Monday, September 12, 2016

Back to School –Return to business and try something new




Guest Blogger: Mr. Patrick Gasper, Communications Specialist, School District of Janesville


September 1990. I was a very green first year teacher. Throughout that first semester, I had to take courses at California State University at Dominguez Hills in order to obtain my California Clear Professional Educator License. Dr. Susan Prescott was leading what was essentially a classroom management course. She always tried to have us leave the class with at least one tangible activity we could use the following day in our schools. In her words, “You are all first year teachers. You don’t even know what is in the trunk of your car, but you will leave here tonight knowing one thing you can do to connect with your students.” She was a savior, always with a positive word, and had tons of resources to share with us, either books, lesson plans, or grant opportunities.

Yes, while my first ever first day of school as a teacher is now more than two decades ago, I vividly recall how the first couple of weeks of the new school year are filled with setting routines and expectations. I also know it is an essential time during which teachers build and strengthen the connections with students in order to help them succeed. I know that right now, you probably don’t have the spare moments it will take to review a list of resources, but I decided I would provide them anyway. If you don’t use them now, or they are not applicable right away, that is fine. Maybe they will be useful someday, and maybe it will help provide that extra something that will push just one more student forward.

First, I remind everyone that applications for the Herb Kohl Education Foundation Fellowship program are due to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) postmarked by Friday, September 23, 2016. Details and nomination forms are available at: http://dpi.wi.gov/tepdl/programs/kohl-foundation. I know it is a tight turn around, but the rewards of being selected as a Herb Kohl Education Foundation Fellow go beyond their award.

Speaking of Herb Kohl, the same foundation recently made news because they funded every single project submitted by a Wisconsin teacher to the DonorsChoose.org website. When they funded the Wisconsin educator’s projects, they made more than 600 Wisconsin teachers in over 140 school districts around the state very happy. The $500,000 from the foundation to support the WI projects will affect more than 40,000 students. While great news for Wisconsin educators, I could not find one project listed as submitted by an SDJ teacher/administrator. Who knows, maybe the Kohl foundation will fund more projects in the future, and SDJ will be represented!

Part of my career experience includes spending several years (more than 5, but fewer than 10) working for the DPI. While there, I learned about a few of their resources, and I am providing a few examples here:
  • Badgerlink: http://badgerlink.dpi.wi.gov/ -- Wisconsin’s online library which provides access to licensed content such as magazines, newspapers, scholarly articles, videos, images, and music. These resources are provided exclusively for use by all Wisconsin residents and are materials that are not available through regular search engines such as Google.
  • Ask a Librarian: http://dpi.wi.gov/rl3/resources/ask-librarian -- Resources for Libraries and Lifelong Learning (RL&LL) staff answer questions from Wisconsin residents, Public Libraries and Library Systems, Libraries in State Agencies & Institutions, and Employees of State Agencies.
  • Found in Wisconsin: http://dpi.wi.gov/rl3/resources/found-in-wi -- a searchable index of bibliographic records to digital collections hosted by over 500 libraries, museums, historical societies, genealogical societies, schools, and various cultural organizations around Wisconsin. Search or browse the 1,200+ index for links into websites containing historic photographs, video & sound clips, written documents, maps, newspapers, cemetery indices, and much more.
  • Songbook Database: http://dpi.wi.gov/rl3/resources/songbook-database -- A Database of songs containing over 50,000 titles.
  • The Ways: http://theways.org/ -- The Ways is an ongoing series of stories from Native communities around the central Great Lakes. The Ways supports educators in meeting the requirements of Wisconsin Act 31, seeking to expand and challenge current understanding of Native identity and communities. Learn more about Act 31 here.
  • Love Wisconsin Project: http://www.lovewi.com/ -- OK, this is not a DPI resource, but it is way cool. Stories, videos, interviews about Wisconsin as told by writers, musicians, and just people. They have several focus areas like “Wish for WI” "Wisconsin Generations" and “Wisconsin Portraits.” The “Wish for WI” is a series of short videos where young children are asked to describe their wish for the state. Very good stuff. They have a Facebook page as well.  

I have provided a hodgepodge list of resources and, let’s be honest, I’ve scribbled a hodgepodge of a blog entry. I said earlier that the information and links mentioned above may not be useful to all educators right now, but keep them handy as they may be useful someday. If any of this helps you in any way, well, that is something positive. With that, I’ll leave you pondering this:

 So I said to the gym instructor: 'Can you teach me to do the splits?'
 The instructor said: 'How flexible are you?'
 I said: ‘I can't make Tuesdays.'
 --Tim Vine

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