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 🙂 This is a clip of two TFA alums who are now Senators reflecting on their role in changing outdated policies so that our students can get the best education: Bill Ferguson and Michael Johnston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

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. 

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

#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

#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!  Until next time…

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

#51 become a global pen pal

23 Sep

One memory that remains in my memory from 4th grade is when my teacher told us we were getting pen pals with 4th graders in England. I was so pumped! I eagerly wrote my letter, describing me and my favorite shows (at the time it was Unsolved Mysteries and the Muppet Show- the one that was on Sunday nights and was like a comedy one). I’ll never forget the disappointment that we didn’t get replies back. So upsetting!

I wish the author would have included a website to find a pen pal. I feel like it would be hard because there are a lot of creeps out there, so to find a legit site and subsequently, a person would be hard. So what’s the next best thing? Just so happens one of my best friends, Megan, is now teaching 2nd grade in Denver.

We are going to set up a pen-pal system between my classes and kids and her class! I am super excited about this! It will be great writing activities for my students and for hers! Plus, I get to write letters to Megan! I think it’s important to teach students how to write letters because it is a long-lost practice/skill, thanks to technology. We’ve been playing phone tag the past couple days, so I can’t wait until we get back in contact so we can catch up and plan this! 🙂 Until tomorrow….

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.”

– David Steindl-Ras

#438 bring your neighborhood together

20 Sep

In the book, our author thinks that we can  bring our neighborhood together by working on community projects, like cleaning a park or planting a garden. Living in Las Vegas, “neighborhood” is a relative term. There are A LOT of complexes so the idea of an actual neighborhood (like I think of in Pittsburgh) is far and few between. So, I like to think of my neighborhood as my school community, which involves my students and parents.

Tonight was Open House Night. This meant I hung out at school from roughly 620 am to 730 pm, with the exception of a 10 minute break to Starbucks to get a caffeine fix. For my 3 classes (remember Read 180 is blocked), I had 8 sets of parents show….actually not a bad turn out (for about 35 students). Open House Night is when parents travel from class to class (with their children or without) to meet with the teachers to hear about the class and expectations. It’s a great way to bring the community together; I just wish more parents came! I enjoyed conversating with my students and their parents; especially when I informed my 5th period parents about the infamous spelling quiz disasters of the past two weeks (high score of 6 out of 17). They were quite shocked to even hear that their kids had spelling words!  All in all, it was a good night!

If you are a parent, please please please attend your child’s Open House night if you can- regardless of what grade your student is in or how well they do (or don’t do) in class. Other ways to bring your neighborhood together? How about a potluck, barbecue, pool party, block party, community service project/fundraiser. Lots of ways to be innovative! Remember, start small! Until tomorrow…

“We cannot all do great things; only small things with great love.”
-Mother Teresa

#370 adopt a teenager

9 Sep

Don’t worry, I’m not actually adopting a teenager. Being a mere 24 years old, I am in no position whatsover to ACTUALLY adopt a teenager. And, as this blogging adventure will last for three years, I don’t even think at 27 I would be in a position to adopt a teenager. Thus, I am modifying the word “adopt”.

Today in my 1st period, my students were working on a brainstorming/writing activity in which they were to think about what career they would like and three reasons, followed by three details per reason as to why they want said career.  I had a few students say “pediatrician” because they like babies/little kids. They then asked me if I had kids (very common question actually), to which I laughed and said yes that I consider them all my kids. They laughed too, but I wonder if they knew how serious I was.  Fr0m day one, year one I feel like each kid I have come into contact with as my kid. I know many teachers (regardless of grade level) feel this way too.

With the exception of shelter and clothing, I feel like there are certain students I have “adopted”: kids I take a special interest in for whatever reason: we got along well or because it’s obvious no one has really taken a strong interest in them before. I spend a lot of money on my kids: school supplies, lunches, snacks, books, calculators. If my kids need it, I get it to them. I talk to them, go to their games, ask them about how they are and respond. It truly is like they are my own children.

However, until the day when it is feasible to adopt, I will stick with my school kiddos and “raising” them. Even if the idea of adoption is not interesting/possible, I would recommend just to take interest in our younger generation. These kids really need it…they truly are our future!  Today I leave you with a little inspirational clip; enjoy the video! Until tomorrow….

#540 infect your co-workers with happiness

23 Aug

Today I woke up nice and early (630 am…granted not nearly as early I will be up once school starts) to enjoy some breakfast and boy meets world before going into school. I made it into Mojave around 845 and stayed until 215. We officially don’t start until Wednesday but I came in to get some stuff done.

Me & Sam, one of my girls from year 1

Me and my (ex) co-worker Stepp (224 won’t be the same w/o you!)

I didn’t get much done simply because I ended up talking to several co-workers all of whom I thoroughly enjoy working with. Ruth, a secretary for one of the AP’s, always compliments me when I see her by telling me that I brighten her day. Such a great thing to hear- that can boost my self-confidence and mood so quick. The author suggests that being happy increases the happiness of the work place…and who wants to work in a depressing place? Not me.

As a teacher, I can translate this deed into infecting my students with happiness. For instance, taking an interest in a so-called “problem child” can make the student happy- whether its outwardly shown or not. The trouble-makers are my favorites. Last year, Erin and I had a student in common named Tony. Tony challenged us everyday- that is once he decided to enroll in school (mid-september) and when he showed up. Even though he challenged us, we took a deep interest not only in his education, but also his well-being. Despite challenging us, he would come to our classes when he got kicked out of another class or when he needed help with something. By end of semester 1, it had gotten pretty bad with Tony (even with Erin and myself) and he dropped out. This made us both sad. Erin and I often reminiscied about Tony and wondered what he was doing and if he was okay.

Imagine my surprise when I saw him biking along the road as I was driving to work last week for a meeting. I immediately pulled over and shouted to him from my car window. We briefly caught up (not in school, working on getting a job) and I gave him my email, in hopes he would email me. More surprise came when I saw an email from him later that day: I reminded him that he needed to get his diploma (either through Adult Ed or by getting his GED) and to keep me in the loop about him getting a job. His reply?(unedited form)

“Thanks alot i miss yu alot really ms perlik an thanks for the advice but dnt forget bout me plz and im trying my hardest”

That brought me SO much happiness and satisfaction. That’s what makes my job so rewarding. Anyway, be happy at work! Smile at a co-worker, compliment your boss, ask the newbie how their day is. Make someone else happy, make yourself happy too. Until tomorrow..

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it”

-Groucho Marx