Sunday, May 14, 2017

Honor Flight Homecoming

Pal-Mac Students Make a Difference


Dear Readers,

I had an amazing experience today accompanying two of my colleagues and approximately twenty-six 7th and 8th graders to the Rochester International Airport for an Honor Flight Homecoming.

Words cannot express the emotions and magic of the event. Colleen Sousa, an Individuals and Societies teacher, asked our students to write letters to veterans who would be coming home on this flight. I am in awe of her planning......she had white boards for the students to write their veterans' names and beautiful signs to hold up as they came through.

As I stood there, waiting with the students for these men and women who fought for our country, it really made me step back in my mind for a moment. We can teach academics, but there is absolutely nothing like an authentic, meaningful experience for our young people to be a part of.

A scene that sticks with me was a gentleman being pushed by in a wheelchair with tears in his eyes and carrying a tissue. He was so overcome with emotion that he just kept mouthing, "Thank you. Thank you."

Another moment when one of my students was nervous to hold her sign so a peer did it for her. When her veteran approached, the peer said I did not write the letter, she did, but she's nervous. He put his hand on her shoulder and said, there is nothing to be nervous about. She returned that comment with a big smile and later tears as he walked away.

Seeing our students overcome with emotions as they met their veterans was so extremely powerful. Some people describe teens as immature, selfish, emotional, etc. The reality is they are empathetic and amazing young people who can make incredible differences in all our lives.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves. 

To our students, I am so very proud of you! You made a positive difference in someone else's life. You will never know how much that means to them. I am proud to be your teacher!







Warmly,
Teresa



Sunday, May 7, 2017

"I Got Your Back!"

You Can Do It!


Dear Readers,

It was Friday afternoon and I had my 7th period Language and Literature Class (7th grade). They are currently completing a writing task for Individuals and Socities that complements our present unit perfectly so I gave them some time to work on it after finishing the work for our class.

I was sitting at my table and all of a sudden I just looked around the room and this is what I noticed:

  • 2 students were sitting at the table with me
  • 1 student was behind me sitting at the lab table on a stool
  • 1 student had asked to sit at my desk
  • 3 students were lounging in the book corner in bean bags
  • 5 students were at tables

It was so relaxing and every student was engaged and working. I loved literally being surrounded by my students. I love those days when I am not the lead teacher, when we are scattered about the room and everyone is engaged in learning. 

At one point I caught movement out of the corner of my left eye and saw a student "in the air". What on earth? Apparently he was doing some kind of "Parkour" off my radiator as he came to hand in his work, but after I disrrupted the class for several minutes inquiring about what he was doing we went right back to our task.

There was also an instance where a student went back to plug in his Chromebook and all of a sudden we heard some odd noises and I looked at the students across from me and said, "Was that _______?" They laughed and said yes. We chuckled and went back to work.

Building relationships and making connections is everything. When students know they can be themselves, truly be themselves in a learning environment, the rest will come. I love the fact that a student feels comfortable enough to ask me for my phone charger or to sit at my desk or to borrow my Chromebook. 

Tough Conversations

I have also had to have some tough conversations with students regarding their work completion and effort. The 4th quarter is one of my favorites, but also one of the hardest for students. 

I have honest conversations about finishing the year on a positive note. We have to support and encourage so they know we care and are willing to help them succeed. 

I always use the words "action plan". We need to create an action plan. We have made class action plans and individual student action plans over the past few weeks. 

Time for Making Memories

It is also critical we take time to have some fun. As a teacher appreciation gift, the staff were given kites. Of course I pulled it right out of the package and discovered it had to be assemlbed. My lunch students spent two days putting it together and it now hangs on the wall as we wait for a nice day to try it out. 

Additionally, my bean bags had seen better days and were completely flat. I was fortunate enough to get new filling and the students were beyond excited. Even more than getting newly filled seats, they were more interested in the process of filling them. They talked me into going outside with two huge boxes filled with filling, two large beanbags, a paperclip and scissors. Together a small group of us filled them while wind blew the filling around at times, I lifted the bag and spilled white beads all over the place and they worked collaboratively to get as many in the bean bags as we could. 

I hope that in the future my students remember these moments as fondly as I will.

Wishing You a Fantastic End of the Year

We cannot change the past, we cannot predict the future, but we can live in the present. As we near the end of another fabulous school year, take time to live in the here and now. Really be present and make those memories with your staff and students. So often we let life slip by and regret it later.

Warmly,
Teresa

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Eclectic Educator

I Want to Be Known as "Teresa"


Dear Readers,

I was recently listening to Chat with Teachers and advice for new teachers was one of the topics being discussed. (I highly recommend checking out these podcasts, despite them being approximately 60 minutes, they are worth a listen to!) One of the suggestions was to observe other teachers, gather ideas and then turn around and make them your own. 

In a world where people are always striving to fit in, I have worked hard at striving to be "Teresa". One of my students recently commented that I am my own person. Another commented that he did not think I was the "popular" kind of student who "fit in", but rather someone who did what I wanted to do. Years ago, a colleague told me that I beat to my own drum. My personality has been described as quirky and a colleague always tells me my "style" is "funky". From the purple highlights to my "personalized" outfits. I take great pride in being myself.

As I reflect on this, it does not mean I want to "stand out" either. I just want to be me. I do not want to be a ___________ (fill in with whatever word you like) teacher or leader or educator. Paul O'Neill has recently started #PLN365 and a question of the day was, what would you name a book written about your educational career? I was going to use the title of my blog, easy out, but challenged myself to think deeper. I realized that I did not want to be associated with one thing, but rather a "collection" of all the skills, strategies, ideas, resources, etc that I have implemented throughout the years.

The title The Eclectic Educator came to me. It describes my journey perfectly. I have always had the ability to see the big picture and how things fit together. I am always learning, trying, failing and succeeding. 

I read books from the literacy world as well as the business world. I incorporate ideas from Teach Like a Pirate to Falling in Love with Close Reading. I can integrate social media trends from #CelebrateMonday to Slice of Life Writing. My students are the center of my "professional universe". In order to meet their needs and challenge their thinking, I need to have a diverse toolkit to pull from.

My advice to new teachers would be to ask questions, observe as many colleagues as possible and soak up everything you can! Then take all that learning and make it YOU. YOU are unique, special and have something to offer that nobody else does. Enjoy the journey and be kind to yourself.

Warmly,
Teresa



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Who Motivates You?

The Power of a PLN


Dear Readers,

Recently Meredith (@mjjohnson1216) contacted me about a new idea for educators to share, learn and grow together. The first thing she asked me to do was take a picture of some of my professional resources.


It was really cool to see some (not all) of them stacked like this! She also asked about my sketchnotes. I pulled out a few favorites.


An idea started to come together! Meredith loves connecting people and helping them share their incredible knowledge with each other. What if there was a hashtag that allowed people to share their professional learning using #BookSnaps, sketchnotes, annotations, highlights, post-it notes, etc? #BookCampPD was born!

What Motivates You?

Meredith asked me a surprising question. She asked me, "What motivates you to get this going?" I said, "You! Your passion motivates me to do this with you!" A collaborative friendship has developed. We will be hosting an informational chat on Monday April 17th at 10:00 PM EST (7:00 PM PST). Just 30 minutes to find out what #BookCampPD is all about!


Additionally, another amazing educator, Paul (@PaulONeill1972) has started #PLN365. It will post a daily question, in addition to being a weekly chat. Paul continues to motivate me with his kind words, support of my blog and always encouraging me.


What is #PLN365?

The question today was, Describe the greatest lesson you have learned from your PLN. My response was, that I can try things (and fail), but will always be supported and encouraged by my PLN. 

