Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Commitment to Motivate and Inspire

Last week, I heard the comment that every teacher dreads to hear: “This is boring!  Why do we have to learn this boring stuff?” 
I know that it’s all a matter of opinion of what’s considered fun and what’s considered boring, but this comment really hit home for me this week.  After hearing this comment, I realized that it was the time for a little reflection and the time to change some of my ways.  It was time for me to rediscover my student’s passions and find ways to spread the joy, wonder, and excitement of learning.  And, it was a time for me to take a little trip down memory lane…
When I was a child, I loved school!  In first grade, I experienced the power of reading.  My mind soared as I journeyed to unknown worlds and took part in fascinating adventures as I turned each page of the books I held in my hand.  In second grade, I was given the power of choice in my writing.  I was able to craft wonderful stories filled with as much imagination and adventure as in the books I read.  In sixth grade, I was shown that math was not made-up of just facts that I had to memorize, but rather numbers and symbols that served a specific purpose in my daily life. 
Continuing on to middle school…  social studies – a subject I normally dreaded due to the mundane repetition, memorization, and unknowing purpose of studying our nation’s history.  But that all changed when I set foot in my eighth grade social studies class.  In that class, history was brought to life. 
In all of my science classes throughout high school, I was lucky to get to experience hands-on, minds-on learning every day.  Through the use of 21st century skills, such as technology, collaboration, and critical thinking, everyone was able to work together to achieve a common goal.      
Let’s not forget college… my favorite courses were the ones that were taught by professors who thought outside of the box.  Instead of having us listen to monotonous lectures, these professors involved students in the process of learning and the culmination of new ideas. 
Through all these experiences, I’ve realized that each and every one of my teachers had a genuine passion for teaching.  They found ways to make the subject-matter they taught relatable and applicable to everyday life.  They spent a significant amount of their time planning these lessons, conferring with students, and asking thought-provoking questions.  They made all students feel like a success… leaving their classrooms with the feeling that anything was possible.    
My teachers helped create these passions and instill a lifetime love of learning.  And to them, I offer a very sincere thank-you.  Because of you, you have shaped the teacher I want to become.  I want my students to experience the magic and wonderment that you showed me every single day.  I want to inspire my students to believe they can do the impossible and give them the tools to do just that.  Anything is possible.    
And so, I leave you with this quote from Seth Godin’s e-book titled, Stop Stealing Dreams:
“When we let our kids dream, encourage them to contribute, and push them to do work that matters, we open doors for them that will lead to places that are difficult for us to imagine.  When we turn school into more than just a finishing school for a factory job, we enable a new generation to achieve things that we were ill-prepared for” (187).    
I want my kids to dream.  To realize anything is possible.  And to do this, I commit to making a change.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tag... You're It!!!!

Whew… last week was one grueling week!  I won’t go into too much detail other than parent-teacher conferences, formal observation (plus pre and post conferences), data inundation, misbehaving students (full moon?), meetings galore, sickness, and complete, total, utter exhaustion.  To sum it up in one word:  Stress.FULL!  I’m looking forward to a much more laid-back week this week (and a long weekend)!  J
Miss Russell over at Thoughts of a Student Teacher has asked me to be part of a little bloggy-tag game… and now I’m it!  Here are the questions that I was asked to answer:
1. If you could move anywhere and teach, where would it be?
2. What is your favorite grade to teach and why?
3. What is one of your most memorable teaching moments?
4. What is your favorite restaurant to eat out at?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your biggest fear?
7. What is the hardest thing about teaching?
8. What is your biggest pet peeve?
9. How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a teacher?
10. Do you prefer salty or sweet things?
11. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you bought?
12. What is your biggest piece of advice to future teachers?

And, here are my answers...

1.  I think it would be absolutely wonderful to have the experience of teaching in another country (or continent)!  Since I was in 2nd grade, it has been my dream to travel to Australia.  I would love to experience what it’s like “down under” and be completely immersed in another culture.  But, on the flip side of things, I do love it here in Colorado!  It’s nice to be so close to my family and friends, as they’ve been my support system through everything.  As long as I have kiddos to teach and am surrounded by loving people, I honestly think I’d be happy teaching anywhere!  J

2.  I used to be a stickler for wanting to teach
 just 2nd grade since that was such a magical year for me, but with such a wide variety of experiences in each of the grade levels, I’ve realized that there is something to love about teaching each grade!  Each year, from beginning to end, it’s amazing to me how much kids learn and grow!  They grow academically, physically, and emotionally and it is such a wonderful experience to be part of their journeys.  If you create a positive, supportive classroom environment, there’s no limit as to what incredible things kids can do!   

