Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 6-Your day....

These are the postings that I find to be recapping what I did or ate.  I'm sure that you don't find these interesting either!  When I think of "a" day that sticks out as memorable, I think of the things that we all do...the day we graduated from high school or college, the day we got married, the day that our children were born, etc.  As I'm sure that you all know those special days, either because I've posted about them or told you about them, let me take the time to tell you about my first day as an educator!  Get ready, hold on tight....this is going to be an adventure!!!

Let me give you the background first.  When I was in college, I worked at Bath and Body Works on a part time basis.  When I graduated from college, I opted to go into management with them.  I will never forget that as a manager, back then, I was making $27,500.  I was fresh out of college and thought that I was balling!  I worked there for about 8 years and then got recruited to a clothing retailer for one year.  Once I had my second son, I quit!  I wanted, needed and desired a quality of life.  I took about a $30,000 pay cut to be a teacher, but I've never looked back once!  Eventually you get to the point that having a quality of life and making a difference to someone other than yourself is worth more than the money.  I went into substitute teaching prior to securing a full time job as a science teacher.  Substitute teaching was interesting.  I got to choose the days that I worked along with the hours.  I could work half days if I wanted, close to my house, far from the house...whatever I wanted!  I subbed for about 3 weeks.  And then it happened.....I got hired to be a the middle of September.....of 2004!

I walked into my science lab to teach Environmental Science to 3 different classes of 32 students each.  Each class was 90 minutes long as the school was on block schedule.  I had one 90 minute planning period.  The first day of class, I walked in, and the students were...what I called at the time..."off the chain."  I couldn't blame them though.  They had had different subs in their class for about a month and a half and didn't believe that I was their real teacher.  They didn't trust me and here I came trying to teach them after they had been pretty much chilling for almost 2 months!  They didn't want to learn.  They didn't want to take notes.  They didn't want to do anything except raise their hands and ask, "Can I go to the bathroom?"  I had lunch duty, after school bus duty, a faculty meeting after school, etc.  I got all the way to 4th period and had a student, a male, that walked in about 30 minutes late singing an Usher song at the top of his lungs. "My oh, my oh, my oh, my boooooo."  If you know like I know it's a very catchy song which means the entire class joined in on singing his song.  Then end of the day was close and I just kept thinking..."I think I can."

I spent that afternoon calling all of my parents to introduce myself as their child's new teacher.  When I got home I was sooooo tired and exhausted.  My voice was almost gone from telling the kids to sit down, get back on task, etc.  It got easier and easier as the year progressed.  I have never regretted going into education.  I know that I have made a positive impact on hundreds of kids.  I have seen several of my students graduate and go on to become college graduates.  Some of them have gotten married and several of them have children.  They are productive members of society.  They still call me and find me on facebook to fill me in on how they are doing.  I have had students to tell me that they are majoring in the sciences just because of my class.  I have had to attend the funeral of one of my students.  I have written to one of them in jail.  I have attended the funerals of some of their mothers.  I have taken several of them out to dinner/lunch.  They have babysat my children.  We have gone ice skating together.....I could go on and on.

I have always been that educator that realizes that my smile and my hello to them may be the only one that they get that day.  I have taken the time to get to know my students and understand their lives.  This makes a huge difference because you learn what they are up against.  When they come to school to eat breakfast and lunch because they know that's the only meal that they will eat that day, who am I to fuss at them because they don't have a pen and a piece of paper to take notes in my class?  Instead of fussing at them, I began to purchase pens and paper to have available for them to use.  I learned to pick my battles.

I can't say that I was the best teacher in the world...but I know that I made a difference.  I can say that without a shadow of a doubt....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 5-Your definition of love...


I must admit that I am a hopeless romantic.  I used to believe that when I received my first kiss that soft music would be playing in the background and the area around me would be filled with clouds and fireworks were going to go off, angels were going to be flying around us, etc.  Obviously that is not the case!  BUT in my head, that's how I believed it would be!  Love is a beautiful thing....Even deeper and beyond love is the word like.  I heard Michelle Obama once tell Oprah that she actually "liked" Barack.  That really got me really have to "like" the person that you are in "love" with.  To me this explains why so many people stay married until the kids leave the house for college and then get divorced.  The whole time that you are married, you are living through the kids....then when they leave, you realize that you don't actually "like" each other...that's deep!!!!

When I think about love, I am all about the little things....
  • Holding hands.
  • His hand on the small of my back when we walk through a door.
  • Him walking on the side of the street where the traffic is.
  • Kisses on the cheek and forehead for no reason at all.
  • Text messages throughout the day....just because.
  • Taking a day off of work together just to be in each other's presence.
  • Going out of your way to make each other smile.
  • A hand written card or note.
  • Him cooking me dinner.
  • Him having a picture of me on his desk at work.
  • Him looking into my eyes and smiling...just because.
  • Going to get my favorite coffee without me asking.
  • Taking a walk.
  • A picnic in the park.
Material items are nice, but they don't, nor have they ever moved or made my world.  I would much rather him put thought into something that costs no money.  So when asked for a definition of love...I simply think it's when you put the happiness, needs and desires of someone else's heart before your own...because you LIKE them.  This makes sense in my mind...not sure if it's being put into this blog in a way that makes sense.  

Again, I hope that everyone had a great Christmas and took the time to pay it forward, sharing your love and your "like" with someone other than yourself!  Life is good....and I'm glad about it.

Day 4-What I ate today...

So, this blog should have been done yesterday...guess that means I'll just be doing 2 today.  This, I must admit is probably going to be pretty boring.  I'm sure you don't really want to know what I ate yesterday but that's what it calls for so here goes!

Breakfast was a cup of coffee with caramel macchiato creamer.

Lunch was a grilled cheese sandwich and some kettle chips.

Dinner was a double cheeseburger meal from McDonalds with a coke.  I added Big Mac sauce to the double cheeseburger.  Mmmm......

That's what I ate.  I know it was not healthy at all but with all of the running around I was doing yesterday, that's the best I could do!

For Christmas dinner today I will be cooking dinner.  As a matter of fact it's 1:12pm and I'm almost done!  I made some spinach dip to snack on throughout the day.  For dinner we will be having:

  • smoked turkey breast (from Honey Baked Ham...I don't cook turkey!)
  • collard greens
  • macaroni and cheese
  • rice
  • black eyed peas
  • sweet potatoes
  • rolls
  • roasted brussel sprouts
  • roasted carrots 
  • red velvet cake (from Picadilly)
  • warm apple pie (Mrs. Smiths)
  • white pie (it's a no bake cheese cake that we make every Christmas)
I am so excited to finally sit down and eat!  The one thing that I wish I had in addition to all of this is this stuffing that my mom makes with sage and apples.  It's sooooo good!!!!  BUT, since she's not here and I'm not there, this won't be happening this year!  Guess she and my brothers will enjoy it for me in California!

