NOLA 2014

NOLA 2014

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Are we working backwards?

With all of the technology available to teachers, and classrooms, and school districts, educators are bombarded with choices. Marketing reps from EdTech companies put their information out there at conferences to show-off how their program can be used to maximize student achievement.

But where are the teachers in this process? Teachers are on the front line. Teachers already know what they need, what their students need, and can imagine ways to make their classrooms run more efficiently. Some are intimidated my the tech aspect of their job and are satisfied with using their devices for attendance, grading, and power point. Professional development in tech is usually centered around a new program adopted by the district. Some teachers can't wait to jump in, while others may be reluctant to try it. For someone already anxious around technology, experimentation, in front of a room full of students whose attention is already a hot commodity and not something you want to risk losing, can be daunting.

My school received Apple's ConnectED grant and recently went 1:1 with Ipads. Apple sent in support people to make sure our school was physically wired and set up to run 400 devices, but they also sent teacher trainers. We had a wonderful trainer who quickly realized that the level of comfort our teachers felt with technology was as diverse as our student population. She focused her instruction on teaching us the basics-Keynote, Pages, Padlet, GoogleEarth, IMovie, and Explain Everything. Clearly, these are Apps that she has found educators to use and appreciate. As we explored with our new devices and programs, teachers began discussing ways these apps could be used in their classrooms. "I wonder if it could be used for..." "Would this help with..." "How would it work if..."

Great questions. And a great place to begin?

Where You At, Tech?

Why are Software Developers beginning with the App and then asking teachers how to implement them? This seems so backwards. Why are teachers not at the helm of technology?

I may not be a software engineer, but I most certainly can tell one what I would like to happen in my classroom, for my students. Teachers are by nature, dreamers and creators. Free thinkers and problem solvers. If we're going to "Be The Change," we need someone to ask what that change might be and help us with it.

Last year, I participated in Digital Promise's Pilot to Purchase Program at the Ed-Tech Industry Network Summit in San Francisco. This was an open conversation between School Districts, Administration, Teachers, and Ed-Tech companies. Our focus was on how to improve piloting technology in our classrooms. By gathering all of the stakeholders in a space to discuss what is working and what is not was wonderful. We need more conversations like this-up front.

Why aren't Ed-Tech software engineers approaching teachers and
asking them for ideas? Why isn't there a hub of savvy app builders willing to listen to a teacher pitch their idea and make it happen? A couple years ago, May 2014 in fact, I sent a message to a techy friend of mine asking if he could help me face my LCD projector downward 90 degrees and set up my interactive whiteboard on the floor so my squirmy little kiddos could actually get down and dirty. He told me this was not possible. I moved on. Now, I see videos about interactive fitness gyms and wonder why couldn't this have been done in my classroom? Maybe I didn't know the right people.

Organizations like 4.0 Schools appear to be moving in the right direction, offering a space and collaboration around an idea or concept. We need more. We can't wait for policy to catch up with the modern demands of education. I have another idea. As do other educators. Where do we go to bring them into reality? Open collaboration between Educators and IT. It shouldn't be this difficult.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Is Anyone Happy with the State of Education??

Maybe Pearson? Or Bill Gates? Who is benefiting from our current educational system? I can say it's not the teachers and it's certainly not the students.

I'm fed up! 

I have children on both ends of the spectrum, SPED and GT. Neither is getting their needs met. My youngest GT child began third grade this year, full of excitement to meet her teacher and see her classmates and learn cool new things. She wore her back pack for the whole week preceding the start of school and had me pack her lunch to eat at the dining room table. She LOVED school.

This is not the smiling face I'm greeted with when I pick her up. The pressure of testing and content and curriculum (that isn't even developmentally appropriate), the lack of play and choice and exploration, compounded with inconsistencies with staffing and stressed out teachers are all making my little eight-year-old's passion for learning disappear.

Sadly, I don't see any of this changing any time soon. Am I to just roll with it, tough it out, and send her off to test or practice for the test or "build stamina" for testing everyday with a knot in both of our stomachs? Everyday--for the next 9 years?? I can't do it. She cries at night. Complete meltdowns. 

Her class recently took Unit Assessments in ELAR and Math. She received a 73 and 81 and was overcome by anxiety and the feeling of failure. This is not okay. At what point do we do something? What can we do? I'm a teacher in the same district and don't see any enjoyment---staff, students, no one. 

What are we doing to our schools? What are we doing to learning? What are we doing to our future? Who's going to say enough is enough? How do we change this? We're all dying inside--our creativity, our passion, our love for knowledge, all of it. What are we going to do and when? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thank you, Swivl!

I often wonder how I leave school feeling beaten up, run down, and truly exhausted--while my students leave with as much excitement as when they arrived. Do they have a way of sucking the life right out of me and filling their little bodies with all of my energy? I really don't think non-educators, test-creating companies, and politicians have a clue what we do every day in our classrooms.

So, Monday morning I recorded a lesson. Our school just got a Swivl, and I was eager to try it out. Every other week, at 7:45am, a group of fifth grade students who struggle in reading come to me for reading intervention. We use Fountas & Pinnell's Leveled Literacy Intervention kits to help bridge the gap from where they are to where we're heading.

I now know why I'm so warn out and they are not...I'm doing ALL of the work. As teachers, we try to squeeze in so much in such a limited amount of time. We often don't give students enough time to process. Granted, my students are Tier 3 students with limited experiences and reading difficulties, but I definitely can see lots of room for improvement on my part. 

With technology literally at our fingertips, teachers everywhere need to seek it out and use it to reflect on their practices. Watching my lesson has proven to be far more valuable than any walk-through or PDAS I've ever received.

How many times do I really need to say "Ummmmm" anyway? 

