Wednesday, December 5, 2012

EDU 505 Final Project

The assignment was to create your dream school. This was the video I created to go along with my presentation. My school was named in memory of my late grandmother, Arcola V. Stanton, who is resting in Heaven. She is my biggest inspiration.

EDU 505 Final Project

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reflection 5

Reflection Prompt: As your first semester of teaching comes to an end, what suggestions would you give to a new teacher at your school? Consider reflecting on things you did well and also what you'd do differently. Here's the challenge: you can't add something to your to-do list without taking something off. This will help keep things realistic and prioritized.

The advice I would give a new teacher at my school is to get organized. I cannot stress that enough! This may mean you have to organize, let it set for a while, and reorganize again. I have spent days on end getting my classoom, files, assignments and lesson plans organized. This reduces the "stressed, messy teacher" classroom look that ultimately wears you down and makes you look bad- especially to administration. Students also respond posistively to a clean and organized classroom. In the midst of a chaotic world, an organized classroom can become a refreshing oasis to your students.

Another piece of advice I would give is to plan ahead when it comes to lessons and lesson plans. Do not wait until the last minute to come up with an agenda and lesson for your students. Creating apprioriate and timely lesson plans takes work. A teacher must properly assess their students' performance, review the pacing guides, brainstorm, stop to reflect, and then proceed until each and every lesson has completed the task of meeting students needs and pushing them to the next level. It may mean you have to rewrite the lesson plan 3 or 4 times. It can be a hastle, but in the end it's worth it all when you know your students have left with full understanding of the material you presented in class. And trust me, waiting until the last minute is no fun. It adds unnecessary stress and takes up your personal time. I learned this lesson the first month of school. The worst part about it is that even your students know when you are winging it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reflection 4

Reflection Prompt:  Please use the attached summative rubric to self score on the five indicators included in Teacher Leadership (Ineffective,  Improvement Necessary, Effective, Highly Effective). Identify your strongest area with a brief explanation.  Identify which indicator you most need to  develop, the obstacle to your growth and how you can push through the obstacle. 

                                                             Teacher Leadership

              Indicator                                                                                            Self Score

3.1 Contribute to School Culture                                              (4) Highly Effective
3.2 Collaborate with Peers                                                        (3) Effective
3.3 Seek Professional Knowlege and Skills                              (3) Effective
3.4 Advocate for Student Success                                             (3) Effective
3.5 Engage Families for Student Learning                                (2) Improvement Necessary

My strongest area of Teacher Leadership is my contribution to school culture. I do seek out leadership roles when it comes to the school's mission and initiatives- especially where the students are concerned. I tend to work late working on school projects and teacher meetings. I also lend a lot of my school breaks and after school time to my students and peers.

The area I need the most development in is Engaging Families for Student Learning. I want to seek out more ways to engage parents. I could definately make more phone calls home and send letters to parents informing them of the up and coming lessons their children will be taught in my class.

My First Slump

Soooo..... I think I've actually hit my first "slump." I knew it was coming. In fact I felt it coming.

Let me explain...

At the beginning of the school year my mentors told me that the same feelings I had at the beginning of the school year would soon fade away because most of the adrenalin would wear off and reality would set in. But after a few more weeks I would get my momentum back. I believed them, but I didn't want to believe them because I was determined to be different from everyone else. Although I am not exempt from the realities of the classroom- especially urban ed- I still wanted to be that consistent adult in my students' lives that didn't give in to emotion.

Ever since fall break I've really been struggling to maintain a balance. I felt my enthusiasm and drive begin to dwindle down and I couldn't understand why. The more I reflect the more I see how this happens. Long story short, I'm TIRED. I see so many things that cause me to overthink and worry for my students- I just want to be so much to them. I want them to succeed so bad. I want them to rise above. I want them to grow and I want them to be the best they can be. I'm also concerned about meeting expectations and reaching goals that I just feel burnt out! I don't sleep during the week. I'm doing good to get a few hours a night. I toss and turn thinking about the simplest of things like a bell ringer or a transitioning technique and how I'm going to play it out for all of my students. I suppose even 5 cups of coffee in the morning can't sustain this.

There are a few highlighted lessons I've learned in the midst of this slump.

LESSON #1: Slacking on the grading scale may make you the popular teacher... but it WON"T prepare your students for success. Sometimes I worry about being fair and "nice." I want all of my students to get an A, but the truth is, not every student will put in the effort it takes to receive an A. Sticking to my high expectations is key and it will only help my students in the end.

LESSON #2: Disciplining doesn't make you mean just as ignoring bad behavior doesn't make you nice. I have a handful of students who don't appreciate the culture of the classroom and try to upset the atmosphere we have worked hard to create. But I've learned that ignorning those behavior issues, even the smallest of them, does NOT promote a healthy classroom.