I hope that everyone is having a very Merry Christmas!  Remember the reason that we are celebrating today and hug everyone a little bit tighter!  There are people out there with no one to celebrate with.  I KNOW that I am blessed...abundantly!  

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 3-Your parents....

To my blog readers....allow me to introduce you to my mother....Mrs. Denise Brown.  She has been my mom and dad since I was 14 years old.  She is AMAZING!

Lets see....she was born and grew up in England, which is where I was born.  She has successfully raised myself, my twin brother and my younger brother to be adults that have been allowed to follow our dreams and raise our families.  She has never told us that we couldn't do anything.  I was talking to a friend of mine the other day that is a single mother and she was asking me if growing up, did I ever "want" for anything.  I thought about it and the answer was NOT AT ALL.  Looking back on it....I don't know how my mom did it but she did.  We never wanted for anything!!!!  I was a cheerleader in high school and that was about $1200.00 a year.  She never told me that I couldn't do it.  I don't know how she paid for it but she did!  My twin and I both went to prom, got our yearbooks, I got my letterman's jacket and my class ring.  Christmas was always full of gifts.  Graduation was wonderful as were birthdays.  We had cell phones back then!  My twin brother and I got a car for our 16th birthday, an '89 Hyundai Excel!  When we graduated from college, she was there.  When I gave birth to my children, she was there.  Growing up, our house was the "safe" house.  All of our friends were always allowed over.  On our 16th birthday my twin and I came home and announced that we had invited some friends over for pizza and cake without her knowledge of course.  Somehow that night we had pizza and cake for about 20 friends!  She is that mother that knew ALL and I mean ALL of our friends, and they knew her.  They affectionately call her "Ms. Brown" and they know that Ms. Brown don't play!!!  She would not only tell us about ourselves, but our friends as well!  I remember the Canyon Springs football team toilet papering my house one night before a football game and she thought it was the funniest thing ever!  I had to clean it up though!  We've been through earthquakes together....lot's of em!  I can't say enough about her!

Let her tell it...growing up in England she walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways.  She only got one pair of new shoes a year and that was on Easter.  She used to put all of her Easter chocolates in her empty shoebox and eat them.  Her mother, my Nanny, is white from England and her father, my grandfather was black and Jamaican.  She has never questioned her background, but rather embraced who she was.

My mother is the strongest woman that I know.  As I raise my kids I often think about what she would do.  I often find myself saying things to my kids and in my house that she used to say:

  • "Take your shoes off the table"
  • "Turn the water off in the shower, you're wasting MY water."
  • "What goes around comes around."
  • "Don't hate or wish bad upon people...God will take care of may not be today or tomorrow or when you want it to....but it will get taken care of."
I could go on and on about this phenomenal woman...she is my rock.  I call her when I need to laugh or cry or vent and she is ALWAYS there.  I just hate that she lives so darn far away!!!!  If I can be half of the woman and mother that she is when I grow up, it would be a great thing.....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 2-My first love....

So...this song by Avant, called "My first love" was what came to mind when I started to think about what I would blog for this.  As I type, I still really don't know what to or who to type about!  :)  I would never write about my "first love" because....well....let's just say that that was a definite "learning opportunity!"  My mom was right from the first time that she met him!  LOL!  

I believe it would be fitting to blog about my sons.  Not that they are my "first loves," but they are my heart.

Let's start with my oldest son, Elijah....I remember when I found out that I was pregnant with him.  I was a junior in college, living 3,000 miles from home with no family around except my twin brother.  I was living in the dorm on my college campus....what in THE world was I going to do.  I remember having to make that phone call was by far the hardest thing that I ever had to do.  I felt like I had let my mother down.  I had to make that phone call of Good Friday and every year to this day she calls me on that day and asks if I have anything to tell her.....uhhhh NOT!  Pregnancy was beautiful.  Labor and delivery was 24 hours and 8 minutes....When Elijah was born he was not a matter of fact, he was blue.  I was 21 and had no idea what was going on.  The nurses and some special team of people brought him back with the use of oxygen boxes and other tools and at last I heard him cry for the first time.  What a relief.  The first time I got to hold him really brought it all into perspective.  My life was forever changed.  He is my miracle baby.  He made a strong entrance into the world and continues to be a strong force.  I am so proud of the young man that he is turning into as he finds himself.  It has finally dawned on me that I have 3 1/2 years left with him until he leaves to go to college.  I don't think that I'm ready for this!  He is 14...I remember when I was was NOT that long ago!!!!!  He applies himself to everything he does.  He has HUGE dreams of playing football and attending the University of Florida..GO GATORS!  I swear he needs to be a lawyer.  He can argue his way out of anything...except with my husband and I!  When I look at him I am speechless and in awe....God definitely blessed me with an angel!

Then there's Jacob.  He's 7 and he is such a hoot!  I often ask him...."where did you come from?"  He just laughs.  He is soooo silly!  Pregnancy was a little different with him.  I got put on bed rest at about 6 months and had to stop working.  Labor and delivery on the other hand were absolutely beautiful!  It was like something on television. My hair was done, I had lipgloss was quiet and I smiled through the whole thing!  His process only took about 12 hours.  Much much easier!!!!  He is my dare devil child...he's willing to try anything at least once.  We've been to the emergency room with him way more than Elijah!  He has a HUGE personality and makes friends where ever he goes.  I don't know that he's as stuck on going to UF but Elijah and Melvin try to brain wash him!  He has played baseball, football and basketball.  I believe that he is going to be my basketball player.  He loves it!  He doesn't allow the fact that Elijah is bigger or older than him be an excuse not to compete.  He will hang with Elijah until he can't hang anymore.  They play together all of the time!  He loves the outdoors, playing outdoors, bugs, lizards, etc.  He wants everything to be his "pet."  He is my baby boy! Another true blessing from God.

These two boys are my loves...They make my heart smile each and every day.  As you all know, I am a science buff.  I think about the fact that one sperm and one egg had to come together to make each of my boys unique.  That is amazing to me!  Any other combination and they would be two totally different kids!  I am grateful for them and treasure each moment that I am able to spend with them.  Parenting isn't easy by any means.  I know that I have been chosen and trusted by God to be their mother and I take that seriously.  I know that I am hard on them, especially Elijah, but it's because I love them!  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 1-Introduce yourself!

Greetings on Day One!!!!

My name is Natasha already knew that!  I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, educator and life long learner.  I consider myself to be a very diverse person in that I've lived in three different countries, listen to all types of music, and come from several different backgrounds!  Long story but if you know me, you know I come from a little bit of everywhere!  I guess the best way to "introduce myself" is to make a list of things about here goes!  Enjoy.....

  1. I attended a historical black college.
  2. I am a California girl to the heart.
  3. I love Hello Kitty!
  4. My favorite color is pink!
  5. I LOVE the Los Angeles questions asked!  
  6. Tiffany and Company is my weakness!
  7. I love people and am definitely a people person!  This explains why I worked in retail for so long and then became an educator!
  8. The person that I admire the most in this world is my mother, Denise Brown.  She was my mother and my father and raised myself, my twin brother and younger brother.  I'd say she did a darn good job as well!
  9. I don't tell them as much as I should, but my brothers are excellent role models for my sons.
  10. I would have to say that my husband, Melvin, is by far THE best father that ever walked the face of the earth!!!!!!!
  11. I love making people smile.
  12. Money doesn't make my world go round...feeling appreciated does.
  13. I believe that becoming a teacher/educator is my calling.
  14. I don't like seafood....not allergic...just don't like it.
  15. My favorite movie EVER is "The Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews followed by "Love Jones."
  16. I will be the first person in my family to earn a doctorate degree.  This makes me smile.
  17. I believe that small things mean more than anything else.
  18. I value my friendships...especially the ones in which we may not talk every day, or month, but when we do, we can pick up right where we left off.
  19. One of the most soothing sounds in the world is the sound of the ocean waves crashing onto the shore.
  20. Places I would love to travel: Africa, Australia, Italy, France, and England (again).
  21. I love waking my kids up in the morning and hearing, "Good morning, Mom."
  22. I love hard.....
  23. I don't have regrets.  I consider these to be learning opportunities!
  24. I suffer from migraine headaches...not a good thing!
  25. I was married with a child at the age of 21!!!!!
  26. I have a strong faith in God.  I don't go to church as much as I should, but I know that He is the reason that I am here and the reason that I have all of the Blessings that I have.
  27. I have an obsessive compulsive disorder!  For example...if I accidentally hit my right knee on something, I have to hit the left one on purpose so I can feel balanced.  Weird I know....
  28. My glass is half all times!
  29. I don't believe that people have weaknesses....I believe that people have areas of opportunity.
  30. As much as I want to jump on the iphone bandwagon (and not saying that I won't one day), I LOVE my Blackberry!
  31. Education is the key to unlocking the future.
  32. Reading is something that I am extremely passionate about.  It can take you to a whole other world and allows for an escape.  I instill this in my children!  I long for the day where I can do more leisure reading and less "school" reading!
  33. I believe that ALL children can learn!!!!!!
My brothers and my sons!

So there you go!  I hope that you enjoyed and perhaps even learned a little something about me that you didn't already know.


I know...I know...I've been MIA for a while now! I have a solution!


Okay, so I have been MAJORLY missing in action from my blog.  I feel bad.  The one year anniversary of me blogging is approaching and I have to admit that I am kind of disappointed in myself for not doing it as much as I would have liked.  It's hard to be a full time educator, mother of two, wife, and full time student!  :)  I have a solution to this problem that I hope will get me back on track.  I actually got the idea from my friend, Tiffany that is planning on doing the same thing.  Although this solution may not always be linked to my educational and professional learning thoughts, I feel as though it will get me in the groove of blogging more.  I plan to weave my passion for education and professional learning into the predecided topics as much as possible.  Either way, you will get to know me a little better through these posts.  

This is a 30 day challenge.  I will go ahead and say it now....this will probably take me more than 30 days BUT at least I will get it done!  Below are the topics that have been listed and predetermined by the challenge.  I will begin this process tomorrow and hope to keep it up!  If there is a topic that I don't feel like blogging about, I will acknowledge that and then proceed to talk about something else!  Hey...It's my blog, I can do that if I want!  :)

Day 01- Introduce yourself
Day 02 – Your first love
Day 03 – Your parents
Day 04 – What you ate today
Day 05 – Your definition of love
Day 06 – Your day
Day 07 – Your best friend
Day 08 – A moment
Day 09 – Your beliefs
Day 10 – What you wore today
Day 11 – Your siblings
Day 12 – What’s in your bag
Day 13 – This week
Day 14 – What you wore today
Day 15 – Your dreams
Day 16 – Your first kiss
Day 17 – Your favorite memory
Day 18 – Your favorite birthday
Day 19 – Something you regret
Day 20 – This month
Day 21 – Another moment
Day 22 – Something that upsets you
Day 23 – Something that makes you feel better
Day 24 – Something that makes you cry
Day 25 – A first
Day 26 – Your fears
Day 27 – Your favorite place
Day 28 – Something that you miss
Day 29 – Your aspirations
Day 30 – One last moment

So, with all of this being shared....sit back and hold on's going to be a LONG 30 days.... or longer!!!!  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My doctoral journey continues...

I cannot believe how long it's been since I posted.  With the summer coming to an end and work beginning back up, I know I will have more time to post.  I have been in serious vacation mode.  Part of "vacation" this summer was attending my first residency for my doctoral program in Phoenix, AZ.  I was there for a week and stayed in a beautiful resort.  I didn't get to take advantage of the resort at all because I was so busy working!!!  I did get a chance to see the campus that I received my Master's degree from as well as working on my Doctoral degree at.  It was a cute campus!  I got to meet a lot of the professors as well and finally put a name to a face of SEVERAL of my classmates that I have been working with during the course of the program.  I have made several different friendships and have gained a valuable support system to help me continue along my journey. here's the low down.  My original research was going to focus on African American males and what drives some of them to be successful and others to not be.  I wanted to tie in mentoring programs and research if these programs and positive and meaningful relationships with adults made a difference.  It is my belief that they do but I have to remain unbiased during this process.  How hard is that???  Well, once discussing this with my professor during my residency and talking it over with my colleagues (which all thought that I had a very relevant topic and that I was ahead of them in my thoughts...although I didn't feel like it) I needed to add a leadership spin on top of my topic because my degree will be in Organizational Leadership.  What a mouthful!

With all of that being said, I brain stormed with some colleagues and thought that I might take a look at the leadership traits that successful mentors and mentoring programs possess that causes them to be successful.  Problem with this is that I wanted to preform a qualitative study.  Now that I have added this spin on my topic, I think that I am going to have to do a mixed methods study because I am going to have to have the data (graduation rates, attendance rates, etc.) to back up what I deem as "successful."

I have been working on chapter two for the past 6 weeks and the more I write and research, the more I think that I am going to have to rethink this.  I feel like my passion towards my new topic is not quite there.  I didn't originally want to look at the mentors and their leadership traits....I wanted to take a look at it from the students point of view.  ALTHOUGH....if I look at it from the mentors view, it would be easier as far as the approval paperwork when I get to complete my study.  As I'm typing this I am actually having a new idea...I could perform an online study through survey monkey for the mentors to collect their points of view on the traits, etc and collect the data from the school house.  Hmmm....I am really going to have to think this thing through.

So, that is where I am...Chapter 2 is kicking my behind.  It is really causing me to think outside of the box and narrow down my exact focus.  I have read sooooo much research on my topic and so many other dissertations and while there is supportive research about mentoring programs and that they do assist in academic growth, there is a gap in the research in terms of the leadership traits that they possess that make them successful.

We will see...thanks for reading as I continue on my doctoral journey!  Below are some pictures from my trip.

Me on the campus in front of a GCU bus...had to get the logo!

A closeup of me in front of the sign at the front of campus.

The GCU logo as well as the doctorate banner.

Tara, Me, and Debby.
These girls are amazing and will definitely be resources along my way.  Debby and I were in the same Master's program.  We have been interacting since 2007 and JUST met! 

This is Evelyn Nicole.  She is from California AND a coupon queen like me!  Another great support for me!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"It's Been A Long Time....I Shouldn't Have Left You...."

Wow!  It has indeed been a long time since I've posted!  I have been extremely busy with my own school (pursuing my Ed.D.) and work...along with the normal mom and wife duties.  This summer, I have been charged with putting courses together for teachers in my county.  I started off a little slow but with the help of a couple of my coworkers, I have ventured out and will be teaching all eight...yes EIGHT classes online!!!!!  Am I crazy?  I think not...I am simply challenging myself to offer the best professional development for the teachers that enroll in my courses.  I am excited to be facilitating 2 book studies this summer online based on three of my favorite books.  More to come on those books in a later blog.

This summer I will be teaching:

  • "The Six Secrets of Change" (book study)
  • "Who Moved My Cheese" & "The Fred Factor" (book study)
  • Engaging Activities to Promote Student Learning
  • "I have them in what?" (cooperative learning)
  • Introduction to Interactive Notebooks (twice)
  • What highly effective teachers do differently.
  • The more ways we teach, the more students we reach.

Online professional development courses offer a ton of benefits for both the facilitator and those that enroll in the course.  For both parties it offers the benefit of working in the comfort of your own home whenever you want.  It could be at 12 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning.  You could be working at home, or on the beach.  The facilitator and those enrolled have 24/7 access and learning can take place at the pace that is most conducive to your schedule.  Online professional learning courses during the summer also keep the teachers in a learning mentality!  Summer time is indeed a time to rest but for effective teachers that always want more for themselves and their students, it is a time to continue to grow themselves professionally and personally.  Educators always want that next "tool" to be able to pull out of their educational toolbox that will increase student achievement in their courses.  I am honored to be able to be in a position that allows me to provide this for the teachers in my county and to do so while being able to utilize my creativity.  I am really excited to get started.  I have been working hard building classes and transforming classes that I taught face to face into an online format. 

 puzzle pieces resized.jpg

I have learned over the past 9 months that professional learning is a perfect fit for me.  I have been able to merge my retail management background with my knowledge of content and become kind of like a "content manager!" :)  I am able to share all of this with the teachers and even administrators that I encounter on a daily basis.  I love not only growing myself but you could say I'm a little obsessed with ensuring that I pass along the information that I glean so that it impacts a bigger body of people.

Online professional learning during the's a good thing!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brandon Stallings...STILL doing great things!

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you one of MY mentees...Mr. Brandon J. Stallings.  Brandon is a 2009 honors graduate of Lithonia High School.  He was the senior class president and graduated with a 3.95 GPA while taking AP classes.  He comes from a good home in which both his mother and his father raised him.  In this picture above he is sitting in his room on top of the hundreds of college information letters and acceptance letters.  He is now a sophomore at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut where he continues to excel.  During his graduation speech/address to his high school graduating class, he stated something like, "Most of us in the graduating class have had the pleasure of having a mentor to help us throughout our high school career.  I have been fortunate to have 5 of them, Mrs. Natasha Rachell, Mrs. Katrina Stanfield, Mr. Rodney Stanley, Mr. Brandon Thompson, and Mr. Ken Henderson."  He publicly thanked us...not only in front of his graduating peers, but in front of an audience of almost 10,000 people in the church facility.    What an honor to be publicly validated for what we do on a daily basis.

Brandon rose above his peers and his community to separate himself to move towards excellence.  He took advantage of the education that was made available to him and made the decision to be present and an active part of his learning on a daily basis.  He NEVER settled for mediocrity.  He ALWAYS sought to be better than the next person.  HE is the reason that teachers enjoy teaching....because he has a desire to learn and to motivate the person sitting next to him to do the same thing.  It is because of his astonishing personality, leadership abilities, and the ability to charm a crowd, that I invited him to return to the school at the completion of his freshman year to address the class of 2010 and give them their "charge" as they were preparing to go out into the world.

Here is some of what he said:

"My name is Brandon Stallings, and I am a PROUND LITHONIA HIGH SCHOOL ALUMNUS from the "fine class of 200-."  I'd like to begin by thanking Mrs. Natasha Rachell for giving me the opportunity to speak at yet another wonderful Lithonia High School Graduation Ceremony.  It will always be a pleasure to come back and speak on behalf of the institution that made me EVERY BIT of the man I am today."

"Looking back at the many "learning experiences, not mistakes," I've had this year in college, I'm a firm believer that success ONLY comes to those who have the resilience to keep getting up when life knocks them off their feet.  I've learned that no one's keeping track of your knockdowns, but everyone notices if you always seem to get back up!"

"My whole point, Class of 2010, is that by getting to this moment, you've already become a product of what, in my opinion, Lithonia High School does better than ANY other school: it teaches you 1) everyone falls, it's a part of life and 2) how to be one of the few who gets back on their feet.  The teachers HERE are unlike any other; they teach life to go along with what's in those textbooks, because your understanding of the former is what really makes the difference."

He closed by stating....

"I challenge you to be incredible, spectacular, and maybe even ground-breaking.  Break away from what is expected, take a job in London, learn to speak not just one, but a couple languages, do some community service in Uganda, plan a Spring Break to Cancun, and trust me when I say be careful with that last one!"

Brandon continues to do great things at Yale and comes back to visit when he can.  I am proud to say that he has just secured a two year internship for the next two summers in Washington DC.  I am so proud of him for being such a great example of what a young African American male can live up to be and what they can accomplish.  He is an example of excellence!  He publicly took the time to thank me for being a part of his life....and now it's my turn....

Brandon,  thank you for being a role model to MY sons and for allowing me to be a part of your life.  My life is better because you are a part of it.  Continue to do great things and strive for excellence!  I know that you can do everything you set your mind to and more!!!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rick Wormeli: Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs, Part One

I recently saw this powerful and passionate educator at an SDE conference in Orlando, FL and his energy is intoxicating!  What he has to say in this video to educators in regard to redos, retakes, and do-overs really makes you think twice about your teaching practice.  I was once that teacher that wouldn't allow redos, retakes and do-overs.

