Monthly Archives: March 2016

Conversations

Snippets of conversations…

“Ms. Elisa, you’re late!” (It’s 7:43 and I usually get to my class around 7:35 in the morning.)

“How’s your workshop, Ms. Elisa?” (I’ve been at a workshop all week long. I see my students first thing in the morning and not again until the next day.)

“Ms. Elisa, what do you prefer? Being in your workshop or being in the classroom?”
“Being here with you guys, of course!”

“Ms. Elisa, can you read chapter 5 of our story?”
“Of course! Just send me an email so I will remember.”


“Ms. Elisa, the lightning struck right outside our window yesterday! We hid under the tables. It sounded like an explosion!” (We’ve been having some intense electrical storms over the last few days.)

“Ms. Elisa, I won’t be in school today. Is there anything I can do at home?” (Email from a student who was out today.)

“Ms. Elisa, can I start to do some research for the information writing unit we’re about to start?” (Another email from a student.)

I have missed my kiddos this week! While I’m really loving the PD I’ve been involved in, I really want to get back to my classroom. Two more days…two more days…

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge, Day #30.

Leave a comment

Filed under #SOL16 Day #30

Funk

Sometimes I get in a rut.
Nothing interests me.
I’m easily irritable,
and I don’t feel like doing much of anything.
The problem is that I actually have a lot to do,
but nothing seems to attract my attention.

If I’m tired and sleepy, then I just go to bed, even if it’s early.
If I’m not sleepy, I wish I were and get cranky about the fact that I’m not.
I tell myself that if I could just go to sleep,
then I can forget about this funk I’m in.
Or, I can simply write about how I feel,
and hope that it will go away all by itself.

If none of that works, then I read a novel to take my mind off feeling out of sorts.

The problem is that
I’m not sleepy.
I’m writing, but it’s not really helping,
and I’m not reading a novel at the moment.

Wow! I sound whiny and negative.
I think I will just tag this as a no-good-very-bad-day and hope tomorrow is better.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge, Day 29.

Leave a comment

Filed under #SOL16 Day #29

Workshop

Today was the first day of a three-day workshop on guided inquiry and how to teach for enduring understandings. It is being led by two teachers from the International School of Brussels who are involved in the Common Ground Collaborative (CGC). There are about 40 of us attending the workshop, which is being followed up by two days for writing curriculum. The sessions are being held at my school’s campus, and there are educators from the Ivory Coast, Argentina, Venezuela, India, the US and, of course, Ecuador.

Here are some of my takeaways from todays’ session in no particular order of importance:

  • We learn best when we construct our own understandings (theories) about the way things work.
  • We learn best when we investigate answers to our own questions. 
  • As teachers, we can get the ball rolling and then we must step back to observe and take notes about what we notice. Only then can we plan learning engagements based on students’ current understandings. 
  • Teachers need to provide learning events that will allow students to explore their misconceptions and build their understandings over time.
  • We learn in different configurations – alone, in pairs, in small groups and whole class. Kids need multiple opportunities to explore ideas by themselves and with others. 
  • Understanding goals (learning targets, standards) are more effective if they start with the following sentence stem: Learners understand that…
  • Understanding goals are for teacher, not student, consumption.
  • Teachers can collectively create understanding goals by breaking up a topic into concepts and illustrative examples or facts.
  • Everything that we do in a unit should revolve around the understanding goals.
  • It is critical to assess what students understand about a topic or a concept at the beginning of a unit in order to plan learning events that help students build new understandings.
  • It is important to return to initial understandings at the end of a unit so students can reflect about what they learned.

Today was a full day of learning, but it went by quickly. We moved around, worked alone then in pairs and small groups. I built new understandings that connected to my prior knowledge and challenged me to rethink how students learn in my classroom. I left energized and ready to return for another day of learning. I wonder how many of my students feel this way? Do they leave at the end of the day thinking about all they learned in my class? Are they eagerly looking forward to returning for more the next day? I hope so, but I’m not sure this is always the case. I’ll be thinking a lot about this during the week as well as what changes I can make to ensure that this happens. 

For example, one change I will make right away is to create a system for keeping track of patterns of student responses to the various learning events they engage in during a unit, specially in the beginning stages. This will help me plan for more effective inquiry engagements in the class. This may sound like a small change, but I think it will help target my teaching toward what students demonstrate they are curious about or where they might harbor some misconceptions.
I am truly looking forward to tomorrow’s session!

Leave a comment

Filed under #SOL16 Day #28

The Edge

I subscribe to a word of the day prompt for writing. Yesterday, I wrote Footsteps in response to one of these daily prompts. Because I’ve spent the last ten minutes staring at a blank computer screen, I decided to try another one for today’s SOL. And, although I’m not necessarily a big fan of writing prompts I obviously need help again to get me writing. Today’s prompt is “edge”. My first response today, unlike yesterday wasn’t, “Woah! What am I going to write about that?” Instead, I immediately thought of several ways I could respond to this prompt to suit my needs and my mood at the moment. So, here it goes. 

This week has been difficult. It was our spring break vacation and we had some plans. We needed to tick off a few important items from our family to do list, like taking the car to the mechanic and paying the required annual registration fee. We went to the wrong place after a long time driving and now we have to pay the $50 fine for registering our car late. I felt on edge because at that point we’d been driving for about two hours as we’d done a couple of other errands before that. (By the time we got home, I would have been driving almost 4 hours total and I was exhausted. Driving in Quito requires heavy concentration and patience; I was running low on both of these by the end of the day.)
I tried to talk myself out of a rant since it was my husband that had bundled the appointment, not once but twice, and I knew he felt pretty bad about his mistake. I succeeded in bringing myself back over the edge.

On Tuesday we were going to drive to one of our favorite cities here, Baños, for the night, but my son got sick in the middle of the night. We thought we could still make the trip later in the morning, but by 11:00 it was clear that wasn’t a good idea. So, we stayed home instead.

On Wednesday, one of my brothers-in-law and his youngest son came from Guayaquil (the biggest port city here) to go to the soccer stadium to watch the Ecuador-Paraguay qualifiers on Thursday. We tied 2 – 2, but we almost lost. The team took us over the edge several times and people started to lose hope. However, groups of fans chanted encouragement to the national team and I do believe that is why they were able to tie the game at the very last minute.

On Friday, we went out for breakfast and then took a drive near our house. We were all a little bit shell shot from the outcome of the game: we really needed a win! In the afternoon, my brother-in-law and nephew flew back home and we went back to our routine.

Yesterday, we had a good friend and her family come over for a late lunch. That was definitely a highlight of our week. Their boys and our son had a blast and the four of us laughed so much that it made up for a not-so-good earlier part of the week.

Interesting how we focus on the negatives. If I wrote this post again, I would focus on the chores we were able to accomplish, rather than the ones that still need to be done. I would celebrate my brother-in-law’s visit and the tie that our national team was able to pull off. I would focus more on the lovely lunch we had with our neighbors. I would deal with my hoarse voice and frustration about the end of the vacation and a to-do list that seems to have grown rather than diminished.

A look over the edge is one thing. Focusing on that exclusively negates all the positive that can lift us up and that we can celebrate.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life, Day #27.
Edge

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Footsteps

I subscribe to a word of the day prompt for writing. Although I haven’t done any writing responding to one of these daily prompts yet, I decided to try one for today’s SOL. I’m not necessarily a big fan of prompts for writing. However, sometimes they help to get me writing when I’m stuck, or they give me a new way to look at things and get me writing in a different way. Today’s prompt was “footsteps”. My first response was, “Woah! What am I going to write about that?” Then, I remembered the recommendation not to see a prompt as limiting, but full of possibilities. Prompts simply require a response. What that response turns out to be may be of little consequence. What’s important is that it gets you writing. So, yes, this response has me thinking and writing. 

Footsteps…in the night?
Footsteps…behind me as I’m walking down a dark street?
Footsteps…of people in my past?
What kind of footsteps can I write about?

The word “footsteps” makes me think of something scary. Something to fear. Something that’s bad and out to harm me, but footsteps can also be symbolic. Representative of something bigger, more important. The footsteps that I’ve taken to get to where I am today. The life I have right now.

Footsteps through my Cuban town. More like skipping, rather than walking, to the houses of neighbor kids. Skipping to my elementary school. And, finally, footsteps that led me to the airport to get on the big bird that took me, my brother and my paternal grandparents to the Big Apple, the place I was to call home for the next dozen years or so. Footsteps through the streets of New York, mostly Brooklyn, sometimes Manhattan.

Footsteps to college in Massachusetts…far away from those other footsteps that led me there. So much so that I lost my way. I forgot my mother tongue. There were no footsteps to help me find my way back. Footsteps through the Berkshires, as distant from Cuba and NY as I could possibly get and still be on the same planet. Footsteps in the snow. Where are those footsteps now?

