Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Omen of the Owl?

I am not a superstitious person. I love being a dreamer and an idealist when it comes to education, but in all other matters, I am relatively pragmatic. Maybe, my husband tips his eyebrows as I say it. I am NOT superstitious.

Yesterday an owl shows up on the back porch. Wow! How lucky to see one so close up. We were extremely cautious because this bird had very long talons and it kept snapping its beak at me like he meant business if I got too close. Upon close inspection, I could tell this owl was hurt, so before doing anything else I called the Tulsa Zoo to find out proper protocol on handling and fixing up this poor thing.

The Zoo's Ornithologist warned me to be careful, but that they would take it in if we could get it to them. I threw a towel over the owl's head and body and carefully pick up the animal. We stuffed it into a box and rush to the zoo. Once inside we had to fill out some paperwork then the man rushed off with the owl. The girls got 1,000 knowledge and helping points each in the Nature Exchange Center at the zoo. We decided to go ahead and hang at the zoo for a bit seeing as how we were already there.

Upon leaving the zoo, we decided to stop into QuikTrip for some drinks for the ride home. As we were leaving, some gal who thought she should have had the right away began cussing out my husband and I (and our kids by proxy). I was insensitive and began laughing that someone who was so wrong in the matter could also be so anger...and the fact that she couldn't see over my vehicle to make her right turn, did NOT make the situation less hilarious to me. She started to get out of her car to yell at me. In doing so she dropped her cell phone. We tried to get her attention that she dropped her cell phone which again my mouth was sarcastically offering her a "Your Welcome" didn't help either as I drove off.
We were off, and now just trying to make it home. 15 mins into my drive COMPLETELY OBEYING ALL TRAFFIC LAWS, I am taking the fork to the left where the highway splits and becomes turnpike or New Sapulpa Road going toward my home. The gal on my left decides late in the game that she wants to go to OKC and not Sapulpa, and whilst not looking starts to come over. I mean I was right next to her. I am looking into her passenger window as all of this is happening. So I miss my exit to avoid being sideswiped and then have to backtrack once I hit the next exit to make it home. We just need to make it home at this point.

Sidebar here - Did I forget to mention that on the way to the zoo Travis looked up owl myths because his family had several foster kids over the years and thought he remembered several of them talking about owls. They are a bad omen, death, destruction, or generally something bad...well, we don't believe in this type of stuff...until...

Today is a new day. The events of yesterday are over. Fresh start. I drop my youngest at gymnastics at 9am today for a make-up practice. I stop for gas on my way home and lock my keys in the car. after waiting on the locksmith for an hour and paying $65 to get my car open, I grab my phone and call the hubs (who was on his way to OKC to ride mountain bikes) and he told me that he left his riding shoes at home. His petals and shoes go together, no shoes make for a tough ride.

Ok, so is this Oman of the Owl a real thing? Or are these coincidences just perfectly timed to make one think? Should I start believing? Did I have it all coming for being sarcastic to the first lady? I am a pretty lucky and happy gal. I am typically quick on my feet and roll with the punches, but man, I think I am staying home for a while.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Another Certification Test

Ok, long story, but I think this is one that absolutely needs to be told. There are a couple of things we need to look at here, educationally speaking.

First Issue:
On Tuesday this week, I realized a student that I suggested start with Epic and specifically be in my class because i had his brother too, could actually NOT be placed under me because he had an IEP. Due to intense bullying and medical issues that kept him from attending, therefore making him truant two years in a row, he needed a break from the world of traditional schooling. Most of you, my friends in the brick and mortar world, do not understand why this would be an issue at all. A student within the special education system who are on IEPs are placed in Reg Ed classes all the time. It is considered the least restrictive environment.  However, in the virtual world, which are the laws I must abide by, this is not allowed. I was informed it was a logistics thing. That if there is "Direct Instruction" it MUST come from a special ed certified teacher. Long and short, if I wanted to get paid to teach this student, I needed to take a SPED certification test. So I signed up and took it yesterday...Saturday.

