Building a Legacy

What is a legacy, and how do you build one? This very question has been asked by the KPHS school improvement team earlier this month. Building a legacy denotes the foundation upon which students are currently processing and enabling them to “build” further by utilizing personal talents and abilities in a safe learning environment. The staff at KPHS has seen how students need a sense of purpose and pride in our school and community. It was these very needs that lead the school improvement team to desire to build a legacy within our students and staff throughout the coming school year.

Throughout the up coming school year, the KPHS staff will devise and schedule random diverse activities throughout the school year. The first such activity was done while staff were preparing for the upcoming school year during the staff orientation days. Staff brought different items to share at lunch so that all KPCS staff could eat together and fellowship with one another. Staff was also encouraged to participate in a show and tell of sorts through the use of “This Is Your Life.” Many members brought items unique to their history and shared them with one another. Many funny stories were shared as well as some touching ones. All in all, the staff has a better understanding of one another on a personal level which will lend itself to understanding one another on a professional level. Cohesiveness among our staff will model cohesiveness with our student population.

Tuesday evening the 16th, all nine through twelve students were invited to attend and welcome picnic. Twenty-seven of our 42 students attended and enjoyed games, activities, and wonderful food prepared by staff grillers and other members who brought in desserts and refreshments. This built moral with our returning students and in coming foreign exchange students. When asked by a show of hands, students overwhelmingly agreed that they enjoyed the picnic and would like to participate in more such activities.

The staff of KPCS is eagerly anticipating future endeavors of casual fun activities to be had by all willing to participate. The school improvement team’s mission for the school year is to implement safe leadership opportunities which enable students at KPCS to build a lasting school and community legacy.

Our vision is modeling school cohesiveness on a staff and student level; to build a place where students are empowered to leave a lasing positive legacy through integrity, diverse teamwork, and creativity. One such way is by all staff wearing new black shirts every Wednesday with Keya Paha County Schools embroidered on them. Our school board has graciously provided the first ten dollars for each staff member purchasing a school shirt.

Keep an eye out for staff and student unity in the days to come.

Welcome to a New School Year KPHS Students!

What can you expect from Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classroom? New and improved activities, novels, writing assignments, and presentations.

Welcome back to school for all returning and new students. I am anticipating wonderfully creative times in and outside the classroom this year. There are two expectations for all students at KPCS: that they demonstrate respect and responsibility at all times. Each class period of mine will discuss what this is going to look like in our classroom. The one thing you need to know about Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classes is as long as you don’t do something to interfere with anyone’s learning—meaning you, your classmates, the students in other classrooms, or me—you’re fine.

What if a student does something to interfere with learning? I will do whatever I can to make sure students are learning. Depending on the situation, this could mean a short meeting between just a student and me, a phone call home, meetings with our counselor, superintendent, your parents/guardians… or anything else that will help get students back on track.

What if students do well? Rewards! Praise, praise and more praise; positive notes home; homework passes; eligibility for special Theatre events and trips, to name a few.

Tardiness is not accepted behavior from our students, and it is being monitored by the State of Nebraska. In Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classroom being tardy is constituted as:

A. Being physically late for a class without a pass

B. Not coming prepared to class (Includes having: paper, pencil, texts, and other specifically required materials)

Each class session has a Preparedness Grade of 20 points = 100 points at the end of each week.

A failing grade is the student’s responsibility to remedy with my assistance. Some assignments will offer extra credit. If a student scores below a 70% on an exam, they have the chance to retest within 7 class days. The highest grade a student can earn is a 75%. I only offer ONE retest for each major assessment, and a student can only take it after he or she has shown me that he or she has worked to learn what is needed.

Students are responsible for making up work they miss when they are absent for any reason. Any work not turned in will result in an automatic zero. I will not hunt students down to rectify this situation; it is their sole responsibility. Students need to check Mrs. Clay’s Monthly Class Calendar first, and then check with me about other assignments that might have been missed.

I am here to help students. I do not do things for you that you can do for yourself. BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!

