Wednesday, August 27, 2014

National Board Field Tests

My district has been encouraging teachers to become National Board certified teachers for the past few years.  Despite targeted encouragement from some of my colleagues that have successfully completed the National Board process, I have yet to take the plunge.  This is partly because I have been pursuing other professional certifications such as administration and partly because I am intimidated by the entire process.

I recently learned that the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is in the process of revamping the certification process and in need of people to field test the exams.  They are specifically targeting the busy and intimidated individuals that want to take the process for a test drive (free of charge).  I filled out a short questionnaire about my teaching experience and was notified a day later that I have been accepted into the program.  My last obstacle is finding a time and date to take the field test as of course, the only available slots are on weekdays during school hours.  If you are interested in applying to take the field test, here is the link.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The First Day

Today was the first day of school.  I spent the day attending to parking lot duty,  locating students, preventing students from getting (too) lost, changing schedules and eventually, teaching.  The official school day begins at 9:00.  By 10:55 my FitBt buzzed, signaling that I had walked 10,000 steps.

It was exciting to see the students and I enjoyed hearing about their summer.  Since I taught them all last year (and some the year before as well), I decided to take a different approach to the usual PowerPoint presentation outlining my classroom expectations.  My desks are arranged in groups, so I handed each group a scenario such as a student walking into class late and causing a disruption.  Each group has been charged with discussing the scenario and deciding the impacts that the student's actions in each scenario has on instruction as well as what the student could have done differently.  The students started the assignment today and will finish and present it tomorrow.  The goal of the assignment is to have the students decide the rationale for each classroom expectation on their own and learn how to take responsibility for their learning environment.

Like many of you, I am usually exhausted after the first day of school and this year is no exception.  I plan on taking it easy tonight and recharging for day two.  Here's to hoping that tomorrow will be just as joyful as today, yet significantly less chaotic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to School: Teacher Week

I am in the middle of my first official week back at school.  Here's a rundown of my week so far:

  • I have been appointed department chair.  Since my school has one of the largest middle school ESOL programs in the state (it's close to 350 students at this point), the job description has been changed.  I will spend first period with an assigned class (I requested and received eighth grade since I love looping with students) and will spend the remainder of the day managing paperwork and working with other teachers.  I am currently reading Student Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals (Sweeney, 2010) to prepare for this new responsibility.
  • I admit that I am a bit nervous about working so closely with adults.  It can be difficult to ask adults to evaluate and consider changing their practices, even if it does propel student achievement.  However, I was encouraged today when I reminded my department about our meeting over the PA system (we're scattered around the building) and teachers who are not members of the ESOL department showed up just to hear what I had to say.  
  • I worked a monster day yesterday and managed to get my entire room set up.  The building was thoroughly cleaned over the summer and the bag of pre-cut material I use for the bulletin boards was mistaken for trash and discarded (FYI: New England Patriots fabric is not trash).  The ever-expanding ESOL department came to the rescue and helped me find enough paper and border to cover all eight of my bulletin boards.  I have to say that my room has never looked better.
  • My school has a new principal.  He is a former ESOL student and very supportive of the program.  I am extremely optimistic about this year.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Website Updates

Two days after the staff at my school concluded SIOP training, I received fan mail from one of my colleagues.  She enjoyed the training and wanted to learn more about language objectives so that she can begin meeting the needs of her English language learners on day one.  That's the type of thing that makes every ESOL ninja's heart flutter.

While I did spend my weekend relaxing, I also answered her questions by creating a language support resource website that the teachers at my school can reference when planning lessons.  I included links to the WIDA ELD standards, tutorials on writing language objectives, graphic organizers and even education-related Spanish vocabulary lists to enhance parent communication.  I sent her the link and will unveil the site to the rest of the staff at some point next week.

While I was logged into blogger, I decided to upgrade this site.  As loyal followers can see, I changed over the template and slightly tweaked the layout.  I also added a link-up for all of you fellow bloggers.  Feel free to add your blog to my site.

Friday, August 15, 2014

It's That Time of Year Again

As I write this blog, my summer vacation is quickly coming to an end.  According to the calendar, I am due to report back to work on Monday, with the students returning the following week.  While I was making friends and gaining new experiences in Guatemala, my school went through a major transition.  When I walk in the door on Monday, I will be greeted by new administrators and a good number of new colleagues as well as introduced to new programs.

I attended SIOP training earlier this week (one of the new programs), but the only information that was shared about the upcoming school year was that there will be new administrators, new teachers and new programs (such as SIOP).  The teachers are still anxiously waiting for their teaching and room assignments.

I usually strive to be as organized and prepared to begin the year as possible.  In fact, by this time of summer, I am usually at a point where my year is mapped out and the materials for my first unit are copied and ready to be passed out.  I am hesitant to do much in this situation as there are close to a dozen class options that could be assigned to me.  Luckily, I have been teaching for a while and have ideas in the back of my head.  I also have a hard drive full of materials dating back to pre-9/11 that I can draw from if needed.

Given the situation, I will dedicate this weekend to relaxing.  Time will only tell what next week will bring, so I better unwind while I still can.  Stay tuned for further updates straight from the trenches.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Leveled Reading

One of things that I miss most about my one year of teaching elementary school is the easy access to leveled readers.  Modifying lessons for my second graders was a cinch thanks to a closet full of "little books".  I admit that modifying lessons at the middle school level can be difficult as low-level, high-interest texts can be difficult to come by and expensive to purchase on my own.  I recently discovered, a website that provides leveled texts for the ideal price of $0.  Registration is easy and I noticed that the site recently added novel units for popular books such as The Westing Game.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reddit Gifts

I am still waiting for the official word on which classes I'm teaching this year, so I'm hesitant to buy too many school supplies.  However, I came across Redditgifts this afternoon while perusing Reddit's teacher board.  I completed the registration form and requested binder paper, pencils and an electric pencil sharpener.  I will be entered into a lottery and if I am selected, I will receive a care package from a generous donor.  Registration ends on August 18th.  Here's the link: