April 23, 2017

Create the Class Environment That You AND Your Students Can Thrive In

Creating the Class Environment That You AND Your Students Can Thrive In!

I couldn't be more excited to write this blog post!  I hope that you can feel the enthusiasm and electric current jumping off of the page.  I am working to create a course about creating a culturally responsive classroom.  I'm in the Beta Testing phase and I am in need of dedicated teachers like yourself to jump in and test the course out.  All participation is free!  In return, I am seeking your constructive criticism, full participation, and testimonials if you found the information to be helpful.

So, What Exactly is This All About?

The course is about creating a classroom that is in tune with the cultural diversity of its students, and meeting the needs of those students in a way that makes them feel like they are important and that they belong.  In essence, that's it.  When students feel like they belong, they show up.  They show out academically (raise their performance to the next level).  They will give you their hearts, their time, their attention, their support, and full buy-in to virtually any lesson that you try to impart.  They will love you because you have made them feel loved.

Cultural responsiveness and the building of relationships is key! They go hand-in-hand and can change the trajectory of your entire classroom.  Cultural responsiveness relates to the way that you respond to, take in, evaluate, and react to others based on YOUR culture.  Your culture is everything about you- your frames of reference.  Your upbringing, family dynamics, socio-economic status (growing up and today), religious beliefs, work ethic, birth order... Everything that makes you uniquely and wonderfully        y-o-u. Being in tune with the way that your culture impacts the way that you see and relate to others is a powerful level of knowledge to have.  It can be a beautiful thing!

Benefits to You:

  • Learn what a culturally responsive classroom looks and feels like
  • Learn more about being a culturally responsive teacher
  • Deepen connections with your students
  • Be excited about stepping into your classroom each day
  • Have excellent classroom management
  • Feel in control of your classroom and confident about your lessons and lesson delivery
  • Increase student and parent buy-in
  • Improve communication with and buy-in from administration and other stakeholders
  • Build the classroom that is welcoming, supportive, and has an emphasis on academic excellence
  • Show students how to communicate with understanding and compassion to improve their peer relationships
  • Decrease disruptive behavior- Students will be too busy enjoying your lessons to act as distractions!
If ANY of these points sound like areas that you would like to improve or take to the next level, click on this link.  I'm Taking My Teaching to the Next Level!  Scroll to the  bottom of the page and click on the box that says, "APPLY HERE".  Complete the application so that you can sign up to learn more!  

Beta Testing is FREE.  There is no charge to you.  In exchange, I would request your honest, constructive feedback to help me cater the direction of the course to better help more teachers and students.  

What Do You Get to Experience as a Beta Tester?

  • A FREE mini-course on creating a culturally responsive classroom.  I only need 2 weeks of your time.
  • The opportunity to have a positive impact on your peers by helping me develop a course that will be beneficial to other educators by changing the trajectory of their students' potential
  • Access to a facilitator that will support you every step of the way and be your biggest cheerleader and confidant.
  • Interaction with fellow teachers that are in the trenches with you and have similar goals for themselves and their students.
  • A private Facebook group where you will share your experiences, goals, ideas, successes, and/or "please help me" experiences.
  • Live 1:1 coaching via group calls on a video platform.  They will also be broadcast live in our Facebook group.
  • A better understanding of how to increase your cultural responsiveness to foster self-confidence and positive self-fulfilling beliefs in ALL of your students.
I am excited to have you join me!  Click here to Have the Classroom of Your Dreams!  
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Apply here".

I'll see you in our course!

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April 1, 2017

When a Blackout Kickstarts Family Time and Creativitiy


Blackout is a timely, conscientious, and socially aware book.  It is a an excellent way to incorporate cultural responsiveness into the learning environment and to show the importance of family.  What I love about this book is that it incorporates all of these amazing attributes in a very quiet and natural way.  You can highlight these characteristics just by reading the story and providing students with new frames of reference to add to their toolboxes.

I discovered Blackout, written and illustrated by John Rocco, in our school media center.  It was on display on the top of one of the bookshelves.  The cover drew me in right away.

It was dark, slightly creepy, and very mysterious! Perfect!  Right??!  The type of emotional reaction that drives you to action.  You either speed past it or stop and grab it.  I snatched it off of the shelf and sped to the check-out.

