Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What I learned at my Conference..

Dear Dialog,

I was probably one of a few who signed up at my conference to receive 500-level graduate credit for attending the conference. Now just because I attended the conference, doesn't mean that I got the credit that easily...  

Just like I tell my students... "Having your butt in a seat does not earn you a grade, the work that you do, does."  

The same applies to me here. I have four assignments I have to complete by November 3rd with an 85% or better on all four assignments to receive a passing grade. This is only for one quarter credit too!

I completed and submitted my first assignment last night. My assignment was to state what each of my workshops were about and what I learned from each. 

The first workshop I attended was called "Empowering Students Through Action Research and Storytelling to Transform Classroom Culture" This particular workshop, I was not fond of. In this workshop, I felt, based on the description, that we were to learn about how to Action Research and Story Telling in our classrooms and how that would change the dynamics of a teacher oriented classroom to a student orientated classroom.  I felt like the presenter was not prepared and used this workshop to get feedback towards her Master’s thesis rather than how to use Action Research and Storytelling within the classroom.

The second workshop I attended was called "Contemporary Issues that Inspire Historical Fiction".
I found this workshop to be very informational. This workshop demonstrated how to turn characters in real life stories, whom you may not have any information about, and create a back story to them. In this particular session, we read the transcripts of an NPR session about tomato farmers in Florida. This story dealt with illegal immigrants and the hardships that they face on the fields.

The assignment for this workshop included first writing a short story about an experience you had with a tomato. The leaders of the workshop then played for us the transcript from the NPR session. After that, we discussed the audio clip and had the assignment to write a story about one of the characters involved in the clip. For my assignment, I wrote about a young girl named Esmeralda who was taken by a coyote and forced to become a domestic servant for a local family in Florida.

The third workshop I attended was called “Minds Matter: Case Studies in College Counseling for Low-Income and Underrepresented Students”. In this workshop, I learned about the Minds Matter Program and how it has been an asset to low income and underrepresented students in the Portland Area. In this class, I learned several different methods in how to help students identify what they want to study and where they might want to go in college. I was also given information regarding different schools who specifically gear programs towards first generation and low income students. Schools like that of Western Oregon University or Southern Oregon University.

Some of the questions I learned to ask are:
  • What are areas you might want to study?
  • Do you want to be in state or out of state for college?
  • What are your study habits like?
  • What are some strengths and areas that might need to be improved upon?
  • What is the cultural diversity you are comfortable with?
  • What is the educational background of your parents?
  • Are you willing to talk about family struggles in college essays?
    • Reveal single parent, homelessness, teen parents, talk about school struggles, jobs while working and going to school?
  • Should we look at no-loan schools?
While there are always going to be pros and cons about any conference and any workshops that you attend, there is always a learning experience. I feel that I learned a lot in this conference and I am glad that I went. I hope to attend this conference next year.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Conference day!

Dear Dialog,

Well today is conference day. I got here pretty early this morning. I slept in my 3-year old nephew's bed last night so I didn't get much sleep. I have chosen my three conferences and are excited to attend them. I am hoping to get some valuable information out of them.

That's it for now. I had my coffee, got my diet coke and ready to get the started!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Teaching Social Justice Conference

Dear Dialog,

This weekend I am attending a conference in Portland at Madison High School through the Rethinking Schools Program. http://nwtsj.org/

I will be attending three workshops where I will learn about Teaching Social Justice in my classroom. I have chosen a few workshops in each time period.

In my first workshop, I will be attending one of the following:
A. Empowering Students Through Action Research and Storytelling to Transform Classroom Culture
B. Unearthing the Voices Silenced by History

In my second workshop, I will be choosing one of the following:
A. Contemporary Issues that Inspire Historical Fiction
B. Financial Meltdown Tribunal
C. Weedflower: Teaching about Social Justice and Activism through a Novel Unit

In my third workshop, I will be going to this:
A. Minds Matter: Case Studies in College Counseling for Low-Income and Underrepresented Students

We get a lunch and for an extra $40.00, I get one Graduate Quarter Credit which is AWESOME!!!!!!!

I also get to see my wonderful nephews!!! So excited about that. My brother and sister-in law are being kind enough to let me stay at their place. I am packed, ready for classes to be out and ready to head up!!! I cant wait!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Thank You...

Dear Dialog,

Last night I received some amazing comments on my Facebook page from both students and colleagues concerning my post regarding the second Presidential debates...  Today, I would like to keep this post light hearted and share some warm words of admiration and inspiration from them. They are the reason why I do my job. Thank you to all who posted. Your words meant a lot.

"It is sooo sad, you are funding our future, building the bridge for the people that may one day be genius's, geologists, and for so little ability to enjoy what you earn for it..."

"If a person were to figure out how many hours teachers work during the school year, then spread it out over a year, I'm guessing, we average at least 40 hours a week over the entire year."

