Monday, August 17, 2015

Teacher summers

If I said it once I've said it twice. I am not a fan of summer time. I feel lost. Adjusting to this down time is foreign. From August to May my life is non-stop and then summer hits and everything halts. I forced myself to actually rest this summer. Truly enjoy resting. I know this sounds odd, but I have never been a fan of assigned vacation time. Well, the time has come to rejoin the "adult" world and I could not be happier. So long teacher summer. I will see you again soon. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Classroom decor advice

I am not one to re-decorate my whole classroom year after year nor do I want to pour unlimited amount of money into my classroom. So here is a list of what to do with your classroom.
1. Lighting: I really hate ceiling lights. IKEA is the place to go for classroom lighting.
2. Colors: Have them, but select a few. There is no need to incorporate the entire rainbow in your classroom...a tad bit too much stimulation.
3. Smell: I know this really does not have to do with the look of the classroom, but you would be surprised to how much a pleasant scent can add to your rooms appeal.
4. Organization: Have a system that is functional. Both you and your students will appreciate this. 
5. Personal touches: Picture frames, banners, globes. Decorate your classroom like your home. People will notice and appreciate how your room feels like a home and not a classroom.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I do what I want

I do what I want.

There is a select group of students who think they can do what they want. In fact these words have even escaped their lips. My coteacher and I are a little confused to how they came to this conclusion. Did someone tell them that the rules do not apply to them. Were they given a get out of consequences pass that we are unaware of. It's a nice idea to think that we all could do what we want at any given time but we can't because we are members of society. We are not characters in South Park and Cartmen is a fictional character. So, even though you "think" you can do what you want; you might not like what happens after you follow through with what you say. 

Monday, August 3, 2015


There is no denying that student teacher relationship is a vital component to classroom success. Ignoring this fact would be foolish. I know I am able to get more out of a student if I have a positive relationship with them. Now this being said it is not always easy to build these positive relationship with all students. We all have our "difficult clients". There have been students that I am less than a fan of. Regardless this is not the NFL draft and I cannot trade a student for another. We have to work with what we have and bring out the best in our students even if some take a little more loving kindness than others. It's worth the challenge. I'd rather celebrate a students positive attributes than negative ones. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Figurative Language Stories

I love teaching figurative language. I could spend a entire year diving into figurative language goodness. Well that might be an exaggeration. 
Hello Hyperbole.
 This year I kicked off figurative language with a goold ole' foldable. Where students defined each term and wrote a sentence example. Next we jumped into reading short stories that used figurative language and they had to identify examples as they read.
Then I unrolled their assessment for figurative language. They were going to write their own figurative language story (3 paragraphs). I gave them a variety of settings they could base their story off of (the beach, grocery store, school, bookstore and so on). They were required to write an example of each figurative language in a separate sentence in their story.  Students began this project by writing one sentence for each figurative language that would fit within their story. They were given a graphic organizer for this portion of the assignment. Each figurative language was assigned a different color to underline within their story. They provided a colored key and drew a picture to go along with their story. Loved this project and I am looking forward to doing this again next year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

All about those numbers

Testing is not teaching
Testing is not learning
A student is more than a test score
A teacher is more than a test score
Unfortunately politicians only care about those numbers.
I should just start video chatting my lessons. Why bother with actual teaching when numbers is what I need to obtain. Why impact a life when a test score measures how effective I am as an educator. Better yet my own test scores now play a role in in my effectiveness. Yes, my ACT or SAT scores determine if I am eligible for a scholarship (a.k.a. bonus). I am a highly effective teacher based on Florida standards but due to this new policy I may not qualify for this bonus. I would need to rank in the 80th percentile on my own ACT or SAT scores that I took over a decade ago in order to qualify. This policy which happens to be called Florida's Best and Brightest "Scholarship" gives teachers with highly effective ratings and their own high achieving ACT or SAT test scores up to $10,000. The thinking behind this policy is that the brightest teachers get the most out of their students. I am one of Florida's best teachers but I know that I am not one of their brightest stars.

When I first heard about this policy I thought it was a joke, nope it actually went through. Who would of thought that a test I took over ten years ago would play apart of me receiving a bonus. I was just taking these test to get into college...or so I thought. I never thought these scores would play any role in my adult life, but no here they are again. It's like a bad sunburn. Which is exactly what I had the day I took the ACT that bright and early Saturday morning in 2002.

