Sunday, May 18, 2014

Looking Ahead (A Little)

This is the time of year when I turn green with envy...as I look at the blogs of teachers who are almost done with school and I have a month left. We don't have a month left because we had too many snow days. We had 5 (more than we've ever had in one year in all 8 years I have taught but less than our cut off of 6). For some reason this year, we just go longer than all the other districts around us. I am not sure how that happened. My own kids are done June 5 and I am not done until June 12. *sigh*

I have been a bad bloggy buddy lately anyway since I've been busier than ever but even when I do peek, I get jealous that  some are almost done. I wish I was. It's been a long year. The year started out really promising but as the curriculum got harder, my students started to give up. :( Nothing I have done has motivated them to get back on the proverbial horse. On paper they have made progress (roughly 14 point average gain in math and 12 in reading which is above the yearly average of 8-9 points)...but their ability to be critical thinkers, to be doers because they want to be and to create learning opportunities for themselves is no where near where I would like it to be. It's discouraging. 

This group of kiddos just don't seem to get that THEY are 100% in charge of their learning. I know some people will disagree with me but I have done enough research and worked with the lowest of the low and some VERY bright children in my 8 years....and I have watched some very ineffective colleagues teach very smart children...who learned despite the environment they were in. My students think that because I am the smartest person in the room (simply because a. I'm older than they are and b. I went to school a lot longer), that they will just "pick up on" what I'm teaching. Sadly, that's not how it works...you have to take charge, you have to engage, you have to TURN ON YOUR BRAIN AND USE WHAT YOU LEARNED. I let my kids take a science test and use their notes because it was a hard test....and only ONE child got a B. One. A handful of D-s and the rest were Fs. I don't know how you can fail a test you had notes for!

I have said multiple times this year that sometimes...I wish I had stayed in 1st grade at the other school. Not because I don't like my kids or my school...but because 1st graders want to please you for the most part. There may be a few instances of apathy but I very much doubt it is as rampant as it is at the 4th grade level in our school. It kills me. I am a learner...I wouldn't be going after my doctorate if I wasn't. I L-O-V-E academia. I can barely get most of my students to pick up a book without threatening them :( 

On top of that...our incoming class of 4th graders will be....challenging. To be fair, only maybe 8 of them fit into that category. But because of the behaviors and some lack of follow-through with behavior plans and things, these kiddos think they run their classrooms. Uh, SO not happening in my room. Sorry dude but you better get that through your head like yesterday. I don't want to have to be a big jerk but I'm sorry....you are 9 years old. You don't get to talk to me like you are 30. Not going to happen.

I know, for the most part, these kids just need a firm and consistent hand. They need someone who WILL follow through on what they say they are going to do but will also love that child and fight for him/her with all they have. I can be that person....but do I want to bang my head on the wall to accomplish it? No. 

I'm coming to a point where I feel restless. Do I stay? Do I leave? Do I wait it out? It doesn't help that gossip and rumors have run rampant and people have tried to get me in trouble because I am more vocal when something displeases me. It's not cool. I don't want to be a part of that. I don't know what to do.

I have plans for myself professionally that do not include my current district. Or any current district. I have goals that I will achieve no matter how long it takes me to get there. Alas, I'm not sure where I am at this moment is the place I should be for a variety of reasons. 

In some respects...I can't imagine not being in my current district or school. There has been a lot of great change since my first year of teaching. (There have been some really ridiculous things too that fortunately didn't last too long.) Alas...I'm not sure that my vision aligns with some of the things I am being asked to do. With things I foresee coming down the pipe that I already know I will be 100% against because they simply are not good for children. 

I have to look ahead. I have to think about the long term. Where do I want to be in 2 years? 5? 10? Is where I am now going to help me go where I want to go? Perhaps if my answer is no, then I need to think on that and make a change now before it's too late.



The Caffeinated Teacher

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

YES! Celebrate with a Sale! :)

Sorry I have been a horrendous blogger lately (I'll be 100% honest and tell you I can't even remember the last time I read someone else's blog that wasn't linked from FaceBook *sigh*)...alas, I have been busy. Busy living, teaching, Thirty-One-ing (I just made up that verb), etc. 

Last week I submitted everything I needed to for my application to the doctoral program. I knew I was accepted by last Thursday because I got a welcome email that invited me to set up my online credentials and whatnot. I checked it on Friday and noticed I had a class schedule as well. :) Alas, I did not want to say anything until I had an official word which came today at 11:13 right in the middle of math class. (Don't worry, my phone was on silent--it did not ring in the middle of my class.) 

I am E-LATED. Seriously. I love academia. Probably too much. :) I can't wait to dig into these classes and really get started on my ultimate career goals.

As such, I want to celebrate my pre-Dr. Wood status as I am calling it...and am extending the specialness to you, my readers. Between now and Sunday night, May 18, I will provide free shipping on anything (ANYTHING) you order from Thirty-One. Seriously, you can spend $10 or $200 and I will pay your shipping (that'd be $20 off if you really did spend $200--not that I expect you to, that might be celebrating a lil too much!). 

You can order via this link. (Note: it will "charge" you for shipping when you check out but I will discount it when the event ends so you won't be charged for it.)

Don't feel obligated AT ALL (especially because I've been such a yucky bloggy buddy lately) but many of you have been with me through thick and thin and this is the only way I can really share my celebrations with you all. 

Have an epic rest of the week. I am going to go float on Cloud 9(teen!) for the rest of the evening :)




The Caffeinated Teacher

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Doctor Who?

Things are coming together, I hope! By the end of next week, I should hear officially if I am going to be a doctoral student or not. 

I am really, really excited about the whole thing. I was working with a gal named Ciara from the university as my enrollment specialist. I emailed her yesterday to let her know my transcripts were in the mail. She let me know she was just moved over to working solely with MBA students and I would have a new enrollment specialist/counselor named Chris. 

He touched base with me today and had me update one thing in my letter of intent (LOI). He also said they already had my transcripts. (How did that happen so fast?!) I had to request a transcript from University of Phoenix where I took an online class for my master's program because I could not get into the class at my university. I was able to do that electronically and they had it within 15 minutes. I updated my LOI and sent it to him. He said that he looks over everything and then a reviewer does to make sure they didn't miss anything, etc. He said his reviewer was very impressed with my application. Yay! 

Now it's just a waiting game to see what the committee says. Part of me would like to think there is no way in the world they wouldn't accept me but then again...who knows, right? This is the big time now. 

If I am accepted, I will officially begin my first doctoral class on June 29. The course titles seriously just make me smile. I am beyond excited at even the prospect of this program.

My first courses would be: The Ethical Educator; Transformational Learning; Creativity, Inquiry and Innovation; Quantitative Research Methods; Leading Organizational Change and Qualitative Research Methods; The Nine Lives of Scholarly Writing.

Color me a huge geek but I am SUPER pumped about these classes. They are mostly research and pre-research based. Those are all the courses I would take my first year (one at a time, 7.5 weeks per course so definitely doable). The second year I would get to take my concentration area courses.

I will probably cry if I don't get accepted...I am so, so excited about the whole thing. It's the first big step toward me truly reaching my goals. People think I will leave the K-5 classroom once I earn my doctorate...nope. I plan to create change from within. 

How much more is my voice going to mean toward changing policies if I am a practicing teacher rather than just a talking head?? That's kind of my view at this moment. I can't wait to see how my opinions change (or don't *wink*) based upon what I (hopefully) learn in this program.

Cross your fingers, eyes and toes for me. I want in SOOOOO bad.




The Caffeinated Teacher

Monday, May 5, 2014

Segregation

Last week in our Reading Street story, the 4th graders and I read "My Brother Martin" by Christine King Farris. This book, of course, is about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was written and narrated by his sister. It was really interesting to read this story with my students. I teach in a very diverse school: most of my students are Hispanic but we have a healthy sprinkling of Caucasian and African American students (plus this year I have an Asian student too). I absolutely LOVE the diversity that we have at our school. It so was not this diverse when I was a student there (it was predominately Caucasian then).

As we listened to the story, I asked my students to keep tracks as we went along. I give them some free reign on how to do this to best suit their own learning but did ask them to focus this time on questioning--what were they wondering about as they listened or what wasn't making sense? 

The ensuing conversation was absolutely amazing. See, these kids don't really know anything but diversity. They can't imagine not playing with someone because they were white or black. When we had finished listening, I gave them a few minutes to finish up their tracking in their notebook and then let them share at their tables. What I overheard was mind-blowing. Sometimes, when you just let kids talk, they will come up with things you couldn't have come up with at your best moment.

As I listened, I got inspired and quickly took four pieces of chart paper and put on the top of each one the title: "What would the world be like if we still had segregation?" I gave each of my four table groups a chart, a couple of markers and asked them to write down what they had discussed at their tables.

It was truly amazing how offended my young friends were to realize that if we still had segregation, only four of us in our classroom would be allowed in there (one of them was me so only 3 students) simply because of the color of our skin. I can't show the posters because they reveal student names and things that is isn't easy for me to cover up but wow...I was really impressed with their logic and their compassion. (We had also read about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott last week too as we were practicing our comprehension strategies.)

My students can't imagine telling someone "you can't play with me because you are a Negro" or not playing with someone because their skin was brown or white or yellow or black (or purple with green polka dots as I always tell them). They can't imagine being against someone simply because of their skin color.

Thank God they can't. I told them about my very first year of teaching. I taught on the other side of town from where our school is. I was the only white person in my classroom. It didn't bother me one bit. It was a little intimidating at first but it didn't bother me. I had a young girl, she would be a high school senior now, tell me that she didn't want to be in my classroom because I was white. (Of course she said this solely because she was upset with me about something and said the most hateful and hurtful thing she could think of.) As I explained to my young friends, calling that child's mother and telling her about this is something I will probably never forget. I had a great relationship with her mom and she was absolutely mortified that her child would say something like that. I remember the conversation clearly--her mom was falling all over herself to reassure me that she didn't teach her child to think that way.

I knew she didn't. I also knew the child was angry and was hurting and lashed out. We're all guilty of that in some way, shape or form. Alas, I also remember that year that during Black History Month, someone (I never found out who) had put a paper in all of our mailboxes entitled "If there were no black people in the world". I wanted to read it to my students that year and didn't get past the title before they were exclaiming how racist I was. Once I got them to be quiet and listen, I read it to them and showed them how important African American people are to our country because of the things they have invented. 

I look back at that first year, which was not an easy one by any means, and always remember these things. Those kids, now almost grown ups, were so used to anyone who looked like me treating them differently just for being black. I think it really surprised a lot of them that I don't look at them any differently due to their skin color. I'm glad, eight years later, that my current students, for the most part, don't know how it feels to be judged by your skin color. They know its wrong and that's enough.

That's enough. 

P.S. I found this story online that is basically what was in the paper we were given that day but ours was not read like a story.


The Caffeinated Teacher