That was the first issue I wanted to bring up - Sheesh - I am willing to see this student 4 days per week, but in our model that is a difficult feat. The wordplay, like semantics versus pragmatics, keeps this one kiddo and me from being within compliance according to the state and the way virtual laws play out here. I get it, but it seems ridiculous in this instance.

Second Issue:
Taking a certification test is a little on the overkill side these days. I had to be there at 7:45 AM, but I had a full day planned. I mean my schedule was packed. So when I got dressed, I got dressed for the day.

Sidebar - Dressed for the day vs dressed to take a 2-hour test and return home. Dress for a two-hour test looks like jeans, t-shirt, ball cap, maybe mascara. Dressed for the day, means if jeans then maybe a blouse, jewelry, def some mascara, and NOT a hat. Those are my rules.

Ok, so I am dressed for the day. I read the instructions and already knew that no food or beverages would be allowed in the testing room and no electronics devices. No worries, I had already put my cell and Apple watch in my purse and then threw them in the lockers provided by the venue. My number was called and the old lady (who I swear was the same exact old lady from when I did this 8 years ago) kindly informed me that I also needed to take off my bracelets...oh and my necklaces..."Oh, and you're wearing earrings too? Those have to go in the basket as well". I wasn't sure I heard her correctly. My stud earrings? Do you think I've written some answers on my lobes that I might be able to share with others? I cannot see my lobes without looking in the mirror, so it must be because I want to help out the stranger sitting next to me who may be taking the same test as me, but likely not because they were offering something like 15 different versions of tests that day.

Nope, I heard her correctly. I needed to take those earrings off as well. That was the first round of search. She moved me on to a separate waiting area where a man explained all of the rules of surveillance and I totally believed him because there were 15 monitors where he was sitting as well as a giant glass window where he could look in and see us. After his thorough explanation that I totally heard him give to the gal he sat before me, he asked I pull out my pockets. I then needed to push my finger around my leg cuffs as well as my arm cuffs. I needed to pull up the sleeves my half-sleeved shirt, run my fingers through my hair, get my palm scanned a second time because from where the lady did it the first time to where I was led behind her desk to wait for this round of search I might have changed identities? And then I was led back to the testing room. I was not to look around the room. I was not to talk and I was to raise my hand so that I could be escorted out of the room with all of the cameras.

Again I say SHEESH. Listen I am very grateful that the integrity of the tests is held up. I am proud that our well-trained teachers must take a proctored/monitored test to ensure that they are competent to speak to and lead the next generation of citizens, but is this overkill? I told the guy that I wasn't trying to knock all the things he was asked to do in his job description, but what did he think I was going to do?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thoughts on Teamwork

Teamwork leave you thinking bad thoughts?

I found a Twitter post the other day where a guy was talking about teamwork being work but worth it. I thought that his tweet was adept, but I couldn't help but have a bad taste in my mouth when I think about teams, teamwork, or group work. In college, I was always the one pushing my team through and making sure everyone pulled their weight and ultimately finishing up the slackers work and making it look consistent. People that know me, KNOW that I am a procrastinator, so it was a big deal for someone to push it out further than me.  
In grade school we were placed in pods and had group work...again, I would tend to back off of my ideas for the greater good of just moving with the team and getting the job done. As I read through his first post and then the next on teamwork, I kept thinking I don't agree, but then into the thirst post, I started thinking about the only team I ever fully felt worked and worked well together. It was my team.

I have said in the past, but I will restate for the newbie readers...I want what I want when I want it. I have no patience. I am a bit fussy when I don't get what I need right now. No, NOW.

A few years ago, My first real year in admin for Epic Charter School, a new department was created around me. I had no idea what a blessing it would be to interview and pick a team from scratch. I knew my strengths and I knew my weaknesses. I was able to hire 4 individuals who would be able to overcome my weaknesses and were eager to grow and learn as much as me. We spent two and a half years working to be the most efficient group (at the time) in the school. We were so versatile that we could to move to other departments when help was needed. We were a well-oiled machine. I had never been in a role of leadership like that before and I was really able to lead that group. It was the first time I had ever been in a group where we all worked equally as hard on tasks some the same some different. When someone felt like they were pulling more weight than others, we discussed it and usually came to the conclusion that everyone was still pulling their own weight. The personal growth that came from this experience was huge.

I guess what I am saying here, is that teamwork often gets a bad stigma when teams are put together haphazardly. I hated teamwork and even going into writing this post I have a bad taste in my mouth. But teamwork can be great. Teachers, when building your pods or groups during the year, for the love, be thoughtful. I know some of you probably are very thoughtful. Know that best friends don't always make for the best teams and students don't know how to pick teams without best friends.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Advice to a Friend

I was texting with a friend last night and this morning. It felt like it could easily belong here on the blog as a reflection piece. So here is MY side...

I always ask even without words that you unload on me. You gotta get that stuff out. 

Babe, I moved schools a lot too. There are times that it sucks, but the new start was helpful many times too.
None of it matters if you are trying to make a better life for your family. 

I had to take a serious look at my life and job a couple years ago. I was climbing a ladder and loving it. I love being busy. I love being the most knowledgeable person in the room about something. I loved teaching adults. But my own kids were suffering. I worked at home WITH them but was completely unavailable. 

I was worried about it looking like I was demoting. I was worried that I wouldn’t be a part of the “in crowd” anymore. I was worried I would be on an island. Guess what…all of those things are in a little way true and happened, but my family life has taken a major upswing. My kids are doing better in school. My husband and I didn’t even realize how burdened I was until I quit that admin role.

Do I miss it…YES! I miss having a seat at the table so much. I, however, just spent 2 weeks in Colorado. I have gone to so many pools with my kids this summer, I am back in charge of their learning and most of all I am happy.

You have to figure out the price of what you REALLY want, and then pay it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tell your Story

Back to writing. I really love podcasting as a medium to express what I think. I hate to write. It is time-consuming and I always find mistakes after I hit publish. I am never sure if what I have to say is worth someone's time to read it. I have become complacent. I have not written in a while, but the #oklaed chat from Sunday evening (July 9th) was all about telling your story. I thought it might be a good piece to bring me back into the medium in which I ruin regularly. I also find my vocabulary limits my ability to get across my true feelings, but what the hell.

So my story...where do I start. I do not want this post to thrown shade on any person or persons from my life, but mine is not your typical teacher story. I have alluded to getting into this line of work for the summers off, folks that's the truth. Here's the short version...
I hated school growing up.
I was labeled LD and thrown into remedial math classes from 4th grade on. This label defined me. To my peers and to myself it defined me.
In HS I cheated my way through much of the math. Actually, Geometry made more sense than anything.
My primary household had very little governance and even fewer rules and my secondary residence was 6 hours away. It was where I spent 6 weeks of my summer so little could be done from there to help my situation.
Trouble was way too easy to find.
From the 6th grade on, we moved at least once a year.
When I was finally busted for the cheating (12th grade), I was told I would have to come back the year AFTER my senior year to take more math. There was no stinking way on this planet I could face a shaming like that at a time when the world revolved around only me, so I quit.
That was not going to stop me from going to college (1yr late) where all my friends were, so I got my GED.
The GED was my ticket into college admissions. How? I now have no clue. I had never taken an ACT or SAT. They did ask that I take a math remediation class, but at the college and nobody needed to know how dumb I was except the other dummies in the class with me. I had no clue this course was just as expensive as the other classes I was signed up for but had no credit to go along with it.
The state university was pretty nice about letting me in but turns out with little governance in early life and none in college life, they weren't big fans of letting my laissez-faire self, stick around.
Professors did NOT remind you that things were due. There was nobody telling you to get to class.
Eventually, they kicked me out...I could come back, but I had to attend a community college to retake my classes to bring up my 1.4 GPA. I did not know that withdrawing from a course could/SHOULD be done if you decide not to go. So all of those classes became F's.
Here I am in a huge hole. The debt taken on for this decision to go to college, F's making my GPA a daunting mountain to climb, and lack of money or guidance sent me to work.

All of this is a portion, a partial glimpse of my pre-life story.

