Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 30

What would I do if I were not afraid?

1. Act more upon on the ideas that pop into my head at 2 am. Some of them are really great- just need to roll with them. Do them for my classes and not wait for others to be okay with doing it as well. Some of them will never be okay with thinking outside the box. 

2. Share my ideas with more educators at conferences/ workshops. Hopefully this fall this will happen. I hear this week. Enough of sitting at conferences being annoyed with the thought "S***, I could be saying this. " running through my head. 

3. Stop teaching and open a bakery.  Everyone loves a cookie. Mom, you make the best chocolate cookies ever!

Thanks everyone for participating in one of my 2 a.m. ideas, the 30 day blogging challenge!

Stay in touch, Beth

Monday, September 29, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Chllenge- Day 30

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 30

Our lives as teachers are a journey along a highway road. Never looking back, I am forever changed as I move along in mine towards an unknown destination.

After 25 years...

I am a more patient teacher. 
I am a more aware teacher.
I am a more spontaneous teacher.
I am a more resourceful teacher.
I am a more collaborative teacher.
I am a more thoughtful teacher.
I am a more involved teacher.
I am a more connected teacher.
I am a more techy teacher.
I am a more student-centered teacher.
I am a more reflective teacher.

Teaching for me is a journey fill of twists and turns, exit ramps and on ramps. Life is a highway and I am grateful for the ride! 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Teach Though 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 28

Teach Though 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 28

We need to move beyond saying that technology is a sideline piece for our curriculum, that is should complement and enhance the material that we are teaching, but not be the central focus. I believe the opposite. Technology should be at the forefront of what we do every day and we educators should work to embed our material within that digital learning environment for our students and for their future.

In this anywhere/anytime age of technology, students need to have the digital skills necessary to collaborate with other people both locally and globally. I believe that IF educators have the available technology/infrastructure/support/training (and I know that this is not the case in all schools- sigh- so sad!) in your school and IF experts in the field have shown how educational technology pieces can be a benefit to the classroom, then we should find a way to incorporate what we teach into technology on a consistent basis. 

I am not saying turn your curriculum upside down and re-design everything, but rather take pieces of lessons, units, etc. a little bit at a time and pair them up with a viable educational technology piece. This article at Edutopia brings up some benefits of using technology in the classroom:

1. it allows teachers to reach multiple types of learners
2. it deepens and enhances the learning process
3. provides a diverse and current array of learning materials
4. connects students to the real world and creaks down classroom walls
5. allows teachers to move into the role of facilitator/coach, creating a student-centered classroom
5. reduces carbon footprints!(well , that is not in the article, but an obvious plus to technology)

We need our young men and women to learn the skills necessary to participate in the highly technical, inter-connected world. Shouldn't we be teaching them that way so that they are better prepared for that when they leave us? Let's find a way to weave in technology more consistently, have students work and create with proven tech tools and have technology be a central part of the wonderful things we do every day in our classrooms.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 27

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 27

I am still creating myself professionally. And I love it. The educator I was many years ago when I walked through the doors of the school I still teach at and the teacher I am today in the 21st century are worlds apart and for that I am thankful.

So when I think about my Saturdays and my vacations and my holidays, I need that time for me. I need to get away from school just like everyone else. I get tired of it- need a break- want to escape the grind, to stop the noise, and outside influences and center on what important- time connecting with family and friends to laugh, to cry, to vent and well...to just be Beth.

But I have this tiny person (it's tiny, but it has a loud voice!) inside of me that constantly pushes me to be someone different tomorrow than who I am today. And I am okay with that. So my Saturday, vacations, holidays also include time for improvement. It may be reading a book about teaching, it may be finding a new activity or websites that have ideas for my classroom, it may be learning about a new teaching approach, and it even could be seeking out other like minded educators to work with both locally and globally. Devoting part of my "free time" to re-inventing myself has strengthened what I teach and how I teach it and students are benefiting from that.

