Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reflections of an ELL Teacher

Time really is no one's friend.  We're already about to begin the third week of school.  Already, I'm worried that I won't have enough time to give my students all that they need.  When my ELL's come to me, they are at least six years behind where they need to be.  And, if they are in eighth grade, the challenge is even more great.  How do I prepare these kids in order to pass the graduation test in tenth grade?   I always panic when I get the first reading assessment score.  I will have at least half of my class score a zero percent in reading ability.  This is not because they cannot read, it's because they read in a different language than the assessment.  In addition, these students are not five or six years old, with many years to catch-up.  Rather, these are eleven, twelve, thirteen, and sometimes, fourteen year olds.  The task is daunting, at best.

Each year I must apply to myself all the encouraging messages I preach to my students.  We do this one day at a time, one task at a time, one success at a time.  Rome wasn't built in a day.  A good crop is not harvested in one day.  We must daily give our very best, and do better tomorrow.  And, one day, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day, we will see the fruit of our labor.  And, at the end of the year, there will be big smiles, and big hugs, and perhaps tears, as we see all that we accomplished together.  The biggest heart filler is when they come back as 16 and 17 year olds thanking me for planting the seeds they needed in order to reap their own academic and personal harvest.  

So, this weekend, as I reflect on the past two weeks, and look ahead on the countless others that are to come, may I remember the successes of the past and encourage myself, we can do this!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

I found this video about introverts to be very interesting and I thought you might, also.  Many ELL's tend be introverted when they first arrive to the United States.  In school they call this time "the silent period".  Sometimes teachers don't understand the immense adjustment it is for a person, especially an adolescent, to perform academically, socially and culturally within an unknown paradigm.  Although this video is not directly referring to second language learning, however, indirectly I think the points apply.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

After School Reflection Journal

 I've been journaling since my teen years.  This summer I decided to kick it up a notch.  I began keeping a personal art/prayer/everything journal.  Then, I thought about perhaps starting a journal about my experiences in the classroom.  Hence, the "After School Reflection Journal" was born.  Each afternoon, after the kids have been dismissed and the final bell of the day has rung, I hope to write some final thoughts for the day.  I plan to celebrate what worked and be honest about what didn't. Today I added my first post.  Unfortunately, I ended up making a list of countless things I must do, but that's ok...  Eventually it will become a reflection journal and not a "To Do List".  

This is a 5 by 8 inch binder.

The journal has 4 divisions, one for each nine weeks.

A closer look..
I like the pocket dividers so that I can keep little notes of encouragement that I usually receive from colleagues, students and parents.

I may not need 2 half pages for one entry.  I plan to write only a few sentences.  However, I gave myself more space for days I may need to write more.  The most difficult part of preparing this notebook was getting the right dimensions on the 3-whole punch.  
Another idea would be to purchase 5 by 8 index cards instead of copying so many pages.  I decided with the copies because I wanted each page to have the same heading.   I also wanted the notebook to open vertically.

The pages are copied front and back to save paper.

 An alternative to this format is to purchase a calendar with large boxes.  I debated which one to use this year, this format won.  

I'm hoping that I will be able to read the journal during the summer to reflect on both amazing and challenging moments of the past year.  I think it may also remind me of things I should definitely repeat and others I shouldn't.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Few Tips for New Teachers

1)  If you're a gal, don't wear high heels, unless you have a really good arch. And, if you're a guy, don't break in a new pair of shoes on a school day.

2)  Eat. Breakfast and lunch should not be negotiable.   Food = Energy

3)  Sleep.  A good night's sleep does wonders for our overall tone and disposition.

4) Decorate your area with colors, trinkets, and other things you love.  When you're having a tough day, these things will most likely bring a smile to your face and help lighten the moment.  

5) Don't expect to be perfect.  No one is.  Just do the very best you can each day and strive to be better the next. Encourage yourself when you've had a great day and when you haven't. Tomorrow will be better, expect nothing less.

6) Be present-minded.  With so many things demanding your attention, being focused can sometimes be a challenge.  Focusing on the task at hand, with intentionality, will help you become more effective.  

