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????

Friday, January 14, 2011

Saving Our African American Males....Why this topic?

I am an educator. I care about ALL students.....don't get me wrong. I am especially passionate about saving our African American males. This is the area in which I will be investigating for my dissertation. I don't know when exactly I became passionate about this topic but I am. I believe that they have so many things stacked up against them that a great number of them are set up to fail before they are even born. I am currently in school working on my doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Effective Schools. My name, "drnatasharachell" should not imply that I am a doctor...YET!!!! I will be in about three years! I am claiming it now as I know that I WILL reach my goal. I taught high school science for six years and currently work in the Office of Professional Development recruiting, training, and retaining middle school math and science teachers. I LOVE my current job, however I DO miss my students. I know that in my current position I am able to relay my knowledge to a larger group of educators (than if I were still in the classroom) that will in turn touch a larger number of students and thus have an impact on student achievement.

I am beginning this blog to hopefully allow me to voice my thoughts of different educational resources that I come across and hopefully begin some rich discussion and learn from who ever may read my posts. I believe that ALL students can learn and what I've come to find out, from my personal experience with African American male students is that the key is building relationships. Students simply want to know that you care and that their life is valued by someone else. I had so many "hallway homies" when I was teaching. These are the kids that hang in the hallways that I've never had as my students. I just knew them because they were in the hallways so much! Eventually I did indeed teach a great deal of my "hallway homies" and because that relationship had already been established (because I took the time to do this while they were in the halls even though I didn't know them) when they got to be my students, THEY WORKED!!!! I would hear so many complaints from other teachers about "these" students that they would be late to their classes or that they wouldn't do their work. I didn't have these issues out of them. And I firmly believe that it's because I took the time to build that relationship.

I am new to the blogging world but plan to challenge myself to make it be what I want it to be...whatever that may be!