The example I always think of was when I moderated a chat for the first time ever, #satchatwc, and forgot to include the hashtag as I was posting my questions (I had no concept of Tweetdeck at that point.). Shelley (@burgess_shelley) and Dave (@burgessdave) were kindly helping me through it by retweeting and letting me know. They gave me the opportunity and supported me when I needed it. Since then, I have moderated many chats and love doing it. However, had that been a negative experience, not sure I would have continued to try. They motivated me to keep going and gain confidence in myself.

Check out Shelley and Beth's new book!



Also, Dave's blog post for Teach Like a Pirate.



The awesomeness continues with Melissa (@ChouinardJahant) on Thursdays from 8:00-9:00 PM EST with #teachmindful. Then follow Alana (@StantonAlana) and her husband Mike (@MicronMike) as they co-moderate #MoreEdu on Thursday nights from 9:00-9:30 PM EST. 



My Favorites

There are so many amazing chats taking place 24/7/365, but here a few of my favorites! (most run weekly, but not all of them) I apologize profusely for those I am unable to specifically name!

Sunday:
  • #Hacklearning (8:30-9:00 AM EST)
  • #Peopleskills (10:00-11:00 AM EST)
  • #fitnessedu (7:00-7:30 PM EST)
  • #Read4Fun (7:00-7:30 PM EST)


Monday:
  • #ImpactMatters (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #LearnLAP (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #tlap (9:00-10:00 PM EST)

Tuesday:
  • #2pencilchat (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #TWOTCW (9:00-10:00 PM EST)
Wednesday:
  • #ShelfieTalk (8:00-9:00 PM EST)
  • #Ohedchat (9:00-10:00 PM EST)
  • #MakeItReal (9:30-10:00 PM EST)
Thursday:
  • #whatisschool (7:00-8:00 PM EST)
  • #G2Great (8:30-9:30 PM EST)
Saturday:
  • #satchat (7:30-8:30 AM EST)
  • #LeadUpChat (9:30-10:30 AM EST)
  • #satchatwc (10:30-11:30 AM EST)
  • #EduGladiators (11:30 AM- 12:00 PM EST)

Thank you to all the moderators who take the time and energy to create amazing chats for us to participate in! We learn, share and grow together!

Warmly,
Teresa




Saturday, April 8, 2017

Invisible Scars of Life Experiences

The Power of Empathy


Dear Readers,

On Friday morning I awoke to snow on the ground. I was so incredibly happy to say goodbye to March and what I had hoped was winter that it knocked my mood down a few notches 5 minutes into waking up. As I got ready for school, I had to take Ellie (our therapy dog) out in the freezing cold snow, could not decide what to wear (I have been freezing for weeks) and was running late due to having wipe off my car of thick, heavy, slushy snow.

I proceeded to drive to school where I was stuck in heavy traffic along with school buses. In fact I called the office secretary in fear I might be a few minutes late. Fortunately, I got to school on time. Unfortunately, I noticed my shirt was on inside out. A race to the restroom before Homebase completed my crazy morning. All of this happened by 7:30 AM.

Reflection

Luckily, I was not too horribly frazzled and instantly immersed myself in teaching and the school day. My first class was extremely understanding and helped me put chairs down and get the room ready for the day. I had planned so I knew exactly what was coming. As the day unfolded I fell into my normal routine of teaching and learning.

However, it made me wonder. How many of our students come to school with invisible "baggage" we know nothing about? As an adult, I had coping strategies to make the best out of a frazzling situation. 

What about the student who has to wake up on his or her own? What about the student who has to get himself or herself ready, along with possible siblings, cousins or other children in the house? What about the student who comes to school hungry? Or tired? Or having just witnessed an argument? Or fight? What about the student who was recently yanked out of his or her home and placed in foster care? 

Hidden Girl by Shyima Hall

I just finished an incredibly powerful read about a courageous young woman who was sold into slavery, forced to move to the United States with her captors and was freed after a neighbor called the authorities due to an uneasy feeling about what he or she was witnessing at the household.

