Welcome to My Blog!

Welcome to my blog! I use my blog as a way to reflect, share, organize, and re-conceptualize my views as an educator. Enjoy and feel free to comment, post, disagree, and share your opinion. The more perspectives, the better!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Interesting Take on School Funding

A friend shared this link on Facebook and it was really eye opening for me. It is a letter from a school superintendent in Michigan comparing school funding with prison funding in Michigan. While I do not believe that more school funding is the answer for failing schools, I believe he has a VERY strong point.

Dear Governor Snyder,
In these tough economic times, schools are hurting. And yes, everyone in Michigan is hurting right now financially, but why aren’t we protecting schools? Schools are the one place on Earth that people look to to “fix” what is wrong with society by educating our youth and preparing them to take on the issues that society has created.
One solution I believe we must do is take a look at our corrections system in Michigan. We rank nationally at the top in the number of people we incarcerate. We also spend the most money per prisoner annually than any other state in the union. Now, I like to be at the top of lists, but this is one ranking that I don’t believe Michigan wants to be on top of.
Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.
This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!
Please provide for my students in my school district the same way we provide for a prisoner. It’s the least we can do to prepare our students for the future...by giving our schools the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.
Respectfully submitted,
Nathan Bootz, Superintendent, Ithaca Public Schools


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wrapping up my Sociocultural Psychology of Immigrant Children class

Below is my final photo-journal entry for my service learning class. In the post I reflect upon not only the class, but how I feel a teacher should best work with children who are immigrants and children of diverse backgrounds. 

A photo I took from a Dr. Seuss illustration. I think it is a pretty good depiction of my  route to Nashville (and current mental state!)

Headed to Nashville in a little over a week!

What have I learned?

One of the things that I like about service learning (and really all service opportunities) is the opportunity to learn from people outside of the "ivory tower". Learning comes from doing, seeing, and interacting. I enjoyed working with the children at AMIS. Beyond learning about the children, I learned a lot about the Cincinnati Public School system. AMIS is the fourth CPS school that I have been involved with. I have seen the 'good, the bad, and the ugly' at all of these schools. All have improvements that need to be made---some more than others, but at every single one of these schools one thing was the same---there were children who needed and wanted to be supported, treated with respect, grow and learn. How do you do that? One of the things I have learned through our coursework and through working with CPS student is to learn about them.

In my last class today our professor said, "A teacher that I would trust to work with students--a teacher that I would hire--is one who can show and demonstrate a respect for children. It is not enough to say you love children. You have to respect them." I believe this directly relates to what we have learned this quarter. We need to respect children who are immigrants. We need to believe that they can learn and be as successful as any other child in this country. We need to respect the families of the children--even if their values and beliefs significantly contrast with our own. We need to respect the culture of the children we work with and most importantly we need to SHOW the children we respect them by listening, trying new things, and supporting them in any way we can. As a new teacher I know that there will be times when I will be under a lot of pressure to perform, to show significant progress in my students. I cannot let this pressure compromise what I believe to be a fundamental part of learning--an open classroom environment. For this reason I really identified with the Igoa text. It was easy to see how much work she put into creating a classroom environment. She let the children learn and open up at their own pace. She knew that children, especially those making the transition to a new country, needed to work at their own pace. This is a lesson that I will apply to my first year (and hopefully throughout my career).

Ironically, the very first page of the Igoa book (in the praise section), sums up alot of my learning in this course--the idea that children who are immigrants are individuals from complex backgrounds. To find out about them is to learn about many aspects of their lives--as we said in class, "What ISN'T important to know about working with immigrant children?" Jim Cummins presents my thoughts on this quite eloquently:

" ...at some level, all teachers of immigrant/culturally diverse students must become researchers if they are to teach effectively since no theory can supply the answers to the range of issues teachers are faced with in our increasingly diverse schools."

The 'American Teacher'

I want to see this!

"Narrated by Matt Damon, "American Teacher" seeks to counteract popular misconceptions about the teaching profession by showing, in a style of close-up realism, what teachers actually do and what their lives are really like—and how continued neglect of the profession may be jeopardizing the nation's future. The film interweaves portrayals of five stellar K-12 educators from different parts of the country as they navigate daily challenges and try to manage the "logistics" of their lives. Examples of the teachers' obvious professionalism and skill are set against, sometimes to comic effect, the near-Dickensian nature of their working conditions and scheduling demands."


More on the project the film has started:
" THE TEACHER SALARY PROJECT is a feature-length documentary film, interactive online resource, and national outreach campaign that delves into the core of our educational crisis as seen through the eyes and experiences of our nation's teachers....

Our educational system must change. Currently, 30 percent of American students drop out of school by age eighteen. Fewer than 30 percent of all eighth-grade students are proficient in grade-level reading and math. Most significantly, students from urban, financially disadvantaged backgrounds are at a greater risk for decreased cognitive development and ability, lower school attendance, and higher rates of grade failure and early drop-out. And though it is well documented that the most important school-based factor in students' academic achievement and future success is the quality of their teachers, 46 percent of public school teachers leave the profession within the first five years of being in the classroom.

A good teacher has the power to change the course of a life. A teacher can move a child from poverty to promise by providing him or her with the skills and confidence necessary to be carried into adulthood—yet because teachers in the United States have historically had an average annual salary lower than their peers with similar educational backgrounds, 50 percent of our nation's best teachers must have second jobs outside of the classroom-like tutoring, mowing lawns, selling stereos, or bartending—to be able to afford to teach.

Our educators are responsible for imparting knowledge, mentoring, guiding, and fostering our nation's future, yet as a culture we discredit the profession. It is through this historical, societal, and systematic devaluing of our nation's most important profession that our children are faced with broken schools and low prospects. It is time that we as a nation address this educational crisis and make teaching the prestigious, competitive, and sustainable profession it deserves to be. Only then can we improve the success rates of our country's children and keep our democracy thriving."


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Loveland boasts unique prom court

A story of two high school students with Down Syndrome who selected as prom King and Queen. The article points to a lot of the things that inclusion can do. Many of my classmates, myself included, are strong poponents of inclusion. I have always been worried that inclusion phases out as students get older. Loveland has clearly kept it a priority. I think it is huge to prepare students for collaborating and learning about students of all types.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Saying Thank You and Other Gestures of Appreciation Part 2

As I mentioned in the previous post, it is important to help students understand why, when and how we say thank you. Here are some ways we have said thank you (or have shown appreciation) this year:

(1) Learning to make and write thank you cards: We taught the students how to fold paper in half to make cards.  It seems simple, but it is a lesson in itself to show how to fold a card and where the "message" of the card goes. Once we learned how to make cards we made them for different occasions all year long.

(2) Field trips and presenters: We go on a lot of field trips and have several presenters throughout the year. We use this as an opportunity for children to use writing in a meaningful way. We typically write letters to these people.

(3) Shared writing: Thank you/ appreciation letter. Write letters and thank you's as a group. It is easy to incorporate sentence structure, vocabulary choice, and editing into a shared writing like this.

(4) Pictures: Take a picture of your students saying thanks! Have each child decorate a letter and hold it or make a banner to let the children decorate and take a class picture. We used this in our classroom for a get well soon message, thank you to our Fasching basket winner, and I even got a birthday card like this!

(5) Giant Card: Make a poster-sized card and let the children sign/ decorate. We used this idea to welcome our German teacher's new baby!

(7) Pick a name activity: one morning we had each child draw the name of another child in the class. They were instructed to write or draw something you like about the person they had drawn. We collected all of the notes/ pictures and sent them home in each child's morning folder. They LOVED it!

(8) Royal Friendship Book: In our classroom we pick a King or Queen each week. Throughout the week we learn about the child. Each Friday every student and teacher writes a letter to the king or queen. All of the letters are put into a book and presented to the king or queen at the end of the day. Note: we also use this as a regular writing assessment and make copies for documentation. This is especially helpful because it is a familiar process for the students each week.

Saying Thank You and Other Gestures of Appreciation

One of the most important things I learned from my mentor teacher was the impact showing thanks and appreciation can make. Don't get me wrong. I was not rude or inconsiderate before, it was just that for me, saying thank you and showing appreciation was either pushed aside until some ending point, forgotten, or routine and scripted. Working with my mentor teacher changed this.

