Friday, September 2, 2011

I'm still here...

Oh my, has it really been since May that I have posted? To my faithful followers (even you that lurk in abyss--subscribe already), rest assured that I will return very soon. Until then, enjoy your three day weekend safely, happily, and delighting in any and all the junk foods your heart desires!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lessons from a Talk Show Host

On May 25th Oprah ended her 25 year journey that undoubtedly inspired and influenced Americans and many worldwide. I must admit I jumped on and off the Oprah bandwagon at various points throughout those years. I looked into her books from the book club, I wished I could have been in some of the Favorite Things episodes, and, really who doesn’t strive to Live Their Best Life!

Oprah has mentioned several times that she always wanted to become a teacher and also admires the work that teachers do on a daily basis. Thanks to DVR, I was able to go through her final show and take away little nuggets that stuck with me. I can use them in the classroom and we all can use at some point in our lives.

#1- Do good and cause no harm: Oprah stated that in her beginning shows she had no plan or vision. She just wanted to do a good job and cause no harm. As a beginning teacher, or a veteran teacher at the beginning of a new school year, many may become overwhelmed. What if this happens? What about that? We may feel like we need to have all the answers. However, at the root of it all, we want to do a good job. Do the best according to your abilities. Seek out help from your colleagues; they should be more than willing to help. It’s a given that we would not want to hurt our students but we need to be conscious of our actions and our words so that do not have a negative impact.

#2- At times she was tired, but she showed up because her audience was waiting: There were times that even during my student teaching, that I became mentally exhausted. You can give so much wanting a student(s) to achieve. There are meetings, PDs, extracurriculars, assessments, emails to answer…Sometimes you may feel that there isn’t enough coffee in the world to give you the jolt you need. Yet, you show up! When you enter that classroom, you enter ready to inspire. Why? Because you have a class of students that deserve nothing less.

#3- Take responsibility for the energy you bring into the space: Oprah explained what she believes about energy and then showed a sign that hangs in Harpo studios displaying the above phrase. Anyone who stops by, or is there to give a presentation, should be held responsible for what they bring into the class. Teachers, this goes for you as well. Kids can sense your mood and attitudes. They can also feed off your energy. There are times when are frustrated or tired but when you see that even one student is enthusiastic to learn it will fuel your excitement.  

#4- Incorporate variety and complexity: Oprah was proud and gave praise to her producers and those who worked on the show for the variety and complexity they brought to the table every day. As a result, she made a connection with people from diverse areas and caused them to want to be/do/live/dream better. Teachers are always encouraged to provide variety in their instructional strategies, HOTQs, and HE statements. The goal is to be able to reach diverse learners in order for them to become successful. When it is coupled with a certain level of challenge, everyone rises to reach higher levels of accomplishment.

#5- Mrs. Duncan: Part of her final show was dedicated to sharing memories and giving honor to her favorite teacher, Mrs. Duncan. We can learn a lot from the “Mrs. Duncans” in our lives. Thoughts of our favorite teachers and their actions can be used as the influence that makes us want to become better teachers, better leaders, or better individuals in the world. An added bonus is that you may become a Mrs. Duncan to someone one day!

This final show concluded with no frills, no car giveaways, or makeovers; only Oprah speaking from her heart to the audience. While technology integration or even handing out a piece of chocolate every now and then doesn’t hurt (think “You get a Reese Cup! You get a Reese Cup!”-- you knew it was coming, right?), in essence all you need in your classroom is you; being yourself and teaching from your heart. Genuinely make a connection with your students and make an effort to engage them. In the end, you can be proud that you have lived your passion and “grateful for the opportunity” to have been a teacher.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Evolution of a Blog

If you’ve visited this blog at anytime during this year, you may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes. The biggest change has been the name. When I first started in January, it was simply to fulfill a grade as part of completing my MAT. Simply called “LaShonda’s Blog”; plain, no thought to it, and just titled so that I could be identified to receive my grade. That first post reflected my nerves about this new chapter and experience about to take place. Then I gradually begin to feel more comfortable in my new role. Each week I began to look forward to posting and expressing my thoughts and feelings. In the beginning, it was not open to the public and only a few people had access to what I had written. After a few encouraging comments and my increased enjoyment, I begin to think that perhaps I would open it to the public and continue on after graduation. I am still a young’un in the blog world so I still have a lot of growing and evolving to do.

I became a teacher because of my experiences as a student. I loved, and still love, school; honestly! I have a passion for education and continual learning. When I was in school, proudly toting my backpack and pencil box, classrooms still used a chalkboard. Not the whiteboards that are widely used today. I decided upon “At the Chalkboard” as nod to my time as a student and the great teachers I had. That’s where I learned it was okay to have the wrong answer but if I talked each step through I would get to the right answer. That’s where I learned to love to challenge myself. That’s where I learned it was fine to be nervous during public speaking because the person that was before me and after me were more than likely nervous as well. That’s where I learned to be organized, keep track of dates, and responsible for deadlines because my teachers wrote it all out on the board. I could go on and on. I’m sure you can come up with your own memories of what you learned at your class chalkboard.

What can you expect on this blog? It will consist of anything that has to do with the facilitation of learning, that makes you reflect, or to look at things in a different way. The best teachers are masters at this in their classrooms. However, it will be more than just the traditional shiny red apple, ABC type things. Come on you should realize by now that teachers are more than that. Some are accomplished singers, dancers, crafters, bakers, and artists. They ride motorcycles, they are sports fanatics (I mean like painting their bodies or naming their first born after a mascot fanatics!), and some may have an incredibly, outrageous story that you would not believe. I have found if the class prods them enough and promises to make brownies they will reluctantly tell the class. Okay back to the point--occasionally I will post things that spike my interest and that I think you will also enjoy.

So come back again and stop by often, join/subscribe, and feel free to tell your friends. More importantly, I hope you enjoy the time you spend At the Chalkboard!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Never Can Say Good-Bye…

This week I finished up my time as a student teacher at the Shelby Co. Area Technology Center. I want to give special thanks to Mrs. Wiley, the principal; Mrs. Hundley, my supervising teacher; as well as the students, faculty, and staff. They have all played a part in making this experience one that I will never forget.

Because of all the whispering, looks, and giggles from the students I had a thought that something was in the works for my last day. Not to mention a little slip-up from a sub that I overlooked in hopes to not ruin anything that was being planned. I was content with the Krispy Kreme donuts and other sweets from the beginning of the week. However, I was not prepared for the wonderful breakfast that was waiting when I arrived on my last day. I was honored that everyone broke away from their usual morning routines of getting the class ready for students in order to share the time with me. The assistant principal said grace over the breakfast and then gave a few words of blessing and inspiration for my future as a teacher. Then we all took a few minutes to sit down together, eat, and have a few laughs before students arrived. I will cherish that time because I know that it is rare.

Everything was sooo good!!!

Each class created their own version of a “certificate” and they all signed it. Then, before class was over, they took a group picture for me. As the day went on, individuals would stop by to say good-bye, give me a hug, and give me last minute advice or words of encouragement. I wish I had a voice recorder with me because some of it was so well said! Not the usual cliché statements but things that were actually meant for me. As I prepared for student teaching at the end of 2010 I had considered other schools; however, in many ways it has been confirmed that Area Tech was where I was supposed to be.

Some of the students strike a pose!!!

A few of the gifts and cards.
Even the KY Chapter of FBLA sent something!

When the last period rolled around, I experienced a wide range of emotions. Tic. Toc. 3:05. 3:10. 3:15. Finally…… the bell rang 3:20; signifying not only the end to the day but also of my student teaching. My supervising teacher looked over at me. “I’m not going to say good-bye because I’ll just cry,” she said. We hugged. I pushed in the chairs of the students that had hurried out to catch the bus. I turned out the lights to the classroom. I stood there, for the last time, with my supervising teacher as she locked the door. We walked down the hall together and reached the point where she turned to her car and I kept walking down the hall to get to mine. I couldn’t help but think of those dramatic and metaphoric scenes in movies. The master and student begin together on a long journey, and then eventually the student has to continue alone. I had spent these past several weeks learning from a master. Finally, the time has come for me, the student, to walk alone applying the skills that I had learned. Hmmm…sounds like a cinematic blockbuster. I’d go see it!

Shelby Co. Area Tech, I have had a wonderful time. I’ve learned. I’ve laughed. I’ve reflected. I’ve grown. In keeping with what my supervising teacher said, “I’m not going to say good-bye.” She had a saying that I like even better. So let’s just say, “I’ll see you again. If the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise!”

