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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010 - Simplify, Man; Simplify!

It is always important to define terms.

To simplify, or to seek a life of simplicity means to me to attempt to create an uncluttered atmosphere within which to work, live, and play.

Sometimes, in order to simplify, one has to learn complex tasks. The world of smartphones, social networking, and web 2.whatever tried to make life easier over the past decade.

Life did get easier for some, but I wonder if life got better for them.

I read many ed-tech-savvy-teachers. I observed a lot hopes in the early-mid 00s. I also noticed many like-minded educators at the end of 2009 talking about how changes are needed over the next decade (just like we said 10 years ago).

Well, I hope to not make the same mistakes I made over the past 10 years during the next 10 years.

Some tech made my life easier on a personal and professional level. Other tech made my life more complicated.


It doesn't mean the tech is bad for someone else though. What I learned this past decade is that forcing people to use the same technology is not always a smart idea. For example, electronic/online gradebooks. Personally, I do not like Infinite Campus. It is too cumbersome, and more than what is necessary. We use it because someone believes it is easier for district-wide record keeping. It is not teacher-parent-student friendly. It has caused great turmoil, money, time, confusion, and overall suspicion of any technology among teachers.

GradeKeeper is a better and simpler tool for teacher recording, student viewing, and parent understanding of grades.

The same type of comparisons can be made with Moodle, Angel, and Blackboard. Or YouTube, TeacherTube, and Vidler. Or Windows, Mac, Ubuntu.

So my mantra for 2010 is simplify, man; simplify. Not just for me, but for my students.

We make school too difficult. I'm not saying reduce "rigor." But even the phrasing we use "rigor," "engaging," "differentiation," and all the eduspeak smacks of someone trying to sell repackaged garbage that didn't work at an earlier time.

What we did in education this past decade is try to sell New Coke, and frankly, the students are not swallowing it.

We continue to force students to come to us, literally in the school building, and figuratively in online places. Check your grades in our gradebooks software. Find your homework online in our classroom managent system. We give them "another thing" to go to.

Simplify, man; simplify! Students are already using Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and other places they frequent. Why don't we go where they are?

Oh, teacher-student relationships should end at the schoolhouse door arguments.

Well, let's see. Students posting bad things on their MySpace/Facebook pages is something we should "teach them to not do." Don't you think students would be more conscious to what they post if they knew their teachers were watching? Mine do. Model what should be considered appropriate on a public online space; after all that is a best- practice - modeling.

We're working too hard. As I am right now. I will be pursuing this line of thought throughout 2010.

Follow along if you like.

From R. Murry

Posted via email from Murry's World

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wearing #TOMSshoes on Christmas day. Seems right.

From R. Murry

Posted via email from Murry's World

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Letter

To All My Friends, Family, Readers, Students, and lurkers.

2009 was a fast-paced year. 

The first half of the year was wrapped up in getting ready for Brant & Maira's wedding.  I don't remember doing much in the Spring other than get ready for a wedding. They were married June 6.  It was a beautiful wedding on a sunny day.  Family from all over the world gathered to help our families celebrate.  Maira is great; we love her like our very own.  I am happy that Brant found such a wonderful young lady to love and share his life with.

Brant graduated from college in May with his degree in education and certification in Elementary Education and Middle School Math.  We worried a little about him finding a job because of the budget reductions throughout the state.  He was blessed to be offered a job teaching 3rd grade in Calhoun, GA just an hour before he and Maira boarded the ship for the honeymoon cruise.  He has coached with a good friend of ours for the past two years at Calhoun High School (track), and that definitely helped.  Maira had already finished her LPN work and had a job.  She is now back in school, working toward her RN degree.

I also finished my first year back in the classroom in May.  It was good to be back with students of my own.  I think, at least for now, that the classroom is where I will stay for the rest of my career.  Unless the school/state decides that Social Studies is unnecessary, it will be in the Social Studies room.  I really enjoy teaching ELL students. There is a natural curiosity and desire to learn something new for them.  Coupled with their "innocence" it is a great place to be.