Rick has a valid point.  If everyone else in the world has the opportunity to do these three things for full credit, then who are we as teachers to not allow them to do the same thing?  Are we REALLY passionate about what we do?  Are we there to really teach the students or are we there to put them through the ringer?

I love when he states that his punishment for not completing an assignment is to.....complete the assignment!  How awesome is that?  You are telling the student that you care about whether or not they master the content and that you really care about them learning it and want to see them be successful!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Look Me In The Eyes"

Our students simply want us to "look them in their eyes."  If we could look into their eyes and see all that they had to offer, we may begin to appreciate them a little bit more.  We might be able to remember back to when we were their age and wanted our teachers to look at us in our eyes.  We wanted to be seen as an individual and not just as a child.  You see, although our students are young children, they are still people and they have something to offer.

Why are we scared of them?  Is there a reason?  Are we scared of what they can and will become?  What if all teachers believed that we wouldn't allow any of our students to finish where they began?  Can you imagine the impact this would have on test scores, graduation rates and AYP???  What if we could pull out what was imbedded inside each child that we had the pleasure of interacting with each and every day?  How powerful would that be???

Our students will become what they know they are...BUT how do they know what they are if we don't take the time to expose them to the possibility of what they could become?

Monday, February 21, 2011

If Urban Prep can we....


Urban Prep Charter School in Chicago has done it for a second consecutive year!  If they can, we can too! Sure they get to pick who attends their school every year and we don't BUT should that matter?  We can educate all of our students and move towards a 100% graduation rate from high school and have ALL of our senior class attend college, trade school, or enter the military.  Why not!  When we begin to seriously invest in ALL of our students...not just say that we are...but really and truly do it...we will begin to move towards these type of results.  The school will graduate 104 African American males this year...very sharply dressed, I might add.  They have been accepted to 103 different institution of higher learning.  

"On Wednesday, Urban Prep Academy for Young Men celebrated its repeat with a tie-exchanging ritual in which the final three seniors to receive acceptance letters exchanged their red uniform ties for red-and-gold ones as the other seniors did before them."

We must adopt the "by any means necessary" mentality.  That means not rushing out of the door at 3:00pm because that's the end of your work day.  You may have to tutor on the weekends, after school and before school.  Think back to when you were in school.  I'm sure someone reached out their hand to you just as someone did for me.  We have been passed the torch and bear that same exact responsibility.  After all, that is why we entered the field of education, isn't it?  It wasn't for the money and I think we can all agree on that!  Urban Prep has grasped the mentality of going above and beyond...

"Skeptics last year had questioned whether grads would actually attend college and be able to succeed in higher ed programs. One of the school's missions is to ensure students earn that bachelor's degree, so King and his staff have helped secure money for plane tickets, driven students to college campuses, held workshops for alumni in the summer and winter, and checked up on them. Of the 107 seniors in 2010—the school's first graduating class—101 enrolled in college, King said. Three went into the military and another three joined the work force."

If this doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will!  There are positive African American males all over the world!  This is just a small story....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I urge all of you to watch this short video (parents, students, teachers, administrators, etc.) and become a member of  Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of DC schools started this organization to have a group in place that would serve as an advocate for students.  I believe that this may be the beginning of change for a positive education reform across the nation.  Someone has to step up and start the change...why not you???

Having the right teachers in front our students is critical!

Towards the end of this clip Michelle Rhee discusses the importance of having the right teachers in front of the kids and why it's so imperative!  It's really just this simple.  If we want students to learn, we have to have the right teachers in front of them teaching them and educating them on a daily basis.  This type of individual has to be someone that cares about them...truly and genuinely cares about them and their well being.  Someone that wants to see them succeed and be a positive influence in their lives.

There are teachers that enter the profession to receive a paycheck, for a stable job, and for a guaranteed summer off. This mentality has to change.  We need better teachers in front of our kids.  Michelle Rhee, ex-chancellor of DC schools, had this in the forefront of her mind as she was in her position.  People had the audacity to see this as wrong and shunned her because of this.  How can we demand excellence from our students if we don't want to demand excellence from our teachers?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

STOP "Waiting for Superman".....YOU ARE Superman!!!!!! (or Superwoman)

I JUST saw this movie today and my mind is racing all over the place!!!!!  EVERY teacher and parent that reads this MUST go and get this movie!!!!!  

I have been on the both sides of this coin.  First, I am a parent and have tried for three consecutive years to get my middle school son into a theme middle school in which its attendees were chosen through the lottery system.  He did NOT get in to this school either of the three years.  We were that family sitting at the end of the lottery with a disappointed son, upset, not knowing what we were going to do.  He is a very smart young man and we did what we needed to do to get him to attend a school where he is involved in the magnet program.  While watching the movie, my heart broke and tears streamed down my face because I knew, firsthand, what the families in  the movie were going through.  All because they simply wanted better for their kids....

As an educator, I totally understand the lottery process but it can't help but to make me think.  If ALL schools were operating at a level of excellence, we wouldn't need theme schools and magnet programs, etc.  If ALL schools were operating at a level of excellence, we wouldn't have to have lotteries for enrollment into our "good" schools.  Parents wouldn't have to consider moving (I am guilty of this as we speak!!!!) to ensure that their kids would go to a "good" public school because ALL public schools would be "good" schools.

I have heard over my years as an educator that parents blame the schools and schools blame the parents for the lack of motivation on the students part.  The students want things handed to them.  It's an entitled generation of kids....blah blah blah.  While I personally may agree with some of these things I also understand that as a human being we must STOP placing the blame on each other and simply hold each other to higher standards and levels of accountability.  Here's the solution!!!!!

  • Parents-DEMAND better schools for your students WHILE holding your students accountable.  It starts at home.  Demand excellence from your children in ALL aspects of their lives.
  • Administrators-DON'T hire mediocre teachers!  Only hire the types of teachers that you would want to teach your own children!
  • Teachers-Set HIGH expectations for your students and don't let any of them fail!  DEMAND excellence from ALL of them...not just your favorite students or the ones that you feel can do it....ALL OF THEM!!!
We all want better for our kids and teachers all want better for their students.  Personally, I don't know of a teacher that says, "______ just isn't smart enough...he can't do it."  I'm not dumb, I know there are teachers out there like this and you know what should happen to them???  Michelle Rhee was right on target with her practice.  I KNOW that I am a GREAT teacher.  I know a plethora of GREAT teachers and I don't think that they, nor myself would have had a problem giving up tenure (not that we have it) to risk being paid for what we do because I KNOW that we are all GREAT teachers.  Not only do we teach, we educate....I'm not saying any of this to toot my own horn, or brag, BUT I care about my students as if they were my own.  I want them ALL to succeed.  I KNOW that they can do whatever they set their minds to AND I am willing the help them get there!  

