Shout Out to AVID

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Since implementing a new computer system, things have been a little hectic at school. Some students have 2 different classes for the same period; others have missing classes. I happened to be in the office trying to help some students with their mixed up schedules when I saw a parent registering her student. The student had formerly been in the AVID program. Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) targets students who are generally underrepresented in going to college and teaches them strategies to be more successful in school. It provides mentors and tutors, and it also helps develop critical thinking, literacy, and math skills. It’s an elective in our school, though many AVID trained teachers use techniques in their classroom to assist the students’ learning. It’s a powerful tool, especially for those students who want to improve but don’t really know how.

When the secretary told the mother the student positions had already been filled last spring through a selection process, the mother almost started to cry. She pleaded with the secretary to somehow get her child into the program. She stated over and over again how her student had gone from being a below-average student to being placed on the honor roll. When the overwhelmed secretary said she couldn’t guarantee anything, the mother’s shoulders sank.

The AVID teacher just happens to be a friend of mine, so I asked for the student’s name and told the mom I’d look into the situation and call her back. After checking with the AVID teacher and the counselor, we finagled a spot for him. I felt like Oprah when I called the mom to tell her he’d been accepted. She was so excited.

When programs like these work, it’s hard to believe we can’t create the funding to train all teachers to use the strategies in every class. We spend so much money on things that don’t really change instruction in meaningfully ways, yet we often don’t have the money left over to spend on things that work. For those of you out there who haven’t heard of AVID, check it out for your school or your student.

What other programs have you found that really work?

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Teaching: The Good Life

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While summoning the energy to head back into the daily grind, I found some interesting facts about being a teacher taken from a Gallup poll surveying 14 different professions:

1. Teachers earned the #2 spot for general wellbeing as a profession.
2. In rating their lives on a scale of 0-10, teachers rate themselves higher than any other profession, except physicians.
3. They earned the #2 spot for those professionals who feel they  learn or do something new every day.
4. Teachers rated highest in saying they’d laughed or smiled the day before.
5. Teachers took the number one place in saying they experienced happiness and enjoyment with their jobs.

With 2 million teachers needed to replace retirees in the next decade, maybe we should spread the good word. What new facts have you learned lately?

*facts taken from “The Gallup Blog.”

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In all the rush to get out the door way back in May, I forgot to mention an article I worked on with some friends for Soleado, a publication by Dual Language Education of New Mexico. It’s titled, “Using WIDA’s Can Do Descriptors and the Common Core to Differentiate Instruction for Emerging Bilingual Students.” Have a look if you’re feeling like getting back into the school spirit!

What have you been reading or writing lately?

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Courage Classic

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When I first found out my niece, Jessa, had been diagnosed with a leukemia relapse, I felt sick. For weeks, I’d ride my bike to work with tears streaming down my face. I’d stumble through the days in a fog of worry and then ride my bike back home, crying. I wore my “Team Jessa” bracelet everyday and grew my hair out for “Locks of Love” as reminders of her fight. But now, over two years later, I can throw away the bracelet, cut my hair, and celebrate.

In April, Jessa finished her last chemo treatment, and this past week, she rode over 100 miles on her bike for the Courage Classic, a ride to benefit Children’s Hospital. I was so excited to see her cross the finish line in such a symbolic gesture of triumph. I’m in awe of this sweet girl.

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Who are you proud of in your life?


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Summer Fallow

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For almost eight years, I’ve followed the Treadmill Journal technique. I have a special notebook with my writing hours over days, months, and eventually an entire year. There’ve been a few times where I’ve slowed down because of school commitments and other personal issues, like taking two months off when I had the twins. Because of the stressful school year (new evaluation system, completing the National Boards, and implementing two new curriculums for two different classes, etc. etc.), I’m exhausted. I’ve decided to take a much needed writing break.

Even in the few weeks off I’ve given myself, I still feel a little uneasy about not writing each day. To assuage my guilt, I’ve decided to call it “summer fallow” season. Just as my father used to rotate crops on certain pieces of land to allow the nutrients in the soil to regenerate, I’m allowing myself to rest, conserve my energy so I can refocus when I begin again. A field of summer fallow doesn’t necessarily look appealing, but the next season, the soil is rich with nutrients and the following crop is more productive.

When do you need a “summer fallow” season?

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Last Day!

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For every student who can’t wait to hit the doors at the end of the year, there are plenty more who worry about what their summer will bring. One of my students told me about her father remarrying and how she doesn’t really like her soon-to-be stepmom. There could be plenty of reasons why the two don’t mesh, but overall, this girl is dreading a long vacation at home.

When I first began teaching, I didn’t see the benefit of year-round schools. Besides  research findings that show academic growth with year-round schools, there are other reasons to consider. The students I teach have just hit an age where they can be left to care for younger siblings. Because the parents need to earn money to support the family, the students face a summer alone, caring for younger siblings, and housekeeping. With parents off working, there aren’t many options for going to the library or attending camps because their work schedule may change weekly and no one can take them. Others face bare cupboards and empty stomachs. There are plenty of programs out there to help, but now I see how having shorter breaks more often throughout the year would really benefit these students.

For some, school provides the only structured place for security. During the last few days, these students tend to either retreat into their shyness or act out so severely, they spend time in in-school suspension or are sent home early. It’s almost as if they want to control the day they have to leave school, rather than dread the inevitable seclusion back home.

There are plenty of kids who race to the busses with visions of swim-filled days, barbecues, and bike-riding when that last bell sounds, but I think people would be surprised how many students secretly long for the stability school brings. While I’m excited for those students who can’t wait for summer fun, I’m always worried about the others, making the last day bittersweet.

What do you find bittersweet?

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I Think I Can…I Think I Can…

In the midst of all the half-marathons, marathons, and other fun runs going on across the country, I’m happy to announce I’m almost done with my own form of masochism: the national boards. I submitted the portfolio section the other day. While I thought I’d feel a great relief, I mostly felt nauseous. It’s not over yet, though. I’ve been studying for the written exam every day for the past couple weeks.

Unfortunately, I don’t get any real physical benefit from my hours of work. But, there’s something satisfying in its completion. Just like runners tend to bond over running and finishing the same race, I feel like I’ve entered some kind of secret society just by (almost) finishing. I won’t find out the results until sometime in late November or early December. By then, I hope the memories of the overwhelming process will leave me.

On Saturday, I take the three-hour long test. When it’s over, I’m sure I’ll cry from sheer joy, but mostly exhaustion.

What big project have you finished lately?


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