I am still re-designing the teacher I want to be and I still have many Saturdays, vacations and holidays to do just that. I hope that I am finished before I retire in less than 10 years. But I probably won't be. Because I am work in progress. And I love it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 25

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 25

It's as easy as 1-2-3...Where do I go when I need some help?

The #langchat forum on Twitter. Helpful info from my online colleagues! Hands down the best advice on language teaching from experts to new educators in the field. I love the multiple perspectives, I love my beliefs and approaches about language teaching being upended, challenged and changed for the better.

Pinterest clips of woksheets/informational graphics- I like the graphics and worksheets available to supplement my courses.

...and old departmental colleagues now retired that have the wisdom and experience to guide me!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 25

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 25

A Blended World!

I am a teacher at a face to face high school. I am also a teacher at Illinois Virtual School, an 6-12 online virtual school. I am blessed with both jobs! If I could take both of those worlds and smash them together, I would then have my ideal collaborative environment.

It would be the perfect blend. Like peanut butter and (strawberry!) jelly, like coffee and cream, like chocolate and caramel. I am sure you can think of some more great relationships, but I am sort of hungry right now, so this is my focus.

A face to face environment offers so many benefits; the personal contact every day, the relationships formed with teacher/student, the multiple levels of assistance offered students during the day, the personalized instruction and guidance, the rich social and emotional environments where they can grow and learn from each other.

An online learning environment also offers positives to students as well. Opportunities to learn at one's own pace, flexibility around busy schedules, a variety of ways to show learning, the development of digital learning skills and literacy, increased student accountability, an a true collaborative environment with both students and teachers.

My ideal collaborative environment would be a blended classroom in a flexible scheduled school. School would be an open campus, students would come to school as needed and would get support from teachers who would still hold actual classes a couple of times a week. Teacher are available to work with students face to face, but students would have the option to come and go as needed from the building depending on their level of understanding and mastery of the material. The rest of the required course time is spent online anytime/anywhere working on the material, collaborating with classmates in a virtual learning environment that is set up to complement the course and continue the learning away from the building. Collaboration would be happening at the school and continue at home without the ideas that students HAVE to be at school. Because with all of this technology, they really don't all the time.

Let's work to provide students with an educational infrastructure and programs that promote continual learning.Because  learning should not start and stop when students come and go from the school building. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blgging Challenge- Day 24

Teach Thought 30 Day Blgging Challenge- Day 24

Recipe for a Robust 21st Century Classroom 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 23

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 23

Creating Community in the School Environment

As a language teacher, there are so many ways to bring the Latino community into the classroom. Community means culture, and it is through these cultural connections that my students learn to appreciate the language that they are studying. And language teachers hope that these cultural connections instill in students a desire to speak, visit, get to know the people of different countries and cultural backgrounds.

I love to bring in a sense the outside community whenever possible, but I think it is very important to also create a sense of community in the classroom and school environment.

This year our school has many new Guatemalan students who has just immigrated here to the U.S. My AP students are going to be mentoring these Guatemalan students and serving as ambassadors to them as they settle in. They are going to have lunch with them once a week, and be available to tutor them in school subjects as well as share personal experiences about school life here in the United States and our community. It is my hope that my students will help to transition them over to life and school studies here in the York community of learners, as well as form some new friendships and appreciate/embrace our cultural differences and similarities!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 22

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 22

Let's not think of PLNs as Professional Learning Networks or a Personal Learning Network. I would like to think of the concept as Passionate Learning Networks. Because that is what it is. A group of energetic and spirited educators meeting to give/share ideas and give each other support in the teaching journey.

My PLN is filled with just that. Dedicated, fiery, motivating, caring and adventuresome teachers. I have found mine out in Twittersphere and even though I have never met them face to face, they are dear colleagues of mine. I had been looking for them for years now, looking to find teachers who want to navigate uncharted waters, for ones who question the status quo and take on tasks without an idea of where they are leading or if they are even going to get paid for their efforts. 

