Express Yourself

Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Seuss

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jeff Anderson Has A Message for My Class

I spoke with Jeff Anderson during the TCTELA 2016 Conference. I asked him if he would say something encouraging to my class. He took a little time to say hello. I uploaded this video to YouTube and I cannot wait to show it to my class tomorrow. I have read his middle grade book Zack DeLaCruz. Some of my students have also read it. I know they will be very excited to hear from him. I have to work out the details with Jeff about Skyping, but this will happen very soon.

Writing Advice from Jeff Anderson

I took some video of Jeff Anderson's session at TCTELA 16. I uploaded it to YouTube. I hope you find it helpful.

Back to Life, Back to Reality-Reflecting on the Last Three Days

On my drive home yesterday from Austin, I kept thinking about all that I had experienced during my time at the TCTELA 2016 Conference. There was so much to take in and process.

My head was throbbing due to a migraine that appeared in the afternoon. I know it was due to stress and lack of sleep. I had no down time and there was hardly anytime for sleep. I was up very late on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, working on my presentation. I wasn't able to work on it during the week because of migraines. I then came to work on 3 hours of sleep or so. I worked all day, coached a boys school basketball after school class until 5 pm. Then I had time to tidy up my classroom, make plans and copies for my class for Friday, pack up, pick up a colleague and be on my way. I had to stop at my house to pack my things. My colleagues and I were on our way to Austin at 7 pm.

I had a really great time traveling to Austin with my two colleagues. We had some great conversations and laughs along the way. We stopped over at Giddings at a Whataburger around 9ish. That was the time we actually ate dinner. We arrived at our hotel around 10 pm. We stayed up a little to work on the presentation and went to bed after 12 midnight.

It was up and Adam at 6 pm. We had a great breakfast in the hotel with lots of coffee!  Our first session was with Jeff Anderson and two other middle school authors. Each presenter had us go through a writing exercise involving tone. I really enjoyed experiencing each person's take on writing and crafting tone. They were very engaging.

Then we were to the author luncheon. We waited in line for 25 minutes for the doors to open. Sonia Nazario, the featured author, was awesome. I read her book Enrique's Journey earlier in the Summer. She described her journey in writing the book and going along with Enrique on his 3 trips from Honduras to the US.

I then had the honor to introduce two speakers from HEBISD. I met one of them before from a TABE Session I had done in McAllen the previous year. That was really neat seeing her. She attended one of my poetry session. The two presenters did a really great job presenting reading strategies. They recommended a book by Jennifer Serravallo called The Reading Strategies Book. I had previewed the book during Gretchen Bernabei's sessions. It looked really interesting. I ordered it from the QEP ladies, along with three other books.

I got to go out to dinner with my daughter and my friends. We went to Chuys. It took us a long time to get there. Austin traffic is worse than Houston traffic. The food and the company was very nice.

Later on in the evening, my colleagues and I worked and reworked our presentation. Before I went to sleep, I felt extremely pumped about our presentation.

We were able to attend the morning session with Varian Johnson. He shared some really great advice about writing. He also shared his journey and the backstory behind the publication of his books. What I gathered from his experience was that writing is work. There are peaks and valleys. I learned that you have to be determined and persistent. He is an engineer and a published author. He showed me that you don't have to be locked into one interest or even career. It makes sense that each person has their passions for different things in live. It is okay to have more than one career. I liked that idea.

I was nervous. The nervousness that I felt was not from being unprepared. I was prepared. My nervousness was an anxiousness. I wanted to get the presentation started immediately. I always feel this way before I present. It reminds me of how I felt before a volleyball or basketball game. It was an excited nervousness.

The presentation went well. I was worried about the acoustics in my videos that I used in my Powerpoint. The speakers worked okay, but the size of the room was so big, that the sound wasn't as crisp that I would have liked. Overall, I think the presentation went well. I only wish I was able to show the second to last video of my student's writing. There wasn't enough time. The time went so fast!

