Posted in Uncategorized

Just a thought…

I’m in a few EDU related FB groups. Every day I see at least one post saying “my evaluation is this week. What is a good lesson I can do?”

I understand that no one wants an evaluation on a day when they are testing or something, but in general, if you are doing a one-day horse-and-pony show for your evaluation…. a.) your admin will know. B.) your kids will know c.) it will flop d.) if you think that is how you should teach for an evaluation, you should probably be teaching that way every day. 

I’ll put my soap box away now… 

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Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

a little bitty star.

I want to reflect a little bit on last school year. It was hard, and I doubted myself a lot. I was a first year English teacher. I tried hard to project confidence. I really did. I comforted myself in the silence of the night by rocking back and forth and repeating “I taught Spanish Literature for college credit… I taught Spanish Literature for college credit.”   I had to force myself to believe that if I can get students to read 38 works of literature in one school year and earn college credit when they really didn’t want to do all that work… I could do anything, even this.

I started last school year with a post about all the reasons I could, and would do this job. But, for all the confidence I posted last year, each day and each month proceeded to break me a little bit more. Could I really do this? Were my kids learning? Would they pass their exam? In May when we got our results, I was elated and disappointed. If I’m honest, I was mostly disappointed. Our pass rates aren’t nearly what I am used to and what I expected. However, despite that, we improved by 10% or more in every category. I was bum-fuzzled to say the least. How do the kids improve in every. single. area. and still only the same number of them pass? I knew my kids had significant gaps… but hadn’t I worked to fill them all year long? Perhaps a school year isn’t enough time to fill years of gaps…

This summer I wracked my brain. I made changes. I beat myself up.

Then, in August, we got our State Accountability Ratings back. I was shocked to learn that our campus had earned a distinction in ELA / Reading. We only have 2 English teachers in our high school. Between the upper division teacher taking on and encouraging more dual credit students, and pushing them to earn credit, and the incredible reading / writing growth in my 9th and 10th graders… this is what I saw:

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I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t cry. I cried. I freaked out. I jumped up and down a little.

Our campus only earned this one distinction this year. Although we are consistently considered one of the better schools in our area, the standards for this distinction are very, very high. Additionally, our campus has never, in the history of distinctions (since 2002), earned the ELA/ Reading distinction. 

This little star restored my hope and my confidence that what I am doing/ and did do works. This little star is actually a really big deal. This is the culmination of every crappy day last year, every email dealing with another parent unsure of my methods, every fight with a student, every doubt, and every kid/ parent/ colleague who occasionally thought I had fallen off my rocker.

This little star holds every student who came to school and pushed their limits in grades 9-12, every teacher/ coach/ sponsor who pushed literacy and writing techniques and encouraged kids to focus on school, and every parent who made their kid show up and buck up. This little star is the STARt of something big.

My home is Spanish, but my home away from home isn’t so bad after all. 

-CL

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Pulsera Project Teacher Trip Q & A

This is an update I posted to my GoFundMe for my Pulsera Project Trip. I thought some of you would like to read it, too 🙂

Hi all!
On Thursday evening I hosted a Facebook Live Q & A session, and I got some really great questions about my trip. I decided to host the session because several people have been asking great questions, and I thought this would be an easy way of sharing information about what I’ll be doing. I’ll summarize some of the questions here!
Q: Is your trip with the Pulsera Project a mission trip?
A: No, not really. This is an educational trip for teachers. It is with a non-profit organization that is not affiliated with a religion and focuses it’s efforts both here and in Nicaragua. The work in the U.S. is primarily through service-learning for students and Pulsera sales. I understand the confusion, because I am highly involved in my church. I will say that this organization models what I believe to be a more effective way of meeting needs (which is the true definition of mission work–not to be confused with evangelism). People used to (and sadly some still do) go places and give people stuff, but this is ineffective (watch Poverty Inc documentary for more info). The Pulersa Project is all about educating and empowering people to raise themselves from poverty through sustainable (and fair) work opportunities, micro loans, and education opportunities.

Q: If it isn’t a mission trip, what will you be doing there?
A: A whole lot of things! We are going to be getting an inside look at how the organization works, what they do with the money from pulsera sales, and who they work with. We will be meeting pulsera artists, as well as people from other organizations with similar missions. We are going to be observing the culture, the situations, and the solutions people there are working to formulate. As I mentioned before, a huge part of what the Pulsera project does is education in the U.S., so we (a group of 8 teachers selected from across the country) will also be giving input on new lesson ideas and contributing to that process. Of course there will be some tourism, too. For instance, one night, we will be going to see an active volcano!