 "... Honestly... you guys deal with a lot more stress than any other job, I can say you guys put your heart out, and often times get stomped on, mistreated disrespected and defiled... one day someone other than a very select group will appreciate teacher for what they do..." 

"You guys are shown so little appreciation, and it makes me sad, to know that right now, I am spelling and using words I would have never known, or even heard of, that at one point a teacher taught me."

 "All of my knowledge except for the self taught. self explored came from a very select amount of teachers, we have a huge effect on how teachers feel about there job, and you have a very large amount of information that we all learned, people always say they hate school, that they think it's stupid... I honestly can't help but laugh at the because almost all they know came from school, if it wasn't for schools and caring teachers that extend their own knowledge and kindness, then the world would walk around being a bunch of prehistoric cavemen."

Thank you 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presidential Debates... Round Two

Dear Dialog,

I am watching round two of the Presidential Debates tonight and I have to make this statement regarding comments made on Education..

-Half of the members in my cohort from my graduate program were unable to obtain teaching jobs because of the lack of job availability in Oregon. Oregon has a surplus of teachers and too few jobs due to budget cuts... 

-I know it is simple, but this year I have paid over $1,200 for supplies for my classroom out of my own pocket... While I am able to write these items off on my taxes, I will only receive around $150 of that $1200 back!!!

-Fund our schools properly. Pay teachers a livable salary to attract the most experienced and successful teachers to the field. I, with a Masters degree, make 50% of what I could make in a non-education job with a masters degree. I currently owe almost $50,000 in student loans in a job where after maybe teaching 10-15 years, will I make that. 

-For those who believe that I get summers off... well I do... But it is spent working a second or third job or attending college classes that I have to pay for in order to keep my teaching license.

-We as a nation for the last 80 years, have had an educational system that puts kids through the motions and then spits them out. Now, all of a sudden, we to make an absurd amount of changes required by NCLB or No Child Left Behind with our current funds and if we don't meet those changes or requirements, instead of helping us meet those, they take our funding away... This creates a horrible Catch 22 which is crippling the education system. Teachers are no longer teaching for the love their subjects. But instead, to the test to ensure that they have their jobs the following year. Their job is tied to their students standardized test scores... This is a huge mistake

-We have lawmakers, who have never spent any time in the classroom, dictating the way our schools are run. They tell us how to do our jobs. Telling us... Telling us to do everything wrong when we as teachers, know what we do is right. They do not have to manage 30-40 kids at a time. They do not have to attend IEP Meetings before school, during lunch or after school. They do not have to pay for supplies out of their own pocket. 

So here is my message to you... Until you lawmakers, spend one year in my classroom; teach the classes I teach; grade the assignments; create interactive lessons to keep students engaged; pay for supplies out of your own pocket; be paid a salary comparable to a high school graduate instead of a person who has a masters... 
Do not tell me what to do.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Preparation for the New Term

Dear Dialog,

There seems to be quite a few different opinions when it comes to the teachers versus the administration when determining the future of the school. A new requirement for graduating Seniors this year is that they have to pass both the OAKS Reading and Writing exams. These, to me, show that a student can pass a test, NOT that they know the material. I myself, could not pass one of these exams, but I know the material.

The reading exam is in a multiple choice format which is ridiculous... How can a student show proficiency in reading by taking a multiple choice exam??? This is absurd!!! Also, the writing exam... What do I have to say about the writing exam... Well you don't know how to spell, but you need to know your conventions, how to formulate an essay, word choice, make the voice of the writer evident and oh ya... Conventions again...

Currently, some people at school believe that those who pass the Oaks exams in both reading and writing, should be given upwards of 3 Credits of English! This would only mean that students need 1 Credit of English before they fulfilled their requirements. Our English department has decided that they should be given no more than 2 Credits but they have since been overruled even though they were asked to decide how much credit should be allotted in the first place!!!

This argument continues both in the departments of Math and Science... Social Studies is a department that you don't even want to get me started on...

Any who... Currently the staff at school are all working without a Prep period... This has caused chaos amongst students, hectic classes without proper direction and exhausted teachers! For many of us, our Prep period is our time to prepare for classes. To have meetings. To regain our train of thoughts. To get prepared!!! I have been talking with various teachers at school and have created a schedule that allows us to not only have a prep period, but also to keep our classes around 15-18 kids per class. We are also able to keep our Academic Focus classes. I am going to send this around to the staff once again and then when I have input from everyone, I am going to present it to our principal. I am really hoping that it goes well and that the administration adopts the schedule.

I am also starting to think about how I want to structure my Academic Focus classes next term. Next term, they will be all the same students, three class periods in a row without anyone moving from class to class. There will be consistency!!! A big goal of the school is to be a Proficiency school. Unfortunately, many of our students have yet to get the memo and our Proficiency model has turned into a lazy model. Most of our students need consistency. They need a regular schedule. They need accountability...

My next move this term is to determine what this consistency, regular schedule and accountability will look like.

Any who...Life is being life...