Thursday, October 8, 2015

Beyond Effective Instruction: How Authentic Relationship Building is Key to Success

I have heard from district conferences, professional developments, and from research that the most important aspect of a person's education is effective instruction by the teacher. However, I think that comes second. I believe that building a strong, authentic, and consistent student/teacher relationship is integral to maintaining academic achievement outcomes and fostering self-efficacy for students. Currently, I am in my second year of teaching mild/moderate special education. All of my students are the same,except for one. Already, I am noticing that the majority of my students are preforming at higher levels and are consistently putting more effort in a positive manner in their school work. Also, I'm hearing some of my students tell me, " Mr., you remembered when I told you I get silly and laugh when I'm bored or can't focus. You took me out of the class and spoke to me in the hallway and got me acting together again." I felt so happy to hear my students being self-aware and metacognitive of their behaviors. The student apologized and went back in the class and worked so hard using his accommodations/resources. I am seeing so many students being more organize, advocating for themselves, and making academic growth. Yes, the majority of my students are behind and I remember feeling like nothing will get them to where they need to be by the end of the year. However, I realized that as long as everyone tries their best this year and puts in 110% effort, then I'm fine with significant growth. Sadly, I feel that sometimes students don't have teachers that go out on a bridge and build a relationship. One of my students from last year is in high school now. I just learned that he was caught getting high in class and ran out of school the other day. The student keeps telling me, "Mr., no one gets me...they all get on my nerves and don't help me understand what they are teaching." I feel so much disappointment, yet I know this student needs more support. I remember this student turning it around last year and becoming one of my best students. I don't want all of our hard work to go down the drain. Therefore, I am advocating for him and talking to his mom to maybe get things worked out or in another school. I think to myself that see...this student might be getting good instruction that is "researched-based", but if there is not authentic relationship reach-out from teachers then the student doesn't connect to their education and loses self-esteem. I promised myself that I would NEVER let any former student of mine drop-out. I'll do whatever it takes to get the student back on track and graduate high-school. I've been monitoring all of the students on a web platform from our school district to ensure they are doing what they should be doing. My next step is to maybe meet with the student on a weekly basis and collaborate with his mom to ensure he is getting the services he needs to be successful in school. Finally, I want to end this blog on something positive. One of my students wrote me a letter after they said something very dis-respectful to me and it made me cry. The good type of cry. The last sentence said, " I know you always try your best to help me and I appreciate everything you do. Please know somedays I won't be my best, but I'll try my best for you." This, this makes the 15 hour days worth it and somehow I feel like everything will be okay.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Exploring Hidden America And The Impact On Students/ Educational Initiatives

        I've been focused on diving deeper/exploring student's lives behinds the scenes. I remember being in college watching ABC's " Hidden America" , a show that highlights the tragedies, stereotypes, secrets of different communities in America that don't fit the " perfect suburban middle class neighborhood image". It really made me grateful and fortunate for the life I had growing up and how it impacted my education and self-identification. The episodes that altered the way I perceive kids today are about Native American children in reservations, generational poverty in the Appalachian Mountains, children in the crossfires of gang violence, and homelessness in Florida. All of these episodes shed light on different parts of America. However, one theme they all had in common and was easy to see as a viewer, was children being negatively impacted by poverty/drug use or gangs/violence.

