Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#WeirdEd: A Reflection on Openness

Fair Warning: This blog is as much to get my head straight as anything else. So read it because I'm talking to you, but I'm also talking out loud to see how I feel about the topic.

To question or not to question, that is the question.

Tonight's #WeirdEd was about Letting Go and Planning. Because I like the chat to reflect the theme of the night I didn't plan anything. I picked the topic and then, because it was about planning, didn't plan. I like it when a chat come together like that. Like when we talked about classroom flow and the entire chat rhymed.

#WeirdEd has always been a fairly guided chat. I try hard not to write leading questions, I don't need participants to tell me what I want to hear and I don't write, or try not to write, questions with obvious "right" answers. But I do write questions. I do this because I like the focus that comes with nudging the conversation in one direction or another. Because #WeirdEd, along with being a way for teachers to talk about teaching, is a way for me to get messages across about teaching and to get other voices involved in those messages. I want to say something, but I also want to know what the brilliant #WeirdEd family has to say. I like having questions. They guide us, they allow me to be clever, the allow the chat to be as unique as it is because the questions get very specific.

This is very important: I like writing the questions, but what I like more is Your Answers. I write what I feel are good questions because every single week you blow me away with your answers. Without the #WeirdEd family I'm just a guy shouting into the digital wind. With you we are growing, learning, laughing, and building. As this reflection goes on I say "I" a lot. This chat is mine, but it's not. It's ours.

Back to writing questions. It's not that I don't trust teachers to be specific or deep on our own. We do that, especially in small groups. But to really drill down, to find the heart of some matters, you need specific questioning. To discover what people think in various situations. The questions allow me to dig and to be funny and to be creative. The questions give #WeirdEd part of its voice and set the tone every week.

Tonight I wrote no questions. And the chat was fantastic. It was huge, as big as it's ever been. The feed was flying by so quickly I know I missed over half of what was said, and there was a lot of great being thrown around. I miss stuff in the regular chats because, as mod, I'm juggling a lot of things, but I can get a feel for the basic gist of the chat and thrust of the various side conversations. Tonight was a side conversation.

Which is great and which I don't particularly like.

Ok, at the risk of sounding like a control freak, #WeirdEd is my baby and my message. It's built in a way that we all can learn. The openness of the conversation tonight meant that a lot of people got a lot of different things out of the chat, which I love. I really honestly do. But I feel like it was too shotgun. Too random and spread out. There were a lot of conversations happening under the #WeirdEd banner rather than one big #WeirdEd conversation. Does that difference make sense to anyone outside of my own head? Can anyone else see why that kind of bugs me?

It bugs me that it bugs me too, because I like freedom and openness and totally organic learning. I do that in my classroom. But I also puppet the learning in my classroom. I guide and nudge. It's not that I don't trust the people who come, I do very much, but I don't know if we'd have the honest break-throughs we've had during our chats on fear or anger or Ferguson or guns if the participants weren't pushed to certain places by guided questions. Again, I trust that everyone who comes is being honest. But being honest and willingly going to hard places are two different things.

When #InnoEd was up and running it was a brilliant example of a chat without questions that was still lead to interesting places. I'll contend that #edchat is (often) a bad example of the same format, because it's too big and too general and too safe. Too many answers are exactly the same. Too many topics are the same too.

I like writing questions for #WeirdEd. It's fun for me, mostly because the questions are almost always never easy to write. I work hard on what I want to know. And when the chat is running I can tell when the questions are good and everyone is focused and giving incredible answers. Tonight I couldn't read the chat. I was lost in the wash of sound. Good sound. Some great answers and conversations and voices. I am not saying you need me to be smart. Not at all. But I think maybe we need questions to be organized about being smart. To make finding the nuggets easier.

I Storified the chat like I always do (seriously, there's a complete #WeirdEd archive) and I have to read through it because talking to someone after the chat they mentioned an idea they got from it that I never saw. Great, new ideas I didn't plan on. That's absolutely awesome. But how many other people missed it? How much deeper could we have drilled into that idea had we been more focused?

It's not like I don't encourage side conversations. Every chat is loose enough that along with the madness of #WeirdEd proper there is a side #glitterchat and who knows what else happening. I love that.

I think #WeirdEd will continue to be a predominantly Q1/A1 chat. I will keep the question count low to allow answers to breathe, which I've tried to do. I'll remind #WeirdEdE mods @LTaylorELA and @nolagirlfromtx that they are able to do what they feel with the chat. Maybe I'll cut it down to two or three questions sometimes. Your hour is important to be and I want to squeeze every last drop of goodness from it. But I also can't be tied to a format. That was never the intention. In the new year #WeirdEd will evolve and change. It will stay fun, relevant, challenging, unflinching but also unable to take itself too seriously (except for this 15000 words taking it way too seriously, but this is because I do take your time and not being serious seriously). Being unable to adapt means dying off. #WeirdEd isn't going anywhere.

Thank you all for your time and energy in the chat. It means so much to me. You make #WeirdEd the special, unique learning, bonding experience that I feel it is.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 37- Let It Go

First person to explain why this is hilarious wins

We are here at the final #WeirdEd of 2014, and I am going to try something I don't ever do. I'm not going to write any questions.

I don't write questions because I don't trust you all. The people who come to #WeirdEd (and #WeirdEdE, obviously) are amazingly smart and bring their A game every chat. If I posed a topic or a thought like #edchat does we would get great stuff. I like writing questions because we get to deeper issues that way. I can steer the conversation without dictating its endpoint. There are things I want to discuss and sometimes to get to the depth and trust I want I have to guide.

Plus I hate being unplanned. I've said before in various forums, but your hour is very important to me and I want to honor it. You take the time to come play with us, I want to bring the best toys I have. And I feel like, to me (and this is not to pass judgement on any other chat), the best way to assure our time is well spent is to plan it somewhat. The topic is a vehicle and we can go unexpected places using that vehicle. We do that all the time.

But this chat is happening on New Year's Eve. Some of you may be in various states of inebriation. New Year's Eve is certainly no time to get deep and serious. Plenty of other chats are doing reflection/looking forward topics and if there's one thing we aren't it's like the other chats. I have a reflection and a looking forward topic/theme planned, but I can save it. We aren't going anywhere.

