Monday, June 23, 2014

Thrive Week 4: Keep Your Work Intellectually Challenging

What really spoke to you in this chapter? How are you keeping your work intellectually challenging while finding a balance between content and your focus on your students? Are you utilizing any of the methods Meenoo mentioned in this chapter?

As I was reading this chapter I was reminded again of two opportunities that we have in Indiana that I mentioned last week, but I think they pertain to this chapter, too. They are the new Online Communities of Practice in Google+ and the Summer of eLearning conferences. Both of these offer opportunities for teachers to share the wonderful things that they are doing in their schools and classrooms, encouraging other teachers to try new things, but hopefully also getting feedback from their network.

Next week is 4th of July, so we will take the week off. For the week of Monday, July 7 read chapter 4, "Listen to Yourself." If you are behind in your reading and commenting, don't worry. Take the next two weeks to catch up. And while you're commenting to blog posts, don't forget to read comments from other participants and comment back to them.

137 comments:

  1. Happy Monday morning! I went to the library and picked up a couple of books for dummies on the topics of Pinterest, Twitter, and Excel. (The fact that I went to the library and picked up books probably gives you an idea of my generation!) The books on Twitter and Pinterest are pretty obvious as we have been discussing those formats for getting and sharing ideas. The Excel is because I am interested in how to keep better data on the different techniques and outcomes that I am going to be trying! I have started a list of the kids I work with and trying to rethink their challenge list and things I can try to address those challenges. I am thinking about how I might better communicate with staff and families to strengthen those teams. I would love to figure out a way to get my Indiana school therapy peers to interact more. I checked the Communities of Practice last week and did not see a community for therapists....but, like I said before, the PT communities on Learning Connections are not heavily used. I am pretty excited about shaking things up in my own world this year!

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    1. I think technology may keep us all on our toes for a very long time! I have a strong background in Excel from my previous career and I love using it now as a teacher as well! It is a great tool to invest your time learning.

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    2. I would also like to learn more about Excel to use it in the classroom. I get frustrated with it because I do not know how to set up formulas and I can never get it to print the way I want it. I should go to the library to learn more about it as well--or does anyone know of any good how-to videos or websites?

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    3. Jodi, You can often look on YouTube.com and do a search on how to use Excel. You can learn how to do almost anything on YouTube.com.

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    4. I'll be sure to take a look. Thanks for the tip :)

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    5. Hello ladies, I also have a strong background in Excel and would be happy to help you out if I can. You can reach me at: suwhite@eastnoble.net. I know how frustrating it is to spend hours trying to figure something out when someone else can walk you through it in minutes. I am currently creating a database in Access and am having the same issues. It has been a long, long, time since I used it and would love to be able to talk to someone who knows what they are doing.

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    6. Ah. A person after my own heart. As I mentioned in last weeks post, technonolgy seems to be my shortfall.

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  2. Meenoo Rami was does a wonderful job of capturing the very thoughts and concerns I have as an experienced teacher struggling with confines of the job amidst a strengthening desire to reach each student. It is the most essential dilemma we face and, at least from the outside, it seems some teachers lose that contest to power of bureaucracy and packaged curriculum. I told myself long ago that I would exit this profession if I ever felt the students couldn’t be reached or I didn’t care to reach them.
    The explanation of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose of Action as keys to keeping our motivation ignited spoke to me. Every year we battle what seems to be the loss of autonomy in our classrooms, but my answer to the question, when have you felt that you could act autonomously in your work in the past school year was a resounding; every day! It is still my students and me. I can reach, encourage, motivate, support, and guide them better than ever before. I very much agree with Rami’s contention that those are peripheral concerns and that we are still in charge of our course. I also agree that the constant pursuit of improvement and perfection is mastery as long as that desire is still there. I tell both my AP students and football players the exact same point. When we are done pursuing improvement, we are done improving.
    Two of the four points of emphasis on the student-focused graphic were “my work is to help students find their own passion”. I have always felt that to be true but I was thinking about the descriptors of Mastery and Purpose as explained by Rami. In my classroom, I believe in engaging and supporting students in hopes of their gaining depth of thought that can be transferred to their own passion. My most rewarding experiences aren’t necessarily when students come back to visit with the message of how I helped to ignite a love of history. Rather, when a former student explains that I assisted their development toward thinking for themselves or finding passion, I feel a great sense of satisfaction. This past year I was formally acknowledged in a doctoral thesis in humanities of a former student and hugged in the grocery store by a former student who dropped out of school to give birth to a child. In both cases it was expressed that I took an interest in helping them find themselves and their passion that was not realized until years later. “You always believed in me” was stated by both and I am so honored to have played that role.

