Just a warm body in the room to supervise!

I have been at a workshop for two whole days!  It has been heaven!  I love learning new things.  It brings back my excitement to do what I do!

I’m so spoiled that I got to spend two days learning along with other teachers.  My school district allows me to do so really whenever I please.  I am truly spoiled to be able to do this. I’ve been at the ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) conference.  I have been learning and practicing what I love…”computing”.

But since I have been gone from my classroom for two whole days, that means I wrote sub plans for seven different classes for two whole days, grades K-8!  I am a perfectionist/control freak so this has always been a daunting task for me.  I simply try too hard.  I write too much or leave too much work or not enough or confuse the sub or whatever.  It has never been easy to leave my classroom in someone else’s hand.

It has always been a challenge for me to write sub plans for any period of time because usually my substitute teachers DO NOT speak Spanish and I always had to just leave movies in the past, or left things that had nothing to do with what the students were learning…or just busy work that they would get nothing out of…

But technology and 21st Century learning has changed ALL of that!

While I have been out of my classroom, my students have been learning and producing so many wonderful things!  Here are their new blog posts that I simply emailed them instructions in an email with screen shots of what the screen should look like and check out what they accomplished!

My 7th grade rock star bloggers can be seen here!

My 8th graders rocked their blogs as well!


I explained to them in videos and emails how to embed Vokis and video into their blogs, we went over Quality Commenting thanks to Silvia Tolisano and a great video she shared with me, they created Animoto videos and posted those to their blogs, they all went CRAZY with the comments and really, truly enjoyed themselves commenting on each other’s work appropriately and with such kindness and appreciation for one another.  I was amazed!

I was not physically present for any of this and look at what they created!  My substitute (who did not speak any Spanish) was there present as a warm body in the room to supervise.  I was chatting on Skype while at my conference with a sick student, I emailed back and forth with I think EVERY one of them, commented on their blogs, moderated their work and comments, corrected and created a Google Doc with my 6th graders, chatted on the Google Doc answering their questions …and so much more!

I was not physically present, but present in many other ways for them while learning new things myself at the conference!  What a wonderful educational experience for me and for my students.  All these 21st Century Tools and the ease of technology have made my job and my students’ jobs so much easier and so much more enjoyable.

I will sign off with a chat I had on Skype with a 7th grade student after my first day away…

So they actually “LIKE” what we are doing in class!  So much so that my email inbox has been flooded with questions and comments!

Helpless & hopeless OR helpful & hopeful

I am not sure where I stand today.  One of my posts was about THE POWER OF A TEACHER.

I still believe in my power, in our power.  I do believe in the change I can mold, make or model, but I’ll try to make this short and sweet even though there are so many thoughts swirling in my head. I’ll try…

This post will not be my happy shiny smiley usual post.  I am a bit conflicted today.

How much power do we have?  How much power do I have?  I am not talking about being an authority figure, that is not what I mean by power.  I never mean authority nor any sort of intimidating gross power when I say that word power.  I am talking about the power of change.  I am talking about a positive, proactive power to create what I want to see in the world around me. That is my job.  It is our job.

I feel each day I need to be my best self.  I need to be my true self.  I need to live in gratitude and appreciation for all the good around me and love and accept all that occurs through out my day with an open mind and an open heart.  I need to recognize the good, the bad and the ugly, and be present so that others can follow along and maybe feel the way I feel about life…just good.  I feel good.  I need to be my best self for me first and then for my students and any one else I encounter through out my day.  That’s a lot of pressure, but I like it.  I like the pressure to be my best self.  I have little eyes, ears, hearts and minds learning and watching each day.  That is A LOT of pressure, but I really do like it.  It is such a challenge.  It is such an adventure.

I attempt to do this on a daily basis.  I think I do a pretty good job.  But in my short 31 years of life and in my short 9 years of teaching I have learned that there is only so much I can CONTROL.  I teach in an AMAZING school district.  There is no question that my place of work rocks and I could NOT ask for a better environment to grow and learn along with my students and colleagues.  It is a spectacular place.  Thinking about this CONTROL and this POWER for change that I possess, here is (are) my question(s):

What do I do about a student who grows up in a family environment where they are taught to lie and fabricate any story (no matter what) to get what they want?  How much change can I make in that child’s life and do I try when the parent is doing the same to get and manipulate what they want?  Can I help there?  Can I be a change there?  I am not so sure…

What do I do about a student who feels so poorly about themselves because their parent makes them feel that way?  How much change can I make in a child’s life who is so accustomed to negative attention from a parent that they seek it from me?  I don’t give it.  I am only giving love.  But I am not that child’s constant.  I am only there for them 40 minutes per day.  Can I be a change there?  I hope so…

How many times can I model kind, empathetic, sensitive behavior to a group of students who continue to over-dramatize situations just for the sake of drama?  I am lucky enough to know my students for NINE YEARS.  I CAN really truly make change.  But some times I just don’t see it and I am hopeful…or is it hopeless for some of these situations?

Please, please comment!  Get me out of this funk!

Power of a TEACHER

“THEY” say teachers are the worst students…

So it is said A LOT at staff meetings, professional development sessions, workshops and conference galore that teachers are the WORST students…well, after school today from 3:30 to 4:30 in my classroom I witnessed the exact opposite!
I taught a one hour TPRS Spanish lesson to about ten of my colleagues.  Yes, after a long school day, TEN of my fellow teachers agreed to come and learn Spanish with me!  That is amazing in itself!  We will have class each Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 until the end of the school year.  One of my colleagues even stated before we began class, “You know Lauren, teachers are the worst students!”  Well not today!  I am sooooo accustomed to teaching children each day.  I teach them vocabulary, we learn it in context with some physical responses and then tell stories, read and play games.  It is a routine that every single one of my students is so accustomed to because they meet me when they are five and leave me when they are fourteen.  Learning Spanish through this crazy TPRS method is just what we do.  It is their normal.  It is Spanish class.  They know no different.  My students are engaged, they are learning, they are fun and it is very enjoyable for me and usually for them too (I think.)  I enjoy myself each day as I teach Kindergarten – 8th grade, but today teaching adults was a completely different sense of enjoyment!