So this Wednesday I'm going to let it go and let us flow together. We'll use our time together more as a focused coffee talk, a chat around the dinner table, the circle talk that always forms in the kitchen of the party you're at when you don't want to talk to most of the other people. Have something you want to discuss? Bring it up. By now everyone should know #WeirdEd is a safe place to talk about whatever.

To this end there won't be a #WeirdEdE this week. We're gonna to this pajama party all together. None of you are so lame as to be in bed before 7PST on New Years Eve anyway, are you?

*EDIT* I decided since I'm not preparing anything for the chat the topic of the chat this week is preparation. Still no pre-written questions. There, now the format fits the theme. I feel better.

Seriously, it's the same sequence, you guys.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Monster Palace Arcade

My class has made an arcade.

This was not my idea.

I have been wanting to get in on the maker movement in classrooms for a while now but due to pacing plans, testing, data collection, and a myriad of other reasons I haven't been able to. I do some, in my own way. I sneak in art when I can and we do a lot of movement, but we haven't really made something yet this year. Something big and tangible that took planning and preparation and critical thinking.

Then I saw an Instagram video by @hughtheteacher of his class playing homemade arcade games and a lightning bolt struck my brain. I MUST do this! Luckily, I saw it a day before the start of the last week before Christmas. You know how terrible that last week can be. Kids can smell break. They are unfocused and flighty and fidgety and crazy. But with this project I could get them excited about school and working hard towards a common goal.

I found out that it was not Hugh's original idea either, but an idea that had been floating around education for a while because of the short YouTube documentary, "Caine's Arcade." I showed the video to my students and told them if a nine year old by himself can do it, we can do it.

We set to work designing our games. They, being children and excited, wanted to grab boxes and get to cutting. This would have ended in tragedy. Out came giant pieces of paper. They spent the first section of time brainstorming, planning, measuring. Real world math and problem solving. Group communication. Compromise. Pitching ideas to each other, combining ideas, and finalizing plans.

I want to stress that I gave almost zero guidance. They watched the documentary and got to work. I did a little bit of suggesting and tweaking for clarity or reality, because sometimes ideas are bigger than what we have materials for, but I spent a lot of the work time staying out of the way and doing basic monitoring. This is fourth grade inventiveness powering fourth grade creativity. I supplied the boxes and paint.

Once groups were able to articulate their plans to me I let them loose on the boxes I'd brought from home. Students were invited to bring their own boxes but not many did. Luckily amazon visits my house regularly, as do grandparent gifts for the tiny human, so I was pretty flush.

First they penciled the outline of the cuts then they got to cutting. At this point so much could go wrong but very little did. Because I stressed planning and a "measure twice cut once" ideal games came together without too many issues. It was a joy to watch them encounter unexpected problems and work together to find ways around the problems. As games came together they were tested and that troubleshooting revealed weaknesses which needed to be shored up or strengths which could be better exploited.

Having the time and the inclination towards art, I also let them go buck-nutty with tempura paint. Tempura paint, it turns out, is not what they make the shrimp with*, so it is ok to paint cardboard with. I accidentally painted one pair of slacks blue, but the kids did pretty good. Only a few minor spills, easily cleaned.

We finished earlier today and opened shop. I have been inviting classes in and my kids have been wonderful at explaining their games and the rules. They are so proud to show off their creations and I am even prouder of how creative they were and how dedicated they were to finishing with quality products. They want other classes to come see their games. They are begging me to invite their peers.

I'll be honest, I haven't checked the Common Core standards to see how this lines up. But they wrote, calculated, estimated, clarified, explained, observed, wrote some more, designed, and worked together for multiple work sessions, all without complaint or major disagreements. My kids learned this week. If I had to defend the lesson with CCSS I could**, but I'm not going to here. Here I can defend it by saying I watched them grow this week, and I know that when they come back from break the lessons learned will have stayed with them.

I need to say again how AMAZINGLY proud I am of my kids. Watching them work through this without much help from me was a pleasure. In fact, the hardest part of the project was not giving them too many ideas. We had a giant box that I was dying to make into a pinball machine. But it's not my project. Not my arcade. So I kept my mouth shut. (I might go home and make one myself. I hope some of the kids make their own over the break too. I'll remind them of that tomorrow.)

Below are two videos. The first is a cut of the construction and testing of the games. I need to mention that the song I picked sounded fine when I sampled it, but about two minutes in it gets a really annoying hum. Sorry. The second video is our class monster, Courson, playing the games.

Monster Palace Arcade Under Construction

 Courson Visits the Monster Palace Arcade

*I feel bad about this joke

**I got curious and looked, so here we go (some of these are a little stretch, but not much):

Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.

Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.)

With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 4 here.)

Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec. Within a single system of measurement, express measurements in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit.

Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. 

Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 36- Tattoos

I love me some tattoos. I have a bunch and want more. I have good tattoos done by well trained artists that I would trust and tattoos that are just ok done by a guy who was later fired from the shop for coming in to work stoned and ruining a dude's arm. I have planned out ink and vacation ink and please stop hurting me ink and all the stereotypical ink (tribal, a skull ans cross bones, and a Chinese character).

Tattoos are a part of life now. They are no longer things that only sailors and people of ill repute have. My mom has three tattoos. The woman who threatened to stop paying for college if I ever got any ink.

I got my first tattoo, the skull and cross bones on my left shoulder (no, I didn't just check to be sure it's the left one as far as you know) on the same day my sister got her first, a rose inside a star because she's a giant KISS fan and Paul Stanley is her guy. Mom gave Summer permission to get tattooed for her 17th birthday. Friends and I went with. I got in the chair when she was done. This is known as The Commutative Property of Parental Rules.

Many more followed, ones that I saved up for and ones that maybe I shouldn't have gotten financially. I don't have anything offensive and all my art is at least well done, though the shark on my left shoulder is toothless and looks more like a whale but hey, second tattoo and I learned. Still looks nice.

What do tattoos have to do with teaching? We can talk permanence. We can talk earning art through pain. We can talk being original vs picking something off the wall and doing that just to do something. We can talk the difficulty of changing your mind and how once you're in it you're in it.

I love talking about ink. It's living art. The application of tattoos is complicated and intense, even when it isn't painful.*Good artists aren't sticker stickers, they are true painters working on living canvass and they take pride in their work. This isn't something you're hanging in your house, this is something anyone can see and you'll have for the rest of your life. A tattoo is forever and an artist respects that bond, that commitment.

