Archive for August, 2013


August 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Thought I’d open up with this video.  I just finished Tennant’s run as Dr. Who and find myself rather sentimental at the moment.  I’ll definitely miss Tennant’s Doctor, all elongated and elastic, both in body and in thought.  I am, however, looking forward to Matt Smith’s version, though as I said before, I’ve already had a taste of what he brings in “Vincent and the Doctor.”

Anyway, it’s been a rough week at work.

No, that’s actually inaccurate.  There were two days, out of the five, where I felt the class start to come together.  However, most of the time, I’ve found myself sighing and raising my voice more often than actually teaching and “finding the fun” within the flow of the day.

It’s maddening.

We’re three weeks in and I still feel as if I haven’t made any true progress with the classroom, both academically and as a community.  Here and there, I’ll see a ray of light, but more often than not, something comes along and does a proper job of snuffing it out.  Whether it’s an inconsiderate action or a lack of effort, those little things seem to pile on and gain a momentum of their own.   I find my patience is growing short, ready to be lit on a moment’s notice lately . . . and I absolutely hate it.

But, I have to move on.

And in order to solve these issues of the classroom . . . I need to start with myself again.

This weekend (a three-day weekend, just at the right time) will be a time for reflection.  I have to look to myself if I’m to ever get this classroom where I think it can be.  That hope still burns for the students of the class and I’m sure it’ll never waver, but arriving at the location I’d like to be may take some time.  I’ve also understood one essential component in order for me to make this work.

I have to be better.

I have to be better in the way I carry myself.  I have to be better with my emotions.  I have to be better with how I’m setting up each and every student in that classroom.  I have to be a better person.

I have to be better.

I’ll take this weekend to figure out the logistics and the strategies involved.  I’m definitely a believer of choice and fate and it’s no coincidence that this weekend is here and that I’ve got to take some time for myself.

That is why I’ve got the video at the front of this post.  When I get back to work, I feel as if it’s my time to say . . .



More Dr. Who

August 27, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m right in the middle of Season 4 of Dr. Who (watching on Netflix . . . thank you internet) and I’m a definite Dr. Who fan (at least for the reboot) without any doubt.

Of course, the problem I’ve had is trying to explain Dr. Who to my friends.

As I’ve tried to explain Dr. Who to a few people, it’s been interesting with the comparisons I’ve come up with, and frankly, every comparison works at this point.  You see, instead of describing the premise of the show, I like going with the “comparison show” route when I’m convincing my friends to check out a show.  So now, I’m going to list a few ways I’ve tried to explain Dr, Who to my friends . . .

1)  Samurai Jack – I’m not sure why this came to mind, but some of the adventures the Doctor gets into reminds me of some of the situations Jack would find himself in.  Both characters dealt with a variety of aliens and both definitely felt alone in a vast and terrifyingly beautiful universe.

Both characters also felt an inevitable pull to help those around them, despite the destruction they would bring.  Both would save civilizations from evil and darkness.

2)  Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I think this one works because of the pulse of mythology that surrounds the show, whether its a reference from history or building up their own unique legends and stories.  Again, you have a lone hero(ine), but this time, the character no longer fights alone.  Buffy definitely had her “companions” as she battled the creatures of the dark , as the Doctor had built up his.

And yes, the destruction that followed Buffy is somewhat similar to what the Doctor had to deal with.  And yes, Buffy also felt that “pull” to help those around her.

3)  Inspector Spacetime – Just kidding 🙂  We all know why this show exists in the first place (and Community is definitely an underrated show as well!)

Anyway, any help on comparison shows to tell my friends about?  Any shows you might compare Dr. Who to?

You could also tell what type of shows my friends watch as well 😉

I’m currently watching the “Forest of the Dead” episode, and sooner or later, I’m definitely going to write out a favorites list for episodes of Dr. Who.  At this point, David Tennant is definitely my favorite Doctor of the two I’ve seen (though I thought Eccleston’s was pretty good as well).  Question is how I’m going to catch up to the rest of the series before that huge 50th Anniversary show that’s coming up?

Small Victories

August 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Sometimes I ask myself . . .

. . . what’s more important?

This applies to a lot of things in life.  Obviously, it shouldn’t be taken as concrete life advice, especially from someone like myself, but I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately.

You see, building a classroom culture or climate is always a struggle.  For myself, I think I’ve lucked out more often than not through the years.  I’ve been blessed by having a few great classrooms, especially in terms of the “community” we try to build.  It’s always great to walk into a classroom and just have it feel “right,” knowing that whatever you’re going to teach that day is going to flow and do so beautifully.

Of course, it doesn’t happen all the time.

You’ll have your “rough” days, where it feels like an invisible wall that conveniently places itself right in front of you, teasing and frustrating you to no end.  For some reason, it made me think of this scene today:

(Yes, it does worry me a little that I’m at the end of the second week and already compare the experience to “hitting the wall.”)

You’ll have those days where it often feels “wrong,” especially when it comes to the actual content, knowing that some of the students aren’t getting your best.  Honestly, that’s one of the worst feelings to experience.

