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.
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!”
another article, that is, published on the Teaching Tolerance blog!
And, if you missed my first one, it’s there, too. Enjoy!
I have decided to participate in the “My One Word” Challenge for 2017. My word is…positivity. I chose this word because I felt that I needed to demonstrate greater appreciation and gratitude for the people, things and events in my life. But, I recognized that the energy which surrounds me needs to be healthy in order for me to demonstrate positivity; what we breathe in we also breathe out. For example, if much of what surrounds us is toxic, we become toxic, and exude toxicity.
Let me begin with the positive. Twitter has allowed me to connect with some wonderful individuals, many of whom I like and care about, and with whom I enjoy conversing, to extent that one can on Twitter. I even have had the opportunity to meet some of these lovelies in-person. Additionally, I have been afforded some equally wonderful professional opportunities, and have enjoyed participating in enriching Twitter chats, including my newest fave and one in which I am directly involved, #WomenEdUS. Last, I get much of my news, information and commentary from Twitter, and I learn tons.
Lately, however, Twitter for me has become more and more toxic, and less and less positive. Which is lowering my spirits, and stealing my joy, due to the toxicity that Twitter seems to be exuding more of. Therefore, I have decided to limit my time on Twitter. Back in July of 2016, I engaged in some very deep reflection regarding Twitter, and my relationship with it. I have been on Twitter for a long time – since 2008, to be exact. At the beginning, Twitter was fun. It was like enjoying a good meal with well-liked co-workers. It was also far more enriching, nurturing, supportive, compassionate, and empathetic. As the years have rolled on, I am finding Twitter becoming less of these things. In a word, Twitter has become a sort of vampire, sucking the life out of me intellectually, emotionally, mentally, and physically, as well as in terms of my time. And, none of these things contributes to positivity.
Now, I realize that I have recently returned from co-facilitating a workshop at a national conference on social networking and professional development. I still maintain the positive power of Twitter for professional learning, networking and connecting. And yet, I gotta keep it a buck, I gotta keep it 100: One has to decide how and to what extent Twitter, or, any social networking platform, for that matter, will meet his/her needs professionally. Furthermore, one must always be ready, and educators, especially, to step back, evaluate and regulate accordingly.
On the one hand, I keep hoping that “a change is gonna come”, to quote the late great Sam Cooke. On the other hand, I think that Twitter as a platform for my needs has delved too deeply into the dark side. Moreover, I am realizing that my voice, my ideas and my writing will neither be developed nor amplified in a series of 140-character soundbites.
Therefore, I am re-dedicating myself to my blog, and to my writing, which is the other social networking platform my co-facilitator and I discussed at the conference. And, I am going to engage in spaces – whether online or offline – where I stand a greater chance of giving and receiving the things that are important to me and in ways that are positive. In short, I am getting into a different groove.
On Wednesday afternoon, December 7, I flew to Atlanta to attend the annual National Association of Independent School’s People of Color Conference, where I presented a workshop session on Thursday morning with my fabulous colleague, Sherri Spelic. My other fabulous colleague, Chris Rogers, was unable to attend, but was with us in power. Additionally, Chris contributed the inspirational and thought-provoking reading/pair/share activity in which attendees actively engaged. Speaking of attendees: there were approximately 30, more than I think either Sherri or I anticipated. Our workshop was entitled, “Blogging Beyond the Classroom: Online Engagement for Professional and Personal Growth.”
Upon returning to my school the following Monday, several colleagues asked the inevitable questions: “How was the conference?”, and “How was your presentation”? To which I responded, “Great!” and “Wonderful!” to both. But, it wasn’t until I had an opportunity to sit down with a colleague at lunch that afternoon that the words to convey the experience came to me: Writing, and more specifically, writing via a blog, connects teachers to their voice. This could not be more true for me as a Black teacher in an independent school.
Independent schools, by design, were created for the wealthy white elite – male and female alike, but mostly male – as islands of privilege, and incubators of racism and white supremacy. To be certain, independent schools, for the most part, have been greatly transformed over the years to be more inclusive and diverse, and have taken up the banner of equity and social justice in a variety of ways. Still, privilege, racism and white supremacy are inherent in the culture of independent schools, and are elements which they must continue to dismantle.
For all of the many good things independent school teaching have afforded me for nearly 23 years, I also recognize that the culture and climate of independent schools can be especially challenging for people of color, both professionally and personally. They become places where we are often unable to be real, to be authentic, and to speak our truths, which can prove intellectually, emotionally and spiritually damaging. As a counterweight to these challenges, writing for me is a sense-making tool: I am figuring things out, and reserve the right to be as culpable and as imperfect as any other human being. Additionally, writing has not only allowed me to speak my truth, but also to be heard, to be affirmed, to be healed, to be cleansed, and to be renewed. It has allowed me to have a voice when I otherwise would not have one, and, in the process, to arrive at a new level of understanding. For nearly ten years, writing via my blog has connected and re-connected me to my voice, to my true and authentic self.
I hope that the workshop my colleagues and I delivered has inspired at least one attendee to begin to blog, or, to jumpstart an existing blog. But, more importantly, I hope that at least one person was inspired to connect to his or her voice, for that one voice will touch many.
Here are some recent tweets that inspired me, made me think, led me to reflect, prompted me to nod my head in agreement, and, enhanced my learning.
Let me know what you think about these tweets.
I am EXHAUSTED. That being said, it was a very good first day. I was nervous and anxious. More so than in previous years. There was some caregiver stress, not to mention that I had not planned, in a concrete way, the first day of school lesson plans. Additionally, I was dealing with post nasal drip.
I don’t know what it is about the first day of school. But, those lesson plans set the tone for the remainder of the school year. This is not to say that I don’t plan with deliberation for all of the other days. On the other hand, for the first day, I consider my plan with even greater diligence and conscientiousness. It’s like a gift from an exclusive store. Or, a homemade meal, prepared with the best ingredients, everything cooked from scratch.
Anyway, I arose early – 5:00 am – with the intent of working out. Did. not. happen. In fact, I hit the snooze button repeatedly, until I finally relented, and arose from the bed at 5:45 am. At which point I surfed the Internet for first day lessons for Spanish 1, grade seven, and Spanish 4, which were the three classes I taught today.
For Spanish 4, of which I teach two sections, we began with the students completing personal index cards. On the cards, I asked the students to supply the following information: Name, date of birth, favorite activities, reasons and goals for taking Spanish 4, and parent contact information. This information was written on the whiteboard, in Spanish. We then proceeded to this activity, steps 1-5. My goal was to go slowly, provide lots of comprehensible input, provide lots of repetition, and enjoy getting to know the students. Then, the students did a walk-around activity, using a bingo grid containing questions in Spanish re: things they like and like to do. The last activity consisted of creating lists in Spanish, for five different topics, using the preterite verb tense. So, a lot of connecting, movement, and interaction. It was perhaps the best first day of Spanish 4 I have taught. The students were highly engaged, yet relaxed.
For Spanish 1, grade seven, the students also completed personal index cards. For the first activity, we completed this activity. We then did a series of activities with Spanish cognates, culminating in the students searching for their own examples of the same. At this point, it was time for the students to get out of their seats: an activity to review colors. I call it, “Toquen”, or “Touch.” I use it to review Spanish color words. I say, for example, “Toquen rojo”, with rojo meaning the color red. The last activity was one to review classroom-related words.
So, that was my first day. And, before I forget, I am no longer participating in the #EverydayInspiration Writing Challenge. In as much as I enjoyed it, I felt restricted by the process, and not liberated by the process, as I experienced with the #My 500 Words Writing challenge. Although I do dislike not finishing what I started, it was necessary to do.
I am truly appreciative of and grateful for the wonderful language teachers who share their lessons plans with the rest of us.
That’s all for now.
For years, I was unable, and for whatever reason, to wrap my mind around the idea of writing on a desktop computer or a laptop computer. As a student in middle and high school, I prepared and submitted hand-written essays. In college, I wrote in long-hand form on a legal notepad the entire text of whatever it was that I was writing, and then typed the document using a manual typewriter. Yes; I actually owned a manual typewriter, throughout high school and college. And for several years thereafter. In fact, I did not own a personal computer until 1994, when I enrolled in a full-time Master of Education program. And the only function that little guy was able to perform was word processing. Nevertheless, I used it for about six years, it served its purpose well, and never presented me technical issues.
Fast-forward to the present time, 21st century: I am now a fully initiated laptop user. Having owned desktop computers for about ten years, it wasn’t until I was hired by my current school in 2005 that I was issued a workplace laptop computer. And it’s been love ever since.
So…where do I write? Although my laptop affords me the flexibility to write virtually anywhere, I prefer the serenity of home. Depending on whether I am at the family compound, or in my own apartment, determines the actual physical space. When I am at the former, I write on the burgundy chaise lounge in the living room, or, on the black leather sofa in the basement family room. When I am at the latter, however, I like to prop myself up in bed, or, kneel on the edge of the bed, as I am doing as I write this blog post. Don’t ask me why, but, when I was I in college, I became accustomed to this particular configuration for writing. For whatever reason, it has not yet failed me as a comfortable and favored position for writing. In fact, I even prefer kneeling on the side of the bed to lying on the bed itself.
I don’t typically listen to music, or watch television, while I write. On the other hand, I do like to listen to Internet radio broadcasts via YouTube. And, I typically have several browser windows open: one for YouTube, one for Twitter, and one for email.
The time of day when I write varies. Right now, for example, I am writing at 7:33pm, EST. I rarely write in the early morning, which is when I actually prefer to write. But, I had to decide between writing at 5 am, or, doing my treadmill workout at 5 am. I decided that the treadmill workout at 5 am would have a greater impact on the quality of my physical, mental and emotional well-being. Besides, once I arrive home from school, which on most days os 5pm, I am in no condition to even contemplate a workout, even an abbreviated one. So, I often end up writing between 8 and 10 pm. More often than not, it is closer to 10 pm. Which is late, but, I also find it is a good time for reflection, and, I am able to compose something within a fairly short period of time.
Are you a writer? What is your space for writing?
And, before I forget, I invite all of my readers to help me with a task by doing the following: What would you like me to write about in the future? Please send me a message on my “Contact” page, and suggest a topic for a future blog post. That’s it! I thank you for considering, and for your assistance.
“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
As a teacher, I do not agree that school doesn’t teach anything worth knowing. Even if I were not a teacher, I would still emphatically disagree. But, that is why, I suppose I am a teacher.
That being said, I do agree that, along with all of the other things that are taught in school, the things that make up this journey called Life are left to chance, to assumption, to trial and error, all the while (hopefully) learning as we go, and taking the good with the bad, rather than by virtue of any tangible and concrete preparation. And, why is that? Why is it that the things of Life cannot be reduced to lesson plans, classroom activities, and assessments? What would that even look and feel like? And, even if we could learn these things in a classroom by front-loading them before they occur, as if training for a competition, would we really want to do so? An interesting series of questions, no doubt.
To be certain, the path each one of us is destined to walk on this Earth would be made much less complex and complicated, and far more predictable and joyful, if life came with an instruction manual. When verb conjugations, math equations, science labs and English and history essays are distant memories, a lesson on how to endure death and loss, or a terminal illness, to name two, would capture the imagination, cure boredom, and increase engagement, focus and attention. But, if we were able to bottle the answer, and teach these things, then whose experience would it truly be? It would merely be one person’s conception and perception.
Life often gets harder as we get older. There is absolutely no escaping it. And, to be even more frank, life can suck. I get that. Life kinda sucks for me right now. Long story. As disappointed as I feel at the moment, I would not want to have it any other way. It is uniquely mine, and not someone else’s ideation of what it should be, what it should look like, or how it should feel. And, that makes the learning that will come from the experience all the more meaningful.