Shelley had challenges at work too.  Two of the four doctors left the practice, so the two remaining doctors and staff had to do the work of a four-doctor office.  Lots of extra hours, lots of stress, lots of need for a relaxing breaks.

After the wedding, it was time to relax a bit.

We went rafting on the Hiwasee River a couple times this summer: once with Shelley's co-worker and her husband.  Then we took Brant, Maira, Jordan, and Nancy with us.  Brant lost a flip-flop when our raft got stuck on the the rocks, so if you see one floating downstream, let us know.

Brant & Maira adopted a lost puppy when they were in Memphis this summer, visiting some of Maira's family. Bailey (our grand-dogter) has quite a life; she goes everywhere they do, and was on the beach in Miami this week.

The new school year started in August. I think I have the best single class I have ever had this year; and overall, the students are really good kids. It has been fun working with them. It has been a time for me to reflect on my purpose in life.  All the national testing debate and focus on data for the past 10 years became a distraction to me.  I think I have overcome that, and am comfortable doing what I think is right for the kids I have. It has been a great first half of the year.  Lots of learning, lots of sharing.

Jordan was beginning his Senior year of college.  He says he finally has to study.  So to add to his responsibilities, he decided to take advantage of the $8000 first-time-home-buyer rebate and buy a house.  He bought a very nice brick house in Dalton.  It's just a few houses away from his girlfriend's parents house.  Sounds convenient, but Nancy spends her time in Kennesaw away at college.  Jordan has been working as a graphic artist since he was in high school, and saved enough money to buy a house before graduating college.  No help from Dad & Mom.  I'm very proud of him.

Brant & Maira were living in an apartment in Adairsville until September, when they bought their first home in Calhoun in October.  The rebate helped both of the boys.  Since I consider a government rebate to be my tax dollars, I'm glad both boys took advantage of it. :^)

In September, Shelley and I returned to Illinois for the funeral of my best friend's mother. If you have seen the movie Stand By Me, you'll remember the final scene when the narrator/writer of the story finishes his story typing something like - "I've never had friends like the ones I had when I was 12...does anyone?"  Well, for me the answer is "no."  My dad died in May of 2004.  I hadn't seen Mike in years...many years. He and his beautiful wife, Wanda, and their children came to the visitation.  That support was priceless.  Then in September 2008, my mom died.  Before she died, Mike called me and said he went to see Mom in the hospital, and that I needed to come home to see her.  We stayed at Mike's house, and it was probably among her last good days.  About three weeks later Mom died.  Mike's family was there again.  This year, it was my turn. Mike's mom died, so Shelley and I immediately loaded the car and headed home.  In a town of about 4000 people, more than 1800 people walked through the visitation line to give their condolences.  It was a celebration of a life lived for God and others.

In October, Shelley and I decided it was time for us to take our first vacation without the boys (24 years in waiting).  We took a cruise to the Bahamas. We had been there before with the boys. This time it was just us.  It was a relaxing, enjoyable time.  We kayaked in the ocean, swam and held stingrays, and watched the sunset over the ocean.  It was the break we both needed.  We both realized we are in a new phase of our lives together.  It's actually very strange to not focus on the boys and their needs/wants.  We are beginning to think of what the two of us will begin to do without having to consider the boys in our plans.  We are giving very serious thought to travelling the world, on short-term mission, nursing, and education trips.  Shelley is likely heading back to school to get her RN.  That will give us some options for traveling with Doctors Without Borders, Nurses Without Borders, Teachers Without Borders, and something she wants to do Operation Smile.

Thanksgiving was fun.  Jordan, Brant & Maira and Maira's mom (Donna) came to our house for a meal.  Maira's dad (John) was in Greece (his homeland) at the time. We ate, relaxed, and watched a movie together.

Shelley and I just celebrated our 26th year of marriage in December.  We are now preparing to go to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge.  John & Deanna (Shelley's sister and husband), Brant & Maira, Jordan & Nancy, Jonathan (nephew), and Gabe & Jennifer (niece and husband) are renting a mountain cabin for 3 days.  Hoping to ice skate, maybe ski, see a show, and do some shopping. But really looking forward to playing cards, board games, and having fun with family.