Plus, THAT title... Blackout!  We can all draw on past experiences of a blackout.  I can tell you about an experience that I am not likely to soon forget.  Around 2 years ago, we had heavy snow fall in our area.  Not that it has never snowed here before, but this winter, it snowed heavily AND it rained.  It turned a really pretty and tranquil winter into an icy nightmare.  There were frozen drops of ice accumulating on everything.

Then, of course, you know what happened next.... 

This is exactly what I felt like screaming!  LOL

Our power went out.  For hours.  Then, for more hours.  We were freezing.  There were no amount of clothes that we could layer.  There was no "warm spot" in the house to escape to.  We were turning into freezie pops and I was starting to really worry that we might actually freeze to death, and later be found in our home.  Not exactly the way I was thinking that I might depart this earth. Morbid, I know, but honest and true.  

Reading the Story to My Students

What did I decide to do?  I introduced the book to my students; telling them the title, showing the cover, and sharing the author's and illustrator's names.  Then, I turned out all of the lights and pulled out my flashlight.  Yes!!  Fun!  We read the entire book by flashlight.  Every now and then, I would shine my light on the chest of someone that was being a great listener and who was really drawn into the story.  They loved this, and I could tell that they were secretly waiting with anticipation to see if I would shine the flashlight on them.

One Sweet Lesson That the Book Shares

I love that this story speaks of a need to disconnect from our busy lives so that we can all reconnect in a time when this is an epidemic in so many homes. In the story, the main character (We couldn't quite tell if it was a boy or a girl.  I was thinking a little boy, but my students weren't so convinced.), is trying to get their family to spend time with them. Everyone is busy doing something.  Then... a blackout forces them to re-examine their actions.
Sidebar:  As a parent-
I cannot tell you how many times I have had to "gently remind" (um hum, you know what I mean) my teen daughter to put her cell phone down.  She gets in the car texting.  She rides in the car texting.  She texts as she is falling asleep.  She texts while she is eating.  Enough, young lady!  When I am present, the phone goes away.  Or else, the phone will go away!  Are there any parents of teens out there?  Can you relate?!  : - )  

Back to the story....

The fact that this book features a multiracial family is also very in-tune with many of the family dynamics that exist.  There is an African American mother and a Caucasian father depicted in this sweet, family-focused book.  What I loved most about my experience reading this book aloud to my students, was that not one of my students seemed to be concerned or distracted by the fact that the family wasn't all one shade of brown or tan.  They were just another family in a fun book.  

I don't think that I have ever seen any books in our library that show a multiracial family.  I'm actually pretty sure that I haven't.  But, just think of all of the bi, or multi, racial children that will see this depiction and feel a connection, deeper sense of pride, and recognition from seeing a reflection of themselves in their learning environment.  This is POWERFUL, special, and oh so very important. You are going to empower your students and have a great impact on their lives!

Tying Blackout in with the National Crayola Crayon Day Celebration

So, you may have noticed the rather large photo of a little girl coloring with a box of crayons.  LOL Well, when I originally sat down to write this post, I was going to talk to you about how I used this action-provoking book for an art activity that was inspired by this March 31st celebration.

As you can imagine, this book lends itself to great art activities.  Blackout, of course, elicits thoughts of darkness.  What did I do?  Ran to the cabinet and grabbed a handful of black construction paper. Then, I went inside of the other cabinet and pulled out 2 boxes of oil pastels. 

Look at what they created!

The Oil Pastels are so beautiful and vibrant against the black paper.

In this picture, the family decides to spend time playing a game of cards.

I am sorry that this one is upside down.  It was saved this way in my camera.
This is the part of the book when the family goes outside to gaze at the stars during the Blackout.

I love how they drew this house in darkness from when the lights went out. :-  )

Yes, they really went for it, and they loved every second of being allowed to dive into the vibrancy of the Crayola oil pastels!

Grab a copy of this book from your school media center, local library, bookstore, or online.  Tell me what impact you think that it had on your students in the comments below.

New-Hardcover                 New & Used-Paperback

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March 25, 2017

Top 4 Reasons Why You Need THIS Book

Let me tell you how this beautifully written story changed the climate of my classroom.  It was actually by accident that I read this book on the exact day and moment that I did.  By "accident" I mean that I was literally in the process of returning a pile of books to the cabinet when THIS book came in to view.  The book had been a "Teacher Wish List" purchase from our last Scholastic Book Fair.  I never read the story, but the cover had drawn me in.