It was a reminder that some of our students come to us from horrific living conditions. We must always meet them where they are and build those relationships that are so critical to feeling safe and cared for in their learning environment. 

We must look outside of ourselves and focus on the student. The more we get to know our students, the more we learn about them which in turn helps us create a comfortable school community. It is so essential to have critical conversations and be empathetic towards our students and families. They may have past experiences we could never imagine.

May all our students find safe, caring adults to love and nurture them.

Warmly,
Teresa


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Student Leaders in the Classroom

Where Do I Begin????


Dear Readers,

I have 100% embraced the idea of students teaching in my classroom. It provides them with countless opportunities to develop ownership over their own learning. You might be asking, HOW do I implement this? I can only speak for 7th and 8th grades, but I am sure it could be adapted to any grade level.

Building Relationships & Making Connections



It is essential to create a collaborative and safe classroom environment among all members of the classroom community. I started out the year by getting to know my students, establishing classroom routines and creating expectations.

I tried something a bit different at the beginning of this year in that I allowed my students to "set up" the classroom. This included stocking books in the book corner, filling the drawers with community supplies (and labeling them), deciding on and hanging up posters, choosing quotes for index cards, etc. 

My students know the classroom is our classroom and they have access to anything they need. In fact, one of my 7th graders probably knows where everything is located better than anyone. She is the "go to" person when someone is looking for something.

Creating Classroom Roles and Routines


As a Leader in Me School (Covey), classroom and school wide roles are an integral part of our culture. I implemented some basic roles to begin the year including attendance officer, Green & Clean, Jr. Trailblazers and librarian. As the year has progressed I have added more leadership opportunities such as Flexible Seating, Anchors of Appreciation (aka Thoughtful Thinkers), Reading Goal Bulletin Board and time keeper. 

As our roles were established, routines started to fall into place. I always leave a message on an easel or in Google Classroom to help them "get started". They independently do their roles if appropriate, on Mondays they #CelebrateMonday, on Mondays and Fridays they choose flexible seating and Thoughtful Thinkers, etc. Even if I am absent, they can start class independently. 

Mid-Year "Reboot"


Coming back from holiday break in January, we had a much needed "reboot". We updated and revised our expectations including what our learning environment should look like and sound like, in addition to what is better left in our heads. We have many conversations regarding proactive language, being empathetic and how we are positively contributing to our learning community. 

Getting Started


Giving our students opportunities to teach the class is an incredible way of giving them ownership over learning. When you have a strong foundation built on relationships, routines and expectations, it is more than possible. It takes patience, perseverance and practice! I tell them this, from all of us.

This is how I started:

  • They choose a "co-teacher" peer they want to work with. I give them the benefit of the doubt and unless they show me they are unable to work together I will let them teach with friends. So far, I have had minimal problems. A couple of reminders here and there.
  • The expectation is to come up during lunch prior to the lesson to prepare. If they choose not to, their opportunity may be lost for the day. I had this happen once.
  • Although they are the teachers, I will step in or if I am needed. 99.9% of the time it is to clarify instruction, not due to conflict or behavior. 
  • I set an expectation for myself to let them work it out, I keep an ear out and listen to everything, however have found when left to their own devices can work through most things. It is a fantastic, authentic way to practice collaboration, compromise, problem solving and negotiation.
  • They are expected to be leaders. I sit in the audience and they take over the "front" of the room. 

Expectations of my "Student Teachers"


They are responsible for:

  • Writing message on easel.
  • Writing "get started" message.
  • Deciding on flexible seating options.
  • Thoughtful Thinkers
  • Making sure attendance officer does his/her role.
  • Choosing groups and/or seat assignments if necessary.
  • Setting up technology needed.
  • Reading any text we will be discussing.
  • Creating anchor charts we might need.
  • Passing out materials.
  • Walking around to groups, checking in, listening, offering feedback, getting peers back on task.
  • Letting students use restroom or get drinks.
  • Supplying pencils for those who forgot.

