Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fears, Revealed

What would you do (as an educator) if you weren't afraid?

All people feel fear, but this prompt represents a more alarming issue with how teachers are seen in society. Teachers are too often silenced and placed into spaces of fear and toxicity. Sometimes their fears are not ones that revolve around their teaching craft and students - most of the time, the fear is around their job security, salary, and pressures from administration and parents. The job stigma that exists in teaching professions in our country further develop and strengthen our fears. 

I hope to think that I am not held back by fears when it comes to working with my students. I want to collaborate and guide students in ways that they need in real time, not what adults need for their benchmarks, pacing guides, and political agendas. My fear lies in whether or not I am doing good by my students. 

I want to reach them in a equitable and meaningful way and I want them to remember the experiences they have had with their classes. There isn't any one way for a teacher to know right away if they have succeeded in this...sometimes it takes time.

Here are some thoughts I found from Siobhan Curious...

"Identifying these fears was a major step in recovering from my burnout.  As I unpacked them, I realized that I needed to change my conception of “good teaching,” I needed to confront classroom difficulties head-on, and I needed to let go of the fantasy that I’d one day walk into the classroom with total confidence that everything would go well.
Fear is a part of any important work.  We don’t need to get over it, but we may need to change our approach to it.  In my next post, I’ll discuss one way I tried to deal with my fears: I got more training."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes, Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousands Moments so Dear

In midnights
In sunsets
In inches
In cups of coffee

First year jitters
turn into anxiety
but in moments of failure
learning lives on
growing, succeeding, gaining courage
even in the face of hell
affirmed in my beliefs
found and lost a side of me
I didn't even know I had

Four years later, here is a poem I wrote during Emily Vizzo's amazing presentation at the SDAWP Fall Conference "Where Power Corrupts, Poetry Cleanses".

The girl's on fire
don't take your eyes off her
some hate, some love
some flee, some play
burns it down
chills hell
lights it up
mentally, physically
her heat finds all
faster, the intensity only rises
her blood is already thick
red, she burns.

In laughter
In strife
How do you measure a year in a life?
How about love?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Collaborating on Online Resources on the Weekend using Technology

25th: This weekend I had the honor of presenting at the San Diego Area Writing Project's Fall Conference 2014. I spoke about building and sustaining a writer's community. In building this, genuine and meaningful collaboration needs to exist between students. 

26th 3 go-to online education resources:

Edmodo: The teaching team uses this for sharing PD resources.

Teaching Tolerance: Amazing resources and articles on equity and privilege.

Math Task Ideas: http://www.insidemathematics.org/common-core-resources/mathematical-content-standards/standards-by-grade/2nd-grade

27th Weekends or Holidays

The days off are for a time of rest. However, most of the time I spend my time off still thinking and reflecting on my practice. I ask more questions of myself and set new goals for the upcoming week. In January, some of our weekends are also used for Saturday School - not the traditional kind. It's the type of Saturday School where you invite your students who would benefit the most from a small group (no more than 5) 3 hour instructional block. Our students actually whine to be a part of Saturday School when they are not invited. Saturdays - like this last one - are also spent being a part of professional development. I am a SDAWP fellow and teacher consultant apprentice. There are book club dates, conferences, pd, and other duties for the weekends. 

28th Technology

Technology should enhance, extend, and challenge the process of learning. It is more than a tool because many modes of tech have the ability to push student thinking further. It can be used much in he same way as writing.

We use technology to learn more about something.
We use technology to share what we have learned.
Use it to demonstrate learning.
Use it to enhance the understanding of an intangible concept.
Use it to reach out to more resources.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Collaboration on our site is a necessity. As a staff we believe and agree to a few significant core values:

SDGVA Core Principles
  • Teaching for joy and justice begins with the non-negotiable belief that all students are capable of brilliance. Our duty as educators is to attempt to coax the brilliance out of students by building upon their strengths and personal lived experiences. – Linda Christensen
  • Teaching is a noble profession. Teachers who are well informed and effective in their practice can be successful teachers of other teachers as well as partners in educational research, development, and implementation. Collectively, teacher-leaders are our greatest resource for educational reform. – National Writing Project
  • Writing is essential to communication, learning, and citizenship. It is the currency of the new workplace and global economy. Writing helps us convey ideas, solve problems, and understand our changing world. Writing is a bridge to the future. –National Writing Project
  • Service-Learning integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to teach civic responsibility and strengthen communities. Students become actively contributing citizens and community members through the service they perform. – National Service-Learning Clearinghouse
  • Resiliency is a characteristic of individuals that allows them to adapt, persevere, and succeed despite adversity. Administrators, teachers and families who work cohesively together to build a safe, nurturing school environment where everyone on site feels loved, respected, contributes positively and is challenged continuously by high expectations will overcome any obstacles in their way.
  • We will write the future!