      The first episode was concerning children growing up in a Native American reservation in Montana. Diane Sawyer said alcoholism impacts almost 80% of adults living in the community as well as extreme poverty. The documentary also showed a teenage Native American boy about 12 excelling in school, on the football team, and taking pride in his heritage. Sadly, he had a very difficult home life as many Native American children do on reservations like Pine Ridge. He lives with extended family members ( 15) of them in a small house with leaks, mold, and rot in almost every section of the house. I just remember wondering how he kept it together in school and if his teacher were aware of his living conditions/home life.  The boy also shared with viewers that his mother was a drunk and when she visited him on camera he ended up crying on a sacred hill of his ancestors saying, " She's drunk again, calling me names, and telling me I am not her son." I felt so much empathy for him and realized thousands of children must be going through the same thing. Also, in the week ABC news was filming on Pine Ridge reservation, a father who was helping his daughters get ready for their first day of school crashed his car one evening and died. The cause of death was determined to be related to being drunk/intoxicated while driving. If this random unfortunate death doesn't show how dire the situation is on reservations for suicide and alcoholism then I don't know what would. I began reflecting and thought how can these kids even aim to be proficient or distinguished in their own state assessments, when more people are dying on their land in a year due to drunk driving/suicide then the war in the Middle East. It made me think about the school's role in the community. Obviously the school's job is to teach the kids based on standards, have cultural relevant instruction, and have well-trained teachers in classrooms. However, it made me think can BIE ( Bureau of Indian Education) do more involved in the community/in schools to  negate the impact of poverty and the epidemic of addicted drug/alcohol use? This particular part of Hidden America made me wonder if schools can rally for systemic social/ community change based on the fact that kids will not perform optimally in self-development/cognitive functioning if these extremely damaging social conditions continue to exist and seep into every fabric of the community. 

          Next, ABC's Hidden America's episode about generational poverty in the Appalachian Mountains was uniquely emotional to me since I lived close to them in Virginia. This episode focuses on life in the Appalachian mountains which are the oldest mountain ranges in America. The mountain ranges from North Carolina to New York. This particular episode showed communities in Kentucky and West Virginia. The common features of poverty in this region is people missing teeth due to excessive use of soda/drugs, lack of proper food, substandard educational facilities/instruction, and abuse of pills/alcohol. The episode showed a girl going on walks to get away from her mother who is always high and a young man in high school who is on the football team and strives to get out of town and attend college. The documentary shows a community with little job/product diversification, little community value for education, and a desert of community resources which could offer life saving aid/counsel. The young man ended up attending college for 6 months before succumbing to negative ideas like he couldn't keep up with college-level classes, couldn't afford food/tuition, and thought going home was the only option. The episode ended with him driving to the side of a mountain near a highway and digging for coal illegally just to keep his house warm. I was dumbfounded and upset to see him have such high goals and aspirations, and then return to dig for coal with no future in sight. As a teacher, I reflected on the need for schools to prepare disadvantaged youth for college level instruction, college life independence, and navigating the complex financial areas of affording college. Students need to be equipped with a wealth of knowledge concerning college life/education before entering the university. It is the school's job to train and teach kids directly/ on field trips so that they can sustain themselves through college and break the statistic of not graduating with a 4 year degree on-time. I strive each and every day to bring some element of college preparation into my middle school 5-8th grade classes so that kids know the expectation is for them to attend college and do well.

         Additionally, ABC's episode called children in the crossfires of gang violence served as a reminder that different communities have different issues that severely impact kids. I remember crying and feeling so much as Diane Sawyer said the names of children being innocently shot to death by just having a lemonade stand in front of their house, or laying in their mom's arms on a nice summer day, and when a girl was shot/killed sleeping in her bedroom. I honestly can't image anything worse than a community steeped in gang violence. Every child in the episode seemed to have PTSD and was visibly aware of how dangerous their community was. A young full of spirit boy showed Diane how many locks they had on their door and how he puts the trash can behind the door, a chair behind the trashcan, and then a broom on the chair. It was obvious the child wanted to feel safe in his own house and he thought by having all of these security measures he could help his mother and himself stay alive. Looking through educator's lenses I thought to myself how can this child focus on being on grade level math or reading when he could get shot/killed at any time during the day by anyone just because he lives in a community where gangs are at war. How can schools confront such violence with limited resources and scope of power? It reminded me of the power of in school mentorship/anti-gang education since gangs try to prey on young kids to join the ranks. Children are seen easy to prey on because many kids in these communities are lacking a father/mother figure who is working many jobs, is incarcerated, or is not able to take care of their child. Schools must strive to identify kids who are at risk for gang membership and have school-wide anti-gang initiatives. Only then, can schools focus on effective instruction and help kids feel safe enough in a classroom to learn and challenge themselves to complex problems/literature. This episode also brought to my attention on how violence/poverty impacts brain efficiency, development, and functioning in students. Some resources I found discuss how the brain is so focused on survival mode that little energy and brain development in regions associated with education, language, and problem solving end up at the end of the list for the brain. In other words, children who are exposed to violence/ poverty for extended periods of their life have a higher chance at developing brains/brain structures that magnify mental/emotional disorders and dis-regulate the brain for proper learning and information acquisition. This made me think about students who already have special needs and have atypical brain chemistry/structure that impacts learning. I wondered if the poverty/violence would only make it worse and the disability would manifest more frequently and at a stronger rate. So many questions I have and it shows the amount of research that needs to be done on brain science in relation to children in poverty/violence. Schools must then take this research and think of creative ways to help students overcome these disadvantages so that they have a higher change at being successful in school/college.

          Finally, the episode concerning homelessness in Florida was important to me because last year I worked at a school where we actually had homeless students. The interesting point is I didn't find out the student was homeless until she escalated and went off on me for asking her to push her chair in. The student advisor then told me her family has been living under a bridge for a couple months and they are about to find a shelter. It made me think how easy it is to assume everyone lives in an apartment, townhouse, or house by just seeing them in public. However, the importance of knowing your students backgrounds is evident in effectively addressing their educational/social-emotional needs. This particular episode showed a 14 year old girl and 13 year old boy living in a commercial truck with their father. The mother died when they were younger and the only food they had was in tin cans. It made me go back to the days when I lived half the time without a refrigerator and the only thing we drank was soda that sat outside. I recognized myself in the sister and brother because they both demonstrated maturity at an early age, were well-spoken, and had a strong desire/appreciation for education. Not all children in poverty assume this role, however sometimes the kids will see it as an opportunity to push themselves to obtain a high quality education and have a high paying job. I was one of those kids. This made me think about some of my students. Although they may not be homeless, some do not have food all the time, access to Internet at home or a place to study. As a school/teacher what can I do to help these kid succeed? I have tried to have tutoring/homework club after school so they can get most of their work done with my help at school/good environment. Sometimes our school gives our students snack bags they can take home in case they have nothing to eat for dinner. I realized more than anything, these kids need hope. I strive everyday to be that champion and offer my kids a high quality education with social-emotional support. I balance dealing with emotions/talking about home life issues with trying to teach them rigorous tasks/concepts. In the end of the episode, I really came to realize how fortunate anyone is to have a house or a place to sleep in that is safe and has a door. Students who are homeless must worry about many things before attending school. If I ever found out one of my students was homeless, I would guide them to resources that could provide them extra food, clothing, shelter, and hygiene solutions. Schools must address the basic needs of humans before they can endeavor or hope to teach students complex concepts.

                   All in all, the ABC's Hidden America series really stood out to me. I was proud of Diane Sawyer for revealing to America the sides of the country where the struggle is real. People need to realize that yes our country has the largest world economy, we have the best universities, and most innovative companies, but what does all that mean when we have children and people living in communities than reminded me of poor parts of Eastern Europe, India, or Brazil. We can not just stand on our high horse and say how powerful we are. We are only as great as our most disenfranchised citizen. Every person deserves to live in a community where they aren't afraid to die walking home from school or attend a school that actually prepares them for college and graduating. America must keep talking and finding solutions to fix these inequitable/tragic occurrences in our society if we are ever to live up to our promise as a nation. Until then, I will always have these children/episodes in my mind as a human, educator, and future leader. I will do everything in my power to help the students I come across who need additional help/resources. Children deserve nothing less.