Like a teacher.

*it's always painful. Sometimes it's less painful

**I don't normally do this but I've got a really fun story about a tattoo artist speaking to my students in my book He's the Weird Teacher. You should check it out. Please.

***none of the tattoos on here are mine

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Testing Environment- Security vs Comfort

I recently took three tests through Pearson/Orela to complete the transfer of my teaching credential from Hawaii to Oregon. These tests took place in a special Pearson building run by special Pearson testing elves with special Pearson/Orela Rules And Regulations. These Rules and Regulations are for TESTING SECURITY and are inviolate.

They also create the least friendly of all possible testing environments. They create an atmosphere that, if you were a person inclined to stress or test anxiety, would negatively impact your testing abilities.

When I walked in the door I was early, so I brought with me some of the notes I'd taken from various free online study sources. My plan was to look them over one last time and pretend that would help my score, even though you and I know that the Last Minute Concept Stick is a myth not even movies can pull off.

This was not to be. As soon as I walked in the door I was greeted with, "Good afternoon, are you here to take a test? Are those study materials? No study materials in the building, they need to go back in your car." Not rude, per-se, but I'm still in the lobby. I haven't sat down or signed in or given my name yet. I'm a foot in the door and already I'm in possible violation of Testing Procedures.

I put my notes back in my car.

Upon re-entry I gave my name, rank, and serial number. My palm was scanned to be used as an identifier later. Yes, my palm was scanned. Did you know palm scanning technology existed as a means of identification through blood vessel matching? I did not. It exists. The future is now. She scanned both palms. Just in case, I guess. (Side note- how much of my testing fee went towards palm scan research?) After my identity was verified I was given a locker key and told to put everything in it. Everything. I could bring my drivers license and the locker key in to the testing area. "I have a handkerchief," I said. "For the sniffles."

"In the locker. If you need a tissue raise your hand and someone will be by with one."

Oh. I see no way that could go poorly.

Once this process was completed I was taken down the hall, literally a dozen steps, to the Testing Area Observation Cube. The Testing Area Observation Cube is where Panopticon sits and faces three glass walls, which look out on the U-shaped testing room of computers.
And my palm was scanned again. My drivers license compared to my face and the faces of dozens in the FBI's Test Cheater Registry. I was given an erasable board flip board for taking notes and working math problems and told, "Do not erase anything you write in this. If you fill it and need a new one raise your hand and I will bring you a new one." Because erasing notes is a common practice among the cheater cheater pumpkin eater sort. (Note- pumpkin eating while testing is also prohibited.)

"When we enter the testing area stand with your back against the wall until I close the door and then follow me to your testing station." I expected to get deloused with powdered sugar at any second.
I have a bad habit of cracking my knuckles when preparing for something. I fidget. I can't help it. Sometimes the fidgeting is noisy, sometimes it's a silent foot/leg jiggle. I realize this does not help those around me focus and I try to not do it. I cracked my knuckles. "Get that out of your system now, you can't do that once we get inside."

Ever been told not to do something you were doing subconsciously? What happens? Yeah, so now I'm working on a low/moderate stress level about testing (I was confident going in, but the test was basically an unknown and my job depended on performing well) and I'm thinking about not being distracting to others.

I was let in, stood with my back against the door, followed the leader to my testing station, a computer with a big screen and partitions on either side, handed my erasable notepad that I couldn't erase, logged in, and left alone. In silence. Staring for the next 90 (or however long it took) minutes at a big, bright screen, trying not to talk to myself even though I think better reading out loud because then I can hear the problem. Trying not to think about how much easier it would be to think if I could stand and stretch or pace, because movement helps my brain work. Not tapping or whispering or moving in a way that generated any noise because I'm not a jerk and I don't want to distract the people around me either.

This entire process, while efficient and cold, is not comforting or creating a relaxing environment. It is not a thinking-positive environment. It's not a place where you should feel comfortable. It's a place where you should feel watched. It's Testing with a capital T. The way It Should Be.
The goal of this place is a secure Testing Environment. Period.

Which means the goal of the testing facility is not the goal of the test. The goal of a test, as we all know, is to assess learning. That is not the message the test facility is projecting. It doesn't say, "Do
your best." It says, "If you cheat we will catch you. And if you don't cheat we'll make you feel like you might be anyway." The testing facility cares about the process, not the product, and in this case the two are inseparable. You cannot claim the results of the test are fair in the conditions of the test are not conducive to quality test performance.

I know Pearson and Orela are businesses. I know they don't actually care about how we do on the test. Were I cynical I'd say they want us to do poorly because then we have to retest, putting more money in their pockets, so they create an environment under the guise of safety that is just unpleasant. Like the TSA. I also know that swinging how they conduct business won't be possible until someone uncovers a massive digital cheating program has been hacked into their systems, which probably hasn't happened yet but I'd bet will happen soon.

What I can do, and the point of that extremely long prologue, is change how I test in my classroom.

I'm The Weird Teacher (tm), right? I have a reputation for doing things differently, creatively, sideways. I'm a wild and ca-razay guy!

Except when it comes to testing. Oh, you can learn and practice on the floor, or on your desk, or standing, talking to a partner or group or working alone. You can learn with music in the background, with movement, with noise. But the tests? In your desk, in your seat, quiet. Why? Because Test Security. Thou Shalt Not Cheat and to ensure that Thou Shalt Be Where I Can See You. During a test my class suddenly looks very traditional.

And I realized about fifteen minutes in to my first Pearson/Orela test that I suuuuuuck. How dare I? My class is still a friendly environment, even during testing, but is it as friendly as it could be? Is it as conducive to student success as it could be? Or is it built to keep cheating from happening first and learning to be assessed second? Put my students in this environment and some would fail not from inability to learn but from inability to deal with the stress and overwhelming environment. I know grown ups who would fail for the same reason.

So I've changed things. Some things. A written test in my class is still a silent thing. I don't know how to get around that. It's not a prison lockdown silent thing, but it's a no talking thing. I'm playing music in the background now, soft piano music, something none distracting. I had a conversation with my class about whether or not the music was distracting first. We're dialing it in.