Overall I'm learning day by day to let go and let God.  As a believer in Christ I have to daily come to center in Him to find center in myself. This is something that I need to learn all over again for this career. I'm learning to place my students, every single one with every single need, in His hands. That is when I become what they need because His wisdom, understanding and peace is ruler over my wacky emotions and fears. For this I am so thankful and blessed.

Pray for me as I pray for you!

I'm tired... but I'm still in the game!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reflection 3

Reflection Prompt: Think about how the pair/share group time (scholars discussing writing) could have been structured more intentionally in order to maximize work/learning time. As a follow up to our debrief, how did you follow up with your scholars the following day about why you provide for "talk time" and how to productively use it. (2.3, 2.7)

Reflecting back, I could have added more structure to the pair/share group time by providing guided questions for each group. Working without an inclusion teacher or tutor for that class period made it necessary for more planning in which I didn't consider. I'm learning along the way. But I do believe guided questions would have kept more of my students on task for the remainder of the class period, especially for students who tend to get off task easily.

The next day I opened the class up with a scholar talk in which we discussed the purpose of group writing. I used the proverb "iron sharpens iron" to effectively illustrate group work and the benefits thereof. I explained to them that writing with each other can strengthen the weaker areas that each student may have as they become strong. We also discussed that our strengths can enhance another scholar's abilities and make them become better writers.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Plugged In

While in the computer lab typing our personal narratives, I took notice to something. Before taking my class to the lab I clearly stated  my computer lab expectations. They were to walk quietly to the lab, have a seat, log on and begin working quietly on their typing. My first two class periods had a difficult time with this once they got settled in. Students were chatting with their neighbors, sneaking on game sites and fidgetting with irrelevant materials- completely restless as if being still and following directions was an impossible task. Even getting them to type in my desired font, font size and color was a challenge. They wanted to use anything and everything except Times New Roman, 12, black. It was as if they were offended I didn't allow them to mark up their papers with flourescent colors and flirty fonts.

This took a lot of redirecting and behavior monitoring to keep them on task. At one point I had to stop the entire class and explain again my expectations and the purpose of the assignment. After several attempts, the students finally got it together.

But something different took place with my last two classes.

As with the first couple of classes, I stated my expectations and got my students settled in the lab. This time when we walked in, the computer lab director had jazz playing over the speakers throughout the entire lab. My students were settled, focused and began working quickly. There was absolutely no talking, no fidgetting and the assignments were completed in record time. I sat back and watched this in amazement. What was it that hooked my students and kept them driven on the assignment?

It was the music.

It had them mentally satisfied and emotionally stimulated. The jazz riffs literally warped their concentration and turned them into lean mean writing machines. It's crazy how stimulated this generation of young people have become. Technology has not only become a commodity, but a necessity as well. Young people have mastered technology management far beyond my understanding. My students can tweet, update Facebook, Instagram, and surf the net all the while cuffing their ears with blaring  beats from Dr. Dre headphones. It amazes me and frightens me all at the same time. As a teacher it makes me reassess my strategies. Should I incorporate more technology- even more than what I allow? Or should I limit the use so that these stimulations aren't the only avenue in which they feel comfortable learning?

This challenges me...

because there is such a fine line between intentional technology use and social media play. Now, this isn't to say that I reject technology- I use several avenues every single day within my classroom. I try to mix it up a bit so that the students find learning fun, motivational and intriguing. But regardless of what I think, feel, or do, I have to acknowlege my qualitative observation because "it is what it is." If music and technological multi-tasking is keeps my students focused, perhaps I should let up a little.

Still pondering this... Interesting none the less.

Using technology to my advantage is a challenge but definately an option.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Intentional Exposure

This week we have been working on our class' first writing workshop! This workshop included 3 days of narrative note taking, reading and scholar discussion before I turned them lose er, guided them on their first adventure in story telling. To do this I opened up with a story by one of my favorite childhood author's, Virginia Hamilton, The Peculiar Such Thing from her book The People Could Fly. This story is so fun and so creepy! The kids realy liked it! It gave them a chance to wonder, to play along and to imagine because the story never tells us what the peculiar such thing is!\

Becoming Vulnerable

Before I went into Narrative Writing, I shared the passion and importance behind story telling and keeping memories. I brought in my own journal from 5th grade that my grandmother bought me. I shared the story behind the journal- that my grandmother gave it to me but she made me promise that I would always write and never stop. It was a beautiful journal. The front cover was a picture of an elephant drawn by an African prince. Even now, I could literally look at this picture for hours. The detailing is amazing and it's as intricate and delicate as my own entries. Within it's pages was the story of my childhood. Good stories, sad stories, drawings and reflections. As I opened it's pages and let my students peep through it, I allowed myself to become vulnerable before them. This was intentional because they needed to see me slip something so precious to me into their hands. I was at their mercy. This opened up the door to them being vulnerable before me. At that moment, I knew I had their trust because I exemplified trust first.