No credit will be given for work not completed or not made up in the allotted time. It is the student’s responsibility to get assignments missed due to absences. Late assignments result in 10 points off the earned score for each day they are late. An assignment is late if it is not turned in when requested. By the end of the period, is not acceptable for full credit when it is due at the beginning of class. Remember that something valuable is covered everyday in class and students need to be on top of finding out what that was. I do not GIVE grades; you EARN grades.

Cheating is defined as copying homework, outlines, reports, being observed looking at another’s test/quiz, or talking during a test/quiz. Doing such will result in a zero for all willingly involved parties, disciplinary action may also occur.

Extra Credit is available with most assignments by doing additional questions/projects from stories or writing articles for the Springview Herald.

Materials needed for all of Mrs. Clay’s Language Arts classes are:

Current Textbook

Current Study Guide

Personal Reading Book & Response Journal

Writing Utensil

Writing Notebook

Whiteout or Eraser (scribbling is not acceptable)

USB Drive

Sticky Notes

Highlighters

Folder

*Certain items are checked daily for your preparedness grade which equal 100 points at the end of each week.

Language Arts is hard. What if a student needs help? One thing you will learn about me very quickly is that I will do anything I can to help you succeed inside and outside of this class. I am here early before school, available during my lunch, and am here late after school. I offer many chances to get extra credit for helping your grades. If things outside of this classroom are affecting student performance, I want to help work through those problems as well. In the end, there are no excuses for failure—each student can pass Language Arts, each student can DO Language Arts, and maybe by the end of the year some students might even LIKE Language Arts!

As the guardian, you are the expert on your child. There are many ways you can support your child’s academic progress at home:

Ask your child what they learned in school every day.

Encourage your child to ask questions in class and come in for extra help when they need it.  I am available before school (7:15am), during lunch, after school (till 5:15pm) and even weekends.

Visit our classroom or participate in class as a guest speaker.

Make sure you receive your child’s progress reports. Failing lists are mailed out weekly throughout the semester from the Guidance department.

Please contact me with any concerns or questions you have at any time. You do not have to wait until parent/teacher conferences to get in touch with me; I am always willing to talk to you. I look forward to frequent communication with you as we work together to ensure your child’s success.

 

Sincerely,

Mrs. Christy Clay

cclay@esu17.org

Technology and Secondary Language Arts Education

My summer has been filled with exceptional research opportunities. Many of these were due to the Introduction to Graduate Studies, a requirement for my Community Counseling Master’s Degree course work. In this research based class, I looked at the effects of 1:1 computing and language arts achievement in high school students. Ubiquitous or 1:1 computing was defined as technology that was everywhere and was used at all times usually in the form of one computer to one student (Meyer, 2007); these technological devices were wirelessly networked together to ensure instantaneous internet access (Gateway, 2005). Open content was defined by Ramaswami (2010) as “material published under a license that allows any user to edit, adapt, remix, and distribute it.” Teacher “withitness” was defined by Levinson (2010) as a teacher’s communicating to students by actual behavior rather than verbal announcement.

The goal of high school is to prepare students for postsecondary education or the workforce. Many schools struggle with exactly how to accomplish this goal especially in the language arts field. One thing that educators and researchers can agree on is that technology in various forms will be a part of accomplishing future education goals (Levinson, 2010; Goodwin, 2011; Weston & Bain, 2010). One-to-one (1:1) computing is a way of preparing students for their future.

Internet driven technology based research is a readily available tool that can be accessed via a 1:1 computing classroom (Kelleher, 2006). Having school-wide or district-wide implementation provides consistency for students in need of technological twenty-first century skills (Towndrow & Vaish, 2009). Teachers with proper professional development who innovatively use 1:1 computing increasingly motivate students toward higher achievement through amplified class energy and participation (Ramaswami, 2010). Students actively participate in not only their own learning, but also the learning of fellow students (Liu, Don, Chung, Lin, Lin & Liu, 2010; Project Tomorrow, 2011) which drives language arts achievement in the secondary level school.

After reviewing current literature relating to 1:1 computing, I found that ubiquitous computing has many cross school opportunities with prospective learning profits in which the environment where each student has a personal machine, and teachers have the vision, fortitude, and expertise to put into operation learning activities that utilize those opportunities which will make 1:1 computing worth the trouble, cost, and frustration presented by techno-critiques (Raymond, 2009). The three main components of my literature review were critiques to the validity of pervious ubiquitous computing initiatives, 1:1 computing as tools for change, and achievement assessments in need of alterations.  Language arts achievement puts into words and actions the ability to think and communicate effectively which was vital to working, learning, and being a global citizen in the twenty-first century. The global community revolves around technology and an individual’s command of it (Wagner, 2010).

 

Upon completion of my research, I decided to look into even more sources concerning language arts education and increasing reading achievement. For most of my life, I have been of the philosophy that children who are avid readers will also score higher on reading achievement standardized tests, and score higher on writing tests due to the fact that students will mimic what they read in their writing. One of the books that I chose for further research is, “The Book Whisperer,” by Donalyn Miller. It has been eye opening. The concepts discussed in Miller’s practical book kept me repeating the sentiment of, “really?!?!” I knew that everything she was saying was true and proven in my own life and the lives around me, but I thought it was not politically correct to say so as a language arts educator. I was under the impression that teaching this style of self selected books was cheating.

Needless to say, I am revamping my entire view of pleasure reading in my classroom. We are going to start off the year by examining what students are interested and then how to identify books from those interests. They will be required to read 40 books by the end of the school year, and any book over 350 pages automatically counts as two books. The only assessment will be a reading response record, which I have lovingly dubbed R3 or Triple R, and consist of the students writing me weekly letters on their response to their reading. I will then respond to their response letters with my own insights and encouragement. We will still follow the current curriculum of reading, writing, researching, and presenting requirements. Monday through Thursday, we will start each class period off with 10 minutes of self-directed reading. On Fridays, they will use the first ten minutes to write in their R3. Over the weekend, I will then respond to each student’s responses and return the R3 to the classroom on Monday. So, there will be no more idiom tests for this school year.

By modeling reading in my classroom, I will be taking teacher “withitness” to a whole new personal level.

 

Authoring Friendship

Since I was in grade school, I have wanted to be a writer. In sixth grade, a friend of mine and I decided to create a writing club. Each week we would write short stories and illustrate them any way we wanted. Then we would read each other’s stories and judge who the winner was. I don’t remember any of those stories or who “won” the awards at the end of the week. What I remember is feeling vibrant and challenged. No one asked us to write stories in our spare time. This same friend and I would create our own “radio” shows. We would have a script full of ads, musical songs we had learned in Mrs. Woeppel’s music class, and mini dramas. We would tape them, and I do mean “tape” them on actual cassette tapes. As time went on, that friendship turned into cut-throat competition and fizzled as many childhood friendships do.

As I look back at the person who challenged and inspired me, I am saddened that I did not fight for that friendship. Little girls are taught to be strong, bold, and independent. We are told that we are not only brawnier than the men that surround us; we must also cut out all other women who get in our way as well. The two friends listed above could have become great confidants and colleagues. We had so much in common then and still do today, yet the friendship is not there. We are mere facebook “friends.”

My cry is that this does not happen to you. I cannot go back and change the past. There were concrete reasons for our parting, which go way beyond theatrical competitions. I am sure there were, though I honestly cannot remember the details. What I do remember is a girl my age, my height, and as theatrically passionate as I was who is no longer an integral part of my life.

Heralds of Past Education

There is so much to say, not just today but always. With the early morning madness behind me, and the magic in the making slowly fading, there is a still reassurance that I have taught pupils new ways to dream. My first year as a teacher has presently concluded. As I sit here listening to Norma belt out As If We Never Said Goodbye, I read over student essays, marveling at how far they have come. I too cannot ignore the thrilling atmosphere which is always here in my classroom.  I recline in my seat reflecting upon the teachers who inspired me most along my journey to this point. My elementary music teacher Mrs. Woeppel, my high school English teacher Miss Gray, and my student teaching mentor Mrs. Belt have challenged me to succeed in the ever changing world of education.

Mrs. Nancy Woeppel was the first teacher in my short yet highly disturbed life to really see me and my unique talent. She looked past the messy haired, academically inept “foster” child to see a blooming passionate actress. She stretched all of her students. Her standards were high, and we simply didn’t question them; we only achieved them. She opened our eyes to the missed fairy tale adventures of childhood and ever spinning playground of theatre.

If we complained, I don’t remember it. If her enthusiastic passion ever waned, I failed to see it. If I feared breaking free, I overcame it. I was blessed to have had Nancy as my teacher from elementary music till eleventh grade speech and drama. Under her careful benevolent guidance, I found my true calling in life and refused to give into those sipping haterade around me. Her coaching more than inspired me; it catapulted me into aspiring to coach speech students for generations to come.

Miss Karen Gray is the no nonsense English savant whom I am propelled to become. Teaching exudes from her every move. Discipline is the backbone of her well oiled grammar surging machine. All students stood equal in her classroom. All were required to think and write within her regimented house of literature. There were no excuses. There were no games for classroom power. There were no idioms left undiscovered.

Karen cut the Gordian knot around my constrained heart and let flow that which is now my blood life, my creative writing. For her, there was only excellence. For me, I only wish to learn half of the command for the English language that she has forgotten. She has physically overcome so many life altering circumstances. And not only survived, she has been victorious!

Mrs. Peggy Belt has been my colleague and friend. Her encouragement and compassionate understanding solidified my path to becoming an emerging English teacher and speech coach. Through her example of humor and diligent student molding, I have culminated my current teaching philosophy. She fortified my organization silks as being indispensable well as my love for working conscientiously and efficiently. Her endless energy excited me to increase my endurance and talents.

Peggy’s speech team members knew what was expected from them at all times, and she never took advantage of their adulation. Above all else, she taught me integrity at all turns, even the uncomfortable ones. She holds her head high because she has paid her dues time and again. The thing I admire most about Peggy is the fact that she is constantly on the outlook for a new challenge, a new dream worth pursuing.

The three most influential teachers of my education training are Mrs. Woeppel, Miss Gray, and Mrs. Belt. Each one has exemplified passionate integrity in the face of insurmountable odds. I owe them more than I could ever repay. I continue to look up to each of them as heroic angels sent from God to sculpt my character and future. I sit here breathing in the essence of my first completed school year. If you listen closely, you too can hear their whispered conversations surging through my conscious. Upon opening my eyes, I smile at the classroom in front of me. In each of the recently vacated desks, I see alternate faces of students who have sat there this year. The overcrowded hallways of my memory are rearranging to make room for the journey to come which will be bigger and brighter then we currently experience.

Mrs. Christy Clay

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

 

As If We Never Said Goodbye

(SUNSET BOULEVARD)

Norma~

I don’t know why I’m frightened

I know my way around here

The cardboard trees, the painted seas, the sound here…

Yes, a world to rediscover

But I’m not in any hurry

And I need a moment

 

The whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways

The atmosphere as thrilling here as always

Feel the early morning madness

Feel the magic in the making

Why, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

 

I’ve spent so many mornings just trying to resist you

I’m trembling now, you can’t know how I’ve missed you

Missed the fairy tale adventures

In this ever spinning playground

We were young together

 

I’m coming out of make-up

The lights already burning

Not long until the cameras will start turning…

And the early morning madness

And the magic in the making

Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

 

I don’t want to be alone

That’s all in the past

This world’s waited long enough

I’ve come home at last!

 

And this time will be bigger

And brighter than we knew it

So watch me fly, we all know I can do it…

Could I stop my hand from shaking?

Has there ever been a moment

With so much to live for?

 

The whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways

So much to say, not just today, but always…

We’ll have early morning madness

We’ll have magic in the making

Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

Yes, everything’s as if we never said goodbye

We taught the world new ways to dream!

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