Monday, March 23, 2015

A Long Thoughtful Day

I started off my morning feeling like death. I suddenly came down with something on Sunday. I could barley walk, had a fever, and my throat was so sore. However, I knew I couldn't miss a day so I forced myself to get out of bed and take my medicine. I got ready for school and opened my door to my new and improved classroom. I stayed at my school till 9pm on Friday to update it and make it as effective and student-friendly as possible. I smiled at my hard work and was happy much of it was behind me now. I started getting organized, had a meeting for a student, and then was getting ready for the day. However, one of my students came in crying. I know this student usually gets upset easily and I asked her what is wrong. The student told me her uncle got arrested and went to jail before she went to school. My heart sank because I know her father has been in and out of prison her whole life.  I found out everyone else was busy that could talk to her. Then, I put on my counselor hat and told her that it's okay to be upset, but not to blame herself. I told her how amazing of a person she is and that she wont be going down the path of her family members. Finally, after about 20 minutes of healthy conversation and building her back up, we go to class together. I just think to myself, so many of our students go through so much. We as educators can't change the lives of our students. We as educators can only support them, love them, and be there for them when times get difficult. Everyday, I see so many students doing fantastic things and I wonder what might be happening in their lives. How can they push through such challenges and arise to educational demands. As soon as  our students get to school we start working and activating pervious knowledge. I guess I learned and am happy I try my best to say, "hello, how are you today" to each of my students before we get started.Today was a long and thoughtful day. I left work around 7pm, last in the building and walking like an old granny. When I reached my car, I just stared into the sky being thankful for what I have and the stability in my life right now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

American Inequality

It's interesting to think about inequality in America. America is known to be the richest, most powerful, and democratic country based on freedom in our planet. However, vast inequalities exist among our society at almost every level of our economy and social structures. Today, in the year 2015, millions of people still yearn for basic principals of equality and dignity. Inequality takes form in an array of shapes. Subpar educational opportunities, modern slavery in our agriculture industries, ignorance in human slavery throughout black markets, and wage differences among blue and white collar workers are just a few. Inequality hits home when I think about the school systems in our country. Why are some schools racially and socio-economically homogeneous in urban districts, while suburban districts more heterogeneous student populations. I wonder what might be the impact of students missing the opportunity to work with classmates that offer linguistic capital, culture awareness, and life experience richness. The repercussions of inequality and segregated schools based on socio-economic and race factors hurt overall academic achievement and career and college readiness. The world human population is not homogeneous. Schools should send a message that inter-connectedness, effective respectful collaboration, and cultural awareness are essential to college and career readiness in the 21st century. As a teacher, I try my best to bring culturally responsive teaching to my classroom, but peer-peer cultural sharing and collaborative structures would be far more beneficial. Many people still talk about race and socio-economic exploitation based mostly on African-American and Latino populations. Impoverished minorities in the American population have been exploited for economic and discriminatory reasons based on ignorance and bias. Schools must fight everyday to give students a chance to prepare themselves academically and personally to rise above the normed statistics and defy deficits and hardships. All children have the capability to grow academically and personally, however limited language exposure, limited educational resources, and limited pro-social instruction can result in the child being far behind in education and socially acceptable behaviors. Schools must have enough financial resources to drive reform programs aimed and designed to target children who come from disadvantaged homes and arrive to school far below grade level. Historically, these kids would be put into intervention, disproportionally put into special education, or be failed. We as a nation owe it to our country's principles, our children, and our future to be proactive in reforming policy, actual school based programming, and demographic zoning of schools to ensure our students have a proper education. Financially, our country spends over $600 billion on the overall military. I wonder if we increased federal funding to title 1 schools and ensuring more heterogeneous populations occur in schools by $10 billion a year, what might be the result? I'm sure the overall future economic impact would be far-reaching and be positive. Globalization and rise of other state superpowers will continue to fuel market competitiveness and call for more stringent educational backgrounds to be considered for a job. The United States of America must take a stand to fight for it's children, it's future, and it's premise of being a beacon of democracy, equality, and freedom. No one can predict who might be the next Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., president, or great innovator. We must treat all our children with the respect and dignity they deserve. We all have a duty to advocate and encourage our community members, politicians, and educational stakeholders to take the responsibility of equality seriously. I am committed to work towards this dream and hope. America must not inevitably fall prey to it's dishonorable past of slavery and disguised equality. We must as a country, push for social change, provide the adequate resources to implement change, and monitor the field to ensure transparency and equality are upheld. Our kids, our future, and our legacy are at stake.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Uncommon Techniques for Unique Challenges

We know more challenging students are present in school systems and individual schools with a high concentration of students that come from impoverished homes, minority races as a majority of student population, and difficult backgrounds. However, how do these schools put systems in place and have constructive conversations to pursue the idea that all students are expected to succeed and do better? How does capacity trickle down from leadership to individual educators? How is parent involvement or voice being used? Are community resources being utilized? Is the school aware of home-life issues or events?  Do teachers/ multi-disciplinary teams have tools and strategies to deal with uncommon problems and situations?  All of these questions are important and must be dealt with if we hope that ALL students, including challenging ones succeed. I personally believe these students just need some extra love and creative student-centered support. All kids want to be heard, cared for, and know they are seen as important in someone's eyes. A person must be willing to have patience, listen, counsel, and provide effective support systems to guide and ensure that the student makes progress. It's been a while since my last blog post, however my students come first and we have been very busy at school. I have been very occupied the last 2 weeks trying to make sure some of my 8th graders have a smooth transition to high school. It is very important to me that my students know I care about their success in high school and I am willing to support them in the future. I have worked so hard to get one of my 8th graders to change his behavior and participate in his future high school's football program. I finally got him playing after calling the coach 3 times and offering to pay his fees, get his sports physical done, and I bought 3 fund-raising shirts. I guess I'm trying to send the message that I am willing to do anything to get him connected and be successful( even if that makes me broke). I told him that I want to attend all his games as best I can and want to check-in with him until he graduates. Some students really do need extra love, tough conversations, and support. Without a doubt, I try to support all my students, hold high-expectations, and have all parents as allies in their education. However, some students really do need something extra. Relationships and taking the time to get to know the student, the student's family, and the student's perspective on life is crucial to helping that student reach their academic potential and harnessing their inner best person. Some kids have gone through very traumatic life experiences such as fathers/mothers being deported, witnessing family violence/drug abuse, and living in poverty. All kids need to know they are cared about and know they have a consistent person to depend on when times get difficult. I want all my students to know I am willing to be that person. I have a student who wouldn't work for me for anything. However, after taking some time to reflect and assess the situation, I was determined to really get to know this person. The student now comes early in the morning ( sometimes before I walk in the door) and we share breakfast and talk about life or school. I know some people might think offering used Jordans might be too much of a reward, but I urge them to think about what their life was like. Not all kids have the same life experience. Some kids have nothing to look forward to at home, at school, or outside of both. I wanted this student to realize that life has wonderful opportunities and he can access these rewards by doing good in school and maintaing a positive behavior. So far, I am happy and satisfied with his overall progress. I know I have to use a variety of techniques to get buy-in from students. I differentiate supports like instruction with my students.  Some students play basketball after doing well and others just draw and use their artistic abilities to calm them down for 10 minutes. Each child has an unique interest and personality. We as educators must recognize these personal characteristics and utilize them to harness and motivate the students. After all, we can't instruct and engage in rigorous material without the student willing to participate and be authentically engaged. Also, we are going through PARCC right now. These tests are college and career ready ( obviously because they are some of the most difficult tests I have ever seen for public schools). My students are in special education, and therefore people already know that this test is going to be an extreme challenge for them. I tried my best as a first year teacher to prepare them, and knowing that most of them are severely below grade level. I knew it was going to be a very tough mountain to climb and overcome. However, I do not accept defeat. I am proud of my students overall, because 90% of them put 110% effort into the tests and tried their best. I only ask my students to do their very best and use the resources and strategies they learned/have. I already have a lot of new ideas to make next year even better! I want my students to work on computers more often and save all work to a classroom drive where I can see their work/add academically focused descriptive feedback. Additionally, I want to cheer them on to do even better and get them to respectfully critique each other's work! My students need more time and involvement with computers and use their strategies on rigorous assignments that add to their preparation and exposure to PARCC like questions/simulations. Additionally, if students actually showed evidence of building their strategy toolbox and using them all comprehensively, then they would internalize it and use it on the next test. I don't feel like I would be teaching to the test, because I want to make sure all my lessons are culturally relevant and connect to my student's interests. Finally, I'd like to add on a high note that I am proud of my middle school team. We collaborate a lot and it is so easy to communicate with my fellow co-teachers. Although, I think we could have more cohesiveness and cross-curriculum alignment, I am proud that we really do talk everyday about what is happening in our classrooms and share ideas. Next year, we are already preparing to ensure we have similar strategies/documents on our walls/with our students to make sure our students use them effectively in a variety of settings/ways. Here is to another week of testing and another chance to build relationships/set up our students for success!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Strengths > Weaknesses