I remember the first day of school this year. Most of the teachers were running around like crazy...bringing things into their classroom or putting the finishing touches on the classroom. My mentor teacher? She was rushing around, but in a different way... She was delivering notes and small gifts to our secretaries, specialists, custodial staff, and administrators....I even got a Fairview T-shirt as a gift this week to wear on Friday! You should have seen how happy such a little gesture made them! (By the way, she repeated this before and after breaks and on a few other occasions...the secretary's even got St. Patrick's Day flowers!) After seeing what such a small gesture could do to improve relationships in the school, I chose to replicate this idea by putting together small candy bags for some of the key people we work with for Relay. This never would have even occurred to me before. Say thank you before we even get started? Crazy!

Keep up the good work all year long... A small note goes a LONG way. Another great idea I got from my mentor teacher was to mail notes of encouragement to students all year long. She rotates sending notes to her students so that every child gets a few notes of positive encouragement each year. In the notes she mentions how proud she is of each student for something that has recently occurred (a great spelling test, becoming even more fluent in reading, being a great friend to classmates etc.).

Random Acts of Kindness... Any one of my classmates can tell you that this year was a lot to take in. We worked hard and at times were stretched very thin. Coming to school each day with a positive attitude was both necessary and expected, but my mentor teacher could usually tell whether or not my attitude was genuine. During one particularly busy week she slipped a small note into my bag. It simply said, "You have been working really hard. Take a break and give yourself a chance to relax!" and was attached to a $5 gift card. It wasn't a lot, but completely unexpected and the perfect thing for me at that moment.

In our classroom we have a student who has a chronic illness. He often misses class--sometimes for a week or two at a time. The children in our classroom are aware of his illness and do a great job of welcoming him back each time after he has been gone. This student missed a very special day of class during one of his hospital visits and instead of just sending the fun home, my mentor teacher send all of the supplies for the activity and asked each student to write our missing classmate a short note or picture. I cannot even begin to describe the smile that came to his mom's face when she picked up our class package.

I really started to get the hang of this random acts of kindness thing and it is something I hope to carry out in my classroom and in my personal life. It is a self-improvement type of thing on my part, and I really believe that I will be a better person if I incorporate these random acts into my life.

The end of the year (times two)... It was the end of my internship and it was my turn to show thanks. I found myself wishing I had done more to show my appreciation for my students, mentor teacher, and other special people in the school, but it was too late. The least I could do was show my thanks now. I went into super card and gift mode. I did my best to show how thankful I was for a wonderful experience in a very short time. I think I did a pretty good job. The most important gift? My mentor teachers. There isn't a gift in the world to show how much I appreciate her--she really is someone who I will look back 50 years from now and be able to give her credit for changing my life--but I did my best!

So here I am again...At the end of the year. This time it is not as a teacher, but as a student. I am leaving a school and a city I love. This past week I have been writing my post-event Relay thank you notes. I am humbled and grateful for how my people have made a significant impact on my life and causes I care about. I only wish I had learned how to show my appreciation sooner!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Trust and Limits

"Effective limits are set withing the context of trusting relationships. Here, limits are ultimately felt by the child as supportive"

--Ben Mardell

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Professional Mission Statement

In our Stories of Teaching class we were given the task of writing our professional mission statements. I went into the assignment thinking it would be something I never looked at our touched again, but after writing it I feel differently. My mission statement, which I am sure will change and evolve over time, puts words to so many of the beliefs and ideals I hold as a student and an educator. So here it is. Comments and suggestions are much appreciated!

This classroom brings students, teachers, families and community members together through a shared responsibility for one another’s growth and development. Students are welcomed into a safe, inclusive and engaging environment in which they will be encouraged to collaborate, ask questions, and think critically. Children will be met at their unique developmental levels and challenged to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and take pride in their achievements. As students learn to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and apply content knowledge I hope to empower them to become life-long learners who are ethical, compassionate, and independent members of society.  

'Miss Hansen' supplies classroom through social networking

Check out this story on one of my classmates. She was the one who gave me the inspiration to start this blog and has gone so far beyond the expectations set for our internship/practicum experiences.  She has some really lucky current and future students!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's hatching in your tummy!

I had the pleasure of babysitting today. While we were playing...

A: "Do you hear that?"
Me: "Hear what?"
A: "That noise! There's a baby in your tummy?"
Me: "I don't think so. There is no baby in there"
A: "It's just pretend! I hear it hatching! You're hatching a baby!"

The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries

"WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, theJoint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources."


Read it. Think about it.

Revere's Levy Passed!