Thank you #langchat for energizing me and refueling my efforts to keep me abreast with specific language trends so that I can be a great language teacher. I enjoy the weekly chats on Thursday nights!
And thank you #reflectiveteacher , Justine Hughes and the Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge for promoting reflection on the larger education ideas and overarching initiatives that help me as well. I am learning so much from all of you and look forward to continuing the journey!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 21

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 21

These are some of the things that I like to participate in outside of school:

Any language teacher is a huge travel aficionado, so I always love to talk in the target language with my students about interesting places that I have visited or that are on my bucket list. I hope that I bring out in them a joy of discovery and global connections.

I also love sports and try and pull that into conversations or activities whenever I can because I know that I am tapping into the interests of my students. I hope that it helps them to make better connections to the material being studied and pay attention just a little bit more during the class hour!

I am a techy geek, so with the 1:1 movement and the wealth of 2.0 Tools out there, I am able to pull in that love to class, let my creative side go wild alongside it, and have fun right alongside my students as they create with the language.

And finally, I am a big reader and I want to encourage every young person to pick up a book and get lost in that world. I have a section called "I am currently reading..." on my class webpage where I share with my students the book I am reading at the time. I am trying to be a positive example to them and show them that it is cool to read!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 20

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 20

I think I need to unveil my secret project...

I spent all of the summer creating a template for an e-portfolio using Google Sites. I don't have it "public" yet since I want to make sure that I have all the bugs worked out. And ugh,  I did find one the other day. Darn that Sharing Setting on Google....make sure that you check it over in every nook and cranny of your site before you throw it out there!

I am piloting the e-portfolio in my AP Spanish class as a place for learners to curate and reflect on their skills leading up the AP Exam in May. After working through the logistics, pumping up technology skills, and lots of screencasts/demos, students seem to moving right along!

Here are my lovely students doing a speaking assessment on the Chromebooks (using Voice Recorder) which afterwards they downloaded and reflected upon in the e-portfolio. Donuts came after!

The e-portfolio is a place where I am asking students to place evidence of the 4 skills in a language: speaking, writing, listening and reading. After students place an audio, writing piece, reading/listening assessment in the portfolio, they are also asked to reflect on that pieces of evidence and place those thoughts in the portfolio as well. With me linked up on the portfolio, I have an opportunity to read reflections and conference/follow up with any student to give feedback and coach them. The portfolio also contains a spreadsheet with ACTFL Performance Indicators and Can-Do Statements from my area of teaching. I periodically ask students to look at the Performance Indicators and evaluate themselves where I once again dialogue with them to talk about how they are performing as well as help them to set goals to move forward with their language proficiency.  

So far things are going well. So happy to have those Chromebooks in my class for a semester. What am I going to do next semester when they get shipped off for another department to use?! I think I need to go talk to an administrator because this e-portfolio initiative is epic. This is by far the best way to house students' work and reflections on their learning! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 19

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 19

I try and use a variety of feedback that is ongoing and meaningful in my class. It can be exit slips I ask students to fill out before they leave, data streaming into my computer from student response system activities, a simple thumbs up/down from students, a conversation after class or my personal comments on how they can improve their proficiency and electronic portfolios that I am piloting this year

Whatever the approach, there are 3 things that need to remain constant:

Feedback must be Perpetual and it must be Personal.

The only way that my students are going to gain confidence in their use of the target language is by thinking about what they are doing, receiving/giving feedback using a variety of sources, and incorporating those all into a plan of action for the future. Including opportunities for feedback at least a couple of times into your class hour will help students take their temperature often and diagnose their progress learning the language.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 18

TeachThought 30 Day Blogging Challenge- Day 18

As an individual and teacher I am like a ...

Did you know that sharks constantly swim as a species? Did you know that they need to keep moving to get water moving across the gills? When sharks move forward it forces water through their gills which draws the oxygen out of the water and into their system. They need to keep moving in order to exist.

