Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Brick in the Wall

As I drove south for my winter vacation, it was difficult for me to get my focus off of work and how I could become a better teacher to my students. On the 14 hour drive to Panama City Beach, FL, I heard the Pink Floyd song "The Wall". "We don't need an education...all we are is just another brick in the wall". I couldn't help but think of students within our education system today. In the data driven and standardized testing of today, our students are becoming another number, another statistic, another "brick" in the wall, another graduate, and another dropout. With NCLB and the world of standarized testing, our students are losing their individuality. If so, how can we be sure our students are not like the song says, "another brick in the wall".

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Pacing is still a challenge for me three years into teaching for me. Veteran teachers say that it comes with experience and time. The way a class is "paced" depends on a number of factors, largely out of the teacher's control. One factor to consider is student achievements of meeting the goals and objectives of the lesson. Another factor is the makeup of the class. Some classes read at a quicker pace and require less interpretation, while another class may struggle more with comprehension. This also has to be taken into consideration when planning and pacing lessons. If students are not "grasping" a concept, you cannot move on until some mastery is demonstrated. One mistake I have continued to make until this year is to take detailed notes of objectives, goals, and notes for each lesson. In the future when planning, pacing will be a lot easier because you noted key elements along the way.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Remaining Status Quo

Remaining status quo is something many people are ok with. "I seem to be doing fine, why change things?" The problem with this mentality is that the world is changing around you. The bar is continuing to be raised. Remaining status quo makes us reactive instead of proactive in many realms of life. Our education system is broke and has been broken for many years. How has it gotten so bad? My suggestion: because we have remained status quo. Some/most are comfortable where they are at. Some/most do not challenge themselves. Some/most don't set higher expectations for themselves or the people they lead. Leaders must be striving to be ahead or above the status quo. Leaders need to set the vision and communicate the vision to the followers. Often in times of change, leaders make decisions that seem "unpopular", but the decision usually is what the leader forsees as necessary to make the vision a reality. With NCLB and now the start of "Race to the Top", great visions, great goals, but realistically, not attainable, especially for NCLB. One thing is for sure, some are striving and finding innovative ways to reach students and their performance in some cases increases. Leaders in this reform of taking the educational profession above the status quo, must include teachers, administrators, communities, parents, and students. Leaving one of these elements out is setting us up for failure before we even begin. We need reform, we need it now, we need to be striving to be above the status quo.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fostering a Globally Competent Student through the use of Technology

One of my goals as a teacher is to adequately prepare my students for the world that awaits them. This means they need to be globally competent. Students need to understand the world is larger than the area that they live. They need to be aware of the different cultures and philosophies that exist in the world. In the technological world we live in, creating a globalized classroom is easier than it has been in the past. The internet and the growth of open educational resources provide opportunities to learn for teachers and students. The growth and affordability of mobile devices provides additional opportunities. Here are three suggestions on creating the global classroom: 1) virtual field trips 2) Skype 3) Classroom Nings.

Virtual Field Trips
Virtual field trips allow you to take your class on a field trip that typically would cost thousands of dollars. Of course it isn't the same, but the photos and in some cases videos of "tour guides" take you to the Brazilian Rainforest, the Egyptian pyramids, or a safari in Kenya.

Skype can be used in a multitude of ways. It could be used within the school building to co-teach. It could also be used to collaborate with another classroom in another school. Collaboration with another school would be ideal to "expose" your students with other students with another view of life. One powerful use of Skype would be to partner with people in the business world so students could ask questions and learn about possible future jobs they may pursue.
Nings are powerful collaboration tools that have forums, blogs, chats, and other widgets. They can be marked "private" for student protection, but would allow students the opportunity to interact online with others for an educational purpose. This takes some organization on the teachers' part, but I see value in collaboration and bringing students of different backgrounds and lifestyles together and share their thoughts and ideas with one another. These are just a few tools to begin the process of creating and fostering a globally competent student.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More than an "Overhaul"

I’ve been thinking a lot about next school year lately. What approach to take with my Freshman English class? What new lessons to implement with my 10th graders? Which new technologies I want to bring into my classroom? Thinking about that leads me into thinking about our education system nationwide. It almost depresses me. It reminds me of my van as I drove to see the Sequoia trees a couple of weeks ago. I began to lose my radiator just out of L.A., but was reassured all was ok for the climb into the mountains. To make a long story short, I lost my transmission due to my radiator not cooling it properly. I’m not a mechanic, but that is what my mechanic back home told me. Anyway, I was given a choice…do I put in a brand new transmission and radiator and get a guarantee OR do I authorize them to “overhaul” the transmission and just have them “flush” the radiator? There are benefits and negatives to both. Obviously, the first one would cost a lot more money, but pretty much assure me a safe and happy ride back home. The first option would give me a three-year warranty. The second option could be the “quick fix” and get me on the road quicker, but will it hold up as I travel through the mountains on the way home? Back to our education system here in America, do we want a quick fix? Do we want to “band aid” the problems? Do we want to do it right? Do we “overhaul” or totally change the way we educate our children? We know that our system is broke, but I’m not sure the “overhaul” will do it. Thousands of teachers are losing jobs due to finances and our leaders are not seeing the impact that it will have on our kids. Some teachers are “stuck in the stone-age” when it comes to methodologies. What will it take for leaders/politicians/administrators to see that education needs to change from the old traditional methods?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cellphones in the Classroom...A Nuisance or a tool?

3.3 billion....approximately 1/2 the population of the earth...have cell phones. The last two years I have been on the totally opposite side of the spectrum of the argument I am about to "endorse". Through research and my love of technology, I have began to try and find a way to use cell phones as a tool within the classroom instead a banning or penalizing students for using them. In the past, I have saw them as a complete nuisance. On several occasions, I would take them from students if I saw them, since school policy required students to keep cell phones in their lockers. Our policy was that the phone would be locked up for 24 hours for the 1st offense, 48 hours for the 2nd. In fact, last year I collected nearly 40 cell phones from students texting when they shouldn't be. You are probably thinking, why embrace cell phones now? I'm asking how am I going to sell the idea to my administrator after being 100% anti-cell phone in the classroom? Cell phones are not going away. The texting and other applications available on phones today is relatively affordable. Information is literally at students finger tips. Cell phones now can be used to shoot video as well. Last year, I saw Vicki Davis present at a conference. Her blog contains daily updates on technology and its use in the classroom. This link focuses on "the case for cell phones in schools". Hall Davidson from Discovery Education strongly advocates the use of cell phones in the classroom. I honestly feel we as educators are "missing the boat", if we are not using the cell phone as a tool. What rules or policies need to be in place when using the cell phone as a tool within the classroom? What happens when a student "crosses the line"? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Teaching should be more...

Teaching should be more than just students repeating and regurgitating information back. Sometimes that is how it feels for me and I'm sure it is the same for other teachers. Welcome to the Rinkel Farm! As I was outside with the family the other evening, three cows appeared in our pasture (broke through the neighbor's fence). My 6 year old daughter, and 4 year old son, and I (being the cool dad I am) began "mooing" at them and within seconds they began to moo back. Isn't that exciting?? I moo and the cows respond the same way. This little episode reminded me of classrooms across America, even my classroom as I prepared students for state tests. We are teaching to standardized tests so we can meet government mandates. Some teachers continue teaching using methods of the 1970s lecturing and requiring students to respond back or regurgitate the material back. Teachers worldwide need to find ways to reach the students of today if they are to succeed in todays world. Instead of creating students who simply repeat the material back and forget it after the test, we need to create students who can critically think, communicate, collaborate, and be creative.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


At the Indianapolis 500 Time Trials, a great amount of risk is taken to secure the pole position for the greatest racing spectacle in the world. A lot can go wrong for a driver when they are circling the track at speeds of 224 miles per hour. Can risk be good in certain situations? When does risk become negative? Many people who have become successful have taken a risk with time or finances at some point. Risk is usually seen as bad v.s. good. Where do you draw the line? When does risk become negative instead of positive?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Awesome Teaching Tool...Flip Video Camera

