Jake

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6, 2013 by Mister A

I am so sorry for the loss of a nephew of mine named Jake.  My utmost sympathy and condolences go out to my brother in law, John, Jake’s Mom, Tracy, and Jakes sister, Rylee. I was one of the lucky ones who was able to spend some of Jake’s last days here on earth with him.  This was my experience.

I teach Mine Craft to kids in Great Falls, or should i say, they teach it to me.  John asked my wife, Joan, if I would show Jake how to navigate and play and create in Mine Craft, when he came to Great Falls over Christmas break, because John and Tracy and Rylee just didn’t get it.  They didn’t understand how it worked and why Jake and other kids were so fascinated with it.  I thought it might be helpful to them if I tried to explain kids’ fascination, Jake’s fascination somehow.

First of all, a Mine Craft world is huge, as big as the planet Uranus.  And when I say that…my students always say “you mean, YerAnus”.  They can travel and teleport and fly any where they want in that huge world.  There are forests and jungles and deserts and huge caves and mines and oceans and rivers and lakes. There is rain and snow and thunder and darkness and light. It really is a beautiful place.

When I was showing Jake some things last Saturday night on Mine Craft, he looked up at me with his big excited eyes and said, “Look, Jeff! I can fly right up into space, and I can almost see forever!”

Another cool thing in Mine Craft, is that kids have access to any kinds of blocks they want to build with.  There are diamonds and gold and coal and obsidian and any kind or color of wool u need.  There are foods like cake and roast beef and porkchops.  Jake told me he was gonna learn how to build an Oreo.  My students can raise chickens and cattle and pigs and have dogs and cats and entire villages of people who are willing to share what they have with them.  They create farms and grow and raise crops like carrots and potatoes and bamboo.  Jake started building a house on our Mine Craft server out of gold.  He was building a little dog house right behind it out of Lapis Lapuzi block.  I am not sure what that is, but Jake liked its name.

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Jake and I starting on his gold house. His dog house is behind us.

Jake was so excited when i showed him how to wear his armor.  He asked, with that enthusiasm so unique to him, “Can my helmet be gold and my legs be diamond and my chest be iron?”  I told him that in Mine Craft, you get to make your armor however you like and his face lit up in joy.

You sometimes need that armor to protect you from scary things, like creepers and spiders and zombie pigmen and endermen, even a dragon.  But what is really cool about Mine Craft is that the creepers cannot hurt you when you are in creative mode, which I think is the mode that Jake liked to be in the most.  And if they do try to harm you, you can slay them and get really good loot.

I think the most important reason why kids are so fascinated with Mine Craft is that in Mine Craft, you are never alone.  There are always others there with you, exploring, building, creating and having fun.

I think that some people don’t get or understand Jake’s fascination with Mine Craft is because for them, what I just described is not, could not be a real place, but for kids like Jake, it is as real and beautiful and fascinating as places out here are. I was so looking forward to exploring with, learning from, and playing with Jake in Mine Craft.  I am disappointed tremendously that I will have to wait.

I imagine, believe, and hope heaven is little bit like the Mine Craft I described above.  I believe Jake’s soul was ready for a place like that.

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My students built a shrine by Jake’s build.

Big Head or Pirate

Posted in Gifted, Prime Number Posts on December 17, 2012 by Mister A

Very often I tell my students stories that aren’t always entirely true.  One of my favorites is the one about my wives.  You see, my first wife was a pirate.  She died 21 years ago in a bungee jumping accident.  That’s right, my first wife was a bungee jumping pirate! I tell my students.   My second marriage was a total disaster.  She had a tiny head and criticized me about everything I did.  Nothing was ever good enough for her.  I should have never gotten into that marriage so quickly but I was on the rebound from the death of the pirate. Small Head’s name was Snydley.  My final and current wife use to work at hickory farms.  She was the lead cheese cutter there when we met.  She has an abnormally large, but beautiful head…and only one eyebrow.  I am attracted to large headed one eye browed women…and a mullet, curly on the top, straight on the sides…with a little bit of acne.  She is extraordinarily humble and always open to new ideas.  She was one of the subjects in the Habit of Mind study done on highly successful people by Dr. Arthur Costa.  She is the kindest woman I have ever met…the antithesis of Snydley, my second tiny headed with a string bean body wife.