The Assignment

The assignment was simple. The prompt was "The Best Day of My Life." I used this prompt as my Do Now to segue into the new lesson. Each story much include a beginning, middle, end, setting, characters and a title. Every story was so interesting. I opened up the last day of the writing workshop for a Scholar Share. As I graded and listened to their narratives I laughed, I cried and I understood their hearts. I was able to peek inside of their minds and get a glimpse of their joys. What impressed me the most was so many students were optimistic about their lives. There were stories that naturally had a grim cast, yet they were able to see beyond the situation and appreciate the good.

My students are amazing. They inspire me every single day. I love hearing their thoughts, feeling their joy and understanding their pain. It makes me think- was the writing workshop for them, or for me?
I became vulnerable to earn my students' trust.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reflection 2

Reflection topic: Articulate how you plan with the end in mind and also include the summative or culminating assessment for the unit I observed today.

            When lesson planning I try to always start with the end. This ensures that my plans are focused on having each student leave with the information that they need to know. This is very important because each lesson is built on the previous, and if I am not positive that my students understand the day’s content, I will never be ready to move on the next day. If my students are not ready to move on, I need to differentiate my teaching and reteach the next day.
            The assessment I gave for my Exit Ticket was as follows: “Besides school, where do you think you will use descriptive writing?” I asked this question because it is important for my students to understand that descriptive writing goes outside of the classroom. Descriptive writing will be applied in several aspects of life- therefore a level of mastery is important for their success.
Beginning with the end allows me to unravel complex content into smaller, bite size chunks for my students.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reflection 1

Reflection topic: In what ways are you communicating high academic expectations in your teaching and classroom environment?

            This is an interesting question for me. The ways that I try to communicate high academic expectations is by consistently referring to the rules, procedures and our Big Goal for the school year. I do this to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the same time. Sometimes students “forget” a procedure or a rule, and it helps if the entire class reminds each other instead of always me saying it over and over again. For example, when a student forgets a pencil, I ask the class what my pencil policy is. The class will answer “come prepared and sharpen before the bell rings.” This pushes the students to high academic expectations because I can then remind students that being prepared will help them be successful in life and pursuing whatever goals they may have.
            I also try to ask inquiry based questions. I am learning how to do this more. I drop a “nugget” idea or question and let them pick it apart for their own understanding. I want to learn more about this and whole brain teaching so that I can be more effective in this area. I sometimes want to push the students by giving them too much information instead of letting them figure it out on their own. But I’m learning from other teachers and my administration so I hope to progress in this area very soon.
Getting my students to think beyond is a task I want to achieve.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A little introduction

Just a "quick" introduction to my new blog! I go by Elle online and I am currently a 7th grade English/Language Arts teacher for the local public school district here in Indianapolis.This is my first year teaching and I want to record and share all of my thoughts, ideas and experiences here as maybe a sort of time capsule for myself.

For the past 5 years I have sincerely considered going into teaching. It wasn't my initial career path and it definately wasn't something that I've always wanted to do. There are two people in my life who greatly influenced me on this decision. Those people are my grandmother and my sister- both middle school teachers (social studies and spanish). Although my grandmother is passed away and my sister is no longer teaching, watching them in their craft has been so delightful and inspirational. I would say their teaching styles- the way they gave their all to their students and their passion for educating youth- was contagious and I caught the bug. Like them, I wanted to give more- give back.

"But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." Job 23:10 NIV

It had been a long journey getting in where I fit in. I found my avenue through The New Teacher Project (TNTP). If any of you have seen the news or paid even a little bit of attention to it, you know that there is a high demand for qualified teachers in the areas of English, Math, Social Studies and Special Education. When I heard about the opportunities to come into a teaching career through TNTP, I applied. After a long and tedious weeding out process, I made it through and was invited into the cohort as a Special Education/English teacher. An awesome incentive to the program is a paid for master's degree in teaching. (What a blessing!!!)

The next step was Summer Institute- a summer long "teaching bootcamp" (as my cohort members like to call it) that literally took up my entire summer, nearly minute for minute. I completed all of my student teaching in 4 weeks. They stretch your thinking, push you to the limit and take you to a level of calibur that is unbelievable. I taught math, so I was stretched in a subject area that I didn't like or know much about. But after that experience, I believe that it only extended my abilities and pushed me to become a more well rounded teacher. It was hard and long, but it was worth it. The information we gleaned from the intense training made us ever ready for the high demands of the classroom.

I am currently placed in the greatest middle school in the city (I'm totally biased!!!) I LOVE my students, appreciate my administration and love what I do! The hours are LOOOOOONG. And there are many days that I am completely wiped out, only to have to go to class at night. But it's so worth it! I love the feeling of being an inspiration to my students. And it's recipricated because my students inspire me too! We're learning together. My life is so full and I appreciate all of the endless support from my husband, family, friends and loved ones. I truly feel blessed to be in the classroom- educating the next generation. It's a privilage that I don't take for granted, and an honor to inspire the leaders of tommorrow.

With all that being said, as life slows down and I get more of a rythm I'll be posting more. In the mean time, keep me in your prayers and I'll do the same. Until next time...