Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 30

Gratitude #30- Being Able to Pay it Forward

Through this month of blogging about gratitude, I have arrived at a deeper understanding of how many good things that I have in my life. I am a talented teacher, have a wonderful family and supportive friends, as well as amazing teachers that I met through the #reflectiveteacher wiki that I consider valued colleagues even though they are not in my building. I am a very lucky lady. I am blessed with good health, a stable job and a roof over my head which many others in this world might not have. The key to being grateful is to find ways to 

So someone today mentioned in their post about "paying it forward" and then I remembered this wonderful movie of the same name a few years ago. This idea behind the "pay it forward" movement from the movie is simple: Help 3 people that might not/can't help themselves, asking only in return that they in turn help 3 other people...spreading acts of kindness forward without anything in return. I love the idea...Check out the video.

With holiday season upon us, it is very easy to find ways to help out someone else, someone in need, someone alone, someone sick or suffering, maybe even a stray pet like my little Oliver that I rescued before Xmas. I hope to find a moment here and there where I can help someone out this holiday season, but my goal would be to find those moments all year always be grateful for what I have....and to share what I have with others without asking for anything in return.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 29

Thank you to all those people that inspire us, motivate us and make us think about how we can be better than the previous day, week and year! Here are a list of some of the people that have touched my life:

1. My Mom- inspires me to keep working hard, to have faith and to perfect my pie crust and crafting skills! She has always been there for me whether with a kind word or a home-made goody. She has been a wonderful mom to all of her children, placing her family many times above herself and working tirelessly for all of us as we were growing up. I have a favorite memory of warm cookies, or homemade bread just out of the oven when we arrived home from school.

2. Fernando- inspired me to be a caring teacher and showed me the importance of connecting with the students. Being a young teacher, I never understood why he was the most popular teacher with the students, but now I know. He always said it was not the material/subject that was important, but the students. He inspires me still today to reach out, connect with kids, give them hugs and let them know that I care.

3. My sister Amy- inspires me to be more fun and carefree. She believes in letting life happen, in enjoying the moment and of not really caring what other people think. She inspires me to let my hair down, to relax and to  put the books and work away for a while. She inspires me to be a more balanced person.

4. My husband Rich- inspires me to be more open-minded and outgoing. He is definitely the opposite of me in many ways, but that is why our relationship works! He is the Type B to my Type A and is more social. He, like my sister Amy accepts people, lifestyles and their views without batting an eye. I question everything. He inspires me to go out of my comfort zone, to try new things and meet new people. He inspires me to not judge and to give things a shot even though there is a risk of failure. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 28

There is one moment this year that showed me where I am going to be for the rest of my teaching career. It took me off a path that I was moving along, and put me back on a path that it knows I should continue on. At the time, I did not see it as a blessing or that life was just righting me on its correct path. I saw it as a missed opportunity and
viewed the whole moment as a chess game where I was one of the pieces being moved around on the board. Not in control.

Not getting the job of department chairman was a deep disappointment and I know that I have referenced it before in my blog challenge posts. I am not a person with a deep faith to immediately believe..."this happened for a reason.". I believe more in taking control of your life, grabbing the bull by the horns and going for everything that you deserve. This was the way that I was going to spend the last 10 years of my teaching career. 

But deep in my heart I know that things do happen for a reason, although I am not quick to believe that right away. It was better that I did not get the job, because I would have had to give up many of the things that I do outside of the classroom that connect with even more students and teachers. My online class and the TeachThought wiki to name a few. Those things bring me great joy,  reinforce my teaching, offer me amazing PLN support and lunch my teaching into the 21st century. Can't live without those, need those to be who I am!

In the end, life guided me to stay an educator in the classroom, working with students both near and far, networking with teachers across the globe and having the time to reflect and grow. To spend the next 10 years being the best I can be, and exiting with a bang! And for that I am grateful! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 27

What would a perfect day look like for me? My perfect day would center on taking time out to step away from my work and slow down for myself. 

- A little coffee and breakfast (my favorite part of the day)

- A little reading

- A little workout at Boot Camp. A great core of people there who are supportive, funny and dedicated! 

- A little nap after lunch to recharge!

- A little shopping with no particular goal. Just see if I can find a good deal how can you say no to that?!