3.  Each and every one of my favorite memories have been moments of realization… moments when I’ve laughed until I cried… and moments when I’ve cried until I laughed.  These are the moments that changed the way I look at life and serve as inspiration when times get tough. These moments are ones where I can truly say, “I am a teacher and I am proud to be making a difference!”    My hope is that you can experience these moments too (even though I’m sure you already have)!  Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions and I know that there is nothing that I’d rather be doing than that! 

4.  I'd have to say it's a tie between Chili's and Outback Steakhouse!  At Chili's, I love the chips and queso and their Guiltless Chicken Platter (I think they call it Magarita Chicken now)!  At Outback, there's nothing better than a well-done filet mignon steak and a Wallaby Darned (a yummy peach drink).  Simply MmmmAzing! 

5.  It’s a tie between 3 people… Paul Walker, Owen Wilson, and Hugh Grant.  Find me a guy with the perfect mix of those 3 and I’d marry him!  ;-)

6.  Hmmm… that’s a tough one.  I guess I’d have to say fear of failure.  I always put forth 100% effort into everything I do, but sometimes I fear that it may not be enough. 

7.  Everything!  Haha.  Only kidding.  Teaching is a very demanding job though.  It’s extremely hard to find a balance and not let the petty things get to you.  Every day presents a new challenge, but you must embrace it with a positive attitude and an open mind!

8.  Negativity.  When things change, it’s easy to react to them in a negative way.  However, it’s important to remember that change is something that cannot be controlled – it is a constant.  As my swim coach used to say, “You can only change two things in life… your attitude and your underwear!”    Why not control the way in which you react to change?  Since change is a constant, wouldn’t it be better to be open-minded and positive about it?  I believe that it’s important to lift up, rather than tear down the people who surround you.  Why not spread the sunshine everywhere you go?  J

9.  I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I was really young, but my dream first began as a marine biologist.  I absolutely loved dolphins and wanted to know everything about all the creatures that lived in the ocean.  Whatever career I chose, I knew that it had to be something where I could help other people or animals.  It wasn’t until high school when I started spending lots of my time volunteering in local elementary schools.  This is when I realized that I loved working with kids!  It was amazing to see the excitement these children experienced from learning and working together.  I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of.  I wanted to make a difference, just like all the teachers I had met were doing, and just as my teachers had done for me.  This is when I knew that teaching was 100% the right choice for me!   

10.  If you know me personally, you would definitely know the answer to this one… SWEETS, of course!  J  I get made fun of all the time at lunch because of my “little kid palette.”  I’ve even created a daily feature called “What’s in Chelsea’s Lunchbox Today?” where I showcase all the items in my lunchbox and see if anyone can guess what I brought for lunch that day.  It usually consists of: fruit snacks, Dunkaroos (yes, they still exist!), cosmic brownies, goldfish, some sort of candy/chocolate for dessert… you get the point (Although, I have to admit, I am trying to be a bit healthier).  And, my favorite food, you may ask?  Ice cream, of course!  J 

11.  Good question… I can’t say that I really know the answer to this…  Assuming that what I won would be millions upon millions of dollars, and I would be swimming in cash (wishful thinking – I knowJ), I would probably buy some “basic” things like new clothes (a new pair of jeans, some work clothes, some workout clothes, etc.), a new laptop, and a document camera and projector for my classroom.  I would love to buy a plane ticket and travel to various destinations across the globe – Australia, Europe (Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Italy…), the Caribbean… the possibilities are endless!  All selfishness aside, I would give a good portion of my winnings to my parents.  They have been so supportive of everything I’ve done, so I would make sure that they’d receive a substantial amount to spend on whatever they see fit (eg. a new house, a relaxing vacation, etc.).  I’d set some money aside for my future children and then I’d donate the rest to non-profit charities that make a huge difference in our communities and schools. 

12.  I am a new teacher, but I still have a lot of advice… hehe.  First of all, find a balance.  Take time for yourself, friends, family, and work.  Enjoy every single moment and find something to smile about every single day!  I keep a notebook of all the funny things kids say to me and notes that they give me.  It keeps me going on tough days and always makes me smile and appreciate that I am making a difference!  J  Most importantly, don’t lose sight of the big picture!  It’s easy to get caught up in petty things, but remember what you are there for…. to inspire and encourage children to be the best that they can be every single day!  Always remember to keep moving forward and never give up.  Believe that you can succeed and you will! 