Shelby Co. Area Technology Center

Monday, May 2, 2011

¡Dos de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo came a little early today at the school as we had a little celebration of our own. As I stopped by the teacher’s lounge to put my lunch in the fridge, the room was filled with balloons, donuts, breakfast casseroles, and other sweet treats. There were also pictures of the American flag and the navy seal emblem. I had simply assumed that everyone was in high spirits because of the events that had occurred late last night. Little did I know those pictures were just to disguise the fact that all the morning goodies were for me; celebrating my last week and for having a successful semester. I felt so special and I am very grateful. Then at lunch I had another surprise waiting for me. This cute pink bag!!!

What’s in the bag? Well it is a few little things that will make my first days as a teacher extra special. It isn’t so much the actual items in the bag but the added note that came along. It was given to me by one of the other teachers at the school who, along with the other faculty and staff, I have grown very fond of. A part of the note read, “Thanks for being part of our school family and bringing sunshine to our day.” It is hard to come in during a semester and feel like you belong at the end of those weeks. I am glad to know that I am considered family at the Shelby County Area Technology Center. Gaining members to an educational family that is willing to offer their experiences and resources to help me become a better that's something to celebrate!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Consider This

This week as the 3rd nine weeks come to a conclusion, there were a few examples of how we eventually have to face the consequences of the decisions that we’ve made. It is interesting to see how students, and parents for that matter, seem to show little interest in grades until the grade reports go out. For example, my ST had warned all year of the poor grades of this student. Emails, notes, and phone calls had been home but to no avail. This student had done well to make passing grades this nine weeks but it wouldn’t be enough to pass the class. The morning after grades went home, she received an email from a very unhappy parent wanting a conference. I was lucky enough to have my ST ask me and consider what I would say as well as how I would handle the situation.

Just as my ST had done, I would have definitely kept up with the past communication and grade records. What had me curious was the reasoning for why the parents seemed so interested and urgent in wanting to meet now. However, I always need to take into consideration the culture, home-life situations, and various other issues that cause people to react the way that they do. The fact that the parent was making an effort to take interest now is the starting point from which to move forward. In the meeting with the parent, it is important to listen. In chapter 11 of Love and Logic there is the discussion of clear thinking. When people are running high on emotions it is hard to get anything resolved. Anytime a person is operating in an emotional state, their thinking is distorted.  To have an adequate perspective of the situation, the author recommends considering an individual’s self-concept, having shared control, and presenting consequences with empathy. This means that we need to be careful not to have a person feel like they are being attacked, losing control, or not feeling validated. As a teacher, I can also feel this way. And what happens? If not handled properly, the situation can escalate in a negative way. It is human nature for us to want to protect ourselves.

The conference concluded and a resolution was found. The outcome called for the student to put forth an extra effort during Spring Break. Both the parent and my ST were happy with the outcome and both parties had their perspective understood. This may not always be the case. In the future I have to make sure that I come to situations thinking clearly and to not have emotions cloud my ability to reason for the best interest of the student.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Getting Hot In Here

As with many schools, the heat and air is not controlled in each individual classroom. Either the heat is on or the air is on. You can’t control it depending on what Mother Nature throws at you during the day. In the spring it becomes particularly tricky because as students prepare for school, it is quite cold; however, as the afternoon rolls around, the mercury has soared to summer-like temperatures. As I’ve heard many times, “welcome to springtime in Kentucky!” Having grown up in the state I am very familiar with Kentucky’s spring but it has never been more obvious and clear to me than this week.

The beginning of the week posed a dilemma for me as a young teacher; more specifically in dealing with my last class of the day. By the time they enter the class, on any given day, they have each individually encountered a range of emotions that have a great impact on how the class is going to go. When we add in the exhausting heat from earlier this week, it almost became a disaster. I was trying to introduce new content to the students and I could tell I was in for a struggle. They did give an effort to pay attention but the heat was too much for them. The one small window in the corner of the room did little to circulate any air. Everyone was sweating and their faces were red.

As I’ve stated before my goal is to prepare students for life after high school. As much as I wanted to say, “Do you think your college professor will let you slack off because you’re sweating?” or “Do you think your boss will let you miss a deadline because the air conditioning wasn’t on in the office?” I had to remember, as much as I want them to learn, they are kids. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? I was in for a battle if we couldn’t get passed satisfying their physiological needs.

Instead of trying to force the new content on them, I let them know we would cover just one more point and then we would stop for a water break. After that they had to come back and begin any makeup work they had or they could review skills with the Excel Jeopardy. The next day we revisited the new content and continued where we left off. I wonder how other teachers handle similar situations. The teacher can never just stop the class, some form of relevant learning needs to take place. Yet, if the entire class is struggling, at what point is it appropriate to say let’s revisit this at another time?