Together with these beliefs, we share ideas and offer emotional, physical, and pedagogical support to our teammates.

Work Hard, Play Hard.


Including the community means promoting students' self awareness of themselves, their families, neighborhoods, and world connections. Being receptive of families and inviting them as part of the school creates unity. Taking walking field trips to explore local establishments instills trust for students in their surrounding environment and provides spaces and opportunities for them to reach out to these communities. 


The buzz has been around inquiry-based learning with the new Common Core State Standards and the New Generation Science Standards. I am most intrigued with inquiry based learning because I believe it is fascinating. It exists in all different forms and it allows room for imagination and creativity. The structure is in the foundation work and the conceptual understanding of topics. The imagination builds on these bases to form flexibly understanding and critical thinking. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Playing Catch Up

18th Teachers are learners, Learners are teachers.

19th Metacognitive Reflection, ASC protocol, Self-Awareness Habitude
Self-Awareness means knowing yourself better than anybody else. It means examining yourself closely and honestly - being aware of your reactions, actions, learning. It means stepping back and looking at yourself, considering strengths, weaknesses, and all areas in between and feeling acceptance first, then empowerment to move forward.

20th Students have the choice to decide what to showcase in their portfolios. They are the designers of their file and make choices of the order or submissions in their portfolios. Students are welcome and encouraged to make these choices, but are required to also be able to provide an articulation of why they chose a particular piece to showcase.

21st Last year I had the opportunity to introduce my students to one of the best Hayao Miyazaki films, Totoro. I had grown up watching this film, my family owned the VHS in English, Chinese, and in Japanese. The students were exposed to a unfamiliar realm of movies, with a new idea of "action", and new world of characters. I loved showing them this film and will do a more in depth study of Miyazaki this year.

Totoro - a Hayao Miyazaki Film

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Challenge

The challenges that beat against education revolve around teachers, families, communities, and students. Here are some articles I'd like to share to shed some light on some of the challenges I believe are the most detrimental to students if they are not faced.

Give the Kid a Pencil

Speaking Tolerance

When Teachers Romanticize Their Students' Poverty

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


A superpower to know.
I'd like to know more about how my students' lives look out of school. It would be beneficial to know what their home lives and relationships feel and exist. I do believe that if I had more knowledge of how my students actually feel before and after school, it will help me plan and teach more accordingly. There are ways to get to know this information, but I do not think there is a way for me to deeply understand how they actually feel and go about their home lives. Questionnaires and phone calls have been one way I get to know families, but I want to know more.

Maybe home visits? maybe more family meet ups?

Until then, there's always the superpower to know.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Teacher Resume in Threes

intensity with the field
intensity with rigor in learning tasks
intensity with management

love with fierceness
love everyday for every child
love for the field

mindfulness of students and their families
mindfulness of staff and our interconnectedness
mindfulness of time, priorities, progress

Feedback and Progress

I had an great conversation with a friend of mine this weekend. She was a secondary English teacher. She was telling me about her experience and how she would not be able to live her life after work hours because she needed to provide meaningful and full feedback to all 100 of her high school students' essays.

It got me thinking about feedback and how it looks in my classroom.

Feedback for me means that students are aware of their strengths and their areas of growth in their work. Feedback exists for all content areas, but I'll speak to writing as it permeates through all of our content areas.

Feedback on writing means that students can identify their progress. It doesn't mean the very well known red-pen syndrome of marking every misspelled word or grammatically incorrect phrase. It means that students understand their work, understand what they are trying to communicate, and can identify where they could be more clear, concise, descriptive, etc.

During writer's workshop, I conference with my students at least twice a week on their work. It isn't a time for me to tear up their paper. It is a time for them to explain to me the direction of their piece and their decision for doing so. I can clarify, ask questions, point them in the direction of a mentor text, or I can direct them to another peer for feedback.

