Stuart's Spectacular Students

This is dedicated to my amazing students. The goal is for each and every one of them to feel unstoppable by the time they walk out of the classroom door for the final time in May. This chronicles their journey; their own Chronicles of Self-Actualization.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Destiny of a Child

Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

- William Jennings Bryant

I read this quote and thought, "How true!". Then, while tapping away on my keyboard hoping to come closer and closer to the solution for every child being reached in every school, I heard these lines from the movie, "Groundhog Day":

Bill Murray asks his new buddies, "What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"

The guy next to him replies: "That about sums it up for me."

I know that especially as a teacher...and a parent (talking to my son about his behavior)...and even sometimes just as a human, I wonder if anything I'm doing really truly matters. We all do sometimes, waking up day after day and giving it all we got...and going to bed only to do it all over again in a few hours....telling ourselves that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.........

Until one day we get up without "waking up", having given up our dreams and silently becoming content to go through the motions of life, feeling that nothing we do really matters.

"It just wasn't in the cards. It's not meant to be. It just wasn't in my destiny."

Or.....we continue to fight for what we feel burning so passionately in our hearts, refusing to give up....but tired and hurting so much we start wondering if it would be so bad if we were actually killed by our challenges.....because then at least the daily pain would stop. (firing the kids up with a burst of dramatic energy)

Now I don't smash my alarm clocks at 3:30 am, but as the school year winds down I am unconsciously turning all five of them off and going back to bed without realizing it, my mind and body shutting down in rebellion against the tyranny of being pushed too far for too long by my spirit.

Some would say that's a sign to stop. I agree it's a sign of imbalance. But I also say that it's in these very moments for us, when we are broken and exhausted, unable to go any further, and realizing we might only be halfway to the finish line.....yet still choosing to get back up and complete what we started......that our destiny is determined.

This is where the choices we make really do matter. Do we give up? Or do we hold on to each other and our dreams? Although there's no guarantee, maybe, just maybe, I've held onto these kids long enough and strong enough in our time together this year that they'll hold onto themselves and their own dreams for the rest of their lives.....especially when it seems scary and too difficult to go on.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're dark.
A place that could sprain both elbow and chin!

Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

- Dr. Seuss

If we make the choice to see every day as a chance to make some small improvement from the day before, then our lives do truly get better. And our choices of thought and action really do each day becomes an investment in ourselves and others around us.

And if we're able to hold on for one more day at a time, having the courage to consciously recreate ourselves and our world, time does in fact change the reality in which we live. I am happy to say that once again, every single student has shown so much growth that every single student will be moving on to 6th grade.

Even with one child's parents fighting to have them held back next year, time has changed this child tremendously. Instead of falling yet further behind at the end of yet another year, this student has documented growth of OVER a year in ALL subjects, and as much as THREE years in reading and science. This child is actually catching up!!!!!

Once the parents were assured I would work with next year's teachers to prevent a falling through the cracks, everyone agreed with the promotion to 6th grade.

A new life has been achieved for this child; not by everyone waiting around for life to change, but by everyone, especially the child, making better choices day-after-day, time-after-time....and achieving a brighter destiny than ever in the time span of just 10 "short" months!

Here's an insightful take on how you can use the movie "Groundhog Day" to change your life. It's so simple, even a child can do it :-)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NEW PICTURES ~ Day at the Park

(I've had to remove all student pictures, sorry.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

New Pics

I've had to remove all student pictures. I'm sorry.

Math in Science ~ How Bright is the Universe?

**This is an excellent example of how math is used to help answer a scientific question. When you leave school you want to enter the world with skills, not just good grades. Being able to do what these people can do is an example of what being "skilled" is.

Can't you imagine James as being able to do this when he grows up?

Can you imagine Taneicea, Daiquan, and Shaquan lives if they are able to do this?

Can you imagine your own?

****Don't waste your time in school. LEARN new skills, GAIN new knowledge, THINK deeply about your subjects even if you're not required to.

BUILD your future TODAY!!!!!! If you waste your time now in school, you'll wonder what happened to your life later. BECOME what you want to be by BECOMING skilled in the highest levels of CREATIVITY and PROBLEM SOLVING!

New View: Universe Suddenly Twice as Bright

Clara Moskowitz
Staff Writer
Thu May 15, 1:00 PM ET

The universe is twice as bright as it appears, astronomers now suggest.

The light bulb went on when they calculated that dust blocks about the half the light emitted from stars and galaxies.

Astronomers have known about interstellar dust for a while, but they haven't been able to quantify just how much light it blocks. Now a team of researchers has studied a catalogue of galaxies and found that dust shields roughly 50 percent of their light.

