Thursday, July 28, 2016

Write Like This - by Kelly Gallagher Review

I checked out Write Like This nearly two years ago from our school's library. (Sorry to my fellow teachers... but no one else has been asking for it.) It sat in my bedroom for a year, but after a great district workshop on writing WITH your students, I felt compelled to pick it up. If nothing else, I needed to get it back to the school.

The first chapter was slow for me. I knew what Kelly Gallagher was explaining. I buy into teachers modeling writing.  But, as I kept reading, I was more and more inspired and more reflective of my inadequacies. I didn't model as much as I thought I did.

The book is chunked into different writing purposes:

  • Express and Reflect
  • Inform and Explain
  • Evaluate and Judge
  • Analyze and Interpret
  • Take a Stand/Propose a Solution
Within in of the sections, Kelly gives strategies, examples, HIS samples, his revisions, and his students' writing. My brain exploded; this man is a genius. I wasn't doing enough. I was only scratching the surface in my lessons and units.  I could be doing so much more, and I need to show my students more of my own writing.

I'm going to lend the book to a fellow teacher and BUY MY OWN copy.

I'm actually really excited. I'm already writing articles for a magazine, books, cartoon series, and a movie script. Bring it into the classroom!! 

I loaned the book to another teacher on my campus, and as we talked (and spent the day together during the summer), I realized that I could even bring in my writing portfolio that I compiled in college with a professor.  I could bring in those magazines with my articles. I could bring in my works in progress - I have SEVERAL!

Each year, I want to do more and to do better than the year before. I know my kids will benefit.  So will I. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

The day after 5 Dallas officers were killed...

It seems like I've been on social media non-stop, and I probably need to quit. However, that along with a wonderful 5 hour lunch with a dear friend from high school helped me sort out a few things.

I am passionate about social issues and doing something to help our world. I'm more passionate about giving my students the opportunity to find their passion and their voice to make positive changes in the world.  I'm not always sure that I'm doing much, but I got such amazing confirmation today from a former student.

My FB post:

Unfriended someone I went to high school with today-- I could not keep someone who continually posted racist and insensitive comments. She does not believe America has any race problems, just thug problems. She does not believe there are issues with the way women are treated, nor is there any problem with guns in America today. She doesn't see it, therefore it does not exist. Sadly, many people do not acknowledge a problem until they face it in a very up-close and personal way.

So, in order to keep my stress levels down and to remove toxicity from my life (and honestly, hers), unfriending was the way to give us both peace.

Fighting for causes is my passion, and I try to show that everyone has a voice and a place to make the world better. The first step is to recognize and understand the issue. The second is to find a way to fix it. I hope everyone can realize their unique and beautiful role on this planet.

I plan to be the change I want to see - every day.

Student comment: 

🙌
 PREACH! This is why I'm really grateful I got to have you as my teacher TWICE in middle school.

Me: Thank you, sweet T___!!!! My heart swells when I see my students on FB because you are forever a part of my life. You have a voice, and it is unique and beautiful!!!

Student: Ahh I love you, Ms. Haranda! Stay awesome.

Me: I love you too!!


Yes, when my 8th graders leave middle school, I tell them I'd love to have them friend me on FB. It's an open invitation. I wish them happy birthday. I encourage them. I support them as they move on in life. 

I can't be a hypocrite as a teacher. I can't build superficial relationships that don't exist outside of school. I can't not be passionate about social issues if I ask my students to fight for a cause. 

I can't stop being me. 


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tuesday quickwrite - June 29

I'm in the Coppell HS library today helping with summer school. In 100 steps, I'm either sitting with students at tables among the stacks of books or standing between rows of computer screens and a lone bookcase of biography books. I can look at windows that face the outdoors in a park setting or windows that face the main corridor of the school, lined with potted plants.

The building brings us together for the common goal of helping kids where they struggle. We may see different views through the windows, just like different teachers have different insight into the background of different kids. We are surrounded by knowledge (books) and tools (computers), but the key component to helping these kids is the relationship we build with them. That is not objectively visible, but it comes from the conversations: students with students, teachers with students, teachers with teachers, teachers with administrators, or students with administrators.

We may not save everyone, but we are working to impact them as best we can.



Monday reflection

Writing is a solitary act, but it requires a community or you'll lose your sanity.  I'm participating in #teacherswrite this year, and I've got a community of writers in my district from our #cisdlitcamp workshop. A community helps with all parts of writing - idea brainstorming, organization, voice, the craft of writing, and emotional support.

I'm currently in the midst of revising my movie script from grad school; it was my thesis project.  It wasn't bad, but I'm getting into the exploration and scrubbing that revising requires. It's pretty cool.  Even after three years beyond my graduation and getting a grade, I know I can keep working on the project to make it really amazing. That's what writers aim for - amazing, heart-breaking, touching, inspiring. Anyone can do first draft crap. It might even be pretty good. I got by with mostly first drafts through my bachelor's and my teacher certification, making 3.55 and 3.89 GPA respectively.