After the presentation, a few people came up and asked me some questions. They really liked the presentation. They thought that the information was very helpful.  When we left the venue, a few more people came up to us and congratulated us on a very smooth and informative session. Later on, I ran into another participant that I knew through some friends. I asked him what he thought and he said that he really liked it. He told me tweeted the whole session. He also told me that he got a lot of good information to share with his team. A few minutes later, I looked up his tweets and they were very positive. It was nice reading the tweets. After speaking with these people, I felt really good about the session.

I attended another session on portfolios and then a migraine started pounding above my right eye. I knew why. I couldn't wait to get some rest at home later and not have to get up early on a Sunday morning.

I woke up this morning migraine free! I hope the rest of my day goes this way.

From Thursday to Sunday, I felt as if I was in a learning vortex. This day I will try to chill out and take in all the wonderful learning and memories of TCTELA Austin 2016. It did not disappoint!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

TCTELA 2016 Presentation

I am very excited to be presenting today at the TCTELA Conference. I will be presenting with colleagues Noemi Leon-Garcia and Penne Irvin.  I will come back and add more to this post. For now, I wanted to leave a link to the presentation documents. Click on presentation documents to Our Digital Journey.

Monday, January 18, 2016

11 Minute Essay Examples

In December, my students were discovering the 11 Minute Essay structure. I didn't have time until now to type up their work. Keep in mind that what I have typed out is their first write. They really enjoyed writing it. We used the visual images with the truism that Gretchen Bernabei shared in her workshop. I really enjoyed sharing this gem with my students.  You will find their work below.

Working On My Room

I have been working on my anchor charts in my room. I have some windows that are the walls to my classroom. I had some posters up, but I decided to take them down and add some student work. I created these anchor charts, but I placed them on cabinet doors. I wonder if I will be able to keep them up or the fire marshall will have me take them down. I worked until almost 7 pm putting them up and taking things down. I really hope they can stay up for a while. I would hate to waste my time. I took the photos with my phone. I hope this work will help my students and anchor their thinking.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Inspiration Station

I haven't been able to sleep much this week. I knew this would happen, but I wasn't sure if it would take all week to get me back into my early to bed, early to rise sleep pattern. My stubborn sleepless pattern has been rather persnickety lately. Sleep evades me because my mind has been racing recently. Being back in the classroom this week has brought back the long awaited inspiration to write, reflect and continue on my journey. It has also brought back some stress into my life.

I thought that getting back into the swing of things at work would be a good thing, but along with school comes January and with January... testing. I was in a faculty meeting recently and was bombarded with test dates. Get ya test dates here! I heard someone say. These dates are too numerous to count, but count I did. In total, we will be taking up around 8 hours of classroom instruction to test our students in January. Seems a bit too much. I know I am in public education and everything but...

Driving home I wondered just how much testing goes in on private schools. Is it any better? Do the private schools have benchmarks, release tests, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, STAAR tests or anything else?  I would like to look into my yearly calendar and count how many total hours are devoted to kids actually testing. I would like to also add any kind of test prep time devoted to that total and then divide it by the time I teach individual subject on a daily basis. I suppose it will be more than I expect.  My goals, as a public school educator, is to limit the test prep and try to deliver meaningful and relevant instruction.  What type of wrench does testing put into this equation?  Right now, before I explore the data points, I would say somewhat of a monstrous Allen wrench. I need more time for instruction.

Interestingly enough, each time the word benchmark is uttered, students start to freeze. I don't mention it that often, but when I do I try to reassure them that everything will be okay.  I haven't really focused on prepping for benchmarks that much this year. I do wonder then why they freak out so much.  I haven't placed any type of pressure on them either. I only ask them to do their best and that is good enough for me, yet they still seem to anxious to test. That makes me wonder. More than that though, it makes me sad. There is too much testing going on and I see the stress it causes everyone. No matter how you spin it, it's just too much. Perhaps this stress won't let me rest. Maybe it will subside after January? Hardly, this is just the beginning of testing season. Ugh!

Those are my thoughts for the day. Now I can hopefully get some rest. I don't want these thoughts racing through my mind tonight. Perhaps now that I have unloaded these racing thoughts, I can actually get some decent rest.