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Showing posts from 2016

Twelve Little Gifts, Thirteen Melted Hearts

My 8th period Spanish 1 class keeps me on my toes; I’ve determined that we are together at the end of the day, not for Spanish (though we do that, too), but for “Life”. Twelve young men and women and I are learning how to navigate life together, facing our difficulties and finding ways to overcome them.
We learn how to behave in a classroom setting. It should be obvious, but I’m learning not to assume. What is most important, and why? How does your behavior affect your academic success? How does your behavior affect others?
We learn how to work with each other, and this requires extensive training. At times it’s like “Boot Camp”: training, retraining, practice, retraining, a few more gray hairs, practice, retraining, repeat. This is how you ensure that everyone can take part This is how you express opinion without tearing down your classmate This is WHY you learn to work with others
We learn the importance of completing tasks, and completing them well. Responsibility is learned, not ingra…

Yawn, Fidget, Cringe: "Professional Development"?

We've all been there: yawning, fidgeting, cringing--it's "Professional Development"!
On many occasions I have suffered through "Professional Development," and on other occasions I was the one inflicting the suffering. Professional development isn't always bad, boring or irrelevant; sometimes it's downright fascinating! Regardless of the quality, we all have a responsibility to put the "Professional" in the "Development".
How should we treat "Professional Development"?
Administrators and Professional Development Planners:
Refrain from using PD as a punitive measure. If you have staff members with "issues," address these individually; don't create a PD to blanket the entire staff with topics meant for one or two.Communication is essential; no one should have to guess why this PD is taking place. Well ahead of time, clearly articulate what you are asking staff to learn/do, and why. Is this something required by t…

Forging Friendships and Unity

"You know, SeƱora, we are all friends today because you made us work together."
There have been times that I have despaired. The students assigned to my class came unwillingly, unhappily. At times they were hostile, and sometimes even violent--throwing both insults and fists. They didn't like themselves, didn't like each other, didn't like Spanish, didn't like school. I felt like a lone firefighter, rushing in different directions to extinguish one flame after another.
Each year's classes and students are unique. Each class develops a personality as it develops a routine. It's my responsibility to shape that identity, and it takes conscious effort and determination.

Students gravitate toward their friends and toward classmates with whom they have the most in common--don't we all? If I let them, the students would choose partners at the beginning of the school year and they would never change. Some students would never work with anyone, choosing to…

Twitter for Education? Yes!

I was not a Twitter fan.  In a graduate class about technology in education I was required to make an account and find people to follow. At that time, I felt overwhelmed with Twitter's immensity, and underwhelmed by the posts that I found. Consequently, the account sat idle after fulfilling the course requirements.

Two years later I attended the Pennsylvania Keystones Technology Innovators Summit, and there began to discover Twitter's value. I found passionate educators who shared resources, experiences and inspiration, and I experienced Twitter chats about educational topics. This was a turning point in my professional development and in my view of "frivolous" social media. 

I developed a PLN (professional learning network), and that group of people and organizations helped to increase my desire to learn and grow, to take risks and try new things, to reflect and to share my reflections. 

Two years later (that's pretty funny, right?) I finally gathered enough bol…

Am I holding their hands or holding them accountable?

I have had quite an adventure with my ninth graders this year! I think that I have learned more from them than they have from me...or perhaps just as much.

There is a lot of debate regarding homework: some believe that it should no longer be assigned because students' home lives are such that homework isn't a priority and assigning it is penalizing them. Others (myself included) contend that homework serves useful purposes: reviewing material outside of class, practicing skills, developing independence and responsibility.

I try to make the homework short, worthwhile, focused, attainable. For my 9th graders, a typical homework assignment can be completed in 5-15 minutes. It may be the ONLY time that they actually "study" material outside of my class.

But, homework completion was at an all-time low this year, with only 1 or 2 students completing each assignment. Many students regularly forgot, lost it, or didn't care to try. They were not worried about a grade pena…

Turning Corners in My Teaching Career

I have to admit that somewhere in my teaching career I turned a corner. Twice.

It’s not that I don’t love Spanish any more; I love language and the logic behind it. I love discovering new words and connections to other words, and I love when the lights come on for students. Teaching Spanish is fun!
At some point, I realized that I love teaching. It doesn’t matter the subject (gasp), I just love helping others learn. And I think it shows. It’s exciting and I like to share that excitement. Reading books, attending training sessions, reading educator and administrator blogs, listening to other teachers-all of these are thrilling and inspiring. I love to learn new ways to teach, and I love to experiment. Teaching is fun!
In an ideal world, I can go to work each day and have the time of my life. There are new lessons to craft, and old lessons to tweak. My “unread bookshelf” is full and I am reading any number of books all at the same time.
Back in the real world, some days are…

"Happy" is a Choice

My last class of the day is Spanish 1. It's really small, just 14 ninth graders. During class each day I try to make sure that I speak repeatedly with each of them, both about class topics and about personal ones. As class began on the first day after Christmas vacation, I circulated the room checking materials (more on this in a subsequent post), and inquiring about the students' vacation and current condition.

Carmen still hasn't let down her guard and doesn't fully trust me yet. Sometimes I see a little relaxing, but most of the time her defenses are high, her answers are terse, and her attitude is combative. When I approached her desk, she showed me her materials, handed me two late assignments, and asked,

"Why are you always so happy?"
Quickly I responded, "I love my job and I love my students. Why wouldn't I be happy?"

She shook her head and didn't say anything back to me, though when I walked away I heard her recalling grumpy teachers…