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Choose to be great

17 Feb

This weekend was one of the best weekends of my life. I traveled to Washington, D.C. (for the first time!) for Teach for America’s 20th Anniversary Summit. For those of you unfamiliar with TFA, it’s goal is to end educational inequity and close the achievement gap. It was so powerful: I was able to connect with so many of my friends, both in LVV and those who are in other cities; I was re-energized and re-inspired after hearing the work of all the amazing alums who spoke; and my eyes were opened to other careers that I may want to pursue.

20 years. 1 day. by shay

This is the sign that greeted us as we entered the convention center. The people you see in the picture are just a few of the 11,000 (yes 11,000) TFA alums and current corps members. 🙂 To the sides were tons of boths of schools (both public and charter), graduate schools, and companies that were available for networking. I got ton of pens, post-its, and water bottles..in addition to making connections!

I am going to post some of the video clips that I found most inspirational that day- and there were so many amazing people who spoke. I am just going to post the three that are most profound…Enjoy! 🙂

http://vimeo.com/19908808 This is a clip of two TFA alums who are now Senators reflecting on their role in changing outdated policies so that our students can get the best education: Bill Ferguson and Michael Johnston

This is the closing reflection by Jeremy Beard: “Choose to be great so our children can be free.” http://vimeo.com/19909263

And the last clip is of one of the coolest things I have ever witnessed: John Legend (huge supporter of TFA) perfoming with KIPP DC orchestra. KIPP is one of the high-performing charter schools that are across the country. http://vimeo.com/19909406 

“One day all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”

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#6 cultivate hope when disaster hits

28 Dec

The disaster above is a picture from the earthquake from last year in Haiti

Hope being cultivated by Red Cross volunteers 🙂

Hope is defined as: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best (noun) or to believe, desire, or trust (verb). We have all lived through some sort of disaster or tough situation. When a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina or the oil spill or the earthquake in Haiti occurs, the better parts of humanity shine through. People band together and create hope: hope that there are more survivors than thought, hope that they can make a difference. With these disasters, hope is cultivated through volunteers, donations, and prayers.

Thankfully, such disasters are not as prevelant as our own personal disasters are. A lot of times it is easy simply to give up and cave in to the feelings of despair, anger, and frustration. However, we all know that those feelings aren’t beneficial and do not alleviate the situation. In these situations, it is easy to think “why me” and/or “great something else goes wrong in my life”- I know I have done that… but it’s best to hope for the best of the situation… Maybe that minor car accident can lead to you getting a new paint job on your car- or overdrawing your bank account will allow you to really assess where you are spending your money! Like the age old mantra “everything happens for a reason”- even though that is sometimes annoying to think or have other people tell you, I truly think it is true.

“What seems to us are bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”

-Oscar Wilde

#377 donate bookcases to a school library

29 Nov

I love to read. I teach Read 180 and English I. Sadly, my students do not always share my passion for reading (unless when they beg to read more so they don’t have to go on the computer). All the books are stacked in these messy old crates. A bookcase would be AMAZING for my class….over break I will be writing a DonorsChoose grant to get this, plus some more books.

Product Image Bookcases - Set of 2-Black fancy looking bookcases from my favorite store (TARGET!!!)

If you have extra books (or a bookcase!) seriously consider donating them to a local school or women’s shelter (c’mon guys, how long do you need those RL Stine or Babysitters Club books haha). Schools could use them! I know I would be soo grateful to receive anything for my classroom, especially educational! 🙂 So I didn’t donate any bookcases, but I have donated books to my reading library for my students, which is how I lost my first copy of Harry Potter  of teaching haha and may lose my copy of A Wrinkle in Time.  I keep planning on donating too! Even if you can’t donate books or bookcases, maybe you can donate your time (volunteer to help or volunteer as a guest speaker) or anything! 🙂

Moving on, I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving! I’m belated on that message, so let me quickly state who/what I am thankful for:

1. My family: Dave, Amy, Brian, Steven, Dawson, Eric, and my mom

2. My friends: all my pals from Shaler, SVC, Dairy Queen, Bob Evans, AE #782, and TFA.

3. My students: my first year students hold such a special place in my heart, but I love all my students trouble-makers or not.