"I was shocked by the sheer scale of the effect," said Simon Driver, an astronomer from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who led the study. "Most people just kind of said, 'We suspect dust is a minor problem.' I spent much of my career working on deep images from Hubble and I've always ignored dust almost entirely."

The result will likely cause many astronomers to revise their calculations of the intrinsic brightness of many celestial objects, Driver said. Until now, many astronomers thought stars and galaxies were really about 10 percent brighter in optical light than they appeared because of dust. If the new findings are true, it turns out that objects in the sky are about twice as bright than they appear.

"This is a strong, clear-cut result," Driver told "We've really got to take dust seriously and we've got to make large adjustments to our magnitude calculations." (A magnitude scale is used to define brightness of celestial objects.)

The astronomers detailed their findings in the May 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Interstellar dust isn't exactly the same thing that coats our bookshelves and covers our TV screens. It's made up of lumps of carbon and silicates that form dust grains only a few thousandths of a millimeter long. It hangs out in galaxies, but generally steers clear of the space between them.

To calculate dust's effect, the researchers analyzed data from the Millennium Galaxy Catalogue, a collection of images of 10,000 galaxies compiled by Driver and his team using the Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma and others.

They counted the number of galaxies in the catalogue that were directly facing us, and compared it to the number that were tilted 90 degrees away from us. Without dust, they reasoned, they should see just about equal numbers of galaxies in each orientation. But with dust, they would likely find fewer edge-on than face-on galaxies. Since dust lies in the disks of spiral galaxies, and not the dense central bulge, when we view galaxies from the side we are looking through thicker layers of dust, so we should see less light. In fact, the researchers counted about 70 percent fewer edge-on galaxies than face-on galaxies.

They used this discrepancy to quantify dust's effect by combing their counts with a model of dust distribution in galaxies developed by Cristina Popescu of the University of Central Lancashire and Richard Tuffs of the Max Plank Institute for Nuclear Physics.

"It's been a revelation to many people in the community, but there are small groups that had a suspicion this was coming," Driver said. "I wouldn't be surprised if there's a refinement of the result, but I think the result is basically here to stay."

The research was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Australian Research Council, the Max-Planck Society and a Livesey award from the University of Central Lancashire.

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Scientific Journaling - Mars ~ The "Cold" Planet

***This is the kind of scientific journaling you could use to answer a RESEARCHABLE QUESTION you might have

Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
Thu May 15, 2:15 PM ET

Peering beneath the ice at the north pole of Mars has now revealed the red planet may be surprisingly colder than was thought.

Any liquid water that might exist on Mars therefore might be hidden deeper than once suspected, closer to that world's warm heart, researchers suggested.

An international team of scientists used the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to probe the north pole of the red planet with radar. The ice cap there goes about 1.2 miles deep (2 km) and is roughly the size of Pakistan at 310,000 square miles large (800,000 square km).

These scans revealed the polar cap has up to four layers of ice rich in sand and dust, each separated by clearer sheets of nearly pure ice. Each dirty and clean layer is some 1,000 feet thick (300 meters).

These dirty and clean layers were created by ages of intense dust storms followed by icy eras. This five-million-year-long cycle was likely driven by wobbles in Mars' tilt and fluctuations in the shape of its orbit around the sun. The more sunlight the red planet saw because of these changes, the more the polar icecaps retreated and the more dust storms Mars saw.

"All this layering is key evidence for theoretical models that predict that changes in Mars' climate are coupled with orbital changes," said researcher Roger Phillips, a geophysicist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder.

Unexpectedly, the radar scans also revealed the massive weight of the ice cap does not deform any underlying sediment. This implies the crust beneath the cap is strong — more than 180 miles thick (300 km).

To have such a thick crust, "Mars might be colder than we thought," Phillips told As a result, any liquid water that might be underground has to be buried even deeper than once speculated. "If one thought that liquid water was 5 kilometers deep (3 miles), it's now at least 30 percent deeper than that," he said.

Philips and his colleagues detailed their findings online May 15 in the journal Science.

As to why Mars might be so cold, "perhaps it was robbed of its fair share of heat-producing elements, such as uranium and thorium, when it was first born," Phillips said. Or perhaps the way heat flows on Mars is quite variable, with the crust being colder and thicker at the poles and hotter elsewhere — "like Mars' volcanic provinces of Tharsis and Elysium."

