Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Overflowing decor



Classroom decor took a back seat this past school year. Documenting the classroom decor barely happened. These few pictures are all that I have for what the classroom looked like and I am okay with that. The attention that is put on how a classroom looks is a tad bit much...it's a classroom people. Desk, chairs, books, people, not much has changed unless you factor in technology. 

As you can see in the picture I do not keep my lights on, but light my classroom with lamps placed around the room. Lights make a major difference. Lower lights create a calm and welcoming environment. 



If I am going to focus on one aspect of classroom decor I will focus on organization and words of advice. Since I spend so much time in my classroom I want it to feel like home. The words of encouragement are a nice reminder for students as well as myself to be kind and take risks. The bulletin boards were covered using a geographical dictionary pages and that's it. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

The unbelievable

Students often question why I take pictures of what happens in the classroom and my response is because no one will believe these types of things happen in a classroom. Therefore I need to gather evidence to prove that such shenanigans occur in today's classroom. Case in point. A student did not have a normal size pencil so he decided to pull out this jumbo pencil and complete his work with. Might I add that this pencil required him to use a pair of scissors to sharpen. You see these are the things that people outside of school will not believe.  Here I am teaching a normal lesson about the Dust Bowl and what do I see from the corner of my eye but an enormous pencil being used. For those that are wondering the student did proceed to use this larger than life pencil to complete this assignment even though he was offered multiple normal size pencils. In fact, he continued to use this jumbo pencil for the next few weeks. I do not blame him, this pencil will most likely see him through high school. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

A year in review

Year six is in the books. This year was a nice change from the first five years of teaching. I taught two 8th grade English classes filled with a mix of gen. ed. and ESE students. I was given the opportunity to co-teach 7th grade English this year which was a wonderful experience. Co-teaching is a lot like parenting. Instead of two parents you have two teachers in the classroom. Students are interesting when they are trying to figure out this way of teaching. They often ask who is the actual teacher. For some odd reason they find it strange that there needs to be two teachers instead of one. We never really told them the real reason for why there must be two teachers. One is for the general education students and the other one is for the special education students. A couple students take having two teachers as an advantage. For example, if I say you cannot use the restroom they will wait two minutes (or two seconds) to ask Ms. C if they can use the restroom. Both of our responses are the same. This scenario is depicted in the picture. I just told a student no for getting a drink and then once I turn around he decides to ask Ms. C for a drink...the response was also no. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pass the papers


My least favorite classroom chore is passing back student papers. It's time consuming and half the contents get thrown in the trash once they reach the owner's hands. I devised a system that is working quite well, much to my delight. It's simple and quick. 
Here is the breakdown to painless paper pass out
1. assign each student a number
2. collect student's graded work in a bin (not pictured)
3. when a student is done early have them sort through graded papers 
4. student uses chart that goes with the numbers
5. student files paper in bin
6. presto student's work are neatly filed for them to look at

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Know your audience

The time is approaching when black square hats will fly through the air. Numerous countdowns have surely begun. For graduation day is sooner than it appears. Oh what nerves and excitement emerge on this glorious day. Whether you are about to enter the Ivy League or step foot down a career path here is one piece of advice I would offer you: 
Know your audience. 
Being aware of your potential employer's or professor's take on life  will come in handy. Be an observer and a listener. Notice the words and actions that occur regularly. If you pick up that they are a positive person and stay away from criticism; perhaps you should lower your dosage of negativity. Even if you are complaining about who got kicked off of American Idol. I guess you can say starting a new career or education is like dating. Ease into the relationship. Get to know who you will now start to spend the majority of your time with. Do you have to become their clone? Absolutely not. Be your own person. Just be aware of your new surrounding and watch your Ps & Qs. I will leave you with something I tell my students on repeat: Act like a decent human being.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The outcomes of no change

I came across this quote a while ago and it made me stop and think. 
"If you focus on outcomes you will never change. If you focus on change you will get outcomes." 

Outcomes come slowly to begin with. But they will never come if we do not change. As a teacher I wait for those numbers to start pouring in over the summer. Ah standardized test scores. How glorious and nerve wrecking at the same time. Will the outcomes be what we aimed for all year? There are always let downs and surprises that come out of this discovery.

What I have been wrestling with this year is the quote above. The outcomes of these new common core state test scores seem to be a mystery not to mention how they will affect teachers and students is relatively unknown. Because these two factors are not chiseled out in stone the outcomes are taking a back seat this year. It's not that I'm ignoring potential outcomes; I just do not know what these outcomes are nor how they will affect others.

 Change has played a major role in teaching this year. The old test has retired and a new kid is on the block. Hello Florida State Assessment. Our song and dance for the FCAT is out dated. Causing us to develop new tricks in order to impress Mr. FSA.

 It's like going on a blind date. I am unaware what this person will find admirable. So what do you do in this type of situation? You change because quite frankly there is nothing else you can do. Change your clothes, jewelry and slap on a fresh color of polish because you have a boy to impress. Unfortunately this so called boy comes in the form of a test and could care less what you look like. Unless you are clumsy and some how mess up this computer based test by exiting before you were told to. So here's to the year of change. May the outcomes be ever in our favor. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The correct way to say NO

This is the exact response I received from a student when asked to complete a classroom assignment. I believe the typical teacher would of been irritated by this refusal. I on the other hand was impressed by their creativity. There is a part of me that should of been annoyed that they misused paper and tape, but all I could do was sit back and be amazed. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

For the love of smart phones

Allow or not to allow that is the question when cell phones enter the classroom. Until recently I was not a huge fan of using cell phones in the classroom. Perhaps it was the group of students I was teaching, but this year these little devices have come in handy in more ways than one. 

Every student has access to a free agenda at the beginning of the year to record important tests, projects and assignments. I have yet to come across a student who actually uses their agenda for the purpose they were designed for. At the end of the day they are a glorified hall pass. Teaching students to use their agenda appropriately can be compared to teaching them a foreign language. 

Part of each classes routine is to fill in the lessons objective in their agenda for the day. To be honest having them write the lessons objective is insurance on my behalf. First of all I can skip the silly lesson objective opener that educators are supposed to include each day. "Now today students the objective is to comprehend the stories theme..." Second of all I can go back and show them that they were in fact taught figurative language even though they claim they were not taught this concept. Sure they grumble about filling in their agendas, but it is part of the education game so we play along. 

I do not make them write their homework in their agenda because I know and they know that they will not remember to complete their homework by writing in their agendas. Instead I have resorted to them taking a picture of their homework and making it their lock screen on their phone or tablet. And you want to know something. They remember to complete their homework when it is plastered to the front of their phone compared to hidden in their agenda. I believe the good ole' fashioned agenda days are numbered. 

Not only do smart phones ease the pain of remembering homework, but writing essays as well. It was only a matter of time before a student turned in their essay on a phone and not an actual piece of paper. To make this even better this argumentative essay was on if cell phones should be allowed in the classroom. Oh the irony. 


Friday, March 6, 2015

Fearless fighter

A classroom consists of two main objects: teacher(s) and students
Day in and day out these two objects work hand in hand
 The schedule rarely changes
Students walk through a doorway on an hourly basis
Papers shuffle
Dull pencils are replaced with sharp points
The fearless fighter takes the stage 
 A performance is about to begin that their audience must comprehend

Hiding all worries and stress the fearless fighter lays out what is before them
Throughout the performance it is clear that things aren't going according to the plan 
The projector stops working
There's not enough copies
The amount of blank stares indicates there needs to be a swift change
Forever fearless the fighter marches on 

With an untrained eye this might go unnoticed for the fearless fighter is a master 
Not wavering with what their audience brings into the classroom 
They stay true to the course for they know what is at stake
Futures are built and molded within these walls
The fearless fighter will never give up
Defeat is not an option
Fighting for their audience is where their passion lies
For they are fearless

These daily performances are rarely seen by a majority of the world and yet we have all sat in these seats. No stage is needed and adoring fans do not ask for our autographs. There will be no write up in the local newspaper about how marvelous the act was. 
A small handful of individuals are its daily audience. 
Day in and day out the routine is nearly the same. 
Teachers and students working hand in hand. 
For they too are fearless fighters.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Looking in the mirror

I've always been perplexed by the double standard of being a teacher. There seems to be a microscope that pops out and examines various aspects of our lives at any given moment. If we say or do something that is less than teacherish we get our hand slapped. There is very little room for errors because we live our lives in the spotlight whether we like to admit it or not. I've been told on numerous occasions to not be seen in local bars or to be walking into a certain movie at a theater, looking at a type of book in a bookstore and even watch what I write about. You never know how people will interpret words, what eyes will see or what ears will hear.

To make matters worse we are expected to act like good little soldiers. New mandates and latest trends in education flood our classrooms on a yearly basis with little input from educators regarding these changes. You will hear very few teacher complain about these new standards as a whole, but behind closed doors eyes are rolling.

For the most part I don't mind being held to higher standards. I'm a rule follower. I put my students first and know what is best for them. Sometimes I just wish I was treated like an adult and not a student.

Know that I write my post in an honest manner. I am not here to offend anyone or any institution. I am just exercising my freedom of speech. After all that's the beauty of teaching in America.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Broken essays

A couple of weeks ago I was leading up to students writing an essay on a story's theme based on Gary Soto's memoir one last time. The end result of all this work would have them write their own memoir where they would have to pick a them for their own life.

We were in the process of analyzing Soto's memoir, breaking down the plot line discussing possible themes and providing evidence that back up what they were saying. 

I was asking a lot of them. Each day I would reveal a new assignment that would cause them to go deeper into Soto's memoir. For the most part students were going along with the plan. But there was this small group of students that we're starting to grumble.

Their grumbling would intensify each day as a new challenging assignment was given. Until one day a student's head was slowly lowered and stayed there the entire class period. A complete system shut down occurred with this student. I observed from afar until it came time to see if I could intervene in any way. Turns out I couldn't. The class ended and this student went on the merry little way.

The next day I investigated as to why this student completely shut their door on me. You want to know why they decided to lay their head on the desk? I was giving them too much work to complete. I like to call this scenario 'earning my paycheck' I love when students ask why I make things so challenging.  That's part of the job description to challenge their brains.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Unicorn student

You know those students that are beyond amazing. The ones that complete an assignment before it is even given. They catch mistakes and serve as a second teacher in the classroom. Earning anything less than an A is out of the picture. You know the type. They don't come around often but when they do its a sight to see. These students are about as common as a unicorn.

 I have had the privilege of having such students in my class. I marvel at their unbelievable talent to make anything they do look effortless. The funny thing is, they don't brag about their amazingness and the other students don't despise them for being overwhelmingly awesome. How can anyone not gaze in amazement when a unicorn is in their presence. 

I will admit there are times when these unicorn students should just teach the class and I will play student for the day. I do not hesitate to have them assist other students who are having difficulty. Perhaps a small percentage of my paycheck should go to them.

I want to be them when I grow up.
Yes, I know this is not a unicorn. 
It's a miniature elephant. 
Also as rare as a unicorn

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Losing Focus

It's easy to lose focus in the classroom. From state assessments, data collection, formal observations and common core curriculum. With everything that is shoved our direction educators can lose focus on why we entered the classroom in the first place. 

To regain our true purpose in the classroom perhaps we need to examine those that warm our desks on a daily basis. I know when I become overwhelmed with my ever growing to do list I literally glance across my room and all the noise in the background disappear as I am reminded that I am in the classroom for my students. 

I am not a teacher so I can perfectly administer a state test, put on a dog and pony show for an observation, get caught up with all the latest technology trends, create a perfect IEP, earn a highly effective rating on my evaluation or collect never ending data. I am in the classroom for my students and that's it.

I believe when students are put first in the classroom everything else falls into place. Does this always work, no. But I'd rather put them first then put them last. When we lose focus on who our students are and who they are becoming then the joy of teaching vanishes. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

The year of change

Impending doom greeted me the morning of 2014. I affectionately gave 2014 a name "the year of change." A great deal of shifting occurred in my life this past year; more so than in all the other past years. 2014 brought on a change in scenery which proved to be a breathe of fresh air. It brought me back to the city I love, refreshed my walk with the Lord and introduced me to new relationships. As each month of 2014 passed the doom slowly faded into hope as I was once again reminded that I worship a God that never leaves me and prepares a path for me. There is no name for 2015 thus far. Only time will tell what this year will unfold.

Two things I am not fond of:
1. Talking about myself 
2. Getting sentimental. 
The fact that I was able to peck out these couple of sentences is a tiny miracle

Friday, October 10, 2014

Adapters

I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of people when it comes to change. Those that adapt and those that complain. Complaining keeps things consistent for the most part; while adapting allows room for growth. Don't get me wrong consistency is nice, but growing isn't all that bad either. I hope I am one who adapts to change. I sure have experienced some change these last couple of months. With common core shenanigans, switching counties and schools, adjusting to a new form of teaching and living in a new city. Change is part of my daily schedule. Complaining about it's recurrence will only make matters worse. If you are going to refuse to adapt to change then do it quietly because the sound of complaining can become quiet draining. 

Here's a tip. Try smiling when change happens. It's hard to be in an awful mood when there's a smile plastered on your face.