That is a rough synopsis of the stories I tell my students about my wives.  At the end of each year, I ask my students to describe which of my three wives is their favorite.  A very insightful student I have wrote the following in his response to the question.
I like Big Head because to me she almost represents the changes that you have made. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but your wives almost seem like an allegory to the evolution of you as a person. At first you were reckless and perhaps less thoughtful(pirate wife), but then you evolved to someone who is too critical of themselves(small head), and then finally you became Big Head, the person of today who is a practitioner of thinking and living in the moment. Big head is my favorite because she is thoughtful, humble, and embraces change, just like you.
My student, Ashlen, is way too kind.  I guess he learned about allegory somehow, and as important or even more importantly, so did I.

Maile

Posted in Uncategorized on December 9, 2012 by Mister A

I attended the first GED Graduation in my new position as an Adult Education Math teacher a few weeks ago.  One of my students, Maile, addressed everyone with the following speech.  She did an outstanding job and has many good things in her future. The coolest thing about teaching adults is watching the tremendous amount of obstacles many of them, including Maile, overcome in finally finding some success in their own education.  In her speech, she talked about the biggest.  I was very lucky to be able to help Maile overcome some of her obstacles.  This was her presentation:

“Graduation means different things to different people.  For me, graduation is something I have pursued on and off for my entire adult life.  It always seemed just out of reach for one reason or another.  I always could come up with an excuse as to why I couldn’t study, or why I couldn’t go to class.  To tell the truth, one of the biggest problems I had was fear.
This fear kept me from working toward what I wanted, and it would have stayed that way unless I had made a conscious effort to put my fear aside and take a risk on myself.  I made the decision earlier this year to attend classes, study what I knew I was miserable at, and finish my education.  To do this required me to sacrifice time with my family, to get to class when I would rather take a nap, to try to understand things I had no desire to even look at, namely math.
What this all boils down to is that there is one person responsible for the earning of this achievement: me.  Granted, I was supported by family and friends as I studied and tried to work my schedule around.  But the one person who is truly responsible is the person standing here before you, now a graduate.

Maile and Me

I think one of the biggest obstacles I faced wasn’t scheduling or learning the material, it was motivation.  I wanted to be here in front of all of you, I wanted to have that diploma in my hand, but I lacked the motivation to do what was necessary.    Wayne Dyer, a motivational speaker and author, is quoted as saying “Be miserable.  Or motivate yourself.  Whatever has to be done, it’s always our choice.”  To me, that is one of the truest sayings I have ever encountered.  Once I chose to pursue this diploma, nothing was going to stand in my way.  When I took the final portion of the test, I was exhausted, and had been sick for the previous two weeks.  I could have easily decided to put off the test considering how I was feeling, but I made the choice to go forward and take the risk, betting that I would overcome the obstacles in front of me and succeed.  And now here I am.
Don’t be concerned if you are working toward a goal and you stumble.  There were plenty of days that I stumbled, but rather than let these bumps in the road knock me off track, I chose to use them as examples why I should redouble my efforts.  When life knocks you down, get back up, dust yourself off, and say ‘you hit like a little girl’.  By doing this, not only are you making progress toward your goal, you are also redefining the way that you deal with life’s issues.
There will always be problems in attaining your goals.  But how you deal with these problems can and will have a significant impact on how successful you are.  If you let things like a flat tire or having the flu stop you from reaching your goal, how will you ever attain anything in life?  The only way to do something, to do anything is simply to do it.  If you spend all of your time considering why something can’t be done, you will never have a chance of doing it.
To have reached this goal, there are some things I have realized.  First, it is an amazing thing to see myself here, doing this.  I had hoped and dreamed for so long to be here, and now it almost seems surreal.  It truly is one of the best feelings in the world.  Second, now that I have reached this goal, I am setting new goals for myself.  By doing this, I will be working toward the things that I want, rather than sitting back and accomplishing nothing, and now that I have realized a goal, it will make it that much easier to realize more of them.  Finally, I feel like now I am ready to see some success in my life where before there was only the dreary day-in day-out routine.  This graduation has opened many doors for me, but what has opened even more doors is the fact that I did this, and knowing that I did it means that I know I can do other great things.
In conclusion, I would like to thank my parents, my husband, my children and my friends for their understanding and support.  I would also like to extend a special thank you to the people here at ABLE who made all of this possible by providing the materials and guidance necessary for me to succeed.  Without the ABLE program, getting this diploma would have been much more challenging.  They were truly a light in the darkness during a difficult time when it seemed I barely had a chance to catch my breath.  Thank you all, goodnight.”