They take these tasks for seriously. They even refer to each other as Mr. and Miss _________ . They will go up to them and ask Can I go to the bathroom? Can I get a drink? Can I borrow a pencil? It is so fun to watch. 

Handing Over My Plans


I will not lie, it took me a couple times to get in a rhythm of handing over my plans. My tasks:

  • Have to be a little ahead in my planning so I can anticipate which may be a good day for student teachers.
  • I hand over instruction they know or that we have already done. It is not brand new to them.
  • I had to make checklists of what to do in order to get ready for class, including writing out the message at first.
  • Get all materials ready for them (including highlighters, texts, etc.).
  • Anticipate any difficulties they may run in to, areas I may need to elaborate or clarify for the rest of the class.

Now that they have all had a chance to teach, it is much smoother for them to prepare. They are very confident! Even my quietest students are amazing as leaders! With the exception of a couple of students they have all stepped up to try it, some of them have taught several times.

To clarify, I do this with my 7th grade Language & Literature Class. In being completely transparent, I have not tried this with 5 classes in one day as many middle school teachers have. Being a literacy teacher, my schedule is quite unique. However, I would love to extend this into other classes. The content and grade levels are different through the day, so I am not sure of the logistics of how I would accomplish that.

Reflection


I love that my students come in and say, "Who is teaching?" or "When can _____ and I teach again?" It is established that we are all teachers and learners. It is not assumed I will be the teacher, nor is it a question of whether I will allow them to teach, but rather when.

If you have the opportunity to try this, I highly recommend it! It is amazing to watch them.

Warmly,
Teresa


Friday, March 17, 2017

The Influence We Have

Living in a Global Community 


Dear Readers,

I feel like I currently live in three worlds. 

Our Classroom

The first being my classroom. It truly is my second home. Every day is filled with teaching, learning, smiles, fun, discussions, informal conversations, reading, writing, painting, etc. You never know what might be happening at any given moment when you come through the door. It is a bright, warm, music filled, joy filled, environment my students and I have created together.

Together we have built relationships, made connections and created an agreed upon anchor chart of expectations. It consists of 3 components: What Should Our Learning Environment Look Like, What Should it Sound Like and What Things Are Better Kept in Your head. I refer to these frequently. Students have started to speak up when others are not following the expectations. It is wonderful that they hold each other accountable.

My students do not naturally know how to respectfully disagree with each other. It is something I teach, they practice, they teach, they practice, etc. I give them language to use and talk about perspective. We also talk about being open-minded and consider other ideas. 

Most importantly, we have recently been starting to dig into out argument writing unit which includes research, formulating a claim, research, writing a thesis statement, research to support that statement and analysis to support our evidence.

Every opportunity I have, I use it to teach my 7th graders there is "more than one side to the story". They do not have to agree, but I ask them to consider the other points. At times, students will look at me and ask, "May I change my answer?" My response is, "Of course! Sometimes the more research we have, we find out something that will cause us to reflect and reconsider our position."

They are at an extremely vulnerable age where they are learning how to collaborate and work with many different personalities. Some that are similar to them and those that are not. We use Covey's Habits and I often refer to, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. We must listen, process, reflect and make informed decisions. Another favorite is Find Your Voice which includes finding their own voices as well as helping others find theirs. My students consistently hear the message from me that they can do anything they put their minds to, if they believe in something they should stand up for their beliefs. There is power in being empathetic, reflective, resilient and a communicator.

We have such an amazing opportunity and responsibility to immerse our students in these social and collaborative situations under our guidance and coaching before they independently go out into the world.

Home

The second being my home. I absolutely adore my apartment and everything about it. It is a place that I feel comfortable, safe and can relax. I am surrounded by my books, my cozy blankets, my pictures and everything else that makes it home to me. 

Walking is a huge love of mine and I never hesitate to pop the earbuds in and take a stroll through my neighborhood. I am literally 10 minutes from any place I need to go. Even Wegmans is within walking distance of me. 