- A nice dinner with my husband to wrap up the day- slowing down again to see how his day went and reconnect since we often have opposite schedules. A slow glass of wine, some warm comfort food and a shared dessert (half the guilt that way!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought - November Blog Challenge- Day 26

Guilty Pleasures? I have many...which ones to talk about? 

Books- Ever since I was little, I have been a reader. My preferred is fiction- sorry, non-fiction friends! It is my escape to another world, and it diverts me away from my professional responsibilities. I find it a little tough to read during the school year, but I do try! My current good read?...Oh, it is a good one...check it out!

Caramel Creams- Hello, you simple candy in the red wrapper. Bursting with flavor from that tasty center! I have a bag of these in my desk drawer as a quick pick-me-up before class. There are some others in the department to who like them as well, so every once in a while I place some on their desks to give them a little boost during the day. Yummy!

Switzerland- I am blessed to have my dear childhood friend live in Morges, a town on Lake Geneva. I visit her every other summer, staying with her and immersing myself in the Swiss culture. The place is as beautiful as you imagine it to be! Whether I am chatting with her neighbors (well, let's just say listening more and responding here and there in French!. If I keep visiting her, I should eventually be proficient!), or taking small day trips to see other cantons there, it is a feast for my senses. Summer 2015 is approaching soon!

Here is one of my favorite moments from last visit...we went day hiking in the Chamonix French Alps...could I get any closer to heaven?!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought-November Blog Challenge- Day 25

Gratitude #25 – Letting Go

Something physical I need to let go?...I have quite a few (although nicely organized) papers, handouts and ideas accumulated from 25 years of teaching.  I put my pic in a sepia tone to further enhance the "old school" idea...

"Out with the old and in when the new!"

Need to work more towards moving my ideas into cloud-based storage! These pic is colorful to represent the new, fresh approaches to keeping all my "stuff". Now, just to find the time to make the massive conversion.

Something personal I need to let go?...thinking that I have never done enough, that I could have just done one more thing, that I should have been more prepared in the classroom and with my lessons or planning. In the end it has caused me lots of stress and sleepless nights. I need to finish, leave, end something confident that I have done my best instead of doubtful that it is not interesting, wonderful or engaging for my students.
Because you know what? I am interesting, wonderful, and engaging and it about time I be kinder to myself and give myself a break every now and then:)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought November Blog Challenge- Day 24

School of the Future?

My dreams for the future would be more of an open campus in high school, more responsibility put on the shoulder of the students, more options available for students to show growth and understanding in their learning and more availability to dialogue on an individual basis with teachers. 

With having an open campus would come more availability of online classes for students, or options to be in class a few days a week and work on larger projects. With the Genius Hour, Maker Movement and Project Based- Learning initiatives as well as a large amounts of school going 1:1 with Chromebooks, why do students need to be in class 50 minutes with a teacher. Why not flexible time in schools to learn, and flexible time for teachers to schedule appointments with students for some in-depth conferencing and reflection and growth- planning?

I also want more classes that reach out to the community, more options for students to get valuable work experience alongside their studies, possibly in a field that interests them and this would be possible with an open campus. We talk a lot about bringing community into the classroom, but what about having students go out and work/learn there (there is my open campus idea again!) 

For me, open campus allow for flexibility and options for students. Out students are learning differently these days, why don't we redesign our school system from classes, to furniture to scheduling to allow for this learning and growth?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 23

Happy to say that spreading around an attitude of gratitude is much easier with sticky notes!

I find people don't have a lot of time to open emails, or read long letters of thanks. Just a simple thank you or encouragement, and place that little 3 x 3 square on the corner of their desk as you walk by or place inside their faculty mailbox.

This month I have had the opportunity to thank people or let them know I was cheering for them with sticky notes and kind words.

1. My husband started a new job a couple of weeks ago. On his first day of work, I placed a note on the mirror supporting him. It is still there, and I hope reminds him everyday what a great man, hard worker and supportive partner he is.

2. A young lady in one of my classes has been resistant to learning from the first day she walked into my Spanish 2 classroom. I have always tried to be caring yet firm in my expectations for her and for the course, and she has not been buying much of what I was selling. God knows what happened, but she has slowly started to participate more in class, settled into what the course necessitates, and so that was the perfect sticky note moment. I jotted down a quick thank you note, telling her what an awesome job she was doing , folded up the sticky note, gave it to her, and asked her to read it when she had a moment. She and I have never talked about it, but she is moving along quite nicely in the class.  I would like to think that the sticky note helped out a bit with her attitude towards the course and the material!