Q: Can I fit in your suitcase?
A: No, but I really wish you could! I’m planning to take only carry-on luggage on this trip!

Q: Do you speak Spanish?
A: Yep! That is actually one of the requirements to be selected for the trip! The Pulsera Project has many cross-curricular opportunities, but they primarily work with Spanish Teachers and World-Language departments because the culturally authentic material they produce is primarily in Spanish, of course.

Q: How long is the trip?
A: 8 days!

Q: Is it a large group setting?
A: Nope, not at all. Actually, only 8 teachers in the U.S. were selected for the trip. It will be us, and a few people from the organization.

Q: Will you be sharing information from your trip?
A: YES, YES, AND YES! I plan to share information here and on my blog (cwilsonspanish.com). I hope to share cultural information, information related to teaching, as well as some personal experiences. I plan to keep this page up so that people who have supported this campaign financially and with their thoughts, well-wishes, and prayers can see the results of their generosity.

Q: Will this be your first time in Nicaragua?
A: Yes, it will. I have been to Costa Rica several times, which is just south of Nicaragua, so I am familiar with the climate, however this is my first trip to the country 🙂

Q: What are your goals in Nicaragua?
A: I have several. I would like to positively contribute to the lessons that the Pulsera Project provides. Not only have these lessons positively impacted my students, but my own teaching of them has permanently changed me as an individual as well. On a personal level, I love to learn, so I have a personal goal of learning more about the culture and continuing to improve my Spanish. Lastly, most teachers understand the burn-out you feel in May/ June. I’m looking forward to being re-invigorated by the knowledge that what we do works.

Thank you to everyone who asked questions! And again, thank you to everyone who has supported me in this trip! Stay turned for more updates -C. Wilson

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Reflection

Today was the English II STAAR EOC (State of Texas) exam for my students, following the English I exam on Tuesday. I’d like to share some reflections.

First, I want to share something from the past. I remember the moment I finally became an elementary teacher. I started in December, taking over a classroom that had been through 2 teachers and several subs. It wasn’t until May that I finally “arrived”. After having worked in Jr. High and High School, no part of me wanted to work in an elementary school… and it did not suit me. I took the job because it was what I could get mid-year, in a new state. One day we had a book parade, and my class rocked it. We chose the perfect book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I bought 1 poster board per student. I drew foods on each one, and had each kid cut a whole in the middle. They got acrylic paints and did made patchy 2nd grade masterpieces on them. It was perfection. We made a caterpillar, and I ended the line as the butterfly. We could tell the entire story with our class–from beginning to end. As we walked by the other classes, one teacher leaned over and said, “You ARE an elementary teacher.” I actually cried.

After that year, I returned to high school–back to my homeland. But, I was not unchanged. Every class I teach will forever be stamped by what I did there in those few months, with those sweet 2nd-grade souls.

On this blog I have often reflected on the fact that no matter what I teach, I am a teacher. But, today, in the midst of a light-hearted discussion with my principal, in which I reminded him that I’d love to teach Spanish again one day, and

he politely reminded me that that will never happen. This is partly because he already has a Spanish teacher, and partly because even if he didn’t, he wouldn’t let me teach it. More specifically, he wouldn’t let me stop teaching English.

He can see what I could not. He already sees me as an English teacher, when I’m still desperate to reject that label altogether. While I still have my preferences, the truth is that I am an English teacher.

On that note, when my students take big tests like this, I tend to believe their results say more about me than they do about the students. As the tests approach, I pray the results reflect what the kids have learned. I pray that even if they don’t pass, they at least grow from where they were last year. I pray that I did them justice. They deserve so much, and I hope I did what I could to get them where they need to be.

Last reflection: Many people comment about the “fun” we’ll have now that we can “let our hair down” after the test. UMMMMM. A.) We were having fun before. B.) We aren’t going to switch to a blow-off curriculum after the test. I saved this last 6 weeks for the real fun: research! YES. We cannot ignore those TEKS just because they aren’t tested.

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Another adventure!

Hi guys,
I am writing to share this exciting news with you. I found out this afternoon that I have been selected as one of only 8 teachers in the United States to attend this teacher trip to Nicaragua this summer. I have created a GoFuneMe account to help cover the expenses. I understand that not everyone can donate, but I hope you’ll pray for the trip, and consider sharing the link with your friends.
Love you guys. Here’s to another adventure!

https://www.gofundme.com/mrs-wilsons-pulsera-project-trip

Thank you all,

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

Joy

‘Tis the season for Joy. Today was a great day, and it made my teacher heart cry. Today was one for the highlight reel.

