An Open Apology To Dolly Parton 

This!

Rawe-struck

Dear Dolly,

10040291_300x300I’ll be honest. I used to think you were a bimbo. I used to think you flaunted your big boobs, teased hair, tiny waist, and your syrupy-sweet southern accent just to sell yourself and your brand as a country singer. Granted, I was raised in the Midwest and lived as an adult for many years in the Northeast. I didn’t get you, much less the South.

For example, I’d heard about your origins as a poor girl from the hills of East Tennessee, and when I learned you’d created a theme park in your native Sevier County I rolled my eyes. “Really, a theme park?” I thought. “As if rollercoasters will really help the people of rural Appalachia. Why not create something truly useful to give back to your community, like a library.”

Oh.

You have created a library, actually, and possibly in a bigger and more…

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I’m taking back my family

2016

We have become THAT family.  That family that goes to opposite ends of the house when we walk in the door.  That family that LIVES on our electronic devices.  That family that never eats all together at the same time.  That family that doesn’t know each other anymore…

We have spent all summer, all day together, and yet, we haven’t really been together.  How did we get here?  When did we get this bad?  Well… It has been a progression over years of getting worse and worse.  & this mom is over it.

I’m taking back my family!  They don’t know it yet, but it’s all about to change.  I know it’s going to be awkward and hard (especially for me the social media addict), but we can do it.  And we shall!

Stop Assigning Homework

Dear fellow teachers,

Do you enjoy that you have to spend unpaid overtime grading and lesson planning?  Time that takes away from your family, your friends, your overall quality of life?

Students spend all day at school.  ALL DAY LONG.  Then you send them home with homework.  Do you like the work you have to bring home?  I don’t.  So I will NEVER send it home.  Students spend enough time in the day working on the various subjects.  Let them have time to regroup, to play, to hangout with their families, God forbid to play on the electronics that are forbidden or discouraged at school when they get home.  It is a disservice to families to send home homework.

If I never had to bring home work again, that would be awesome.  In the mean time, I won’t do it to my students and I pray you consider not doing it to yours.

~a high school Spanish teacher and a mom

Teacher Confession: I care if my students like me

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I love my students!  I LOVE them!  I care if my students like me or not.  I care a lot.  And I am honest about that with them.

When I first began teaching, the “right” thing to say was, “I don’t care if my students like me, but they will respect me.”  Here’s the deal, I never actually felt that way.  I said it, but it was a lie.  A big, fat lie.

When people heard I was teaching level 2 at the Senior High Level, I got many warnings about how the level 2 kids as juniors and seniors are not the same as the level 2 kids as freshmen and sophomores.  I was warned that they were unmotivated and did not care.  I’m only 2 weeks in, but I am here to tell you that that statement is FASLE.  Sure, many may not have aspirations to become fluent Spanish speakers or Spanish teachers, but they want to be successful.  At this point, many of them need to be successful to graduate on time.

I spent an ENTIRE week getting to know my students, letting them get to know me, showing them that I care about them.  I start each year ready to love my students.  To love every single one of them.  Not all of them come to my classroom with an open heart and mind.  Not all of them arrive ready to love me–and I know there are some who will take some time to trust me.  For many, life has already taught them that people disappoint us and they don’t want to risk caring in the chance they may get hurt.  I feel it is my job to be real, to be me.  Yes, there will still be issues, conflict, etc.  That’s part of life and perfection does not exist.  I simply have to make sure that I model how to appropriately handle conflict when it happens in my classroom and demonstrate that we can all choose to move on rather than dwell or hold a grudge.  So that’s why I start my year with a team building week.  I want it to be public knowledge that I genuinely care about my students and want them to succeed.  It is important that they know it and that I show it.

Guess who’s back!

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Yes, it’s true! I’m headed back to the classroom, to the place I feel most confident to hopefully help another year of students be successful. This time around I will be at Plano East Senior High in Plano, TX teaching Spanish 2 on level and Spanish 4 IB. I readily admit that 4 IB intimidates me to no end, but if you’ve followed this blog for long, you know I seize every chance to step outside my comfort zone. So here’s to the 2015-2016 school year!

The Explosive Child Part 1

I am very open with the struggles I face on a day to day basis.  In most cases, it has allowed me to connect with others who have faced or who are facing similar struggles.  I am forever grateful for these types of connections as it often makes life more bearable though frustrating.  My openness has also opened me up to criticism and funny comments that jokingly suggest I am not an adequate parent, that perhaps I’m too lenient, inattentive or whatever else one who feels s/he is a successful parent might think.  Let’s stop the mom-shaming and if you have not had to deal with the struggles I have, count your blessings and recognize that perhaps you are not the person to offer advice or judgement.

