Posted in Idea Page

More Ideas for the Idea Page

Cult of Pedagogy:

I want to go have coffee with Jennifer Gonzalez. There is just so much on that site. I spent a long time productively procrastinating there.

  • Trouble Huddle: Instead of shutting things down when things don’t go as planned, simply asking students what is going on and working from there really sets the tone. This is one of those things that we all know to be true with students. If you ask, they will tell, but it is so hard to completely let go here. Definitely will keep this in the back of my mind for the inevitable breakdowns to come.
  • How and Why We Should Let Kids Fail This one just screams relevance. I tend to go around and around (with myself) on this topic, and I still don’t have any steadfast opinions on it. But definitely interesting. Students have to be held accountable, but there has to be support from admin and the home life. Such a interesting concept.
  • Diary of a First Year Teacher: The Power of a Thank You: I am about to start my third year teaching. I think that the stereotype around your first year being the hardest is inaccurate. Year Two is a powerful nightmare. There were parts in this last year were I could totally see why there is such a high departure from this profession within the first 5 years. Some days, it was hell with no rewards. But I can never see myself leaving the classroom. This article reminded me of that.

Teaching Tolerance

I hardcore love this site. I think I have even done a screencast review of for one of my classes last fall. I recommend this one out whenever I get the chance in hopes of someone listening. Whenever I know that my content is lacking in perspective and cultural…or if it is just downright boring, I just go to this site and find a way to bring in something that they have never even heard of. LOVE LOVE LOVE the ease of access and the fact that it is free.

Howard Zinn

I was first introduced to this man by Dr. Janis. We did an independent study course about what school do not teach–hidden curriculum. All of his books sit on my teacher shelf behind my desk, and I have actually read them too which is out of the ordinary for books on that shelf. The education project that he founded is phenomenal. That and Teaching Tolerance are my go-tos. He challenges the traditional version of white man’s history and that needs to be brought into classrooms–especially since the new Social Studies standards have done an excellent job of taking the women out of the curriculum.

Rethinking Schools: The blog portion of this site had me going for a long time. There is so much interesting stuff there to explore.

Arkansas’ Howard Zinn Witch-Hunt Fizzles: How fitting. Truly displays the sign of the times.

Trump and Our Students Talk about a clickbait worthy title, but worth the read. “We need to listen to our students and create a space where they can talk, ask questions, and analyze what has happened. We can tell students that we will do whatever we can to make our schools—and our world—safe for them and their families.”

Common Sense

This site harbors links to it seems like hundreds of options that I want to look at for incorporating into the classroom. Below are the links that I found to be interesting for me:

Student Games and Interactives

Get Your Classroom Started with Coding

Pick any ELA standard and it links to effective, meaningful digital resources I think this one is my favorite find of this task. Definitely helpful.

Posted in Idea Page

Synthesis of Models

Carpe Diem Schools, Problem Based Learning, Charter Schools, Comprehensive Schools, International Baccalaureate–Middle Years Program

At the core of each of these mindsets and schooling structures is the need to have learning be accessible to all students and promote engagement beyond the baseline of the standards. In each of these models, their philosophies share a theme–students learning meaningfully. The Comprehensive School movement in the UK came out of a need to make educational opportunities reach all students, not just the wealthy class. Carpe Diem Schools and Charter Schools blossomed out of the desire to teach students in non-traditional settings with less bureaucratic structures than the public school setting. Problem Based Learning and the International Baccalaureate MYP facilitate learning experiences for students that appear to be relevant and pertinent to the modern world.

Each of these models view children as capable learners who require tasks and instruction that vary from the traditional rows of desks and bookwork–think traditional curricular structure. Each of these models came from a noticed need that many elements of our curricular design are failing students. Students are disinterested because the learning does appear to matter to them in real life. If the learning is not relevant or meaningful, it is worthless and students are less likely to engage with the material. That feels like an incredible obvious statement, but so many educators shun it as fact. These philosophies emphasize that students are viewed as vessels of learning journeying towards meaningful destinations–not some standardized test results or other arbitrary measure of achievement.

