Entertainment & Culture – School Outfitters Blog http://blog.schooloutfitters.com Furnishing Great Places To Learn Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:51:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 March 20th: A Day for Mister Rogers, Our Neighbors, My Short Story http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2015/03/march-20th-a-day-for-mister-rogers-our-neighbors-my-short-story/ http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2015/03/march-20th-a-day-for-mister-rogers-our-neighbors-my-short-story/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 11:02:18 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=3142 Source: pbs.org

Source: pbs.org

“It’s you I like.”
“We can sing together.”
“Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

These are the words of Fred McFeely Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. There are so many skillfully concise phrases that this wonderful man coined. Kindness, tolerance and togetherness were common themes of his long-standing PBS show (31 seasons to be exact). Rogers educated through his welcoming demeanor, his eloquence, his careful pace that catered to children. He always encouraged curiosity, sharing and reflection.

And March 20th is a great time to reflect. Why? Well, because it’s Fred Rogers’ birthday, which is “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day! Some people will wear sweaters to celebrate his memory. Some people will just be themselves, make a point to listen better to others or teach by example. Overall, it’s just about being a bit “Freddish,” which is how Kevin Morrison, the Fred Rogers Company’s Chief Operating Officer, refers to the organization’s instructional approach.

Mr. Rogers statue with knitted sweater

Source: aliciakachmar.com

If I was to reflect on the great Fred Rogers, I wouldn’t be able to share a special story about meeting him in person. I was never that lucky. Of course, along with so many other children over the years, I felt like I knew him because of what I saw on television. However, I was fortunate enough to meet one of his neighbors, so to speak.

In 2006, it was my second year at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a journalism major, I was enrolled in a public relations course to bolster my skills. I had a great professor that truly cared about the craft, and he wanted to share a local gem with us. So he invited David Newell to class—the Mr. McFeely from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Newell’s official title was actually “Director of Public Relations” for Family Communications, Inc. at the time, making him an excellent candidate to speak to our PR class. And while he’d never intended to be on any TV show when he started with the company, Rogers insisted, and the “speedy delivery” mail carrier became a regular on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Not surprisingly, the entire room of college students (only about 25 or 30) was probably more intrigued by the acting angle, but I digress.

Really, I don’t remember too much about Newell’s visit to our class. He shared some insightful ideas concerning his career, and what ours might hold in the future. However, to this day, nothing stuck with me more than what happened next. When Newell was done talking, I remember nobody leaving.

You see, Mr. McFeely was going to sign autographs. Some people might say, “Yeah, so what? Who cares?” He was a gray-haired gentleman (now in his 60s) who once wore a short-brimmed hat on a children’s program. But he was much more than that to all the people around me. So an entire classroom of 20-somethings waited in line—for just a brief handshake and a signed headshot—from what seemed to be a living, breathing childhood memory.

I like to think that David Newell/Mr. McFeely was our neighbor. We all saw him on TV when we were growing up. He delivered the mail to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and I guess was some sort of window to our past. Nostalgia, personified, spreading the educational merits of an old TV show.

Autographed Picture of Mr. McFeely

Source: My lovely apartment

The pen marks have already faded quite a bit. I’m not sure how long this memento will last. It reads “To Matthew, from Mr. McFeely” at the top. As you can see, the rest is far more legible. I bragged all day to my college-aged friends about this unexpected speaker. And almost 10 years later, I’m still telling the tale, still sharing that beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Everybody, have a great “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day this March 20th!

And here’s a few great songs to celebrate:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor (PBS)
Garden of Your Mind – Remixed (YouTube)
Sing Together – Remixed (YouTube)

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School Is Closed/Let it Snow/Just Don’t Go: Favorite Snow Day Videos http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2015/02/school-is-closedlet-it-snowjust-dont-go-favorite-snow-day-videos/ http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2015/02/school-is-closedlet-it-snowjust-dont-go-favorite-snow-day-videos/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:31:38 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=3095 With winter weather rearing its head – and the memories of last year’s brutal winter still a little too fresh – it’s become passé to simply announce your school closing on the bottom of a television screen or via a call on a telephone tree. Administrators and teachers are creating goofy, light-hearted song parodies to announce school closures and maybe, just maybe, earn some cred from their students. Here are a few of my favorites.

