Monday, September 30, 2013


Exciting things are going to be happening in my AVID classroom. I can't wait to post all about it here, but my students don't know about it yet, so for now you'll just have to guess. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On technology

I am not ashamed to admit that I'm pretty on top of current pop culture.  I rarely hear my students talking about something and think, what is that? while smiling like I get it.  (Exception being Twerking and Kik--both of which I now know all about, though I wish I knew nothing of twerking and could unsee Miley Cyrus's infamous twerking at the VMA's).

The point of this tangent on technology is that I use it in my classroom as much as possible.  I'm always looking for new ways to use it, new apps, new devices.  I would kill for an interactive whiteboard and a set of student clickers.

I was introduced to Edmodo about 4 years ago and at the time, it was kind of lame and not very user friendly.  However, I randomly thought of it the other day and decided to check it out again.  It looked a lot more appealing.

Edmodo is like facebook for classes.  A teacher creates an account and sets up groups--I chose to have one group for each of my classes.  Edmodo creates a Group Code for each group, which the students will need in order to sign up.  A student cannot create an account without a group to join.  They don't even need to input an email address, but they can if they want to receive email alerts.

With Edmodo, kids can post things, upload files, add files to their "Backpack," which is a place to store work electronically that they can access again.  As a teacher, you can send alerts, take polls, create quizzes and close them on a certain day so that students must take them by a certain time, upload assignments and documents, etc.  There are even apps that you can add to the site.  I added a flashcards app and created a stack using their vocab words.  I shared this with them and now they have an online study tool--in addition to the cards they make in class.  There's also a (free!) app for iPhone and Android.  It's not the best, but it's functional.

It has been a slow process getting my AVID kids and my 8th grade grade-level English class to all get on the site, but my honors 8th graders are obsessed with it.  They post silly pun-ny jokes and hashtag everything ironically.  I'm having a blast using it with them.  I have already used it to post homework, give them a quiz, have them all respond to a discussion question, and even post a grammatically incorrect sentence to see who would find the errors.  My 7th grade AVID class has been using it to ask each other homework questions.  As the teacher, you have the ability to delete anything they post, and you can even change the settings so that you have to approve every post before it goes up, but #Ain'tNobodyGotTimeForThat. :)

Some of my kids are not allowed to have Facebook pages, so this is the only social networking they get to do.  And so they blow it up.  They will come into the room and say, "Ms. T, check the edmodo site! Someone posted the most ridiculous joke."

Here are a couple of screen shots:

Monday, September 23, 2013


Sh!t My Students Say:
 My Leadership class had a game day since no activities are planned at the moment.

"Candy land is too intense!!!!" - P.L.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On redecorating

Thought it might be fun to do a little classroom tour! I wish I had really taken before pictures of my classroom.  I spent all summer painting it. Here are a couple of "before" pictures.

My desk area

Can you see that disgusting teal color and the dingy color of the walls and door? 


Grey and yellow.  So much more soothing.  I wish I could get rid of those hideous shades that can be pulled across the top windows. 

 Of course it's not this neat anymore.  This was before 200+ teenagers graced my classroom with their presence every day.
 God, those shades are so ugly.

Aaaaaaand a great shot of today's Exit Ticket board (I got your engagement strategies right here, mister).
Direct or Indirect Characterization?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the mend

I returned to school today after having been out for two days with a terrible cold.  All day long kids would walk by my door, peek in and yell, "YESS!!!!!!!" or "THANK GOD!" upon seeing me sitting there.

It's nice to be missed.  :)

I still felt like crap all day, but the homemade cheese enchiladas that a students' mother brought me (and the rest of her teachers) made the day brighter!

I used my voice so much today that I sound like some of my male students who are going through puberty right now!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Dogs have it so easy. My dog Ollie spent an hour basking in the sun rays on this chair. Then, he moved to the couch and slept some more. Then, he cuddled with me and got lots of pets and scratches. Then, we played fetch with his crinkly elf toy. What a life! He's just "livin'. "L-i-v-i-n." (Name that movie!)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blog Lovin'

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

If you use Blog Lovin' as your blog reader, go ahead and add me!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A bunch of random thoughts about education

There are a few things I've been meaning to post here, but then life gets in the way and a week has past and I haven't posted, and now I have something else that I want to post about in addition to the first thing.  *sigh*

I am in a perpetual group text with two of my best friends (and two fellow teachers).  Lesley and I taught at SHS my first year teaching and were instantly inseparable.  We had (mostly) weekly movie nights for the next 5 years.  Then, two years ago, enter Jen.  She was hired at SHS and Lesley was assigned as her mentor teacher.  Jen came to one movie night and, to use a cliché simile, she fit in like a missing puzzle piece.  Then, in June, the saddest thing in the world happened.  Jen moved back to her home state of Minnesota, and Lesley and her family moved to Huntington Beach where her husband had gotten a job with OC Fire.