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    1. John--What a motivating commentary you have given us! I struggle daily with the loss of autonomy and publisher-packaged curriculum; however, if I keep my eyes on the prize--successful connection to and interaction with the students, perhaps I can overcome this overbearing obstacle and "thrive," Thanks, Coach!

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    2. John, where do you coach? I'd love to cheer your team on; you are very motivating of us so we can return the favor.

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  3. After teaching the same thing for nine years, I was starting to think teaching was easy. Thank goodness for technology to keep me from getting complacent! Over the last two years I have completely revamped my course due to my school going one-to-one and adopting the Canvas learning management system. I feel like I use action research daily! Because I teach at a private school and have always had wonderful administrators, I feel like I have autonomy over my curriculum and my classroom. I have not been afraid to try new things or risk failure.
    Also, in terms of reflecting and writing, I have recently signed up to present at my first conference. The preparation has been very intellectually stimulating. I could always come up with a million reasons why I couldn't or shouldn't present but now that I have committed to it I have had to take a long, hard look at what I do as a teacher and what I think is worthy of sharing. Even if he presentation is a flop, I have learned a lot in the process. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a challenge!

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    1. I submitted 2 possible topics for the PATINS conference. If accepted, it won't be my first time presenting, but it will be my first time presenting in front of a primary non-PT group. I agree that preparing for a presentation teaches you a lot! Good luck with your presentation.

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    2. Mrs. Schaffner, what conference will you be a presenter and what is your topic? I would love to hear more. I have done the same thing in my career - signed up to present on a topic I'm hoping to get better at because the preparation, as you say, helps me become a more skilled practitioner of whatever that topic is.

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  4. I found this chapter to be very motivating to dig in a little deeper as I plan this summer, and Meenoo's encouraging words to read what you enjoy a good reminder to take care of your own needs, too.

    Last year was the first year for the redesigned AP Chemistry course, and this fall will bring changes to Physics I. Technology and differentiation are woven into the structure of my class in ways that I had not even dreamed of just a few years ago. While the shift to inquiry-based learning in both of these courses is consistent with my instructional approach, I find that all of these changes collectively have given me the opportunity to rethink my courses beyond the typical summer tweaking. As I read the posts above and talk to colleagues, we are all aware that we are working in a very dynamic profession.

    I also found Meenoo's comments about autonomy and risk taking reassuring. With findings in science fields in the news almost each day, it is exciting (but sometimes challenging) to keep up-to-date. It is also easy to let current research take over a class period putting a squeeze on the required content, so I am constantly looking for ways to make relevant connections with our objectives and the news. I am always pleased when a student brings something from the news to my attention by sharing a link and adding to the discussion.

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    1. Hi Cheryl.
      I, too, feel bombarded at times with all the fresh content out there in my field. I think with the ease and accessibility of technology, we are able to "discover" for ourselves that new tangent on content instead of having to wait for it to publish in a journal. I am enjoying this E-book club because I am connecting with so many different people from around the state with common issues.

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  5. With a teaching assignment that has some years included five or six preps, I have had little time to be stagnate. If at any point I had felt at ease, this was upturned when my district implemented a 1:1 format that now leads to curating digital curriculum. I also have felt the challenge to give my instruction purpose and depth not just have a long list of business to accomplish.

    Recently a couple of events have reenergized me. The first was my district's e-learning conference; the second was a new fascination with twitter. Following several educators on twitter has unveiled to me a new layer of the web that I am discovering offers both incentives and ways for me to practice new tools to take to class. Two that I have found appealing are: worlds-of-learning-nmhs.com and thinglink.com In both cases I have found the moderators to be very personable in their interactions.

    While I am enjoying reading, blogging, and investigating, I also know that when school starts, I will be pulled in other directions that do not daily allow for many of these new-found interests. I am hopeful that I will create a few good habits that I won't want to abandon.

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    1. Tammy, would the two links be appropriate for elementary teachers?

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    2. Yes, both sites attract a wide range of levels. While I liked the idea of using the websites in their 'summer challenge' mode and showcasing/sharing what I accomplish, you can view the links and glean whatever works for the time you have to put into it.

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    3. Tammy, my supporter and mentor I have bookmarked both of your links and will check with you later about them.

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  6. I enjoyed reading this chapter-especially about challenging yourself to not become complacent when it comes to curriculum. It is so easy to get bogged down-doing the same lesson in the same order-year after year. I find myself getting bored with my curriculum at times. I realize now that I need to challenge myself to step-up my curriculum. If I am bored, then my motivation to be a great teacher has to be going down. I plan on challenging myself to not get too comfortable with my curriculum. I want to do a better job of bringing in more resources and making my curriculum exciting to me again.

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  7. Bullets of Brain Jogs;

    * I've always believed that an intrinsic part of teaching was an instinctive art - one that is evidenced in the split-second decisions teachers make as they interact with students. On page 44 the "internal dialogue" section spoke clearly to that. The listing of complex factors that influence our teaching strategies have always been so clear to me because rarely does first period look anything like seventh period even though the standards addressed and the materials being utilized are the very same. I loved the validation of this.

    * Page 45 "serious guts" sometimes I look at a gym full of students and experience a jolt when I realize "they" so outnumber us! What a testament to the basic goodness of students that we are able to cope as a large-bodied group without resorting to prison-like rules and regulations.

    *Page 46 the "task flow" is sometimes more of a drip! :)

    * Autonomy: I'm reminded that it is 'as easy to ask forgiveness as it is to ask for permission." Additionally when considering the question posed "when have you felt that you needed permission from others?" I realized that within our department we are often so concerned with what the next level teacher will think that we teach more for him/her than we do for the students. This is another example where lack of trust within a corporation is an often unnoticed negative factor.

    *Every summer I tweak my curriculum and reorganize. Sometimes, however, I feel that I am asked to change management tools (new grading programs; new testing programs, etc) that I'm never given the freedom and time to get good (better) at actually teaching. We spend so much time learning new systems and programs that honing Shakespeare may take second place.

    * Purpose crystal clear: My purpose is crystal clear to me with stronger empowerment at the beginning of the year and at the end. Nothing like a fresh batch of students, a clean calendar, new notebooks.....can inspire so much. Nothing like a freshly graduated group of 12-graders off to take their places in the stuff of post high school life reminds me so clearly of why I do what I do.

    * The reminder of reading what we enjoy was well-placed. I always have a summer reading list and rarely get to most of the pieces. The author didn't mention the necessity of a beach chair and fuzzy cocktail, but I suppose that went unsaid. :)

    *So far, this chapter spoke the LOUDEST to me in every way.

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    1. Krisanne,
      I enjoyed your comments. I agree with your thoughts about students outnumbering us! In past years during cafeteria duty, I can remember thinking how many papers for each student I had graded. This was overwhelming and a source of pride at the same time! Your comments about asking for forgiveness instead of permission struck a chord, too. In a previous administration, I felt much more stifled than I now do. When we first went 1:1, I was concerned I was as much a computer teacher than an English teacher. And sometimes as teachers, we just get comfortable with one new management tool, and we're being asked to learn another one - or two or three. I have to take a deep breath and do it at my own pace. I loved your last three paragraphs. New supplies and a new batch of students are a new start every school year. The summer reading list is a nice change of pace from the reading of student papers and academic reading that dominates the school year. I agree, this chapter spoke the loudest to me, too. I can tell from your comments I would like teaching with you!

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    2. I often fall asleep reading just a few pages of a novel and push myself to finish my book club selection during the school year. This is for me, but also my students. It is surprising to me how often I talk with my K and 1st grade students about my book club and the book I am reading. Although comments are brief, I'm showing my love of books and a purpose for learning to read.

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    3. All great bullet points! I definitely enjoyed reading about the internal dialogue as well. Teachers use all kinds of "data" to drive their instruction. Your comments about how 1st period looks so different from 7th period is dead on. I am always tweaking lessons for different class periods. I think that's what makes lesson planning exciting - because I know that I will have to make small changes for each class so that they can get the most out of the lesson.

