Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Break and Award Essay

Spring Break: Yesterday was the first day of Spring Break. Em and I stayed home and had a PJ day. I was able to get caught up on much blog reading and commenting--yay! Em played dress up, "soccer" (which involves kicking a ball around from our living room to kitchen and back,) "ballet" (dressing up and dancing to music,) and Barbies among other things. (I especially liked when she got out her High S.chool M.usical dolls and was acting out the movie with them---too funny!) We didn't bathe or get dressed until after 5 in the afternoon when DH called to ask if we wanted to go to dinner when he got home from work. After a quick dinner at Moe's we were back home to our PJs. Ahhhh, what a first day of break!

Today is shower #2. Shower #1 surprised me....rather than feeling baby longings and bump envy as I anticipated, I actually felt nostalgic and reminiscent.... The teacher/wife in Shower #1 are having a baby girl, so much of the clothing and blankets reminded me of items I used with Emma long ago. For shower #1 I was able to give $$ to a friend who purchased a gift from both of us. For today's shower I went to T.arget myself and felt like a punch in the gut as I walked through the baby aisles there. So thank you, dear friends, for the warm wishes...I hope today's shower goes as well as Tuesday's did.

Tomorrow is Easter! Wow! The year is flying by. Em seems to have a better understanding of the reason we celebrate Easter than she has in prior years. Her school set up neat stations that teachers escorted students to this week: Wine/water to discuss miracles, bowl of water w/ a towel and chair to discuss Jesus washing the disciple's feet, manger scene to celebrate Jesus' birth, footprints to discuss the disciples running away from God, a cross to discuss Jesus' death, etc. Really neat idea!

School Stuff: On my planning day this week I was able to get ALL of my lesson plans for the month of April finished. Woot woot! This includes copying/clipping worksheets and assignments I'll need. Awesome! It's hard to believe it will be the last quarter of the school year when we return.

--I'm tickled with a nice leather bag I found on sale at T.arget for just under $30....I bought it as an early birthday present for myself, as I've been wanting a new work bag. (Also, buying other non-shower items helped diffuse the shopping experience.) I love that it came with a removable zipper "sleeve" that my netbook will fit in if I need to take my computer anywhere. Double cool!

--Why is it that curse words are the first things people often learn in a new language? One of my newest students was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She's only been in the U.S. a few months, and speaks VERY minimal English. In the middle of class last week, she was trying to record on her computer, but the headphones/microphone wouldn't work. I was stunned when she said, "I hate this fucking computer" in the middle of my classroom. I had to speak with her one-on-one in the hallway. She was totally embarrassed...she knew she was saying a bad word, but to quote one of my favorite movies, she didn't realize it was "the mother of all curse words."

--My principal and I received an email message this week stating that my nomination form for the "All Star Teacher Award" is being reviewed. They asked us to submit growth reports showing the reading level gains in my classes. WOW! I'm excited to be considered....let's see what happens next...

--Lastly, I am attempting one more time to cut/paste the essay I wrote which was submitted as part of my nomination packet. (Thanks to Heather at Geek by Marriage and her DH Jase for helping me figure out how to get rid of all the "meta tags" crud!)

The Prompt: Using at least 150 words, please describe how your R180 classroom tells the story of truly turning students' lives around.

My Essay Response:
I began my post-college career as a Social Worker. Working as a case manager and advocate for Children's Services enabled me to witness many parents making positive life changes. After a few years, I felt that my once-a-month visits with the children on my caseload created limited relationship building. I wanted a profession where I could work with children on a daily basis! Thus, I completed the coursework necessary to become an educator. Seven years later, much of what keeps me in the teaching profession are not the academics, but rather the relationships I develop each year with my students. I believe that rapport and creating a safe learning environment are vital to helping students learn. A secure environment is especially essential when students have deficient reading skills. Students who are embarrassed because of their below grade level abilities MUST have a place where they can learn skills without being belittled by others. Thus, I strive to create a safe haven---making fun of others is OFF LIMITS in my classroom. Through encouragement and tangible goal setting, my students learn and grow.

Three years ago my district implemented the R180 program in all middle school reading classrooms. R180 has merged perfectly with my core beliefs. The reports and data available help me work together with students to set reachable goals. Resources that are a key part of the curriculum enable me to easily differentiate instruction to meet individual student needs, which is extremely important as my classes have a vast range of reading levels. The teacher-student conferencing which is an integral part of R180 assists in my rapport building. Learning students' interests helps me connect them with engaging books they find appealing. Most importantly, the R180 program allows me to have more time doing what is most important to me---getting to know my students...

This year I have worked with many teenagers who are coping with complicated situations in their home lives, including: two students who have an incarcerated parent; one student who along with his brother were the sole survivors of a car accident which claimed the lives of everyone else in their family; a student who witnessed the murder of his step-father; and another student whose family moved to the U.S. to escape war in her home country. I am humbled that as 8th graders, some of these children have endured horrendous heartache. I am excited when we work together to increase the student's comprehension skills, test taking strategies, and/or vocabulary proficiency.

One student I've worked with this school year is J.B., an English Language Learner whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia. The first few weeks of the school year, J.B. seemed angry and upset. In conferencing with her, I learned that she was disappointed to be in R180 for a third year. I was able to show J.B. data indicating the HUGE amount of growth she has made since starting the R180 program. J.B. was particularly awed by the graphs which show an increase in her overall reading level. By getting to know J.B. and finding interesting books within her reading range, I was able to "hook" her and re-connect her with the positive aspects of R180. To date, she has taken the second highest amount of book quizzes of any 8th graders at our school this year! What a turn around!

The R180 program has assisted me in changing students' lives for the better. By enabling me to confer with students while teaching reading skills and strategies, I am able to show students that I don't just care about their academics, but about their well-being. On an almost daily basis I am able to witness the "180" my students are making within their own lives. I am thrilled with their reading gains, but my heart sings to think that I might have helped them to make a "turn around" within their personal lives as well.

--It's a national award, so I don't know how much of a shot I have. There are 4 awards given, but only 1 for the middle school level. My main concern is that they will want something that is more reading-focused. However, this essay is ME and why I teach. I love the R180 curriculum, but I don't want my essay to be just a commercial for their product.

--The weather here is gorgeous! Finally in the low 80's. We've had our house windows open the last several days....LOVE it! Happy Spring, everyone!


Kristin said...

Great essay and congrats again on the nomination.

Sounds like you had a fabulous first day of break.

Mrs. Gamgee said...

Wow! I am so impressed, my friend! And I'm sure that those responsible for deciding the award winners will be too!

I'm so glad that you were able to get through the first shower with limited challenges. I will be sending prayers that the shower today will go by quickly and enjoyably.

And as for learning the curse words first... when I was learning German, on the first day of classes taught us every curse word he could think of. He figured that we would pester him until we found them out anyway. :)

Carrie27 said...

What a great award to be nominated for. Congrats!

I hope you and your family have a fabulous Easter.

Marie W said...

Have an AWESOME spring break and Happy Easter!

Fishsticks and Fireflies said...

Your essay? AWESOME! Very well written and it will no doubt put you high up on the list of contenders! Good luck!

I am so glad that the first shower went well and hope that the second one surprised you as well. You are an amazingly strong woman!

Happiest Easter to you and your family!

Beautiful Mess said...

Fantastic essay, hon! I can't wait to read how it all goes down!

I'm glad the shower wasn't too bad for you. I've been sending you so much love, hoping you are getting it.