This year, so far, we’ve had more “rough” days than good.

As I said before, this class is taking longer to adapt to the vision I always try to create for the classroom.  I know they’re still on their way.  Honestly speaking, this is perhaps the longest I’ve had a class not get to that “level” that I always seek for ourselves.  Am I disappointed by this?  Frustrated?  Driven to the point of buying a new bottle of Scotch?

Yes, yes, and no.  Well . . . I’ll just buy the Scotch anyway just because I enjoy it!

Anyway, despite the frustration, despite the lack of “speed” in which I hoped they would pick up the classroom climate, there are always the small victories, the tiny shifts of momentum that gain a positive force.  I saw students slowly pick up the ideas I talk about constantly in the classroom, the idea of consideration to others, to help our fellow students when they need the help.

They’re getting there.  I just have to be patient.  I have to believe this class will build itself into something more than even they thought possible.  As I said above about the video, it does worry me (just a little) that I’m already thinking I’ve hit a wall.

But I also realize, I know I’m going to keep on going.  Just like Simon Pegg’s character in the video.

So what’s more important?

That I keep on going with the vision I have in mind.  I’m sure I’ll adapt it as we go along, but the idea of consideration and community, I need to keep that as an important factors as I keep “building” this class.

In the meantime, I just have to learn to relish the small victories.  It’ll be enough to keep me going . . .

School is in Session

August 20, 2013 Leave a comment

I took last week to get myself back into the flow of running a classroom again.  I’m still in the process of doing so, even with the second week in full swing.  Every day, the class gets closer and closer to where I think they should be, at least in terms of management and I can’t wait until it does.  This year has been a little “rough around the edges” as I’ve told a few people, but I think they can get there and be the classroom I think they can be.  They’re just taking a little longer than other classes I’ve had in the past.  Some classes get there within a week, others within a few hours (those are the classes you remember fondly).  Anyway, I think I’ll write more about this on Friday.

Since school is in session, I thought I’d hop back onto a train I once started.

A few months back, I decided to start watching Dr. Who, at least the rebooted version that started in 2005 on the BBC.  I was gathering up steam, but then the CRTs came around and I got rather busy.  I didn’t think I’d pick it up again, until I saw this video below:

The video above was a part of a list about 20 Science Fiction moments that would make you cry.  I definitely recommend checking out that link as well.  Unless, of course, you have no heart which means I can’t help you.  

Anyway, after watching that video, I’ve started binge watching Dr. Who episodes starting from Saturday night (yes, I wild party animal I am).  I got through the first season with Eccleston as the Doctor and I’m just about done with Season Two, with Tennant at the helm.  I think I may have to reserve judgment about a favorite Doctor until I’ve caught up.  However, I did sneak a peak at the actual “Vincent and the Doctor” episode so I do have a little exposure to Matt Smith as the Doctor.

Anyway, like a few other “cult” shows out there, the mythology behind show absolutely fascinates me, especially when more of the characters are flushed out and left exposed (in a good way).  What’s even better (at least in my opinion) is that some of the villains, and there are some incredible ones within the Dr. Who universe, get time to develop their character.  It’s subtle how the writing builds these “antagonists” then completely gives them another facet to their personality.

It just makes me smile.

I also think a small part of me is infatuated with Rose Tyler, but I think that should be given, correct?

Anyway, the Doctor has already climbed the charts in terms of favorite characters in television or film.  Unfortunately, I’ve stopped watching for tonight (possibly) but I can’t wait until “school is in session” with the Doctor.

And yes, I also just saw the episode where the Doctor was a teacher . . . and apparently Giles from Buffy the Vampire slayer was the “Headmaster.”  It was nice seeing Anthony Stewart Head as a bad guy!

And Here We Go . . .

August 9, 2013 Leave a comment

I have to say, reading through Rafe Esquith’s new book Real Talk for Real Teachers was a very poignant experience for me, both on a professional and personal level.  Starting with the book itself,  it’s an excellent read and for those who have read his other books, Rafe does a very good job of diving a little deeper into his practices and reflecting on his past experiences.

For example, one of the helpful sections of the book describes a typical day in his classroom, how he prepares and what his students do, almost to the minute.  Observing other teachers is definitely one of the best ways to improve your own teaching and having Rafe describe his typical day to the reader was very beneficial.  At least for me, this was worth the price of the book itself.

However, on a personal level, what ended up more beneficial to me was the motto on the cover:  “No Retreat, No Surrender.”

I’m just about to start my seventh year of teaching and reading this book definitely helped reinforce why I started teaching in the first place.  Honestly, if you haven’t read anything about Rafe Esquith, please do.  He’s starting on his third decade of teaching and the fact he still feels this passionately about making a difference just makes me want to do the same.  My energy was sapped a bit last year.  I encountered a few things I didn’t anticipate (most of which were outside influences, nothing really within the classroom itself.  I loved my bunch of kiddos last year!) and it left a very bitter taste at the end of it all.

