Sunday, June 28, 2015

Teacher Discounts

Take advantage of your educator status all year long with discounts from some of the country's largest retailers.  Click here to access a list of over one hundred stores that give discounts to teachers.  Happy shopping!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Advocating for English Language Learners

The National Education Association recently published All In: How Educators Can Advocate for English Language Learners.  As an experienced ESOL ninja, I can say that advocating for my students is probably the messiest part of my job.  I have been at my school for several years and have learned how to take the steps outlined in the guide to advocate my way to the top on behalf of my students.  This guide probably is not the best beach reading material, but is definitely something to check out before the new school year begins.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Books I Would Like to Read This Summer

I realize that my blog posts have been less frequent over the past few months.  To be honest, long days in the trenches have been burning me out.  Thankfully, my summer vacation is only a handful of days away.   I will spend the majority of my summer traveling, but want to do some professional reading so that I can return to the trenches fired up and truly inspired.  Here is what is on my Amazon wish list:

  • Teach Like a Pirate: I have heard amazing things about this book.  There is even a dedicated Twitter chat hosted by the author.  I'm curious to see what all the hype is about.
  • Real Talk for Real Teachers: Rafe Esquith is a best-selling author and inner-city teacher from Los Angeles.  He has experienced it all and I am inspired by his commitment to his school community and positive attitude.
  • The Ten-Minute Inservice: 40 Quick Training Sessions That Build Teacher Effectiveness:  I will most likely be continuing my department chair role next year and will be responsible for mentoring and training new teachers.  I'm not sure if it's really possible to do a ten minute inservice, but I'm sure that my colleagues will appreciate my effort.
  • Enrique's Journey: This book has actually been sitting on my nightstand for a few months now.  It follows Enrique, an immigrant from Central America on his journey to the United States.  This book puts a face on the current immigration debate and hits close to home as over a dozen unaccompanied minors entered my school's ESOL program this past year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

'Tis the Season: Google Hangout Interviews

The job fair that I recently attended with my principal did not yield a sufficient number of ESOL candidates.  After some prodding, I convinced my principal to contact human resources and ask for a candidate list.  He received a Google Sheet with links to candidates' information.  Since I am a self-directed individual, I went through the list and contacted candidates.

When I contacted my highest ranked candidate, she informed me that she was unable to meet with the interviewing team for at least another two weeks due to her work schedule.  Since she is fully certified in multiple content areas, experienced, and yes, bi-lingual, I was afraid to let this candidate slip away. I noticed her Gmail account asked her if she would be willing to participate in an interview over Google Hangout.  She agreed and "met" with us this past week.

My principal was not only impressed with the candidate, he also liked my outside-the-box thinking. Since we are most likely going to have multiple vacancies to fill this summer, he wants me to show him how to use this tool so that he can keep it as an option for those who have either not relocated yet or are simply away on summer vacation.  While candidates that are cleared for hire are still going to have to come to the school to complete paperwork, this is a good way to vet those individuals.  With my luck, my principal will not only gain a firm grasp of Google Hangout, he will realize that he can contact me on this service as well since I will be spending July in Central America.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Google Classroom: Final Review

After several years of using Edmodo as my online classroom platform, I made the switch over to Google Classroom.  The students at my school have district-issued Gmail accounts and I am in the habit of creating most of my classroom documents in Google Drive, which made the decision to switch a no-brainer.  Here are my thoughts about Google Classroom:


  • Students use the same password across the Google platform and I can easily access the password from my school technology coordinator.  This was a big plus for me since my students made up their own Edmodo password, only to promptly forget it several times a year.  I could change it on my end and finally announced that I would re-set the password to ninjarocks for those students that forgot their password.
  • Creating assignments are easy.  I simply choose my Google Drive file and click on assign.  Students can complete and turn in assignments without having to download or upload files.
  • There is a Google Classroom app available, so students without a full computer can complete assignments on their mobile device.  I can also check assignments while standing in line at the grocery store.
  • Google automatically organizes each assignment into a separate Drive folder.  This make it easy to keep track of students' assignments.
  • There is no app store.  Edmodo added this feature last year and I liked the idea of giving my students access to apps and tools from within a familiar platform. 
  • There is no quiz feature.  The closest you'll get is uploading a Google Form.
  • Unlike Edmodo, there are no ways to connect with colleagues or communities from within Google Classroom.  There's always Google+, but that's a separate platform.
  • There is no parent access.  I never used this Edmodo feature, but keep in mind that at this time Google Classroom is only available to individuals with a Google Apps for Education account.