We ALL need to STOP waiting for Superman!  He's NOT coming....Instead, we need to KNOW that WE are Superman/Superwoman!  We hold the power.  If we all demand great things, the end result can be NOTHING short of greatness!!!!!  When are YOU going to step up and do something????  What are you going to do????  When does it begin???  The time is NOW and YOU are the person to get it done!  We have to stop looking around and saying that "someone" needs to do something about the problem....YOU are that someone...I am that someone!  

~Okay....I'm off of my rant and rave....for now, anyway!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Creating a School Culture....

How awesome is this?????

After watching this video above, I was almost brought to tears at the thought of imagining the possibility of EVERY student in EVERY school across the United States feeling this important on their first day of school.  Is it impossible?????  I think not!  Sure this is a little extreme but the students at Magnolia High School get it!  The understand the importance of creating a culture and climate in their school building that makes the students feel important, valued and accountable for their learning.  Yes this video shows tons of fun but I would be willing to bet that the same amount of energy that went into making this video, also goes into the learning of the students every day.

When the students and faculty of a building feel appreciated and involved and like they matter on a daily basis, everyone works to improve student achievement.  The students begin to understand that there are high expectations that have been set that they must live up to them on a daily basis.  They begin to work harder to please their teachers.  The teachers don't mind staying after school to tutor students or for professional development or faculty meetings because they know that they are being supported by their administration.   It's all about the culture and climate that are set forth for the school.  Too many times, the parents blame the teachers, the teachers blame the parents and it's a never ending hamster wheel of the blame game!  Can you imagine if everyone worked together to improve the culture, the climate, and increase student achievement instead of blaming each other!  The possibilities would be endless!

A lot of students today don't feel like they matter to anyone. Some teachers are around for a paycheck and a guaranteed two month summer vacation.  Parents are working two and three jobs and aren't home to see their students, eat dinner with them or help with homework.  Something as simple as a teacher telling a student "Good morning" or asking them "How are you today?" could make all the difference in that students outlook on life and their purpose in life.  Imagine a school that values diversity...truly values diversity and appreciates everyone that walks through the door.  Public schools can't pick the students that walk through the doors each day, but they can choose to make them feel valued.....

The culture and climate must be set forth and trickle from the top down.  Administration sets the tone.  Can you imagine the face of your administrator if a group of students at your school asked permission to make a video similar to this one?  Would your administrator allow them to do it?  To this level of ensuring that the entire school was involved?  The administrator of this school gets it!  They are not afraid to allow their faculty and students to take risks.  THIS is the kind of school that values each and every student that enters through its doors everyday.  THIS is the kind of school that I would want my kids to attend because plain and simply put....THEY WOULD MATTER!!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our First Lady....

What an amazing day I have had today!!! I was Blessed to be able to spend some quality time with my 13 year old son today and take him to see Our First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama speak about getting fit and eating right. Her passion for this topic shines through her speech! She spoke about the plethora of changes that have been made just in the past year as a result of this new campaign that she has implemented. After she was done speaking, she started to shake hands....

Let me back up....first we were placed in an overflow room to watch her speech so we were kind of....hmmm....should I say "salty" about that! At the end of her speech when she began to shake hands in the room that she was in, the curtain in OUR room went up and the lights on the stage came on. Everyone ran up to the fence including us! We were on the front row of the fence and then all of a sudden....THERE SHE WAS!!!!! She was a vision in her cream colored suit and decorative broach. She was absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous! She made her way along the fence shaking hands and taking pictures. When she walked up to me, she shook my hands and looked into my eyes and said, "Pleasure to meet you." I smiled sooooo big and said, "You are such an inspiration...thankyou for that!" She replied..."Awww....thankyou!"

THEN she moved on to my son. When I tell you that I broke down into what Oprah calls the "ugly cry!"...I did! LOL! She shook his hand, gave him a hug and had about a minute conversation with him. She asked him his name, how old he was, how his grades were, and if he was handling his business. Then she said, "I have a daughter about your age, I'm gonna be watching you!" He couldn't stop smiling and neither could I!

For her to take her time out and shake everyone's hands, take pictures, and even personalize the conversations was amazing! I will NEVER forget this day for as long as I live. To be able to meet a first lady, let alone the first lady of the FIRST African American President of the United States of America was a humbling experience that I was honored to share with my son.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shout out to my twinny!!!!

This evening when I went to check my mailbox and retrieve the usual bills and junk mail that are there every day, I was pleasantly surprised by a white envelope from an address in was from my twin brother, Jermaine!!!! The card has two little kids on the front that could be twins so it was quite fitting for us!!! He has been reading my blogs, as I recently gave him the address and he sent me a card that said:

"May good luck and happiness rain down on you...."(on the front)
"....because no one deserves it more." (on the inside)

He then wished me success and luck in my blog writing...MY twin brother (my one of three...hehe) never ceases to amaze me! I am sooo humbled by his love and support of what I do (pursuing my doctoral degree and growing myself professionally and educationally....AND this blog!). He is my other half and is part of the reason that I wake up every day. There were times growing up that we didn't get along and he probably did things that I didn't agree with, as I'm sure I did...but the older we get, the more I realize how much of a BLESSING he is to me! I love him like no other! Publicly....I thank you, Jermaine K. Brown for being such a Blessing to me, a positive African American role model to my sons, and just an all around good guy! I love the way that you chase after your dreams and allow them to lead your life. I envy that in you....I LOVE YOU TWINNY!!!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The 21st Century Learner....Imagine the Possibilities!

Wow! My new venture of becoming a techie nerd to increase my educational and professional learning knowledge is paying off! On Twitter this morning, I was introduced to the ischoolinitiative and was blown away! Travis Allen, a young man, while in high school in Fayetteville, GA created this initiative to save money in his school district and help with budget cuts. I am blown away and see the possibility of his hard work coming to fruition sooner than later. Below are the link to his blog and the video that I was introduced to on youtube. PLEASE take a look at it and really think about it! His initiative could eliminate textbooks across a district and have teachers, parents and students in immediate contact with each other. He is really taking learning in the 21st century to a new level. Currently he is a freshman at Kennesaw State University. I would love to have access to his product in my district and would be blown away if my sons had access to it for their education! Take a look at the video and imagine what we have to look forward to...all because of a high school senior!!!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"What's Fair Isn't Always Equal...."

I am in the process of reading yet another book called "Fair Isn't Always Equal" by Rick Wormeli. He discusses that what we do for our students as far as differentiating instruction is fair but may not necessarily be equal for each of our students. He asks the question, "Did your teachers differentiate?" My first response was " teachers didn't." BUT they indeed did. They did things like rephrasing a question, extending a deadline, gave me a choice in assignments and provided me a few extra examples if I needed them. THAT is part of differentiating instruction.