Almost immediately after Lesley's move to HB, she got a job with Girls Inc. which is a great organization.  We have it here in our area and they work with the 8th grade girls at my school.  She worked a regular 9-5, 5 days a week.  She spent her summer taking middle school girls on field trips to aquariums and Knott's Berry Farm.  She attended fancy luncheons where she convinced rich ladies to donate money to the organization.  There was no more grading papers, no more staying after school for hours to help students who were struggling, no more attending funerals for family members of students who were killed in gang activity, no more teenage pregnancy, crying for the kids who were homeless at 17 because their dads kicked them out to make room for their new girlfriends, no more trying to control classes of 40+ students whose reading levels ranged from 4th grade to college level.  The area where we live(d) is a very interesting one.  Within a 20 mile radius, you have millionaires, migrant farm workers, gang members, and everyone in between. We teach (taught) in the less affluent area, but still even there, you have kids who live in huge houses and kids who live 3 families to a two bedroom apartment. Lesley's new job was a cake walk by comparison.

And she was unhappy.  "I need pain-in-the-ass kids who drive me crazy." She said in our group text.  "Teaching is 100 times harder than this job, but it is where I belong.  I'm a teacher."

Most people would think she was crazy, but I get it.  Jen gets it.  Plenty of my other teacher-friends get it.  We are teachers.  The same way we are alive.  Teaching isn't a job, and it's certainly not a back-up plan (I'm looking at you: people who have ever said, "well if that doesn't work out, I can always teach" as if it's that easy).

Which is why I get so angry when non-teachers talk shit about public education and how there aren't enough high-quality teachers.  I teach in a very low-paying district.  I am there early.  I stay late.  There is nothing I wouldn't do for my students.  I spend hundreds of my own dollars every year on my classroom.  I feed them.  I counsel them.  I nurture them.  I protect them to fullest extend of my ability as long as their bodies are on our campus.

But I also get it.  Because I've had colleagues I've despised because they had no business teaching.  However, those people are few and far between.  You want high-quality teachers? Give schools more money.  Give them the resources they need. When it comes to the education of our children, why should any expense be spared? Why should I have to spend $400 on a class set of The Hunger Games so my kids can read a book they are interested in? I shouldn't.  But I did.  Because it means that much to me.  Is it my fault that my school district can't afford to provide the resources I need to teach? No.  But it's not the kids' fault either.

You want high-quality teachers? Pay them wages they can live on. I am always, always broke by the end of the month and I have two roommates.  There is no way I could afford to live on my own.  It really is no surprise that there is such high turnover in education.  Perhaps if teachers were paid a lot more (the way they are in many other countries), education would be a more competitive field, and teachers wouldn't leave the field so quickly.  Show teachers that their work is valued.

You want high-quality teachers?  Make things equitable from school-to-school.  Another middle school in my district just 10 miles down the road has smart boards, ipads, and apple tv.  Some of our teachers are still using overhead projectors.  Not LCD projectors.  Overhead projectors.  These things:
Some of our classrooms still have chalkboards.  Chalkboards.  There is a classroom on my campus where the floor tiles are coming up so badly that students (and teacher) routinely trip over them. But 10 miles away, they're having a ball with their smart boards and their apple tv's.

Why don't I go get a job there?  Why don't I go get a job in a better paying district? The kids.  I love our kids.  I love the diversity.  I, like Lesley, love the pain-in-the-ass at-risk kids who drive us crazy, but steal our hearts.  Would our job be easier in a more affluent school where all kids are performing at grade level and behavior problems are few? Yeah, probably.  But working with our demographic is so much more rewarding.

You see, it's not about the money, and it is totally about the money.  I don't teach for the money (obviously.  And I know you've heard that before). But could money make me a better teacher?  I lie awake at night sometimes and dream of the things I could do in my classroom if I had the resources I want/need/deserve to do my job well.  I know I'm the best teacher I can be right now.  Would that be magnified if I had better resources? I get excited just thinking about it.  Maybe one day.  But for now, I'll continue to do what I can with what I have.

Because the problem with education isn't the teachers.  It's the conditions under which they are expected to teach and students are expected to learn.