The biggest change is my movement rules during a test. I was on my way here anyway. This is the next logical step. My kids can now sit wherever, however. Just like when they are learning. On desks, under desks, on the floor, on our beanbag chair, against the wall, standing, shifting, fidgeting moving, as long as you aren't disturbing another classmate you can do your thing while you're doing my thing. I long ago decided books during reading comprehension tests are good as gold because on The Big Test they will always give the kids the selection next to the test, and in life you can probably look up what your question is. Finding, in this world, is as important as knowing. Sam reason I'm giving times tables charts and calculators on math tests. Here's a tool, but if you can't use it properly it's still useless.

I'm the first to admit that this is can not be the end of my evolution on testing. I don't love the Worksheet Test, I don't. But it's one of the Don't Like It Have To Do Its in my school. I get around it when I can. But we record data and that data has to be standard across the grade level so I can't throw these tests out completely.

I digress, this post is not about the assessments themselves. It's about the test environment. It is here that I can make a difference. It is also here that I run in to my one hurdle- preparing them for The Big Tests that they will someday take. When my class does Smarter Balance I won't be able to hand out beanbag chairs and let them sit wherever. My school as a whole isn't that open yet. I'll ask about it, I'll try, but they will probably be in the computer lab, locked in to a screen, stuck in a chair.

Which leads to my final questions. Does my looser testing environment in class hurt them by not preparing them for what that will be like? Should I alternate between one way and the other? How can I ready them for every institutional test they will take going forward? I'm not just talking about The Big School Tests. When I got my Oregon drivers license and my motorcycle endorsement the DMV sat me in front of a screen and told me to shush and answer the questions. This post opened (remember when it opened, ages ago? It was still light out and you didn't have to pee?) with me not taking a Big Test at the End for some silly score, but for my job. We can say that they aren't real life but sometimes (not often but sometimes) they actually are.

I want my classroom to be a friendly, safe, welcoming environment all the time. I believe humans learn better, and demonstrate their learning better, in that way. I'm taking steps towards making that a reality and taking a Test taught me something I brought back to my own room.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 35- War on Christmas

Ah yes, the holiday season. A time for joy. A time for merriment. A time for reflection. A time for some humans to wonder why everyone can't say "Merry Christmas" and why they have to bend over backwards to make their lips form words which might encompass more people that their immediate circle of contact.

Pictured: The Author While Writing
This Paragraph
I am not a giant fan of Christmas, I'll be honest. Sure, some of the songs are good, some of the books and movies are good, and presents are never a bad thing. But the whole, "Hey, be cool to everyone, peace on Earth, goodwill towards men," thing rings a little hollow when it's accompanied by Black Friday tramplings, the CIA torture report, and closed-minded Americans unable to realize that their particular holiday might not be everyone's holiday and yeah, maybe that should be ok.

Excuse me, I just noticed this soapbox I'm standing on. Sorry, one second...

 Many of our schools will soon be putting on some kind of Winter Festival. A Holiday Sing-A-Long. A December To Remember Sales Event. And we are all old enough to remember a time when that wasn't what this event was called. It was a Christmas Pageant. There were traditional Christmas songs and all was merry and bright.

No longer! The forces of evil and quality have swooped in and politically-correctified that most sacred of educational institutions. Now we can't invite parents to a Christmas Assembly. We have to invite them instead to a *sneer* Holiday Assembly. Ugh, just listen to that. Holiday. Hooooliday. The word doesn't even have the same meaning as Christmas!* I had a Jewish friend in college who loved when our university called it "Holiday Break" because his particular holiday was already over by the time we got out of school.

Let's talk about this. Let's talk about diversity and expectations for diversity and the actual practice of diversity in our schools and classrooms. How do our schools handle differences of tradition? How open are we to it? I'll be honest, it took a while for me to not complain about having to send Jehovah's Witness out of my classroom for all our various holiday whatnot. I felt like the kid was missing out of cool stuff his/her classmates get to do. They are missing out on fun. I still struggle with this and I think I have good reason- they should be exposed to other cultures. I realize this isn't an "other cultures" thing though, it's a god thing. Much harder to make a point against, not that I'd try. You imagine that conversation with a parent?** I need to be better and more accepting.

Happy Holidays.

*holiday literally comes from the old English "holy day"

**"Stu should be able to stay in class and watch The Grinch because he needs to be exposed to other cultures, like that of the loving Whos of Who-ville."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 34- Anger

I'll be honest, this chat stems from the Ferguson protests and the protests that have echoed out from it across the country. We might not directly discuss what is happening in those places, but we are going to hit the effects and possible causes. As such, this might not be as happy-fun-time as normal, but it will still be #WeirdEd. That means it's still a safe place. Have an opinion. Have a dissenting opinion. Then have a discussion. Jerks will be muted and blocked and not welcomed back. You're still free to take the conversation off in whatever direction you like, you know #WeirdEd is the Land of Side Chats.

Our kids get angry. We get angry. Anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. It's a healthy emotion. I don't think squashing emotions is the right way to go about life. Feel them and understand them. Acting on emotions is a completely different conversation and how that happens is largely what makes someone an adult versus a larger child.

Someone out there, because I know my audience, is going to go all Yoda on me."Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." And with all do respect to Master Yoda, sometimes anger is a positive emotion. IF you don't use it to go fight your father before you're ready and instead put it in the fuel tank.

So let's talk about why you're angry. Why kids get angry. Henry Rollins says he stays angry because it keeps his blood thin and his mind alert. George Carlin and later Louis Black (pictured above) made careers off being angry. Bands for generations used anger as grist for the mill.

But this is #WeirdEd. We are a positive people. So we are taking our anger and spinning it positively. Make it work for us. Feel a sense of injustice? Don't be paralyzed by it, use it to get up and go.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 33- CUE Rockstar and Conferences

NOTE: Yes, I have presented at two CUE conferences and yes they have my proposals to present at more this summer. This chat is not an hour-long brown nose session so they love me and will let me come back*. I really do love the way Rockstar does things. Trust me, there are easier, less public ways to kiss up.

There are many education conferences out there. Most follow the same format- 60-90 minute sessions crammed  into one-to-three days. Teachers with long, complicated schedules trying to make it to which room at 9:00 and then what room at 10:35 and then that other room after lunch and pretty soon my brain is full and I can’t take one more sit-and-listen session no matter how brilliant the speaker is and I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to implement half of the things I’ve learned.