These teachers I taught today were THE BEST students in my opinion!  I had so much fun!  I gave everyone a TPRS reading and acitivity book called Cuéntame más from TPRS Publishing Inc.  I explained a bit about how TPRS works and then I taught them the first vocabulary set.  What a difference it makes when “your students” really want to be there and be learning what they are learning.  What a difference when you’ve chosen to be learning what you’re learning.  They were asking such insightful questions.  They were asking about verb forms, how to conjugate things and the origin of the words.  They were so interested in getting the words just right and writing down any extra words I threw into our story.  Oh my gosh!  What a great experience!  By the end of class, my ten students had listened and understood two mini-stories in Spanish, they read a story and completed a true/false activity ALL in Spanish.  I am so grateful for this opportunity to teach a group of adults something that I can so easily and so enjoyably share with them.

I can’t wait for our next class!  I learned today that the statement, “teachers are the worst students” is so not true!  And the idea of getting my real students interested and engaged in the learning we are doing was definitely reinforced.  It is essential.

I am going to film our classes from now on so that people can see how great our classes are and then maybe others can learn along with us if I post the videos here.


Every Tuesday I begin my teaching day with my Kindergarten class.  I love Tuesdays!  I wish I had video of my class with them today!  They are learning Spanish through TPRS.  Today and every day with them is such a learning experience!  I must preface this whole post by saying that I only get to teach my darling Kindergarten class one time a week for 30 minutes.  Today we were recycling some words we had learned last week: the fish, the cat, big, and small.  So I used a technique called directed draw.  I told them some little mini-stories and then they drew what I said.  Simple.  We used small dry erase boards and markers.  THEY WERE SO EXCITED to be able to use the dry erase boards and markers!  They were even more PUMPED when I told them they were going to get to sit at the big kid tables.  (We usually sit together on the floor in a big carpet because the tables in my room are more suited for middle school kids).

It was perfect because they are learning the words big and small so as they each walked to sit at their tables, they were all saying, “Ooooooooooooo, grande.”  And then talking about how pequeño they were (because I asked them if it was okay and if they could handle sitting at the mesas grandes, even though they were muy pequeños.)  Oh my gosh, they were all so happy to be sitting at the tables!  Oh I wish I had video!  Next time!  They were beaming, feeling so proud of themselves at the tables.  It was such a little thing that meant so much to them.  They are a constant reminder to always find joy in the little things.  Honestly, if I can try each day to take a moment to notice just the simple things in life that make me so happy (like sitting at the big kid tables) maybe I can achieve that sweet, innocent, innate happiness like my kindergarteners have.  It is such a simple lesson, but such an important one.  It gets so much more difficult for many of us as we age and experience certain changes in life, but being around kids (of all ages) each day truly reminds me how simple life can be.  How happy I can choose to be… They teach me just as much, if not more, than I teach them!   Here are two quick adorable videos of them singing to brighten you day!

We ARE ALL teachers

I am stealing this blog post title from  @gcouros The Principal of Change.

I had so much time to myself this week because we had a Teacher Institute Day on Monday and then only one actual FULL school day on Friday because of the Big Bad Blizzard of 2011. What a week!  One full day of school? I LOVED all this time to be stuck in my house, completing house projects I’ve been meaning to complete for YEARS and so much time to learn from my PLN and all the sharing of resources and ideas that come to me via Twitter and all these amazing blogs I subscribe to now!  But it made me realize something…

All (well, most…the majority) of my great “learning” moments that I like to post here to my blog come from MY STUDENTS!  They are the ones that inspire me daily moment by moment, sometimes so much that I have to choose what I might write a post about.  I was only around them for one half day and then one full day this week and I found that I had so much less to say.  At first I thought it was sad.  What happened to me?  When I began this blog just recently I had so much to say…..hmmmm…..I was disappointed in myself.  But then after reading @gcouros blog post I felt so differently.

Here is the message that stuck with me the most, he writes, “Here is the bottom line for me.  We are all teachers.  We care about ALL kids, not just our own students.  Some of my best interactions this past weekend were with students from SLA.  Sometimes I believe that kids do more for us as educators than we do for them; they are great to be around.

This is so meaningful for me.  I believe it to be so meaningful for all of us as we all become so connected.  Thank you for your post @gcouros!  I had a great week of learning on my own, but the realization that being around my students and learning along with them is what seems most inspirational and feels so good to me. 

One last note, I sadly still watch Greys’s Anatomy (I say sadly because it is such a silly Soap Opera with not much reality to it at all).  But tonight I was impressed and happy to still be watching it. I watched last Thursday’s episode on DVR and EVEN Grey’s Anatomy promotes the IMPORTANCE and BENEFIT of Twitter as a way to connect professionally to help each other learn.  It is so important to be connected to others in order to learn.  I realized this being away from my students this week, and I realize it daily reading tweets and blogs.  If you haven’t seen last Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, watch a bit here and see the benefits of TWITTER in action! They save a man’s life because of it! It is just a five minute clip (with advertisements beforehand of course) but explains the benefits and growth we can all experience quite well!