4. Pumpkin Pie Dunkin Donuts Coffee + Vanilla Spiced Rum Creamer

5. You, for reading this!

6. My health and life (thank you God!)

7. Harry Potter series

8. The various experiences, opportunities, and obstacles that I have encountered in my life. I am grateful for both good and bad things because those items have molded me into who I am. 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

-Dr. Seuss

#439 support your local film festival

24 Oct

So this deed is reflected by the adventures of yesterday…and it will be twinged too. 🙂

Instead of supporting the local film festival, I supported a local orchard and then a local music/food festival. The day started with meeting Shay and grabbing some Starbucks for breakfast. We then ventured our way northwest to Gilcrease Orchards (http://www.thegilcreaseorchard.org/) to pick our pumpkins! Gilcrease was a HUGE land mass where you could pick pumpkins, corn, squash, apples, tomatoes, okra, and zuccini. Shay and I stuck with pumpkins but agreed we would like to come back and get veggies/fruits. We saw girl scout and boy scout troops, couples, and families. It was a great reminder of memories from when I was younger and went to pumpkin patches/corn mazes/hayrides with my family. 🙂  

Shay and I with our pumpkins…maybe we should have taken them out of the bags! Cool photo by Shay (quite the photographer huh?)

Later on we met up and went to Bite of Las Vegas. This has been a local event that we have wanted to attend since we moved here three years ago. Finally we were able to go! We met up with our fellow friends Hilary, Danny, Josh, Brian, Kristin and her bf Pat- who was in town to visit. 🙂 There were tents from local restaurants that were selling small portions of popular items (Zabas, Hash House, Stripburger, House of Blues, Panda Express, Mac Shack, Tropical Smoothie, just to name a few), tons of kids running around (even a lost little one I tried to help before he ran away and ran right past his parents who didn’t even notice), teenage boys in skinny jeans, and just general happiness! At 6:45, one of my favorite singers went on stage- Sara Bareilles. She was simply wonderful and even performed her cover of “Single Ladies” , which I must say rivaled Beyonce. It was a wonderful time to be with friends, hear live music, and support local restaurants (Shay and I dabbled in Stripburger- a cheeseburger slider and fries combo for 3 bucks! and then some chips and queso from Zabas courtesy of Danny). 

mmm…delicous combo with delicious golden wheat beer!

So wherever you are, find a local festival or orchard. Go alone or with a friend. Support the community around you. Check out Shay’s blog for her perspective on our adeventures and see more of her photos (http://simplyshaylyn.wordpress.com/ ) Until tomorrow..

“Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.”

-Buddha

#286 donate blood

19 Oct

There is a slight discrepency here in my deed today. In high school, I donated blood whenever I could. Mainly to get out of class, but because I knew it was a good thing to do as well.

In college there was a blood drive. I figured I would do it. I went and had a bad experience. First, it took forever to get to me because they were training like 10 new people. Then, once my name was finally called, the newbie couldn’t get the needle in my vein. It took about 6 pokes and prods before they finally got the needle on. Of course, my vein stopped pumping blood (not sure how normal that is) and as it turned it…they couldn’t even USE my blood because the bag was only half-full! AHHHH!!!

To top of the experience, my new blood card said a different type of blood than my card I got in high-school. To this day, my blood type is a mystery!! A so-called flaw (one may say) of my personality is that once I have a bad experience with one thing, its’ over. For instance hot dogs, chinese food, vitamins, cooking…I have had a negative experience with each of those things and have been negatively affected ever since then. Donating blood is the same thing.

