Thursday, August 25, 2016

Great Teacher Resources – iCivics.org by Mike Siekkinen

If you’re teaching history, civics, or government, have you heard of iCivics.org? It’s great, and I use it with my students.

iCivics is a non-profit organization dedicated to reinvigorating civic learning through interactive and engaging learning resources. Founded and led by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, iCivics provides students with the tools they need for active participation and democratic action, and teachers with the materials and support to achieve this. The site has educational games that my students love playing. Games vary from having students take on the role of the President of the United States, making decisions as well as working with all the different departments in Washington, to running a law firm where students match lawyers and clients cases learning the Bill of Rights. There are also games showing what happens during a jury trial and demonstrates how local government works.

The site is free and also has loads of teacher materials. In addition to lesson plans, there’s a section on webquests covering multiple topics. Also available are entire teaching units on multiple subjects as well as access to source documents. There’s a search engine on the site where you can select your state and by standard, icivics will display which games and areas tailor specifically to your state’s standards. I encourage you to check out this free, interactive, fun and informative site that students love. I have been using this for a number of years and my students really enjoy it! It’s also available on multiple platforms (internet, IPAD's, Chromebooks, etc.) so it’s easy to get to no matter what kind of technology your school is using.

If you’ve tried iCivics, what do you think of it?



Dr. Mike Siekkinen, a retired U.S. Navy submariner, became a teacher as a second career. He teaches history at St Marys Middle School as well as Adult and Career Education at Valdosta State in Georgia.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Are You Stressing? – by Lindell Long

Are you stressing? I am not talking about grading deadlines, or extra forms to fill out on every student you have ever worked with, I am taking about stressing or emphasizing your words.

I teach ESOL students who often put the emphasis on the wrong word in a sentence, changing the meaning totally from what was intended. In order to help them realize how this works, I shared this simple exercise with mainstream teachers to help students during their classes.

Here are the same sentences with the same words in the same order, however, in changing the word that is stressed in the sentence, the meaning will be changed.

The sentence is "This is my black cat."

THIS is my black cat. (This cat right here...not that one over there.) This IS my black cat.(Are you doubting me? It is a certainty.) This is MY black cat. (I own this cat...no one else does) This is my BLACK cat. (Not my red cat or my gray cat.) This is my black CAT. (Not my dog or parakeet.)

Simple sentences can be used to show emphasis and what the meaning the speaker is trying to get across. With all of the debates on television, it would be interesting to have students listen to the speeches and see how well the candidates did in emphasizing the proper words.


Lindell Long teaches ESOL at Clover Middle and High Schools in Clover, South Carolina, a position she’s held for the last 18 years. She’s married with 4 children and so many pets her family fears she’ll bring home a stray yak one day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Teaching – My Second Career by Mike Siekkinen

I became a teacher as a second career. As a retired military man, I had the opportunity to teach in the Navy on two separate shore duty assignments. I taught both enlisted and officers on subjects ranging from leadership, procedures to operate complex electronic systems and submarine navigation. Having enjoyed teaching, I thought the next logical step was to teach when retiring from the Navy.



I had a baptism of fire, so to speak, with regards to entering public education. Having completed all of the requirements to become a public school teacher, minus student teaching, I was hired to teach 8th grade history at a nearby middle school. I had high expectations and was excited to begin teaching. I thought with my teaching experience, quick wit and humor (I could always make people laugh), that teaching "kids" would be a breeze. I envisioned the students "flocking" to me and sitting at my feet while I filled their heads with knowledge and they walked away smiling and thanking me. Looking back, I call this my "kumbaya" teaching fantasy.

Real life teaching was not quite like I thought it would be. Many times I thought "What have I gotten myself into?" that first year. But you learn, sometimes by the mistakes that you make. You do have those moments when everything works that you try and before you know it the year is over. It gets easier for most of us and you find your strengths and weakness and what you can do best. Don't be discouraged, most of us "make it out alive!” The second (and then third, fourth, etc.) years are easier and keep getting better!

How did you come to teaching?



Dr. Mike Siekkinen, a retired U.S. Navy submariner, became a teacher as a second career. He teaches history at St Marys Middle School as well as Adult and Career Education at Valdosta State in Georgia.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Advice to New Teachers by Mike Siekkinen

Welcome, new teachers! We’re glad to have you “in the trenches” with us. You’ll probably receive “loads” of advice. Most veteran teachers want to help you and one of those ways is to advise you about how they do things.

Just remember that they will tell you often what works for them. This does not always mean it will work for you. With that being said, let me give you some (more!) advice that can save you. One of the biggest things about being a teacher is keeping track of all of the things occurring with your students/parents and administration. You can quickly become overloaded with all of the requirements/forms/contacts you will be required to keep track of. The start of school this year, I was required to send home for signature or just information, 10 separate items for each student. Each of these completed forms needed to be alphabetized and compiled and then sent to a different person within our school. Come up with a file system that works for you. This could be an accordion folder, separate file folders, a desk drawer where you put all of these type of documents or whatever "works" for you.

The next phase of this will be student work. How will you keep track of it? Where will it be turned in and what do you do when it is graded? Think about these things, try something and if it doesn't work, try something else. Just don't "quit trying". Your first year is the roughest, just hold on for the ride! It will and does get easier as your "teacher bag of tricks" gets fuller and you “survive" that first formidable year.

New teachers, do you have anything you need to know about? Veteran teachers, any specific advice to share with the new teachers?




Dr. Mike Siekkinen, a retired U.S. Navy submariner, became a teacher as a second career. He teaches history at St Marys Middle School as well as Adult and Career Education at Valdosta State in Georgia.