Posted in Writing

I’m Published…Again!

This time in Education Week, on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog.
I was invited to offer advice to individuals considering a mid-career change to become teachers. Here is the link.  You may be able to access it without having to register. But, if you do need to register, it’s free to do so, and you’re not signing up for a subscription.
Anyway, I invite you to read my comments here. Enjoy!  The other comments are good ones, too.  So, be sure to read those as well.
Posted in Learning and Development

Rubrics, Parte Dos

Per my previous post, I have completed the assessment process, via a rubric, for my Spanish 1-7 projects. They were asked to create a digital story, aka slideshow entitled, “Todo Sobre Mi.”

Given that students in the middle school where I teach are not required to sit for a traditional final exam, but are expected to have some sort of project which signals closure to the term and to the year, I like to assign tasks which allow students to use the Spanish they have learned to write and to speak.  I also like the idea of students getting up and presenting before a group, as the idea of oratory and public speaking seem to be by-gone skills in today’s educational process.  And, since the idea, in a language class least, is to use what one has learned for real purposes, such projects are the best way to go, I have found.  Besides – it’s real and personal, aka authentic.

The rubric I used for the aforementioned worked reasonably well.  The project and the rubric were both items I had adopted from another Spanish teacher, and found I needed to amend the rubric a bit for my purposes. For example, there were no categories for assessing grammar or spelling. Which I found interesting. I mean, why wouldn’t these be assessed? In our post-modern K-12 education system, many teachers, and teacher educators, seem to be phobic when it comes to assessing these skills.  On the other hand, they are key skills whenever language is being produced.  I realize I differ from many of my colleagues – English and foreign language alike – which adhere to invented spelling and not marking too firmly – if at all – with respect to grammar and spelling. But, correct spelling and correct use of grammar directly impacts how the language looks and sounds, no matter how much or how often educators try to ignore or lesson their impact and importance.

Now, on to Spanish 4…

 

 

Posted in Learning and Development, Writing

Rubrics

My relationship with rubrics is up and down.  There are times when I can appreciate their value and their usefulness.  And then, there are other times when presenting a rubric to students for a given assignment gives me the feeling that I am removing all forms of creativity and original thought from their hearts, minds and souls, for the rubric has told them so.

Well, I guess, at this moment in time, my view of rubrics is up, and I can appreciate their value and usefulness.  But, it was not my own initiative which has spurred these thoughts and feelings.  A student from one of my two Spanish 4 classes, asked if there would be a rubric for the final exam project.  I hemmed and hawed. Then the student added, ” I need a rubric so I can aspire to do my best work.”  Thus one of the reasons why    I don’t possess full love and admiration for rubrics.  After all, isn’t aspiration to do one’s best work inherent and self-guided?

I created a rubric for the project in question.  My student asked for one, and, since I am compliant, and serve (mostly) at the pleasure of my students, I dutifully created one. I am fairly happy with it, but, I wish I had had more time to reflect and ponder on it.

In fact, I used said rubric this morning, as each student presented.  And while I may go back and adjust some of my scores slightly, it did, in fact, facilitate the assessment process.  To my surprise.

I am now getting ready to roll out my second rubric; this time, for my Spanish 1-7 students.  I will let you know how things go.

Posted in Personal Development

Personal Best Series: Career Coaching

Global Biz Summit

When you think of career coaching, what comes to mind?

I first connected with my long-time career coach back in 1992.  At that time, she was director of career services for a college.
images-1I had been working as a college admissions professional for four years.  Prior to that, I was a Spanish teacher at a day and boarding school for two years. The six-year itch had taken hold, and, I was ready for a change – new adventures, new experiences.  But what? A different career? Graduate school? Return to teaching?  My fabulous career coach helped me to sort a lot of things out.  In the process, I gained greater clarity, and a more defined direction for my future goals and aspirations.

The following year, I quit my admissions job, and headed off to graduate school full-time.  When I completed my program, I contacted my career coach again. Only this time, it was to obtain guidance re: negotiating salary, and other terms of employment.

