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updates for 06.16.2011

11 new posts today

Lessons from day one...

Learning “the look” and other advice from day 1:

Be clear, consistent, positive, and firm.

Give clear expectations and follow through.

Mean what you say, say what you mean.

Use positive reinforcement and celebrate successes.

Draw the line. The line is not up for debate. Don’t engage in where the line should be. You will lose. You have the power—don’t give it up.

Heavy lifting causes the great results.

Find the things that spark the students—motivate them.

Not let up! The second I let up they take over.

Failure is an opportunity to get better.

Have a plan B (and C and D and E and F).

Let the parents know you care about their kids.

Kids have to know you care.

Be passionate and excited about what you do on a daily basis.

Always be asking “What am I going to do to get my kids to 100%?”

When you have to yell you have lost them.

Just because you are new doesn’t mean you cant be effective.

Learn and master “the look”- You know that look your parents give you when you missed curfew and your teacher gave you when you didn’t turn in your homework…

Play to the child’s identity—find similar values.

Know when to be firm.

Pace yourself.

Without hope we don’t have a chance.

Rome wasn’t built in a day—enjoy building.

Don’t give up.

Don’t take the way children approach you personally.

Fight past he stereotypes.

Everyday the kids are trying to live above and fight past their stereotypes.

When you favor a student the other students know.

Gain control of our classroom on day 1.

Set high expectations.

SPED teaching is just really good teaching.

SPED teaching is highly effective teaching.

Fair doesn’t always mean equal.

CM, alums, parents, students: What advice would you give me as a 1st year teacher? What holds true and what do you think wasn't effective?

Thanks for reading!


lesson plans and glorious bus rides

I'm telling myself right now that this'll be a short post, but, knowing me, it probably won't. In the tradition of TFA, today was an incredibly long day -- probably the heaviest one we've had so far, too.  We had multiple intense, 2-hour-plus sessions on lesson planning, classroom management, and investing students.  Just when we would really get thinking on one of those topics, we'd have to shift gears and get really deep in another topic. I had multiple moments of discouragement, and today gave the word "overwhelming" a whole new meaning.  But everything is getting much more interesting and applicable, so that wasn't the issue; it was more like "How on earth am I going to do all of this?".  I'm also still really intimidated when it comes to classroom management, but I'm feeling slightly better than I was. I just emailed in my first two lesson plans, one on order of operations and one on scientific notation.  Let me just say: lesson planning is hard!  Each one took me much longer than it should have, and I hope I'll have time this weekend to practice and get a head start on next week's plans. Though this work is incredibly hard, it's what I want to do. So different from piddly high school or college classes, this learning is what I want and need to do for my career, so it's fulfilling and satisfying. Institute has given me a whole new appreciation for exercise.  After sitting, listening, thinking and talking all day, it's felt wonderful to move my body, not talk, and NOT THINK for a glorious half hour. Another thing: the bus rides are becoming my favorite parts of the day.  It's an hour each way, and though I have to wake up an hour earlier than some other CMs, once I'm on the bus I really do enjoy the ride.  I get to sit, watch the sunrise, enjoy the beautiful Mississippi scenery, and listen to my ipod for an hour, and it's surprisingly wonderful.  It's perfect for amping myself up or decompressing before or after a long day. And - I've been saving the best for last:  I WAS PLACED today! I'm teaching 7th grade math in a random little town in southeast Arkansas.  I don't know much about it, but I do know that there's a Target an hour away!  It's about 2 hours from here, so I'll have to go visit on a weekend.  I'll also have to get to know the other CMs that are placed in that school!  Yay! Okay, I have to get up in 5 hours.  I really need to get to bed. A treat for you:  they showed this at the end of the day yesterday -- it makes me happy and gives me goosebumps: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI8lS8hr-nY


Ready or Not....

It's official...I am on my way to becoming Ms. Bloom! Can't believe the day has finally arrived!  I have decided to create a blog about some highlights of my experiences transforming into an educator.  I have no doubt there will be challenges, hurdles, excitement, joy, sorrow, disappointment, and hope.  I hope to use this blog as a way to share some of my most meaningful and memorable experiences. This week is induction: "Before the summer institute, corps members will have the opportunity to come together as a corps in their assigned region. Induction allows corps members to learn about the local community where they will teach and become familiar with their school district, programs, and curricula." Next week starts institute where I will be through July: "We operate rigorous five-week summer preparation institutes in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Mississippi Delta, New York City, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. Through opportunities for practice, observation, coaching, and study — as well as careful planning and thoughtful reflection — corps members develop the foundational knowledge, skills, and mindsets needed to be highly effective beginning teachers." Looking forward to the adventures to come...


Made it to Twitter!

I know that I'm behind the times on this one, but if you love my blog then you'll really love following me on Twitter. In two weeks I've already gotten 62 followers (is that good?) mainly because of this welcome tweet from my personal hero. So feel free to follow me if you have an account.