Traditional curriculum models place the power of knowledge at the hands of the teachers to dispel upon the students. It is not a very active learning model. Each of these 5 models do the opposite. They place students in control of their learning, and in many cases with great success–but why did it take the creation of totally different schools for these changes to come about? If we know what needs to be done to create critical thinkers and problems solvers, then why can’t it happen in public school classrooms? Neo-liberalism and bureaucratic responses aside, why can’t these changes take place in an arena that is truly accessible to all students instead of creating additional schools that are not always equitable. I don’t exactly know the deep implications of what I am saying, but it seems like a powerful option, and there seems like something may be there. I am still working on processing all of this and connecting the the textual underpinnings that we have based this class on. There is a big connection that I am wanting to make, and it is just not done processing.

Posted in Idea Page

Curriculum Models

Problem Based Learning:

What types of professional development do you think you would need in order to successfully implement PBL in your classroom?

  • Teachers need to fully understand what PBL–it is more involved than just solving a problem
  • What you put into it, you get out of it
  • Goes beyond the basic requirements of the standards
  • Promotes student engagement because it is not boring, monotonous work

Why is collaboration important between teachers as well as teacher and student relationships in order for PBL to be successful?

  • You have to build rapport and strong connections with your students in order for them to feel any pull or motivation to go beyond the minimum requirement
  • Students have to feel like they can take risks and potentially fail and it be ok…or this type of learning is useless

I think that this is my favorite type of learning experience, and the one that I see myself making use of this school year.

Charter Schools

I am so skeptical of this model. My county is opening a charter school this fall for the arts. It looks amazing on paper. Wide open spaces, lots of windows, non-traditional learning experiences. All the stuff that looks great on a pamphlet. But who gets to go there? They say it is inclusive, but look at the demographics. I think it just gives the privilege more privilege, but that is my biased opinion that I can go on and on about.

  • How do you think a child could benefit from attending a publicly funded charter school?
    • Charter schools have more freedom to be innovative with their teaching and practices
    • Builds strong parent, school, and community relationships

Comprehensive Schools

This structure reminded me slightly of the German School System where students test into vocational tracks and attend a school pertaining to those interests, or they test into a more academic model. Either way, each student received an educational experience that equipped them for their future career path. Comprehensive school, however, accept all students no matter their ability level. I am a little confused to how this is different (at its core) from what is here in the US.

  • What role does race, gender, and social class inequalities play in the comprehensive school model?

    • Up until the end of WWII, the UK was a very class based society. If you were rich, you got all the opportunity. If you were poor, you remained poor.
    • Comprehensive schools were created to allow equal educational experiences for all students–no matter race, gender, and social class inequalities.
    • Creates a common culture amongst community

The comprehensive schools vs. grammar schools can be a similar debate to  charter school vs. public school. Does separate education need to happen? Does it create feelings of elitist? It is interesting that this is a global education issue.

International Baccalaureate Program (MYP) 

  • allows students to make practical connections to the real word in their studies
  • promotes lifelong learning
  • explores global challenges and critical thinking
  • Would you support your respective school implementing the MYP?
    • YES. I say this whenever someone brings up an IB program. The MYP is incredible for students. Why not make learning relevant?
    • Hilsman Middle School does a solid job implementing the MYP and many schools could follow this model
    • Students of all levels find elements of success
    • Long process to get certified, but jump the hoops and get it done
Posted in Projects

Maybe the Most Important Thing I’ve Done In Grad School…

No, I’m not just blowing smoke here–but I am fresh off of a class that just had me complete 9 discussion posts in one day…because that surely is meaningful learning. Side note, I think discussion posts are the equivalent of free worksheets off of Teachers Pay Teachers–easy to assign, easy to grade, but essentially worthless. Anyway, I completed a version of this task last summer, and I have referred to it SO MANY times–whether it be in meetings with my content area or in one of my many, many discussion posts.