Something happened in 2003. A boy moved next door to me.
We went on a date and it was determined straight away that this would never work out. We did not see eye to eye on much of anything...except, that we were unexplainably attracted to each other. I was not used to being told no. I was not used to being told I couldn't do something. I was in the throes with life's quicksand and sinking in the struggle, but this boy...he told me I was going about life all wrong.

There's a-whole-nother story here, so I am skipping ahead a bit. You want to know that story and we can go out for coffee. 

I got back into school. I was re-taking all of those stupid classes again. I was going slowly because I now had a full-time job. And soon a baby. And soon a second baby.
I decided to go for an education degree because I had kids and it would be the best degree to let me raise my kids.
It was in these education classes that a professor was teaching us HOW to teach math that a lightbulb clicked on. I was understanding math.
I cried. I cried hard. I felt this conviction. If only it had been taught to me this way would I have struggled?
I was going to go into my future classroom and teach kids how to do something THEIR way. I was going to form relationships with my students and use their passions to teach them. Turns out that something I got into to make my life easier became my second biggest passion in life (family being my first).
Today if you step into my classroom or any of the professional development sessions I am offering you will see that my work centers around the kids, their multiple intelligences, and their passions.
People I know joke that I will put so much work into a project for one or two students that I keep myself busier than I should be. If your kiddo doesn't hate a subject now and can say they get it because of my project, then I feel like my job is done.

This is not my only story. This story does not define ME, but only my role as an educator. We all have many stories to tell. We are the onions of life. We have many layers. We have many stories. This is ONE I needed to tell after the inspiring chat.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Year-end Close Out

The end of the year came and passed. So I can keep myself accountable, this is my theme for next school year, I am going to post my summer to-do list here.

In between these nonpaying side jobs I have this summer, (it seems once the word gets out that you are "off work for a few months, you become a hot commodity) I have made a few goals for my summer. I plan to read several books. The first was Kim Bearden's Crash Course. I started this book last year but put it away when I made myself insanely busy building a curriculum. I loved how she used her students' stories to learn some great life lessons that she then shares with the world. It is a very quick read if you are looking for inspiration as well as so great pointers for ways to teach some of your same old content. The plan from here is fiction, then non-fiction and repeat. Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos is up next. Do you want a book review for each book?

I am redesigning the inside of my van so the hubs can build it out for our trip to Colorado in late July. For those of you that read my blogs about the Colorado Trail a couple of years ago, we are headed back. This time the boys are cutting out the awful road segments and a couple of the segments that do not offer a grandiose view of the world. So our three-week tour will be cut to two weeks this time around. The girls and I will once again live in the van during this time period. We learned a great deal during the last grand adventure. We learned about what we need and do not need. We added another car battery to the van and purchased a refrigerator/freezer that runs on super low amps. No more searching for ice ever other day. No more coolers spilling over soaking the carpeted floor. But because of these new items to implement, we have to redesign the interior. I am pretty excited to head out into the world of "tiny living" and minimalism again.

I want to build up an amazing set of videos so I can flip my classroom next school-year. I had a blast this school year creating content for my little scholars. The only problem we really ran into was that the students couldn't move faster through the material if their so desired. In our school self-paced is a BIG deal. I made the lessons each week, so working ahead was not in the cards for a few. So over the summer, I plan to make all the videos for each lesson the kids will do for next year.

So there it is. Pretty boring read this go 'round. I"ll spice up the next couple to make up for the lameness of this post. What are your summer plans?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Twitter Witch Trails

To say Sunday night's #oklaed Twitter chat was very upsetting would be putting it lightly.

Question 2:

To which I answer:

A2: 1.)Fatherless Boys, 2.)Parents uninvolved in education, 3.)Bad choices

I was not citing resources here. This is my opinion. But there are many sources out there that I could have used to back up my response. We were asked what we thought contributed to the School to Prison Pipeline. Nobody took issue with my response #1 and #3 in the tweet. But I was called out and blasted for being “accusitory” with my “lack of compassion” and “lack of empathy” for my second contributing factor. I said that lack of parental involvement in education was a factor, i.e. parents of students getting into trouble at school and thus being suspended are overwhelmingly less involved in their child's education. Is this matter here being contested as a fact?

From this moment and the next 20 minutes, I could hardly stay involved in the actual chat at hand. I was playing defense (to many) to my comment. I should have just let these comments roll off my back...but...I responded. Now, let me get this straight...I am in no way, shape or form taking back anything I said...but I would like to make more clear some of my thoughts. This chat was a hard first-time chat and to be limited to 140 characters makes explanations for tweets downright impossible. My tweet was twisted into a blaming of parents for their kids ending up in jail. While parents are not always to blame for every example, the glaringly obvious intention of my tweet was simply to mention the fact that parents are equally involved in this process.

I was poor growing up. I had to start working at age 15 so I could help my mom pay the rent. My sister started working a year later to help out as well. My mom had no degree beyond high school and dad was not around. I am married to a man who is one of 11 kids. 7 of his siblings were adopted out of foster care, so I guess I am bringing into my classroom some implicit bias. This is the bias I took into the chat Sunday. I think with the lack of perimeters and generalizations, everyone had their own different groups or subsets of children on the forefront of their brains. Sunday night a small group of protesters was acting like I was some sort of nutjob for saying parents who are not involved in their child's education were PART (one part) of a problem. Parents are not faultless here. The very minute I became a parent my life became all about creating the best citizen I could. If your child/student cannot obey in school, gets into fights, yells at teachers, paints graffiti on bathroom stalls for any reason other than a diagnosed health issue, then parents - you are a part of the problem.

Teachers for the most part (at least where I am from and with my own experiences) are doing their best to help parents out when it comes to feeding, looking after them before and after school and loving them. Check out Rob Miller's post on Hugging Porcupines. We love these kids, but in my opinion parents on a large scale are becoming selfish with their time. This pushes the problem off on teachers who were hired to teach students - not raise them. We do the job, we love them anyway.

Sunday night I was called "damaging to students" and "worse than a troll because my impact was real", and "unsafe to be a teacher" just because I think parents lack of involvement in their child's lives - WHERE IT COUNTS - is discipline. I have no clue when the word discipline became a dirty word. Athletes have discipline when they work-out daily. A writer has discipline to complete a book. To get a mindful and obedient 4-year-old we keep a schedule and create consequences which equal discipline. When we as parents are selfish with our time and do not follow through with discipline and consequences as well as rewards, a child is learning new behaviors are now acceptable. There are research backed articles all over the web and rows of books in the books stores dealing with this topic. I am not a witch here. I think what I suggested starts at the root of the problem.

I believe zero tolerance policies are not discipline, they are laziness on the part of adults. I believe we should practice more patience with students. I believe that the fact that children of ethnicity and children in special ed are more likely to be suspended, is a huge problem. I believe that teachers are getting shorter and shorter fuses due to the lack of respect, pay, and general pushing around by the government. This in no way shape or form should rear its ugly face when we are dealing with a child, but the fact is, it does manifest itself when a child acts out. I do not believe this makes it right. I believe that diversity training and school to prison pipeline should be talked about more often. I think discipline and classroom management should be regularly trained in schools. I believe we should do a better job at giving constructive feedback to parents and offer solutions to help them develop the citizens we want beyond school years. All of these biases shape me being a teacher. I have to think through my biases before I speak and act. If you were to ask my students, I am confident they would tell you that they all feel loved.

Lastly, I asked for clarification. I put myself in a position of vulnerability and begged for the right words if mine were so wrong. I was told by my accuser that it wasn’t her job to educate adults. To this I say, Mahatma Gandhi told us to be the change we wish to see in the world. It is now evident that we are not on the same team. My team is trying to make changes for the better rather than pointing out problems and refusing to offer solutions or even give a shred of evidence behind the claims. This was nothing more than a very sad witch hunt and I'm saddened by the evident preference of this group to simply be angry. To do this we need to have conversations (even with adults) until our voice no longer works. Hope is not a strategy here.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. -Leo Tolstoy