Many years would pass before I re-connected with my career coach again.  I was contemplating my next move, and, a friend and colleague suggested that I work with a career coach.  The person he recommended was not taking on new clients.  Therefore, I contacted the career coach with whom I had worked previously.  In an interesting sort of way, re-connecting with her felt like reuniting with an old friend.  In many ways, it was like no time had passed at all, although in actuality, it had been more than 20 years.

So…why do I recommend career coaching?  A career coach can:

• Uncover skills and expertise that one may neither recognize nor fully appreciate

• Vet prospective jobs and employers.

• Steer one away from dead-end opportunities.

• Offer guidance re: crafting a resume and cover letter for specific positions.

• Lend an empathetic ear when the job search gets rough.

• Provide objective insight, and tell one things that she may not want to hear, but needs to hear.

• Be one’s cheerleader.

My experience with my career coach has been overwhelmingly positive.  Additionally, I am also in the unique position to have worked with the same person for more than two decades – which is rare.

Before I returned to my long-time career coach, I did, in fact, contemplate working with different coaches.  However, given what I was going after at the time, I decided that I had neither the time nor the desire to establish an entirely new relationship.

Have you worked with a career coach? What was your experience? Would you do it again? And, if you have been thinking about career coaching, but haven’t followed through, what’s stopping you?compass-2188475_960_720

Posted in Personal Development

Personal Best Series: Professional Resume Writing Service

Sometimes, you can’t do it all yourself.  You just can’t.

I have always written my own resume.  Always.  The only time I used a professional service for anything related to my resume was professional printing, back in the days when job seekers actually mailed resumes to prospective employers.  Otherwise, I put my own work in.  And, I was pretty good at it.

However, when it became apparent that I wanted to parlay my teaching skills into jobs outside of teaching, I couldn’t seem to get my resume to look suited for anything else other than a teaching position.

So, I researched several online resume writing services.  After some time reading company reviews, I selected a service which allowed me to take advantage of a free resume analysis.  One of the issues with my resume is that it presented tasks, rather than achievements.  The other issue is that my various areas of expertise seem buried under the teaching tasks, and weren’t getting the attention they deserved.

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After some time contemplating my next move, I decided to go for it: I signed on to have my resume professionally written.

And, you know what? I am glad I did.

The service I used required me to  complete a pre-writing survey, in order to get a clearer sense of my goals and objectives for my new resume. From there, my resume writer got to work.  I was encouraged to communicate one-on-one with my resume writer.  who is experienced in working teachers like me who are looking to transfer their skills. Finally, I had several days to review the draft, and then offer suggestions for tweaking and revision.  At no extra charge.

In fact, having my resume professionally written was one of the best investments I have made for my career.  Not only do I have a resume that focuses on my achievements, but it also clearly articulates the range of skills I have, and presents me as a well-rounded professional.  In a word, my resume sings.

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I was so pleased with my new resume, I ordered a professionally-written cover letter, too!

The investment for the resume and the cover letter was $200.00.  Which is nominal, considering the benefits of having documents that will present me in the best possible light to prospective employers.

Have you used a professional resume writing service? What was your experience? And, if you have contemplated using such a service, but haven’t followed through, what’s stopping you?

Posted in Writing

Happy Anniversary!

According to WordPress.com, today is my blog anniversary.  I am grateful.

Several times, I have come close to hanging up my keyboard, and calling uncle on the blog.  But, something keeps me here, keeps pulling me back, keeps on encouraging me. It’s strange; can’t really describe it.

There have been so many reincarnations of this blog, that I honestly don’t remember them all.  What I do remember, however, is that my actual blog anniversary is 26 December 2006; that blog was called, “A Hardknock Teacher’s Life.”  The early days were fun.  Especially engaging with readers in the Comments.

Blogging has changed so much since 2006, for good and not-so-good, and the not-so-good makes it less fun.  Actually, I can say the same for the entirety of social media. But, I digress.

Nonetheless, I am grateful for whatever interest and support this blog garners. If you’re reading this, “Thank you!”

Posted in Cooking

I tried one of those meal delivery companies…

here’s my experience.

About a month ago, I was riding in the car with Dear Brother.  Food was on my mind.  Specifically, how can I eat healthier, more nutritious meals as a busy single?

I had been thinking about those meal delivery companies. Perhaps the best-known is Blue Apron. I checked out Blue Apron, and, while it all looked and sounded appealing, I still was not ready to commit. So, during that car ride with Dear Brother, I asked his opinion.  He gave it the thumbs-up.  He added that many companies offer a discount just for trying them out.

After a few more days of contemplation, I went for it. But, I didn’t sign on with Blue Apron.  Instead, I dipped my big toe into the meal delivery company pond with Home Chef.  Like any good student, I did my research. What I discovered that, for an industry that is only about six years old, it is already quite crowded, with a variety of companies appealing to a range of tastes, dietary needs and budgets.  I chose Home Chef because of: the cost – meals are approximately $10.00 each, on average; the availability of carb-conscious and calorie-conscious options; and the $30.00 introductory discount. The fewest number of servings I was able to order was two. Which meant leftovers, and always a bonus for a busy single.

I ordered three meals: Greek Chicken Salad, with feta-oregano dressing;  Bone-In Chimichurri Pork Chop with roasted choyote and smoked almonds; and Classic Chicken Piccata with angel hair pasta and lemon-caper sauce. I placed my orders on a Friday morning, and I arranged for delivery the following Wednesday. By the time I arrived home from school, which was after 4pm, my food was there. Upon opening the box, I found the food well-packaged, cold, and fresh.  Nothing was missing, and everything was organized and labeled by meal.  Along with the meals were recipe cards which contained detailed instructions, cooking tips and approximate preparation times for preparing each meal, a binder for the cards, and an overview guide.  The packaging suggested that the meals be cooked five to six days upon delivery, although I went four days over the six-day mark with the Chicken Piccata. Other than a spring of the parsley withering, the food maintained its freshness.  I also placed the chicken in the freezer for two days.

The first meal I prepared was on Friday, and it was the Greek Chicken Salad. It was tasty, but, I thought the portions were huge, even for two people. I was able to get three servings from this meal. The next meal I prepared – the Chimichurri Pork Chop – was on Sunday. I had to research chimichurri and chayote, not having previous experience with either.  The last meal, on Saturday, was the Classic Chicken Picatta.

So, here are the perks of Home Chef:

  • Fresh food.
  • Well-packaged for travel.
  • Coordinated and packaged per meal.
  • Exposed me to new foods.
  • Exposed me to using fresh herbs, which I rarely used, and was a nice taste change.
  • Opportunity to eat nutritious food.
  • No shopping.
  • Menus planned for me.
  • Value – two servings at $10.00 per meal.
  • All of the packaging – including the bottles, ice packs, and insulation – 100% recyclable.

And, here are some of the drawbacks of Home Chef:

  • Prep: Lots of pre-prep, i.e. chopping, as well as multiple steps throughout the meal prep itself.
  • Portions: There was enough cooked angel hair pasta for four people, and enough salad for three. But, not significant enough to deter me from ordering again.
  • Mode of execution: Each meal required pan-frying, and one required pan-frying and oven-roasting. Which means one had to stay with the food, and keep it moving at a fairly past-pace, as opposed to a meal that cooks exclusively in the oven.

Would I order from Home Chef again? Yes.  How did I rate it? 7/10.  Recommend to family and friends? Yes.

I think for a busy single like me, I have neither the time, nor the energy, nor the inclination to cook prep-intensive meals Monday-Thursday. Therefore, in the future, I will arrange a Friday delivery, with the intent of cooking the meals Friday, Sunday, and Wednesday (Wednesday is an early-release day for my school).

Additionally, I would like for a meal delivery service to tap into the single person market.  We are people who like fresh, home-cooked, nutritious meals that don’t require a lot of pre-prep or steps to get it on the table.

In as much as I enjoyed Home Chef as my first meal delivery service experience, I did put future orders on hold. I think I may want to try other meal delivery services. A friend gave me $30.00 worth of meals for Blue Apron. So, I am looking forward to trying them out.