This is unfortunate because I know I should give blood. But, I just can’t. So, instead of me actively promoting this…take it as a suggestion. I know it is important, so if you are able to- do it! Otherwise, just go do another good deed (i.e. tell someone you care about them, as I did several times today, even though I think it went in one ear and out another!) Until tomorrow…

“When it hurts to look back, and you’re scared to look ahead, you can look beside you and your best friend will be there.” 🙂

#325 register to vote and vote in every election

17 Oct

Well readers it is almost election day. For those of you who don’t know, election day is November 2nd. If you have any idea at all about the world, you should know that in MANY states this is a HUGE election year.

Especially in Nevada, campaigning is relentless. We have the big Senate election: Sharron Angle (R) vs. Harry Reid (D). Basically, Sharron Angle is nuts…at least in my opinion. She wants to get rid of the Department of Education and all abortion rights. For me, personally I would never have an abortion, but its not the governments place to make it illegal. She also has a whole bunch of other crazy ideas. Harry Reid has his faults too, but he is getting my vote. We also have a big race for governor. Current Gov. Gibbons is horrendous (came up the idea of paying teachers in gift vouchers…I kid not) so it’s between Rory Reid (Harry’s son) and Brian Sandoval (the Republican). I need to look more into this but unfortunately neither are really explaining much about their education ideas. We need someone who can FIX the current education disaster in the school district.

Educate yourselves about the campaigns in your city. Get out and vote in a couple weeks. Encourage friends and family to do so too. Whether Republican, Democrat, Tea-Party, and/or Indpendent- liberal or conservative, get out there and have your voice heard! Vote! Until next time…

“But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people, and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do, that’s what I pray to do every day.”

-President Obama

#394 be a mentor to one or more students

16 Oct

What exactly is a mentor? A mentor is a listener, a leader, a role-model, a friend, a supporter. A mentor can be anyone, including you. A mentee can be any age.

I am on the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) team at my school. AVID is a great program that really reaches out to the “middle” students…those who have the knowledge but need help with the skills to be really successful students and graduate and attend college. Within AVID we have an amazing program known as AAMI- African-American Male initiative- which is an AVID program focusing solely on African-American males( henceforth abbreviated AAM). AAM have the highest drop-out rates and the lowest graduation rates. More AAM are in jail than in college (as in complete 4 years of college). We were selected as one of seven schools to pilot the program and it has been a great success.

Anyway, we decided to ment0r all the AVID students this year and not just the AAMI boys (like last year). Unfortunately, the turn-out was not as high as we had hoped/expected. We had about 100 students (9th and 10th graders) that needed mentors and we are still about 12 mentors short…and that is with most mentors taking two students! Not to be deterred, I brainstormed with two other team members and we are reaching out to an individual group of teachers whom we feel would be good mentors. So, in addition to my students, and my caseload list, I am now the proud official mentor of two 10th grade boys who are in the AAMI program.

I am super excited to be a mentor and I am thankful for everyone who mentors a student somewhere! I really feel this a good opportunity for adults/young adults to get involved with their communities. If you are reading this and mentoring seems like a good idea, I suggest reaching out to your local school or a local boys and girls club. As teachers we can only do so much..and if a student knows there is another adult out there who can act as a legit role model, it will make all the difference.

I’ve been engaging in conversations the past few days with my friends about education and how the problem can be solved. Believe me, the teachers definetly play a role, but also the PARENTS, the COMMUNITY, and SOCIETY. If education is not valued and reinforced once the student leaves school, it’s not a good situation. Teaching high school is heart-breaking because sometimes you have parents who have honestly given up on their children being successful in school (and life)…and I have had parents verbalize this to me. These situations is where a mentor could really make a strong impact. Kids may put on a hard exterior, but it’s just a cry for help. So please, don’t give up on kids and if you can, get involved! It will not only make a difference for the student, but for you too.  Check out this great website about how to get involved and why it is important to get involved! http://www.mentoring.org/  Until next time…

“Every kid needs a mentor. Everybody needs a mentor. “
-Donovan Bailey