I recently borrowed a Flip Video Camera from my brother to check out the quality and ease of use. I heard they were very reliable and compact, but I was concerned about the quality (video and audio). The three weeks I borrowed it, I am amazed with the quality. With all the trips I have planned this summer, I need something small. The camera is very compact, it will actually fit into your back pocket. I have a small camera case that my digital camera goes in and they both fit into it. It will definitely come in handy going through the airport. The previous blog on Competition has a video the flip camera shot. You can purchase the camera from anywhere between $89-$179. They also now have HD, but you'll spend over $200 for those models. In the near future, I hope to have some video-blogs posted using this camera. My mind has been going crazy lately thinking about all the things I can use the flip video camera in my classroom with. Writing prompts, video podcasts, short videos, short commercials, the list goes on and on.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Where's the competition?

To start, I may be a little off base here. I'm not really sure and I am NOT complaining...just curious. Now that I've added that disclaimer, here we go. I took my four year old son and five year old daughter to a community easter egg hunt. They had it at the convention center with other events. There were hundreds of people in attendance. The egg hunt was divided into age categories 3-4, 5-7, 8-10year olds. As the first hunt was about to start, the announcer said that each child was limited to five eggs. He then said that if your child does not receive five eggs, they just need to tell someone and they would be sure everyone received five eggs. What that tells me is, a kid can stand around and pick his nose, make no effort, and still get the same amount of eggs as a kid running his heart out, picking up the five eggs as fast as he can. I can remember hunting eggs when I was about 8. They turned you loose and it was every kid for himself. You were not guaranteed any certain number. If you ran into the bigger kids, sometimes they took your eggs, sometimes you got pushed down. My question is: what are we teaching our kids if they work hard and do more and receive the same reward as the kid who does nothing? It doesn't sound fair to me, but what is fair?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Role? Experiencing a lack of FOCUS...

As my second year of teaching comes to an end (7 weeks left), my eyes have continued to be opened with the challenges that plague education. We deal with lack of funding, lack of parental and administrative support, just to name a few. There are many people out their advocating for change in education, former Illinois Teacher of the Year Joe Fatheree and former California Teacher of the year Alan Sitomer to name two. At the end of year two, I’m beginning to question my role in education reform. Where should my focus be? A teacher can be pulled into so many directions. I want to be the most effective I can be, first and foremost in the classroom, but I also want to shape the field of education for the future. As I was reading today, I came across this quote by Robert Kennedy, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” I do not want to be the person who sees the problem and does nothing. People can sit around and complain all day, but change only occurs with action. I want to be the person who dreams and develops the vision and does the unimaginable…I’m just needing some help with focus.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Is globalization nothing new?

People have been sharing goods, services, and ideas for many years. It is much easier today, given the technology available to us. In Cohen and Kennedy's Global Sociology, they discuss major historic events and its relation to globalization. Since 1945, the United States has become the dominant power militarily and economically. My question is, if this idea of globalization is nothing new, why do a lot of people struggle with accepting it?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Witness to Student its best!

Last night, I witnessed a celebration of student achievement. In Effingham, Illinois, over 1000 people went to watch films produced by high school students. In addition to the high school films, a film done by a 4th grade student in Wisconsin and a first grade class in Alabama were awesome. It was amazing to see the crowd reaction and seeing the smiles of the students as their film was shown on the big screen. What I was impressed with most was their “people” skills as I met several of them at the seminars previous to the show. Their technology and storytelling ability was unbelievable. I am always thrilled to attend the AHA Film Festival and the seminars. The seminars this year were great. I was able to meet some great people and learn something from awesome teachers that I can apply in my classroom as I strive to be a better teacher. My students took a lot of information back and shared it with their classmates. They expressed to me several things where our school could improve and how the students could improve within the classroom. My students also touched on a real key issue. The community celebrated with the students on their achievements. Unfortunately, academics and the arts are not celebrated, which is where my students think we could improve. Great job Joe, Craig and the rest of the combined Multimedia class of Effingham and Teutopolis students! I’m looking forward to next years AHA Film Festival.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama's Education Policy Speech

