Wednesday, July 11, 2018

#DWHabit - Word of the Day - Candle

Candles have many purposes and symbolize so much in our lives.   They are something so simple yet can be so powerful. A watched candle can provide light in a dark room. They provide a feeling of relaxation and security. If not watched a candle can ignite an inferno. They can create a devastation so powerful to destroy everything. Candles come in many shapes and sizes. We have those creative molded versions of flowers, animals and other shapes. They come in jars and cans with lids. They come in small sizes perfect for cakes. They can be fat or skinny short or tall. When we look at candles and their purpose in our lives we have to ask what would life be without candles. Lincoln read by candle light. Churches use them for services, wedding or for prayers. We use them in our homes. Their flames chase away the darkness while their fragrance fills our homes with sweetness.
Something so simple and useful.

Let Me Be A Candle

Let me be a candle
standing straight and tall.
Let me be a candle
of use to one and all.

Let me be a candle
to brighten someone's day.
Let me be a candle
a light along the way.

Let me be a candle
that bends in times of strife.
Let me be a candle
that shows a well lived life.

Let me be a candle
who warms the coldest heart.
Let me be a candle
with wisdom to impart.

Let me be a candle
full of faith and hope and love.
Let me be a candle
for my Heavenly Father above.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Life's Journey

My life has been a roller coaster lately as we deal with my mom's health issues. Today's writing  came from  examining struggles and blessings. This is what came about.

Life’s Journey

Scrolling through the posts I watch summer journeys unfold.
I dream that one day I may be able to venture out into this world.
It is a world where others journey to far away places.
It is a world where families visit theme parks or beaches.

For now I have my own journey.
Some days I feel like I am climbing mountains.
Some days I feel I am sinking in mud.
These days are hard, yet I embrace them.

I am grateful for each of these days.
Each day is one more day I get to spend with you.
Each day is one more day to encourage you.
Each day is one more day to say I love you.

When I was young your dream journey was put on hold.
I’m sure you felt like you were climbing mountains.
Some days you may have felt like you were sinking in mud.
Yet you joyfully embraced them all.

Growing up you knew was hard.
It was full of ups and downs.
They were journeys you gladly took with us
They filled your mother’s heart.

Now I take this journey with you.
Some days are filled with ups and downs.
I joyfully walk them with you.
Your strength and tenacity fill my heart.

You show the world your strength.
You show the world your love.
Most importantly you show the world how to live.
For that we are truly blessed.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


I believe the above statement 100%.  I have the privilege of working in an IB school. Reflecting on their work is one of the most important and beneficial things students do as part of their education. I have always felt it is important. I have a "Reflection Journal" that I keep at school. I try to reflect on my teaching at least once or twice a week.  It is from this that I adjust my teaching.  Our IB lesson plan has a section where we reflect on the lesson and what we must do to prepare students before the lesson, a section where we reflect on the lesson as we are teaching it and then finally a reflection of the whole teaching unit when we have finished it.  I first learned to be a reflective teacher when I was working on my National Board Certification. That was the most beneficial piece to the whole process for me.  So it should not come as a surprise that I adapted something from college. At the end of every college course we had to complete a "teacher report card". At the end of the year I give my students the following ten questions. I ask them to be very honest and to turn them in with no names.  I then wait until the middle of the summer to pull it out and read and reflect on their answers. By waiting, I have already begun to plan for the next year and I can take what I learn and make adjustments for the next year. What follows are some of the things my students had to say.

