Friday, June 30, 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

That's What I'm Tolkien about!




Reading more and better books


This summer, I'm prepping for eighth grade ELA. I'll be heading to middle school. After buying TONS of new books for my classroom library, (I'm down to eating beans! ha!) and prepping for literature circles, there seems to be a looooooong discussion of what and how to teach reading. I've read many of the books, including but not limited to, books that share what happened in classrooms when teachers "let go of control" and "just let kids read", including the TONS of reading research.

Most teachers use their own personal stories of how they ended up hated reading and how they don't want to be *that* teacher that forces a novel, etc. (And yet, incredible teachers who LOVE Shakespeare end up getting EVERY SINGLE student in LOVE with Shakespeare still begs the question of choice)

Yes, choice is important. No one is denying that. But also the fact that alot of the students we teach today, don't know how to choose. I was an avid reader. But given my choices, my choices were limited to what I knew. Nancy Drew. Hardy Boys. Books that, given what they are, are really junk food.

Books have power. They feed our souls and fill our minds. I'm really beginning to disagree with the whole notion of "It doesn't matter what the kids read, as long as they are reading." Of course it matters! We can do so much better than that as teachers.

My story is simple. I went to public school up until second grade. I remember my mom taking us to the library, and I was reading chapter books. But in class, I was put in the lowest group because I seriously thought that's what I was supposed to do: Sound like everyone else. I remember quite vividly that everyone was such a slow reader, but since I didn't want to stick out, I made myself sound out the word cat as I read along. Not because I couldn't, but because I didn't realize that I didn't have to.

I ended up going to private school in third grade because the schools got so bad, and my older brother was getting beat up constantly in third grade on the playground. My parents worried for our safety, and took us out of the public school and put us in private schools. My world opened up. I couldn't believe that these kids read faster, asked questions, and had the same thoughts I had while reading! I found kids who read Nancy Drew too! And thanks to teachers who taught classics, I was introduced to amazing stories like Huck Finn, Jane Eyre, biographies and more. I went back to public school in junior high, only because it was getting expensive for a family of 5. But those years changed my life!

It only got more exciting in college. I found out that many of my peers knew authors I did not. When talking with them, I realized that the richer you were, the more  you were exposed to since those schools explored more literature. I didn't realize that poetry was literally life changing. And I remember being in British Literature class thinking, "Why had I never been given a chance to even know these authors?"

Now as a teacher, I realize that many of the students are growing up like me. Poor. Limited Choices. They may not have a choice of which school they go to. They may just be reading what their social circle is reading. But I can bring books that lay a deep foundation of good ideas, powerful words and memorable scenes and characters. Books with truth, goodness, and beauty. Books like The Hobbit that showcase sacrifice, friendship and loyalty. Books like The Boy on the Wooden Box that show what it was like to survive World War 2. I'm not against the "junkfood", but I want to put a plate of steak in front of my students. So while I get the whole "As long as kids are reading" mantra, I don't agree with it. At least not if I'm the teacher.

I think we can do better. This summer as I plan, I'm making decisions to promote a love of reading. A healthy balance. Taking the wisdom of teachers, with research, and everything with a grain of salt.

Here we go!


Monday, June 5, 2017

Thank you Dr. Robert Burns McDonald III


Quite possibly, the most influential teacher I've ever had.

Obituaries don't do much justice to people.

You've got to understand something about my teaching career. It was hard. Sometimes prejudice would come from your own people. I remember my advisor, a latina, telling me I couldn't survive my first year of college. It was shocking. Not because she doubted me, but because I thought, "What if she's right?"

Well, God will send you exactly what you need and who you need. Dr. McDonald and his wife are such a gift! He believed in us. I don't think there was a teacher who believed in us like he did. He made us believe we could not only teach, but be the BEST and encouraged us every step of the way. I remember starting his class, and feeling so incredibly dumb. It was science. I HATED science! I sucked in science all my high school years. (I took Pre-AP chemistry, so I was usually with the geniuses anyway) I remember he dropped off boxes at each group. I started going through the WHOLE box in anticipation, showing my sister, "Hey, what's this for? Hey! Look at this!!!" and the whole class stating, "You aren't supposed to touch anything!" Dr. McDonald had walked out and when he walked in, everyone ratted me out. It was embarrassing! LOL And you know what he said? He told the class, "As teachers, you will say things, like "Don't touch". But actually, you will have someone like Christina, who will touch, get EXCITED, and there's your HOOK! Let them touch! Don't get mad at your kids! Let them explore!" And with that, was my first lesson in loving science and realizing that the smallest acts of love will have the BIGGEST impact on your students. That lesson impacted my whole teaching. I felt so small and then he made me feel like I was SUPPOSED to do it wrong! I made a choice that day. I wanted my students to feel how Dr. McDonald made me feel. And then he introduced us to his wife and I couldn't believe there was another person like him!!!!! So loving and so knowledgeable and so incredibly humble. They were SUPER RICH in knowledge and they gave it away freely. I'm pretty sure if they were billionaires, they'd be giving out $100 bills everywhere, because their generosity with their time and knowledge knew no bounds. I mean, I LOVE science and sharing it with my students! I started Family Science Night because he showed us and taught us and took us to people who put on AMAZING Family Science nights.

you know that saying, "They won't remember what you taught, only how you made them feel." It's actually true for normal people. But for extraordinary people, the greats of the world, you'll remember what they taught AND you'll remember how they made you feel. The only reason I know, is because I was taught by on of the greatest people God put on this earth. I remember what he taught and how he made me feel. I only hope to be as amazing as he was.

God Bless you Dr. McDonald. Thank you.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Robert Burns McDonald III, 67, passed away at his home on the Lamar Peninsula on May 29, 2017 with his wife and daughter at his side. Robert was born in El Campo, Texas on February 9, 1950, the only child of Velma Jo Joiner McDonald and Robert Burns McDonald, Jr. After graduating from Gregory-Portland H.S. in 1968, he attended Stephen F. Austin State University where he fell in love with his wife of 45 years, JoAnn Montes, and completed his B.S. in elementary education. Robert went on to earn an M.S. in curriculum and instruction from Corpus Christi University and a Ph.D. in science education from the University of Texas at Austin.
Robert taught at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels in the Texas public schools for 14 years, exciting students about science and the world around them. He happily taught much of that time in Ingleside ISD. He spent the last 15 years of his career teaching at the university level at California State University-Long Beach, Southwest Texas State University, and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He inspired many preservice and in-service teachers to teach science with gusto, helping them connect their students’ real world experiences with the “big ideas” in science. Dr. McDonald presented workshops for science educators at the regional, state, national, and international levels, and has published numerous articles in journals of teacher education.
Robert was extremely proud to be a native Texan and enjoyed learning and talking about the many generations of his family who were born and raised in Texas. He loved the beauty and diversity of Texas and spent as much time as he could camping, fishing, and exploring the forests of East Texas and the rivers, bays, and estuaries of Texas coast. One of his greatest pleasures in life was teaching his grandchildren to fish in the waters around the Rockport/Fulton area.
R.B. was an adventurous soul and a life-long learner. He earned a black belt in Taekwondo, raced sailboats across the Gulf of Mexico from Corpus Christi to Vera Cruz, and built a geodesic dome where he spent the final year of his life. For many years he was an avid runner and cyclist. Robert loved to watch all Texas Longhorn sports and burnt orange was his favorite color.
He is survived by his mother, Velma Jo Joiner McDonald, his wife, JoAnn, and daughter, Amber Star McDonald Donihoo, one granddaughter, Alexandra Elise Donihoo, and a grandson, Robert Aidan Donihoo. He is also survived by his brother-in-law, Gary (Charlotte) Montes, Sr., two nephews, and a niece of Nacogdoches, TX and two cousin/siblings, Penny Sue Benner Payne and Pat Benner. Survivors also include his Aunts Irene, Leotha, Billie, and Margie, as well as several cousins.
A private family memorial is planned for a future date. Those wishing to remember Robert should donate in his name to their favorite charity or scholarship.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

Science Spoon Review


If you've never played spoons in your life, you are missing out.

Missing. OUT.

Playing science spoons. It's a great day! #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #STAAR #SCIENCE

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Finally working on this bad boy! Will be up by the end of the week! #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #STAAR #Science #Review

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tasty Rotation + Tasty Revolution


Oh man, anytime you get a chance to actually make something edible, I'm ALL FOR IT!