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.