Making Over Third Grade!: Challenge Accepted: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Challenge Accepted: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

Finding the time to do everything that I have on my to-do list is a never-ending struggle and it seems that blogging, no matter how hard I try to commit, keeps falling to the bottom of the list. It is an issue I am working on!

I was given a challenge by Josh Harris, who is an EdTech Specialist in my school district, and whom I am lucky to call a friend. He has challenged me to think outside the bubble and to try things without a safety net, and then talked me through the issues that came from them. Always leading me to the answer, and never making me feel that my questions wasn't worth his time or were silly. So when he throws the gauntlet for a challenge it is a challenge I am willing to take on.

These questions were much harder for me to answer then I would like to admit. It is so easy to sing the praises of students and colleagues but so hard to sing my own praises. Likewise, it is so easy to see my own faults and failures (real and perceived) that limiting them to just one was difficult but then I thought about what I tell my kids...to think you can't do it yet. Yet...it is such a powerful word...it holds the promise that you will get to the end you desire, you just need to keep working to get there. So with this in mind I set forth to step up to the challenge Josh laid down and to reflect on my year not on what I haven't done but on what I have done, what I am working on, and what I have yet to complete.

What has been your ONE biggest struggle during this school year?

Just one?! I tend to be one of those people who internalizes everything and nitpicks at themselves - always seeing where I need to improve so the idea of picking just one thing I struggled with this year was not something that was easy for me narrow down to just one thing. In the end, I have to say that dealing with difficult students has been one of the biggest struggles for me this year. I had a student who was unwilling to work and nothing I did seemed to motivate the child to make changes. Watching a child struggle to get along with others, not listening to adults, and having no remorse or empathy has challenged me to pull more out of my hat and to find a way to deal with my frustration when nothing seems to work. In the end, I know that even if I feel like I haven't made a difference for this child based on our daily interactions I can see a difference between now and at the start of the year and for that I am grateful. That is what I have to focus on the most which is difficult for me as I know that I will continue to second guess what I could have done differently long after this child has moved on to the next grade. It has certainly been a roller coaster of a year!

Share TWO accomplishments you are proud of from this school year.

Two accomplishments that I am proud of this school year hmm...well first, I had a better have been working on the first two components of my national board certification. In spite of a difficult year with a few students and all that goes into just being present each day plus all of the committees that I am on I have been able to focus on my teaching and have been reflective of my teaching practices. I tend to be very reflective as a teacher normally but this process made me look at my teaching in a different light and to make the changes, that (I think) needed to be made to improve my teaching.

The second accomplishment I am proud of this year is that I was able to step away from my work a little bit more than I have in the past. I am a serious workaholic and am ALWAYS working on something for school. It is a side effect of my ADD. I can't just sit and do one thing, or worse, nothing. I am always writing, reading, reviewing or creating something while we relax after work or on the weekends when Robert is working. This year I made a conscious effort to take some time each week for me. That may have meant that I didn't grade things as quickly as I would have in the past or that a poster wasn't as "cute" as I could have made it the first go round but taking the time to just focus on me, spending more time with family, and recharging has actually given me more energy in the classroom and that is a win-win all the way around.

What are THREE things you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

So, I guess I should have completed this post when I was first tagged a month ago when there was more time left in the school year. We now have just 30 days left in the year. That doesn't leave a lot of time to get things done! Still there are still some major projects I want to accomplish before the end of the year. First, I would like to complete (and pass) the first two components of the National Boards. My paper for component 2 is due in mid-May and I have to have the test done for Component 1 has to be done by early June. This is a big deal for me, not just because I have signed up for and it has been paid for but because I am addicted to learning and this is like taking classes only as an independent course.

Next, I would feel like there is still so much to be taught - the student issues and behaviors have been so time consuming this year that I feel like there is just so much more that I need to teach to feel that the year was a success. I spent a lot of time this year outside of the classroom trying to address student behaviors that I feel like my year has been consumed by behaviors rather than by teaching.