Here is the official explanation of the "scholarship" from the state of Florida's website:
Beginning in 2015-2016 school year the scholarship program shall provide funding for scholarships to be awarded to teachers who have demonstrated a high level of academic achievement. To be eligible for a scholarship, a teacher must have scored at or above the 80th percentile on either the SAT or ACT based upon the percentile ranks in effect when the teacher took the assessment and also have been evaluated as highly effective pursuant to. s. 1012.34,F.S.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The done and not done

Keeping track of who did and who did not write an essay can become quite a chore. I created this board in the back of the classroom. Each student was given a magnetic strip with their name on it.
Once their assignment was complete their name would go from the not done side to the done side.

They were sort of funny when they were able to move their name from one side to another. It was a sense of accomplishment for them.

This was a helpful tool for students to stay accountable for what they still need to accomplish. They were given an essay or project to complete within a months time and this board was a huge help in keeping count on who did and who did not complete various assignments. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

The social tango.

Social media plays a key role in today's society. It's the new form of communication. By now everything has been given a hashtag. Even my dog has one. #ruethedachshund And yet utter the thought of social media in front of teachers bank stare and shudders will surely happen. This not so new form of communication is uncharted territory for educators. We are warned of the dangers that such socializing online might bring on our career. Staff meeting are held outlining social media policies that teachers must abide by for their private lives.

Although we are aware of how tricky social media is we still embrace it in our teacherish way.  We have students edit celebrity Tweets, create Facebook accounts for literary characters and post an Instagram wall in our classroom. Social media is a breeze when it comes to decorations but actually using this resource in the classroom becomes a different challenge.

Social media can be used in one of two ways: communication and instruction.
Students are constantly using their phones to connect with others around them. So why are we avoiding this popular way of communicating? There is no denying the impact educators play in their students lives. We may be the only adult that cares for them or even takes time to ask how they are doing. Building positive relationships with our students is part of the job descriptions. Students are extremely aware when they are liked or disliked by their teachers. When we have positive relationships with out students we are able to get more out of them. There is a level of trust and respect when positive communication is involved. Social media could be used to enhance positive relationships with our students. An Instagram account can be created to highlight classroom happenings. You could assign a student for each class to take over the account and have them capture what they are learning that day. A classroom Facebook group account can be used to keep communication going not only with students but parents as well. I am not saying this form of communication should be constant but it's another avenue to explore when communication is discussed.
A cell phone is always within in reach when students are awake and even asleep it's never far from them. I'm pretty sure they might stop breathing if they are without it. If this device is always by their side than why not use it for our advantage. Set up a Twitter account and have students lead a discussion about a book they are reading in class. Teachers can send SnapChats to their students reminding them of various assignments or assessments that are coming.

The education world must find its place in the buzzing Social Media world before we get left behind. I think it would be foolish of us to be scared away from all the red tape and dangers that this new way of interacting with others offers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ESE Friendly

Towards the end of the year I was in an IEP meeting. We were discussing a student's success in all of their classes when someone said, "The reason why their grade is so poor is because that teacher is not ESE friendly." That statement made me pause and ponder such an idea.
ESE friendly. 
I should add this to my resume as it appears to be a desired characteristic trait in today's classroom.
 I cannot deny this need to find ESE friendly teachers as I have too considered whose class to place an ESE student in. Honestly, it's a struggle to find teachers that will accept ESE students for who they are and will become an advocate in order to help them experience success in the classroom. 

All teachers should be ESE friendly especially since more and more ESE students will flood the general education classroom. There is no denying the power an ESE friendly teacher can be on campus. They will become a beacon for ESE students.  A place of refuge. Where a student's disability will not be a problem, but a hurdle to jump over. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

First Class ticket

Send me to the principals office 
I heard this phrase one too many times over the past year. This phrase can change to:
Just write me a referral
Can you just send me to ISR/ISS

Students are actually asking to get punished. When I was in school this was the last item on my to-do list; in fact I made it a habit to avoid trouble at all cost. 

Sadly, things have changed. Going to the principals office or being sent out of class is not a real punishment. In some cases it's a mini vacation a way for them to escape a struggle.

I have had students ask me to actually write them a referral so they could be sent out of the classroom. The look on my face must be priceless each time this demand is made. I ignore the requests and carry on. One student even threatened to throw a globe across the room. He was doing this as a courtesy for me you see. This way I would have something to write on the referral.
Pre-threat: student asked for a referral to be written for him
Post-threat: student threw a globe across the room so he could be sent out of the classroom
Thankfully, after a day passed this student realized his blunder and wrote an apology note.