You did an outstanding job, MAILE…YOU ROCK, LADY!!!

Thanks Lindsay

Posted in Uncategorized on May 26, 2012 by Mister A

I have been going through some feedback I ask students for at the end of each quarter I teach them.  Here is one of my favorites from my first year as a GAT Specialist…Thanks Lindsay:)

I enjoyed this quarter and the whole year of ECS a ton! I knew everyday when I drove to school that I had something fun to look forward to. ECS was definitely the most fun class I had this year.
I liked the Animal Farm unit we did because it is a great book, and even though I had read it before, I never understood the symbolism. Now I know what the book means and I feel a lot smarter. The vocab quiz was tough, but I was fine with all the other work for the book. The thought questions really made me thought (are they suppose to do that?) and I thought the word webs were really good. I learned what the word meant, it’s part of speech, how to use it in a sentence, and a lot more.Next, I had a lot of fun with the Dean Groom activities. I learned how to be really creative and fun, but at the same time became a better writer. I loved how funny you were when we were having a hard time with them. ie ‘Lain by the bunny, the eggs were deliciously chocolate!’ It was a lot of fun.
I also had a lot of fun writing by tales of Utopia story. I basically got to be creative and have fun writing a story, and show my understanding of Animal Farm by incorporating the theme of Utopia. I thought it was great that Dean did the webinar conference with us where we were able to practice presenting to an audience. He also helped us make some little changes that really helped.
Now, the Perfect Classroom projects. I thought they were fun and I liked working with a partner to createour own Utopia. I liked being able to share what I thought about school and what I thought would make it a Utopia.
Last, I would have to say my most favorite thing to do was play Quest Atlantis. It was a video game and a learning tool at the same time,which I would have to say really helped. I liked how I had my missions on QA and it made me feel really important. I learned a lot from Scoop Perry and his persuasive writing tool. You need to have a thesis, reason, and example. I also learned how to argue with something I don’t necessarily agree with in the articles and it helped me to learn how to keep an open mind.
Over all… ECS was amazing!!!! I am going to miss it so much during the fourth quarter and the summer. I look forward to it next year. and.. Thanks soooo much Mr. A!

Twitter Explosion

Posted in classroom tools, Connectivism, PLN on April 13, 2012 by Mister A

I have been trying to get teachers involved in twitter for several years. I have held workshops, miniworkshops, brought it up at staff meetings, and tried to explain what a PLN is to teachers with very little success. My district has brought in big name speakers to try and get teachers on twitter although no administrator types who brought in those big names utilizes twitter at all. I mean no one in my district barely even has a clue how twitter works or maybe they just don’t see how valuable it might be. Hmmm…except for the kidz.

Recently in my hometown, there has been a twitter explosion of use among teens. I know this because a couple of my old students followed me and I can see their friends…and their friends friends. I have lived in this mid sized town of approximately 70,000 people most of my life and I was wondering if something like this might happen with the teachers or adults in my town. I have pretty much given up on the adults, but watching what has happened with the kids has been a real eye-opener for me.  I looked back at when most of the kids started getting into twitter and it was like in early January and there are hundreds, if not thousands of local teens utilizing the application now, totally exponential growth.  I must not be a cool kid to other teachers or something. I don’t think many of the new Great Fallsian Twitterers really have a clue what they are doing as they are posting things like nobody can hear what they are saying.   I think they will quickly realize twitter is far more open than the Facebook they are use to is. I think part of this twitter explosion is a move on the part of teens to get away from their parents and Facebook. I wonder if the kids will go through a phase of protecting their tweets when they realize that Mom, Dad, Principals and pretty much anyone who wants can read their tweets.  I really wish I could have helped some teachers catch on as quickly as the kids seem to have caught on.

