Monday, July 16, 2012

year three.

readers, here we are, three years into this. 
To put this into perspective, this will be my 6th classroom to decorate since I started on this journey two years ago. Although ridiculous and time consuming, I've gotten to be quite the professional, I promise you! Today I've posted pictures to facebook of my new classroom, but I thought I'd add them here too. Welcome to my new space, a windowless room that is a bit bigger than my apartment. :] When I'm done with it, this space will be amazing, I'm sure of it! 

I walked into a space that was pretty cluttered. Things are slowly being moved out so it probably will feel that way for quite some time - regardless, this is right next to the door. I had a major brainwave and made this space into a mini-library. I'm excited to be employing centers at least a little bit - I think that these spaces will come in handy when I'm testing/having one on one time with a student. This way, I can't say that kiddos are just sitting! After a few hours, this is what the space looks like - keep in mind that there is still a lot to do! I need to bin the books by grade level, but its a start! I plan on using matching bins to bin the books, and labeling them all. This part will take forever, but will be a process I am happy to do - not only will it benefit my students, it will benefit me too! I am lucky enough to be given those books for my students this year by the former special ed teacher - she's amazing ! Moving on in our tour, I'll now show you the before and afters of another area....

Welcome to the hot mess of my small group/main instruction area. My plan here was to take the manipulatives off the shelving and organize it, and figure out how to position the table to make more use of the board. I wanted my students to be able to interact with is and be able to really get the concepts. You know me, I'm a control freak, so this plan to let kids even WRITE on the board freaks me out, but this year I'm going holistic, and I'm going to let them squish my markers if it helps them get smarter...... anyway, here's the after picture.
It doesn't look too different, but all the shelves are cleaned out and have been at least organized by reading or math - something I always have a hard time doing at the beginning of the year! I sat in my chair for a while thinking about how awesome this school year is going to be. It is hard to think that I am teaching a whole new subject to nine different grade levels, but something tells me that I can do it, and I will do it well. SO EXCITED. 

moving on to the data wall....
THIS side of the room is causing me unnecessary grief! Basically, I moved the bookshelf to the other side of the room for my library, the table is down where the bookshelf is in this picture and there is nothing in front of the red wall, which will soon become my reading tracker. I think that, as usual, this is the place I'm most excited for. If you have been following me at all, you know that I love trackers and parent investment - at least this fulfills one of the two. Anyway, the room went from this to.....something amazing that I don't have a picture of so you'll have to stay tuned. I'll show you what I did to that "teacher desk" (which I almost got ridof but couldn't figure out how I would leave it in the hallway casually....) to make it student friendly!   The stuff on the right belongs to the teacher before me, and I have plans to add another computer from our first year teaching.  

Although the space is small, I think its pretty much perfect - I've realized this year that space isn't what I need - it is the knowledge of WHAT to do with the space that I'm working on! I think that once I organize and bring the things from my storage unit that I need, I will be extremely happy with what I can offer students on day one. 

Here's to year three, readers. May the odds be ever in my favor. :]

Thursday, June 28, 2012

world learners.

Hello, readers! 
Welcome back to the blog that was forgotten. I am done talking about why I took a hiatus - mainly, it was because I was so miserable I didn't want to write anything. But now, it is a dawn of a new year, a new adventure and here I am, writing the moments that happen. 

Today, I have a video to share. One that shows the magic that can happen in just two weeks of school. But first, a little backstory. This year, Tulsa was lucky enough to be the next region to train Teach For America corps members. Someone on the national team decided Tulsa was the place to spend six weeks [who can blame them?] and after lots of fundraising and community awareness, we are now able to offer students a free summer school across the city and training for new teachers. My job in all of this? To sit in the back and make sure that everyone is doing okay, I guess. My job title is actually "faculty adviser" but I'm there to make sure things don't get out of control, I suppose. I step in occasionally to make sure students know their place and don't talk back, throw fits, or push too many boundaries. Most the time, I just observe. Today, I got the extreme pleasure of watching a lesson about the Three Billy Goats Gruff. We all know the story, we all know the plot, but watching the babies act it out was adorable. I didn't want them to notice so it is a bit far away, but here they are, in all their glory. My favorite? "Who's that, trip trapping across my bridge?"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

just a picture.

Readers, forgive me this year for being so down that I haven't really told you about my students. As I move forward the next four months, please stay tuned for the stories my students are too young to tell just yet. They are adorable, smart and they are mine. :]

cheers to 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1 in 10.

Well readers, it's been a while. A while of soul-searching, learning and understanding what I want out of life. It is no secret that my 23rd year has been the most trying and every day I do feel glad that I have you to share my life with, however depressing it is at times. 