As an educator and as an individual, that fits me to a tee. I don't mean the evil looking teeth, black eyes or feeding habits, (well, I do admit that Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) is one of my favs!)  but I am referring to the constant movement both they and I require. I need to be busy, I need to have my tasks, I need my to-do list, I need to have a goal. Maybe because life is more interesting for me that way and seems to move along quickly when I have a task that I am focusing on. Maybe I am just never satisfied.

That includes my teaching as well. I am in constant review/reflect/re-create mode. I am uneasy about pulling out any activities without giving them a second look and a possible review. I like making things and trying new approaches if in the end it's what's right for the students. Even if it means more work. I like to ponder: What went right last time? and What went wrong? I am a doer and a thoughtful educator.We need more educators to be sharks if we are to prepare them for the 21st century and our interconnected world!
I am like a shark because I always have to keep moving in the classroom, doing things to be a better teacher and educate my students in ways that will help them learn more. If I stop moving, I cease to be! Forward, always forward.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge - Day 17

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogging Challenge - Day 17

One of the most pressing issues in education today? Fostering student self-advocacy.

As we embrace 1:1 environments, it is so important for teachers to foster self-advocacy along with general tech skills in our students. This is even more crucial as we work to move our classrooms towards student-centered instead of teacher-centered classrooms. We need to move in the direction of activities where students create, investigate and analyze (and a host of other higher-order thinking skills!) on a consistent basis with the technology. Creating a student-centered classroom also includes embracing the SAMR model where we modify our existing tasks/activities (and possibly even throw away old ideas) to create fresh activities that include technology, Web 2.0 Tools, online collaboration and reflection.

Encouraging our students to use technology in their classrooms asks them to lead in their own learning,and it also asks them to be responsible digital citizens within the 1:1 environment. It asks them to effectively search for and sift through large amounts of information and use different ways/tools to show that they are understanding the material.

For me this is a pressing issue, since we have flooded the school with the technology, but we have not always adequately trained teachers on how to use the hardware and the software. As a result, teachers are not guiding the students effectively on how to use the tools and not incorporating it into their curriculum. This leads to students not using the tools correctly or not using them to their full potential. And sometimes it leads to the technology not being used at all. By embracing the shift to a 1:1 environment, and creating activities that ask our students to collaborate, investigate and create with us acting as facilitators, we are fostering students' self-advocacy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge - Day 16

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge - Day 16

Superpower, you say in the classroom?

I already believe myself to be WonderWoman in my personal and professional life. I am able to juggle many different things at the same time. Sometimes I am more successful than at other times, but I believe in keeping going, moving forward, being the best I can be.

So in being WonderWoman, I also have my magic lasso of truth with my outfit. I think that would come in quite handy in the classroom. I could lasso students and colleagues and find out how much they studied, what really happened with the incident, get at the core of the truth instead of dancing around the issue which leaves me tired and frustrated.  

Also, I would have those nifty bracelet cuffs that deflect anything that comes my way. That would be great in those moments when I am thrown curve balls and am not quite prepared for the moment. You changed my schedule at the last moment? Pow! Find a way to get 5 things done in 1 hour? Kablam! Give timely feedback to 90 students by tomorrow? Shazam!  I could have rally used those in a couple of moments this year!

Actually, I don't require the outfit to be Wonder Woman. Quite honestly, I don't have the hourglass figure for that outfit anyhow!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 15

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 14

What are my five biggest strengths as an educator?

1. I have a love of reading and because of this I have been able to learn about new initiatives, stay up to date on new approaches and incorporate them into my curriculum. I can't imagine someone being a teacher and not liking to read!

2. I have a high level of focus.  I am able to set a goal and work towards it without getting distracted from the end in sight. I find that I am usually the person to be called in to clean up messes, re-do curriculum after it has been let go for years, re-direct programs and kick start new initiatives. Sometimes I get frustrated at that, but hey, that is one of my gifts.

3. I am young at heart.Working around teenagers for 24 years gives me a fresh outlook on life, inside information to the latest trends. I can't imagine working in an office cubicle. Teaching revitalizes me, the students make me laugh, and the school years seem to fly by.

