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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Posted in teaching

New adventure, new look

Teaching is full of new adventures all the time. This summer has taken me from the school and department I’ve worked with for the last 3 years, and away from my beloved subject area: Spanish.

Next week, I start a new adventure teaching high school English.

But I hope you’ll follow along on my English escapades as well as my tech-ventures and occasional Spanish relapses. 

Oh man. I’ve had months to mourn my loss. I’m comfortable in the Spanish classroom. I’m in love, in fact. I’m in my zone; I’m on my game. I know the TEKS like the back of my hand; I know where the students struggle. I know where I can drive a point home to make an impression that lasts. It is my home, my happy place.

saying good bye
Saying good-bye to my beloved room 116 at CHS.

I’m still a little bit sad, but I’m looking forward to a new adventure. Here’s the truth:

  1. I’m a teacher. I’ve always been a teacher. And the subject area doesn’t matter. From middle school Spanish to Spanish Literature–I’ve done it. From 2nd grade to 8th grade math and 8th grade English–I’ve been there. The subject area isn’t really my passion. Teaching and learning is my undeniable passion.
  2. I’m looking forward to speaking the same language as most of my students again. Going from teaching mainly English speakers in Spanish, to teaching mainly English speakers in English is going to take down a huge barrier I’ve had to fight every school day of the last 5 school years.
  3. I love a challenge. The STAAR exam is a challenge. I learned an important lesson teaching AP Spanish (Lang & Lit): don’t waste time complaining about the test. There would have been no point in wasting time complaining to my team, to my students, and to their parents. There would have been no point in giving the students a time and place to complain. We had work to do… and we killed it with 100% participation, and 100% pass rates in both classes. I’ll add to this: while I had the very best students, they didn’t all come to me in the ways that we usually define as the “best”. They weren’t all rich, they weren’t all white (or all hispanic), they weren’t all well prepared, and several of them rarely experienced academic success. I’ve set goals going in to this position, and I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the test, and the TEKS. A lot of teachers will say there are gaps, there are. A lot of teachers will talk about teaching to the test–but I know that it is not possible on this new generation of tests. To those teachers, I’d say that I’m not interested in all the reasons my students can’t be successful.
  4. I love a challenge, part 2. I’m getting to re-read literature I loved. I’m having to read the literature I pretended to read … I am having to learn new TEKS and a new set of expectations. It is a challenge and it has been a lot of fun.
  5. I’m a learner. Most of teaching is continuous learning. I believe that when I finally know everything, and no one can teach me anything, it will be time to retire. Of course, I wish all the people who’ve already gotten to that point would go ahead and retire too…

So, here on this blog, I’m going to keep on adventuring. I’m still @cwilsonspanish, and these are still the adventures of a Spanish teacher–because at my core, that’s what I’ll always be. But I hope you’ll follow along on my English escapades as well as my tech-ventures and occasional Spanish relapses.

To celebrate, I’ve updated the look on the blog, gotten a fresh and fancy domain name, and  connected my social media pages. Enjoy 🙂

-CL