The instance that my eyes landed on the page and I cracked a quick peek inside, I knew that I would be changing my lesson plans for the morning.  I pushed everything aside, called my students back to the carpet, and began to read this story.  I was so genuinely moved by the text and the simple, yet, fully complex, pictures that accompanied each thoughtful word.  I gave my girls lots of eye contact and smiles, and I made sure that the boys didn't miss a bit of the message that was being conveyed!

Beautiful is all about.... G-I-R-L-S.  Plain and simple.  Girls playing in mud.  Girls hanging out together.  Girls dressing up in costumes.  Girls, just being girls.  Non-stereotypical.  Strong. Independent.  Just-doing-their-own-thing-kinda girls.

Here are the Top 4 Reasons Why You Need THIS book:

# 1  To Build Confidence and Self-Esteem

After I read this book to my class, I had every student get their Composition notebook and pencil and sit and write about what made them beautiful.  The parameters that I gave were that they were not allowed to write anything about their physical attributes.  That statement stumped a few students! What?  I can't tell you how pretty my eyes are?  No, you cannot.  Your eyes are quite lovely, sweet First Grader, but they are not what truly make you beautiful.  Think-Think-Think!

This took some time, but eventually the sentences began to flow.  I walked around the room, peaking over their tiny shoulders to see what was bubbling up from their souls.  I offer a few, "That's not what makes you beautiful.  Keep digging", as I walk around.  Finally, a thought that makes me stop in my tracks and almost brings tears to my eyes.  One of my quietest students has written one of the most profound comments about himself.  He had written, "God makes me beautiful".  The tears well up and I try really hard not to allow myself to cry.  However, I make certain that he knows how absolutely amazing his self-reflection and self-acknowledgement was!

After some time, the other students begin to dig deeper and allow themselves to feel free to think of themselves in a way that may feel like showing off or being a little cocky. There's nothing cocky about it.  Finally, more sentences begin to flow.  Then, I notice that 3 of my students are not writing anything.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a sad thing.  A seven year-old should, typically, have a lot to say about themself.  These 3 did not.  One of them, a female student, was in tears.  She was almost distraught.  She could not think of ONE beautiful thing about herself.  Not one! Why is this so?!  That made me very sad.  She genuinely could not find anything that was beautiful about herself.

We need to teach our students to  give themselves permission to acknowledge the beauty that they possess.  We also need to help show them that the beauty already exists. #Empowerment

# 2  To Ensure That Girls Know Their Self-Worth

If you had any doubt about this statement, read the last few sentences of the previous section. Right?! Girls need to know from day #1 that they are absolute Rock Stars.  Not based on their looks or their outfits, but strictly because they are who they are!  How important it is to let our girls get dirty and messy, and be rough and tough when they need/want to be!

We should encourage their creativity, curiosity, fearlessness, and wildest dreams.  They should know that they are smart and capable.  Nail polish is great, but being able to pick up a hammer and use it is just as amazing!  Every little girl should know their worth.  Of course, boys should, too.  : -  )  Knowing your worth opens doors to countless possibilities and gives you the confidence to dream bigger for yourself, and to take chances for yourself.  Go to the edge and jump!  See how far you can soar.

#3  Your Male Students Need to be Shown How to Have a Different Mindset for Who Girls Are and Can Be

There is more to being a girl than just high heels and hair bows.  Boys should be given the opportunity to see the different facets of girls.  I think that this will only help to broaden their perspective and give them different frames of reference when it comes to girls.  Just think of all of the opportunities that this may create for establishing more instances of cooperative learning, discovering new viewpoints, smashing stereotypes, and making it more natural and commonplace to choose to work with a girl or ask her for help.  Think of all of the conflict resolution and increased communication skills that all of your students could gain from interacting with each other this way!

# 4  It Will Provide an Opportunity to Tap Into Your Students Hearts and Minds

The book provides a great opportunity to open up this dialogue and begin this conversation (and hopefully transformation).  When you provide open dialogue and/or other follow up activities, it will give you a chance to tap into how your students view themselves.  This would also be a really wonderful time to take a few extra moments to tell each student what you find beautiful about them. Light bulb flashing over my head right now!!!   Leave each student a handwritten note about what you find beautiful in them!!!  YES!

It is also just a really fun and amazing book with graphics that do a great job at telling the story!!

Watch my Vlog on this sweet book.

Grab this book for your students!

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 Leave a comment to let me know what you and your students thought of this book.



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