January 21, 2022 – Brrr it’s cold out there! In South Carolina we don’t often get that biting cold wind that takes your breath away when you step outside. I felt it today, boy. Brrrrrr. The moment I felt it was immediately grateful for the warm home I had just stepped out of and the warm car I immediately climbed into. My heart aches for the homeless or for those who cannot afford to properly heat their homes. I will say extra prayers for them tonight; I am grateful for the technology that allows us to have eLearning days with out students; I am grateful for the clear chest x-ray today – so grateful for good health (even when I don’t feel great). Find the joy around you every day…#gratitude #3things #choosejoy
I know many details have been left out as I sit exhausted at this computer tonight. That young man, the one I helped so many years ago – helped me tonight.
I woke up this morning and made it to duty sort of on time.
As I monitored the progress of my 1st period class and that of the 3 the day before I realized that not one student had managed to turn in the day’s assignment correctly or completely. Partly due to tech glitches, but MOSTLY due to the refusal to read directions, the inability to follow directions, and the ridiculous notion that if the answer requires thought then it remains beyond their reach.
Moving on to 3rd period this morning, a student walked into my classroom, threw is Chromebook on my desk and said “You were my favorite teacher” and as he turned and made it halfway out the door he shouted “I’m dropping out!!!!” Then he slammed the door as hard as he could. I tried to cut him off in the parking lot only to run into the administrators also hot on his trail. I had to return to the students in my room (well, at the door watching every step I took). They wrangled him back inside. My principal later informed me that they talked him off the ledge and he will, in fact, be returning. Whew.
During lunch I covered a class for another teacher a watched one student cheat shamelessly on a test, while the others in the room poured their hearts and souls into the assessment. (Deep cleansing breath).
During the rest of planning I had to type up all the problems technology gave me the last two days and beg for a solution. Tomorrow we will be reading from a textbook.
During the last class of the day I had the occasion to sit a student down in front of me to tell her that she is the reason I come to school every day – A wonderful project of our librarian. She recorded it. The student cried – and told me that I’m cheesy. I loved it.
Also during that class we had to start off very harshly, as students have NOT been hitting deadlines for our yearbook publication. 100 emails and problems to address. Finally, tech support showed up – God bless her at 3pm on a Friday afternoon, still chugging away to make my technology work for my students.
By the end of that class we were dancing, celebrating small victories of the day and embracing the weekend ahead. Well, not the tech person – she continued to chug.
After school I sat in on a meeting of our student group that tries to bring coexistence to our school. Their struggles are real.
Tonight at dinner I ran into a former student. As my husband and I sat at table next him. He looked familiar at first glance, but when I saw his smile all the memories from his 9th grade year came flooding back – everything but his name. Ugh – I wish I could remember their names, especially when they weigh so heavy on my heart sometimes. Of course later when he said it – I could not believe I could have ever forgotten it. This young man had the kind of smile that made his whole face shine and you couldn’t help but smile back. A young man filled with talent, charm, and whole lot of teenage angst. That angst got him into some trouble that the charm could not get him out of, so he ended up going to another school and he was gone from our lives…like so many students that touch our hearts. When I approached him at the checkout, it took a moment but then the recognition shocked across his face. “Mrs. Bertram!!” He looked healthy and happy and shared his excitement about his future. Man, that made my day.
I know many details have been left out as I sit exhausted at this computer tonight. That young man, the one I helped so many years ago – helped me tonight. In fact, I think it is pretty safe to say that he inspired today’s post. It’s the first time I have posted in over a year, I think. I’ve been stuck. Stuck in it all. I am finding my way out. If you write you know what a big deal that is; and if you don’t write – you’ll have to trust me. When an individual can get you over a year long writer’s block – it’s a very big deal. Thank you, young man.
It was a good day.
Thanks, Kelly Gallagher, for the Book Club!
Year after year I have struggled with reluctant readers in my classroom. I try and try to support outside reading and despise the read a book take a test option. I want so badly to ignite a love of reading in each and every student. I think I finally figured it out.
My students this year participated in a weekly book club (held in class). They had to prepare for each meeting by doing the following:
- Reading the set number of pages – decided on by their own group on the first day.
- Annotating or take notes in some way in preparation for the weekly discussion.
- Writing down at least 4 discussion questions in their writer’s notebooks.
- Completing the weekly video recap- using the RECAP app – a great tool for formative assessment.
- Completing some sort of connection assignment (literary devices, vocabulary, context, artwork).
After the meeting they had to write a half page reflection about the discussions. I love using the Writer’s Notebook for all of these assignments.