Monday, Monday

Monday, July 27, 2015

What to do with all of these peaches?

Thank you, Fredericksburg! 

Seriously. If you haven't eaten a peach from Fredericksburg, Texas, you are missing out. My husband and I took a last minute trip to Austin this past weekend and visited the Barton Creek Farmers Market before leaving town. Great idea. We were able to find some of our favorites--Buddha's Brew Kombucha on tap, Hello! Grass-fed Texas beef. And Fredericksburg Peaches.  

We always do a lot of eating when we're in Austin, so we try to stay active as well.  This weekend was a bit hot to climb Mt.Bonnell, but we did kayak on Town Lake. Lots of fun. 

It was my first time, so we went to EpicSUP on Lakeshore Drive. They're a bit further away from everyone playing around on the lake downtown. I was able to practice a bit with steering and syncing up with my husband before we hit traffic near the South Congress Bridge. And it made me feel less guilty for that avocado margarita from Curra's.

Anyhow, back to the peaches. We came home with a box of peaches. I have been eating them like they're going out of style, but don't want them to go bad. I sliced some up and paired them with our organic mint to do a second fermentation on a couple bottles of my homemade kombucha. Can't wait for that to be ready. I've also done a peach/jalapeno salsa to go on fish tacos tonight. 

And I'm making peach ice cream. Yes it has dairy. And sugar. But I'm going to splurge. Only the best for these peaches. 

To make me feel a little less guilty for eating this REAL ice cream, I drank Bulletproof coffee from Picknik Austin the whole time I was there, which was delicious. Just dairy-free. I'd say this just balances things out. Isn't that what life's about afterall? 

This is my first time using the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. Here's my recipe, thanks to Doug all the way from Negril. 

1 cup Organic Whole Milk
1/2 cup Organic Cane Sugar
1 Fredericksburg Peach, peeled and pureed
1 Fredericksburg Peach, peeled and chopped, place in fridge until the very end
1 tsp Vanilla Extract 
2 cups Cream (I used Organic Valley's Heavy Whipping Cream)

1. Add the Peach puree to milk and sugar and blend. Then refridgerate to chill.
2. After about 30 minutes, add vanilla and cream to the mixture and pour in Ice Cream Maker.
3. After approximately 25-30 minutes, when the consistency is just what you expect out of fabulous homemade ice cream, add in the chopped peaches.
4. Freeze in Rubbermaid 5 cup dish, and eat within a week. (Yeah right, this will never last a week.)

Now, just because I know you're singing it in your head too...Millions of Peaches


Friday, June 5, 2015

School's Out for Summer!

This is always a bitter-sweet day for me. I will miss my students greatly, especially those moving on to Middle School. I still remember my first group of 5th graders and the tears we shed on the last day of school.

I held it together today. But I will miss them just as much. I can't wait to see the wonderful things they will accomplish! Amazing young ladies.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I have foresaken all my pride...

Growing up in Flint,  termed “the toughest city in America” in the New York Times, and born to parents who barely finished high school, my future could have
been drastically different. I was fortunate to have parents, family, and teachers committed to my education, constantly telling me to “Work hard and go to college.” 

I was convinced that my future depended on it. Upon graduation, I returned to my roots and once again called Flint home. Bright-eyed and fresh from college, ready to give back to students like me, I accepted a teaching position with the same district I attended. I loved my students and truly felt I was doing what I was meant to do. But as time went on, I became increasingly frustrated. 

Many students didn’t have parents like mine, pushing for college, but that was out of my control. So who do these kids have to encourage them? To motivate them? To get them to college? 

Teaching isn’t the end for me. I want to be a voice for students, teachers, and school systems. As I continue to evolve as an educator, I have discovered that the greatest gift I can give students and teachers is the high expectations I hold for them. I want to ensure that the teachers in my school bring great pedagogical skill and knowledge of their content to the classroom, but more importantly, dispositions of genuine care, concern and love for their students. I appreciate directly how important schools that are organized around High Expectations and a culture of “No Excuses” are. 

I have seen the difference made in educational settings that integrate the family connection. We need to put the community back into schools. The more support centered around the success of our students, the better. 

This is my ideology and my passion, and probably one shared by many teachers. But then who is left to look out for us--the teachers surviving on a minimum salary with student loan debt? There is all sorts of talk about incentives to become a teacher and Loan forgiveness. Apparently, that does not apply to my situation.  I attended the University of Michigan from 1994 to 1999. Did you know that if you took out a loan BEFORE 1997, you don't qualify for loan forgiveness programs? Not even if ALL of your teaching has been done in Title I, Hard to Staff schools.  I have been teaching for 14 years and still have student loans in excess of my yearly salary.  I can't help but become frustrated. If I'd have pursued engineering like my high school counselor suggested or business, I may have been able to pay them back already.  

It's heartbreaking to know that in order to maintain my Teaching Certificate, I need to continue earning credits. I took out another loan to help pay for my Masters Degree.  I returned to Flint to teach--and the housing market crashed. I attempted to sell my home and was offered a short sale, but the mortgage company refused. When I began working in Flint, there were 31 elementary schools. Today there are 12. I was laid-off every year.  I moved to Texas to teach. 

I had a daughter that needed multiple surgeries as a child. She was born with a chromosome deletion called 22Q. She is amazing! We struggled. My income was too high for her to qualify for SSI and receive financial assistance. Too high? I fall into the too high to qualify and too low to succeed financial category every time.  Is there any wonder why there is a teacher shortage?  I've been too proud to ask for help or even admit needing it, but paying $490 a month and not having it paid off for another TEN years is horrific. 

I am proud to be a Michigan Wolverine and am extremely fortunate to have received the education I did, but I need help paying for it. I have created a crowd-funding campaign and appreciate any and all assistance.