I got two new tattoos yesterday on my wrists, in honor of this blog. Over the last year and a half, this place has become my safe place - I've vented, shared my success and if you haven't read this installment I've also shared my defeats. I've said things here that I'm afraid to say out loud and that for me, speaks volumes. Quite a few times this year I've gone back through and looked at what kept me going through this journey and I can honestly say that I'm still unsure on how I did it at times. Anyway,   although I know I won't teach forever, I do know that this journey is something that will always stay with me. No matter where I end up [which is so up in the air it is unreal] I know that somewhere, someone will be inspired by the things I have to say and do. 

Now, this isn't what this blog is actually about, but it did stir up some feelings so I guess we are on the right track. Now, I want to talk about a statistic. A statistic that is so true for us in this movement of education reform and something that has really got me thinking for the past few weeks: one in ten. 

I remember walking through the UW campus when I was a senior, seeing all these TFA signs everywhere that said random things on it. One will always stick with me, and even though I still see it from time to time, I will never forget what it says:

1 in 10 children from a low-income community will graduate from college.

I am pretty sure I'm close to the correct verbage - but I do know it says 1 in 10, and it is a graduate-from-college in 4 years statistic. Readers, I'm going to share the realization I had about this a few weeks ago, that I've been trying to digest ever since. 

I graduated from high school with 58 other individuals. Counting me, that is 59 people in the Ilwaco High School graduating class of 2006. Let's, for statistical purposes, round up to 60. Hell, I could have forgotten someone. 

That would mean, that 6 of the people I went to high school with [nay, kindergarten through high school] graduated from college in four years, including me. When I was talking to a friend today about this, I was hard pressed to get to six of us that did it in 4 years. I am hard pressed to think of ten that made it through the first year. When we pooled our brainpower together, we came up with a solid 6 of us that graduated from college in 4 years. And it hit me, readers. I was the lucky one of six. I think about the community that i grew up in - and I realized that a young age that it was not wealthy. When I moved to Seattle the difference was even more stark. I was nannying for children that rarely saw their parents, had meals cooked for them, put in tupperwares and instructions on reheating on the counter. Kiddos with so many extra-curriculars that they would be in bed later that I was ever allowed. Kids that knew even at the age of TEN that they had every chance to go to Stanford to follow in their father's footsteps. I was told at the ripe age of 17 that I wouldn't ever get into UW, a STATE SCHOOL. 

Yes, just like my students, statistics were in front of me, dictating my life. I knew that I stood no chance getting into UW - neither one of my parents finished college, my sister didn't attend a 4-year and it wasn't like I went to a 4A school that had a lot of extra-curriculars and college-prep programming to get me that boost. I got booted from the cheer squad, which in turn led the golf coach to not want me on his team [like I even wanted to play golf] and I didn't want to do track or cross-country. I took extra math classes and wished for the best. I often try to channel that little girl inside me that knew college was so important and oftentimes, I come up empty. I just KNEW I had to do it. I look at the 30 students I have now, and I know that they have every capability to push themselves to get there, too. Unfortunately, the statistic is there: 3 of my students have the potential to graduate from college. 

I'd be doing a disservice to my students every day if I believed that only 3 of them could do it. But readers, I'll be honest with you - as much flack as I get for this and as much as people may want to argue, I wonder how many of them will in what, 16 years be college graduates. I want to say all of them and if I do my job right then yes, it will be 30/30 but I went to a school that was a lot less rough and just as poor as mine and only 6 of us made it out. 

I'm scared, readers. The achievement gap is a monster that just. wont. quit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

culture of achievement.

Tomorrow marks the 30th day of not having a classroom. Since I have a thing for even numbers, today was actually the perfect day to sit down with my MTLD and discuss my anxieties about this year. Last week, I openly admitted that I was having a hard time enjoying my job, due to the complications of moving, having a roster and not a space, and other things outside my control. What I neglected to touch on was what an inspirational bunch of kiddos I truly have. So often, I let my anxieties get the better of me. I get the idea that things are too difficult, close to impossible and let myself get carried away with the fact that I can't do it. 

When I met with my MTLD today, we discussed the Culture of Achievement rubric, the scale of mindsets and outcomes - and you know what I realized? I'm blessed. I'm blessed to have the skills necessary to overcome these obstacles in front of me, and I'm finding that after our meeting today I am so clear on what I need to do in the weeks to come. Yes - it will be difficult. Meeting each parent to discuss life in general when I don't know what the best way is to reach them will be outstandingly hard. Today though, I realized how extremely important it is to involve parents and families in the work we all do - and when there are successes, to share them with the whole family, because if we do not holistically teach, we are not transformational. 

I know that was a lot of word vomit, but I want to say this, readers. The work we do is never easy, and we don't expect it to be. It is, however, so very important that we continue to invest families each day in what we do to get the outcomes our students deserve. As often as I think I hate my job or I think that I can't live another day without a classroom, I think about the wins I have had. 