3 years ago, this week, I bought a kid some folders and a backpack. He was a second year freshman, and a pain in my rear. Of course, I taught him 8th period. When else? I bought him the backpack so he couldn’t tell me all the reasons he didn’t have his work any more. That was my snarky reason… But the real reason was because I saw so much in him and I wondered if he’d ever see it in himself. It turns out that just a few years before, he had been at the top of his class: with commended scores on every standardized test, and real dreams. But him mom passed away, and life went on, and he didn’t. My heart hurt for this kid because I’d been there. Except, my downturn lasted 6 months, not almost 6 years.

After many other obstacles in his path and a time of recovering the credits he’d fallen behind in, I learned that he earned the credits necessary to graduate, as of today. He isn’t my son, but I’m just as proud as I know I will be on the day my sons graduate high school. I  haven’t been his teacher in three years, but I’ve never stopped praying for him. So today I cried tears of joy for him, and for the reality that though education is often viewed as a system in shambles, there are places where what we do is working. It worked for this kid, and that makes everything worth it.

-CL

Posted in teaching, Uncategorized

A Teacher’s Christmas List

NO. This isn’t a sappy list about hoping all kids will learn and have a warm jacket for the winter. I DO hope those things, and I pray for them daily. But no. This isn’t that list. This is a real list of stuff you should buy the teachers in your life. Really. For real. Do it.

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Photo from: ecycler.com
If you have a teacher in your life, here is what (s)he wants for Christmas:
-A large amount of pencils and pens. Don’t go all out, we are planning to give these away.
-GlueSTICKS. Liquid glue is of the devil, but even high school teachers need glue for their classes.
-Scissors. These little devils grow feet and walk away like none other.
-Scratch and sniff stickers. WE NEED SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR.
-Stamps. Kids will do anything for a stamp, and, apparently, so will we.
-Expo markers and dry erase supplies. Not black, please not black. We need to see color, considering 90% of us don’t have a window to look through.
-Red and/ or colored pens. Nothing gets us going like a new color to grade in.
-Giant Sticky notes (17″X25″) . Most teachers don’t know these exist, which means they don’t know that this is truly the desire of their souls. Help an educator out.
So, if you are wondering, YES. I do want all these things for Christmas. But so does every other certified educator ever. Feel free to share so teachers all over the world can have more than a Merry Christmas, but also a stocked-up New Year.
-CL
Posted in English escapades, Google, homework, teaching, Uncategorized

Taking “L”s

The first month or two of teaching English was an adjustment and a challenge all its own, but I think I survived, and survived well.

I don’t know if it is the upcoming Super Moon or some manifestation of Murphy’s Law, but in the past couple weeks I’ve been “Taking L’s”. This is what “the kids say” when they are taking “losses”, real, perceived, or immaterial. I’ve been taking all of the above.

So to cheer me up, here are some “W’s” from the past few weeks and things I have planned coming up.

  • I planned a trip and took several high school seniors on a DAY trip nearly 250 miles away to watch a play in a real theater. We also went to a modern art museum. They saw real-live protesters on strike protesting their wages. We ate at Chick-Fil-A, and we did all of the above (minus lunch) for FREE. #WIN
  • I searched for and planned maker-spaces to go with all my units for the rest of the school year. Our Poet-TREE has been coming along well! #WIN
  • For our Informational Text Unit coming up, I’ve designed a survey using Google Forms to allow the students to pick the topics that we read about in the coming weeks. I’ll gather the results and choose our texts according to their interests! #WIN
  • This 6 weeks, our homework will be student choice using a learning menu. There are 12 options, and the students will choose 4 to complete over the course of the grading period. #WIN
  • I’ve got several exciting projects planned, but the most immediate one is an infographic project my students are going to be working on this 6 weeks. Stay turned for exciting stuff in the Spring!!! #WIN

So, L’s: I’ve got some pretty great W’s to balance this out. You don’t win. I don’t lose. This weekend wasn’t quite long enough, but it was plenty to remind me that I love kids, and high expectations are part of loving them and believing in them. Teaching is hard, and sometimes those stakeholders are more like “stake-throwers” while we navigate the seas of change together, raising the stakes. (How many “stakes” puns can I put in a paragraph?) I’m not mad, and as frustrating as it is, I’m not allowed to be hurt, either. I’m just moving forward and buckling down. Thanks for reading.