This video from Moses Brown School in Providence, R.I. has been making the rounds lately, and for good reason. This was not some spur of the moment video – after seeing the poor weather forecasted for the days ahead, the school’s director of communications and community engagement wrote a parody of “Let It Go,” scheduled days for shooting brought in vocal talent (the school’s choral director singing, with principal Matt Glendinning gamely lipsyncing along) and even threw in some greenscreen effects. It goes to show that principals love snow days as much as the rest of us, and that that song from Frozen isn’t going anywhere soon.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjE72Q8s8wo”]

Fremont Christian School in Michigan recruited faculty to sing and dance a choreographed routine their way through a “Party in the USA” and emphasized what snow days are really all about – sleeping in.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OMOObIsrBM”]

The “Rock Star Principals” in Downington, Penn, decided one song wasn’t good enough, so they created an entire medley. What these guys lack in singing talent they make up for in committing to a bit. As they say, “Let it snow / Let it snow / Our summer vacation is gone.”

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee2aSVzJvvY”]

Last year, this clip helped spawn the “snow day video” craze, with the Head of School and Assistant Head of School at Durham Academy in North Carolina parodying “Ice Ice Baby” (and giving a shout out to the US Winter Olympics team in the process). I can’t help but think these two have known the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” for a long time and were happy to put their ’90s rapping skills to use.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhtqjdUi0nw”]

And while it’s not a school closing announcement, if you haven’t seen this Cincinnati traffic reporter’s suggestion for what to do during terrible winter weather, it’s worth a look.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWw0WEtZJRQ”]

Has your school created a snow day video? Leave a link in the comments!

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Ushering in the ABCs http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/09/ushering-in-the-abcs/ Fri, 05 Sep 2014 21:31:55 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=2961 Let’s talk about the alphabet. It’s awesome! When you’re a little kid in school, you learn how to recognize the characters, write them and recite them. Later on, you discover all the cool words that can be constructed with just these 26 letters.

But first, you have to remember them. A-B-C-D-E-F-G… And everybody remembers the particular tune for their ABC song. Often it was nothing too fancy. When I was in preschool and kindergarten, my teachers sometimes even put their own twist on it. Designed as a fun vehicle for memorization, you’d happily practice it every day until you could deliver each consonant and vowel with confidence.

Fortunately, Usher lent his star power to the alphabet last year. The talented entertainer teamed up with a few fuzzy characters from Sesame Street to sing what is quickly becoming a classic (over 8 million plays on YouTube as of 9/5/2014). With creative wordplay and some smooth moves, he brings extra pizzazz to this educational exercise, encouraging his audience to “A! Move your arms. B! Bounce like a ball. C! Creep like a crustacean and do the crabby crawl.” Add the video to your early learning curriculum – and soon you might have a new favorite style for teaching the ABCs!

[su_youtube url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWvBAQf7v8g”]