Understanding the standards, at a basic level, is fundamental. It is undeniable that they are important…but what are they really saying? What are they implying? Are they solid and strong like they (and who is they?) want you to believe blindly? Instead of doing this assignment again, and pretending that I am thinking these thoughts for the first time, I want to revisit what I wrote last summer with the perspective of having gained more experience with these same standards. I want to see how and if my thinking has changed. It is like an evaluation of an evaluation, and I just want to share my thinking in a way that is not confined to a simple question/answer format.

Standards and Accountability: What They Mean to Me

Big picture–I think that the Common Core ELA Standards (or Georgia Standards of Excellence if I am being exact) are beneficial to my students. I teach 8th grade at a school that serves a large population of military students. This revolving door brings me many students from all over the country. The fact that the majority of states use the Common Core allows my students to jump right in with us curriculum wise, especially in ELA where the standards are pretty vague and generic. In stark contrast, when the new students start Georgia Studies in the middle of the year, they are completely lost and behind.

I still stand by this claim in theory, but in ELA the standards are so circular and generic  that it almost doesn’t fully matter where the student left off previously. In a typical mini-lesson or learning center day, I hit so many standards. But for the other content areas, I still see its worth.

I love my content area standards for their weaknesses because they allow me freedom in designing what and how I want my students to interact with text and material. In the 8th grade standards, the language is incredibly ambiguous and non-specific. For example: ELAGSE8RI8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced. The standard does not tell me how to achieve this objective or what text I have to use. I am given the freedom to base my instruction on what would engage my students into critical thinking and discussion. I taught this standard by having them analyze the debates surrounding the redesign of Barbie so that it includes different ethnicities and body types. We read numerous informational texts, held multiple debates that turned into deep,critical analysis of what we value as a society and how gender roles are still very much present. The ambiguity allows me to place the learning in the hands and needs of my students. However, the state does offer “suggestions” in the Teacher Guidance page, but again, it is vague. It terms of support for ELLs, SPED, and Gifted students, it just suggests, “Provide explicit instruction and scaffolding as necessary for the skills and concepts students should acquire for RL1.”

Umm, ok? That’s it…

This ambiguity is my most favorite part of the standards. I can literally pull in anything to teach this standard. This year, my students worked with this standard by creating an argument over which techniques to plant our garden—hydroponics vs. aquaponics, composting vs. fertilizer, container gardens vs. in ground gardens. It was relevant, real, and we actually did what they recommended. So much non-standardized learning bloomed from this relevant task. Out of all the standards I teach, my students were the strongest on this one BECAUSE it is so vague. I am given the ability as the teacher to decide HOW to teach it. The common misconception is that the standards are the end goal for students when in reality it is merely the jumping off point–this is the statement that I want tattooed on my forearm. Standards are the minimum. Students can go beyond. 

Frequently this year, I found my students stumbling over the language of the standard. They are written in high-level, dense terminology. My students benefited a lot from me breaking down the standards into “real talk”–putting it into their words. The ELA standards increase in depth and complexity as students progress through the grade level, so with the Language standards aside, most of the ideas and concepts are not new to 8th graders–in theory. I found myself re-teaching and remediating on a 4th to 5th grade level for my struggling students. This progression of standards with high level terminology does not allow for productive struggle. There are too many standards that we are being forced to teach (because of the high-stakes pressure of Milestones) that are not as high impact and real world applicable. Hello, I mean, I have never needed to know how a verbal was functioning in a sentence (GSEELA8L1a). Not ever. But I have needed to be able to identify the main purpose of an email from my boss or to identify bias in a politician’s claim. There is a disconnect in what the makers of curriculum–supposedly teachers–deem critical to one’s learning process.

I still stand by that the verbals standard is the dumbest thing I try to “teach” all year. I have nightmares of gerunds, participles, infinitives, and their so important functions. Anyway, this year, I don’t think I put a single standard in front of my students. I never read them the formal terminology. I just didn’t because they are so dense it almost makes them worthless to students. I did however speak to them in words and with reasons that they could understand and try to make the tasks translate into real world applications. These real world tasks and applications are my goal for the upcoming year. How can I make these standards matter?

