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Another Milestone

Yesterday, I woke up with a small migraine.

The weather had turned a bit nasty, and the barometric change wreaked havoc with the capillaries in my brain.

BUT…

The migraine became much easier to bear when I opened up my email to find the following message awaiting me…

Greetings AuburnChick:

Congratulations on completing the following Beacon online course:

Reading 5:  Demonstration of Accomplishment (NEW)
February 18, 2013 – May 19, 2013

Ahhh…

What joy!

I had finished filming my final lesson last week and had nervously taken the video I’d burned to the post office Thursday afternoon after work.

I’d submitted the Vocabulary/Comprehension lesson…no surprise to those who know me best because I LOVE vocabulary.  I think my love for it can be infectious (or annoying, depending on your perspective).

Then, I waited.

I’d figured that I’d have to wait until sometime this week to hear back.

Apparently the mail travels quickly between Podunk, USA and BIGGER CITY, Florida.

My instructor was quick on the ball, as she had been during the course, and watched the video over the weekend.

How typical…teachers working during their “off” hours.

After reading the email, which is generated after the final class assignment is approved, I eagerly signed onto the site that houses the certification classes and pulled up the course log, where feedback for assignments gets posted.

The following are the comments my instructor provided.

April 14, 2013
Nathalie,
This was a well-taught lesson. You introduced the lesson by telling students what you and they would be doing and why it was important. Your explanation was clear and concise.

I was so glad to see you walking around the room, checking in with student groups as they were sharing and then writing. This is an important way both to provide feedback and to maintain student engagement and on-task behavior.

The picture was an excellent way to keep the students interested and to help them understand how to look for “clues” as they revised their thoughts. Having them write down their thoughts was important rather than just having a discussion.

I can tell that you thought carefully about the amount of “teacher talk” you were using and tried to give just the necessary amount of information. The only time that this seemed to need revising was when you were explaining the context clues chart. It might have helped to ask volunteers to explain parts of the chart…the use of dashes, etc…. to involve them more with this part of the lesson.

Congratulations on completing the course! I hope that the process of developing these explicit plans, engaging in the self-reflections and watching the videos will all be useful as you continue to provide targeted, explicit instruction to all of your students.

Best wishes,
Lynn

A good teacher will provide positive feedback as well as snippets on how to improve learning goals.

I love that the instructors I’ve had during this certification process have modeled what I, as a teacher, should do for my own students.

So now my Reading Endorsement process is finished.

What remains is for the “powers that be” (i.e., the District office) to submit information to my state’s Department of Education so that Reading will be added to my teaching license.

I’ve also heard tell that there is a stipend that is paid to teachers who complete the program.

I’m seeing some bling in my future as well as dog neutering (poor Gambit) and a bit of debt payoff.

Woo hoo!

Oh, and there WILL be a bit of celebratory dancing to Katy Perry’s Firework, via the Wii Just Dance game, as is my custom after completing intense certification programs.

I can’t end this post without thanking my mentors, Cinda and Barb, who epitomize what a dedicated teacher looks and sounds like.

I have to thank my friend, Lisa, who filmed two of the lessons…one of which was the one I submitted for the video requirement.  She gave up three planning periods to help me.

I have to thank my coworkers…especially those who have already completed this coursework…for encouraging me along the way.  Although the program itself is not especially difficult…until you get to writing the hefty lesson plans at the end…it can seem endless.

Without a doubt, my students receive the biggest thanks in all of this.  Without them, there would be no Reading Endorsement.  THEY are the reason why I do what I do.  Their cooperation and eagerness to learn is what drives me, especially on the tough days.  They were patient.  They willingly accepted the altered class routines on the days we filmed and went with the flow.  They also eagerly ate up the cupcakes they’d earned as a reward.

😀

Last but not least are my friends and family who watched me struggle in this journey.

They listened to endless conversations that contained the words “Reading Endorsement.”

The Mr. provided so much support on the longgggg days when I sat for hours upon hours completing lengthy assignments.

He listened as I cried my way through a couple of them.

He brought in countless meals as I couldn’t bear to tear myself away when inspiration struck.

Working my way through Reading Endorsement taught that each lesson must be very well thought out.  It must include learners of all types, abilities, and interests.  It must include feedback from everyone (i.e., teachers should NEVER close their classroom doors and hibernate).

Teaching is a creative process where “thinking outside of the box” is a MUST if a teacher wants to fully engage the students in the room.

One of my friends commented, after I posted the good news on Facebook, that she knew I could do this “with ease…with [my] determination.”

One thing I am is very determined.  I’ve always set goals for myself, such as finishing college…finding a teaching position…etc.  However, it’s one thing to set a goal; it’s quite another to reach it.

I could not have done this without the help of so many but most of all my heavenly Father, who has given me a passion for my students and a passion to excel.

Reading Endorsement is another milestone in a long list.  It is a milestone I will look back on as a time of much growth and maturity in this profession I’ve chosen to dedicate myself to.

Reading Endorsement – A Fresh Perspective

For over a year now, I’ve been working on my Reading Endorsement certification.

I began last January but took August through October off to get my classroom routines regulated.  The beginning of the school year is very stressful.

For those of you who may not understand the purpose of this certification, it is what allows those of us who do not have a Masters degree in Reading to teach this subject.  We take several very specialized courses on how to diagnose reading problems, how to tailor instruction for specific needs, and how to utilize research-based reading strategies to help our students.

If you ask anyone who’s been through the program how it was, and you’ll hear a big sigh.

I can’t say that I won’t be one of those people after I finish, but if I take an honest look at the process, I have to say that I have learned more in this series of classes than any other education courses I’ve taken in the past.

I am in my fifth and final class…the dreaded practicum.  It’s where I have to put all of the knowledge gained in the previous four classes to use and actually apply what I’ve learned.

Imagine that.  The teacher becoming a student.

The last thing I have to do is teach the lessons that I’ve written and which my instructor has approved.

For me, part of this preparation is creating Smart Notebook files.

I have always embraced technology…even more so in the last year since my school received new equipment and software.

Creating my Smart files helps me unpack the curriculum.  As I design each page, I am forced to mentally walk through my lesson…how I will say things…how the presentation will look to my students…whether I think they will be engaged in the learning process.

I took some screen shots of a few of the pages I created for…get this…ONE lesson plan.  All total, I’ve got eighteen pages, I think.  I’m sharing five or six.

The lesson I’ll be filming next week has to do with fluency and comprehension.  Although some of the instruction may seem elementary, even high school students who are struggling readers need the reminders.  Oftentimes, they pick up tips that do improve their comprehension.

For the fluency part, we’re going to cover the different types of punctuation that writers use and how each affects the way we read the sentences.  I created a table with cells hidden.  The reason why they are shaded is because there will be discussion about each, and I will reveal those cells as the discussion progresses.

Next, I’ll teach my students how to highlight the punctuation as it occurs in text.  Humans, by nature, are visual, so the highlighting will serve as visual reminders of when to pause, when to raise their voices, when to stop, etc.  I listen to these kids read every day, and hearing them run roughshod through punctuation is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  Ugh.

We will do some guided practice, using text from the book The Lightening Thief, which I’d just finished when I wrote this lesson plan for my Reading Endorsement class.  That’s the sheet I’ll pass out to my students to complete.  I’ll also display it on my Smartboard.

The second part of this lesson will involve a during-reading strategy called “Say Something.”  During this strategy, students stop after reading chunks of text, reflect using question starters, and then continue reading.  At the end of a passage, they will summarize…a task that should be easier because they’ve stopped and reflected at various points along the way.

The text I used for this portion of the lesson came from Unwind by Neal Shusterman…one of my newly-discovered and now favorite authors.

I’ll touch the black square to reveal my Think Aloud, which is a scaffolding technique that teachers use to help students understand what’s going through a good reader’s mind as he/she reads.

There’s a lot of metacognition (thinking about the thinking process) that has to go on for a student to be successful.  Asking why we need to do certain things helps us understand…gives each lesson a purpose.

There are pieces to the lesson that I haven’t shared, so if the above sounds hit and miss, don’t misunderstand.  I would have bored you to tears with the nine or ten pages that my lesson encompassed.

You know, teachers often complain about the things they have to do.

I’ve worked my tail off this Spring Break and heard myself saying the same thing a couple of nights ago…a night in which I’d spent almost twelve hours prepping lesson plans for next week.

BUT, I know that classes and programs such as Reading Endorsement are designed to make me a better teacher.

My heart goes out to my students.

FCAT isn’t just stressful for the kids.

It’s stressful for us teachers as well.

If one of the strategies I’ve learned from Reading Endorsement helps even one of my students reach that magic number needed to pass, I will be one happy lady.

Regardless of how many pass, most of my kids are making learning gains.

Some of that has to be attributed to the lessons I’m taking from this program and applying in my classroom.

10 Assignments in 10 Days

On Wednesday night, I worked my fingers to the bone and turned in my final two assignments for my first ESOL class.  This is one of five classes I have to take to obtain the second certification I need to be considered fully qualified to teach Intensive Reading.

My instructor, a fabulous woman who, up to that point, had provided feedback a mere hours after I’d submitted every other assignment, did not let me down.

During my planning period on Thursday, I checked the status of those assignments and was relieved and thankful to discover that both had been approved!!  Whew!  Part of the ninth assignment had taken me a little while to think through, and I had not been entirely confident that I wouldn’t have to redo it.

I happily printed out my certificate…

I had completed ten weeks’ worth of assignments in ten days.

Overachieve much?

Yep.

BUT…

God meant it for good because on Tuesday, I’d received an email from the lady in charge of scheduling the practicum for the other certification program I’m going through, and the final class offered this school year begins on the 18th.  That’s Monday, folks!

I responded immediately that I wanted to sign up for the class.

If you’d asked me a couple of months ago if I thought I was going to be able to finish my Reading Endorsement before the end of the year, I would have said no, and that I didn’t want to overstress myself with FCAT coming in April.

I do feel, however, that this is the right time.

The practicum involves writing three more hellacious lesson plans (the same kinds that I wrote in the previous class), filming them, reflecting upon them, and sending in one of the recordings for my teacher to preview.

I’ll have until May 16th to complete the course.

I’m hoping to be finished in a month…by the time Spring Break rolls around.

I’d love to be able to truly enjoy that week off without having this class looming over my shoulder.

We’ll see if I can manage it.

Until then, I’m grateful for the push that the Lord provided…using my natural tendencies…which allowed me to finish one class much sooner than expected so that I can focus more of my energy on the nerve-wracking and scary final class.

Halfway There

I’m currently enrolled in my first ESOL certification class.

After finishing up my fourth Reading Endorsement class (a humdinger of a course) a couple of weeks ago, I was hoping that the ESOL class would be a walk in the park.

I began the class last Monday (the 4th).

The Endorsement Gods laughed at me.

The class has been a little tougher than I’d anticipated.

Fortunately, I have an instructor who provides immediate feedback.  Despite getting the second assignment kicked back for a couple of corrections, things have progressed nicely, and I’m waiting to hear back about the most recent assignment I’ve submitted.

The classes are online and self-paced, with each class being comprised of ten sessions.  Those enrolled are “encouraged” to complete one session per week.

I’ve submitted six thus far…in five days.

It’s not because I am an overachiever.

Well, okay.  Maybe it is, a little.

What I am more concerned with, other than learning as much as I can…

😉

…is finishing as quickly as I can.

I am hoping to get paired up with an instructor for my final Reading Endorsement class…the practicum…so that I can have that certification added to my teaching certificate and my name removed from the list of “Out of Field” teachers…a list that will be sent to the State.

Although my current class has been a little more challenging than I’d expected, I am praising God for the way He ordains everything, including the order of the classes I’ve taken.

I truly believe that my Reading 4 class prepared me for this ESOL class.  I’ve already had to write two lesson plans for it…something I loathe doing.  Because I learned how to meticulously scaffold instruction in the previous class, I have been able to complete the required lesson plans with a lot less angst than if I had not gone through that other class.

God truly is good, even in the smallest details of my life.

My Idea of a Break

Early on in the week, I set a goal for myself…

Write and turn in the second of three BIG lesson plans for the Reading Endorsement class I’m taking…

By Sunday.

This class ends on the 27th.

I want to finish early because I start my first ESOL class the first week of February, and I’d like to have one week when I don’t have ANY assignments due.

Thus, today, this has been my perch…

I know, from previous experience, that I do much better when I allow myself to take breaks.

What is sad, though, is what I’ve come to look forward to as a “break.”

It involves this…

For this reason…

It’s amazing how my perspective has changed over the years.

With four dogs, the amount of dog poop in the back yard is ridiculous.

It can, quite literally, “pile” up very quickly if not disposed of frequently.

This used to be my children’s responsibility but they escaped left for college, so that left the job to me.

The Mr. claims that he didn’t want any of the dogs originally, so he’s free from doing the dirty.

One other little factor has changed my perspective.

My beautiful new yard…

…that we paid oodles of money to have installed (and which you see the dogs scoping out for prime pooping spots).

Thus, on days such as today, when I’m stuck inside working on a long, tedious assignment, I find myself looking for a reason to take a break.

Forget Kit Kat’s little ditty…”Give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.”

Nope.

In my house, it’s, “Give me a break, give me a break, I need to go outside and scoop a pail of poo.”

It’s lame.

I know.

Consider yourself fortunate that I didn’t record my voice and insert it on this here classy blog.

😀

What Keeps a Reading Teacher Busy During the Summer?

Ever wonder how a new reading teacher spends his or her summer?

Taking classes to become a better teacher, of course!

I’m enrolled in the third of five 60-hour reading classes.  The classes are online, which is very convenient.  I’ve created screen captures of the course information…

How the program works is that the classes are divided into nine or ten “sessions.”  The classes are sort-of self-paced.  What this means is that you need to maintain regular progress, but you can work ahead.  The classes run for ten weeks, and you’re only allowed to take one class at a time.

There are assignments associated with most sessions, and, with the exception of the quizzes (there’s usually one per class), the assignments must be approved by the instructor of the course.

If an assignment isn’t approved, the person taking the class resubmits the assignment after making the required changes.

The goal is mastery…exactly what we, as teachers, strive for in our own classes.

Here’s what my course log looks like right now…

As you can see, I’ve completed all of my assignments (only two weeks into the class).  I’m waiting for approval on three of them and keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t have to fix them.

While this may seem like a lot, and it can be during the school year when one is teaching and trying to take these classes, the experience, overall, is positive because the information presented in the classes is both practical and insightful.

For all of those naysayers who claim that teachers have it easy…that they have holidays and summers off…I say HA, HA, HA!

Yes, the summer is time for us to relax, a bit, but the learning increases as teachers continue to take classes, attend inservices, and reflect deeply about what they want to accomplish during the upcoming school year.

Eager To Help

Yesterday, I felt my stress level increase exponentially after I received an email welcoming me to the first of ten Reading Endorsement classes.

What is Reading Endorsement?  It’s a reading certification program that reading teachers in Florida are required to obtain.  A teacher is allowed to begin teaching reading without this certification; however, the teacher must be making progress toward earning the additional certificate.

Hence, it is time for me to take the plunge.

I cannot say that I’m very excited.  The teaching certification program I went through last year left me enlightened but burned out.  So, the prospect of another year and a half of classes, albeit one at a time this go-round as opposed to three at a time like last year, does not leave me happy.  Lengthy readings and weekly assignments in addition to my full plate of lesson planning, parenting, and domestic engineering will not leave much free time.

And yet I keep reminding myself of my New Year’s goal…to maintain balance in my life.

I am determined to stay calm and not kill myself by being super-anal about everything.

I recently started taking Molly on almost daily walks.  She needs the extra attention with the additional furry family member who unexpectedly joined the family.

As I felt the stress increase yesterday, I reached for the dog leash.

Molly was only too happy to comply…

Seriously?  How could anyone turn down a face like that?

If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate some prayers.  Despite my vow to breathe deeply and take things in stride, this goes completely against my nature.  I tend to become the Energizer bunny the more wound up I get, and I just don’t want to walk around in circles and exhaust myself.

Thanks a bunch!

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