If you are looking for some ideas on how to use sticky notes in education , there are some here from 3M and the Post-It notes. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 22

Looking at my family, I see 6 siblings, 11 nieces and nephews and 7 individuals who have married into this tribe. We all have different likes and personalities and don't always see eye to eye on issues. But we love each other, and we celebrate together.

The traditions that I am most grateful for are the gatherings for birthdays and holidays. We often get together for other different reasons, but not everyone is able to be there since there are so many of us. These large celebrations are also the moments that my parents cherish the most. To see their proud faces as all their children, grandchildren and extended family together gather under 1 roof to break bread together and to laugh together. Yes, there is chaos as others say, but I love it!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Reflective Teacher at Teach Thought November Blog Challenge- Day 21

One of the books that really helped me become a better teacher came into my teaching after I chose to re-submit my portfolio for the National Boards. The positive side of me not passing the first time was that I had to go back and dig deeper and search for the reasons as to why I did not pass the first time around.

One of the reasons that came to me was that I was not simply giving my students enough choice and differentiation in the classroom. My boss at the time (thank you Lisa) suggested Carol Tomlinson and her ideas about differentation and instruction. Said that I would really enjoy reading her. It was just the thing I needed to spark my teaching.

I started out small, taking baby steps and now am happy to say that I am a confident, differentiating queen. If you have not had to check out her books and ideas please do. In the book she really has great ideas and it is very easy to understand and put into practice. I still go back to it for inspiration and re-direction in my teaching. There are definitely one or two gems in there that you can put into play for this coming Monday!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought November Blog Challenge- Day 20

In looking back on this year (I can't believe that it is November!) I see that this has been a big year of change for me, both personally and professionally. The biggest lesson that I have learned is to let go and to let life happen because believe it or not, you can not control everything and everyone. These quiet external forces of life do push and pull us right along to be exactly where we are supposed to be all along. 

Last year, I put time and energy to be somewhere in my school that I was never meant to be. To be in a position that seemed such a logical next step for me. And it never materialized. And it caused me stress, sadness, money and stress and more stress. I mean you work hard, you get what you want, right?! Nope, not always. 

Life said no and took control away from me because it knew that I was really not going to be happy in that role. And while I was working so hard at things, life quietly guided me to a kinder, gentler place that is my new tribe. Where it knew I would be happy and confident and helping people. It's funny how you have trouble understanding how you get to a point in your life until you step back and see the bigger picture- that you have been being gently and quietly guided there for some time now. It's funny that wonderful things happen to you when you are not paying attention, when you are not trying to force them. 

So I believe that we are MOSTLY in charge of our life, but there exists a life force that guides us along and makes itself known every once in a while. To let us know this is where we are supposed to be. In this moment. With these people. In these relationships and professions. Learning these lessons. It's time we learn to enjoy the ride.

 Thank you, #reflectiveteacher tribe!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 19

Thank goodness for Karen- she is our secretary and she always helps out with the big things, but always the small things as well that might not be part of her job. And for that I heart, heart, heart her. She runs off items on her color copier for me- and we all know how great those color pictures because they help to make culture come alive. She always has a kind word, a big smile and a helping hand to lend out to everyone!

Thank you Karen for everything you do! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge - Day 18

What do I appreciate most about my colleagues? Their humor.

Thank you to the zany, sarcastic, wacky colleagues that I have that make me laugh. Don't think I could get through a day without them. In fact, this is the second time that I have written about my dear amigos that help lighten my day and make me forget about standards, rubrics, evaluations, differentiation and technology for a while during lunch. 

I appreciate their outlooks on life and for being the highlight of my day to enjoy my lunch, maybe a cookie and always a good hearty laugh with you all.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 17

We all are know that dwelling on the past, looking backwards in your the rear-view mirror of your car as your travel along the highway of life is not good for your well-being. You don't see where you are going, you only keep looking at where you came from and places that you are never going to return to. I feel like I was reminded of that lesson many times this year.