Here’s where CUE Rockstar comes in. Rockstar is one to three days, but the sessions are extended, normally running 2.5 hours. “Oh good,” you think. “Even MORE time to listen to someone’s face talk at me.” But that is where you are wrong, Mr and Mrs Person Teacher. The session rock star teaches for maybe an hour. MAYBE 90 minutes. Then the rest of the time is for you, the session attendee, to practice, create, and Do The Thing. In the case of one of my Rockstar sessions, I taught the group how to use YouTube’s internal editing program to create easy videos and how they could teach their students to use it too. And then every single person in my session made a YouTube video. With cuts. And edits. And music. And effects. And humor and personality and verve.

I teach you the Google-Fu!
That’s the beauty of CUE Rockstar. Long sessions allow presenters to get in with the attendees and get personal. Long lunches means we all see each other as teachers, not as The All Knowing Presenter and the lowly plebes.

The most fun part, though, happens in the morning.

Before any sessions start there are Shred Sessions. A Shred Session is simple- each presenter has one slide and one/two minutes (depending on which conference you’re at) to make his or her case about why you should come to the session he or she is putting on that day. Boring fails. Dry is unacceptable. I am the King of the Shred Session. In my first one I recited a poem I’d written which described my Using Drive to Unbury your desk. The second day I did no talking, my monster Courson did it all. And the third day, when I was presenting on using Google-Fu, I had a little help from a friend who overdubbed my Shred while I showed off my fauxrate. Shred sessions set the tone and let the conference know this is not your average day of learning.

Rockstar John Wick and I.
This week #WeirdEd is lucky enough to have CUE Rockstar founder Jon Corippo (@jcorippo) here to help us talk about what we really want out of conferences and to give us the run-down on what’s new with Rockstar this summer. #WeirdEdE brothers and sisters, I'm sorry Jon can't make both chats. But the questions are still co-written by him and are still excellent.

To submit to present or to register to attend please visit

*though, I mean...if it helps…

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 32- Spirit Fingers

This week is about the Mid-Year Dregs. But that's negative as all hell and that's not what we at #WeirdEd are about. But I was stuck. Dead in the water. Could not get this week going. I haven't had coffee in two days. Two. Days.

And just like last week, moderator extraordinaire Lauren (@LTaylorELA) swooped in to save the day. I DMed her my idea and she said, "We need a pep squad." And she's right. Pep squad is so much better than Mid-Year Dregs.

Fun Fact- Lauren is her school's cheer coach. And I was a cheerleader in college. Yep, my senior year I cheered and stunted. Threw girls high into the sky and caught them. Lifted them by their feet. Did standing back tucks. The whole nine.

Go Tigers!

I'm spotting on the right
So we don't need a chat about how much of a bummer this stretch of the school year is. We need to #WeirdEd it up and through our spirit fingers into the air* and figure out ways to fight through that.

Pull on your spanx, tape up your wrists, and stretch out those hamstrings. It's time to get some cheerleading going up in here.

*spirit fingers = Gold

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Maximum the Hormone and Being a Connected Educator (OR The Student Stuff Exchange Program)

Today I got a surprise in the mail.

I should back up.

I have become obsessed with bands that are not English-speaking. Music is one of those art forms that language can transcend. Sure, it's nice knowing what the words are but well done vocals are also an instrument. They can convey emotion and power and beauty and be completely wordless. It's not so different going from that to a language you don't speak.

I'm also a giant headbanger and if there's one thing I know, it's that metal is universal. Jello Biafra once said that if you visited the most remote tribe in the most remote mountain range in the world they would still have a thriving death metal scene.

Naturally, Japan has a killer heavy metal scene, and thanks to the interwebs I'm able to experience it. Through YouTube I've found some pretty awesome bands, but none struck me like Maximum the Hormone did. This video (which I'll embed at the bottom of the post too) is such an inspiring piece of strange that I needed to know more. I watched a bunch of their stuff. They are great. Unique sound, good look, great videos, killer riffs, and did I mention unique? Right up my headbanging alley.

To the Amazons!

It was there I discovered the awful truth. Amazon does not always have everything. MtH had to be imported, they have no distribution in what the guys on Top Gear call, "the colonies." All of their stuff is really expensive, and no mp3 downloads. There was no legal*, reasonable, cost-effective way to get my hands on some awesome Japanese shredding. Fail and sadness abounds.

But wait! Those of you who have read my book might know what's coming next. I have a friend who lives in Japan. We went to college together and now he teaches out there (see, this post is related to teaching, and it gets better). When I taught in Hawaii our classes were pen pals. His kids would write in Japanese to mine, he'd translate and mail both letters, and my kids would do their best to write back also in Japanese. No, I didn't teach it to them, I don't know it. They'd try to piecemeal it. "Well, the letter says, 'My favorite sport is soccer' and his teacher wrote 'soccer' over this character so that's probably the character for soccer. So I'll try to draw that in my letter back." Real cute, real fun, real cultural learning opportunities.

Jason still lives in Japan, now with his wife and brand new baby. I Facebooked him, we chatted, and I asked for a favor. Could he pretty please hook me up with some Maximum the Hormone? And today it came. Very exciting for music nerd me because while I have a few non-English albums (Rammstein, Babymetal, Gojira) I have the American releases of them. Which means different album art, everything translated, etc.

Not this! This, which according to Amazon is called "Yoshuu Fukushuu", is impossible for me to read! It's all in characters! And it's a special edition disc so it came with a manga that I assume is written by the band but might just be about the band or maybe just about the guitar player, I'm not 100% sure. And I can't read a word of it. Sure, the lyrics have maybe half a dozen English words scattered through, but that's certainly not helpful. And I don't care. How awesome is it to own music that is purely and obviously a culture not my own? I get to be metal and worldly at the same time.

Plus, how cool is it that I own an album that, when ripped to my hard drive and played through my media player, displays like this:

Very cool. That's how cool.
"Surely," you are thinking. "Surely you didn't just write a whole thing about a metal import on your teacher blog and justify it because another teacher bought it for you?" Remember, this isn't even an album review! I haven't had the chance to digest it yet! It's the story of getting an album. And yes, there's more to this.

We call ourselves connected teachers, but what does that mean? Chatting on twitter? That's a start. It can only be a start. It's 140 characters at a time and yes, sometimes there is a lot of brilliant and awesome and funny in those 140, but it's still a small amount of information. It's rarely a complex amount of information because that requires nested tweets and chains and becomes a pain and confusing. Depth, connection, requires more time and effort than that. Twitter can only be a start. The exchange must go beyond that which is easy.