The upcoming Phoenix Lander mission, which will explore the water ice just underneath the surface soil of the Martian arctic plains, might help shed light on the layering at Mars' north pole. To solve the mystery of the heat of Mars, heat flow probes are likely needed all over that planet, as is suggested by the Mars Network Mission under proposal, Phillips said.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Los Angeles, Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers, Jetix, & Deputy Drake

La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles

My buddy Brian

Ashlee Nino, one of Hannah Montana's dancers and Jonas Brother girlfriend

(I've had to remove all student pictures. I'm sorry.)

The Three Amigos playing with a new thinking game from Biz Kids.

Amy, graphics department manager for Jetix

Brian filming a documentary movie
...filming me! (look closely at the screen)...

Auditions for upcoming commercials

Brian in the soundproof set recording upcoming Disney Jetix summer promotions

Studying his script for the commercial

Steve putting together the commercial (you can see Brian in the soundproof set in the upper right corner)

Great Kids

I've had to remove all student pictures. I'm sorry.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Wisdom of Kindness

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.

- Theodore Issac Rubin

I've had to remove all student pictures. I'm sorry.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

School Pics

If you shy away from challenges this year, you're going to get crushed by the challenges of life later.

If you find yourself taking on all challenges now, you will crush life!

Raymond - "Show me what I did wrong, Shawn."

This shows me Raymond has identified who he can turn to to help him understand.

I've had to remove all student pictures. I'm sorry.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Differentiated Instruction

Building Confidence~ Developing & Unleashing Zest

One of the best ways to build anyone's confidence, including your own, is to pay attention to what they're doing right, and giving them (or yourself) honest appreciation for it.

Once this is done, we can handle constructive criticism much better. We learn to seek this, versus shy away from it, even if we're in a world more than willing to point out all that's wrong with us, and sometimes in a less than friendly way. We are unlimited in our personal growth, and everything and everyone only serves to make us more of who we could be.

Before children enter this sink-or-swim world, they absolutely must not be allowed to drown before they get there. It's up to the adults around them to cheer them on, throw them a life preserver, and sometimes dive in after them and save them. The great thing is that I know many of these students will be able to do this for others next year who don't have this type of adult in their lives.....and the world changes for the better because of it.

A student having fun experimenting with his taste buds.

So many students want to be in my class because we have so much fun. They don't realize the amount of fun and freedom they are able to have depends on the amount of responsibility and achievement they can produce.

Andrew scored a 100% on the county reading test and a high 90% on the math. His father recently told me that up until this year Andrew would read only the minimum required by school(@15 minutes or 8 pages) at night.

Now he reads for the love of learning. His dad said this change happened within a month-and-a-half from the beginning of the year.

Is it really the teacher or the teaching method? Perhaps it's both. When I was told (and could see) during meet the teacher that Andrew was bored in school, I mentioned that perhaps he wasn't challenged enough, and his boredom was a sign of rebellion that he knew he deserved more.

So as a teacher I recognized what might be good about this student doing as little as possible, and used teaching methods that rewarded above average effort with above average freedom.

Where else can a student who has developed and mastered an entire year's worth of knowledge and skills have such freedom????

Oh, yeah.....LIFE!

And wouldn't it be nice if school prepared them for it, unleashing and allowing their potential to thrive versus tying it up by tying them down, making them sit in their seats all day and do the exact same work as everyone else?

ps - I stopped wearing hats because his mother told me he wears hats all the time since I did. I see I need to remind him about respecting his mother's wishes.

LOL - I also tie my shoes now (motorcycle boots are incredibly time-consuming to tie and untie) because Miguel's mother told me he stopped tying his shoes.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Failure~ Good and Bad

I seem to react to student failure in different ways. Three students failed to get on the Accelerated Reader board while I was away on my trip. This means the class as a whole achieved phenomenal success (usually a teacher has about three students achieving great success consistently). But since no one in any class is a failure, no teacher should ever allow any student to continue failing to achieve.

Coincidently, these three students were also failing at the beginning of the year. With hard work and lots of love and patience to figure out their learning styles, and then being taught in that way, they all achieved more success this year than they ever had.

But in not succeeding in my absence, it means the teacher has not succeeded in helping them become independently successful......and with one month left of school, time is running out to do so.....

They know how much I care about them, which allows me to "drop the hammer" and push them harder in an attempt to develop their self-esteem. The message is that they are not failures, and need to get to the point where they refuse to allow themselves to "fail".

I've had to remove all student pictures and videos. I'm sorry.

Others, like Luis however, have experienced so much success with or without me that their self-esteem is sky high....and "failure" to them means they are one step closer to succeeding (ala Thomas Edison). They know they are not failures, even when they fail at something new. This allows me to push them into higher levels of failure in the role of a guider, versus a motivator and strength coach.