1. I gained some diverse experience working in my content area outside of the classroom. This past summer I involved myself in grading National Board Certification portfolios in my content area. It really gave me confidence and reinforced what an accomplished language teacher looks like. And I met some great people during the two weeks- hope to see them again in July 2015!

2. I have become more confident in sharing my ideas and speaking to teachers about how to infuse more tech into their teaching. That feels amazing!

3. I am no longer paralyzed with thinking about what I "should be doing" in my school and building, but now think about what I "want to do" and what gives me joy.  With teaching in the little time that I have left over from 5 classes and 125 students and an online class of 30 students.

4. I continue to grow in patience and flexibility with the students. A little break here and there for a student, a second chance,...someone gave me a big second change many years ago so I figure I am just paying it forward. Thank you Linda.

So here to celebrating some ways that I am different as a teacher from a year ago. Some of the leaps I took control of myself, some of the lessons were given to me by those that watch over me and guide me- definitely not my choice, but I see now it was all for the best. I ended up happy with all of them and I keep moving forward, always forward.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought November Blog Challenge- Day 16

One of the best reasons I know for being a connected educator with colleagues from around the globe is to get others' points of view on educational topics. Since becoming  involved with Justine Hughes and the TeachThought organization, I have been fortunate to learn more and widen my perspectives on the educational issues we all are facing today. 

I am so grateful for all of the helpful and knowledgable teachers that I have met through the Blog Challenges and Twitter chats throughout the past few months. We have shared ideas about reading strategies,  technology, connecting with students, differentiation and loads more that everyone has shared and placed on the Community Wiki!

So thank you to all of you for sharing your ideas both big and small with me! You are helping me to grow and be a better teacher in my school and with my students! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought November Blog Challenge- Day 15

When tech finally blasted onto the educational scene many years ago, I was ready, willing and eager to get my hands on anything. You see, I have always been a person who prefers doing to talking, to making something rather than theorizing about it. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner thanks to Gardner.

Technology allows creative outlets-anyone who knows me knows that I like to make things and I really enjoy working with a piece of technology when it lets me create and move forward with my ideas. Colleagues often chuckle because they see my eyes light up when something needs a little beta testing in school. If you've watched the AMC network show this fall called "Halt and Catch Fire", I would have loved to have been either of these 2 women working for the fictional Cardiff Electric as it enters the personal computer race in the 80s :

coding genius Cameron Howe or engineering brain Donna Clark 

Some favorite tech toys that I am using right now in class or personally becuase that let me create? Fotor, ThingLink, Padlet, Google Sites and Blogger!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought November Blog Challenge- Day 14

I am grateful that I have a job that can still teach me things. Here are some lessons from over the years that I appreciate:

1. Being around positive people really does motivate you to be more positive and accomplish more.

2. That being a teacher means more than just teaching your classes. Thank you Dorothy for pulling aside when I was a wee teacher and telling me you thought it was time that I step up to more responsibility. I needed that push.

3. Appreciate the moments that you are spending with you colleagues right now because the years pass so quickly, they retire, are gone from the building and you must go on without them. Start building some memories right now.

4. Explore every avenue. Heading down roads that led to nowhere for me were frustrating, but at least I traveled down that road and enjoyed the scenery, met some people along the way. No regrets.

5. You are exactly where you are supposed to be in this moment, both personally and professionally.

Some people say when one runs out of things to learn then it is time to retire.  My odds are that I will retire much sooner than I will ever stop learning thing as a teacher.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought November Blog Challenge- Day 13

How do I unplug?
I admit it, unplugging is hard for me. Somehow I feel I function better when I am "on", and I get a lot of gratitude out of accomplishing stuff. I love setting goals, getting that end in my sight and then going all out. Every summer I turn off of school and that is pretty hard for me, this having absolutely nothing to do in a day. I feel like a turtle on its takes some time and I eventually settle in to letting the day unfold and enjoy whatever comes its way.

Here are somethings that help me unplug and enjoy the present moment:

1. reading books- they help me mind to focus on things other than school
2. going with my husband anywhere in our old car. A sweet 55 Chevy. 
3. crafting, creating something
4. sitting on our front porch watching the world, listening to the sounds
5. taking a solitary walk in a forest preserve. It is at this time that I talk to loved ones that have passed on
6. spending time with my family
7. Boot Camp- thank you to my Boot Camp  for pushing more than I would do on my own. 
How do you unplug? 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 10

Humorous moments help me to get over the speed bumps of life and lessen difficult situations in the class. I think it is especially important to laugh at oneself and our mistakes.

