Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Media of the Week - Grand Rapids Awesomeness

Pin It When a Newsweek article was published online, it listed the top 10 dying cities—and Grand Rapids, Michigan was ranked at the bottom of the barrel. The local businesses and community members didn’t agree with this pronouncement and decided to band together to create a video that showed the type of place that G.R. really is.

Needless to say, I think they succeeded in their endeavor with their inclusion of 5,000 people and creation one of the most amazing lipsync videos I’ve ever seen.

It made me smile.

I had to watch it twice.

By the way, it was Jen over at Critical Crass led me to this particular video clip...she's also having a contest. Just if you were interested.

Oh, and I did a post over at 4p today...I'm just saying.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Sign of a Good Year

Pin It Each year I work hard to try to get the students in my class to all like each other, to be more than just a classroom but instead a small community. Tonight I was just checking my email and saw that I'd received a note from one of my students:

>>>> 05/28/11 6:02 PM >>>>
Subject: You made me despise summer

It's only Saturday and I'm already super mad that school's out for three months! literally, you don't know how badly I want to reverse time... all my friends at Amelia are out of reach for playing stuff. I'm crying while I write this I'm so miserable!!!!!!! I've never had so many friends in my entire life!!!!!! Stay in contact so I don't get crazy over the summer.

I think this is truly a sign that this was a successful year.

Image garnered from http://bee-media.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 27, 2011

Moments with Joey – Diminishing Return

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. NOON, CLASSROOM. The class has gone to lunch and the teacher is sitting alone in the classroom eating from a box of Sundried Tomato and Basil Wheat Thins. After a few minutes, the door opens and one of his students walks in. The boy pauses by the door and then moves over to the table where the teacher is sitting; he doesn’t say anything for a few seconds.

JOEY: Hey, Mr. Z.

TEACHER: Hi, Joey…what brings you back to my world?

JOEY: It’s cold outside so I thought I’d come back in and visit you.


TEACHER: You know, a better answer would have been, ‘I just missed you, Mr. Z and I wanted to see you again. Also, it’s cold outside.’

[The boy looks thoughtful for a second].

JOEY: Mr. Z, I just missed you and wanted to see you again. Also, it’s cold outside.

TEACHER: Oh, that’s nice.

[The boy is silent for a few seconds].

JOEY: I’m gonna miss you, Mr. Z.

TEACHER: Miss me?

JOEY: Yeah…I just want to stay in your class. [Pause]. Hey, maybe you could follow me to sixth grade, then seventh, then eighth, and then on to high school and college. You could be my teacher every single year.

TEACHER: I’m pretty sure you'd get sick of me, Joey. You'd also get tired of the way I teach after a while.

[The boy adamantly shakes his head].

JOEY: I'd never get sick of you, Mr. Z.

TEACHER: Sure you would, Joey, it’s all about diminishing return. Remember when we learned about that during our Market Day presentation?

JOEY: You mean when John kept eating all those pretzels and then wanted water instead of more of them?


JOEY: Not me, I'd just keep wanting more.


TEACHER: Well, then you'll need to keep visiting me here at school then, because I can’t be visiting you…that would just be creepy.


JOEY: Mr. Z?


JOEY: Could I have a few of your Wheat Thins?

[The teacher offers up the box and the boy takes a few of them; he silently munches in the ensuing silence].

JOEY: Do you think that I could I just hang out with you again sometime?

TEACHER: As many times as you want to, Joey, and for as many years...

[Fade to black].

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Letters from Your Twelve Year-Old Self

Pin It For the past ten years I’ve had my students write one of the most important letters they will ever compose.

You see this letter is to a very important person: themself.

When I started teaching a decade ago, at the end of the year I had my students write a letter to themselves, which I then had them seal in an envelope with a current photo. This envelope is returned to the school to me as one of the final homework assignments I give for the school year.

I then put these letters in a large, manila envelope and place that envelope in a storage box I only open twice a year; once to put a new set of letters in, and once to take an old set of letters out to mail.

About three years ago I sent out my first batch of letters, and a few days later one of my old students showed up in my classroom. I hadn’t seen this boy for quite a while, yet here he was. He smiled and I asked him how he was doing. It didn’t take long before he cut to the chase.

“I got a letter today, Mr. Z,” He said with a bit of trepidation in his voice.

“Really?” I responded. “Who was it from?”

He sat down in the chair across from me, and exhaled a deep breath. “It was…from me.”

There was a longish pause as we both sat there, not saying anything. Finally I asked, “So, what did your twelve year-old self have to say?”

The young man before me shook his head. “I don’t know, I didn’t read it…I don’t think I’m quite ready to read it yet, either.”

He paused and looked around the familiar classroom, as if reminiscing over days gone by. “I don’t remember what I wrote all those years ago, and I just wasn’t ready to read it…so I decided I’d come and visit you instead.”

He stayed for quite some time, and then eventually left. As he was leaving I told him that there was no rush, he could open his letter when he felt ready; after all, his twelve year-old self had waited this long, and could surely wait just a little bit longer.

Monday and Tuesday of this week my graduating sixth graders from six years ago will be getting their letters from their twelve year-old selves in the mail. On Tuesday my fifth graders will be writing letters to themselves that will sit in a box and wait for them for seven years.