Lastly, I want to end the year with everything ready for the first week of school so that I am not spending the majority of my summer planning for and working on things for school. Last summer my dad and I drove cross country to go visit family (whom I had never met before) and to see the sites. We had the best time and I went 18 days in a row without doing one work related thing and that was so refreshing that I have promised myself to have everything ready by the end of the school year so that I do not have to work all summer. Since we have a new math program (I was on the pilot committee so I have my materials already) I want to prep everything for the first quarter so that I am not stuck having to make game boards or anything the night before I need to use them.

Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today's rough culture.

For me, this is the easiest of the points in this challenge. I love, teaching. I mean, I really LOVE teaching! I always tell people my job is teaching third grade at my site, my occupation is education, and my calling is teaching. I LOVE what I do and have known since I was a little girl that I wanted to teach. Yes, we have a rough culture and poor attitude about education but everyday that I teach, each family that touch, is a pebble in the bucket of change towards an improved mindset about today's public education system. I have the best job in the world - every day I get up and go to work I affect change in the world. I know that sounds corny but it is true for me.  I get to get up each day, no matter how  I am feeling I get to work with kids who keep me on my toes and who keep me young. I had a student this year tell me that I act like I am 8 years old. She insisted it wasn't a compliment "or a negative" but that "it is true!" Well, that sums it up - I get to stay young and have fun everyday - even if I have to look really hard for something to be proud of at the end of the day. Everyday I get to teach is a day that I am excited about.

I get to make a difference in the world and for me that is a huge reason that I stay in education despite what the attitude about education is. I love what I do and I believe that I can make a difference in the world by how I treat and teach the kids in my class, how i interact with the families of my students, and through the committee work I am a part of on the many committees I am a part of. I believe there is no other job in the world where I get to act like I am 8, get to interact with kids and experience their excitement for everything that is happening in the world, and still have fun and like the job each day.

I have no children and likely will never be a parent so being in the classroom feeds a part of my soul. Having the opportunity to work with students and their families allows me to feed my soul in a way I cannot put into words. It is what I was meant to do and if I wasn't in education I have no idea what I would do with my life.

Finally, I love that I am able to influence and help new teachers, mentoring them and assisting them find the joy in this job is very rewarding. I love that I can be a shoulder for them to cry on when needed, but more importantly to help them see that they are doing a great job, particularly on those days when the do not see it themselves.

To me being a teacher is like a well-kept secret - everyone sees and hears about the mavericks or those who are completely self-sacrificing but not about the great teachers that are in every school throughout the nation. In my job I get to know and work with these wonderful people and through that work I get to experience all that is great about education today.

Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions?

I don't know if I know five bloggers who would be willing to take on this challenge but it is my hope that Maria Solis (from Shakin' Up 5th!), Renee Gonzales, Erin from (You Aut-aknow!), Tracy Villarreal (I am going to use this challenge to ger her blogging!), and Monica Evon (from iPaddling through Fourth).

1. I have known Maria Solis for 12 years. She has become a good friend and she was one of the first teachers I knew who took on going 1:1 at my school site. She recently started a blog and is someone to follow.

2. Renee Gonzales is a dear friend who is constantly looking for new adventures and has taught grades 1, 2, and 3. She is now hoping to go to 4th for next year. She isn't one to back down from a challenge so I am calling her out to keep this going and to gain insight into her teaching.

3. Erin from You Aut-aknow! is a special education teacher not too far from my district whose blog I follow to earn about life in the TAP classroom and best help those in my class who are facing some more challenges.

4. Tracy Villarreal has been a dear friend for 11 years. I haven't been able to drag her into the blogsphere yet but since she has been 1:1 with Chromebooks and is always looking for a new challenge I am hoping that she will be up to this challenge.

5. Monica Evon ( iPaddling through Fourth) was one of the first education bloggers who were 1:1 when I first got to go 1:1 myself. She is innovative, enthusiastic, and always willing to share her insights into what she is doing in her classroom.
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