Positives and Negatives

Just a few notes as I take a break from staring at this stupid 5-step lesson plan.. okay I'm sorry this wonderful 5-step "I do, We do, You do" lesson plan.. :) 1. "Please put your head up." - me "But MISS!!! I'M TIRED!!!" "Put your head up. To get to 8th grade and to college we have to pay attention okay?" - me "NO." - my sleeper We continued this process for the ENTIRE 80 minutes. When I told him I wanted to talk to him after class he stormed away. When I literally pulled him aside he said "I don't care." and refused to look me in the eyes.. the problem is that he knows that he can go to 8th grade even if he doesn't do well in my class because of the way our stupid system works. Sometimes I hate our system - let's go ahead and set this poor kid up for failure. Awesome idea American education... :( I'm so lost on how to reach him. Fortunately and unfortunately at the same time I'm not the only one having issues with him. On the other hand... On Tuesday a student showed up for the first time and indicated to me that he did not really care about being in summer school. I tried to invest him and today he was AMAZING. Absolutely AMAZING. He made a 100% on his assessment which give me shivers. :) I named him and my other amazing kid who I will call my small one (he's soo tiny!) my leaders for the day tomorrow. So tomorrow they will pass out all papers, pencils, and folders. :) When I went and told my "uninvested" student that he made a 100% while he was in his math class he jumped up and said with a huge smile on his face "REALLY?!" I smiled just as big and said "yep!" He makes my heart swell. My wonderful "troublemaker" I talked about yesterday had a rough day today. I gave her a bunch of checkmarks which was not good. But, she made a 100% on her assessment again so that's good I guess. We're making progress.. still struggling with my ELL students. We'll figure it out though. This weekend's goal = learn how to differentiate. :) In the Words of Journey, Don't Stop Believin'


The End. (Just Kidding)

So-- the year is over. OVER. We are done. Finished. But here's the weird thing-- I am more focused on my classroom and my kiddos than I have been since I started this journey just one year ago.

This energized, hopeful, determination surprised me. I kind of planned on just vegging out and "forgetting I'm a teacher" this summer. Don't get me wrong, I've sat out by the pool almost every day and gone out more than I should have. I am enjoying summer. But I'm not ready to check out. I'm undeniably a teacher. Didn't see that one coming.

The new 2011 corps arrived last week. I'm so excited about new CMs in Tulsa and OKC! It was seriously refreshing to spend time with them during Induction. They are all so excited, so motivated and have SO MUCH ENERGY. I facilitated a "center" at an elementary session (explaining tracking, data, etc.) during Induction. CMs were asking me questions I actually knew the answers to-- then it hit me, I actually know what I'm doing. All this "experience" has actually paid off. I know how to be a teacher. I know 28165615861389562839684965 things a Kindergarten teacher should never do (sidewalk chalk on picture day? not a good idea) and I have at least a dozen solid teaching ideas and methods. I'm so glad to not be a total rookie. Teaching summer school has been a fantastic experience so far. I absolutely love my little kiddos-- they are so well-behaved and fun! It still surprises me when they can read directions and do math in their heads. It's been very interesting to see the huge differences in my end-of-kinder babies and my new end-0f-first students. I thought I might write one summative statement, something along the lines of, "This year was blank, blank and blank."  However, that doesn't seem possible, or even necessary. This year teaching was the hardest year of my life-- hands down. I learned more in my Kinder classroom than I ever learned in an AP class or college lecture hall. Room 3 started off as a hot mess-- my kids were out of control, I didn't know who I was as a teacher and was lacking confidence. At the end of the year, we were far from perfect. I still have so much to learn, but at the end of the year, Room 3 belonged to us-- Ms. Wheeler's Kindergarten class. We cried together, laughed a lot, raised our voices at one another and, essentially, we all grew up. My babies grew their brains, learned to read, add, subtract and got ready for first grade. I learned to have patience beyond my means, to cheer the success of my five year-olds and grew into myself as a teacher.

Up And At 'Em

Institute is in full swing, but no students yet. Institute started on Monday and I learned that I will be teaching high school English II (to 11th graders I think) at a school that is an hour away. That means that I have to be up, eaten breakfast, and picked up my packed lunch by 5:55 when I have to be on the school bus heading to school. The bus leaves sharply at 6:00 and my day goes from there. I have been placed in a special ELA pilot program (since Spanish is not being offered as a summer school course at the school I am teaching at for institute). So, I have spent the past week learning about the ELA Framework and how to help close the literacy gap by helping students to better understand texts in a real-world framework. I haven't taken English since my senior year of high school, so I definitely have my work cut out for me. Our first text is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The students come on Monday (we will be doing diagnostics Monday and Tuesday). I start teaching on Wednesday with foreshadowing....which I must go continue writing my lesson plan for so this post must be wrapped up! And I know I said I would write just about everyday.....but I'm afraid there just isn't going to be time for that these first few weeks when I am planning my heart out and getting to bed by 9:30 p.m. for my 4:45 a.m. rising time.....so check back periodically (or make it your homepage and you will be able to see if there is something new). Peace. Love. Achievement.