  1. Is the teacher clear and easy to follow when presenting materials?  Almost all of them said I was clear and easy to understand except when I go to fast. I tell them at the beginning that the more excited I get the faster I talk. I then ask them tell me to slow down.
  2. Is the material too easy, too difficult, or just right? Most of them thought it was just right. If it was a skill or topic they were familiar with they felt it was too easy. What surprised me was the ones who thought certain lessons were too hard thanked me for challenging me.
  3. Does the teacher display care and concern for students? Everyone said yes.  I not only cared about them and their education but also about them personally. If they were having a tough day or something was going on at home I let them talk.  The funniest comment was in reference to a lock down we had. My classroom has two doors so the amount of space we have to hide in is limited. Of course we had a lock down during my largest class. Thirty minutes later when all was clear my students discussed their concern. One of my students had been very chatty due to nerves. Some of the kids complained because I had to have them scrunch up against each other in tight quarters. For middle school boys and girls this can be very uncomfortable and embarrassing. So one of them asked me what I would do if it was an active shooter on campus. My reply was I would do whatever it took to keep them safe. If I had to duct tape their mouths shut and stack them one on top of the other to protect them I would.  The school officer soon walked my room with me and we found an alternate solution to the situation. I just thought this kid's response was funny.  The other thing they said about my showing I cared was how I gave all of them a chance to get their grade up. Education should be about whether they learned the content and can use it in the future and not about what kind of grade they got.
  4. Does the teacher try to make learning enjoyable and interesting? The majority thought I did but I could add more learning games. One of them said I make it enjoyable because I tell them how it is and don't sugar coat it. This means if it is going to be difficult I tell them it will be and how we will work together to be successful.
  5. What was the most challenging part of class for them? I got the typical answers, essays. reading, all the writing they had to do. The one that impressed me the most was a student that said, "Being open minded to all the opinions in class I am exposed to (I'm working on it) I love the challenge."  Being open minded is another tenet of the IB curriculum.
  6. If you could change one thing that happened in our class, what would it be? The students asked for more partner or group assignments. Several asked for more debates and class discussions. One student added that they wanted more class discussions that the others teachers were afraid to address.  I always try to connect our lessons to what is happening in the world. If you don't allow students  to have those uncomfortable conversations (done respectfully) then how can we expect them to make decisions and have these discussion in  the future? I don't shy away from those tough topics. Maybe this is why I put banned books on my shelves. I sent home a letter to my 8th grade English 1 parents letting them know their students would be reading Laurie Halse Anderson's book "Speak" I told them it dealt with what happens when someone is raped and remains silent.  We discussed how people who don't know the whole story behind someone can become judgmental, bullies, and intolerant. These are issues they see in the news every day. Not a single parent opted out of their child reading the book. 
  7. Which project did you learn the most from and why?  Most of them said the poetry unit where they had to analyze and write an essay comparing two poems. Most had never thought about poetry having themes and settings and it helped them figure out poetry.
  8. What are some thing I the teacher could have done to make this year better? My favorite answer was in response to teaching Romeo and Juliet. One student replied, "Less Old English, or add puppies." My last two units were more on the creative side. I gave students choices for their final project so that those who like to write could write and those who liked to dance, draw, create music could do so. I also gave for their last unit a step by step guide with due dates. They loved this and recommended I do this for all major projects. What surprised me was they wanted more tips on writing essays and, "More practice writing stories and understanding the emotion the story is putting into words to understand the story itself."
  9. What advice would you give to students who would have me next year? "Explore who you are and take time to enjoy the work and atmosphere in this class." "Take time to get used to how the teacher operates."  "Be patient and understanding because the teacher is just doing her job."
  10. How can I improve further? To me this is one of the most important questions. This is how my students answered.  "Give them more to look forward to. Allow them to read out loud more. Have more deep discussion that involve everyone and their opinions. Compliment the class at least once a week. Try to relate to the kids a bit more. Give more background info on the topic we are about to cover. Keep working with and encouraging the kids that don't want to work   .: This is my favorite because I try to live this every day. "I think if you keep making your students believe we can achieve something, that we are human beings who have dreams and wishes, to teach them with fairness and justice and never make them choose YOUR side, but defend their own side, then they can't help but learn in your class."
It is an answer like the last one that make me so proud of my students.  I have looked at these things and made some changes to my lessons and what I want to accomplish. I want to  bring more cooperative learning in to my class.  When you grow up where you were taught to do your own work and there was very little cooperative learning, it is difficult to change. I consider change a part of growing in my profession.  Looking at how I need to implement change has charged me up for next year which starts in about five weeks.  I would not have been able to make these changes had it not been for me practicing reflection. Reflection is a process everyone should utilize.                                                                   

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