4. I have grit. Maybe this is what they call "spunky" or my "German heritage" but boy, do I have this. And it is the characteristic I am the most proud of. I don't give up, I find a way to reach my goals and to be happy. I think having a high level of focus (my #2) helps with this as well. 

5. I have an adventuresome spirit. I like new things, I get bored easily and I love a challenge, so I will try anything once! This helps in school because teachers need to be up on the latest, especially with technology and it helps to want to discover new things!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 14

Teach Thought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 14

Don't you just hate it when the cable signal goes out?
Suddenly, you get this...

You've seen it. That annoying feedback called 

This is what our feedback sometimes looks like to our students. 
It's confusing, colorless, has no clear picture and then *click*, students shut the message off.

Feedback comes in many forms. Some teachers like to write comments in the margin of a paper. Other instructors like Web 2.0 Tools that provide them with a easy,quick turnaround on communicating student progress. Still others (and I do like the personal touch) like to dialogue with the student one-on-one away from the classroom and give them personalized feedback and work to develop them as students and individuals, those deeper connections that students crave. 

My point here? Whatever way we choose to give feedback to our students, we need to make sure that it is timely, detailed and colorful. That way students get a clearer picture of their current level of performance. They know exactly where they stand in the course, they know what they need to improve, they see areas where they really did well and receive specific suggestions to move forward in their learning.

So here's to clearing up the feedback that we are sending out to our students. Let's move away from white noise towards some high-definition feedback that they will stay tuned into!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 13

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 13

I have so many tech tools that I love, so where do I start? 

I have some hardware piece that I use on a daily basis. Of course, I have an LCD projector that I just could not live without! And then laptop of course- I don't know how I ever got by in my teaching without it. Seems so odd to be thinking about how I taught so many years with chalk, a blackboard, a yellow pen that i used to mark attendance with (and put it on the outside door for the hall monitor to pick up), a mimeograph machine, a film projector....you get the idea. The computer seems like it has taken care of all of that.

But my favorite tech seems to be software and any Web 2.0 Tools that I use in combination with my lessons to help deliver a knockout lesson to the students in my classes. I like to try them any Web 2.0 Tool (I am always volunteering for Beta testing), like to evaluate their usefulness and then narrow my go-to list to a couple that are user friendly, easy to use, beneficial for students, and free.

I really love Socrative as a method for formative assessment in the classroom. With Socrative, I can quickly and easily determine if my students are ready to move on in the learning or if we needed to review more in class. The students really like the "Space Race" game! It also gave my students valuable exposure to using smartphones in a responsible way.

I also really enjoy using Google Apps for Education. So easy to work with and a collaborative dream for everyone that uses it! Using the Google Apps in my classes has cut down on my paper use, has increased students working together productively, has inspired me to re-evaluate and re-create some project ideas to be even better that they were before. I do admit that Google Apps does not give me much room for my creativity and has a somewhat flat/boring interface, but GAFE makes up for it in so many other positive ways with my students that I have gotten past those lack of options.

And finally, I do like using Remind as a way to stay in touch with students outside of class. I like to send my students inspirational quotes, pictures to ponder and upcoming important dates/events. As we know, the contact with students outside of the school period is becoming more and more important. It helps to form even stronger relationships with them and our encouragement and coaching of students need to continue even when they are not with us.

Looking forward to reading your blogs and possibly finding a new gem to check out and play with!


Friday, September 12, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 12

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 12

How do I envision my teaching changing in 5 years?

I am a fan of anything tech. I really wish Mom would not have gotten rid of that Atari we had growing up. When I was young, I went to game rooms in the 80s and played Galaga and Tetris with a handful of quarters for hours. I love gadgets, love to play with gadgets and like to stay informed of new trends and how they affect the way we all live, learn and play. I believe in embedding the tools/approaches into my curriculum to better reach my students and help prepare them for the future. 