Jason sent me an album. That's all he did. I asked a friend for a favor and he came through. But he's a friend from college who I might not have reconnected with. Except our classes were pen pals before and will hopefully be again (I'm currently class pen pals with David Jones in Great Britain. I like international pen pals. It's good for the kids). Jason and I are talking about parenting, him being brand new and me being fairly new. Eventually we'll talk about our classes again. I'm going to go in to school and tell my kids an edited version of this story which will be a trick because, with the booklet being a manga, there's a lot of art I can't show them. But I can show them some. I can show them another language written how it's done in real life on a real thing that they could hold (but won't because ohhhboy some of the art). My kids will see the real power of the internet, and of connection, and of friendship. It's only a CD. But it took my friend, whom I remain friends with because we are both teachers, time and effort and yen to get it to me. Could I have ordered it off amazon for the same cost? In the end, yeah. But then I wouldn't get an envelope covered in Japanese characters. I wouldn't get to talk to my friend.

Make the world outside your doors real any way you can. Every year I bust out the New Zealand money I had left over at the end of our honeymoon, and the Canadian loonies and toonies I have from my trips to the Great White Hockey Rink. make the world real in non-academic ways. Show them all the cool stuff (yes, money is way cool) that makes other places real. YouTube videos and Scholastic News articles are fine and a start.

Like twitter. A start. You have Aussie friends and Kiwi Friends and English friends. Some of you multilingual teachers have French friends or Spanish friends. Hook each other up. Yes, GHO and Skype in. But also send gifts and realia back and forth in a Student Stuff Exchange Program. The world is shrinking by the day, but that doesn't make it real to a ten year old. Stuff in a ten year old's hand makes it real.

Ok, now I'm going to embed the video. I beg you to watch it even if you don't like metal. Turn it down if you can't stand the sounds. The reason I want you to watch it is because it's weird and insane and your brain needs to bend like this sometimes. (Do No Show This In Class)

*Yes, legal. Don't steal good things. Steal all the One Direction and Coldplay and Nickleback and whatever other quickserve soulless rubbish you want. Cut in to their sales so they go away. But good stuff? Buy good stuff. Vote with your wallet.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Seating Experiment Week 1- Getting Comfy

For Part One Follow The Link

Change was in the air. On the floor. In my class.


After no school Monday (teacher work day, yay report cards) and Tuesday (Veterans Day) I finally go to see how my seating experiment would play out in real life. Would the kids who were so excited about sitting on the floor enjoy it as much as they thought? Would my one standing girl stay standing? Would I feel like I was looming and teaching down at them? How many will forget a pillow? Will this post be as popular as the first one? What the hell was that NASA guy in the shirt thinking?

I had a few things in mind going in to this week. I wouldn't make immediate changes unless I absolutely had to. Not to punish the kids for their choice or to teach them a lesson about making up their minds, but because of course sitting on the ground will be uncomfortable at first. Of course it's going to feel weird. We talked about this as a group. It will take your bodies some time to adjust. You're going to have to relearn how to sit. You're going to find out that pillow might not be as fluffy as you think it is.

And for the most part the kids were good about it. No complaints, which was a welcome minor surprise. Not that they are a whiny group it's just that you never know who is going to start complaining about what sometimes. They were really good sports about it. I think a lot of that stemmed from the seating being different. Which is the point.

I did have one boy almost immediately ask to stand instead of be on the floor. He couldn't get comfortable at all even with his pillow. His desk was the first I changed. I'm not going to be a punk about it.

And that, my friends, is the most important thing I had to remember this week: This is an experiment. I don't know how it's going to go. I don't know how they will react. Which means I need to be extra-patient with student decision-making. This realization echoed into the rest of my teaching. It was a good reminder. They are children. Sometimes they don't know because they don't know. Their experience levels are tiny. My job is to help them level up.

It was also fun to watch them adapt to the new environment and see how they worked. I had to change what few How You Work rules I do have (not that I have many, but turns out there were one or two times I caught myself). Check out the pictures.

Use the wall for back support. Great idea.

Use each other for back support. Great idea that only lasted
through this work session.

Ok, that's just clever right there.

As students decided they weren't fans of the floor I allowed requests for changes to be made. If a kid wanted to try standing they would wait for the proper time (aka- when I'm not teaching) and ask nicely. I'd throw a sticky note on the desk so I wouldn't forget then at lunch or recess I'd make the switch. Putting legs on is easy and quick. The only time it takes any real time is the three kids who ended up requesting (after trying the other options) going back to regular seating. That means I need to count the holes so the desk is a reasonable seating height again. Making it tall is easy.

As of right now I've got three traditional desk heights, nine standing desks, and fourteen floor desks. I expect the number of standing desks to drop next week, It's a great idea but not for everyone.

As for me, I don't feel like I'm looming yet. I really like the change both visually and physically. I'm glad I'm doing it. Honestly, one of my challenges is not leaping on to student desks because it would be so easy now. Not to say I haven't, but not nearly as much as I want to. I even adjusted one of the desks I use (yeah, I have a main desk and then my front of house computer desk) as high as it'll go so I have a standing desk too.

A visit to Goodwill yielded four pillows
for those without

I've thought about following in the footsteps of Jess Lifshitz (@JessLifTeach) going to Donor's Choose route to fund alternative seating. She's fully funded but you should still read her blog about it. I'd still really love some balance balls seats and wiggle stools. I'm not sure if it's for me or not yet. Honestly, one of the things holding me back is that if you want to give me money I'd much rather you just buy my book.

I'll write another update next Friday and we'll see where my kids and I are then.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 31- Narwhal

 Last week's #WeirdEd was amazing. A smart moderator would take that popularity and momentum and parlay it into another Big Important Topic*. A smart moderator would see the credibility having a NASA engineer on gained his chat and write more of that, because the audience gained from that single chat would love more of that.
But that's so not what #WeirdEd is. #WeirdEd is my baby. It's the anti-chat. Our format might be the same as many other chats but that is where the similarities end. #WeirdEd should be a chat that people who take edchats way too seriously scoff at. #WeirdEd should turn some people off. I'm fine with that. At some point being too Big Tent means losing all connection to reality and specificity and the real audience. I love our ability to tackle all sorts of subjects, from serious to ridiculous. I love that all of you come play with me when I want to take us to Mars or Ferguson.
But #WeirdEd is founded on being goofy. Making education fun and silly and, well, weird. We are at a place in the school year where everything is looking bleak and long and tough. Classrooms are dragging. Students are dragging. Chats are dragging. It's time to mix things up. It's time to challenge ourselves.
I need a challenge.
How does a moderator challenge him/herself? By picking the dopiest topic possible and figuring out how to make it work in an educational context. I love the challenge. #WeirdEdE moderator Lauren (@LTaylorELA) tossed off what might have been a joke when we were talking about this week's chat. "Narwhals."

