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Showing posts from August, 2017

'Weathering the Storm' Means More Than Just Surviving

I was working at the Katy ISD STEAM center last Thursday night. It was crowded with high-school students working on their robots. Not a cloud in sight. Students were focused on their task when several phones beeped with text messages, mine as well. It was an update from our district that school was cancelled for Friday August 25th. The hushed voices became a din of excitement as the news spread. Students began to call their parents and I could hear one particular conversation as the student came out into the reception area to be able to hear their parent over the commotion, "Can I stay at Rogers tonight school is cancelled for tomorrow? I know, I do not know why either, but it is a day off." The cancellation was for preparation, evacuation and taking shelter before the storm hit. Yet, with the hullabaloo occurring around me it felt more like a vacation, at least for the teenagers in the building. The adults became somber, knowing that if our district cancelled school, Harvey…

Hitting the Pause Button: A Week In to School

Anticipation of this storm started early. The hum of worry echoed through the hallways as early as last Monday. Our school even had an emergency weather drill on Thursday. It become more real when school was cancelled Friday but even then the rain stayed away for the most part. Many became complacent and felt they were not going to be affected. Saturday came and a few showers occurred but still most of Houston remained basically dry. Over night Saturday my neighborhood flooded. As did much of Houston proper. Evacuations are numerous. Streets impassable unless you are in a Hum-V. The National Guard made its way through a few hours ago. Bringing the realization that this disaster is only going to get worse. Boats and tall trucks are rescuing many, yet, on my street children were splashing in the streets as the announcement was made that our school district is closed until after Labor Day. But for adults, this is when reality set in. We are trapped in our houses for days to come.

We have…

The Power of a Classroom Graffiti Wall: Personal Expression

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Why Graffiti?

Graffiti is a way of creating. An art form of expression. Intricate and unique, colorful and dynamic. On exteriors of buildings and underpasses it builds a sense of mystery, an announcement of presence and authority. These same levels of interpretation and articulation run deep in a student-centered classroom. Having a location where students can declare and comment on content is a great way to bring voice to even the quietest of students. Anonymity is appreciated. Fluidity of vocabulary and artistry is crowd-pleasing. As much as a beautiful mural of graffiti is work of art, a classroom graffiti wall is an intricate weaving of demonstration of knowledge and personal narration and style.

What is a Graffiti Wall?

A large space, preferably a black board. Chalk just creates a feel unlike any other writing tool. Smearing and powdery, creating a sense of urgency and impermanence. I like to leave it blank for a few days, letting students see the need to draw and add their flavor…

Why So Serious? Laughter is Good for the Soul.

Farce, hilarity, wisecracking, three tools that are often neglected in the classroom. However they are useful ammunition. If used effectively they will not just brighten up a complacent learning environment but they will transform it into a haven of connection, cognizance, comfort and delight. This year, for me joy and mindfulness begin with a humble laugh and creating a humorous and compelling place where smiles occur daily and respectful banter is common place.

That first chuckle, giggle, guffaw. The moment their deadpan expressions turn into audible grins. This is the juncture when our classroom transforms from a stage to a society. Give-and-take becomes the norm. Quiet shifts to orderly networking. Each voice an interchange, communication seems like witty banter between characters, seamless and charged. The humor of a learning environment is a two-way street. An avenue of laughter, all the while, being one of academic attainment. Joking around may seem off-task but it builds rappo…

Magical Mystery Tour: A Calling Card Extravaganza

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It was about 1:30 in the morning, the eve of the first day of school. I was restless, couldn't sleep. So I just stared into the darkness of my room and envisioned a blank wall. I tried to imagine what a wall, that would encompass my mindful philosophy and student personalities, would look like. In the past, I have used 'All About Me' and other colorful handouts for students to share their backgrounds and interests. But, these stayed up for a few days, maybe a week and then ended up in the recycle bin (student choice). So I wanted to do something different this year. Incorporate the same basic idea, but also have it purposeful and relevant every day. A long-lasting and impactful design where students were building a community not just talking about themselves.
What came to mind was my UCLA quad community board. There was everything from lost cat signs to I need a partner to study fliers. It was always a messy, hodge-podge of student communication. This intrigued me. I knew…

A Student-Centered Classroom: Design with Students in Mind

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August 16th, a year that will live in merriment. A student-centered classroom becomes even more so by doing a few simple things. Colliding with science is my moniker on Twitter as well as our class blog and website. So it made sense to use it as our class motto. A vision is important and this created a sense of wonderment and magic as they entered the room. I also call our room a community and we start the year off with a group 'mingle' activity and creating our own motto's and logo's. These are then hung on the wall, on our community board. But, alas that is a topic for the next blog post.


When I was designing my wall space I decided to go minimalist. To leave the responsibility to my students so they feel connected to the community arena completely. The back wall of the classroom is a giant collision board where students will add articles, pictures and any other artifact they desire, to build the 'big picture' and make connections between concepts. I got it …

Overwhelming Becomes Integrated: Back to Teacher Mode

The feeling of being overwhelmed takes over, darkens the edges and creates a grainy, askew image of reality. Voices distant, hollow, speak and dissipate. Focus disseminates, scattering like the first semblance of morning light. The fog of hindsight ceases to lift, lingering heavy, every step leads somewhere but the journey is mysterious. Convergence of immediacy, procrastination, responsibility. The haze of summer meets the clarity of classroom life, yet how to begin remains aloof, just out of reach. The paralyzing effect of too much information in a minute amount of time. Expectations, vision, mission, goals, presented in rapid succession. A blur of data, I tell myself, just add it to the swirl of murk circling around me. People smile, greet and welcome, but in my head the vocalization of my colleagues remains a murmur, fighting to connect with my laden thoughts. This lasts for days, meeting after meeting, team building exercises, grade level discussions, planning sessions. I jot dow…

Things You Think of While Staring Out the Window on A Long Drive

I just returned from a month in Albuquerque. Returning home is always bittersweet, on the one hand you are home and you get to sleep in your own bed. On the other, you have to leave behind something. I left behind my oldest son, Gabrial who is now 18 and beginning college. He is living with my daughter Hannah and her husband and child. So I know he is safe, but it is my first son leaving the nest is stressful. I have three more at home, and saying goodbye to my oldest was harder than I could ever have imagined, it was heartbreaking. Lots of tears. So, beginning the sixteen hour trek home was a somber one. The car was quiet for a while, all that was heard was some sniffling. It was an event I had been dreading since our arrival in Albuquerque. But, I had to rip off the band-aid quickly so we didn't drag out our good byes. Hugs and kisses and off we went. Looking back now, only four days later, it still stings. But, I am so blessed to have such an amazing family and I know he will m…