Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Joy of Learning...

In education we don't get to see enough of the unadulterated joy of learning. This is especially true when you teach math, like I do. Let's face it...many people would rather have a root canal than be in just doesn't bring out warm fuzzies in most people, but today was different. Today I got to see and hear the joy! It was beautiful!!

We are reaching the end of the Ninth Grade Counts program, the bridge program I teach math in during this summer. Our main project has been to build Sling shot Cars. They have had to work together, make decisions, make modifications and, today, do their first set of experiments (Distance and Time). The next steps are to modify one thing, test again and, then, finish off with a lab report.

Today, when the kids were testing their distance, I heard actual squealing! :) I walked in to find kids high giving one another and screaming...their excitement evident! My heart was both filled with love and filled with joy! What they were working on was paying off! It was an exciting event!

I am hoping for many more of these events to come...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Being Invisible...

Sometimes I think about those that we interact do we treat them? How do they treat us? Are we in the same room with some and make them feel as if they are invisible?

Being invisible is a strange know that you are there and are floating about unseen.

I think about high school (or middle school, or whatever school) and there are people all around. Some are visible for all to see, everyone knows their name, their face, their presence. There are others that weave in and out through the crowd, invisible...some by choice, some by chance.

I think about my own high school experience, which overall was a great experience, but going to a reunion reveals so much. There are so many that I don't know, faces I don't recognize, names unheard...I wonder, what I really there? Did I treat people poorly? Did I make them feel invisible? I hope not...that would never be my intent...maybe I'm clueless, have a poor memory, have the ability to compartmentalize to such an extreme that I actually can't remember. It makes me sad and frustrated at time. Where was I? Why don't I remember?

Invisible people...feeling invisible can be lonely or empowering. Having the freedom to do as one wishes, meandering through life, weaving through the world unseen is like having the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter...sometimes watching from the outside, where you feel you should be seen can be lonely.

It's really a note to aware, look to the edges, see who is there. Find those that are invisible, welcome them in. You may not know what they have to offer, they might not even know what they bring to the table. Invisibility can become comfortable, a waste of talents, a loss of sorts.

It is time to change invisible to visible. It is time to see...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lessons from the World Cup...

This has been an unusual week at school...first we had the C to J, then Brazil's loss to Germany. I'm not sure which of these two events has had a bigger impact on my students...I guess time will tell.

 We have talked a lot abut soccer this past few weeks at school. It's a natural thing...I love soccer, my students love soccer. It has been a topic to bond over, but nothing prepared me for the game between Brazil and Germany.  It was a bloodbath with (spoiler alert!) Germany scoring five goals in 29 minutes. That is only part of the story...not the important part...the important past was Brazil's response to the goals being scored...they quit. The expression on their face after the second or third goal was clear...they were defeated. Sure there were brief moments where there was a streak of almost brilliance, but most of the rest of the game was Brazil chasing Germany around the field, almost getting in their way. At the end of it all, they lost 7 - 1, with the single Brazilian goal being scored in the 91st minute. Embarrassing...

Today, I asked my students the lessons that could be learned from the game...some said, "Never play Germany" or "Don't lay without your best players (really? They're that good???)" but I told my students my observations. They sat in silence...eyes on me. I told them that at times life will seem hard, almost insurmountable (ok...I didn't say insurmountable...I said impossible) and that is when they will have two choices: Give up or Fight...

We talked about high school and life. I told them about the cutest boy and some of the times we have been presented with the hardest times...Give Up or Fight...really, this is what it is all about. What you choose when life is hard, how you accept the challenges and difficulties, what your character says about you...who you are...who you want to be.

I have chosen to Fight most of my life...that is what I want for my students as well...Never give up...Always fight!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Having a little C to J...

Sometimes as a teacher you have to have "the talk" with your students. By "the talk" I don't mean the "birds and the bees" talk, I am talking about the "Come to Jesus" kind of talk. I'm sure you know the one...the one where you explain to them how this is their chance, their opportunity, they are the creators of their own destiny.

As I have said before, the students I teach are primarily low income. The program I am teaching this summer is targeted at students who are academically at risk or had issues with attendance. They are students needing a boost, a bridge from Middle School to High School.

Today's conversation was direct and truthful. In some ways, it pained me to tell them that they were already behind other students who have had more opportunities, more exposure to enrichment activities, just more in general. Explaining that they are the ones who make their decisions for their future, they are the ones creating this path, they are the ones in charge of their future.

It is a difficult idea to wrap their heads around. Many have experienced so little success that the idea that success could be ahead is almost unfathomable.

I am known for having a chat with them as a group...a C to J, per say. Sometimes I wonder if I am tying to convince myself or them. I know that it is possible...I am a living example that it is possible, which makes it even more frustrating for me...

I want them to choose their own success...I want them to choose themselves...but most of all....I just want them to choose.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Son of my Heart...

Twenty-one years ago, my second youngest son was born. I wasn't there...I didn't participate in the birth. I didn't actually meet him until he was four. He was a tiny boy, mop full of curls, shy and unassuming. He has lived here with us for the last thirteen years and it has been amazing watching him grow into a man. There have been roller coaster years...years when he has struggled to find his focus. It is hard growing doubt about that, but it is even harder when your father is from another country and has extremely high expectations. When you are the one who has protected yourself by laying low, tried to stay out of the way, waited behind the scenes, it is difficult when you feel that you aren't meeting expectations.