3 Overlooked Education Documentaries http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/07/3-overlooked-education-documentaries/ Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:29:35 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=2920 We shared some of our favorite fictional depictions of teachers on film, but what about real life? Every teacher’s – and every student’s – experience is different. Recent documentaries like Waiting for Superman and American Teacher might have attracted a lot of buzz, but I wanted to share a few of my favorites you might overlooked.  Sure, a single documentary isn’t going to encapsulate everything about teaching. But these movies capture niches in the education system, from the adorable to the heartbreaking to the encouraging. Mad Hot Ballroom Mad Hot Ballroom I had to learn square dancing in fifth grade and I remember hating it. I hated the music, I hated having to dance with some boy in my class, I hated it because I was 11 and I thought I was too cool for square dancing. So a movie about fifth graders learning ballroom dance and enjoying it? Could there really be such a thing? Yes, and it’s called Mad Hot Ballroom. Beyond the sheer adorableness of watching school kids learn to ballroom dance, it’s heartening to see these fifth graders get excited about something they could easily write off as stodgy and boring (though, if you know anything about the rumba or merengue, you know ballroom dancing can be anything but). Seeing kids get so excited and dedicated to an art form really spoke to the arts lover in me. The Boys of Baraka The Boys of Baraka Within the first three minutes of The Boys of Baraka, middle school Baltimore boys crowded inside an auditorium are told what they already know: not all of them will graduate from high school and some of them will end up in prison or dead by the time they’re 18. But, each year, 20 of these boys are given the chance at a two-year stint at Baraka school in Kenya. It’s an opportunity to learn in an environment so far removed from the pressures of drugs, gangs and family drama that the boys can just concentrate on being boys in school. The young men have trouble adjusting to the new location, the new authority figures and each other, but after a while, most, if not all of them, make positive changes. Some of the biggest troublemakers turn into role models. “They said when I first got here, I was real smart. I am real smart, that’s what they said,” one student says in a video letter home, a smile on his face. “I didn’t even used to think that, but that’s what they said, I was smart.” It’s not all coming-of-age affirmations, there are a few crushing twists here. But all in all, it’s a great documentary about very young men who really want to do something with their lives. To Be and To Have To Be and To Have After teaching for twenty years, Georges Lopez is ready to retire. To Be and To Have chronicles his final year at a one-room schoolhouse in rural France, teaching students aged 4-12. Following this unique educator so closely gives the audience a nuanced look at how one person can shape students’ lives, and it’s never more apparent when the students tear up when saying goodbye at the end of the school year. Lopez speaks to his students using the Socratic Method to lead them to their own conclusions in lieu of a specific correct answer in a text book, and gives his students’ emotions the same validation he would for any adult. His teaching situation might resemble some American teachers’ daily work – it certainly doesn’t represent most – but the way educator Lopez shapes his students’ lives is inspirational, his desire to teach, universal.

Living History: One-Room Schoolhouses http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/07/living-history-one-room-schoolhouses/ http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/07/living-history-one-room-schoolhouses/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:34:50 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=2895 Schoolhouse
It can be startling to remember that the United States is a nation still in its adolescence. In less than 250 years, the rapid pace of development and change that has taken place is staggering. In this short period time, Americans have managed to build lives and communities, even in the most far-flung and rugged locations.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, one-room schoolhouses were a prominent part of almost all burgeoning towns. A single teacher was responsible for the education of all the children in the area, and taught every level in one shared space. In our 21st century minds, it’s easy to consider the concept of a one-room schoolhouse as nothing more than a charming novelty on the timeline of American public education. However, you might be surprised to learn that in rural parts of the country, the tradition of one-room schoolhouses is alive and well.

A recent newscast of CBS’s Sunday Morning highlighted the experiences of modern teachers and students who still gather each day in one-room schoolhouses. While it certainly requires a unique person to take on the job of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, these educators are making the tradition work in our thoroughly modern world. For a peek inside their unique experiences, take a few minutes to watch the segment below.

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Summer Reading for Teachers http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/06/summer-reading-for-teachers/ http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/06/summer-reading-for-teachers/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 15:51:27 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=2886 Far From The Tree
For millions of kids, teenagers and adults across the nation, reading a good book is an essential part of the summer. Whether it’s a student working through a reading list for next year’s classes, a teacher keeping up with the latest educational techniques or simply a breezy novel just for fun, it seems almost everyone finds time to read. With that in mind, here are some of my book recommendations to think about during the summer:


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
(five-book trilogy)
by Douglas Adams
–          A genius blend of science-fiction of satire, these books are legendary but still under-read. Even though a five-book trilogy may sound like a time commitment, each of these novels are quick reads that you’ll want to finish just to hear all the punchlines.


Brave New World
By Aldous Huxley
–          The story of a future where everyone is addicted to anti-depressants and society is genetically pre-determined, the future of humanity seems dim. Although you may think of this one as boring, or a book you might assign a student to read, the truth is that Huxley’s vision of the future is both entertaining and frighteningly more accurate with every passing year.


The Phantom Tollbooth
By Norton Juster
–          A bored kid named Milo journeys to a world where he goes on a quest to save the Kingdom of Wisdom and learns the value of his own mind. You might think of this just as a children’s book, and while it’s true that the book was written with kids in mind, the audience is much wider. Read this one for nostalgia and for enjoyment of puns, reading, writing and comedy.


Harry Potter (seven book series)
By J. K. Rowling
–          While it’s likely that you’ve read all seven of these books already, rereading old favorites can be one of the best things about summer. This series hasn’t lost any of its charms in the time since publication, and while the movies are certainly fun, nothing beats reading the originals. Is there a better time than summer to read about the battle between good and evil, and the future of the wizarding world?



Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
–          If you’re an introvert, you may have already read this book, but for those who aren’t familiar, it’s a must-read. Author Susan Cain dives into the differences between introverts and extroverts and examines the way society often revolves around the expectation that everyone should be outgoing, friendly and assertive.


Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity
by Andrew Solomon
–          This book focuses on many of the unusual traits and characteristics that children cope with and how families deal with these differences. Solomon devotes each chapter to a specific trait, like dwarfism, deafness or schizophrenics, and focuses on specific families that have dealt with these issues. Both thought-provoking and engaging, the stories will deepen your understanding of these complex issues.


For more summer reading recommendations, check out these sites:
National Education Association

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Believing in Magic http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/05/believing-in-magic/ Mon, 05 May 2014 14:40:22 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=2857 Gabriel García Márquez

Much has been said, in the wake of his death several weeks ago, of Gabriel García Márquez. Even if you’ve not read any of his works, you’re likely familiar with his legacy of magical realism – and if you’re not, the concept is easy to understand: Magical realism tells stories of the world we know, and inserts bits of absurdity, fantasy or impossibility – of magic. As readers, we are drawn in, entranced with a universe so close but just out of reach. And as writers, we are allowed to make sense of a world which often seems incomprehensible.

Rebecca Alber describes the way magical realism reached her creative writing class in a way traditional writing – like The Hobbit – could not: “I had followed the hunch that this mysteriously weird yet touching story would pique the ninth- and tenth-graders’ interests. It did.” She goes on to explain that the short story, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” “served as a mentor text. In their writing, students embraced the literary elements García Márquez used to take his audience on a ride filled with imagery that dripped from all sides of the page.” It makes sense that the genre resonates with teenagers; whether through religion, rebellion, or magical realism, adolescence is all about turning experience into something we can understand or control – or even make better: “one student, Ramon, wrote about a very real situation in his apartment complex where a man would frequently yell at his wife and all the people living in the building felt sorry for the woman and concerned. In his story, Ramon described how the woman discovered she was telepathic and was able to see her husband’s temper floating above his head before he’d lose it. She left him quickly after that, using her telepathic powers as she traveled throughout the country with “Mind Reader for Hire” painted on the side of her van.”

If you choose to inspire your students’ writing through magical realism, take a bit of advice from the master. When asked in an interview with The Paris Review about his use of detail, Márquez responded, “if you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants flying in the sky, people will probably believe you… I remember particularly the story about the character who is surrounded by yellow butterflies… when I was writing this, I discovered that if I didn’t say the butterflies were yellow, people would not believe it… That’s how I did it, to make it credible. The problem for every writer is credibility. Anybody can write anything so long as it’s believed.”

Using Pop Culture in the Classroom http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/01/using-pop-culture-in-the-classroom/ Thu, 23 Jan 2014 21:10:43 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=2577 Beatles Rigby
Everyone remembers their coolest teachers. Cool teachers are always relatable, interested in their students’ passions and (for the most part) totally in control of their classrooms.

One of the coolest classroom experiences in my life came on the first day of a poetry class I took in college. For many people – including me – poetry feels intimidating and foreign. The professor was fully aware this disconnect existed for many of his students, so he eased us into the material via a medium we were comfortable with: pop music. Instead of using that all-important first day to comb through an overwhelming syllabus, or jumping straight into Shakespeare’s sonnets, we listened to music. Specifically, we listened to the Beatles. With the timeless lyrics to Eleanor Rigby in front of us, we listened – sang along at some points – and analyzed. By the end of that first class, we were ready, excited even, to make the small leap from lyric analysis to poetic analysis. I’ve often looked back and appreciated that instructor’s deep understanding of his students and his job as an educator.

Truly cool teachers know what my professor knew: it’s important to weave students’ interests into assignments and class discussions. Presenting material in a context that matters to students is a win-win, and making pop culture a mainstay of your teaching is a great way to start. The links below provide resources and ideas to help you connect with your students in ways that appeal to them.

– For a friendly nudge and helpful hints on incorporating pop culture in your classroom, check out this short read from OnlineUniversities.com.