Now it’s my turn to ask some questions to learn more about my awesome bloggy friends!  Here are 12 questions that I would love for you to answer: 
1. What is one of your favorite books from your professional library? And from your personal library?  Why are they amongst your favorites?
2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why?
3. What’s your secret to motivating kids to learn?
4. What is your dream vacation?
5. What do you like to do in your spare time (all teaching aside)?
6. If you have a pet, what kind of pet do you have and why did you choose it?  If you don’t have a pet, what kind of pet would you get and why?
7. What is your most prized possession and why?     
8. What is your favorite song?  Does it have any significance in your life? 
9. What has been your biggest challenge so far in your teaching career?
10. What is your favorite grade level to teach and why?
11. What is your most memorable teaching moment?
12.   What is the single, most important piece of advice you would give to a new teacher? 

Heather @ Heather's Heart
Ashleigh @ educationjourney

Tag – You’re it!!!!  J 
I can’t wait to read your responses!  I hope that you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day spending time with the ones you love! 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Digging Deeper into a Land of Endless Wonder and Discovery

Let me just start by saying that these past couple days were eXtreme!  And by eXtreme I mean awesome, extraordinary, superb, brilliant, amazing, wonderful, fantastic, outrageous, glorious (I think you get the point…)!  What is the cause of all this excitement, you ask?  Well… for the past three days I was at the 45th annual CCIRA Conference on Literacy – a reading teacher’s paradise! 

This was the 2nd CCIRA Conference that I’ve been able to attend and both times it has changed my life!  Yes, you read that correctly (even though I might seem a little teensy bit dramatic) – it really has changed my life… or at least the way I teach literacy!  J  I listened to so many phenomenal speakers and met some absolutely wonderful people at each of the sessions I attended… teachers really are the nicest, most dedicated, caring, and kind people I know!  To any teachers (past, present, or future) reading this right now – thank you!  Thank you for your dedication and commitment to excellence, your passion and creativity that help create a world of wonder and opportunity, and your ability to make a difference and inspire the hearts and minds of others.  The world needs more people like you!  J
I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet and listen to so many authors and teachers that are the driving forces of change in our schools.  Their groundbreaking research is helping to enrich student learning and ensure a lifetime of opportunities and future success… And most importantly, to inspire educators to follow their passions and bring learning to life inside their classrooms!  I can’t tell you the amount of knowledge I gained in the past three days and the delight I experienced knowing that I can become a teacher who ignites sparks of passion, brings out the magic and wonderment in discovery, and makes a difference in the lives of every one of my students. 
For those of you that are fans of the Daily 5/Literacy CAFÉ, you’re going to be super jealous of me!  I got to spend 4 hours with the two sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser!  After one of my sessions, I had the opportunity to chat with the two of them… and let me tell you, they are the sweetest people!  They even autographed the copies of the books that I bought (I know that you’re really jealous now!)!  J 

In between some of my other sessions, I made the choice to go to the bookstore and exhibition hall.  Look at all the cool stuff I came back with!

Plus I met this nice woman and told her my sad story of how my really nice Dibels timer went MIA and she gave me this Fluency timer for free (normally $12)!  Love it!!!!

And look what arrived in the mail this past week!

I’m going to have a lot of reading to do over the next couple weeks!  J 
In other news, Colorado’s weather has been pretty eXtreme this past week.  We got over 18 inches of snow in 2 days!!!!  And yes, you did read that last sentence correctly!  It is Colorado after all… sNOw big deal (sorry, I couldn’t resist)! 
Here’s a picture of my car that I took Friday evening.  It went on to snow a couple more inches after that, taking over an hour and a half to scrape and shovel my car out of its parking space today!  These are the times that I really wish I had a garage! 

This was only halfway through the snow storm.  My car was completely buried by morning!

It definitely gives new meaning to the song, “Walking in a Winter Wonderland!”  Haha! 
Now, I’m finishing up my last load of laundry, planning for my formal observation, preparing for parent-teacher conferences, entering Dibels data on my computer, and getting ready for the Super Bowl (go Pats!).  It’s going to be a busy day (or should I say week…)!  J  Enjoy your super Sunday!!!!