I can only hope that these kids will give themselves the type of advice and reminders they are looking for in the future; after all, this could be one of the most important letters they will ever receive.

Senior Session - Audrey

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Media of the Week - Devin Supertramp

Pin It This week's media has several different videos, all by the same creator, Devin Super Tramp, but all pretty amazing in their own right.

This first video, Tahiti Ocean Voyage, is probably my favorite. I found myself in sheer awe of the ability of the videographer at capturing the beauty of this world around us intertwined with the music he chose to use. I think you'll see why this particular video is first, and why it is my personal favorite.

I really enjoyed this second video not only because half of it was shot in my backyard...(literally, the park and walkway are my backyard) and because the parking garage is downtown where I park every time I work at ComedySportz, but the musician is absolutely amazing...

While I enjoyed the concept of this third video, Ocean Symphony, it was not my favorite; however, it was pretty cool nonetheless with the overall idea.

The final video I wanted to share has quite a different feel than the others...not only from the music, but the overall 'theme' as well. It is a fun video of people doing that which I'd never dream of...well, maybe dream, but never actually do.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Passing of a Legend

Pin It “Teachers never die. They live in your memory forever. They were there when you arrived, they were there when you left. Like fixtures. Once in a while they taught you something, but not that often. And, you never really knew them, any more than they knew you. Still, for a while, you believed in them. And, if you were lucky, maybe there was one who believed in you.”

- Kevin Arnold
The Wonder Years

When I was in high school there was a teacher I absolutely loved; her name was Mrs. Frizzell. She was the type of teacher that every student needs to have during the transitionary period of life when their self-worth is in a precarious place, and they find themselves searching – trying to discover who they really are.

This was me.

Mrs. Frizzell was my Drama and English instructor; she was probably the teacher in high school who made the biggest impact on my life – helping to shape me into the person I am today. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was thinking about Mrs. Frizzell, and I decided that I needed to contact her. I wanted to let her know the influence she’d had on my life, and tell her how she’d helped me to come out of my proverbial shell and spread my wings while I was a student in her classes…

And yet, I hadn’t talked to her in years.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Senior Session - Jake

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Senior Session - Gerb's Eldest Mancub

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I have been doing so poorly lately at putting up photography sessions. I'll try to do better in the future.

Notice I said 'try.'

It's strange to think of this young man - once the sixth grade boy who lost his chair for nearly three weeks in my classroom six years ago - who is now a graduating senior...

The years seems to meld together.

If you wanted to know more about how amazing his mother, Gerb, is, you can find out more about her here. If you wanted to know more about broccoli and me, you can do so over at Four Perspectives...after all, I'm posting over there today...however, if you were simply feeling adventurous, you could always just click here just because.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moments with Joey - 1999

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. MORNING, HALLWAY. The class is coming into the school after the morning bell. As they pass through the doors, they are warmly greeted by their teacher.

TEACHER: Put some smiles on those faces because today we’re going to party like it’s 1999!

[One of the boys lags behind his classmates with a bemused expression on his face].

JOEY: Mr. Z, we’re going to party like it’s 1999?


JOEY: Why 1999?

TEACHER: It’s actually an eighties song reference.


JOEY: Oh, I thought it was because it was the year I was born.

TEACHER: Hmmmm…so would this mean it would actually be a party, or a punishment?

[The boy thinks for a second].

JOEY: Better bring on the tears, Mr. Z.

[Fade to black].

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gettin' A Life...

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If you’ve followed this blog for a year or more, the ad above might look familiar…

You see, every year I challenge my class; I challenge them to turn off their TVs sets, video games, and all gaming systems along with abstaining from attending movies for one full week. In the place of these electronic diversions, I challenge them to spend more time with others: playing outside, reading, writing, and enjoying the company of their friends and families.

We call this the “Turn off the TV and Get a Life” challenge—an idea I picked up a few years ago from John Bytheway. This will be the 10th year of my class taking this challenge, and the great thing is this challenge has now spread to the entire fifth grade at my school.

However, what I’d like to know is if you’d like to take part in the challenge with us.

Would you do it?

Could you do it?

One full week devoid of video games, movies, and all forms of television…

Now, I’ll be honest with you…there are a few day when I come home from school, beaten and tired – wanting nothing more than the brainless eye-candy of the tube, but for this week, no matter how badly I want to watch a movie, I won’t.

Those students at my school who are successful with this endeavor, we will celebrate their accomplishment on Friday next week with a par-tay. So, what IS the party? It will be afternoon fraught with board games, teamwork activities, and things one can do without the aid of a television or any type gaming system.

If you are successful, you are more than welcome to join our entire fifth grade at our celebration; whether it is with us physically in our classroom—or from afar in spirit.

So, now comes the big question…will you do it?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Waiting for Superman

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This morning I awoke—not to my alarm, but nearly an hour earlier—to the throbbing pain in my skull. My head was pounding, and it felt like someone had been using my brain as a punching bag.

In fact, do you remember that scene from The Wrath of Kahn? You know, the one where Kahn puts that little worm into Chekov’s ear and it burrows its way into his brain?

Yeah, you could say that it felt something like that.

Media of the Week - Validation

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I posted over at 4p today; if you haven't had the opportunity, I'd recommend heading over there first and then coming on back here...

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