I think that the role of education is to produce critical thinkers and problem solvers. I want my students to leave my class with an understanding that they have the capability to contribute to our world in a way that is meaningful. Language Arts, at its core, teaches skills that are “real world” applicable. We need to be able to express our thoughts clearly both written and orally. We need to be able to read for understanding and application into our own situations, but in general terms, the ELA standards do not address those needs of education. The standards to not address why we are teaching students this skill beyond a standardized test. We are trying to produce “college and career ready students” (that’s totally a neoliberalism scheme) but that does not match what is coming out of our education system.

I also really, really love that neoliberalism was the theme of my first grad school class. It totally explained everything else that was to follow Again, real world and relevant tasks are at the core of my beliefs, and they can be obtained using these standards which appear strict and confining. So many teachers get so hung up on the baseline, and then they never move from it. It is completely frustrating. One test does not dictate my students futures. I would rather give them confidence that they can complete any task placed before them over being a “distinguished learner” on some test that makes a bunch of money off of this state. 

This reflection bounces from one idea to another, but that accurately represents where I am at with this process. I know what I believe and practice as an educator, but I still have to have my students pass the Milestones test, so I still am stuck teaching standards that I don’t think matter. I think “stuck” is the perfect word for many educators who are trying to balance relevant content/curriculum and irrelevant testing.  But I still have to work with a highly educated colleague who doesn’t want to teach relevant content, topics, or strategies because they aren’t “mimicked on the state test”…but we aren’t teaching for a test. We are teaching for life skills. The standards should be the jumping off point for content. The baseline–not the total determiner. Their strengths and weaknesses can be capitalized on and made up for by an educator who works for the needs of all of his or her students.

I could have written this last paragraph tonight. I am actually a little proud of the version of me that wrote this. She is right. My feelings, attitudes, and beliefs have not changed drastically in a year. If anything, I am more confident that I am right, and see more of a demand for these practices to take root in more classrooms. This task really is in my “Top 3 Best Grad School Assignments” list (in company with my Action Plan that I did for EDMS 7100 and the Focus Session that I did with female students about the media and body image, in case you wondered). It really demystified these sentences that I felt were holding my teaching hostage and gave me a sense of freedom to do what I know is best for my kids.

Posted in Idea Page, Uncategorized

Idea Page

This page is turning more into a space where I can flush out my observations and connections with the readings. These readings reminded my a lot of previous courses I have taken and experiences I had with my students this year.

Dr. Love: Hip-Hop’s Place in Education

“Who I am is academic, and I don’t have to take my academics away when I enter the school building.”

“Spirit Murdering” Kids

I had a moment this year when I just felt like the reality of the times just hit me–Inauguration Day. I chose to show it to my students after much internal debate. I’ve been hearing their conversations about Trump for weeks, and I had been trying to reinforce positive peer conversations and tolerance since Election Day, and I wanted them to understand how the political process works. I invited the discord and controversy into the classroom, so that we could learn from it. The class I had during the Inauguration Ceremony was an interesting mix. They did not ever really clique up into groups. They all just kind of did their own thing which made discussions quite rich because they were not concerned with image. I did not expect what came to follow. But as the cameras were panning over the crowds, I just kept hearing, “I don’t see any of us.”

“Oh look, there is one. Oh wait, he is security. Where are they all at?”

It took me a minute, but they were talking about not seeing any black people in the crowd. I felt gut punched. They were right. The majority of our government is run by white men. When President Obama and Michelle got on the helicopter, the room was silent. It felt like such a sad moment. I just observed. They don’t see reflections of themselves in positions of power and respect, so what message does that bring?  To tie it back to Dr. Love, many of my students have disciplinary histories that are chapters long. They get written up for the dumbest things–not staying in their seat, dancing and beating in class, constant talking. We truly are stripping them of their spirit. Aren’t there better ways to incorporate a student’s personality into learning instead of just giving detention?Yes. Yes, there are. What will it take for other people to notice that? I am constantly on the hunt for different ways to bring relevant culture into my classroom.