Each of our children is different and I feel lucky. I have had the opportunity to parent four amazing children, two of which are the children of my heart, two of my womb. Some might think I would love them differently, yet my love for them is the same, as if they are all of my blood. My heart is filled with joy that I have the opportunity to parent them, that they have each other.

Today is my (almost) youngest's twenty-first birthday, in two weeks our oldest is getting married. Our family is growing and changing...I am honored to be a part of heart is full.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Fervor of the Game...

As I have shared before, I love the World Cup. There is something about playing a game to show your love of country that is fascinating. As in any sport, there are expected winners and expected losers. There is the "Group of Death" and the "Group of Champions." There are teams that somehow managed to qualify (by means that no one seems to know) and they are just happy to be there, wearing their colors, hearing their national anthem.

But a strange thing has happened this World Cup...the expected winners aren't winning. Everyone is guaranteed three games in Group Play, but then, if you make it, comes the knock out round where the winner moves forward and the loser is done. Some think that soccer is boring, twenty men running back and forth with the possibility of no goals being scored but I seem to look at it from another perspective. Soccer is a game of grit and persistence. It is where those who want it most, often succeed. It doesn't always happen, but, more often than not, it does. To me, it is a metaphor for life.

Think about it...we all have our team who help us navigate through life. There are opposing forces often trying to make us waver from our goal. Sometimes they knock us down, sometimes they push us out of the way, they try to hinder us from our task at hand.

Then there is the crowd...sometimes there are those on the outside with their cries so deafening that it is hard to think. We have to focus, gather those on our team, reevaluate our goal and the plan to achieve it. We have to work around those who are trying to stop us, sway us, pull us away from our plan. We must look out for one another...find the fervor of the game.

Soccer is much more like life that people want to acknowledge. Sure, it would be nice if life was like basketball with rewards that come regularly, feelings of success sprinkling over us, but it reality we often spend long lengths of time working hard, with no reward, hoping for the single breakthrough.

This breakthrough brings us back to us hope that more will come. With grit and determination, we continue...In life, as in all things, there is risk and reward. With reward sometimes far apart, we gather those around us...those on our team and continue the hard work to be done.

We are here because it is worth it...the fervor of the game.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Moving Day...

I need to pack my classroom...I admit, though, I am in the avoidance phase right now. I began right after school ended, but since the start of summer school, I haven't even been to my old school. In some ways it feels like ripping off a band-aid that I have been protecting for years. This has been my home, the place where my heart is, the place where I do good work.

In many ways I feel like I am floating about...somewhere in the middle. I am straddling two worlds, my middle school home and my high school future.

So many think that I am finally "moving up"...I have never felt that I was "down." I came from high school, I know what I am getting into. Teaching ninth grade is not necessarily a giant leap from eighth...same kids...three months older.

Moving to the ninth grade has been intentional. There is a problem. Almost fifty percent of them are not making it to their senior year. They are dropping out in droves, giving up on their ability to be successful. So many of them are shell shocked, overwhelmed by the number of students and the lack of connections with their teachers.

To be honest...I hate moving. Worse is that I am not sure where my new home will be. I have no classroom yet...I am taking the House of Mashinchi apart only to be rebuilt at the high school. I admit that I am nervous...I am not sure what to expect.

Moving means to start over, to confront the unknown. I want to create a new space...a space of comfort, a space where high expectations are held, a place where deep learning can be had. I want to build a new home for my students...somewhere they feel safe. Safe to question, safe to try, safe to learn.

It is a big task..moving, for I am not only moving my things, but I am moving my heart as well. I am leaving many that I love...relationships built over seven years. It has been a time of growing, changing, preparing...possibly preparing for this.

I am excited for the future, but sad to leave my past. If only the packing fairies would go to my classroom and pack it for me....that would be great because as I said...

I hate moving...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

School's (not) out for the summer...

I am teaching summer school...during the World Cup! Agh! Today was the first real "work day" for my students. It was interesting. I had a project for them to work on that involved some activity, moving was insight into what kind of student they want to be.

It was an interesting scene...some kids getting right to work, finding a partner, connecting, while others sat around talking, playing around, doing nothing.

The purpose of this program is to give them a head start...a jump into high school. Today I saw the work that really needs to happen...I need to create more structure to create more success.

It is an interesting scenario...I know that these kids are on academic priority, attendance priority...some of them truly understand that this is an opportunity to move opportunity to change their habits of the past...

I want to figure out how to bring encouragement, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride...

I hope to figure it out....soon...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Crisis of Success...

I am teaching summer school for incoming Freshman and after Day 2, I can see that many of them are having a Crisis of Success. I look into their eyes, some of them averted, others almost desperate, and finally the last group, hopeful. For many of these students there is a cycle going on...they try to be success, they fail, they give up, then they get hope from someone and the cycle starts again.

My goal is to help them believe that they can do school, give them skills, and send them along their way. During the year there will be mentoring, continued skill building, and yet, there will still be a Crisis of Success. Each time something goes well, the following will usually be bad. I encourage, then things move forward and so on...this cyclical cycle can move on and on.

This is where we are...ready for a major breakthrough...ready for the next step...ready to show ourselves our most open minded self!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My World...

Tomorrow I start teaching summer school...I am tired but excited. I will have the opportunity to meet about 100 freshman, some that I already know, others that are new to me. I made a slide show to introduce them to me, get to know me. So here it is!