Narwhals. Narwhals have nothing to do with education. There is no obvious connection a normal person could draw from the narwhal to the classroom which makes it a perfect #WeirdEd topic. What a fun writing game for me! What a fun thought game for you. There will be no obvious answers this week. Bumper sticker edutweets will be impossible because no one (as far as I know) has ever tried to make narwhals an educational topic.
How well will this go? I have no idea. This might be the #WeirdEd that crashes and burns. I might be skewered on my own horn**. But I know if I can generate good questions the #WeirdEd family will bring your A game and give answers that surprise everyone.
Let's do this.

*seriously, this week was going to be Military Families and School, which is a Big Important Topic I want to do, and is even timely with Veteran's Day, but when I sat down to write it I had nothing. It'll happen, just not today.

**I know it's a tooth. It looks like a horn. It's a horn.

(BTW- You can buy that amazing Shark v Narwhal thing at the top for me for my birthday here)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Took Your Chair- An Experiment in Seating

I needed a change.

My kids needed a change.

Those who follow me on twitter (@TheWeirdTeacher) know that I've been having more trouble than normal this year. Yes, this is the time for the Mid Year Slump (aka The October Blues, aka ISN'T IT CHRISTMAS YET/IT'S ALREADY NOVEMBER HOLY CRAP) so mayhap that's all I'm feeling.
But it really isn't. This is a hard year. I've got the lowest class I've ever had and I have the data (test and anecdotal) to prove it. We are struggling academically and sometimes that means my bag o' tricks doesn't work as well because many of them depend on the kids having better listening/direction following/comprehension/responsibility/responsibility skills. Yes, I can adjust the fun and games. Yes, I'm teaching them all of those things. But still, certain adjustments mean there has been head-into-the-tree moments. We are ok sometimes but we're also having waaaaay too many Let's Correct This Group Behavior conversations. Much more than I normally have to do. All the student factors, the chemical mix of the classroom, is challenging my relationship building like never before. I welcome challenge, I can handle it, but I could really do with maybe just a smidgen less? A touch?

On top of that there have been...frustrations with my district and my school. Very few of us work in a district we are 100% happy with and what kind of a moron would I be to take to the internet with specific complaints about the way things are run? So let's leave it at I like my principal very much and I feel bad that she has so much on her plate and so little help from those directly above and directly below her. But administration problems become teacher problems and so big rock frustrations up above crash down on my little sand castle all the time.

I react to problems with aggression and change. I'm not good at passive. I must affect my environment. I have to find ways, even small ways, to take control. If I had more money there would be a new tattoo from this school year. This is why my hair is blue. It's one of the reasons why I don't live in Hawaii any more. It's why Courson teaches so much and my tiny dragon Spark teaches the mandated section of the day I dislike the most. I find ways to make problems my own.

Seating has been an issue. I have a very talkative bunch. They made me make good on a threat to put them in rows a few weeks ago. In rows! I hate hate hate rows. They are antithetical to everything I do in my room. But the kids needed to know Mr. Robertson meant even this promise. We got our groups back but still we have constant off task and talking.

Last night I was a peripheral part of a twitter conversation where Shawna (@nolagirlfromtx and part-time #WeirdEdE moderator) was talking about the inventive ways she has her kids seated. I don't remember if she brought this specific thing up or if she was talking about using balance balls and it got me thinking of things I could do, but in the end I decided I was done with chairs in my class. At least for a while.

Today I went in and I gave my kids three choices, which they were allowed to chose individually. No peer pressure, I don't need the whole class to be exactly the same.

Choice A- No change. They stay in their desks exactly as the desk is now.

Choice B- Standing desk. I raise the desk up as high as it will go and the majority of the student's day will be spent standing and working. If I were able to adjust the teacher desk I have (no, I'm not getting rid of it, I need it) this is what I'd do to it. I will allow the students who chose this to have a chair for rests. I'm not a monster. That's Courson.

Choice C- On the floor. I take the legs completely off the desk and the student sits on the floor sans chair. I will allow the student to bring in a small pillow to sit on because otherwise their bottoms will come off.

I had a sample of the standing and floor choices and every student cycled past them as a test run, having a few minutes to see how working that way felt. Then I went around the room and took note of who wanted what type of desk. How it turned out was only surprising in one respect-
They all went low. Except one. One girl chose a standing desk. After I got everyone's choice I went back to her and said, "I'm fine with you being the only one standing. I want you to be comfortable. But I will let you know that you are the only one. So if that's going to make you feel uncomfortable you can change your mind." To her credit she stuck to her choice. She didn't even hesitate. Will she change her mind after a day? We'll see. But she did not allow passive peer pressure to sway her. I love that.

I adjusted all the desks after school today (Friday). Monday is a no student teacher work day.
Tuesday is a no student holiday for Veteran's Day. Which means I need to wait four days to even begin the actual experiment. I'm very excited. The students are very excited. I have no idea how this will work at all. It might fail completely. I told the kids that some of them might be ending up with their legs back on Thursday afternoon. But probably not. I'll give it at least three days before I do anything drastic. I'll give it more. Because I want it to work. I want this to mix things up and wake them up and get their attention. I want it to mess up my routine and get me thinking in new ways.

I'm seriously concerned about teaching to them like this. In seats I'm teaching down, but not too much. Now I'll be teaching way down at them. I don't know if I'll like that. I don't know how that will change my instruction delivery. 
view from the floor
But at least it's something new. It's different. As I was taking apart the desks four teachers came in to talk about teaching stuff or ask Drive questions and all of them a) thought I was preparing to teach a unit on Japan and b) thought it was an interesting idea. In my perfect world this isn't my solution, balance balls are. But I don't have those funds. So I'll try this first.