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    4. Krisanne,
      I so agree with your comments about having to spend so much time learning new systems. We are on our 4th gradebook/website program in 8 yrs. Our third year as a 1:1 district. Our first year using the IIEP system, and it just seems to go on and on. I personally really enjoy learning new systems but it gets very frustrating when it starts to impede on planning time. After all, at some point something has to give.

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  8. Our teachers have had the opportunity to attend two elearning conferences in June! I love going to these, though at some point, I feel like my brain can't take in more...I believe that it is most impactful when we can bring reality/current events into our daily work. During my last year of teaching, I heard about a story of an Afghan translator who is trying to come to the US, but has been denied (though legislation exists to allow these individuals to come here under our protection). Teaching the Constitution to 8th graders can be dry and they don't embrace the idea of the peoples' voice as truly having any value in our world. Look at voter apathy among our younger population.

    I shared the Indianapolis TV news report with my students and guided them through a Washington, DC letter-writing campaign. Many of my students were excited to participate and wanted to share their family stories of Afghanistan military service (there are lots of quality tangents to explore with this!) . The station heard about the letters and have done a couple of follow-up stories since. We are still waiting for the "paperwork" to be finished for this man's rescue from the Taliban bounty on him. My students have added their thoughts using the online comment sections on the websites of our representatives, US State Dept., and President, along with the Change.org site for my older students. As a traveling coach, I shared this lesson idea and some teachers have included me in their Constitution activities.

    Practical application of curriculum can make for the most memorable lessons. Sometimes, it's hard to find that personal connection, especially depending upon the content area...but when you find a gem, the lesson can last for years, even a lifetime (or save one)!

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    1. Crystal, I know that you really tried to think of creative ways to get your content to your students. Your former principal has had many great comments about your classroom. It was stories about your classroom which made me interested in researching more about a flipped classroom!

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    2. I loved when you told me about this lesson, and loved reading more about it on here. You can be sure that those students who took part in that will remember that experience for the rest of their lives. That's what's important - making the lesson meaningful!

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    3. I just came back from a conference and have that same "my brain can't take in more" feeling even though I am ready to try the new things I learned and heard about. Awesome lesson! Thanks for taking the time to make your lessons memorable and personal.

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  9. Wow, Crystal Mart! I teach English and Current Events, so I love incorporating daily news stories to help students make connections as often as possible. Your example is awe-inspiring.

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  10. I agree with the sample of respondents we have had so far that this chapter is one to bookmark. As for challenging myself, I think I have always done this and always will continue to seek out the latest phrasings, be current with all the academy changes, etc...however, too much of one thing can really throw you off-balance. Last year with the new AP design, I had to continually search for authentic sources on the six global themes--resources that were authentic, yet showed a variety of the Spanish-speaking world, extremely current (less than one year was my goal), decipherable by my students and able to be accessed by them through our school's filters. I can't think of one night when I put my own personal reading or interests before I finished what needed to be done for the upcoming content. After twenty years, I would very much love to be reading that summer book that is one on my bucket list of books. This chapter really makes you stop, take a breath and a step back to examine what is going to make you a more comprehensive instructor.

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  11. When I graduated way back in 1988, I vowed never to burn out! To that end, I take at least one class every summer and collaborate with teachers from all over Indiana. I have learned there is "more than one way to skin a cat"- and I try to find technology to help integrate the curriculum.

    I also try to create interdisciplinary, problem based learning lessons and units to make the real world come alive for the students- while covering all the standards.

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  12. I feel grateful to have a principal who gives me the autonomy to create my own curriculum. I teach some lab classes that are geared towards helping students who struggle with math. My classes are meant to enhance student skills, so it is really important for me to find out how my students learn and keep up to date on ways to teach skills
    I also have the challenge of teaching students how to write about math. My students need to be able to describe what they have done and provide explanations for why. Since I do not teach the same class more than once per day, I do not have the opportunity to improve from one class to the next. I cannot tweak what I find did not work with one class. There are days when I wish for a do-over. Sometimes what I try just does not work because of assumptions I made. I find that the longer I have taught, the more open I am to trying new things and making mistakes!

