Teacher Leadership in Action: Leading in Advocacy Video

I am so proud to share this video made by the Arizona K12 Center.  Advocacy is nothing I thought I would feel so passionately about when I was just beginning my career.  But years of working in our education system have made it impossible for me to stand quietly aside while other people (so-called “experts” and “reformers”) speak for my students and my profession.  Check out the video here on the Arizona K12 Center’s website.  While you’re there, check out their other podcasts and videos and the incredible professional learning events they offer.   I consider myself lucky to be associated with them.


Movin’ On Out

I look around the familiar classroom, looking decidedly unfamiliar, empty of all the trappings of my life as a teacher.  Someone else’s boxes neatly line the walls.  My eyes well up a little as I lock the door of Room 256 for the last time.

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Even though this is already horribly maudlin, you have to rewind to three weeks prior to see the real water works.  That was when I was informed that myself and my fifth grade teammates were been moved out of the school building we’ve worked in for 11 years and into…(dun dun DUN) the portables.

Let me paint you a picture…when my former students found out I was moving to the portables, they raced into the building to regale me with tips on how to catch the scorpions and how to adjust the air just right or else suffer the freezing yet humid air of the windowless, low-ceilinged room.

Cue massive panic, a few tears and maybe a little temper tantrum.

You may think I’m taking this news little poorly.  At this point, I was.  People who’ve known me for years commented that they’d never seen me so worked up about things.  That is evidence of what this move means to me – environment is everything in my practice and the environment in the dark, dank portables is not exactly what I’m going for.  In addition, this move is providing me with weeks of work I was not planning on this summer.  Now, before any trolls out there start complaining about a teacher having their summer off, read my friend Monica’s blog here, my friend Anna’s blog here and follow #teachersummer.  I work 70-80 hours a week during the school year working 2 jobs so I can afford to teach and I’m a doctoral student so I feel like I’ve earned my 6 weeks (not 3 months) of rest, rejuvenation, and reflection.

As it turns out, cleaning and purging is cathartic.  I’ve spent 6 years in this room, so I suppose a deep clean and/or move was overdue.  And I really cleaned out, thanks to a well-meaning janitor who mistook my “giveaway” pile for my “trash” pile.  I know I’ve been lucky to even be the same room for 6 years.  As my daughter’s teacher told me (as she was expertly packing up her room to move) “I’ve moved 16 out of the last 17 years I’ve taught!”

With the space and refreshment of a family vacation, I’m ready to be positive about the move.  My exploration unit will feel more authentic because the titled portable floor feels like walking the deck of a ship in rough seas!  The crime scene tape used in my CSI: Boston Massacre lesson will look so much more authentic!   It’ll be so much roomier to enact the mock surrender at Yorktown outside on the field, mere steps away!

In all seriousness, I’m looking forward to reorganizing and redecorating my new-to-me, tiny portable.  Look for a classroom reveal from the new fifth grade fiefdom in the next month or so!

Op-Ed: Higher Standards Begin With More Training for Instructors

Recently, my friends and respected Arizona teachers, Kristie Martorelli and Tara Dale and I responded to a recent ACT report that incorrectly criticized the Common Core State Standards.  We felt strong that the survey cited in the study was flawed, narrow, and misleading.  The issues raised in the study and survey point more to the flawed implementation of the standards, not the standards themselves.  Please find our op-ed published on The 74 here.

Beth’s Books: Favorite Author-Dan Poblocki

Sometimes people are surprised that I read many of the books that are in my 1,000+ book classroom library.  I do that for many reasons, one main one being that I love to read, including YA.  Modeling book commercials is another (see my Book Commercial post here).  But I feel like one of my “specialties” in sixteen years of teaching (and thirty-something years of devouring books) is connecting my students to books and connecting with them through our discussions.

Many of my students this year love the horror genre, so I am always on the lookout for quality grade level horror beyond R.L. Stine and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.   Age appropriate material is always an issue when we’re talking about horror, too.  Enter author Dan Poblocki.

The Ghost of Graylock and The Book of Bad Things are favorites of my class but I also enjoyed The Stone Child and The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe.

I just finished Poblocki’s The Nightmarys, which leads me to another reason I read so many of the books that end up in my classroom library.  I’ve planned a writing lesson using this book.  I’m going to read aloud one particularly creepy locker room scene (begins on page 66) to review the use of sensory details in our writing.   My class will love the spooky scene, and it will be a great review of a concept of which I’ve noticed we need a bit of review.  Awesome side effect?  It will generate buzz about the book and author, sparking a frenzy of reading, discussing and trading the books back and forth.

What favorite horror books do your readers enjoy?