But, what could happen if you really stretched yourself to revise with vigor? I'm reignited with excitement about screenplays (movie scripts). I'm excited about my story. I'm rooting for my protagonist, and developing my antagonist into something beyond a stereotype. I've got a few too many supporting characters who need to be eliminated or combined. I'm also going to change a male character to female.

I reread Paul Chitlik's book, Rewrite, and I'm recreating my plot line and beat sheet. That's outlining in screen lingo. The messy, muddled middle of my script is my nemesis.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Stepping out of my comfort zone

I'm looking to expand my career beyond simply teaching in the classroom.  This May, I was asked to be a Lead Mentor for my campus mentors and new teachers. This kind of position is ideal for my background as a life coach, so I think it's going to be a great year.

However, I also took a step outside of my comfort zone. I was going to attend the TIA 2016 (Technology in Action) conference in Denton, Texas, but I noticed a link that called for presenters.  Why not?  After fretting with co-workers on the content I could present, I sent in a proposal and was accepted.   I'll be presenting ways that teachers can use the many Google apps in their classroom. 

https://tia16.sched.org/


Here's the actual session description:

Google Apps can be used in your classroom for classroom & behavior management, relationship building, real-world audiences & authentic feedback, and managing all of the documentation we are called upon to keep updated (RTI, SPED, mentoring, planning). 

Bring your own device to get your own Google Apps started. We will use1. QR codes directed to Google docs for classroom and behavior management
2. Google docs for conferencing: reading, writing, and personal goals
3. Blogger for sharing books, sharing and responding to current articles, creative and digital posts, and constructive commenting
4. Google forms and docs for RTI/SPED/ESL documentation, weekly planning reflections, mentoring, etc.


***added after I submitted

Google sites for teacher/student resources, unit planning, and student products

5. (Bonus - for LA) Google Sheets for genre/book lists



My presentation is almost complete, and I've run it by some of the high school teachers and administrators in my district while teaching summer school.  Based on their reaction (please share with me NOW), I'm pretty stoked!  

Maybe I'll be on the road next summer as a professional presenter.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thankful for professional development

Have you actually been thankful for a professional development workshop?

When I was in the corporate world, I begged for training. I asked and got denied. It was really frustrating, and lack of training opportunities was a key component to me leaving corporate. 

I work in Coppell, Texas, and our training opportunities have continually satisfied and built my knowledge base as a teacher.  However this year, I think the workshops have really been a godsend for my current place in my teaching career. I went to 4 days for mentor training and supporting new teachers. What a perfect role for me to step into! 

I'm also attending reading/writing workshops designed to refresh my reading and writing passions to bring it back into the classroom.  We are given time to read and write. We are back in the student seat, feeling all those feels.

Now I have a community of teachers who are just as passionate about real reading and writing in their lives.  It's not just something we stand up and teach students. We live it outside of school as well. For this I am thankful.

I knew this was the path for my life and my students, but I have felt like I've been swimming upstream. I'm not swimming alone. For that, I am thankful.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Student teachers

I had my first student teacher this fall, and I found myself growing and thinking deeper about every aspect of my teaching. She started on the first day of school, along with every new student for my 10th year as a teacher. To me, it seemed more logical for her to start in the spring, but as we worked together through the beginning of the year classroom strategies and routines, I realized that starting at the beginning of the year was ideal.

Because I  endeavor to start the year with structure and intention, I modeled teaching for her every minute of my day. I learned students' names much faster than in past years because I felt pushed to be the best role model. I could not ask her to accomplish tasks I was not already modeling, and I had to be clear about my examples, questioning, and relationship-building. I used down time to work with students or work on planing or grading. It was exhausting. It was also the best teaching I'd done in a very long time.

I had more than the eyes of 20-30 students (multiply that times 5) on me. I had a future teacher who would go on to touch thousands of lives, just as I have already in my career.  Her future students would see where I shaped her as a teacher.

Over the course of the semester, I made mistakes, and she made mistakes. The best part was constant discussions and reflections on how to make it (whatever "it" was) better. We also started projects I'd wanted to start, but couldn't manage by myself. I was also always caught up. It took two of us to keep up with all of the administrative work teachers are required to do.  We could pass back graded assessments quickly. We could conference with students in double the time.

During the days that I handed full responsibility over to her and worked in a teacher workroom, I was approached by many teachers.  I can't say many had had good experiences.  I also saw some refuse to give up full control unless absolutely required. What is the experience for? A student teacher needs to teach and learn how to manage a full day. My student teacher had a lock down drill in the middle of a supervisor's evaluation. She did great. She also took the students out for fire drills. She needed every bizarre and random experience that teachers might face in the classroom.  She needed to face them when another teacher was still nearby and responsible for helping oversee the classes.

When my student teacher left, I definitely needed some adjustment time. I had to get used to being the only adult in the room.  I didn't have my confidant and comrade-at-arms by my side all day. I had to teach all the students all day long.

And now, we've moved into a new normal. I have to fight some of my own bad tendencies and lazy habits.  I'm also already behind in grading. I'm worried about missing some report or important email because it's only me.

I was blessed.  Having a student teacher was a great experience. I grew, and I could observe my own strategies knowing another teacher would follow my path.