Have you tried a meal delivery service? What was your experience? Would you recommend to family and friends?

Posted in Personal Development

Not Doin’ It No Mo’

Ask any Black woman who has decided to go natural, and she will most likely tell you that it’s not easy. I have been natural for the second time since January 15, 2011, and, I have had more ups than downs.  Especially given the fact that many of us did not grow up wearing our hair in its kinky curly coily glory. I for one didn’t have a chemical relaxer until college, which was a disaster that first time around. Prior to that, my Dear Mom used a straightening comb, otherwise known as a hot comb, to press or straighten my hair.  Dear Mom was a pro at wielding that comb.  My hair was so straight, it looked as if I had a relaxer.

The second time at chemical services was at age 22, after four unsuccessful months as a natural for the first time.  Out of frustration, and, simply lacking the knowledge, expertise and professional services to properly manage it, I acquired my second chemical relaxer.  For the next 23 years, I endured all that accompanies the wearing of straight hair via a harsh chemical process: shedding, breakage – especially at the crown, dryness, thin ends, lack of body, and expense.  A relaxer touch-up ran anywhere from $50-100, depending on the salon, and, where I was located geographically, which was paid every eight to ten weeks.  Additionally, waiting several hours for a service, despite the fact I had an appointment; Black stylists are notorious for double and even triple booking clients.  Last, not every stylist is proficient at providing a quality relaxer service, and I have suffered damaged hair on more than one occasion as a result.

Being fatigued with the relaxer experience after two decades, I obtained my last relaxer in May of 2010. For the next several months, I attempted to grow out as much of the relaxer as I could, without sustaining too much damage. The area between the new growth and the relaxed hair is very fragile, and susceptible to breakage.  Therefore, I had to handle my hair like a cashmere sweater. Then, on January 15, 2011, I got the “Big Chop”: I cut off all of the relaxed hair, which left me with about three inches of natural hair. I wore my hair closely cropped for several years, until last summer, when I decided to attempt to grow it longer. And this is where the situation began to get especially hairy (pun most definitely intended).

The three most critical issues I have battled over the past six years are dryness, breakage, and manageability.  And, with the plethora of natural hair advice out there, via blogs, websites, and YouTube channels, my natural hair has yet to thrive.

Until recently.

Last Friday, I decided to get a good trim. So, I went to my day spa, where there is a lovely stylist who worked on my hair when I wore a relaxer. She is the only stylist there I trust with my hair – relaxed or natural.  Although my morale was lifted, and my hair looked and felt so much better, I was still frustrated that my hair was not thriving: still dry, still unmanageable, still breaking off and not maintaining length and growing longer.

I went to visit my Dear Parents and Dear Brother for the long Presidents’ Day weekend.  And, I didn’t comb my hair – at all – for the entire weekend. Then, today arrived, and, I needed to do something with my hair in order for it to look presentable for school. So, I asked my Dear Mom for help.  She felt my hair, and commented that it should feel softer.  However, the back was all flattened and a bit matted, not to mention dry and rather hard.  I asked my Dear Mom if I should put something on the hair to soften it up so I could comb it. She said no. Instead, she asked me to hand her the jumbo rake comb I had given her recently.  Dear Mom took the comb, and started tapping the hair at the ends to lift it.  Then she worked her way up the hair shaft.  I could have cried.  My hair looked better than it had in six years, and without spraying it with water or applying oil to loosen the tightness of the curl.  Not to mention that not one piece of hair – shed or broken – had fallen.

All of this to say: I will no longer follow any of the previous advice that I have spent the past six years following, as none of it has worked for my hair.  Precisely because it was not designed for my hair. This very simple fact was the one thing I wasn’t getting, and led me to spend literally hundreds of dollars in haircare products in my quest to find the perfect solution to my natural hair woes.

So, I am releasing myself from the obligation of using oils, butters, juices, berries and other natural products on my hair. I am also freeing myself from perpetually wet hair, styling products, hair boards, and the daily application of layers of product. Instead, I am going to use what has worked for my hair in the past. Which, at the end of the proverbial, was serving me well.