Good Evening! I am excited to be writing my second blog post. Today ended with a nice snowfall and my evening SPED class was canceled. It is nice to be home before 7pm for the first time this week. I decided to name this blog Strengths > Weaknesses because today I thought about the amount of times educators ( including myself) are drawn to pointing out a student's weakness. As a special education teacher I desegregate data, analyze skills deficits, and see comparisons in normed data. However, I had a remarkable thought today concerning the importance of student strengths. I vividly remember always standing a tad taller when a teacher told me something positive about my classwork or solid work ethic in a class. I firmly believe all students want to hear something positive about themselves. It is crucial to build a student's self-efficacy up and increase their self-resiliency in confronting challenging/rigorous work. I commit to always say at least 2 positive things to a student each day and let them know I notice the great things they are doing. Also, I think creating a climate of positivity increases the affective filter of students. Students ( Ells, Sped, and otherwise) already come in with many home, academic, and mental health challenges. I believe we must lift our student's spirits and use their strengths as a strategy to improve their weaknesses. For example, I have a student who is a very gifted artist, loves rap, and enjoys graffiti. I wonder what if we combined these interests and strengths into the curriculum/instruction. What might be the potential impact or ramifications for culturally responsive teaching? I am hoping with my increased use of positivity and positive affirmation techniques, my students will begin to further make progress and realize they have the power to use their strengths on their weaknesses. Strengths are more powerful than weaknesses. Strengths make a person feel good, confident, and proud. Every person deserves to feel these adjectives in school. Finally, I'd like to share that I am reading a book my AP gave me ( when I have spare free time) about adolescents. I find it very interesting how different biological time clocks, the way parents raise children, and technology has changed children in such a short period of time. I always remember my mom telling me about her days in school. My mom said that everyone behaved and if she did one wrong thing, the school would call her mom and she would come and smack her. I don't believe in those tactics, however it makes me curious about the ever-changing dynamics of social behavior among our young scholars. I'm not sure how educators can change how parents raise their kids or how one can make a national platform on adolescent behavior. However, I do know that teachers have the power or realm of control to make a difference. Teachers can model, teach, and mentor students to make small differences each day and better themselves. I always tell my students they must have self-respect first. A person must love themselves and have true self-respect to hold themselves to high standards and accountability. I try my best to teach my students to love themselves and take pride in who they are. Yes, students witness tragic and difficult events at home/community, but they are in control of their actions/words. Again, I think all lines intersect at relationships. Human connections are essential to creating a cultivating environment that fosters the development of intra-personal relationships and respect for one's self. I encourage others to spread positivity and say a positive thing to each student in class. I learned this year from practice to always start with positive descriptive academic feedback before a negative one. In the framing of the negative feedback, I try to twist it to make it sound more encouraging. I'll end today's blog with this quote:  “I gave [my students] a saying to say: I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful, and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here." - Dr. Rita Pierson.  In conclusion, my mission is to get my students to truly believe in this and say it themselves. I hope everyone has a wonderful night!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Developing The Inner Champion:

Hello blog world! I'm not sure who might be the future viewers of my blogs, but I am glad you are here and took the time to read some thoughts and perspectives I desired to share. This is my first year as a special education teacher. I have never been so overworked and exhausted in my life from my occupation. However, I have never felt such an immense amount of self-fulfillment, satisfaction, and pride in my life. I honestly never anticipated to learn as much from my students, as they learn from me. My students each day teach me patience, how to apologize, the importance of laughing, humor, hard work, endurance, and how to rise to challenges. I foremost would like to acknowledge the importance of reflection. Each day I reflect on my instructional practice as a teacher. I ask myself constantly..did I have effective supports/scaffolding, did I ensure everyone used complete academic sentences, did I smile at that student and recognize improvement? I hope and strive to better myself and learn/adjust from each day's experience. I am inspired by my fellow faculty members and peers. I am thankful for this opportunity to profoundly impact so many kid's lives. I teach more than just Common Core standards. I teach how to conduct oneself in a formal setting, how to apologize, how to self-monitor, how to take ownership for actions, and etc. Overall, I want this blog to be a place to release and share my thoughts, perspectives, and ideas. Without a doubt, I know I could use this blog as a tool to remember how each day added to my construction as an educator. Finally, I'd like to end my first blog with a connection to an educator I admire and hope to emulate. Dr. Rita Pierson recently passed away. I first saw Dr. Rita Pierson on a TEDx talk on YouTube and was instantly a fan. I admired her ideas on building authentic relationships with students and the power they had in the schoolhouse. Each word and phrase was meaningful and made the hair on my neck stand up. I was paralyzed by the god-like disguised tone with each word. Dr. Rita Pierson was just not speaking, but preaching. This sermon, not being a religious person, was a call to all educators alike to rise to the occasion in building relationships with all students. Yes, yes the challenging students indeed need a mentor, a brick wall if you will, and a champion. I instantly was magnetized to the word champion. A champion I thought to myself, a person who wins perhaps. No, my instinctual  thoughts did not do it justice. A champion in this sense is someone who never relinquishes defeat to a student. A champion is a person of integrity, who holds ALL students to high standards, accountability, and is real when they know the student is not upholding themselves to their best. Students encounter a variety of people daily, but in their eyes how many are champions?  I would be honored to be that champion to at least one of my students. I hope at least one of my pupils see me as that unbreakable brick-wall, that support beam, that helping hand, that " praise the lord, I needed you" person. I want to always be there for my students when they need someone to confine in and trust. I know sometimes my students come to my office/class just to talk or perhaps escape an assignment waiting at their desk in another classroom. However, I always let my students know there is a time to talk and a time to get to work! I am a firm believer in getting to know my students. Some days it is okay to talk for the first 5 minutes of class. I like to know what my students are doing outside of school, what their hopes and aspirations are, and what might be troubling them. Every student needs a person they trust in a school. Trust is key to academic and personal success. All in all, I am well on the journey of building student-teacher relationships, implementing culturally responsive teaching, and humanizing my pedagogy. I just hope it's enough. As I end my first blog, I'd like to take the time to thank Dr. CW at our school. Dr. CW is our school facilitator and she promoted the idea of teachers having a blog to promote writing for our students. Perhaps one day my students will be blogging too. I always felt like blogging is a form of relief.I hope everyone has a wonderful evening. Time to watch an episode of StarTrek and fall asleep. I know I'll wake up a champion.