When You Know It's Really Over...

Two photos of my classroom, one taken... Before taking stuff down: and one taken... After taking stuff down (with the help of student labor): It's been a great two years here in DCPS. Though there are things I will certainly not miss, there are many more things that I will miss. It's over, folks. (Back to breaking down my classroom, a feat in itself.) profile counter


super tuesday

Welp, I haven't written in ages so I'm going to forget a lot/sound ridiculous/write in fragmented sentences (it took me five minutes to type that word) because it's late (10:46 pm..amazing how perception changes) and...it's Super Tuesday. Someone referred to today (Tuesday, duh), aka the second day of Institute (which is where I'm at right now. I know it's confusing for family back home to keep track of me when I'm moving all around the Southwest every few days, but to be clear, right now I'm in Phoenix, training for this week and then teaching 7th grade math and reading for 4 weeks at Conchos Elementary for summer school) as Super Tuesday. It wasn't that super, actually. In fact, I kind of feel like slamming my head against a wall. Why? Least common multiple. WHAT IS THE LEAST COMMON MULTIPLE???? Seriously. I'm teaching math for the first two weeks of Institute, and when I looked at the standards, they all seemed pretty doable. But please...somebody...look in the mirror and explain what the least common multiple is, specifically when you are comparing fractions. Oh, but pretend your reflection is an incoming 7th grader who may be reading on a 4th grade level (4th grade might be pretty extreme, but the majority of students come to summer school for remediation, which means they likely will be on an incoming 5th or 6th grade literacy level. Doesn't translate into magical results for math). Anywayyyyyy. LCM. I don't know. And even if I came up with a magical definition, how do I know my students have mastered the building blocks to get there? What if their diagnostic reveals that they don't know what a fraction is, or what one looks like? What if I can't explain what a multiple is? (I can't. I mean..I'm a quadruplet. So I'm a multiple. There. That's good, right?) None of this is riveting or exciting or anything. Just frustrating. But on the good news side, I have a super cool collab group (a group of 4, including me, who'll be teaching 7th grade, switching off between reading and math), or as we like to call ourselves, Team COOK: Stirrin' Up Success...BAM! Ahem. That motto took a long time to create. It's because my 3 collab members are teaching in Colorado (CO) and I'm in Oklahoma (OK). So anyway. I don't even know if my neurons and firing anymore, so I'm going to bed. If you have a good way to teach LCM to 7th graders let me know!


Move In Complete and Some Alum Ramblings...

I've now officially joined the ranks of dorm living for the first time in 6 years. The last dorm I lived in was in Long Beach, California when I was attending the LA Institute in 2005. Prior to that, it was the Southeast Dorms at the University of Wisconsin waaay back in 2001. The set up here at IIT isn't that bad. SDs live in 3 bedroom suites that have a mini-kitchen (fridge, woohoo!) and a decent bathroom with shower. Plus there is AC, which, although it wasn't in effect today with temps in the mid 50s right now, I can rest easy knowing it is ready when the summer heat strikes. As I look to tomorrow, I know the pace will quicken until it reaches breakneck speed next Monday for Day One. For now, I'm enjoying the silence of the dorm and the clicking of my keys as I type. I hope to maintain this blog 3-4 times a week, even if the posts are smaller. My goal is for readers to gain insight, not just to the corps member perspective, but of the alums continuing in the battle against educational injustice. For we all know, the work does not end when your two year commitment is up. Rather, that is when you have a more personal understanding of the incredible challenge we are up against. At that moment, you can tell a lot about a person's commitment to this battle. Do they walk away, never to talk about the achievement gap again, or do they remain as committed as they were on the eve of their first institute, bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to put up a good fight. If you are in the latter category, you are in good company!


Institute Time

Last week began the TFA process. Induction began with little sleep and sessions, sessions, sessions. Some sessions were really informative and inspiring, others led me to hate uptalk (which if you have been to induction you know what I mean). Note: Squash sandwiches with kraft singles - not the best. Sunday morning, after 3 hours of sleep (story of my summer), we piled in a supers huttle and headed to the airport. At the airport (probably because of 3 hours of sleep) I forgot I had a pocket knife in my purse. Then we stepped out into the desert heat and dry air of Phoenix (yet another hour ahead). So I am in day 3 of Institute right now. I just finished my first lesson plan - it is incredible how hard it is to break down the meaning of words. Like how do you describe what a positive number is and how to locate it on a number line for 50 minutes? Also, I just found out that I was randomly selected to ride with a CMA (Corp Member Advisor) to our school site.... 15 minutes before the earliest bus (!!!) that leaves at 6:15. Most importantly, I get to meet my students on Monday. Current temperature: 99   - - -   Current temperature  in Colorado 60. Also, thank you to all those who suggested comments last week. I really appreciate it! - Ms. R


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