Another big change this year was reconnecting with friends from years gone by.  Most people know I am an early adopter of online technology.  I used it primarily for professional purposes for the past decade.  This year, I connected with friends and acquaintences from college and high school.

Hoping your Christmas is blessed, your New Year is filled with dreams that are met.

God bless.

Ric & Shelley

Posted via email from Murry's World

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Laughed all the way through this parody.

<div></object><br />Total Eclipse Of The Heart - Literal Version @ Yahoo! Video</div>

Posted via email from Murry's World

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TEDTalks (video) - Alexis Ohanian: How to make a splash in social media - Alexis Ohanian (2009)

Be willing to lose control of message to get your message out.

Check out this episode of TEDTalks (video) at Alexis Ohanian: How to make a splash in social media - Alexis Ohanian (2009) - http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TEDTalks_video/~3/xlieg1YeWIU/714

From R. Murry

Posted via email from Murry's World

TEDTalks (video) - Sunitha Krishnan fights sex slavery - Sunitha Krishnan (2009)

Unbelievable situations in our world create unbelievable people.

Check out this episode of TEDTalks (video) at Sunitha Krishnan fights sex slavery - Sunitha Krishnan (2009) - http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TEDTalks_video/~3/goUJtvzbLXo/704

From R. Murry

Posted via email from Murry's World

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Emperors, Premiers, and Kings

Posted via email from Murry's World

Thursday, December 10, 2009

6-Word-Stories -- War in the Congo


After reading the story and seeing the picture on the link above - here were the best of the best.

  • Want to get out of here.
  • Homeless-Helpless-Needing-Wanting-Wordless-Lonely
  • They are sad; we could help.
  • We aren't supposed to be here.
  • They look really sad and tired.
  • Makes me feel grateful and sad.
  • It's life in a refugee camp
  • I feel...greedy, unthoughtful, and ungrateful
  • Horrible disaster! Need help! I'm useless.
  • I am angry but also relieved.
  • Innocent people suffering because of war.
  • Too many people; all might die.
  • A small area for many people.
  • Sad. Hoping for the best. Worried.
  • People who need help to live.
  • Why are people treated like that?
  • Why? Why can't we help them?
  • Hungry, tired people of the Congo.
  • I...can...not...believe...my...eyes!
  • Tragedy that seems will never end.
  • I can't believe this still happens.
Same article - Different picture

  • They can get help from nurses.
  • Why are we letting this happen?
  • I hurt with pain all over.
  • Suffering - Misfortune - Hurt - Unappreciated - Unloved - Human
  • I wish I could do something.
  • No home; recovers in refugee hospital.
  • Feeling sad, sorry. Want to help.
  • She was hurt by the soldiers.
  • A girl is recovering from shooting.
  • Brave little girl who is scared.
  • Waiting for your help to come.
  • Hurting - Sad - Angry - Scared - Frightened - Worried
  • Who would shoot a little girl?
  • She's sad because she has nobody.
  • Help me. Love me. Save me.
  • Why don't we help the girl!
Same article - Third picture

  • I may never get to eat.
  • Will I ever have a home?
  • I would die; nobody wants me.
  • We are all going to die.
  • Why is this happening to us?
  • I'd help them if a could.
  • Finding food from a garbage pile.
  • Can you please help me escape?
  • I could do something to help.
  • Soon I would be safe...probably.
  • How can people help them survive?
  • Will I ever have some safety?
  • Why do we have to suffer?
  • What can I do to help?
  • Where is the food? Huh? Where?
  • Every day we have to suffer.
  • Help me get out of here!

  • Can I begin to feel their pain?
I did not do this to create sympathy or create emotion.  I did this to demonstrate that our world is filled with problems and opportunities.

In the context of government and civics (our current set of standards) my students have gone well beyond what they must know for a test. My students are reaching a point of making the curriculum theirs. We are way ahead of schedule on this personal goal I set each year. 

I'm very proud of "my kids."

Posted via email from Murry's World

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Snow in North Georgia 12/5/09

Posted via web from Murry's World