Monday, June 24, 2013

Walking Down Memory Lane

Have you ever sat back and reflected on the past?  I think most people remember significant events and short term memories.  Summer allows me to reflect on my memories.  It's funny how the human brain works, small things can jog big memories.

I've been fortunate to be in education long enough for many of my former students to graduate and invite me to grad parties.  Each time I attend these grad parties I'm one of the few that loves to look at the scrapbooks and picture walls.  These walk me down memory lane!

The other day I went to a grad party for a young lady.  She was an outstanding student, but more importantly she's a high quality person.  When she was in 5th grade school was a struggle.  She didn't seem to fit in with her peer group, her health was very inconsistent and her strength was communicating with adults.  Simply put she stressed about school.

Fifth grade was a positive one for her.  Her attendance in 5th grade was her best of any year.  One of my main goals each year was always to team build the first month and then return to team building periodically.  This allowed for me to create a community in my classroom.  I believe this community helped her grow with peers and develop friendships.  I knew as the year went on that she looked up to me and she needed a lot of reassuring.

I worried about her after 5th grade concluded.  I worried about her ability to relate and connect in middle school.  I told her my door was always open.  Throughout the next school year she came and visited my new 5th graders several times.  I asked her about middle school and she always smirked and told me that she missed 5th grade.  She told me that she was struggling with some of the girls in middle school.  I tried to reassure her that she was a good person and that she should focus on the positives, but deep down I knew she was hurting.

As time went on she entered high school, she stopped in a few times and gave me updates and then she dropped a bombshell on me.  She was leaving school to enroll in online courses.  She was struggling with so many relationships and school was creating many of her emotional issues.  I tried to shift my thinking.  I told her I supported her decision and that I believed she would be successful.  Deep down I worried about her socially.

We stayed in contact, but it was rare at best.  Then out of the blue she invited me to her graduation party.  I'll admit I didn't even think she was graduating.  It's not that she wasn't bright enough, it's just that I didn't know how online graduation worked.  As I walked up to her house she had a big smile and greeted me.  We did the usual chit chat and then I went in to grab a bite and look at the pictures.

Then it happened.  I started to think back to all the times in 5th grade.  I remembered the conversations, the activities, her tears, her struggles, her visits after 5th grade.  All these memories came pouring back.  She and I had a nice relationship, she was a student that I'll never forget.  I'll never forget her asking me for help with her peers.  I'll never forget her sitting down and conferencing with me.  I'll never forget her smile that told me she was hurting for acceptance.  I tried my best with her, and as I sat looking at her pictures I knew she was going to be okay.  She chose "her" route.  She found "her" niche.  She was going to take "her" strengths and be successful.  I'm proud of her accomplishments.  She opened my eyes to the possibilities of doing things differently.  As I sit back and reflect, she is my inspiration to take risks, don't fear failure.  The road may be bumpy, it may be difficult, but it may help shape who you really are.

In the end the lesson for me is another reminder that relationships make all the difference.  As Rita Pierson so eloquently stated, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like!"  I believe this.  I formed a relationship with my students and this helped me get the most out of them.

As you take the summer to recharge I challenge you to take a walk down memory lane.  Think of a student you significantly impacted.  I bet you formed a strong relationship with that student.  Do you still connect with the student?  Do you wonder how the student is doing?  Remember relationships are at the heart of what we do, I hope you can look back and say, I connected with "my" students.

To Keep You Informed:

*  Warner Elementary has a new Physical Education teacher.  Her name is Mrs. Nicole Kelly!  Nicole previously taught 7th grade Science in the Western Middle School.  Nicole is a fantastic addition to Warner : )

*  If you haven't heard, Mrs. Kathi King retired at the end of the school year.  We are going to miss Kathi greatly.  Her patience and love of children was phenomenal.  As Kathi heads off to the life of retirement we now welcome Mrs. Susan Nash to 2nd grade.  Susan is very excited to transition to second grade! 

*  If you're looking for something to do don't forget we are aiming to brighten up Warner with some inspiring artwork.  

*  Also, please stop in and pick up your copy of the book, Leader in Me.  All copies are located in the Warner office.

