk to a friend, a mom, a professional.

Society needs to stop using the terms “mental health” and “mental illness” interchangeably and begin putting effort into understanding children’s feelings, letting them talk and reassuring them you’ll always be right there working on it with them, together as a parent, a friend or as an educator. Each individual has their role in this and with each contributing their two cents and investing their time in these children, changes are almost undeniable.

So my wish for the new years is that we move mental health to the center of our concerns for kids.  Leaving it at the fringes is doing none of us any favors, but least of all the young people we’re supposed to protect.  Even if it’s only the sniffles, we attend to illness.  Why put up with so little attention to feelings?

All dimensions of health exist interdependently, where the physical component is just as important as the environmental one. A healthy being cannot exist without possessing characteristics of each. It is not until then that they are whole. Julia Steiny’s “Put Kids’ Mental Health at the Center of Education” and her writing in general motivates me to make health education a subject of relevance. In today’s society, it needs to be taken seriously because although it may be late for some of us and although we’ve missed out in ways,  our children should have a chance. Our children have a chance. I hope other educators and people of all kinds share my ideas so that we can save our children. They are the future and they should be whole, vibrant, healthy little kids.

Special Thinkers

In my quest to find resources on the web that can guide me towards my goal of becoming a special education teacher, I found quite a few sites that fit my criteria.   None of them stood out as much as the “classroom in the corner” blog.  The blogger is Cortney Lyon and she is a 4th grade special education teacher in California.  Her blog was rated A+ on Teachingblogaddict.com.

She blogs about different teaching techniques such as the token economy system which is a positive reinforcement technique using tokens as milestones and a reward upon completion.  She also blogs about how she designed the floor plan of her classroom (which she paid for with her own money).  She not only takes her teaching serious and goes to great measures to make sure her students have the best chance at success under her watch, but she also makes sure that the environment for learning is present all around them as well.  Her blogs are so practical and full of experience that it was nominated for the 2012 Most Fascinating Special Education Blog Award.

 

Cortney Lyon building her classroom before the start of the school year.

 

An organized “After” picture of the planning station

After reading posts from her blog and looking at her blogger profile bio, I can see that teaching is not just her career but its her passion.  She seems so entrenched into it that it motivates me just reading about her.  She makes it easy for me to branch out and find other resources to learn and teach these children.  On her bio page she takes the time to list out the list of blogs she follows (all sixty-one of them!!!)

This is definitely going to be a resource I turn to for years to come!

 

 

 

Entering My Path To Becoming a Teacher

I happened to stumble upon Mercedes Hutchens’ blog and it instantly caught my interest. The name of her blog is Surfing To Success. The homepage is really eye-catching and I like how she named it because it displays how dedicated she is to helping her students succeed and go on the right path through education. I noticed that most of the blog posts she puts up include many visuals, tips, and information that will benefit me as a future elementary school teacher. I chose Hutchens as my guide teacher blogger because she has a lot of experience in the education field and has a creative, fun personality which is the type of teacher I am aiming to be one day.

I’m interested in the posts she writes because they include ample ideas to keep children engaged and crafty, unique teaching methods. I gained a lot from her blog post on teaching respect because she demonstrates how understanding of her students she isand she shares this advice since it is effective for her. I find her posts very helpful and her perspective on teaching elementary school students is very inspiring. Hutchens’ informative posts are definitely convenient for me to keep reading because she associates to my choice of profession and with future teaching experiences I will be surpassing.

“Hopefully, as I develop things for my classroom, they will be useful for someone else.”

I chose this quote she mentioned in her article titled How to Plot a Point Common Core 5.G.2 because it shows how much she cares about sharing her knowledge of being a teacher to be able to guide others. From her blogs, I percieve that she is a really dedicated educator who exudes skillful qualities. She can be portrayed as a role model because she truly shows immense concern about her students’ learning. Everything I just described will be me at the end of my journey to becoming a teacher!

Books: Your Real Friends

I wish the library had a door that had one of those big misting foggers. You know, the ones at Six Flags in the summer where the water gently washes over all the sweat and grime of a hot day at the park? I’d like a mister to wash away all the negative feelings my students have about books–or at least dilute it, so I have a chance to baptize the kiddos into the wonder of the written word.

Above quote is written by Amy Rasmussen, who is an ELA teacher and a blogger.  The quote is from her blog page Threeteacherstalk, where she writes about her fifteen years teaching experiences and share it with other people.  I think this blog page is a really good source especially for those who want to become teachers, so that they have an idea what is going to look like in the real world.  The quote is taken from her blog titled If You Can Talk About a Book, You’re Not an Average Kid. In this blog she shared her experience that her students hate reading books and she tried to find out why do they hate books and some strategies that she used and going to use to make her students love reading books.

