The mentors in my life.

I have now taught in two different school districts.  On the first day of my first year, in both districts, I was giving a “mentor.” That mentor was the person responsible for giving me the logistics I needed in order to provide a safe environment of my students.  Those logistics included hall passes, discipline referral forms and the list of phone numbers for the office and classrooms.  After reading the first chapter of the book, Thrive, I became aware of what exactly one seeks for in a mentor. So, after reading I spent time reflecting about who I call my mentor.  I am fortunate to still call my designated mentors my mentors. My first year of teaching was tough. I taught in a high school that followed block scheduling.  I had two different levels of Spanish as well as an ESL classroom with 25 students from 10 different countries.  I needed a mentor and I needed one fast.  She was the French teacher and had been teaching for 20 years.  She provided me with comfort and a plethora of ideas that could be used in both of my classroom settings.  She was fantastic! My designated mentor this year, a high school English teacher, has been everything and more! We can relate to each other on a professional level, but more importantly a personal level.  This year is also my first year back in the classroom after 3 years of staying home with my children.  So, the first day of this school year is one I will never forget. As I was setting up my classroom, my mentor, came to me and said “As long as nobody hugs you will be fine.” And she was right! I was so fragile. I stayed in room during my planning and lunch time. I avoided the hallways and interaction with my colleagues.  She truly brought me out of my shell and has exposed me to so many resources in our buildings.  She shared her experiences with me: returning to work after kids and maintaining a successful work and home career.  She also gave me a card with words of encouragement and when I am having one of those days I often read it.  Her heart and my heart were in the right place and I feel fortunate to have her and a positive story to tell about my mentor-mentee experience.  Again, after reading the first chapter, I have compiled a list of other mentors.  These mentors are colleagues, and some are in different departments than me.  One provides technological resources, another is the one I collaborate with often and the other provides me with my interest in building literacy in both a students native and second language.  I feel lucky to have support by these mentors and feel honored to call them my mentors!

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The culture that is in your backyard…

Oh wow, I’m blogging! As my school year is coming to an end and my graduate summer course, “Teacher Practice in a Connected World” is getting started, I find it beneficial to use this blog to reflect.  This is my 6th year of teaching, but my first year in the Octorara Area School District.  I am fortunate to instruct grades 7 through 12 in the Spanish language.  And absolutely LOVE when I am asked the question, “Why are we learning Spanish?” Now, for the 7th and 8th graders the answer is easy, “because all 7th and 8th graders are required to study a language.” Answering the high school-aged students is much more exciting! So, I encourage them to close their eyes and visualize their favorite places to visit.  While they are visualizing and brainstorming their favorite places: restaurants, amusement parks, the beach, the mountains, the mall and many more, I pose the questions, “Who do you see there?,” What do they look like?,” What are they wearing?,” What are they saying?” Some are hesitant to respond.  Others eagerly participate and elaborate on the different cultures present in their daily lives. I strive to make my language learning classroom culturally enriched.  Not only is it my goal for my students to develop basic conversational skills and an understanding of grammatical points, but to also raise awareness of who and what is around us. I also start the year by displaying the fact that English is not the official language of the United States, which creates a jaw-dropping reaction from most of them.

Each student at the Jr. and Sr. High level is given an iPad for a $50 technology fee.  This makes lesson planning so exciting! I am constantly researching as well as receiving suggestions for different apps for them to use with different grammar, vocabulary and cultural topics.  On their iPads, individually or together, we can explore a variety of historical attractions from our seats! The often utilize a drawing app, of their choice, to take whole group comprehension checks.  I implement Schoology, which is a learning management system, into our daily lessons.  On Schoology, I upload worksheets to eliminate paper as well as post videos or questions that require them to respond in the form of a discussion board.  My use of technology is improving day by day, but also causing me to reflect. I feel like I run into the same problem often.  After utilizing some applications I feel like I no longer have a use for them.  My technological goal is learn more about applications and focus on not just moving from app to app, but finding ways to implement technology in a more meaningful way.