I do believe that feedback can look like this in any classroom of any age. I also know that it is impossible for me to "grade" every piece of writing a student produces in my class. They simply write so much that I cannot read all of it. I think there is something powerful for students to have written pieces they continue to work on privately rather than have me read through all pieces with feedback.


Google Chromebooks
Google Drive
Google Classroom
Edmodo - Staff PD and for student use

I won't rank them, as I don't feel like I have explored each of these edtech tools equally. My goal is to utilize some of these tools more regularly this year. I also hope to combine sources and teach students how to use the technology as a whole rather than by each part. Students this year are going strong - started with Chromebooks on Day 1. They have interacted with our CBs everyday for the last 10 days of school and I hope that this will help them become more fluent with the use of these tools before I bring them to using the tools for deep learning.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Five Year Plan

My long term goal in teaching is to always be learning. Teaching is a thrill - ups, downs, all arounds, challenges, achievement, happiness, laughter, mistakes, failures, strengths, weaknesses. I want teaching to always be a part of my life that I love and struggle with. I believe that through struggle, you learn. You get better and you know more. I hope in five years, my teaching will reflect what my students need to grow and become globally aware citizens. I hope that I bend with them and that I have opportunities to train and learn how to best grow leaders and community members from my classes. In five years I hope to be more comfortable in my own skin. In my fourth year of teaching, I have progressed but I still feel like I could have a stronger foundation at my feet. I want to learn more about myself as an educator and see how that interacts and bridges to myself as a person. I'd like to think that I can reach out to the community and the school families more. I have built relationships but they can deepen.

In five years, my first class (kinders) will be entering high school. I'd like to know how they are doing and if they are thriving in their lives.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Moments: small and fierce

A huge asset to this profession is that everyday is vastly different, yet the same. Here are a few special moments I love about my day.

The Sunrise Moment
Sunrise and the 1st Day of School 2013

When you get to school so early and prep prep prep. Coffee's warm, dark and cool, silence, and anticipation. And then you pull the blinds open to see the sun coming up on what will be another beautiful day.

The New Moment

Mission Trails Visitor Center Library 2014

When you get to explore something or someplace new with your students. It is most powerful, having teachers and students learn hand in hand, trail by trail, mountain by mountain.

The Friends Moment

Lauren and I - my first SDGVA class is now in her current 4th grade class!
When you get to know others so well, with the most powerful shared experience of teaching. Making friendships based on trust, love, and kindness. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

5 to 1

5 Random Facts
I once had a pet pig. His name was Hamlet.
I stress bake.
I was a board diver.
Barista for five years.
A friend of fifteen years, now is my fiance.

4 Bucket List Items
Live in Europe.
Be a risktaker. In all parts of life.
Take a backpacking trip.

3 Hopes
To always work where students come first.
To be an activist in the education and global field.
To retire feeling accomplished.

2 Moments
"I wish you could be my stepmom."
"Target smells like porn."

I'm really not that intense.
No, seriously.
I'm not intense. -_-

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Accomplishment: D.T.

A student of mine last year was faced with past years of teachers telling him he would never learn to read appropriately. It has been a year, and no matter his DRA level or his reading standardized testing scores, the boy has learned to love to read. He reads all the time now, searching for more ways to tap into knowledge, add to his current knowledge, and to improve himself. His resiliency inspires me and I hope that I will continue to inspire him to love himself as a learner. A true learner, leader, and young advocate.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Drawer?

A desk drawer? Do teachers have these? I had a hard time figuring out which cabinet or drawer to use. I don't have a teacher's desk, I prefer to roam the room throughout the day to check in with students. I sit at the kidney table when I'm alone - but there are no drawers to that.

No teachers desk!

Well, if I were to have a teacher's drawer, I'd like to think I'd have these items:

Snacks - for me and for students.

School supplies.

Handmade crafty gifts from students.


Wipes - well, you know.

Cough drops.

Fidgets - tools for students who might need something to keep them focused.

My teacher's drawer will have items that my students could use. My room exists for my students, not for me. I'd imagine the teacher's drawer would very quickly become the student's drawer - just much more organized.

