“The Maiden Vow”

I have always wondered if math was inherently evil to men and women alike. Being an English teacher, I am sure it is surprising that math is not my favorite subject. I have often found it to be a challenge and believe everyone should conquer it at least once in their lifetime. (which I have done and now leave to stronger women than myself)

I find it hilarious that at one time the NEA wondered the same thing. Only they felt that Algebra was the pleasure of our young women and needed to be avoided at all cost in our public education arenas.

The Maiden’s Vow by: Alice Duer Miller (1874-1942)

“(A speaker at the National Education Association advised girls not to study algebra. Many girls, he said, had lost their souls through this study. The idea has been taken up with enthusiasm.)
I will avoid equations,
And shun the naughty surd,
I must beware the perfect square,
Through it young girls have erred:
And when men mention Rule of Three
Pretend I have not heard.

Through Sturm’s delightful theorems
Illicit joys assure,
Though permutations and combinations
My woman’s heart allure,
I’ll never study algebra,
But keep my spirit pure.”

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.

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.

 

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