Archive for Reflection

What I’ve been doing

I read somewhere that bloggers are not supposed to acknowledge or explain any blog hiatus. You are just supposed to jump right back in like you never left. Well, I’m not going to do that. The Nerdy Teacher has been absent from this little blog for about two months now and this is what I’ve been doing:

Applying and Interviewing.  (For a new Job in Minnesota)

Moving. (Classroom and House from Texas to Minnesota!)

Graduating. (With my Master’s of Education in Technology Integration!)

Leaving. (Saying goodbye to my class, friends and Texas!)

Adjusting. (What have I done?!)

Celebrating! ( Moving, my sister’s wedding!)

So there’s been a lot going on.

Photo Sources:

1. Job Search

2. Changes

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Just another video about changing education…

This may seem strange in light of my post yesterday,  but my friend Emily sent me the link to this video, and I really like the visual way that it outlined the history of education in America and highlighted some of the changes that need to occur. So without further adieu… just another video about changing education:

One of my friends on Facebook also linked this article about teachers from the NY Times titled US is Urged to Raise Teachers’ Status…hmmm does anyone else agree?

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Warm-Up 4 Writing!

In 4 days my little authors will take their standardized writing test. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m not a huge fan of standardized testing…I know it’s necessary to hold teachers and schools accountable, but my kids get so nervous and they have worked so hard!  I could not be prouder of my class and I want them to feel empowered and confident about taking their writing test.

Enter: Warm-Up 4 Writing! For the past month we have been doing Warm-Up 4 Writing each Wednesday  to get our kids ready for the TAKS test. As you know we have been doing Writers Workshop this year, but my students still need to be able to crank out a composition in response to a prompt on test day. So each Wednesday we do a practice prompt to get them ready. We call it Warm-Up 4 Writing and we try to make it fun and exciting…my team even bought matching jogging suits and headbands 🙂

My team! The first day we did this we played Jock Jams, had our kids stretch and dance...it was so fun!

Only the nerdiest of teachers would wear these outfits every week, right? The funny thing is, we have started a Warm-Up 4 Writing craze at school! Over half the teachers have gotten the jogging suits…do you think it is enthusiasm for writing or because they can wear basically pajamas to work once a week? 😉 We also have a school wide writing prompt that we call “Golden Pencil”, more about that another day!

Anyway, as the test approached we decided our kids needed a little incentive so we bought our whole grade level headbands and let them decorate them! They were hilarious and very creative with their decorating:

So there ya go, Warm-Up 4 Writing rocks the 4th grade! The kids really loved it and they are super pumped for their big test…and then it will be back to Writer’s Workshop!

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Basals are bad. Are basals bad? Bad basals are.

I’ve been feeling creatively dry lately! Being creative and coming up with new and interesting ways to teach used to be one of my favorite things about teaching. But lately I haven’t been able to do it. I’ve felt “blah” as I plan and work on my curriculum. And now I’ve put my finger on it.

Yesterday after school, I had one of my traditional Friday afternoon conversation with my co-teacher, Kirsten, (she is my lifeline and will be going on maternity leave in *gulp* three weeks!), I realized that a lot of my creative teaching frustration has stemmed from our new reading curriculum.  We just adopted a new reading curriculum with all the bells and whistles. There are mountains of new  materials (leveled readers, ESL resources, vocabulary cards, posters…) the materials have filled two book shelves! As you know, I had decided to go forward with Reading and Writing workshop, but as a team we realized that we might not be ready to make both leaps at the same time. So we are all working together to implement Writer’s Workshop, but we had decided to go ahead and try out the new reading curriculum.

Yesterday, I confessed to Kirsten, I just couldn’t do it. I was taught in college that Basals are Bad, and everything that I read and research about reading instruction tell me the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are good things in every reading curriculum, but they do not teach inspire kids to love reading. I love classic literature, but it did not come from my  Classic Literature text book I had to read in 9th grade. It came from late nights curled up under the covers consuming Jane Austen. There are many great stories in our crisp, new 4th grade anthology, but I know that reading a story each week and discussing “cause and effect”, “problem and solution” and “story elements” will not a hungry reader make!