I feel like a poor example of how to develop a PLN or how to show teachers how to develop a PLN as no one I have taught or tried to teach has utilized twitter at all to the extent I have to learn new things and connect with new people. I told them I could type a message into my phone and get advice from several incredibly intelligent australians but it was like nobody believed me or they didn’t care if I could message people half way around the world any time I wanted…and my intelligent aussie/tenesseen/newjersian/missoulian/virginian/greek/kansan/british/kiwi/alaskan friends could and can do the same with me. It has taken twitter a few short months to sweep through the local teens in my hometown.  It is how I thought twitter would take over the teaching world when I discovered it . I guess I would get into twitter/facebook/social media now if I were a teacher, simply because if you don’t, there will be no way for you to understand or connect with your kids in THIS NEW WORLD! For a second or two I wondered if this twitter explosion might just be a local fad or something, especially when our local teens realize that everyone can see everything they are tweeting.  Perhaps twitter and facebook are local fads, but I believe SOCIAL MEDIA is here to stay and will continue to change how we need to teach.  I think the industrial revolution might be over.

I look forward to the day I can say to my students…tweet me if u have a question on the project we are working on in class. I think that day is very fastly approaching, in fact, it might just be tomorrow.  I bet they go to PLURK next.

Legacy

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2012 by Mister A

I am in my third year as a Middle School Gifted Education teacher and fifteenth year overall as an educator.   I recently learned that the program I am the teacher of has been cut.  I will still have a teaching position, but I will no longer be teaching gifted kids and I will no longer be teaching in middle school.  I have gained many things from teaching gifted kids, most of all, is that many gifted kids need to be less hard on themselves and not take life as seriously as they do.  I hope that somehow my students have learned this lesson along with me during the past three years. As a teacher, I often wonder is anything I am doing with my students going to stick with them when they leave school and move on with their lives.  I wonder if most of them are just biding their time until they no longer have to be forced into coming to my class or any other class for that matter.  I wonder if they will use what they have learned from me beyond my classroom, when they start a profession, go to college, begin a family, and start living their own lives.  After all, the biggest reason I became a teacher is that I wanted to have some kind of impact beyond my classroom, in my students’ lives.  Did any of them learn anything from me that they will use to make themselves a better person somehow? Or was my class just a way they could pass the day a little faster?

Please reply below in a comment, if you can answer this question.

Must Do’s on the Big Island of Hawaii (for the Stukey)

Posted in Personal, Vacation on March 10, 2012 by Mister A

This post is for my friend Katie.  She told me she was going on a vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii and I told her I would let her know what the must do’s are when she gets there.  She is already gone now though, so really this post is for me to share the best vacation I think I have ever been on.  Here is what we did and what everybody should do when they go to the Big Island of Hawaii.

volcano is SMOKIN!

Go see the volcano.  It’s probably not the coolest thing we did when we were there but…IT’S A VOLCANO! It is where our earth is born and if you get a chance you might actually get to see some glowing lava.

Don’t forget to go golfing with your Uncle.  Golfing in Hawaii is very cool.  No waiting and man, is the grass ever plush there.

golfin with uncle leonard

The next must do is hang out at beaches.  My favorites were Waipio valley and hapuna.  It was the first time I had ever been to Waipio valley and we had a terrific day body surfing and just hanging out.  You might get a cool picture like the one below of you and your kids.

ME and Da Boyz hangin at the beach

Another cool thing we did was go fishing.  I think we were very lucky as I have talked with many people and no one has ever had a day like you can see we had from the picture below.  It was the best day of fishing I have ever experienced.  And, man, is ono and mahi mahi ever tasty.

look at these beauties:)

Rent a bike and go for as many bike rides as you can.  It might be windy but on the big island…You never know who you might run into.  I met this guy who showed me how to ride down beaches that only the locals know about.  You never know you could even get a famous guy to tweet you.

I kicked his arse up the hill

cyclocrossin down the beach

After you ride bikes with Lance, see if you can find some dolphins to swim with.  That is what we did on New Year’s Day, and it was a very cool experience.

swim in with doll fins

And last but not least, watch the people you love have fun.  There is no greater joy in the world than that.

fam

Have fun on your trip Katie and sorry I posted this after your trip…and thank you very much for working with and helping my students as I am certain that at least one of them is going to change the world by becoming one of the most incredible Multi-Media Journalists of all time:)

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