Teachers hear those two words....DIFFERENTIATING INSTRUCTION and automatically associate it with a lot of work and offering the students a crutch to stand on. The more reading I do about the topic, the more conferences I attend, and the more thinking I do, this is not the case at all. Differentiating instruction is simply doing what is fair for our students. The purpose is to maximize the learning of our students...give them the tools to handle the situations that they are faced with, do different things for different students to ensure their success in our classes and in even simpler terms....IT'S HIGHLY EFFECTIVE TEACHING!!!!

When we really sit and think about it, the world is differentiated for us. You have a grace period to pay your mortgage, your college professors give you a preview of what will be covered by providing you with a syllabus on the first day of class, and if you do something like bouncing a check you are able to fix it. Sure you will be penalized and pay extra fees but you get a chance to fix it. I was once that teacher that stated to my students that "It's due on the deadline! No exceptions! The world is not fair! You have to do it the first time! You won't get any breaks in the real world!" I have had what Oprah calls an "AHA moment" in terms of differentiating instruction. If we look at it as simply doing what's right for our students and as highly effective teaching, we then take ownership of what it really is and the purpose that it serves.

Our students have more on their plates than we EVER did! So many of them come from single parent homes. They are working to help mom pay bills. They don't eat anything until they come to school and eat breakfast and lunch. They are involved in extra curricular activities and don't get home until late. Some of them don't have lights and heat at home. Some of them even live by themselves. Others don't have running water and can't take showers and brush their teeth. After they deal with ALL of this...HOW DARE WE NOT DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION FOR THEM!!!!!! Who do we think we are????

Wormeli says it best when he says, "What is fair isn't always equal, and our goal as teachers is to be fair and developmentally appropriate, not one-size-fits-all equal."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Positive African American Male....

The video above is of a positive young man...the Valedictorian of Booker T Washington High School, Mr. Deonte Bridges. The video is about 5 minutes long but it's definitely VERY powerful! I've watched it about ten times and even had my sons watch it. There ARE positive young, African American males in the world. I've never met the young man, but figured I would give him a shout out!

"What Great Teachers Do Differently!"

In preparation for an online class that a colleague and I will be teaching, I was given the opportunity to revisit a book from my Educational Specialists program. The book is titled "What Great Teachers Do Differently" and it is by Todd Whitaker. He takes the time to discuss and analyze what makes a GREAT teacher different from their colleagues. At the end of his book he has a list of the 14 things that he views matter the most when it comes to a great teacher. As I reflect back upon my teaching (and not to pump myself up) I must say that I am indeed a GREAT teacher! I surround myself with other GREAT teachers. Their greatness rubs off on me and my greatness rubs off on them....After reading this list, reflect on whether or not you are a GREAT teacher! Do you have areas of opportunity that you can improve upon?

“Fourteen Things That Matter Most”

  1. Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.
  2. Great teachers establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.
  3. When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again.
  4. Great teachers have high expectations for students but even higher expectations for themselves.
  5. Great teachers know who the variable in the classroom is: They are. Good teachers consistently strive to improve, and they focus on something they can control-their own performance.
  6. Great teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms and schools. They treat every person with respect. In particular, they understand the power of praise.
  7. Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.
  8. Great teachers work hard to keep their relationships in good repair-to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.
  9. Great teachers have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and the ability to respond to inappropriate behavior without escalating the situation.
  10. Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do. If things don’t work out the way they had envisioned, they reflect on what they could have done differently and adjust their plans accordingly.
  11. Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves on central question: What will the best people think?
  12. Great teachers continually ask themselves who is most comfortable and who is least comfortable with each decision they make. They treat everyone as if they were good.
  13. Great teachers keep standardized testing in perspective; they center on the real issue of student learning.
  14. Great teachers care about their students. They understand that behaviors and beliefs are tied to emotion, and they understand the power of emotion to jump-start change.

~Todd Whitaker

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life"....reflections

So...if anyone is reading my now you know that I am in the process (almost done) of reading the above mentioned title by Principal Baruti Kafele. The more and more that I read of this book, the more passionate I continue to if I'm not passionate enough about it already I have stopped to reflect that some may wonder what a 5'3 female may have in common with young African American males or why I have a passion for helping them, or just plain out...what can I possibly have to offer the situation or conversation. My answer is simple....while everyone else is sitting around waiting for "someone" to do something about the problem...I REALIZE THAT I AM THAT SOMEONE!!! I may not be able to save the world, but I am saving (or attempting to) the young African American males that I encounter on a daily basis. I am not afraid to speak to them, nor tell them to pull up their pants. Principal Kafele, through reading his book, is affirming everything, EVERYTHING that I believe.

Kafele offers a startling statistic that "almost 70 % of black children are born into households where there is only one parent present, typically the mother." I knew it was a high percentage but never would I think that it was 70%. My eyes are WIDE open to the fact that something needs to change....He also goes on to speak about the teachers/educators that interact with these young men. They MUST be passionate about what they do on a daily basis. He made me take a look at what I do on a daily basis and had me reflecting on some serious questions. Questions that all educators of African American young men need to ask themselves consistently until we have a clear understanding of what we do. I am a firm believer that God places us all in a particular place, at a particular time, and for a particular reason. There is a reason that you teach in the school that you do...not because YOU chose to be there, but because He had a plan for you to make a difference and inspire those students that you come in contact with everyday. Kafele states, "your students are in the best place because they are with you, and you can think of no better person to educate your students than you." We cannot choose the students that enter our classrooms everyday, but we can choose to care about them, love them, and make them feel important. After all, you may be the only positive adult that those students come into contact with that day...make the most of it.

The questions that Kafele had me reflect upon are:
  1. Have you defined your purpose for teaching?
  2. What is your purpose for teaching?
  3. Why do you do what you do every day?
  4. What drives your words and actions in your classroom?
  5. Do your students know and understand your purpose?
  6. Can they relate to it?
  7. Do they respond to it?
I challenge you to take heed to Kafele's advice and seek to answer these questions for yourself. In turn, you will not only be defining your purpose, but you will also be adding value to those that you teach and their purpose in life as well.

My first Prezi!

The link above is for a presentation that I created using I first found out about this useful tool from a math colleague but have been hearing a lot more about it during recent conferences. I used it (the link above) to create a presentation for an online course that I am teaching on Interactive Notebooks and how teachers can incorporate them into their daily lesson plans to increase student achievement. The program is VERY user friendly and I have since created two more presentations. One on ethical issues (for my doctoral class) and another on the first two high yield strategies presented by Robert Marzano (for my school district). Take a look at it and see what you think. I encourage you to use Prezi for any presentations that you may have. It just gives another view of power point and makes it a little more eye appealing! Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Am I Reading Right Now????

