If I Had a Hammer . . .

One of our contemporary heroes, Pete Seeger, passed yesterday. Pete was a man of the people – a songwriter, singer, song leader and activist for human rights, social justice and environmental protection. Pete, at 94, was more alive than most of us are on a daily basis – he was bigger than life!
I had the terrifying pleasure of driving Pete across the State of Massachusetts several years back. I was so nervous that I didn’t sleep all night, thinking about what I was going to say to this iconic man – what was the most important thing to share? Well, he started talking when we got in the car, and didn’t stop for the entire 3 ½ hours until we arrived at our destination!
Pete was full of words, but more important, his words were full of meaning. His words created metaphors, enhanced by his very singable tunes – they had worth. He believed that music, especially singable folk music, would bring our society (folks) together.
You know Pete’s songs – “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Somos el Barco” “Abiyoyo,” “Good Night, Irene,” “This Land is Your Land,” “We Shall Overcome,” “Guantanamera” – not all written by him, but brought to audiences by him. They are great, authentic texts for our students as they are learning to read.
You can easily find his song texts and You Tube performances – just Google Pete Seeger.
The kids deserve to hear this amazing man who advocated for them and their rights every day. Write down the texts to his songs, and let them read, read, read! While they are learning to read, they’ll also be reading to learn.
Now we are challenged to keep Pete’s spirit and passion alive!  Rest in Peace, Pete.

Pete Seeger plays his banjo in 2006 in Beacon, NY

Pete Seeger plays his banjo in 2006 in Beacon, NY


I’m watching the Grammys, and Hunter Hayes has just introduced a new song live – called Invisible. It’s message is directed at kids targeted by bullies – telling them they are not invisible, but that someday the feelings of inadequacy will become invisible.
For those of us forging the path to Total Learning implementation, you might want to read the text to Invisible at Invisible. Choose and share your favorite parts of the text. Here’s mine:
Every heart has a rhythm, let yours beat out so loudly
That everyone can hear it, yeah, promise you don’t
need to hide it anymore
Oh, and never be afraid of doing something different
Dare to be something more

The Total Learning Cart

Allison and Sue set up a new cart for Total Learning Smart Board lessons and meetings today. Wheels on the bottom, computer on the top, colored drawers in between. Labeled drawers for power cord, VGA (smart board) connector, and sound cable. Another drawer for supplies, and one for lesson pages.
Now we’re ready to show you how to set yourself up for a Total Learning visit on the Smart Board.
We’ll share written directions soon, and you’ll be ready to go!

The Total Learning Cart

The Total Learning Cart

Lessons 3: Setting the Stage for Project-Based Learning

3 tiers - Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 10.17.12 AM

We’ve been working on formatting the lessons and studios for Lessons 3. In the Studios, you will notice that the tiers flow from one to another, adding a new dimension on each visit. This design provides a model of project-based learning, and prepares students for following through on curriculum-driven, hands-on projects that result in a product or performance that is publishable in some way.
As you introduce the studios to students, be sure to point out this feature, and make time for them to return to the studio multiple times to dig deeper, solidify and apply their learning.

Total Learning Institute – We have a You Tube Channel!

Welcome to Total Learning Digital (click to watch video)

As we get ready to share Total Learning Digital with a broader audience, we now have a new You Tube channel! You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC52dEA-mlai6LTsHbXfXPJA
Or Google You Tube and search for Total Learning Institute. Please make suggestions of any videos we should add!

Congratulations, Lisa Meyer!

Hello to all,

Dearborn Public Schools Music Teacher and Music Resource Specialist Lisa Meyer has been named the Mayor’s Award Arts Educator of the Year for 2013.

She has earned this honor for her years of successful work as a music educator and specialist, both for the Dearborn Public Schools and for the community at large. She continues the long line of Dearborn Public Schools’ arts educators who have been so honored over the past two plus decades.

Lisa will be honored at the annual Mayor’s Arts Awards Ceremony on February 12th, 2014 at 7:30 pm in the Michael Guido Theatre in the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center. The event is sponsored by the Dearborn Community Arts Council and the City of Dearborn.

It is free to the public and will feature performances from the Dearborn High School Jazz Band and Choir and the Prysm Dance Company.

Lisa Meyer (in purple) listening to her staff members during fall PD

Lisa Meyer (in purple) listening to her staff members during fall PD

Measuring Our Success

We rate ourselves by our least effective moments. The sign of a good teacher is that she or he measures effectiveness by the least satisfying moments – those when we feel frustrated or just not great. This may partially be because we are good teachers, and therefore know and enjoy what it feels like when a lesson or student interaction is powerful. It may also be because we have high standards for our work and for our students’ accomplishments! This is a good thing.
Our most difficult students challenge us to be our most imaginative and selfless selves. Even this, sometimes, is not enough to overcome the overwhelming adversity from family, home, peers or self. But almost always, we find a way! And if we don’t, we keep on trying. That’s what great teachers do!

Challenging students force us to be better teachers.

Challenging students force us to be better teachers.

The Power of Our Words

Words Can Change your Brain, Psychology Today

The Power of Our Words, book

The Power of Our Words book

The Power of Our Words book

Everyone smiles in the same language. 
-Author Unknown

I can’t imagine a better resolution for the New Year than to re-commit to powerful, positive communication.
Perhaps you’ve noticed the tone of the words we use in Total Learning Digital to share with teachers or communicate with children, whether spoken or in print.
There are two resources that come to mind:
1. One book that we often share with teachers is The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn, by Paula Denton, EdD.
2. Today, in Exchange Every Day, was the following message: Anger Never Works (see below). There is a related blog in Psychology Today that I’m going to read. I’m also going to get the Words Can Change Your Brain book.
Click respond and tell how you use words positively in your teaching!

Anger Never Works January 6, 2014 (from Exchange Every Day)

In personal relationships, punishment — whether in the form of anger, criticism, or judgment — rarely works,” opines Andrew Newberg in Words Can Change Your Brain (New York: Plume Books, 2013). “But the brain seems to be hardwired when it comes to disappointment. If we don’t get what we want — even if what we want is unrealistic — the brain’s anger center gets stimulated….

 “The best solution to the cycle that we know is to interrupt the negativity by generating a thought that expresses compassion for yourself, the situation, and other people involved. The research is robust: if we deliberately send a kind thought to the person we perceive as having violated our personal space, we psychologically increase our sense of social connectedness and strengthen the neurological circuits of empathy and cooperation.”