An Addition to the Commission

An Addition to the Commission

During her keynote address at the LEAD Conference, a statewide education conference that I presented at in October of last year, Dr. Candice McQueen said that the most effective principals--the ones who truly affect change--know how to ask the right questions (and, presumably, listen to, and act upon the answers). 

I take the same approach in my classroom, and I hope I am awarded the opportunity to bring this mentality to the Coffee County Commission. Despite living in Coffee County for over a decade, I still have much to learn about how the county operates. It is not in my DNA to join the Commission with a slew of preconceived notions on how to make this county better. I simply plan to listen to my constituents, and to the citizens of Coffee County, and make informed decisions for the betterment of everyone--especially the children.

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My 3 New Year's Resolutions

My 3 New Year's Resolutions

Last year in my New Year’s post, I reflected on some areas in which I needed to improve as a teacher. Just to review, I mentioned I “need to do a better job of providing my students with clear learning targets so they have an increased understanding of where they’re going before they get there. This should result in my students’ reflections being more authentic which, in turn, should increase their retention of the material.”

Unfortunately, this New Year’s resolution is not one that I have kept. I am still in too much of a hurry to cover the content that my students need to learn. In order for my gradeless classroom to work properly, my students need to reflect upon their work versus what the English standards say they should be able to do. This feels like an unnatural process for my students because a large majority of the time they haven’t a clue which course standards they’re working on mastering on any given day. It’s also a bit awkward for me to forcibly stop students from moving on to the next learning opportunity so that I can teach them how to reflect over the standards...

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5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

5 Wishes for Teachers and Students in 2018

2017 is almost in the books, and it has been a whirlwind in the state of Tennessee.  Students are continuing to show growth, so much so that the eyes of the country are fixed on the Volunteer State.  In districts from Memphis to Maryville, phrases such as “bridge to postsecondary”, “personalized learning”, and “all means all” are contributing to vertically aligned learning communities committed to providing a relevant and demanding education for all students.

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Going Gradeless: My Semester 1 Reflection

Going Gradeless: My Semester 1 Reflection

Now that the first semester is over, I am pleased with the results. More students have turned in revised work than at any time in my teaching career, which means that they are learning from their mistakes and getting better.  Looking ahead to next semester, I feel more confident that I have ingrained my expectations well enough to increase my students’ autonomy. Most of them plan on going to a community college or a university, and they need another shot at having more freedom. I personally need to continue to work at getting more efficient with providing feedback. By the end of Q3, I will have covered almost all of the English 3 standards, which will leave me about a month to go back and concentrate on areas where my students need the most help before they have to take TNReady, the state’s achievement test.

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Don't Tread on Me

Don't Tread on Me

The bleak reality is that there’s little we can do right now to defend public education against the federal government. I kept thinking of a yellow flag with a snake coiled in the middle and the words “Don’t Tread on Me” printed in all caps at the top. How ironic that many of the same people who proudly boast that motto are the very ones who voted for President Trump, who then appointed DeVos to her post. As a public school teacher and as a parent of two girls in public schools, I am sick and tired of being tread on. I’m exasperated, and “fighting the good fight” takes time and energy that I often don’t have after a mentally and physically exhausting day at work.

That said, I’d much rather do something over sitting at home complaining about my plight which will assuredly yield no result whatsoever. Also, I have reason to be optimistic...

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3 Things I'm Thankful for This Thanksgiving

3 Things I'm Thankful for This Thanksgiving

I enjoy reading the Facebook posts from my friends each November where they get online each day and post something about which they are thankful. I think it’s important to stop and give thanks, and we often times get too caught up in our fast-paced lives to do that. Thankfully, we have a holiday that reminds us to do just that. Speaking of which, here are three things that I am thankful for during this holiday season...

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Give the TEAM/SWOT Mashup a Try!

Give the TEAM/SWOT Mashup a Try!

The other day, I opened up the TEAM rubric and thought about some of the performance indicators I know I need to improve upon.  I found myself wanting to do a deep dive and really unpack the rubric.  Even though I knew I was strong in many areas, there was still plenty of room for me to leverage those strengths into new opportunities.  I know I have my weaknesses, and I found it helpful to go beyond that assessment and consider the potential threats to keeping those weaknesses.

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When Neutrality Isn't Neutral

When Neutrality Isn't Neutral

Instead of running away from controversial issues in the classroom, I now embrace them. School provides a unique environment in which I can press my students to rise above the political banter and provide evidence for their assertions. Through class discussion, they also have the opportunity to practice the lost art of listening. Believe me, this is a struggle for so many of them; they are often times so eager to get their own point across that they don’t listen to what others are saying. I remember a time when politicians disagreed with, but still listened to, each other and settled upon compromises. Today’s politicians are merely a reflection of their electorates, which need to learn how to genuinely listen to each other.

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Earbuds in the Classroom: Blessing or Burden?

Earbuds in the Classroom: Blessing or Burden?

If music does significantly help students (and that is a big if), what is the solution?  Why doesn’t Pandora or Spotify create a school-specific platform for high school students?  How hard could it be to come up with a solution and partner with schools to offer a fun resource that has limited customization to distract students?

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Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

Stop Adding Value and Save the Teaching Profession

My Level 1 rating is insulting and infuriating, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. I know other teachers who have expressed to me their exasperation with their low ratings--to the point of wanting to leave the profession. Clearly, something needs to be done. TDOE’s issues with TNReady is part of the problem, and I hope that they will remedy those soon. The other part of this problem is how teacher’s evaluation scores are determined. It’s beyond time for this state to stop using the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS).

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