7) Be prepared.  Winging it is hit or miss.  After school make sure you know the details of the next day.  When you get to school the next morning you'll be more relaxed and less hurried.

8) Expect the unexpected.  And, when it comes, breathe!  It's not the end of the world.

9) Make friends with people who are excited and passionate about what they do.  This passion will ignite in you and those you serve.

10) Find something to celebrate every day, maybe two.

11) Ask questions.  Teachers are usually willing and happy to help.

12) Observe great teachers on your campus.

13) Keep copies of everything.

14) Always make extra copies of hand-outs in case you receive a new student or someone needs a second copy.

15) Wash your hands frequently, use your own pens and pencils, and build your immune system.

I wish you a blessed and successful first year.  The best is yet to come. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bye, Bye Summer 2013

I Had A Blast!


I have 2 months to rest, think, reflect, create, have fun, clean, and just breathe.  I'm not a world traveler, so I don't fly to exotic places, but I utilize my time off for doing things that fill my heart with joy.  Every summer is different.  This summer was all about technology.  I've plunged into the blog world.  I'm not an expert and I totally wish I knew more, but I've begun the process.  I'm looking forward to trying out all the new skills, strategies and activities I've learned through blogging with my students and families.  On Tuesday I officially go back to work.  I'm going to miss my summer mornings and my "hot" coffee.  But, I'm also ready to for the school year to start because...


I'm looking forward to meeting my new students who come from all parts of the world.  I get to be their first English teacher in America.  I don't take that privilege lightly.  I know how important first impressions are.

I'm looking forward to seeing light bulbs go on, excitement when a goal is reached, amazement and surprise when goals are exceeded.

I'm looking forward to affecting, igniting, inspiring future destinies and dreams; planting hope...

I'm looking forward to
~persuading a non-reader to love reading,
~a hesitant writer to write better than expected,
~a reluctant L1 speaker to speak to me in English,
~write journals in English,
~complete a directive in English without looking at me like deer in headlights.

When the stresses of the job come crashing over me like an avalanche, I will remember these things I looked forward to, and these will be my driving force.

It is my prayer that this year will be the best one yet.

Wishing you a happy and wonderful 2014 school year!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blog Shout Out

I'm going to use my educational blog to highlight and give a SHOUT OUT to amazing and resourceful blogs I stumble across through my internet travels.  

Today's BLOG SHOUT OUT goes to (drum roll...)

"Eat. Write. Teach."

I really love this blog.  It is great for secondary teachers.   The creator of the blog is called Stephanie.  She includes technology tutorials, organization templates, pacing guides and much, more more.  I signed up to follow her blog by email because I can tell this blog is going to be a great source of professional development for me.  

Check It Out

Friday, August 2, 2013

Creativity and Learning

I was watching a documentary on The Teaching Channel called, "Art Essentials" If you have some time, I encourage you to take a minute to watch it.  The amazing teachers are inspiring.

And, here's an article I think you'll enjoy reading from John Hopkins School of Education written by Dr. Rosa Aurora Chavez-Eakle M.D., Ph. D., May 2010, on The Relevance of Creativity.


I've been teaching at the middle school level for the past 11 years. Before that I taught elementary students. I've noticed that middle schoolers enjoy creating as much as primary kids. The beauty of middle school is that students bring more experiences and life lessons to the table. However, many times middle schoolers are more self-conscious about their skills and abilities. The challenge is to motivate and encourage them to be risk takers. This kind of risk-taking atmosphere is not an easy task. It begins with me. I have to be a risk-taker and demonstrate to my students how to celebrate success and failure. Perfection is impossible to achieve. I strive to do my very best at the moment with what I know and what I want to know. The next time, I use what I've learned to do better. With this modeled, it flows to the kids. In my experience, for this to happen we must all feel safe. Building a classroom culture of respect, encouragement and mentorship is vital. Each year takes on a different tone because the dynamics of the group is different. Nonetheless, creating a safe, engaging and risk-taking environment is a daily objective, in addition to everything else. When we can transform attitudes such as apathy and indifference to risk taking and creative engagement, then we have made a lasting influence not only in our kids, but in ourselves.