Articles Worth Reading:

Breakthrough Moment as a Teacher  by Brittany Cerevic

How to Dance Properly (Funny)  by @adambellow & @teach42

Building a Team of Teachers  by @pernilleripp

Alternatives to Homework  shared by @MrPowersCMS

Co-Curating our school  by @chrislehmann

21st Century Icebreakers (Love these ideas!)   shared by @AnnetteBreaux

Student-Led Learning in Science shared by @NMHS_Principal

Videos Worth Watching:

Technology in Education...a GOOD thing! (4 min)

Winning isn't everything. Inspiring story about an entire community. (7 min) shared by @casas_jimmy

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Teaching with Passion!

We are down to the last day and a half of the 2012-2013 school year.  I look back with very fond memories.  I truly believe the entire building made great strides forward.  I look to 2013-2014 with great anticipation!

It would be easy to finish the year with a blog post that reviews the year, but another topic has churned in my brain for some time.  In late May I participated in the #IAedchat that focused on a student named Jeff Bliss.  This was a HOT topic and I was very curious to share my thoughts and listen to others.  To front load everyone with the background, here are some details:  First, this video is shot by a high school student.  The student doing the talking is Jeff Bliss.  Apparently this video was during or around the time that the state of Texas was giving standardized tests.  One other tidbit, Jeff's mother is a teacher.  The video is 1 minute and 27 seconds.  There is an expletive in the video, I apologize if you are offended by this swear word.

The first time I viewed this I was stunned by the disrespect.  I immediately thought this student was way out of line.  Then I viewed it again.  I encourage you to watch it again.  Listen to the message, listen to the teacher, observe the teacher and check out the students.  Take it all in.

After I watched a second time I began second guessing myself.  I started thinking, what would I have done?  I came to a realization that I would not have sat at my desk.  Truth be told I rarely ever sat at my desk, so I can guarantee I wouldn't have sat there.  Second, don't fool yourself, a lot of students feel this way in school, but most don't do what Jeff did and most are not videotaped.  Third, I do believe Jeff was disrespectful, I do believe there was a better way to handle the situation, but I also believe that this rant will provoke change.  Finally, I do believe there is more to this; we only get to see 1:27, but this teacher has clearly not created a community, and this teacher has not established a relationship.  We all know relationships are the foundation.

My big questions are:

1)  What would you do if this happened in your school?

2)  Someone video taped this and posted it on YouTube. As an educator I do not like this, but this is the world we live in.  The educational landscape is changing, you won't like everything.  Do you still believe relationships are the foundation?

3)  This was a high school student. Do you believe this could only occur at a high school?

4)  Jeff refers to a lack of passion and being taught with packets. Are you the educator you dreamed of always being?

I realize this is a serious video and a serious topic, and it would be status quo to simply do a year in review.

I would simply hope that you would enter into summer with the renewed focus of always being passionate.  We became educators to make a difference in kids' lives.  I hope you take the summer to "sharpen your saw", re-energize your batteries and get well deserved rest.


Monday, June 10:  5th Grade Graduation (5th graders leaving at 9:20am)
Tuesday, June 11:  K-3 Field Day
Tuesday, June 11:  Half-Day, dismissal 12:05
Tuesday, June 11:  Staff Lunch 12:15-1:00
Tuesday, June 11:  Teacher meeting 12:45 in Library
Wednesday, June 12:  Curriculum Camp at Baker College
Thursday, June 13:  Curriculum Camp at Baker College

*  Please make sure you have scheduled your exit discussions with me

Topics include:
- student growth
- professional development
- goals
- reflection on school year

Articles Worth Reading:

Marzano's "casual" evaluation system  shared by @tomwhitby

74 Creative Ways to Stop Summer Brain Drain  shared by @Ev_Giannopoulos

Using iPads and Footballs to encourage reluctant boys to write  shared by @tconstantine

If Schools Embraced the Power of Twitter  shared by @NMHS_Principal

Techi Tike blog  by @JennaVDixon & @ErinMastin

PLN - Powerful Learning Network  by @MrPowersCMS

Fix-it-in-Five (Ideas to improve student blogging)  by @edrethink

Videos Worth Watching:

The East Coast is being overtaken by cicadas right now, check out this 7 minute video.

Ellen reading weekly Tweets! (1 min) @TheEllenShow