I'm curious to learn more about what other teachers' drawers look like!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Colleagues of Inspiration

Some of my family and friends were not entirely convinced when I decided to pursue education and return to graduate school for my multiple subject teaching credential and my M.Ed. I believe they had good intentions in their hearts - they wanted what was best for me, they wanted me to end up with a job that had a high paying salary, they wanted me to pursue a larger goal, one with more opportunities for leadership, one that held more societal respect and ranking. I excelled in math and science in grade school, they wanted me to pursue a job with management, business, economics, healthcare.

Walking into UCLA and being faced with a very turbulent, inspiring, and challenging experience with Teacher Education Program (TEP), I needed to find a support network of people who would support me. I needed friends, colleagues, and inspirations. I have had the honor of knowing, working, befriending, and loving some sensational individuals. Here are some of them:

A colleague and friend from TEP
A teacher who thinks critically about education, she inspires me to think thoroughly about my own classroom.  Her organization and planning leads to creative and innovative projects and class trips. She is an amazing friend, who supports me even with the miles we have in between each other now.

A colleague and friend from CEG (my first school site)
We were teaching partners, kinder. That was a year I cannot forget - you can learn more about my experience there if you visit my Teacher Leadership paper. I survived my first year of teaching with Jesse by my side. He was resilient and courageous, and never left me hanging. We supported each other in our first year of teaching and in many ways I believe Jesse has shaped the way I treat and care for my students.

Jamie, Laura, Kate, Jeni, Lauren, Jaclyn, Tyna, Aja, Christine, Cynthia
All colleagues and great friends from my current school site, SDGVA.
Jamie, Laura, Kate, Jeni, Lauren, Jaclyn, Tyna, Aja, and Christine collectively saved me in 2012 when I joined the teaching team. Day to day, they demonstrated equity, love, rigor, resilience, and critical thinking for their students, families, and work professionalism. They took me into their teaching team and provided me with room to grow, to make the mistakes I make, and to talk me off ledges. They now support me in my journey to becoming a teacher leader, and they have become my best friends. Cynthia is my rock. We laugh, cry, get frustrated, and grow together at the site. A beautiful friendship with an amazing woman.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Good Mentors and Teacher Leaders

Say this three times fast.

Good teacher mentors mentor other teachers.
Good teacher mentors mentor other teachers.
Good teacher mentors mentor other teachers.

When I think of good mentors, I think of the teacher leaders that exist at my school site. As a successful mentor, they lead out from their classrooms and help support other teacher leaders in the making. This summer, I was supported by my entire school site to complete the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP)'s Summer Institute. The four weeks were packed with opportunities to challenge myself, learn from others, and begin my solid foundation of being a teacher leader. For the Summer Institute, I wrote a position paper on a topic that defines a significant part of the teacher life I pursue - Teacher Leadership.

An excerpt:

Teacher leaders are teachers who take their expertise outside of the classroom. We do not fear change, we invite it. We take steps to improve ourselves, knowing there is an infinite number of ways to be better. Teacher leaders work best together and promote professional development and growth. We plan and collaborate with principals and teachers, not just students. Teacher leader voices are loud and most definitely heard.
Defeated by my experience at CEG, I became skeptical about schools and the role of the teacher. I proceeded with caution through the gates of San Diego Global Vision Academies (SDGVA), where I had accepted a second grade teaching position. This cautious concern would continue to ebb away with each step I take with SDGVA for this is where I discovered what it means to be a teacher leader. Teacher leaders were honored and raised carefully here, their craft improved and cultivated through professional development, teaching community, and whole site support. We were protected and nurtured through our interactions; consider this example.
Our healthy professional development chatter buzzed rapidly through the room; the mentor cuts loudly over us with directions. We are critiquing our progress with Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) in math. I held my breath as the video cued up on screen. The first and third grade teachers huddled in anticipation of seeing my video of Zoey completing a subtraction problem. “Notice your strengths that you’ve been gaining in questioning and pay attention to where you may have interrupted the student’s thinking or closed off their inquiry with a closed ended question,” our mentor chimes. Now this was an environment in which I could learn, share, and flourish.

Excerpt from Teacher Leaders: To Lead and Be Heard

Welcome to Room 30!

First week of school is complete! A rocking one, I'd like to add! Here, one of my students is sharing out her biobag (a bag with three personal items that teach us about the student). Her peers are listening and will soon be jumping out of their seats to ask a question of our presenter. For the next few weeks, all my students will share a biobag. 