President Obama made an important speech on March 10, 2009 dealing with the future of education. Obama's comment about parents responsibility is key. Teachers cannot do it alone. The issue that I don't necessarily agree with is the longer days/year. Our educational funding system is already broke. We have schools that are failing. How are we going to pay for a longer day and a longer year, if school districts are already struggling to pay the bills. In my district, some funds haven't been received, what good will a longer school day or year do? Our educational system needs an overhaul. About a week ago, President Obama said in a speech "The countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow." He also said... "Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish." These are huge obstacles our education system faces. Our students are no longer competing in a local market for jobs, they are competing globally. What we are doing now is not working. I believe it is time for an education revolution.

Transcript of Speech

Video of speech

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Four C's

Throughout my time in the business world 4-5 years, I was hired and saw people hired because they had the following qualities: 1) Critical thinking skills 2) Creativity 3) Collaboration 4) Communication skills

I tell my students everyday that I want them to understand the importance of these four elements. Everything I do in the classroom somehow relates to one of the four C's. Of course, there are other key elements employers look for, but I feel these are very important.

I personally want my students to be able to talk to an adult and explain their point of view. I want my students to be problem solvers. I want my students to be able to work with others. I want my students to be creative. None of these skills are tested on any high stakes test. So the question is: Do we want our students to be awesome at filling in bubbles on tests, or do we want our students competitive in the global market?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Is education a right?

Every child should have the right to learn. Lacking the skill of reading and writing doesn't get you very far in today's world. I feel education is a right or it should be. Unfortunately, in the United States and across the globe, education is valued differently. For lack of a better term, education is unfair or unequal. For example, in Illinois, some districts receive up to $24,000 per student, while other districts receive less than $6,000 per student. I'm sure this is way above the world average. I heard at a conference last year that in third world countries, specifically in Africa, young girls help their mothers gather water for the family, sometimes walking miles a day. This deprives them of an education, if schools are located near them. Here is a link to their website: Blood-Water Mission . One of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to “ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling” (United Nations Millennium Development Goals). I believe as a nation we are far from this goal, let alone the entire world. As I was researching, I came across this video my friend’s students put together with students from Los Angeles, California.

I believe education should be mandatory to a certain grade level. As the world grows more interconnected, it is crucial for students to be prepared for the global market. If they are not prepared for what awaits them outside the schoolhouse, I do not feel that I’ve done my job. I’m for equal and compulsory education for all.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dreamer v.s. Visionary

As I was reading the book Visioneering by Andy Stanley, I focused on the part of the chapter that compared the terms "Dreamer" and "Visionary". I have always been a huge dreamer, but after reading the book, I believe I'm a "visionary". The major difference between a dreamer and a visionary is ACTION. I can sit in my chair all day and think about making the world a better place, but unless I act on it, I'm just a dreamer. In December of 1955, at the age of 26, Martin Luther King Jr. became involved and began his stance for civil rights during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His work in Montgomery and his dream and desire became ACTION, making him a Visionary. His leadership changed history for millions of people. YOU have that ability and opportunity everyday. Transform your dreams into visions through ACTION...and you may change the world.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Who is up for a good challenge this year? Last year at this time, I was in the early stages of preparing for the Indianapolis 1/2 marathon. It proved to be very challenging after mile 11, when my leg cramped up and I could barely walk, let alone run. I finished, I was successful...I pushed forward. In less than 20 days, Predident-Elect Obama will take the oath of office to become the 44th President of the United States. What an honor! Mr. Obama will face many challenges this next four years. Just to name a few: 1) Economy 2) Afghanistan 3) Iraq 4) Israel/Gaza 5) India/Pakistan. His decisions could affect our nation for many years to come. The idea of "change" he campaigned on and won with, will hopefully happen. Since his historic win, a shadow has been casted in filling his former Senate seat in Illinois. President-Elect Obama needs to stay focused on the issue at hand and perservere through the trying times our nation faces, as another great president once did. Abraham Lincoln, also from Illinois, faced great trials, but brought people together to solve the problems (challenges) we faced as a nation.