Sunday, September 6, 2015

Who am I?

Yeah...this is going to be philosophical.....hopefully not deep enough for boots....

We all try to establish who we are. My blog title is "A 40 Something Teacher". My husband has been poking me because in a few short months that title will have to change....and it is not the "teacher" part that is changing.

On my Twitter account, there is a picture of me and Einstein. I am a lover of all things Einstein mostly because, like many of my students, "school" was not necessarily his thing...

I describe myself as a Weather Channel junkie. I love watching how nature acts.

My Twitter posts are pictures of the cat, the bird, my garden or my yard.(Oh and food...doesn't everyone post pictures of food?)

I have started a second Twitter feed that I hope to use to engage parents . It is following ACT (, SAT, FAFSA, Common Application, Naviance (our school district is starting to use this) the US Department of Education, Edutopia, a teacher from my district who posts classroom information, and our career technical school.

My email avatar is a jpeg that says "Failure is never an Option" and I believe that wholeheartedly.

Selecting a quote for my email signature is like a ritual. I always want it to say something about my character or beliefs. Some examples include:

  • "When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get them but you won't come up with a handful of mud either" Leo Burnett
  • "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle
  • "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • "I didn't get here by dreaming or thinking about it. I got here by doing it."  Estée Lauder, co-founder of Estée Lauder Companies
I have been told I am a digital immigrant working with digital natives.

I have been told I am a great teacher.

I have been told I am a mean teacher.

I think the best was last year when a student said, "Why do the students hate you so much? It's not like you are the worst teacher." I was flattered.

I am authoritative, meaning I believe in a well-defined structure where there are no unknowns. I tell my students, I am a fascist in my classroom...What's good for me is good for everyone.

I take Saturdays off of school. I try to do some house chores, though in my brain, my house is never clean enough. I also try to always do something fun with my husband to make up for the rest of the week. But on Sunday, I try to dedicate a part of my day (usually during the Browns game) to school work. (I love the Browns so it is a good diversion.)

It took me a while to figure out that I wanted to be a teacher so I call myself the queen of "change your major". It worried my parents, because they thought I was going to be a professional college student. (I kind of still am but don't tell them that. They are just happy that I paid for it myself)

I am in the 1st quarter of my 22nd year of teaching. I have seen the changing of the guard with central office administrators in all positions. I have seen principals and assistant principals come and go. I have seen the Ohio Proficiency tests, the Ohio Graduation tests, the PARCC tests (last year) and the AIR tests.

So who am I?
I believe I am a person who tries every day to help students see their potential. Sometimes this comes by being brutally honest. Sometimes this comes by being a cheerleader. Sometimes this comes by having very adult conversations with people who are riding that line between adult and adolescent. I believe it is important to like what you do and do what you like. I am lucky that what I like to do also pays money and if a student can find that thing, they too can be lucky.

(I feel like saying "I am teacher hear me roar", but that would be so 70's and you might not be old enough to understand the reference. Here is a link to the song lyrics I am Woman ,  If you take the word woman and replace it with teacher, you'll get the gist.)

Again...who am I?  I think we re-define ourselves constantly.  Today, I am a  40-something teacher. In a few months, I will be a  50-something teacher and there will be another decade of growth that will be defined by my roar.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Twitter Ego....

Friday was my first day back to school.  Needless to say, the Twitterverse is all a buzz with back to school stuff.  Some of it for the classroom.  Some of it teachers lamenting the end of summer. Some of it anxiety about the return to school.  A buzz I tell ya...A buzz!  (sounds like my husband speaking)

People talk about Twitter being a good professional development (PD) tool.  So here is what Twitter has given me:

  • I follow a number of  educators on Twitter; people from all levels of education and administration.  I love to see a superintendent crazy about his/her schools and students or a principal or coach celebrating academic and  athletic victories
  • Over the summer I have read tons of blogs and articles that I have gotten through my  Twitter feeds. 
  • I like to listen to podcasts so I have picked up a few more educational podcasts to listen to on my drive home from work.  
  • I have learned a lot through Twitter about Google Classroom (I am signed up to participate in a PD session in our district on Monday) and bought a book called "50 Things You can do with Google Classroom" (by @alicekeeler and @MillerLibbi)
  • I am learning to "Teach Like a Pirate" - another book I bought by @burgessdave.  I am just a few chapters in....I like it....
  • I have gotten the late breaking news on education and the world in general.
  • It seems that there is not a lot of love for homework at the elementary levels.
  • The marching band and football team at the high school where I teach are geared up for the new school year.
  • The superintendent of the school district I graduated from writes a blog.  
  • Some guy in Kentucky has given me advice about  what to do with my peppers from the garden.
I am sure there is more but this is just what comes to mind as I write this,  besides the every-man stuff like baseball scores, weather updates, pictures of food, silly animals and people, etc.  I know I have posted my fair share of  silly animals (the cat and bird  we live with) and the flowers, vegetables, and interesting visitors to my yard.  If I find something that I think might be valuable in the classroom, I email it to myself and sometimes forward it on to other educators in my district.

One thing that I have  learned about myself is that I have a Twitter Ego.  I confessed in this blog post Houston We have a Problem that I am addicted to Twitter but it has gotten worse.  I replied to a Tweet earlier this week and I have been watching the  "favorited" and "retweeted" counts go up.  It makes me feel empowered to do something to change the issue that 28 people have favorited and 8 people have retweeted.

It all started on 8/12 @ 6:21 pm with someone tweeting out that they wished teachers had recess.  My reply @ 6:40 pm was that I wished high school students had recess to help with their focus in the afternoon.  I got a reply from someone wishing their kids had just 20 more minutes of lunch. it is now 5:12 pm on   8/16 and the most recent "action" on this Tweet  happened this afternoon.

Now I have said it...the bigger question is: What can I do about it?

That is the thing I find kind of interesting about this "social media" stuff.  Lots of words....what about the actions?  I know I and at least 28 other people believe it but what can we do about it?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

From Where I Sit

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Yeah, I have not blogged in a while.  Every Sunday, my husband sits down to blog and asks me: "Are you going to blog today?" and I respond, "I've got nothing to say".

Today, I have something to say.  My husband and I ride a motorcycle.  In reality, he drives and I "ride" on the back. (I learned long ago that "clutching" with my hand and "shifting" with my foot was  not part of my  wiring.)  We gear up to be as safe as possible.  We never ride without our  armored jackets, helmets, jeans, boots, glasses, and gloves.  We always make sure we are in the best state of mind for riding and that the weather is optimum for our trips.  We have ridden south to  Columbus, west to Toledo (several times) and east to Geneva on the Lake.  We are kind of centrally located south of Cleveland so that gives you a general zone of where we ride.

I sit on the back of a 2009 Honda Shadow.
It is our  second 2 wheel vehicle (the first was a Kymco Grand Vista 250 cc Scooter).  From where I sit, which is higher than most vehicles, I am astounded by the number of people who continue to text while they drive.  Just last night we were riding out of our neighborhood and I am watching this red pick up truck kind of drifting  toward our lane.  As we approached a red traffic light, I turned to look at him and he looked back at me lifting his head from his phone in his hand on his right thigh.  ( yeah...I really have a good vantage point)

Maybe it's my Catholic upbringing or my school teacher-ness that makes me  believe that people should follow the rules (laws). I just don't understand why people continue to  let this" in your hand technology" rule every minute of the day. Sometimes I have this little fantasy in my head that I could be like Starsky and Hutch( the original, not the remake); I can slap that magnetic police light on the top of my "undercover" vehicle and conduct a traffic stop when people are breaking the law.  

I saw an excerpt of this PSA on television yesterday afternoon, before our ride.  It's kind of long but worth the watch.

Life doesn't roll in reverse.  We are not the great multi-taskers we believe ourselves to be.  It is not just your well-being/life you are  affecting.  It is everyone around you. 


Sunday, May 17, 2015

I think I might be a revolutionary

Over spring break, I got to go back to my Alma Mater with my godson and his mother.  His mother and I both attended the same college and we both loved our time there.  My godson is in 9th grade and is interested in  a program they have there so this was not our typical visit to our old stomping grounds.  We met with an adviser from the program.  It was a great visit.  She had the perfect words for a 9th grader who is not taking his education serious enough.

So, since spring break, I have been thinking about the things she advised him to do.  As any good adviser would encourage, she  told him he needed to have the best grades possible.  She also told him that he needed to start looking at  taking college courses while still in high school.  (I think this was more parental advice as she has grown children who were still paying off college debt.)  She told him that if he got accepted into the program, she would highly encourage him to participate in an internship.  She introduced us to a student  who had recently participated in an internship with a major player in the field. The experience he described was AMAZING.  Day one, he was asked to "take the Christmas tree down in the lounge" and he ended the experience working on a major national project for this company.  I found this fascinating.

This whole internship thing really seems to be the way to go.  If we want our students to be college and career ready, why do we wait so long to groom their talents and interests? There is no better experience than the experience.  I read a Twitter post today "You never want to get on a plane where the pilot learned to fly from worksheets." Yeah.  Absolutely.

A few weeks ago, we were out for lunch with some friends.  One of our friends always asks me "What do you think about this Common Core stuff?"  Like many people, he believes that the government has gone too far in its reach.  At some point in this conversation, we started talking about college.  Somewhere in there, my mouth started to run.  I stated that I felt that the future was not necessarily to get a degree from a college but to take classes and to also make those connections of internships in the fields of interest.  We demand so much of a 14, 15, 16, 17 year old to "know" what it is they want to do.  And when they don't, how do we help them?

When I look back at  where I started and where I am now?

In 8th grade, I had a teacher tell me I was a good writer and I should focus on that field.  It took me all the way until my 2nd year of college to discover that Journalism was not my field.  I DID NOT LIKE IT.

I tell students:

  • I am the queen of change your major.   
    • I :
      • started out as a journalism major  (HATED IT)
      • earned a bachelor of general studies
      • worked in property management (GOT FIRED)
      • worked in the restaurant management business
      • went back to school to be a social studies teacher(really connected with a teacher who worked with students with learning disabilities)
      • worked as a substitute teacher and waitress (job ads were looking for varsity coaches who could teach.....something, anything) 
      • went back to school to become a "special education  teacher" (what we were called before we were Intervention Specialists)
  • I am lucky to have a job that I enjoy.  You will be lucky too if you can find something you are good at that pays money.  If not, find something that pays you money so that you can do the things you are good at when you are not working. 
Myself and my first cousins are the first generation of our family to go to college.  When we went, we did not know what we were doing.  My parents did not know what college was going to be like because they had not experienced it.  I was always a good student but I did not know what I wanted to be or do.  If I had been given some experiences in the world, maybe I would have  figured things out earlier.  I have always been jealous of the person who has always known their destiny.  For those of us who haven't, we need experiences to help us along. Even those who do know would benefit from experience.

Revolutionary or common sense?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Best People

Right now, the freshman class is reading Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird". I remember reading this book oh so long ago when I was in 9th grade. Beyond the capturing of a time in American  history, more than the figurative language, there is a great lesson in this story: Stand up for what you think is right regardless of what other people think.  This essence of Atticus Finch is something that the teachers I work with embody everyday as they work with students who struggle with school. This is why I admire each and every one of them for the things they do to help students regardless of what people think.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'll take Analogies for $500

This whole testing thing has got me thinking. One of the people I follow on Twitter posted a series of analogies about teachers and testing, and likening them to other professions/activities. I kind of like the medical analogy and want to spend this blog examining it (pun intended).

When I go to the doctor, once a year, he asks that I have blood tests completed at least 2 weeks before my appointment. When I  arrive for my appointment, the nurse checks my weight, heart, blood pressure and pulse. I see these all as tests.

When the doctor enters the room, we talk about how I am feeling. He has a check list of symptoms that we review and determine if there is anything we need to address.

We also talk about the results of the blood tests and what they indicate.

In the biggest picture, these are all progress indicators.

The doctor does not lose pay if I have a test result that is not what it should be.
The doctor does not have a bad evaluation by his superior if my cholesterol is high.
The doctor does not have a bad evaluation if my thyroid hormones are not what they should be.
I am not scorned or marked as needing to repeat the tests if my results are not as they should be.
I do not have to repeat the tests until the readings are what they should be. In fact, if my test results are not what they should be, the doctor and I discuss what changes I need to make to have better results. If I do not make these changes, it is not the doctor who is held accountable, it is me. And if I do not/cannot make the changes, the doctor offers alternatives to help me improve my health....interventions.

As a teacher, I have always viewed tests as these "progress"checks.

Are my students learning what they need to be learning?
Am I teaching what they need to know in a way that helps them learn? I have always told students that exams are not just what have they learned, but how well have I taught it to them.