In a week or two I'll write another blog checking in with progress, student reactions, and my own feeling about this new set up. But for now I'm excited.

Change is good.
Follow-up Number 1
Donors Choose Follow-Up

Saturday, November 1, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 30- Bobak Ferdowsi, Space, NASA, and Mars!

I have to be honest, I'm kind of freaking out here. Like many people I pulled myself away from the Olympics to watch the Curiosity land on Mars in August of 2012. Thanks to the interwebs I was able to get a live feed from inside mission control and experience the landing in a way that was possible during no other landing. I saw realtime data, lightspeed delayed Mars data, and a dude at a computer with...a mohawk? A NASA engineer with a painted mohawk? And, like thousands of other people, I immediately became a fan of the guy known simply as Mohawk Guy. Here was someone I could relate to. Not to say I'm as smart as he is, not even a little, but here's a guy who takes Science and Cool and mashes them together in an interesting engaging way. Like landing a car on Mars wasn't cool enough, one of the guys doing it looked like he thought it was as fun as I thought it was. A man after my own weird heart.
Reaction after the Seven Minutes of Terror and a safe Touchdown
Bobak Ferdowsi, the Mohawk Guy, quickly became a star in his own right, including getting a shout-out from the president. He did tons of interviews and made science cool and exciting for the masses. What a great hook for a science lesson or a space lesson! Want to get your kids' attention? Just put up a picture of Bobak and say "Rocket Scientist" (close enough) and they will be on board with whatever you have to say.
A few months ago I got a wild hair to ask Bobak to help with #WeirdEd one week. He's on twitter, he probably won't answer, but it couldn't hurt to ask. I noticed he was active one night and sent him a tweet explaining #WeirdEd and asking for his help (not easy in 140). He DMed me back (no, he wasn't following me. He saw the tweet, followed long enough to DM me, then unfollowed) that he was interested and to email him more information.
I've never been through more drafts of an email.
We began an email back-and-forth, trying to figure out the best time for him to come on and talk with teachers and the best way to run the chat. I didn't want to do an hour-long Q&A because that's too unfocused and splintered and not what #WeirdEd is about. And I didn't want him to just ask us questions for an hour either because that isn't the best use of access to such an incredible mind. So we're compromising.
There will be three mostly traditional #WeirdEd question, asked by Bobak (@tweetsoutloud), and then we'll turn it over to you all to ask him questions. His specialties are, obviously, space, science, and engineering, and I think getting a look at education from someone who has been through a few different education systems (check his wiki, no I won't link to a wiki) will be invaluable to us all.
I know I can count on the #WeirdEd family to come up with some amazing questions. Let's impress Bobak with what kind of teachers we all are and what good hands our future NASA engineers are in.

My #WeirdEdE brothers and sisters- I'm sorry, but I can't ask him to do two chats. That feels like stretching his goodwill. Instead, #WeirdEdE will have three planned questions and I encourage you all to stay up late and join us at #WeirdEd.

If you need more reason to come, or aren't sure he is right for the chat, or want to know more about him personally, he went on Chris Hardwick's (@nerdist) All Star Celebrity Bowling YouTube show, and you should check that out below.(warning- video contains some language and many dick jokes)

Monday, October 27, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 29- Trick or Treat

 **Note: I tied a long topper on to this so if you want to get right to the explanation of the Game for #WeirdEdE/#WeirdEd skip to the next time you see the double asterisk.**

Ah, the final Halloween-themed #WeirdEd of 2014! How quickly it all goes by. I don't know about you but I'm a HUGE fan of Halloween. Not so much for the scares, I'm a big scardy pants and don't like scary stuff (will make exceptions for some King books and well made horror comedies like Shawn of the Dead), but because it's an excuse to dress up in costumes. I know, with cosplay culture growing it's more and more acceptable for grown adults to dress up and head out whenever (and don't think that I don't), but Halloween is The Night. It's special. It's fun. Festive. Everyone plays along.

I am a firm believer in Halloween at school. I see no reason to take that away from kids. I know the reasons people give, I just don't agree with them. It's unsafe. No it isn't, that's just to go-to excuse to keep kids from doing something. I'm an adult now and I see through your scheme. It's a distraction. Only if your kids are distracted anyway. You should be able to teach in a clown suit and get your lesson's point across. Children might associate school with fun and we can't have that. You're right there. Can't be having the children enjoy the play they spend 180 days of their year. Nope nope nope, there are tests to prep for and there is data to collect. No time to make school a lighter, happier place. (To make this paragraph make a little more sense you should know that my school voted NOT to have Halloween Friday be a Dress in Your Halloween Costume Day. HOWEVER, we, as a staff, DID vote for it to be Superhero Day! Yep. So I got to say the words, "You can't wear your Halloween costumes to school Friday. But you can dress like a superhero or wear superhero stuff on Friday. So if your costume is superhero you can wear your Halloween costume," to my kids. At which point I started feeling really dumb so I had to add, "However, there have been superheroes about all sorts of things. Who's to say there wasn't a Football Man, or a Vampira. They could be superheroes if you name them right. You know, if you wanted to be creative." So I'll probably be in a little trouble on Friday when a bunch of my kids come to school as off-brand heroes because a bunch of teachers are pieces of wood lodged firmly in wet dirt.)

ANYWAY, this week's #WeirdEd/#WeirdEdE is a Game! And you'll have to pay attention. Because I think you should have to pay attention to our chat. Full attention. A chat should be interesting enough that you a) don't want to double chat and b) can't double chat because you're too invested in the hour's conversation. But that's a different blog post.

This chat will be a Trick or Treat Chat. Here's how it's going to work. The moderator (Shawna @nolagirlfromtx for #WeirdEdE and me @TheWeirdTeacher) will tag someone in the chat and tweet at them "#WeirdEd @BlahBlah Trick or Treat?" The tagged person will need to quickly respond with "Trick" or "Treat". This choice dictates which question will be asked next. Yes, I really have a Trick Q and a Treat Q for each Q.

TRICK Qs are a little more serious (as far as #WeirdEd goes). They are straighter forward. Think of a TRICK as a Teaching Tip/Trick/or Skill question. Still with the #WeirdEd flair.

TREAT Qs are much sillier and more off the wall. They are all educationally relevant but a few of the TREAT Qs are me indulging my goofy side while still honoring your time.

Enjoy the chat. Points for coming in costume.