I am truly fortunate to have two "homes" that I love.

Outside Reality

Being the news addict I am, CNN is my "go-to" in the evenings. That is when I enter the world I will refer to as "outside reality". I feel like I am in a constant state of worry. I think about:

  • My cousin and his partner who are raising two adorable boys and have a beautiful family.
  • Programs my grandparents, who I loved dearly, benefited from as they grew older and needed more care.
  • My future as an educator and how providing the best instruction possible could be comprised.
  • People I know who have come to the US for different reasons, under different circumstances and are now raising beautiful families and are significant contributors to our society.
  • Students whose families are in distress about whether they will be uprooted from their current lives.
  • The messages my students are attempting to make sense of that they are confronted with on a daily basis from social media, news media, people in powerful positions, etc.
  • The safety of our country. 

Reflection

What messages are being sent to our young people? Are they being encouraged to be collaborative, open-minded, innovative thinkers who possess empathy for those around them? 

My hope is by teaching these skills and strategies early, they will become a part of them. As they head out into the world, they will take them with them and live in what is now a global community.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Warmly,
Teresa

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Gifts We Are Given

A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime



Dear Readers,

I have always loved the saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I think of them as gifts that are presented when the time is right. 

There have been situations I have experienced this past week, not only in my own life, but those of my students as well that have caused me to pause and reflect on why people have come into and gone out of my life.

Do people come into our lives for a reason? Season? Or lifetime?


Reason

I firmly believe that people come into our lives for a reason. It may be just a moment in time, perhaps a day, week or even hours. We all have these people. Maybe it is someone you sat next to on an airplane and made a connection with through polite conversation. Maybe it is the presenter at a conference that had an impact on your educational philosophy. Perhaps it is someone who reached out to you during a difficult time and made you realize things were going to be okay. 

I have had many of these types of individuals in my life. People who enter and leave in what seems a moment's notice. However the impact they leave is significant and profound. 

After my dad passed away, it was extremely difficult to function in a world that was turned upside down. I will never forget an act of kindness from a colleague. I received a beautiful card in my mailbox, saying that this person had lost a father as well and if I ever wanted to talk this person would be willing to. After a little while had passed and I was ready, I e-mailed this person and we decided to meet after school. I was waiting in my classroom and this individual came in, shut the door and said, "I wondered when I would be hearing from you." It is not someone I developed a friendship with nor do we have contact anymore. However, I will never forget that conversation and willingness to sit down with me and let me know I was not alone. It meant the world to me. 


Season

People who come into our lives for a season serve a different role. They are there to help us a little bit longer. Perhaps months or years. Perhaps it is the person you meet while taking grad classes, but lose touch with when the program is finished. Maybe it's the person you room with in college, but life takes you on your separate journeys after graduation. Or maybe it's the person who helps you through an illness.

I have also had many of these individuals in my life. It feels like people who enter our lives at the beginning of something and then when it seems like we are alright, their job is finished, our lives move in different directions.

When I lost my dad to suicide, I thought nobody in the world would understand what I was going through. The pain, grief, anger, questions, etc. The emotions were so overwhelming at times I could not breathe. By chance, I met someone who was going through almost the same exact thing I was. That person had also lost a family member, just two days prior to my dad's passing. Same month, same year, same week. We were always in the same place at the same time. Especially the anniversaries. It was so comforting to have someone who knew exactly how I felt and that I could speak openly and freely with. Unfortunately, that person moved away, as life took us in different directions. I will always be thankful for the impact that person had on my life in coping with such a traumatic loss.


Lifetime

Then there are the people who come into our lives to stay. Whether it be parents, spouses, siblings, family members, friends, children, etc. They are the constants in our lives. The people who stick by us through thick and thin, happy and sad times. They love us unconditionally and we trust them. We confide in them, we respect them, we treat them like gold. The people we never want to lose and are devastated if we do.