EdWeek offers some ideas about specific lesson plans that include social networking and other online resources that students likely already use on their own.

– Read this Edutopia blogger’s perspective on using pop culture to inspire elementary-aged writers.

Making Curriculum Pop is a resource-sharing community for teachers. This is a    great corner of the web that relies on teachers sharing ideas and online clips that really resonate with students.

Are you a cool teacher? Share your ideas and great resources below.


Teachers on Film http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/01/teachers-on-film/ http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/2014/01/teachers-on-film/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 22:29:28 +0000 http://blog.schooloutfitters.com/?p=2548 As I see it, there are two sides of teaching: the objective side and the subjective side. Objectively, teachers impart knowledge on their students, helping them learn about measurable things like reading, math, science and social studies. But, subjectively speaking, teachers can have impacts that are felt in ways they may never even know about. Inspiration, perseverance, optimism; these are traits that many kids don’t get a taste of at home, and having a teacher who cares even a little bit can make the difference.

Movies can give us great examples of these sorts of teachers, so I thought I’d share my personal favorite depictions of teachers on film. The settings range from urban to rural, and while some of them are sentimental, some of them are funny and some are over-the top, all of them share one thing: a teacher who changes lives.

As I see it, there are two sides of teaching: the objective side and the subjective side. Objectively, teachers impart knowledge on their students, helping them learn about measurable things like reading, math, science and social studies. But, subjectively speaking, teachers can have impacts that are felt in ways they may never even know about. Inspiration, perseverance, optimism; these are traits that many kids don’t get a taste of at home, and having a teacher who cares even a little bit can make the difference.

Movies can give us great examples of these sorts of teachers, so I thought I’d share my personal favorite depictions of teachers on film. The settings range from urban to rural, and while some of them are sentimental, some of them are funny and some are over-the top, all of them share one thing: a teacher who changes lives.

Stand and Deliver
Stand and Deliver – Teaching calculus to inner-city LA students might seem impossible, but this movie, based on the true story, shows that it can be done.


Dead Poet's Society
Dead Poets Society – Probably the most famous film example of the inspirational effect that a teacher can have on a classroom. Robin Williams is at his dramatic best here, promoting the value of ideas and conviction of your beliefs to a group of middle school boys who’ve never heard anything like it.


Fast Times and Ridgemont High
Fast Times at Ridgemont High – Odd choice for this list? Not exactly. Everyone remembers slacker Jeff Spicoli, but the turning-point intervention by his “uptight” teacher Mr. Hand is a non-flashy, positive role that stuck with me.


October Sky
October Sky –The story of Homer Hickam and his group of friends who strive to do more than be coal-miners is a true crowd-pleaser, but this real-life story never would have begun if not for the motivation of his teacher, Miss Riley.


Remember the Titans
Remember the Titans – Even though this one is obviously a “football” movie, the deeper themes of teamwork, equality and leadership made this appeal to a larger crowd. Denzel Washington’s performance as the head coach speaks volumes about the impact a great educator can have.


Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting – The teacher/student relationship takes on a more singular focus in this one, once again showing how a wiser, older voice can help guide those in need of help.


School Out Rock
School of Rock – Another unconventional entry on this list. You may think Jack Black’s fake substitute character is a horrible role model, and you’d be right in most cases, but he does inspire a passion for music in his pupils, and getting kids to be passionate about something is a major priority for most teachers.


Mr Holland's Opus
Mr. Holland’s Opus – A melancholy tale, but inspirational in the end. An aspiring composer takes a job as a high-school music teacher, where over the years he comes to feel frustrated, ineffectual and unappreciated. However, in the twilight of his career, his former students show him just how much his attention and influence has meant to them.


Kindergarten Cop
Kindergarten Cop – Though this might be stretch, I think Schwarzenegger’s role as an undercover kindergarten teacher really demonstrates how hard it is to teach young kids. The film captures the controlled chaos that is a kindergarten classroom, which gave me a bigger appreciation for the brave teachers who tackle the challenge. Plus, it’s hilarious.


Sister Act 2
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit – Yet another comedy film that still manages to capture the incredible importance of a good teacher. Even though this movie isn’t perfect, it makes a powerful point: a dedicated teacher can change the course of their students’ lives.

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