-CL

Posted in Uncategorized

I Could Use Your Help…

Every Wednesday at the school I work at, is “college day”. Teachers and staff are encouraged to wear jeans and a college T-shirt. The idea behind this is that by wearing college T-shirts, we might encourage students to learn about and attend college. 

Teachers are also encouraged to choose one college with which to decorate their classrooms. Rather than choosing only one college, I have chosen to use every Wednesday as a college day in my classroom. Each Wednesday, I highlight a different college, and I wear that college T-shirt. Additionally, I answer my students’ questions about college. We have covered everything from crazy dorm-mates to ACT scores. I use the questions and answers from our Q & A sessions as the decor for my classroom. I also post a logo from each college that we talk about.


I teach at a rural high school, and many of my students view college as something that is not an option for them. If they do view college as a possiblity, they typically look at the colleges that are nearby, which are small community colleges or universities. Our students can get a good education at these schools, but I want to encourage them to look at all of their options, and to evaluate more than family tradition when considering a college. I have been asking them tough questions. How is the program that they want to attend ranked? Does this college offer their major?

Lastly, many of my students believe that they can only afford one of these small schools. I have been trying hard to bust this myth. I teach at a title I school, where over 70% of our students live in poverty. This means that many, if not most, of my students would qualify to have the vast majority of their education paid for. 

Whether my students’ goals include a career school, a small college, a big university, or the military, close to home or far away, I want to make sure I’m taking the chance to provide my students with the knowledge they need to evaluate their options.

This is where YOU come in. I am running low on college shirts for my Wednesday bit. I’m hoping some of you would be interested in sending me a college, university, trade school or military t-shirt from anywhere in the state, country or world that I can wear to show my students I am invested in their future. 

Sending a shirt (and maybe a quick note?) would mean investing a few dollars and a few minutes of your time in my students. Address below. 

-CL

P.S. I wear a medium. 

Posted in professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures, Uncategorized

That E-Portfolio Life

OH how tempted I was to write this as my title:

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E-portfolio Life by @cwilsonspanish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Based on a work at https://peachylynn08.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/4197274.jpg. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at cwilsonspanish.com.

I’m not sure other professionals are as qualified to discuss and analyze e-portfolios in the same way that educators who have graduated college (of any level) in the last ten years are uniquely qualified. During my undergraduate degree I went through a number of e-portfolio initiatives put on by the State of Florida in an attempt to ensure we were actually educating our preservice teachers. Now, in my Master’s degree here in Texas, I am going through it again. I have an e-portfolio for the university, and separate e-portfolios for different classes, and one that has run the course of a few classes with the same professor.

And of course… there is the e-portfolio that never died. This one. That is right! This blog began 6 years ago as part of an e-portfolio initiative in a class I was taking at the University of South Florida. What it turned into is even more than what was intended, I’m sure. This blog has turned into my teaching happy place. This has become a place that I voluntarily go (at the bequest of no one) to reflect and vent and innovate.

At the creation of this blog, I hoped no one on the internet would stumble upon it. Now, I check my app every day to see if anyone did. I’m not famous. I haven’t gone viral. However, I’ve had views from all over the world and I’ve had amazing conversations with students and teachers who found my blog while scrolling on social media. Not only does this blog serve as a learning tool for me, it serves as a piece of authentication to the students who may come across it: Mrs. W is a real teacher, really trying, really learning, really failing, and really continuing on the path. I’m not there for the paycheck. And, I’ve got a weekly post to prove it.

All these thoughts bubbled to the surface this week while reading over a section on authentic assessment and the use of e-portfolios in Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools. E-portfolios can (and should) become more than just a collection of worksheets and assignments. As in the case of educators, they can become a useful and fluid curation of resumés, philosophies, unit plans, resources, ideas, and more. The idea behind authentic assessment is that our assignments lend themselves to real life, or in my case, my actual classroom setting.

More importantly, e-portfolios in a Web 2.0 world have another capability: they can aid the learner in reflection. While my blog does curate some of my trials and failures, it mostly houses my reflective practice. This space holds me accountable to my integrity both as a teacher, and as a life-long learner. Creating spaces where learners can authentically showcase their work, fluidly revise and edit that work, collaborate with others on it, then return for reflective practice… this is the gold standard in learning. How can a learner who does all of those things not learn at a high level?

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

-CL