I tend to browse these sites regularly to incorporate diversity as much as I can:

Teaching Tolerance

Zinn Education Project

It is always through these seemingly minute splashes of non-traditional curricular approaches that my students find the most meaning.


The majority of articles in Folder A reminded me a lot of material introduced in Dr. Jones’ class on Cultural Pedagogy–which tends to be a topic that is inextricably linked with all things of importance in education–or it keeps re-occuring as a solution for many of the problems encountered in modern day education.

I had incredibly empowered females students this year. We had incredible discussions surrounding the Nike shirt below, and they still send me pictures of ways society labels women. Body image is such a huge factor in middle school–for both girls and boys. This year, it seemed like this group was very into challenging “the man” particularly through dress code. As an educator, I felt caught in the middle. I want to support them as these learn how to use their voices together to make a point (and it was actually incredibly valid. They wrote an argumentative essay–that proved mastery of those standards–that detailed their claim), but I did not know how to help them along without placing myself in hot water. It is such a difficult ground to navigate.

Lunchtime Dialogue For my final in Dr. Murphy’s class, I held a 2 day group discussion with my female students. Their openness and insights on body image an how it relates to both school and society were incredibly powerful. By far the most meaningful conversations we ever had last year.


Posted in Projects

Found While Reading


“Bless Your Heart”

But really, bless their heart…

Literally, stuck in the middle.

Students need more freedom than elementary school,

but more structural supports than high school.

Students respond best to teachers who

actively engage in learning

respect their students

acknowledge the need for relevant content

love what they do.


Developmental Stage?

More like a stage for development.

It is not about a test score.

It is about

solving critical problems

becoming world shapers

developing awareness of strengths and weaknesses.

We have to remain relevant in what we do.

No matter the cost.

Posted in Projects

Wait…People Enjoyed Middle School?

I’m bending this task–just a little–to fit my experience. When I tried to pick which embarrassing moment to bring back into life, my mind went straight to this one…and I could not focus on anything else. It happened years after middle school, but it put me right back into my adolescent corner of awkwardness.

I felt official. I had on my “teacher clothes” and my brand new “Teacher Candidate” name tag on. We were clumped into groups, huddled around rectangular tables surrounded by the familiarity of a school’s concrete walls and the hum of an overworked projector. The task was to draw a picture representation of our middle school experience.

In the center, I drew a self portrait of 13 year old me. My nose was too big. Acne covered my face. Braces adorned my teeth. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought. In the corner of the paper, I drew a hallway smelling heavily of body odor and the cacophonous duo of Axe and Bath and Body Works latest scent. To me that hallway represents my biggest insecurity. I was a nobody. I could virtually walk through and not be noticed. I hated going to school because I was in a class with all the gifted kids. I was labeled gifted, but I felt like I was never good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. Your stereotypical insecurities…or so I thought. In the bottom corner, I drew a picture of my favorite t-shirt. It was a Bon Jovi shirt. My most favorite band. I was madly in love with Jon Bon Jovi–the fact that I was in middle school from 2004-2007, and no one had nearly half the expansive 80s Hair Metal knowledge that I had made me feel even more odd. I wore that shirt every week, and I still wear it to sleep in because my love for Jon is eternal.

It was now time to share our pictures with our table. I had just met these people, and now I am supposed to expose my awkward past to them? I waited and let an eager achiever begin. Her picture was perfectly crafted, and apparently her time in middle school was amazing–cheerleader, like so many friends, and had like the most amazing teachers–she gushed. The next girl chimed in agreeing that her experience was so postive and joy-filled and that’s why she wants to teach middle grades. I would pay good money to see the look on my face. I could not tell if they were just completely full of it, or if my awful time in middle school was not the norm I had assumed. I shared my comparatively depressing and bleak experience, and they had no response back. They just stared at me with their super-positive attitudes. I felt the exact same as I did nearly ten years prior–a complete, lackluster misfit. No exaggeration, in the span of 60 seconds, I felt the same anxieties as my 13 year old self. Your middle school self never leaves you. At least for me, the Erin in her Bon Jovi shirt with the big nose, is always lurking right around the corner.