After college, there were many footsteps in the south, thinking that I could save the world. Footsteps west, when I realized I couldn’t or at least, not yet. Footsteps to Northern California. For another dozen years or so. Footsteps with my husband and my two daughters. Big footsteps and smaller ones, too.

Footsteps to Louisiana. Footsteps full of gumbo, jambalaya, gospel music, Zeydeco, jazz, blues, and more. Footsteps carefully traipsing through the French Quarter and Uptown. Footsteps…

Footsteps south to Ecuador the first time, and footsteps way north to Canada years later. But in between, my son left tiny footsteps in the concrete of this place and that one, too.

Footsteps back to Ecuador the second time. And, here I am. Footsteps to retrace my footsteps closer to where it all began.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teacher Slice of Life March Challenge, Day #26

Footsteps

Leave a comment

Filed under #CyberPD16

Ruminating about responsibility, standards, expectations and excuses

I have a widget on my blog that automatically posts a new quote every day.

Today’s quote caught my attention for several reasons. Here it is below.

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.Henry Ward Beecher 

First of all, I hold myself responsible to a higher standard. Always. In fact, sometimes I wish I could cut myself some slack because being responsible all the time is exhausting. Of course, I’m not saying that the alternative is to be irresponsible, but sometimes I secretly wish I did things in an ordinary way, rather than all the way. I think that’s why I sometimes feel that I’m not good enough. I have high standards for myself and everyone else, and there’s no way I would lower my standards, but I wonder if anybody really notices. Of course, that is not the point though sometimes a pat on the back or a bit of recognition could go a long way.

I started to write that I never excuse myself, but that is probably not true. I think sometimes I try to find excuses (I like to think of them as reasons) for why something didn’t work, but really they are just excuses to try to get myself off the hook. That is hard to admit, especially in a public forum like a blog, but I think I will only change that if I am honest with myself. So, I think what Henry Ward Beecher is trying to say, though living it is hard, is that we need to always have high standards regardless of what others expect of us. It’s really an agreement with myself and no one else. I think it’s also about putting forth my best effort, being honest and having integrity.

Something I need to keep in mind is not to push myself to an unattainable place that might set me up for failure. In order not to do this, I have to be honest with myself. I have to know my limits and what I’m capable of. And, I have to try no matter what. I have to be kind to myself. Then, I won’t have any reason or pretext to excuse myself for something I did or to shy away from challenges. It’s also about having self-confidence and feeling like I’m more than just good enough.

There is a lot to ponder in this two-line quote, more than appeared at first glance. What about you? How do you interpret the quote above?

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge, Day #25.

Leave a comment

Filed under #SOL16 Day #25

Manicures, Pedicures and Soccer

This morning I treated myself to a manicure and a pedicure.
It had been over a month since I’d last gone to the beauty parlor.
(Does anybody else call it that anymore?)
As usual, I enjoyed my time there.

Whenever I go, I just watch whatever is on the TV, which is more often than not a soap opera in Spanish, or I listen to the conversations of the other ladies who are there.

Sometimes, I just space out and then I realize I haven’t been watching what the manicurist has been doing. I chide myself for not paying attention because I like to give her tips about what I would like her to do.

After she’s done, I usually stay for 15 minutes or so waiting for my nails to dry, but today I left right away. And, for a good reason: we were going to the Ecuador – Paraguay qualifying match for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Ecuador is undefeated in South America and today they tied 2 – 2 against Paraguay with minutes remaining on the clock. Tuesday, the national team goes to Baranquilla, Colombia to face off against their long-time rival.

I am a huge fan of most sports and often get carried away by MY team. Whether it’s the NY Yankees, any of the San Francisco Bay Area Teams or the Ecuadorean national team, I can get pretty crazy when viewing a game. Today was no different. It was an action-packed, emotion filled game.

The Ecuadorean team was missing several key players that are hurt and so couldn’t play. There was last-minute juggling of the starting line-up and the team didn’t look as smooth as they have during this qualifying round. Nevertheless, the stadium was packed. There was yellow everywhere you looked. And, everyone was happy to be there. I screamed and yelled and got as emotional as the next guy when our team scored their respective goals.

Now, I am exhausted. My throat is hoarse and my feet hurt even though we were sitting during most of the 90 minute game. But, it’s the emotion that has tired me out. I don’t mind though. We’ll be sitting down to eat, soon. (My husband is the chef in the family, by the way.) Then, we can relax. I will read before going to bed, but not before talking with my husband a little more about today’s game. Starting tomorrow, though, the talk will center around Tuesday’s Ecuador – Colombia match.

Bring it on! I love a good soccer game.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge, Day #24.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized