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Showing posts from August, 2016

Birthday Wishes

Today is my 47th birthday. I went to work, celebrated silently. However, a few students bought me presents, they looked at the birthday calendar. Very nice. Came home, flowers and a nice dinner with family. A few presents, mostly gift cards for Amazon. I plan on buying some books and more funky tennis shoes/sneakers. A simply day but I like simple.

How "Community Goal" Setting Helps Minimalize Behavior Issues in the Classroom

This is my fifteenth year teaching. Not every year has been without problems. I have had challenging to the point of tears classes, engaged but uncontrollable classes, compliant and quiet classes, and interactive and well-behaved classes. My first year of teaching I was basically thrown to the wolves at a struggling Title 1 school with a high teacher turnover and little support from administration or other teachers. I had two special education teachers who were frustrated with their jobs and had basically given up. I almost gave up myself. It was a rough year.

It got better as I got my groove and rather than counting on others I stepped outside my comfort zone and started taking risks and revamped my behavior management style. I learned very quickly yelling or even showing an ounce of frustration was a losing battle. It took me several years to learn this however. I lined desks up in rows, did very little group or collaborative work for fear of off-task behavior and loud conversations…

A Four Day Celebration

A four day span of birthdays begins. My brother in-law August 27th- happy birthday Simon, August 28th-my mother August 29th-me and August 30th my son Zachary.

It is fun to share the long span with family. At least everyone will never forget the birthdays.

Engaging a Growth Mindset Week One of School

Usually the first week of school comes and goes like a blur, barely recognizing student faces or names, just "get them in, feed them, get them home" as I have heard many an educator say. But this year I set five goals, in my dedication to a growth mindset. These goals are not to merely enhance my passion for teaching but to build up resilience, focus on the big picture, and elevate my students from participants to innovators. At the end of my first week these goals took shape and allowed me to discover a new path I had not seen before, one of true adventure rather than of tour guide.

My first goal is to design a flexible classroom where students could choose seats. I have always been reluctant to let students take the reigns in this department because I feared misbehavior. I was devious with implementation of this however. I didn't tell them they could sit where they wanted, they actually looked around for a seating chart, could not find one, then nervously sat down, all…

A Poem: Eyes of Magic

They sit, looking
I stare, trying not to let them see my wonderment
I guide
They lead
I place
The build
I listen
They speak

A blank surface
filled with their skill
their ideas
their ownership

I observe
merely to learn
from the mystery behind their eyes
only they
know the answers

Forming First Week Bonds with Students

Quiet halls, slowly fill with chattering whispers of the first to arrive. The excitement builds as the conversations become louder and students find their friends. I hear the crowd as it nears the corner to my hallway. Several familiar faces smile and wave as they see me. Others cordially grin and walk past me. Then a few begin to loiter about reading over their schedules. Two bubbly girls look my way and begin to walk over. I greet them at my classroom door, they say hello and enter. A few more trickle in as I make my salutations. They look around the room for a seating chart, not spotting one, they choose seats near their friends. I stand at the door observing the myriad of personalities.

The classroom is full of energetic but wary students. I tell them this is a flexible, choice seating design. They can sit where they want and that will become their permanent seat. They smile and look at one another. I tell them they can move about and get comfortable while I take roll. They do. Th…

Quiz Bowl Up and Running

My first year, this year of Quiz Bowl. NAQT, National Academic Quiz Bowl. A fun, fast-paced Jeopardy style competition. We just got the buzzers and we are deep into practices already. Our first competition is coming up in September. A little nervous, but so excited to be the coach of this amazing team.

Two weeks in

The GT classes are amazing, all my students fantastic. It has really put me on my game: teaching such enthusiastic and intelligent, motivated students. Getting to know them more every day. The student-centered classroom is working great. Flexible seating successful. So happy I decided to jump into more of a student-led environment. It has allowed me to focus more on them and less on the mundane daily planning.

What Does it Mean to be a Professional?

Common sayings among educators, "I just want to be treated as a professional." or "That behavior isn't very professional." or "How do I improve professionally?" These really can't be succinctly answered until we define what it means to be a professional.

1.apersonwhobelongstooneoftheprofessions, especiallyoneofthe learnedprofessions-dictionary.com

Teachers definitely fall into this category. Teachers must have an extended education through a college degree and/or a teacher preparation course. Therefore a profession is one based on learning and the acquisition of knowledge.

2. apersonwhoisexpertathisorherwork-dictionary.com

Teachers are experts for sure. It is also necessary for teachers to stay on a path of continual growth. The field of education is constantly improving and changing and to stay an expert, one must train, perform, and continue to innovate and improve.

3.Person formally certified by a professional body of belonging to a specific profess…

Student-Centered Classrooms

21st century classroom used to mean technology integration. It is amazing this turn of phrase is still being used as we are well into the century. It also surprises me that many teachers feel that if they are incorporating technology into their classrooms that that is enough to make them 21st century ready. There are naysayers of change at every school. There are also forward thinking, innovative, inspiring teachers at every school. It does not matter if your school is affluent or not, if it is urban or suburban, busting at the seams or a one room school house, positive culture comes from everyone involved having similar goals. This positive school culture can be felt as soon as your enter the building.