The question should be, "What aren't I reading right now?" I'm good for starting a book, then starting another one, and then starting yet another one! I purchased myself a Kindle because I LOVE to read. This has drawn me back into my old habit of reading more than one book at a time. I have been to several conferences over the past few months and have been given recommendations as to several titles that I should read. Hence, I have either downloaded them onto my Kindle (that I have affectionately named "Kendall" ~ LOL) or purchased the hard copy of the books. Although I LOVE my Kindle, there is still nothing like a book in your know what I mean...the smell of the pages...the sound of them turning...the paper cuts that you get on your fingers....So, here are some of the titles that I am reading and some brief thoughts on what I think so far.

"Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life" by Principal Baruti Kafele-I was drawn to see Principal Kafele speak at Learning Forward last year because I am passionate about his topic. It's what I want to center my research around for my dissertation. He was such an "on fire" speaker! I left his session in tears because I feel what he is passionate about! He talks about the fact that although society thinks that something is wrong with our young black males because of the music that they listen to and that they wear their pants below their behinds that there is indeed....NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM!!!! We need to encourage them to pull their pants up and stay in school. You can follow him on twitter #principalkafele. He is the principal of an urban school in Newark, NJ. His test scores are high and his students are making honor roll for the first time in the history of their families! He is a phenomenal speaker and his book is outstanding!!!!

"Fires in the Mind" by Kathleen Cushman-I haven't started reading this one yet but I saw it at the Learning Forward conference this year. After I saw it there on display for purchase and overheard some fellow educators discussing it, I saw it again in an educational magazine and took it as a sign that I needed to download it! The premise of the book is "what kids can tell us about motivation and mastery." I look forward to starting it soon!

"Drive" by Daniel H. Pink-"The surprising truth about what motivates us." This book has been recommended to me a lot since I started working in the field of education, however, I JUST downloaded it. I look forward to gaining an understanding of what drives us to do the things that we do and why we act the way that we act. From what I understand this book takes a look at a corporate approach but I think it's still a great educational tool.

"The Grace of Silence: A Memoir" by Michele Norris-Michele was a keynote speaker at Learning Forward this year and I was humbled by her voice. She speaks in this moving memoir about her family and how she grew up and the focus on education that was established early on in her life. She is very candid and speaks of her struggles about being the only black family in an all white neighborhood. She is the positive voice for education that we have been waiting for! She talks about race and how it is the unspoken elephant in the room....."all of us should be willing to remain at the table even when things get uncomfortable." She is such an eloquent speaker and writer.....

"The Excellent 11" by Ron Clark-I purchased this book at Learning Forward as well. He actually signed it for me after keynoting the final address. I haven't started it yet but I ready "The Essential 55." I plan to visit his school soon in downtown Atlanta. His passion for education, no matter the race of the child is amazing. His students, by the time of graduation have stepped foot on ever continent. How cool is that? In this book he states that the "excellent 11" : enthusiasm, adventure, creativity, reflection, balance, compassion, confidence, humor, common sense, appreciation, and resilience are the 11 qualities "shared by children who love to learn-and they're also the qualities found in teachers and parents who know how to bring out the joy of learning in any child."

"Fair Isn't Always Equal" by Rick Wormeli-This guy is a hoot! I saw him speak last week at a differentiated instruction conference. His passion about the brain and why we develop the way that we do sparked my curiosity. In this book, he discusses exactly what the title states. He talked about the example of something he does in his class. On the first day of class every year he tapes a five dollar bill high up on the wall. He calls on the shortest student to go up and get it. When they can't reach it, he allows them to use a chair to reach it. Then he places a second five dollar bill on the wall and allows a tall student to get it down without the chair (without any help). He uses this example to show that although they each got the same this case the five dollars....that they didn't get there the same. "Fair Isn't Always Equal." Some students may need additional help (DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION!!!) and this is okay!!! His students never question why one student was allowed extra time to complete an assignment or why they were allowed to retake a test. I have skimmed through it but look forward to reading it in detail.

I am in the midst of a few other books (for pleasure reading) but these are the titles that I am loving at this present time. As previously stated in another blog, I am on a quest to learn something new every day! With all of these books I can honestly say that I am!

My first Elluminate session...MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

WOW! What an evening! I am teaching my first online course for teachers in my district called, "The Introduction to Interactive Notebooks." Last night I had to complete an Elluminate live session to introduce them to the workings of the online class. I logged into the session one hour early to get everything set up. When the class started, no one entered! Long story short, the link that I sent to the teachers to get on had expired and we had to put a new link together. Thank God for two of my colleagues that are teach savvy and teaching me how to get there! They got it taken care of for me and I was able to proceed with the course! Whew! I am so excited about how engaged the teachers are in this course and about learning how Interactive Notebooks will increase student achievement in their classes along with holding the parent and the student accountable.

I am slowly stepping out there and exploring all of the techonlogy that's out there to benefit myself as an educator. I am following more and more people on twitter each day. I am seeking out their blogs and downloading articles that spark my interest. I am set and determined to learning something new every day. This is the only way that I will be able to engage in meaningful discussions with my colleagues.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Not as tech savvy as I thought....

I am home from Orlando, FL. where I attended a meaningful conference and engaged in some fascinating learning dealing with differentiating instruction. One of the speakers that I was able to see was Will Richardson (#diii2011). He gave me the ability to view technology in a whole new light in regard to professional learning and teaching our students. He believes that teachers are being left behind as our students are moving toward becoming 21st century learners. I must say that after listening to him, I agree!!! He gave me some food for thought:
  1. You should be able to GOOGLE yourself! Google is moving towards becoming our professional resume and therefore, when your name is googled, positive things should be able to be found! (not Cancun pictures from your college spring break!) Essentially you are marketing yourself and creating a brand called "fill in your name."
  2. Social bookmarking-I had no idea that you could do this. I was introduced to and These two sites allow you to literally bookmark web resources, articles that you may find interesting, etc. Once you've placed them on their site you are able to highlight in the document and add notes. I was fascinated!
  3. Twitter is a professional resource! Who knew??? I sure didn't! He walked us through the steps of setting up a twitter account and how to navigate through the site for professional learning information. I was blown away. All these years I thought it was for people keeping up with the social lives of others! That being said...follow me!!!! #tasharachell
  4. great resource that I didn't know anything about! User friendly for adults as well as students and allows you an online format to take notes. Will told us that he is 100% paperless! I am no where near that!
  5. Google docs-Another thing I had heard of but never explored! You can do so much! You must have a GMail account to be able to access google docs but once you get there you will be just as excited as I am!

There are more resources that Will gave us and explained how they could be used not only in the classroom but also for professional growth for educators. Look him up! Follow him on twitter #willrich45. As I dig further into these resources, I will continue to post. Since seeing him speak I have started a twitter account, constructed this blog, and registered for delicious. I am on information overload but feel like if I don't dive in I will lose everything he taught me! I am excited about the possibility of learning!!!!

If I don't learn anything new today, how can we engage in meaningful conversation tomorrow????