Some groups were clearly more excited about reading than others – but they all did the reading. This was just one of four classes and they were all begging me to do the project again. They kept up with assignments, came prepared for discussions, and spoke passionately about their opinions. They annotated their reading and were ready with evidence when they had to explain themselves. Did some skip out on the work and only pretend – I am sure they did (I could probably tell you names) but I definitely had more meaningful reading than I have ever had before.
One of the hardest assignments for them was the artistic rendering – create something from nothing – inspired by the book. They could take any component of the story to find inspiration to create ANYTHING. They just did not know what to do with this kind of freedom. I said art and most of them heard pencil drawing.
But then, some of them were very original – from dressing in costume as one of the characters, to baking a fresh rhubarb pie!
We are getting ready to embark on another round of Book Club. I learned a lot from the last go ’round that I will implement. I will let you know how it goes, so check back!
And remember – smart people read!
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So, as District Teacher of the Year (DTOY) I was given several opportunities to address all the teachers in the district. This particular occasion was the summer institute – the 2 first days of summer for the kids. Every year these are optional staff development days immediately following the end of the school year. Well, the second one is optional, and the first is required. On one hand, the training provided can allow us to prepare for the following year with the new information/strategies/tech – whatever. On the other hand, by the time the day comes the burnout rages through the crowd and enthusiasm remains elusive. The purpose of this speech rests somewhere between inspiration, motivation, and exasperation. With the 1:1 technology implementation at the end of its first year, teachers are ready for a break. However, the theme of the event is transformation – not just using the tech in the classroom, but transforming the way we teach. As you can imagine, the audience ranges from the technology proficient to the technology resistant to the straight up technology noncompliant. After a year of mishaps, frustrations, network issues…and I am to bring them all together and motivate them to take the next step, now, on June 5th. (deep sigh)
Our superintendent went about 20 minutes long – I was immediately told to cut mine short, the tech did not work right away for the next presentation (the technology department), several others spoke briefly. It is unusual to have the DTOY speak at this event – so it was unexpected. I was the last one on the stage, just when the whole group thought they were out of there.
Here is what I said:
Simply, love the child.
Good morning. So, today is about transformation. Wow, that can be a scary word because that means change. And what do we know about change? I know change can be downright horrifying. It can be exciting. I know that sometimes trying to change the behaviors of others is like talking to a brick wall, right? We have all had those experiences.
But change from within – It takes effort. It takes risk. It takes perseverance. Change takes knowledge and learning, right? Well then – we’ve got this. Because I just describe the traits of every hard-working, life-long learning, stubborn teacher in this auditorium. We’ve got this – one step at time.
As you go through the next two days, feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, inspired, confused, enlightened, exhausted, satisfied, hopeful, and just plain tired…..just remember the reason you are here, the reason we are all here – and no I am not talking about your contractual obligation – I am talking about the child. We are here today and every day because we love the child. Now, I say child and not children because I want you to get a picture of one special child in your mind. That one child that you want to help or that you may have already helped. Take a moment to think about that one child you want so badly to reach – no matter how tired you are, no matter what new initiatives or new standards are thrown your way, no matter what extra duties you get at work or extra chores you get at home, no matter what the time or the date is – this child always stands out in your mind. This child may even haunt you. Maybe you had him in class this year or maybe you are already anticipating him for next year. Perhaps you taught this child years ago – but he still haunts you. Keep that child in your mind as you go through the next 2 days and gain your motivation to transform and learn from him. One step at time.
You know, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to transform these little cherubs into productive citizens – from pre K to senior year – and to get them across that stage every year. And I am moved to tears every single year at graduation. High school teachers in the district are required to go to graduation. We may grumble about this that or the other about this requirement, but when it comes right down to it – that is the prize – seeing that child walk across that stage – I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It is a shame that every teacher, at every feeder school does not get the opportunity to participate in graduation the way we do at the high school – to see that child cross the finish line. Now I am not recommending a change in policy – I am just trying to make a point. Each and every educator in this room had a hand in all of those success stories that I have had the privilege to witness and celebrate every year. So let me take a moment and say thank you. Thank you to all of you for giving me a better future. Thank you to all of you for transforming the child, that child in your mind, into a high school graduate and a productive member of our community – one step at a time.
So, over the next 2 days simply look within for your inspiration to change, to transform with this technology. You are all already able to inspire that transformation and change in the child. I believe the same power, the same energy will get you through these next two days and into the technology proficient classrooms of tomorrow – one step at a time. And if that can’t get you going, then just remember to simply love the child, as I know you do, and you will continue to accomplish great things. Thank you and have a great day.
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