One of the biggest struggles we are dealing with these days is getting our children to behave.  I realized the other day that I feel like it’s sheer luck whether they behave or not in every situation.  Despite our attempts to raise respectful children who behave, that’s become our reality.  Let me tell you, “a good whipping” and “grounding” and “taking away all their toys” has not helped at all.  In fact, all of those things seem to make it worse.

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A friend introduced me to the book, The Explosive Child that I’m about one third of the way through as of today.  SO MUCH IS MAKING SENSE.  First of all, I identify with some of the difficult children described and feel my mother would have greatly benefitted from this book while raising me, if nothing else to assure her she did her best.  Second of all, I recognize many characteristics of my own children.  Thus far, it’s about identifying the struggle, not the behavior.  We can easily figure out the behavior–hitting, screaming, freaking out, being rude, talking back, ignoring, etc.  However, It’s the struggle that’s more important.  For example, my children like to yell and bicker in the morning.  Those behaviors are easy to identify.  The struggles are: they have difficulty waking up in the morning, they have difficulty getting dressed in the morning, they have difficulty eating breakfast in the morning, they have difficulty walking to the car in the morning, they have difficulty riding in the car on the way to school.

If you have a child for whom traditional consequences or reward systems do not help improve his/her behavior or who is easily frustrated and inflexible, you might want to read this too.  Basically, it is about identifying struggles and helping our children cope appropriately with their struggles rather than prevent a behavior.  Too often we focus on the behavior we don’t want rather than the reason behind said behavior.  Most children who struggle with behavior problems genuinely want to behave but struggle to do so appropriately and cannot help it. (And for the record, not getting enough attention is only 1 reason children misbehave.  I have read the Love Languages of Children and have made great efforts to fill my children’s love tanks in the way they need and still we have these behavior issues.)

Now, back to my reading!  I’m ready to learn what to do next as I continue to compile my list of struggles.

Mindset graphic

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Ted Talks: The World’s Killer Diet

This semester, we have been discussing health choices in Spanish 2H.  Jane Shea found this awesome Ted Talks video that was short and relevant to our topic.  Here is her awesome lesson that I totally stole!

1. Students watched this video and took notes in English or Spanish (the video is in English).

2. Next, students were divided into groups to respond to this prompt (in the target language): “Why is what we eat important for our health?”

3. We relocated to a collaboration space.  Students collaborated to come up with the best response to the prompt.  As a part of their teamwork for excellence, each student had to write the same exact essay response as the other group members.  They had 25 minutes to complete the task.

4. Then all papers from each group were stapled together and turned in to me.

5. Finally, I edited, graded on our presentational writing rubric and gave detailed written feedback to each group.  For each class, I had 6 papers to grade instead of the normal 31+.  While I only edited 1 per group, I did flip through to make sure everyone wrote everything.  I had a few slackers who earned lower grades than their other group members, much to their dismay.

This provided a quick and meaningful way to give feedback prior to our formative assessment tomorrow.  We’ll see if it helped :).

4 Corners Continued!

So after this post, I continued the activity at the end of the next class period.  I had the students write an exit card on a post-it note that explained what their favorite meal is and why.  Students then posted their card on labeled butcher paper hanging on the wall in the hallway.  Each class period got a different color post-it.

The next day, each class was allowed to pick 1 post-it of a color different than his/her class.  The students stuck it to a sheet of paper and wrote why they agreed or disagreed with the person’s opinion.  Today, the students got theirs back (it would have happened Friday but I had to leave to take my daughter to the doctor) but due to a lack of time, only had time to read them and discuss with a partner before we went onto another AMAZING activity by Jane Shea that I will discuss on my next post :).

25 minutes: reaching the full potential

I stole this activity from a presentation by Jane Shea and Greg Shields.

1. Have your students participate in an interpersonal speaking activity and record them for 5 minutes.

2. Have students make a T-chart.  Students should listen to the recording and take notes on their partner and themselves.

3. Give the students 2 minutes to take additional notes. (I added that step)

4. Have the students put their pens/pencils down and look over their notes for 60 seconds.

5. Record the students in a 2-minute presentational speaking (comparing and contrasting themselves with their original partner).

6. Playback the recording with some guidelines on what to listen for (like vocab usage, details and elaboration) or give them a copy of the rubric you typically use to grade them to assess either themselves or another (they can trade headsets).

This entire activity took 25 minutes and covered the following:

  • Interpersonal Speaking
  • Interpretive Listening
  • Synthesizing Information
  • Presentational Speaking
  • Self or Peer Evaluation

We clapped for ourselves and patted ourselves on the back for an awesome half of a class period. 🙂

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