Having clear vision and a well-defined mission are key to any school being successful. Creative and supportive teachers leave their mark where ever they go. They smile in the hallways, greet students and other teachers. They keep their doors open and welcome anyone to come and visit. S…

Creating A Stem Makerspace: Supply List

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STEM Supplies •Toothpicks       •  Card stock •Straws •  Toilet paper rolls •Craft sticks      •  Paper towel rolls •Pipe cleaners •  Sponges •Q-tips   •  Water bottles •Spaghetti   •  Rubber bands •Plastic silverware       •  Paperclips   •Paper plates/bowls   •  Scotch tape •Small cups       •  Duct tape •Coffee filters   •  Masking tape •Aluminum foil       •  Marshmallow •Plastic wrap    •  Gummy candies •String    •

Reflective Blog Instructions: A Novel Approach for Students

Reflective Blog- The purpose of this type of blog is for you to reflect on the work you did over the past week, and give you a plan to improve as a student. 
 You must answer ONE question in each section, and except for the image, the answers should be in paragraph form, and give specific examples/details.
Summary ·Briefly state what you learned this week.  
Image ·Include one image directly related to the topic (this can be a graph, illustration, picture, etc).
Backward-Looking:  ·How much did you know about the topic before we started? What do you now know about the topic that you did not know before? ·Have you done a similar kind of work in the past (earlier in the year or in a previous grade; in school or out of school)?  ·In what ways have you gotten better at this kind of work?  ·In what ways do you think you need to improve?  ·What problems did you encounter while you were working this week? How did you solve them?  ·What resources did you use while working this week? Which ones were espec…

Bits Part Two

Can bits ever disappear? Those tiny pieces of paper that get stuck in the whole punch and end up on the tile floor. That glitter that someone sneaks into a birthday card that explodes into the carpet. Sand from the beach that still covers the car floor after three summers. All of them bits, bits of life that mix into the bits of the internal. Happy memories, frustration, fears, squashed dreams, hopeful futures. Minuscule ticking time bombs. Fractional chaos. Polished, smooth-edged gems of reality that combine into a person. They mold and buff and carve a life. The internal. The shadow that emerges from the light. The light that has always surrounded you. The light that is less forgiving than the darkness we retreat to. The quiet, ringing silence. This is where the bits hide. This is where we forgive, forget, forage, foster, and fixate. The only place where all the bits exist side-by-side, mingled and merged. Where the bits can be sanded, sorted, funneled and consolidated. Where they …

Bits Part One

BITS by Melissa Chouinard-Jahant
What are bits? Bits of paper on the floor, a bit of ice cream at the bottom of the container, bits of glue stuck to your fingers. Bits can also be a bit of sadness left after a break-up or a bit of anger smoldering under the surface, a bit of laughter at a joke. A little bit of shame can go a long way. Life is full of bits. External bits and internal bits. AND these bits add-up. Then one day you have a mound of them toppling over on top of you. But they’re bits, they seem insignificant in the scheme of things. So you sweep them under the rug or out the backdoor. They are small after all and unnoticeable to most people who aren’t looking. You try and keep them close, out-of-sight. But they tumble out on occasion, littering an otherwise clean floor with tiny pieces of emotion for everyone to see. So you look the other way, those aren’t my bits. But after a while they just become a part of you like gum stuck on the bottom of your shoe or dandelion pollen …

Looking Back on Independence Day

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A day of celebration. America a free, independent country. A day where fireworks, family, friends, and picnics are the norm. A day where we are all American and cheerful and positive. A little introspection can be good. We are allowed to celebrate because of our forefathers and the many soldiers who paved the way for our country to be great. I mean we should thank the Chinese for inventing fireworks because half the fun would be gone without those. Letting go of the past, looking forward with anticipation of how to be better, how to make this country better, this is what I am thinking today.


Project Emphasis

Working hard on a project is so rewarding. I have been writing for our on line textbook and it is frustrating, difficult, and challenging but after working diligently for hours, I finished several assignments and I feel so proud of myself. I think we must continue to push ourselves daily or we get complacent, We forget why we are here which is to seek out the challenges that make us grow. To be a life-long learner. Now, I can relax and watch Netflix. A good day of work, now a good evening of relaxation.

Checking in with Myself

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This is my daily why not use it. It will not be for negativity, complaining, or social media discussion. It is a place for reflection, calmness, and peace. As a mom, wife, teacher I encounter many situations where stress and a negative attitude can take hold. I have chosen to take the path of self-confidence and positivity. I have chosen to write down my simple ideas so that I can look back and remember when I made this choice. To remind me everyday that positivity and love come from happiness within not from others. This blog is to help me see the things in my life that I need to accept and adapt to because I do not control my surroundings and I can not change everything. I can only accept and adapt. I will be responsive not reactive. I will be a listener a comforter a sole counselor. 
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.Dalai Lama
It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the sho…

We All Need a Security Blanket

Stepped into the classroom, looked at their eager eyes. Anticipation and joy. Can't wait to get to know these wonderful students. Smiling with wonderment and mystery. We all need a security blanket or an emotional effervescence that bubbles up and keeps us in the moment: safe and secure that we got this!