Kirsten was very understanding, and while she is going to stick to the basal for the sake of her maternity sub (she’s right with me as far as inspiring kids to love reading), I am going to forge ahead on my own. I don’t think I’m going to run full steam ahead into Readers Workshop. I was a little idealistic to think I could jump back into teaching with an entire new teaching philosophy and not fall flat on my face, but I will use my beloved novels, independent reading time, and reading conferences, a sort of blend of literacy instruction styles. We’ll see how it goes! I have my work cut out for me this weekend to come up with a completely new realistic plan. Hmmm, I think I feel some creativity seeping back into this nerdy teacher’s veins.

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Race to nowhere. What do you think?

One thing I really struggle with as a teacher is the amount of Standardized Test prep we have to do to get the kids ready for our state testing. It kills me to see kids who are stressed out about a test…and they are 9 or 10 years old. I’ll never forget my first year teaching  when I asked my reading class “Why do people read?”, and the first answer I got was, “To pass the TAKS test.” Is there something wrong with this picture?

This is a video that was posted on CoolCatteacher blog last week. This documentary is sure to bring up some sensitive questions– and sure it’s sensationalized and the filmmakers have an agenda, but I’m definitely going to see it when it comes out; and I hope it stimulates some good conversation.

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I Used to Write

Penny Kittle encouraged us as teachers to “write beside them”. In fact, when she signed my book that’s the message she gave me: “Amy: Write with your students and write for yourself”. She challenged us to write for 15 minutes each day for the rest of the summer…and I have taken that challenge. Most of that writing has been on this blog, but Penny also encouraged us to keep a writing notebook like we have our kids do. A notebook where we can write just like them, and show them our process. So I stopped by Target and picked up a lime green composition notebook (BTW: School supplies are out at Target, and I still get that thrilly feeling inside when I walk up and down the aisles of pocket folders and washable markers. School supply shopping has always been one of my favorite things!)

Confession: I’ve been very intimidated by this notebook. How do I start? What do I write about? I have nothing to say! Hmmm, I wonder if this is how my kids feel? That notebook has been staring at me for a week. But, today, I started writing. And I decided this first entry could, and should, be shared.

I Used to Write

I used to write all the time–I remember buying my first journal when I was in 6th grade. It was a dusty red color with kittens on it. I filled that journal within the year.

I remember when my 6th grade English teacher gave us a writing assignment: Write a mystery. Mine was over 20 pages long.

I remember when my mom got back from a trip, she gave my sister a beautiful hardcover sketchbook, and gave me a beautiful hardcover writing journal. I spent hours writing in that book, dreaming of becoming an author. The stories that filled those pages were mostly copycats, shadows of books I had read and characters I loved. But to me, they were my stories.

I remember pouring my heart out into my beloved diary and feeling like it was the only place where I could really be myself. Those pages wouldn’t judge me, wouldn’t laugh at me, wouldn’t expect me to be something I wasn’t. They could keep my secrets.

I remember high school–the age of note writing.  I remember I was a master note writer. I could effortlessly fill a piece of blue lined notebook paper with scribblings and nothings in sparkly gel pen. We would write them during class and pass them in the hallway, we thought our teachers didn’t know, but now I understand we weren’t that sneaky. It was so much easier for me to write than to talk, so I wrote a lot. I wrote to my friends, to myself, to the boy I liked–sometimes he got those notes, sometimes he didn’t.

What I don’t remember, is why I stopped writing. Why my life got too busy to put my pen to paper. Why my journals sit only partially filled, months and years between entries.

I remember when I used to write, when I had so much to say, and my pen danced across the page.

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A place to write

One of the interesting things about living with two roommates is finding your own space. With your family you can just say, “Go away, I was here first.” It doesn’t work that way with roommates. When we moved into our “new” (built in 1948) house, I downgraded to a much smaller bedroom and for the first time since I can’t even remember, I decided not to have a desk in my room. So for the last two months I’ve been reading, writing, and working on my bed or in our living room. It just wasn’t working! I need a place to be alone so I can work. My solution? Yesterday my roommate and I worked on rearranging things. Here is the before:

And the After:

Please excuse the MESS of cords, I'm going to pick up some zip ties today! Messy cords are like nails on a chalk board to me, they give me the shivers!

Not bad, huh? It’s not very big, but I like it. I know this doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with teaching, but I’m really trying to be an example to myself and for my kids as we embark on our writing journey this year. I have learned I need a space to sit and write and work. Some people can sprawl on the floor or bed and read and write…I cannot.

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