My life has been filled with happy moments, but also very sad moments. At times, it feels as though I have lived several lifetimes. It seems as I have taken my journey, there are always people in the right place at the right time to help me overcome any obstacles I may face. I am blessed that every time I need someone, he/she suddenly appears. However, as I look back over my life, am sometimes astonished that people seem to come and go, but never stay.

As a result, when someone new enters my life, I always expect we will part ways at some point. I never really form attachments or rely too heavily on others. In my experience, they will leave at some point. Whether it be their choice, my choice or life in general.


Reflection

In thinking about my own life and experiences, it made me consider the lives of my students. If our students live in environments where people care, are reliable and they feel safe, they will probably form deeper connections and relationships. On the other hand, if our students have a life of people coming and going, lack of consistency, abandonment, is there any wonder they have difficulty trusting and  building bonds with others?

It is natural instinct to want to protect ourselves. For those of us who have been hurt many times or do not feel safe with others, we often protect ourselves (such as pushing people away) before we give that control to someone else. Students who lash out, are more reactive than proactive and who seem distant, may actually be in survival mode. Do we take the time to get to know our students, really know them, before making assumptions about them?


My Wish......

My wish is for you and your students to all find those people who you are lucky enough to know for a reason, season or lifetime. 

Warmly,
Teresa

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Our Purpose in Life

Living a Purposeful & Meaningful Life


Dear Readers,


A student highly recommended I read this book. My first question was:

"Does the dog die?"

"Yes, but he comes back to life!"

I believe it has been made into a movie, but to be brutally honest know nothing about the movie, I have not seen any trailors nor has anyone really talked about it with me. For this I am extremely grateful because I like to read the books first and then make a decision about the film version.

What is our purpose in life?

As I was reading, I couldn't help but think about having a purpose in life. I firmly believe everything in our life happens for a reason. Events, people, good times and bad are all connected in a way we may not understand until much later. Each of us was put here for a specific reason, although we may not know what it is. 

I truly believe that my main purpose is to be a teacher and learner, whether it be for students, adults, people in education, outside of education, etc. My love and passion for reading, writing, aquiring knowledge and educating others is what makes me ME. It is in every fiber of my being. It is what I am meant to do.

While some poeple set goals and think about where they want to be in the future, I live very much in the present moment. As a result of that, I really pay close attention to what is happening in my world including the people I meet, events that take place, the joys and sorrows. I am always making connections, seeing how the puzzle of my life fits together.

Not wanting to give too much away, the connections in the book were so insightful and meaningful. It really made me pause.

Living a Meaningful Life

In the book, the character realizes what he/she learns in one life prepares him/her for what he/she will encounter in his/her new life. 

After experiencing so much at such a young age, I often confront my life with what is this preparing me for? How will I use this in the future? As I reflect and look back on my life, I see the connections and how everything fell into place as exactly as it was supposed to, even if I did not know it at the time. 

Having experienced tremendous loss in different ways, I know the future can be uncertain. As I get older, I try and make my actions, words and choices meaningful in that they touch both me and others in a positive way.

Spreading Positivity

One of the greatest compliments people can give me, is when I am told that I make them smile, am a joy to know, etc. I have been told there is something "about me" when people are around me and my laugh and smile are contageous. I am not sure what "it" is, I am just me, but I am glad to know that I can be a bright spot in someone's life.

Happy Reading!

Warmly,
Teresa

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Do Our Words and Actions Show What We Believe?

Dear Readers,

I recently started reading Start.Right.Now.Teach and Lead for Excellence by Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul and Jimmy Casas published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. There have been several ideas that have resonated with me.




"Truly exceptional teachers and leaders move beyond beliefs, exhibiting specific, observable, and intentional behaviors that turn these beliefs into reality." 
(pg. 3)

It made me pause and reflect: do I turn my beliefs into reality? 