I'm sharing a video today that has nothing to do with any of the above commentary, but it does remind me that the look Damian has on his face at the end of this is worth every second of frustration. Enjoy, readers, as we embark upon the "at" family. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


We start this blog with numbers. 33 students per class. 31 days into the school year. 24 days of this school year is one I've spent without a classroom, without knowledge of when I will procure one, and 24 days of spending time with my students in very small groups.

I blogged a while ago about how I felt like a stranger in my own school. This, to some extent, is still true. I feel like I don't really have anywhere to go at moments, or what is coming next [because the change looming on the horizon is great] but I do know that each passing day gets a little bit better. This week was a week that I actually have enjoyed, despite some sort of respiratory illness [my bet is on bronchitis] and working out too much and not being able to walk!

I wanted to share with you, readers, a few of my students. They did some amazing things in the past couple days, and left a smile on my face.

I'll start with Monday. Each day, we flip flop what we will teach - math or reading. On Monday, we did math and I thought I would teach some patterns. Not having any clue how to go about this, the guru [Zach Usmani] came over and explained patterns to me while I painted an accent wall in my living room. I was listening, but dreaming of all the ivory picture frames I could hang at the same time, I admit. Anyway, he explained, drew me a picture, and sent me on my way. When Monday came around, I forgot half of what he said! I had the picture, and remembered him saying "a pattern is something that repeats itself" and I went with it. What I came up with was this precious child and his AABB pattern. I had explained AB and ABB patterns, gave them 2 colors of blocks and asked them to show in the boxes the part that repeats. R's did not fit in the boxes, but he perfectly created, extended and identified his pattern, which felt like a big win to me! He is not my highest, he is not my lowest, but what just gets me about this is what we are always told: children will rise to the occasion. R certainly did.

Today was a reading day! I enjoy literacy days so much, mainly because I understand how to teach it a lot better! Today just about cracked me up. Every day, we have guided reading. I read, they read, we choral read, and then they whisper read. After they all finish whisper reading, we pair off and read to each other - one monitors "good reading" while the other reads, and then they repeat the process. The kids love it, and I love it because they feel excited about reading!
Today, I look over and hear this little girl talking to this little boy: "No, B, what is this word? Point to it. Point to it and say 'the.'" When B correctly read the page, she looked him dead in the eye and said, "Good. Now kiss your brain." 
If any of you readers remember MJ from last year, this girl reminds me a lot of her. Neither one of these students know all of their letters and sounds, but watching them push each other to read, recognize sight words and correct each other is a powerful thing. I was so proud of both of these students this afternoon.

I often have to stop and remind myself that although the circumstances are not ideal, although space is limited and I'm often at my wits end, this is all worth it. Seeing their faces light up when they realize they read a 10-page book by themselves, or created a pattern that I hadn't taught them makes my job one that I do get up for in the morning.

To my fellow teachers reading this blog, it's October. We joke about this month being the month of disillusionment but please do your best to look for the good. It's there, I promise. :]

Monday, September 19, 2011

one day...

"One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education."

Teach For America, and the corps members around the nation, rally around this statement. For those of you that just clued in, not every child in this nation attains this excellent education we wish for them. 
Enter: corps members into schools that have children just waiting to be reached. I want to be very clear in the statement I just made-  the schools that we are placed in are in urban or super rural areas, and I'm not saying that there are a ton of terrible teachers. I have learned a whole lot from the traditional teachers I've taught with and I think that there is this huge stigma that corps members come in and we take jobs, we know everything, and we don't listen to veteran teachers. For me, this is definitely not the case. However, I digress and did not mean to bring that up at this time. 

It's no secret that I've been extremely frustrated with my job this year. I feel like I don't have a place, and there has been a kindergarten teacher out sick so I've been subbing for her class. The last four days I've been in her classroom, I've been thinking a lot about the Teach For America mission statement - which is actually something every child deserves. Although it is difficult, being a guest in someone else's classroom, I have a new lease on life.

I was walking around before, just trying to connect with the students I will be having. I was asking them how their day was instead of asking every kindergartner. I was pulling those students out of class to test, but I didn't spend much time asking the others what they were doing or how much they were enjoying school. 

I had an epiphany today. Today, I was teaching a rhyming lesson, and I looked around, mid-sentence at all 26 of my students today. I looked at them, so into identifying rhyming words in our book, and it all just clicked. It didn't matter whose kids I have, or what class I'm in - TFA nailed it. ALL CHILDREN have a right to a quality education, and if I can be that teacher in that classroom, even for one day, I will do my best. 

Sometimes, it isn't always about putting data into a tracker. Until I know if this teacher is coming back, or until I get my classroom, I'm operating with the knowledge that even if these students are mine or not, each child in this school deserves a quality education. It is inspiring, realizing that although some days the odds are stacked against me, I'm not progress known, and I'm definitely not comfortable, that it's okay. It will happen and for now, I'll live in this substituting world where I can give other children a quality education too.

It's freeing, really.