I think most of the funniest moments come from myself in the classroom, things that I have done or random things that I have said. Although I can't remember any specific incidents, I know that being able to laugh at myself shows the students that I am learning alongside of them, that I am still a work in progress. That I am human. I think a smirk, chuckle or hearty laugh is very cathartic- to me it is a wordless, speechless reflection on what just happened. That I recognize the awkwardness, the forgetfulness, the silliness, the clumsiness of something I just did. I want my students to know that being able to laugh at oneself does not point out a weakness, but indicates a strength to acknowledge and move on.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 9

How many of us know certain individuals in a school setting that make it a better place? That are the "glue" in our buildings, departments, classrooms, departmental teams, PLNs. They are the organizers, the thinkers, the cheerleaders and the cleaners of our facilities. Some use their voice to lead, others of them quietly get the job done. I know many and I often think that they have no idea how things would be very different without them in the building. I think about it often, but many times lack the time to tell them so.

So how to develop my Attitude of Gratitude more in my daily practice? 
Tell these people how awesome they are and find a way to acknowledge that they help make school a better place for all of us. A kind word to them in the hall, a postie on their desk. Small acts of kindness. Not only will this help me be more mindful of the wonderful people all around me, but it will brighten their day as well!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 8

There are things that happen to us in our teaching career that reminds us why we are educators. They are the lighthouses on our journey, sending us reassuring messages that remind us of why we strive to be amazing educators. Since I am a movie buff, the picture that I have in my mind is of Jay Gatsby (I prefer the Robert Redford version) looking out across the harbor to Daisy's dock and the green light flashing on and off, reminding him of his purpose.

One particular memory that I have is of working with one student on an application to a national organization for a summer travel award to a Spanish-speaking country. In working with him throughout the school year to complete his application, craft his essay and make an interview video with the two of us in Spanish, I was once again reminded that students accomplish really great things with care and loving guidance from teachers. In the end, he was one of twelve students in the nation to win the award and I could not have been prouder of him! That moment was a green beam of light flashing across the water at me, reminding me to "go", to keep doing as much as I can to help my students, whatever their goals may be. 

Just like Gatsby staring out across the water at Daisy's dock, the green light continues to keep flashing on and off with other moments throughout the years that keep me focused and guide me forward in my journey to be the best educator I can be.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought- November Blog Challenge- Day 7

One of the newer journeys that I started a couple of years ago is embracing the maker movement within my classroom and either asking students to create material designed around the theme we are studying in class or offer them different options to show understanding of the material using the target language. One of the books that I really enjoyed reading was "Invent to Learn" by Silvia Libow Martinez. 

One of the things that I embraced most from the book is that maker classrooms are active classrooms where you will find engaged students working on multiple assignments simultaneously, and where teachers are unafraid to relinquish their role of being the authoritarian. Collaboration between students is flexible and teachers wear many hats in the classroom: mentor, student, colleague, and expert. Although I don't run a true maker classroom because I don't teach math nor science, I do like to think that I help my students to "make" and "tinker" with the language and thus develop their skills.

My new journey in the past few years has been creating a maker environment through a modified flipped classroom. It has taken me some time to find the approach that best fits me and my students but now after some initial review, reminders and possible instruction on key concepts, students engaged in completing any number of activities that are designed to move them forward in their proficiency. I am enjoying being a facilitator and coach a lot and I love having lots of opportunities to dialogue with my students and help them grow in the language!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Reflective Teacher at TeachThought November Blog Challenge- Day 6

I have a favorite poem that comes from my dear old mentor Fernando. Being Cuban he was always a big lover of Jose Marti poems and always talked about this one with us as well as shared it with his class. The beauty of the Spanish language gets lost a little in translation, but the message comes through loud and clear.


As I have gotten older I have come to value and understand the meaning of the poem more and more: forgiving others, extending an olive branch, seeing past others' faults and missteps to move forward in life and be happier. I know that I am not perfect and that I often make mistakes and can say the wrong things at times...I am sure that people have forgiven me for my mistakes, so it is important for me to try and live my life the same: forgiving others and moving forward together in positive directions.