Friday, September 13, 2013

A Year Later: Reflections from the Strike

It’s been a little over a year now since the historic Chicago Teachers Union Strike of 2012.  For seven days, we were 30,000 strong on the picket lines and in the streets.  Being a delegate during this time has been one of the greatest experiences and learning event in my life.

I will never forget the outpouring of love and support from Chicagoans, and fellow educators worldwide.  I teach in a community where the families do not have many resources, but everyday families would drop off water, Gatorade, and homemade goodies for us.  The support ranged from thumbs up from customers at Target, to honks from CTA, CPD, and CFD, to churches dropping off coffee and tamales, and  truck drivers passing out candy bars.

I loved traveling around the city, and striking up conversations with Chicagoans.  People wanted to know what was really happening, what we were really fighting for, they were listening and sharing our story.  Taking the ‘el downtown for a rally and watching the train car become filled with more and more red shirts, never became less exciting.  I miss the feeling I got when we took over the streets, the excitement in the air combined with the solidarity was breathtaking.

Today as I looked around at my colleagues proudly wearing RED and CTU gear, I think about how we have changed since last year.  When we returned from the strike last year, we felt the pressure being placed upon us from administration, both locally and district wide.  We worked as hard as we could, gave everything 120%, but no matter what we did it never seemed to be enough.

This summer gave everyone and chance to relax and recharge, and we have returned with a new perspective on things.  I know for myself personally I am remaining in a peaceful state of mind.  I am not letting myself become stressed out over things that I cannot control.  My focus is on providing my students the best learning environment and learning experiences possible when they are with me.  (Despite this “lovely” reminder of the dangers of the neighborhood, on our classroom window)

Things are still far from perfect, my school has issues, as do many other schools, but what’s different from a year ago, is that my colleagues are no longer afraid to speak up.  From the strike, we learned that there is strength in numbers.  We are asking questions, we are challenging thinking, we are not okay with being quiet, and we want our voices to be heard.

I know that this fight, our fight, is far from over, the strike was just a first of many battles to come.  I know that with solidarity anything is possible.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Are We Learning? - Anchor Chart

I recently came across this anchor chart on Pinterest:

I knew that I just had to have this in my classroom.  With a few tweaks I made it my own, I can't wait to use it this year!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

8 Books for 8 Weeks of Vacation

With a few weeks left in the school year, my co-teacher and I noticed that our students seemed to have lost their motivation. While I too was feeling that same way, there was no way that we could let our students wander through the last couple weeks with no focus.  So I had the students write down three goals that they had for themselves for the summer.  I began jotting down what my goals were for the summer.  

Here are my goals:

1. Go for bike rides
2. Go swimming with the dogs
3. Read 1 book every week

Now I absolutely love to read, and it's something that has been put on the back burner for these last couple of months.  I've challenged myself to read books that are outside of my comfort zone.  The first book that I am reading is called "The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar.  
Now I have to confess this book is not one that I picked out, its actually required reading for a grant I got through Boundless Readers.  But I am looking forward to reading it because it is not something that I would normally read.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Recovering from the School Year

I originally started this blog as a way to keep blogging after my year blogging for CEC was over.  My every intention was to continue sharing my trials and tribulations as a teacher in Chicago, but then the craziest school year took over.  As I look back at this past school year, I am not sure how I made it…this year was harder than the year I was taking full time graduate courses.  I struggled with being thrown into a new position, teaching 3 new content areas, managing a homeroom for the first time, Rahm’s longer day, and longer year.  I began taking sick days, and personal days (something I had never done in the past).  I dreaded going into work more often than I should have, and ended up racing the students out the door at dismissal.

To put things quite simply I am burnt out. 

Everyone keeps asking me what my plans are for the summer, and I happily tell them relaxing!  I am spending this summer focusing on myself, and being more than ready to face the challenges of the upcoming school year. 

So follow along this summer as I share all of my fun projects and activities, as I refocus and reenergize.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New School Year...New Woes

I have never had a hard time with classroom management ever, so this year as I am struggling to find my teaching style in a middle school pod has been difficult to say the least.  I've spent the last 3 years as in intermediate special education teacher, and now this year to be a gifted teacher in middle school has been a transition for me.  I often feel like quite the outsider among the other teachers in my grade level.  They have been doing things together for a really long time, and I know that they don't intentionally not share things with me, but it's still hard for me.  I've gone from being the co-teacher, to having a co-teacher in my room 2 periods a day.  I am finding that routines are even more important in a middle school classroom than they were in my special ed resource room.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Collaborate Chicago!

Yesterday I attended a PD called Collaborate Chicago! A Conference about Common Core. Collaborate Chicago was co-sponsored by Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center. There were over 1,000 teachers there all excited to learn about the Common Core State Standards. For me the highlight of the day came during the welcome. CPS CEO Brizard walked about to a polite (and short) round of applause. CTU President Lewis was met with a lengthy standing ovation. Brizard standing and watching the standing ovation only made it that much better! For me personally that was the peak of the day, and everything else did not meet my expectations. I attended 4 different sessions hoping to get great new practical ideas for CCSS implementation, but that wasn’t the case. The presenters would start by briefly talking about CCSS, and then continue on to “best practices.” I signed up for the two special education sessions in hopes of help writing IEPs aligned to CCSS and ideas for supporting students with special needs in CCSS rigorous activities and texts. Unfortunately I didn’t get any new ideas or guidance in how to proceed with CCSS. The best presentation I went to was on the modified Danielson Framework and was co-presented by CTU and CPS. But even then I really wasn’t able to see the connection to CCSS.

I am frustrated because CCSS does not have to be fully implemented for a couple years, but we are being pushed to jump in quickly and become experts, when there really aren’t that many experts yet. (Well maybe there are CCSS experts, but I have yet to attend a presentation by someone I would consider a CCSS expert!)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Searching for my Magic Wand

During my first year of teaching, I found myself sharing my classroom with another teacher. She is a veteran teacher, but was new to the school like myself. We quickly bonded over navigating the dynamics and politics of the school. I was the 3rd grade resource and co-teacher, while my classroom-mate was the co-teacher for all of the grades where the teachers couldn’t cover the minutes. We were constantly bombarded by other teachers that needed a quick “fix” to their student’s problems. As my caseload grew from a manageable 14 students to a staggering 23 students, I was being seen as the solution for many tricky kids. Teachers and parents alike were always wondering why their child wasn’t reading, and when I would have them reading. Talking with my classroom-mate she decided that I needed a magic wand and all of my students would be “fixed.” So now the running joke is that I just need to wave my magic wand over my student’s heads, and that will make my life easier. Even though my classroom-mate and I haven’t shared a classroom these last couple of years, she will occasionally leave me a magic wand on my desk. It’s always a great reminder to laugh. While there isn’t usually a “quick fix” for my students, the magic wand is a visual reminder that the skills and strategies I’m teaching my students are the magic wand for them.