I see: students engaged, students feeling empowered, students learning about each other, center spaces of learning, E-desk formation from Fred Jones, school schedule, classroom jobs, a math calendar, a mounted projector (YES!), a projector screen, doc cam, seat sacks.

I'd like to see more of: student created items, student work, more student collaboration, more team building activities, even more rigor in instruction, and more student use of technology.

Here are some more fun photos from my first week of school!

Students went around on the first day of school on a carousel walk.
Students started using Chromebooks on day 1. Logins successful!

Center spaces around the room for literacy and math centers.

A whole lot of LOVE from our admin team throughout this week!

Thursday, September 4, 2014


why I love.

inspires me.
challenges me.
defines me.
betters me.
makes me.
teaches me.
knows me.

I am 11
driven, studious
a monitored attitude,
walking that predetermined path,
sheltered and blinded from all that was left unseen.

I am 17
good head on the shoulders,
ready to jump,
ready to find out what I've been missing

I am 20
this turning point,
faced with questions with no answers
running and falling,
infinite high-walled mazes

I am 22
teaching, teach, teacher
finally breathing fresh,
new waters to swim in,
treading carefully, learning the crash of the waves
then the suffocation,
friends into strangers
a lost soul in the urban landscape
but still, something so new
I hold on
the water carries me away

I am 26
new friends,
new knowledge,
still breathing fresh,
waters turbulent at times, but I know to hold out
teaching saved me
with its buoyant hold,
I ride into all of it
the fog lifts
and I see me
teaching, teach, teacher

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting Off Task... Guilty!

Day 3 Prompt: "Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation."
This prompt made me uncomfortable. Not completely sure why, but I believe it has to do with the tone I read this statement with. It made me think about teachers everywhere spending time, not with their teaching craft, lessons, or students, but with their worries about the next evaluation results. Be warned: I got off topic from this prompt (I hope this still counts as me staying on this 30-day challenge).
Teacher evaluations - necessary, but often misused or inaccurate. There are a wide variety of teacher evaluations that exist and they act as a significant influence on teacher life/performance/motivation. Three years ago, my teacher evaluation was a spreadsheet of numbers. Not numbers that measure my competence, use of technology, or teaching pedagogy, but numbers of my students' benchmark test scores. I was never seen as a teacher or a human, I was seen as a number generating machine. If you were a good machine with high numbers, you were ignored. If you were a poor machine with low numbers, you were excused. My teaching partner, a new teacher at the time, didn't make it past her first teacher evaluation - it was week 1. By week 2 I had a new partner.
When the CEO of the charter stepped onto campus, a silent alarm was triggered in the form of a group text among the teachers. It always read, "BIG EAGLE HAS LANDED." And it always instilled a fresh coat of fear and anxiety.
Not all teacher evals are created equally. Now I am visited so frequently by my admin that the students and I see it as part of a normal day. I am encouraged to act naturally and I am provided opportunities to create lessons that actually reach and engage my students. The eval comes in the form of a document, but it does not contain any student test scores. It contains a spectrum of development, a focus on progress, and a emphasis on teacher pedagogy and competence in multiple literacies. I feel like I am represented completely in my eval - strengths and areas of growth all included. My biggest goal for the year is to improve with my competence in technological literacies with my second graders. 
What would it be like if all teachers could experience valuable and insightful evaluations? 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September and a 30-Day Challenge

OK.. I may be a day behind, but what the hell. I'm taking on this 30-day challenge!



To question the role of curriculum.
To question my role as the educator.
To have students generate questions that interest them.
To pursue those questions.
To tear down the "lady with the answer".
To challenge myself to be more thoughtful.
To challenge my students to be more insightful.
To break limits.
To set goals.
To remember and honor the lights of El Milagro.
To tell my coworkers I love them.
To communicate.
To teach for justice.
To keep my mind on equity and privilege.
To be a role model.
To be a leader.
To be resilient.
To be gritty.
To be tough.
To be new.


I am trying to transform the use of the Chromebooks in my classroom. I got my feet wet with the CBs last year, but played around with google drive and used it as a glorified notebook.

What I need to do is find a way for the Chromebooks to be transformative and innovative. I want to use the CBs in a way that bring students together with collaboration rather than provide them with isolated computer literacy courses. 

Though I have looked through numerous apps or programs, I want to use CBs for research, questions, feedback, creations. Does anybody have any good ideas for using CBs in the classroom?