One of my 8th graders, who tends to shut down when they are overwhelmed, asked me to email the principal in order for them to get out of class. Mind you this was during a group project.
I lost it.
I asked her if I could be sent to the principal's office and she replied with a no. I proceeded with, "Then why can students ask to be sent out and adults can't? I received a blank stare. By now I had an audience of listeners. "Do you know the adult translation of 'can I be sent to the principal's office is?' Jail, there is no adult principal's office. I can be fired from my job, I can become a burden to society because I do not want to take any responsibilities for myself. That is what happens when adults get sent to the principal's office. So do you still want to go or are you going to finish your work?"
No response, but work was quickly resumed and I was never asked that question again. 

This trend of requesting punishment concerns me. It concerns me that they want a quick escape from any challenging situation. That they are avoiding something that is outside of their comfort zone. And that they lack the skills to properly communicate what is truly bothering them. I am not sure there is a cure to this growing trend other than honest conversations.

{For those wondering}
ISR: in suspension room
ISS: in school suspension 

Friday, July 17, 2015

There Their They're

I have an irrational fear when it comes to homophones. I have mistaken your vs. you're a few too many times I care to admit. Scanning texts and email for these pesky mistake could become a hobby for me. Thankfully, I am not the only one guilty of writing the wrong homophone. I know this because I have edited my fair share of essays riddled with homophone blunders.

 Prior to our state writing test I wanted to address this ever so easy mistake to fix through comic strips. A list of homophones were on the board for them to pick from in order to create their comic strips. They had to write one sentence for each word within the homophone (were, where & we're). Each student picked three sets of homophones and created a comic strip for each set. I have to say this little activity seemed to have opened their eyes to the wonderful world of homophones.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Those test scores

Test scores are funny. Especially state tests. You work all year for these tests and then once you are done taking them you have to wait months on end to find out your score. This was the first year I administered the FAIR test which is taken several times throughout the year. Unlike state tests the results are automatic which seems to motivate students to out perform their last test scores. 

On the last FAIR test a student did so well that he wanted to document a job well done so he could show others. I enjoyed watching his excitement towards his test results. I rarely see this type of reaction with tests; mostly because I do not hand out high stakes test scores. 

 I believe when students are automatically given their scores there is a deeper meaning to tests. When there is a prolonged waiting period when receiving test scores the test is long forgotten once they arrive in the mail. 

If tests are taken online shouldn't the results be automatic? Just wondering. 
The fact of the matter is a test score will not define your fate.

Monday, July 13, 2015


This past year I had a pottery reading from a mimic poem that they wrote. A mimic poem is when students are influence by a previously written poem. The goal is to match the rhythm and general tone of the selected poem.  We were using Julio Noboa Palanco's Identity poem. This poem focuses on a positive and negative image from beginning to end. Students had to pick their own positive and negative image to incorporate into their poem. They also had to provide an illustration for their poem. For their final grade they were required to present their poem to the class. I was impressed by how professional they took this poetry reading. Some of the poems were serious and others were humorous in nature. And to top it all off they were respectful when their peers were reading. Snaps all around.

Friday, July 10, 2015


The day that Apple rolled out the new emoji keyboard created quiet a buzz in the classroom. 🐝So much so that we may have downloaded the new keyboard while we worked on writing stories. Some teachers might have flipped out with allowing this activity to occur, but lets face it you can either allow them to download the new improvement or they will do it behind your back. Plus you can teach them how to multitask. There is no need to stare at the screen while it downloads, it will not make it go faster. So while you wait let us get to finishing your stories. I may have downloaded the new emojis while they did too. Why not?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cell phone meeting

This past year was the year the cell phone invaded the classroom. I have never had so much cell phone activity than this past year. One thing is for sure is that students are absolutely horrible when it comes to hiding their phones. 
Umm hello, your face is glowing.
 I tried to give them tips and pointers as to how to better conceal their phones, but they still were lousy at hiding cell phone activity.
 Someone needs to teach these kids cell phone manners. 
A majority of the time I just ignored them "trying" to not be seen using their phone. I picked my battles with cell phones. One such battle is when a parent is texting their child during school. I understand if it's an emergency, but you should probably call the office and not text your child when they are in class. Is this too much to ask for?