A New Show

Just started my binge on IZombie. It is an amazing show. The analogy made- we are often very different from one another and have to hide our feelings, ourselves to keep ourselves safe. But if we want to truly connect we need to share every part of us with our friends because that is what builds connections. Once we start talking about our fears, we will be able to face them together.

Inspiring Girls to Participate and Love Science

I am the coach for several science competitions: Academic Quiz Bowl, National Science Bowl, National Geographic Bee, TEAMS, Future City and Energy City of the Future 2050: Houston. The majority of each of these teams are boys. But, that is changing. How do we get more girls interested and involved in science club?

Being a female teacher interested in science and challenging engineering and quiz bowl competitions, provides me with a certain advantage. But, still encouraging them to join gets me half the way there. Getting them to speak up and interact with the boys is another. In quiz bowl they are present, and they know the answer they just remain silent, letting the boys answer. I have resorted to forming all girl teams to get them to interact. At least, practice with just the girls on occasion to get them more interactive.

I think it all starts with creating situations in the classroom to highlight the strengths of girls. Let them see that they have a voice. I make sure the table gr…

School in a Week

How do we prepare for a new school year? We reflect on our old one. At least we should. Last year I had a smattering of GT students and this year, I get 4 full pure GT classes. I can't wait. It will be a lot of work managing three preps but I am looking forward to the challenge.

Types of goals to discuss with students

I have set goals for myself. I alter them and add to them constantly. At the beginning of each school year I have students write goals too. But often they focus on academic goals. So I discuss with them the importance of having reachable, usable, relevant goals in all aspects of their lives.
Personal Goals Personal Goals are goals that are specific to only the student. How students can improve and grow.
Mental: Mental goals have to do with challenging the brain. Setting time aside to read a new book of create something new.
Emotional: Emotional goals have to do with gaining control of our emotions. Taking a deep breath when something has caused you to be stressed or frustrated. Learning not to give up but to persevere.
Spiritual: Students will take time to reflect on their choices. Spiritual goals are taking time to quiet the mind and body to reflect and feel comfortable in your own shoes.
Classroom Goals: As a class you brainstorm on a goal for the classroom. The goals will be decided on …

Twitter? Who knew?

Tonight was my first night of Twitter educational discussions. Step one on my path to more collaboration and insightful, meaningful dialogue in education.

Dyslexia: A Disorder that Makes Me A Stronger Teacher

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Dyslexia is a disorder that did not become identified until after I had made it into high school. Throughout elementary and middle school (for me one Catholic school) I was always thought of as the slow child. The child that didn't apply herself. The student who was unorganized, bad at math, a slow reader, and well...couldn't keep up academically with her peers. I was often the brunt of a joke, 'If Melissa can get it then so can you." Yes, I hated school growing up.

I never understood why the words translated backwards to me, or why the calculations I performed in math were always wrong (usually reversed). It is amazing me, to this day, why no one, not an administrator, teacher, counselor, no one took the time to help me. Back then though it was a time of "kids will be kids" and "tough love."

I overcame my struggles with reading- I am a ferocious reader. I do however, really struggle with anything with numbers. Students ask me all the time, "…

What Makes a Teacher a Gladiator? How Can I be one?

After an insightful chat with #edugladiators this morning, I put my mind to work coming up with ideas on how I can become a gladiator educator.

Write a mission statement for my classroom. Set the goals. Be passionate about every goal I want to implement and conquer. Being passionate is not something you keep to yourself, it eludes from every pore, it is visible from a mile away. Teachers need to show this enthusiasm daily for it is contagious and students will get hooked.

It is not good enough to just write down a mission statement and be passionate. I have to focus on the end result. I have to visualize how I am going to get there. The steps need to be well thought out because they will be steps that I lead others to follow. I need to leave a well marked path for my students to follow. A path they find on their own, but where I leave the crumbs of discovery.

A gladiator teacher know that collaboration is key. To work as a team makes us stronger, I will plan with my team and other sub…

Me on social media?

I am not a big fan of social media. PLEASE do not send out photos of your nudity, or even worse your food. I am on Facebook to keep in touch with family and old friends, But it seems I am scrolling through more dog and cat videos or "I found a Pokemon" entries then anything really awesome. But, alas. I read it everyday looking for the hidden gem, I do like to see that good things that are happening to good people.In this scary, uncertain world positivity is great.

Now Twitter, well it frightened me. Mainly for the fear of rejection. I, iteacher, have a goal to be more involved in social media but not in pop culture or....politics,,,but as a teacher. Education is guiding our future generations. Not putting them in a box and throwing new data and rules and ideas at them, But, simply guiding them to their own path of learning. Every student whether in Special Education or Gifted and Talented education learn their own way. We as facilitators need to present them choices and crea…