I Believe that All Students Can Learn

It is my responsibility to get to know my students on both a personal and academic level. As I make connections and build relationships with them, I also gain insight into what type of learners they are. I always consider the PLC questions:

  1. What do we want students to know?
  2. How will we know they have learned it?
  3. What will we do if they did not learn it?
  4. What will we do if they did learn it?

These questions guide my instruction, help me reflect and provide what the students need. Do I need to reteach? Do I need to go back further? Do I need to explain it in a different way? Do I need to use visual information? Auditory? Kinesthetic? What can I do to help them learn?

I Believe in Teaching the Whole Child

Before academics can occur, students need to feel safe, cared about and comfortable in their learning environments. Teaching middle school means being patient, understanding and willing to have tough conversations. I must meet the academic, social and emotional needs of my students. Teenagers have so much going on in their young lives, that one area can greatly impact another. 

I Believe We Are All Teachers and Learners

Recently, I allowed students to teach the class. I planned the lesson, however they were responsible for coming to me beforehand and preparing the room and themselves. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to take ownership of their learning, as well as allowing me to interact and engage as a student. 

We are living in a world where students use technology on a daily basis. When they come to me for help, I always direct them to peers. The more they can teach and learn from each other, the more invested they will be.

I Believe in Life-Long Learning as an Adult

One of my favorite quotes so far from the book is:

"One thing that all excellent educators know about themselves is that they will never know it all." (pg. 29)

I could not imagine my life without learning. In fact, I had a conversation with my 7th graders that I consider myself a student before a teacher. They see me in one setting, school, as their teacher. However, I spend more time outside the classroom engaging in professional learning. I feel I would be doing a disservice to my students if I was not constantly learning new skills and strategies for my toolbox.

I Believe in "Knowing My Stuff"

Another favorite quote is:

"Truly outstanding educators begin their journey along the path of excellence by knowing their stuff." (pg. 24)

My journey began as a speech therapist and then I was fortunate to obtain a literacy position. As a specialist, I have always thought more "clinically". If a student is having difficulty, specifically where is the break down? After I figure it out, what strategies can I teach him or her? 

If I expect my students to be readers, writers, thinkers, researchers and learners, then I need to model that behavior. A strength of mine has always been to see the big picture and how all the puzzle pieces fit together. I am able to pull from many different resources to best meet the needs of my students. 

It is an incredible honor when others ask me to share ideas, knowledge or inquire about something they are interested in doing. Dave Burgess reminds us that it is our responsibility to share what we know (Twitter Tip #127). LaVonna Roth also encourages us to "compliment and not compete". When I blog, share pictures or "show" what is happening in my classroom, it is with the hope that others see it as possible. If I can do it, I believe anyone can do it. 

I Believe We Must Teach Empathy

"They excel at the practice of teaching empathy, and they seek to truly understand those with whom they work and what motivates them. (pg. 21)

Empathy needs to be taught. Students traditionally do not just become empathetic on their own without some coaching and instruction. In a world where people are judged and stereotypes run rampant, it is essential we help our students see and feel through other people's perspectives. 

I have started posting scenarios to my students. "How would you feel if........" I see the carry over as we work through our Language and Literature Units. We also discussed character traits versus human emotions. Our students need the language to express themselves. As educators, we need to help them develop that vocabulary.

I Believe Learning Is and Should Be "Messy"

One of my favorite picture books is A perfectly Messed Up Story. The message the author sends to the readers is learning is messy! I always tell them the messier their "drafts" or their annotations in texts, the more thinking is happening. I will never show my students a final draft, I always show them the process and thinking I have done to get from point A to point B. Recently, I was reading a professional resource and was making notes in the margins. One of my students exclaimed, "Are you writing in your book?" I showed them how, if I own the book, I write all over it.

I will end with this quote:

"Learning can be a messy and difficult process, but then again, most things worth doing are not clean and easy." (pg. 45)

Life is not about being easy. It is about facing challenges and obstacles head on. It is about failing and getting back up to try again. It is about the journey.....the adventure......the process.........

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book. I highly recommend it to all educators!

Warmly,
Teresa