Teaching and learning are that team effort. The moment in the "examination" when the team decides how to proceed.
What is going to help the learner/patient make better choices about their learning/health.
What can the teacher/doctor help the learner/patient with to have a better outcome?
If the teacher/doctor offers help/advice to have a better outcome, and the learner/patient does not partake of the offer/advice can the teacher/doctor be accountable?

Yeah sounds like that teacher cop out moment. But is not like a factory. If it were a factory, the producer would choose the best raw materials to produce the best product (sounds like private schools that are selective of their students). I work in a public school. We don't have the luxury of being selective of who attends. I am a cheerleader and supporter for my students. I continuously encourage my students and treat everyday as a new day despite ....

As I sit here thinking of the "despite litany",  it also sounds like another teacher cop out moment. But really...I cannot control the actions of the people who come to school everyday and the things that happen to them  in the 24 hours between Monday's algebra class and Tuesday's algebra class. I cannot control the absent 3/5 days per week. I cannot control the growth of the brain that says "maybe not now, but later, you will be really good at this subject" or is wired differently and needs different approaches to a subject. I cannot control the chemistry that makes some students depressed, others ADD, and others ADHD. I can, like my doctor, offer help, suggest ways and alternatives to improve the outcomes. I can make interventions but unless the student/patient recognizes the problem and buys into the offers, progress is difficult at best. My doctor may say my cholesterol his high and I have to cut back on cheese. If I don't cut back, it is my problem, not my doctor's.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Houston, We have a Problem

I really didn't start out this way, but I have come to realize: I have a problem.

I am becoming addicted to Twitter....but only on the weekends.

First thing on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I catch up on my Twitter.

If I am house cleaning (a usual Saturday chore) I take a break to catch up on Twitter. 

Yesterday, my husband and I were shopping in the mall. He went to a gadget store. I went and sat down and caught up on my Twitter.

I read Tweets.
I compose Tweets.
I favorite Tweets.
I re-tweet Tweets.
I reply to Tweets.
I read blogs linked in Tweets.
I read articles linked in Tweets.
I follow people. I look at and consider the people who follow me and whether I want to follow them.
I have un-followed people.
People have un-followed me.
I look at the people that people I follow follow (huh?)

As of right now, I follow 185. Some are colleagues. Some are organizations. Some are educators I found through various other Twitter friends.

As of right now, 114 follow me. I don't necessarily follow everyone who follows me.  

The addiction part is heightened by the notifications. I look for those notifications. Someone Re-Tweeted my Tweet. Someone favorited my Tweet.  Someone decided to follow me. It's like reinforcement.  Usually, I am “favorited” or “retweeted” by my husband but once in a while, it happens by someone I perceive to be a Twitter celebrity, a well-known Tweeter. Twitterer? (Not sure what you call them).  In those instances, you feel like you have gotten 140 characters of those 15 minutes of fame.

Now, like any good addict, I never do this at work. Well, maybe just once or twice during lunch. And I am really just a weekend and vacation Tweet-aholic. I can pinpoint just when it started too: A weekend that started on Thursday and ended on Tuesday because of the cold conditions that canceled school. I knew I got the call from the Superintendent telling us there was no school, but I still had to check every possible outlet to make sure it was not some reality dream. And of course, there were Tweets from the school and various extracurricular coaches that school and practices were canceled. One of the cool things was the Tweets of various colleagues, reminding their students of the work/learning that should continue while we waited for the temperatures to rise to tolerable levels for our walking community. 

I would not say that Twitter rules my world or interrupts my life to the point that I need an intervention. I constantly tell my husband that when we retire we are going off the grid, like the Amish.

I can say that sometimes, you just have to watch some random Vine video posted on Twitter about a cat smacking a dog until the dog chases him (@FascinatingVids).

Or follow the fandom of local sports teams (@Browns, @Indians and @Mudhens ).

Or get some good life advice from Life Hacks (@life_cheates  and   @CoolestLifeHack).

Or get inspired by teachers (@hiphughes) and principals (Salome Thomas-EL @Principal_EL and Rock Star Principals @RckStrPrincipal) who are sharing their world.

And sometimes, it is the Tweets of inspiring students (@justinbachman3).

And seeing the coolness of my many colleagues as they tweet their classrooms and things their students are doing (too numerous to list here).

And sometimes you just have to let the world know what's going on in your world (@lisamwiegand).