Where would I like to see myself in 5 years? In a paperless environment out in cyberspace. I want to participate in an online anywhere/anytime environment where students are guiding their own learning, going at their own pace and going out and interacting with information instead of waiting for it to come to them. 

I hope to have an online classroom where I am not in a school building anymore. I want to deliver my lessons to the students from the comfort of my own home and hold virtual office hours and hangouts where students can chat in the language, get answers to their questions, and move forward with the material when they are ready to. I have started in that direction as I teach some online courses for at-risk students or students who don't have language programs in their school. I would like to see this initiative expanded and embraced by more schools.

In 5 years, I hope that we look to expand virtual educational settings more for students. Let's embrace the future and look at online education as a viable option for all students and not as a threat to teacher jobs!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 11

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 11

My favorite part of the day is the early morning at the school. Since I am an early morning riser, I drive 45 minutes into school, avoiding traffic and am often the first person in the building at the high school. Literally, I am the first one besides the custodians in the building. The fact that I arrive at such an early hour and that I park in the same parking space every day is great fuel for some jokes. 

I love my early morning. The whole world is quiet, and I have a full cup of coffee, ready to let the ideas flow forth. I easily can move forward with the creative ideas that have been turning over in my head during the night (did I tell you that i have a "busy mind"?) and I have learned to embrace a lack of sleep (and become friends with the whirling gears in my head) and I love my time alone to make my ideas come alive for me, my classes and my students. I gobble up all that time to get ready for the students while the halls and my classroom are silent.

Also, it is my time to reflect on my teaching. How can I help my students to learn the concepts on a deeper level? How could I structure my lesson so that it more effectively meets the needs of all my students?

I also take time to think about who I am as a professional educator. I am all about learning as much as I can while I am in this profession. So, what's my next goal? What would I like to accomplish next in my career?

The mornings are for me!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 10

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day10

Today we blog about a variety of fun facts about yourself as an educator and as an individual! Here I go!

5 Random Facts about Myself
  • My favorite pig out food would be mini-powdered sugar donuts. 
  • I love watching old black/white movies. My favorite one would be "Sunset Boulevard". 
  • My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. 
  • I love a good nap in the afternoon to recharge.
  • I have my motorcycle license.
4 Things on My Bucket list
  • To Wear a mascot suit just once in a football game. 
  • See a stage of the Tour de France whiz past me at 40 mph as I stand in the French countryside 
  • Take a trip on an Amtrak train out west. Go old school with a sleeping cabin and dining car. 
  • Participate in a demolition derby with a pink car and pick helmet
3 things I hope for as an educator.
  • That students become more resourceful and independent as learners over time
  •  That schools go completely 1:1 with technology 
  • That someday educators will stress less about their teacher evaluations  
2 things that make me laugh
  • Spending time with my 3 year old nephew, Charlie. His world is so simple and magical. 
  • When I sit with my colleagues and chat about anything other than school, it makes me laugh
1 thing I wish that others knew about me:
  • That I am a loyal friend.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 9

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 9

Biggest accomplishment no one knows about?

Being the center of attention is not my style. I like being in the background, hanging out at the fringe. I feel good there because I can observe people, learn from their mistakes, not dip my toe in the water until I am good and ready. Tortoise or the hare you ask? I say the tortoise- slow and steady wins the game for me.

This year I read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and I was really struck by her challenge- What would I do if I were not afraid? It went to my core. It made me think. How much more further could I go in my life if I were more of a risk-taker, an "all-in" gal, a woman who just goes for something?

I figured lots.

So my biggest accomplishment is that I am taking risks. I am attempting to put myself out there, to lean in more, to position myself more in the action than on the fringe. But taking risks can bring loss and disappointment.  Recently I put myself all in for a new position at my school- and that did not work out like I hoped. I walked away sad,confused, mad,...and wanting to retreat back into my tortoise shell.And I did for awhile to determine if I still wanted to stay in that comfy place or find my grit and
take more risks knowing I have lots to offer the world.