Revere's levy passed! This past month I have become very aware of the issues facing my hometown school district. Why? I am informed because one of my high school teachers reached out to young Revere Alumni over facebook. She encouraged alumni to voice their opinion and vote absentee. While I am no longer registered in the district and could not vote, I was excited to see how many of my former classmates came together to show their support. Tonight, when I heard that the levy passed, I took some time to really appreciate that I am a Revere alumni. We all know I was ready to leave Revere and move on to bigger and better things, but the reality is: would I be the same person, the same student if I had not gone to Revere? Would I have the same views? The same opportunities? I doubt it.

Every time that I have stepped into a school this year I feel just a little bit guilty. These students will not have the same opportunities handed to them like I did. Even at Fairview. The families of my students had to wait in line for DAYS just to get something close to the education that I received. It's not fair, but I owe a lot to the Revere Local School district for helping me realize this. I owe Revere for PREPARING me for college. Not just getting me there, but preparing me. My last two years of high school were far more rigorous than my first year of college. This is not a statement intended to reflect poorly on UC. They have to teach introductory courses to meet the needs of students coming from all different districts--this is a reflection on the quality of my education at Revere.

The picture above has a dual meaning. First of all, it was taken as an assignment in my high school photography class. A class that, thanks to the passing of the levy, will continue to be taught by an excellent teacher. Students will continue to get enrichment beyond their core subject areas. This means everything. These are the courses that helped me become a well rounded student. These are the courses that helped set me apart from students from other schools. Did I end up going to school for photography? No way. But in this class I found a hobby, an outlet for relaxation, and a way to discover my new surroundings. Photography helped me adjust to UC and the beautiful city of Cincinnati---a place that I now consider my home. Photography will help me transition to Nashville. Photography, and several other outstanding art courses, helped me learn the value of composition, design and symbolism. I use these principles all of the time---designing Relay flyers, creating powerpoints and presentations, and in building a classroom environment.

The second part of the picture is the book that is in it. The book is my AP composition book. Another class (and teacher) that prepared me for college. I live and breathe audience, purpose, and strategy in my English and Communication classes. Thanks to Mr. Silvidi, four years of my student-athletes have improved their English grades thanks to audience, purpose, and strategy. "You need help with your English 101/102/289 paper? I know an easy way to help you. It is called audience, purpose, and strategy. Trust me, if you can identify these three things, you will pass you paper." I learned this in high school.

Thanks Revere. Thank you for giving me the foundation to become a college graduate. Thank you for giving me the tools to be a successful students AND a successful teacher!

Inspiration from Educating Esme

In my Stories of Teaching capstone class, we were assigned a memoir called Educating Esme. The book is essentially the diary of an eccentric, non-traditional, yet successful teacher (by my standards and standardized test standards). Esme has a personality that is VERY different from mine, yet I can see a lot of myself in her...and from our class discussions, so can many of my classmates. I pulled out a few pieces of inspiration from the book...things that I can relate to and things I want to remember as I begin my first year teaching:

Q: "What kind of classroom environment will you create?"
A: " Do you mean physical, emotional, or educational?" (p.4)

"I don't work for you. I work for the children." (p. 52)

"They know I  would never let them fail. That's why they do what I ask, no matter how much they complain." (p.69)

"I can only do what I know is realistic for me to be able to do." (p. 113)

"If I had a child, I'd want her for my child's teacher. Isn't that the real litmus test?" (p.139).

"Children rise to meet our expectations, good or bad." (p. 151)

"When someone asks me, 'How was your day?,' I never know what to answer. I have thirty-one days every day, a different day with each child." (p. 160)

"People snicker, 'Those who can't do, teach.' But, oh, how right they are. I could never, ever do all I dream of doing. I could never, ever be an opera star, a baseball umpire, an earth scientist, an astronaut, a great lover, a great liar, a trapeze artist, a dancer, a baker, a buddha, or a thousand other aspirations I have had, while having only been given one thin ticket in this lottery of life! In the recessional, as I watch them, mine, the ones I loved, I overflow with the joyous greed of a rich man counting coins. Wrongly I have thought teaching has lessoned me at times, but now I experience a teacher's greatest euphoria, the knowledge like a drug that will keep me: Thirty-one children. Thirty-one chances. Thirty-one futures, our futures. It's an almost psychotic feeling, believing that part of their lives belong to me. Everything they become, I also become. And everything about me, they helped create" (p. 194).