I was searching for blogs written by middle school English teachers because I am majoring in Education/Education middle school extension, and the threeteacherstalk.org pop-upped. I visited the website and liked the blogs because these blogs are enriched with teachers’ personal experiences with their students and future teachers have a lot to learn from them.  I liked this particular blog is because this about reading.  I also do not like to read.  Actually not “like” I should say I don’t have that patience to read any entire book or story.  I never have that patience maybe because I have never been encouraged or presented books in a manner that I will like them.  This is exactly what Ms. Rasmussen is talking about in her blog.

Ms. Rasmussen is saying that her students say that they hate to read books, but she is saying that her students actually do not even know if they like to read or not because they did not read that much book.  She wonder what middle did her students did in middle and elementary school.  She also said that teachers in elementary and middle schools should give their effort to make students like reading because this is the time build the base.  If they fail then she will do everything to make her freshman students to love reading books.  This my favorite from the blog where she said:

I will if it will help me match books to students’ interests. I will if it will help me show kids that books can help them solve their problems. I will if I can get kids to stop saying they hate books.

This is my favorite because in this quote she stated how dedicated she is in teaching her students.  I believe a teacher should be like this.  Teacher should have that passion to do everything to help their students and to support them, to give them voice, to give them opportunity to change their lives.  I believe in this and I will try my best to practice this while teaching.  I recommend this blog for all the future teachers.  You can also follow her in twitter if you have an account.

Follow the links to better fitness

From the onset of this search I was determined to find an online community of bloggers, educators and students like myself who have a passion for physical activity, fitness, sports and leadership.  The search wasn’t easy in the fact that I found so many sites with so much to go off of it was hard to narrow it down and find just the right direction to follow.

Following many of the links and using my little bit of “google fu” I was able to land on a link/blog designed by Stephen Yang an adjunct professor at S.U.N.Y. Cortland called Rockstar PE. I found this blog to be a jump off point leading me to a myriad of places that can connect me to physical educators and a variety of resources. (one of those places being the S.U.N.Y. Cortland webpage, which led to me realize they have a large PE program both undergrad & graduate, which could be a school I would consider for my masters)

Using Rockstar PE I followed the rabbit hole of links leading me in multiple directions.  The first link I clicked was on Stephen Yang’s twitter account hoping to lead me to active conversation on anything PE related, then I realized Yang is more of a fitness video researcher but his twitter is very much PE heavy, so I read some of the twitter followings on his page and most of his communications were with PE educators from  various levels & regions (college, high school & elementary).

By realizing that there were so many PE educators on twitter I felt it was a good idea to start my own twitter account.  Using my account I could view many profiles which lead to link after link.  An example of a good link is PhysEd Games which provide simple ideas for PE games.  Also by following various links it lead me to professional organizations that are good resources for PE teachers such as AAHPERD.

All in all this assignment challenged me to search for online communities or networks to help me enhance my knowledge and understanding of physical education.  The greatest result for me was the discovery of just how valuable twitter is and how my PE educators are communicating.  Right now I am just a “lurker” looking for right outlets to become part of which can lead to positive networking.

Keep Gym In School

 

My Entry Point To Math Teaching Connections

Today I was searching Google Blogs for math teachers that are active bloggers which could potentially help me on my path to becoming a math teacher. During my search I found the website called Great Math Teaching Ideas created by William Emeny who used to be a secondary school math teacher and now works at Wyvern College in Hampshire, England as a lecturer and Deputy Curriculum Leader. Emeny wrote a blog on his site called “Probably the best blogs by maths teachers around the world” which he shares his thoughts on what he thinks are the best blogs by teachers around the world.

There are some really great blogs out there written by maths teachers who really care about their practice. I enjoy reading their posts as they share their insight and ideas and think about how it could improve my own teaching.

I believe that this blog is the entry point to my own network of connections that can help me on my path to becoming a math teacher. The blog pointed me to great and experienced k-12 math teachers that actively blog on how to make math education better. Among such educators is Dan Meyer, who has very interesting ideas on how to improve math education by letting students develop their independent thinking skills and Kate Nowak who Emeny decribes as a blogger who keeps the big picture of mathematics teaching in mind. It is very likely that I will find potential connections through Emeny’s blogs that could help me a lot in my educational journey.