But I made it through.  However, as the summer began, I was still feeling a lack of excitement for the next school year.  I felt “drained” after this past year and wondered if I could do it again.  It made me ask myself . . . “am I losing that desire?”

After a few weeks of reflection and a couple of summer field trips with the students, I found my answer to that question.


However I felt about last school year, spending time with the students during the summer allowed for some perspective.   As I chatted with them about their goals and their lives in general, I definitely realized I still loved my job.  Teaching has definitely helped define who I am.  Though I felt like I was knocked around last year, I still felt the urge to get up, to keep on fighting.

No retreat, no surrender.

So now, to the educators out there who have started the school year or about to start like I am, keep that motto in mind.  Our careers allow for a certain amount of doubt, disillusionment, disappointment and frustration, so I’m not going to tell you we have the best job in the world, as some other teachers might say.

However . . . I am going to tell you that we have one of the best jobs where we can make a difference.

No retreat, no surrender.

I can’t wait to start . . .

Official End of the Summer and Geek Week

August 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Tomorrow marks the official “end” of summer, at least for most of the teachers in my district.  Yes, I’m included in that number and at this point, I think I’m ready to head back.  Going into my seventh year of teaching, I’m glad that I still love my job.  I didn’t think I’d last this long after the first few months of teaching as a newbie, but here I am (I’m going to write more about this on Friday).

So now let’s talk about “Geek Week” on YouTube.  Two of the channels I subscribe to, Nerdist and Geek and Sundry, are a part of this presentation for all things “geek” on YouTube.  If you haven’t subscribed to either of those channels, I definitely recommend it.  Honestly, there’s so much content being uploaded on both of those channels, it’s getting to be a difficult to catch up, especially with our official “report back day” happening tomorrow.  There are a few other channels presenting on Geek Week as well so I’m sure I’ll check those out too.

Anyway, I do want to show two of the videos I saw which have something of an educational component to it.

First, we have this video talking about the “issues” of building a fully functional Death Star.

Honestly, TIE fighters would be easier to get to, since they’ve already developed Ion Engines.

Then there’s this video, which is self-explanatory.

Okay, honestly, there is a very small educational component to both of these videos . . . I just want to show them because they’re pretty rad.

Yes, I used the word “rad.”  Deal with it.

Classroom Hacks

August 2, 2013 Leave a comment

As I’m gearing up for the new school year, I’m always scouring the internet for things I could incorporate into the classroom.  There are a few sites out there that does this (I’m told Pinterest has bunch of these) but I also wanted to share a few things I try to do to make life easier in the classroom, especially the set-up.

First, I teach 5th Grade so working in an elementary school does influence some of the choices I use in the classroom.  I’m thinking a few these could work with any grade level though.  I also don’t go “cute” too often in the classroom, but I do think trying to brighten the room helps keep the environment lively.

Now, I don’t have a lot of “hacks,” but I can share what I always use in the classroom.  I actually might add more to this post as I’m continuing to set-up the classroom next week.

1)  Fabric for Bulletin Boards

I know a few people already do this, but if you don’t, I highly recommend it.  A few places, especially fabric stores like Jo-Ann’s, will give you a discount as a teacher.  Instead of using monotone butcher or chart paper for your walls, you can actually get different patterns or designs, or even get sport-themed fabric to hang up on your walls.  Of course, you can still get the monotone colors for fabric as well, which I also do!


Here is one example from my classroom.  This will eventually be my Language Arts/Writing Wall

2)  Different Color Whiteboards for Displays

This is something new I’m going to try this year.  I was walking by a few “back-to-school” displays and saw purple, green, orange and blue whiteboards being sold.  Now, one of my bulletin boards is for school information and short of installing some digital display that would show the students school activities, I thought I could just thumb-tack a few of these colored whiteboards to the board and use fluorescent dry erase markers to write out messages weekly.  We’ll see how well I keep going with these!


Here’s the School News Board.  They’re easy to take down and the fluorescent markers show up pretty nicely. 

3)  Student numbers for easier filing.  

I think a lot of teachers already do this, but it also makes it easier for the students to file work.

4)  Equipment Checkout list

I created this as a job for our class economy, but it definitely works out well in terms of teaching responsibility and maintaining the quality of the equipment we have in class.  The equipment checkout person is responsible for signing out the equipment to students in the class and must make sure the equipment is returned properly.  If there are any issues with the equipment, then the student will report that to the teacher.

Those are a few things for now.  I may keep posting on this subject, but there are a few places you can look for any sort of classroom or teaching hack.  In fact, I just saw this website which gives you a few other things you can do as well.

As I said, I may continue posting on this topic next week.  I also decided to try to post twice a week, with a Tuesday/Friday schedule going (in case you wanted to know ;).  Now, if there are other teachers out there who may happen on this post, are there any other “hacks” you use within your own classrooms?  Please share with a comment below! 🙂

And teachers, don’t forget to have fun, be nice and work hard!

Elan Mudrow


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