A Teacher for Each Student

Every student deserves a great teacher. Do you believe in soul mates? Do you believe that everyone deserves something special made just for him or her? I certainly believe in this optimism. As a student, I did not agree with every teacher I was taught by. I certainly had more than a few that I could have lived without. What made me want to become a teacher was not the multitude of educators that disappointed and at times harassed me. It was the select handful that reached me on an individual level and asked me to be bigger than myself. 

As an educator today, I realize that I am not meant to be the “favorite” teacher of every student I meet. I realize that more than enough of my students will look at me and scoff at my high standards and strict disciplined ways. I also realize that as I reach out to each student in my own way, I will have those that respond positively to my teachings and manner. They may never say it, and I don’t think I have to hear it, but in my heart of hearts, I know it to be true.

As a teacher, I do not get to choose what a student will remember about me. Nor do students get to choose what I will remember about them. That is why I am constantly reevaluating my motives in and outside the classroom, so that my most flattering view is remembered the most. Plus there is truth in the old adage of faking it until you make it. Making a difference in one life really does make each day more than worth it.

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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.

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.

 

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!