They try new things and inevitably experience failure, but learn from those failures.......have the courage to try again.....and experience subsequent new successes.....serving to further increase their self-esteem and intelligence. This in turn makes them more marketable upon entering the real world.

At this point they are beginning to truly become unstoppable, as opposed to the students in the first video who still let failure stop them.

In this video Luis is being taught how to use his student science textbook and two teacher books to come up with a better experiment to figure out why his previous experiment went wrong. He is learning how to pull specific information from resources and making his textbook work for him, versus having to sit quietly and obediently at his desk and working from his textbook.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sunken Treasure Found

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The ship was laden with tons of copper ingots, elephant tusks, gold coins — and cannons to fend off pirates. But it had nothing to protect it from the fierce weather off a particularly bleak stretch of inhospitable African coast, and it sank 500 years ago.

Now it has been found, stumbled upon by De Beers geologists prospecting for diamonds off Namibia.

"If you're mining on the coast, sooner or later you'll find a wreck," archaeologist Dieter Noli said in an interview Thursday.

Namdeb Diamond Corp., a joint venture of the government of Namibia and De Beers, first reported the April 1 find in a statement Wednesday, and planned a news conference in the Namibian capital next week.

The company had cleared and drained a stretch of seabed, building an earthen wall to keep the water out so geologists could work. Noli said one of the geologists saw a few ingots, but had no idea what they were. Then the team found what looked like cannon barrels.

The geologists stopped the brutal earth-moving work of searching for diamonds and sent photos to Noli, who had done research in the Namibian desert since the mid-1980s and has advised De Beers since 1996 on the archaeological impact of its operations in Namibia.

The find "was what I'd been waiting for, for 20 years," Noli said. "Understandably, I was pretty excited. I still am."

Noli's original specialty was the desert, but because of Namdeb's offshore explorations, he had been preparing for the possibility of a wreck, even learning to dive.

After the discovery, he brought in Bruno Werz, an expert in the field, to help research the wreck. Noli has studied maritime artifacts with Werz, who was one of his instructors at the University of Cape Town.

Judging from the notables depicted on the hoard of Spanish and Portuguese coins, and the type of cannons and navigational equipment, the ship went down in the late 1400s or early 1500s, around the time Vasco de Gama and Columbus were plying the waters of the New World.

"Based on the goods they were carrying, it's almost certain that it dates from that time," said John Broadwater, chief archaeologist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This find is very exciting because very few vessels from that period have been discovered," he said, adding that many early ships were thought to have wrecked in that area.

It was, Noli said, "a period when Africa was just being opened up, when the whole world was being opened up."

He compared the remnants — ingots, ivory, coins, coffin-sized timber fragments — to evidence at a crime scene.

"The surf would have pounded that wreck to smithereens," he said. "It's not like `Pirates of the Caribbean,' with a ship more or less intact."

He and Werz are trying to fit the pieces into a story. They divide their time between inventorying the find in Namibia and doing research in museums and libraries in Cape Town, South Africa, from where Noli spoke by phone Thursday.

Eventually, they will go to Portugal or Spain to search for records of a vessel with similar cargo that went missing.

"You don't turn a skipper loose with a cargo of that value and have no record of it," Noli said.

The wealth on board is intriguing. Noli said the large amount of copper could mean the ship had been sent by a government looking for material to build cannons. Trade in ivory was usually controlled by royal families, another indication the ship was on official business.

On the other hand, why did the captain have so many coins? Shouldn't they have been traded for the ivory and copper?

"Either he did a very, very good deal. Or he was a pirate," Noli said. "I'm convinced we'll find out what the ship was and who the captain was."

What brought the vessel down may remain a mystery. But Noli has theories, noting the stretch of coast was notorious for fierce storms and disorienting fogs.

In later years, sailors with sophisticated navigational tools avoided it. The only tools found on the wreck were astrolabes, which can be used to determine only how far north or south you have sailed.

"Sending a ship toward Africa in that period, that was venture capital in the extreme," Noli said. "These chaps were very much on the edge as far as navigation. It was still very difficult for them to know where they were."

Noli has found signs that worms were at work on the ship's timber, and sheets of lead used to patch holes, indications the ship was old when it went down.

Imagine a leaky, overladen ship caught in a storm. The copper ingots, shaped like sections of a sphere, would have sat snug, he said. But the tusks — some 50 have been found — could have shifted, tipping the ship.

"And down you go," Noli said, "weighed down by your treasure."
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