So here I am again. Opening another door and leaning in. This door that I opened is a great new place! With a little "leaning in" and a lot of help and support from Justine Hughes and the people at TeachThought, I am helping to guide 80+ teachers in a 30 Day Blogging Challenge! 

So here's to doing things, taking risks even when you are afraid!

Monday, September 8, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 8

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 8

What's in your desk drawer and what does it say about you?

These contents indicate that I am a seasoned teacher. Every seasoned teacher has a small pharmacy in their desk drawer that resulted from many trips to the store during off-periods. This cornucopia of remedies comes from years of colds, headaches, backaches, germ-filled surfaces, sore muscles, sore throats, dry hands, clingy skirts and clingy cat hair. I need all of this to keep me at my best, in school and working with the students!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 7

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 7

Talk about your most inspirational colleague. 

I want to share my most inspirational colleague with you all. Fernando Mendoza.

This is a young boy who left Havana in 1959 soon after the Cuban Revolution. This is a young boy who, with his brother and parents, came to the U.S. with nothing but suitcases in hand and a hope for freedom and a better life. This is a young boy who did not speak English when he arrived here. 

This is a young man who worked hard, put himself through school and university and who became a high school Spanish teacher so that American students could come to appreciate his language, his culture and his country of Cuba. He loved every single one of his students and they loved him.

This is a man who believed in America, in the goodness of its people and of all we have here and talked about it often. This is a man who was my mentor when I arrived at York and who taught me so many things about classroom teaching and about life. This is a man that showed me that I have an extended "family" at York and of the importance of supporting each other. This is a man who always believed in being kind and gentle with people.

This is a man who loved a good cup of coffee: black with lots of sugar. And who drank lots of it. This was a man who loved to laugh and who took time out of the busy "papeleo" of school work to talk and bond with others because according to him, that part of school was important as well. 

This was a man who was always waiting to go back to his beloved Cuba. But he never got a chance to return. But I know that he is "home" in many senses of the word, or at least that is how I envision him every day as I pass his picture in our language hallway. I see him walking along El Malecón, looking out on the Havana coastline with a smile on his face, a Cuba Libre in hand, waiting for others to come and join him.

I know someday he and I will again chat about teaching, politics, late night TV and life in general. But in the mean time, I can only hope he knows how much I learned from him as I pass on his lessons to new teachers entering the profession. I can only hope that I do him proud. 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 6

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 6

What does a good mentor look like? 

Just a simple creative post today!

Makes students a priority
Encouraging always
Never stops learning
Thoughtful and interested

Reliable and resourceful


Friday, September 5, 2014

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 5

TeachThought 30 Day Blogger Challenge- Day 5

Post a picture of your classroom. What do you see, and what is something missing that you would like to see?

Welcome to my classroom. I apologize, it is a little messy right now. Lots of things going on, teachers moving in and out as many of us share our classrooms the whole day (We have Chinese courses going on in here, how cool!) so things get away from me...I know, that paper chain on the left is bothering me as well! It is another teacher's idea that she wanted to hang, don't know if she noticed that it needs fixing. I will take care of it for her :)

This room is great for language learning, it has lots of space for me and my students to walk around and facilitate and see that black box next to my desk? Yes, this semester my room even has a cart of Chromebooks that I can use with my classes. I am very lucky. My room is large and can accommodate 30+ classes pretty easily. I don't like to advertise that too loudly!

What is something that I would like to see in this room? Posters of Language Can-Do Statements so that students can easily see what a Novice Low or Intermediate Mid can do, easily reflect on their current progress and shoot for that proficiency level. Many of my #langchat colleagues have led the way. I really want to make this a priority this year! 

Another thing I would like to see in this room since it is so large would be to have a little "Google-esque" learning area. Because even though I love this classroom, the furniture does not always match up with the ways that we are asking students to learn and collaborate.  I envision bean bags, and small tabletops and a lap. To let my students and their creative juices flow!