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    1. The key is the principal who gives the teacher the autonomy. It goes back to the trust factor. Those in administration need to understand that we are masters at what we do and the majority of us want to teach and share knowledge with students. The administration is their to guide and lead us.

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  13. The question I ask myself when thinking about this chapter is "Where to begin?" As I have mentioned before, I teach alternative education. I deal with students who can not function in the general classroom for a plethora of reasons. I have 15-20 students at a time who may each be working on a different subject. I have my English license and spent 25 years in Industry so I am well versed in English, Math, Business, and have an undergrad in Psychology. So when I have students who need a course outside of my expertise, I "take" the course at the same time. This allows me to broaden my knowledge and also gives me the ability to intelligently answer any questions they may have. If I can't answer a specific question, I research in order to do so. I never want to tell a student "I don't know."
    We may also work together to find the answer using whatever means we have at our disposal. My curriculum is "canned" as it is on-line, but I also have the ability to revise, adjust, and create based on individual students learning style and overall intelligence. Needless to say, this keeps me invigorated on a daily basis. I never know what I will face and thus must be ready to answer various questions on any number of subjects.
    I do, however, find myself at times stagnated. I am extremely lucky to have a wife who also teaches so I can e-mail her or talk about issues when at home. I also question colleagues when I simply can not figure something out.

    I have now been at this (alt. ed) for 8 years and find that I am more likely now to "step outside the box" more than ever before. I know that my classroom is many times the safest environment that many of my students experience on a daily basis and I want it to be a safe, stimulating, and though-provoking room.

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  14. For me networking is the most challenging in teaching. I enjoy talking and working with others to "keep my work intellectually challenging" however time is the key. Collorborating with other teachers allows me to think,thrieve and motivate. Unfortunately, we do not always have this opportunity especially in this day and age of evalutions and testing. I thought Meenoo Rami offered great reminders that we need to Read Widely in our Profession, watch videos that help us understand other teaching ideas, read for enjoyment. Today my daughter called and asked,"What are you doing?" I said reading. She stated, "Oh, catching up this summer and getting ready for school, HUH?" A teachers child understands the profession better than we do sometimes. Thrive is a great book to help me reflect on where I want to plan next years and ideas I want to priotize.

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  15. I am keeping myself motivated by participating in a corporation wide book study in addition to this book study over the summer. In my corporation, we have the opportunity to read and discuss "Drive" written by Daniel Pink. Pink was actually referenced in our reading this week. When I signed up for these book studies, I did not realize that the books would coincide so closely. It has been great to read, compare, and contrast both books. I highly suggest "Drive" to everyone in this book study.

    On a curricular level, I keep fresh each year by brainstorming for my incoming students. As a special education teacher for students with moderate and severe disabilities, the transition from junior high to high school it HUGE. In the spring, I meet with the junior high teachers to learn about the programs for each individual student. I then work all summer developing materials, schedules, manipulatives, etc. for each incoming student. I often network with other teachers, do online research, and visit new stores to meet the needs to all students. I think the diversity of my students forces me to work and stay fresh during the summer months.

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    1. Thanks for mentioning "Drive". I am writing it down as one to read after reading "Thrive"!

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    2. Yes, thank you for another good summer read! I'm adding Drive to my Amazon list.

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  16. At this point in my career, I have had no trouble keeping my work intellectually challenging. I have been teaching for four years, and during that time I have taught every math class from 8th grade through Algebra II and all the varying levels of each. This is the first summer that I am not spending reviewing and planning a curriculum I have never taught. It is an amazing feeling to be able to not start from scratch and to have time to reflect on what I learned in the previous year and how I can improve.

    As a math teacher, I rely very little on the text portion of the textbooks, but very heavily on the problems and practice portions of the book. While I think it would be very difficult to use a completely pre-packaged curriculum, I think it would also be overwhelming to recreate the wheel when it comes to homework problems. I find it is more about picking the right problems from what is there and filling in with supplementary materials when the book doesn't provide the questions you want to ask.

    In this chapter, Meenoo mentions some of the challenges of teaching as a profession where you may feel a loss of your autonomy. That is something I have not felt in teaching. I switched careers after working 6 years as an actuary in the pension consulting field. That was the corporate world where everything I did was peer reviewed 3 or 4 times, reworded and picked apart before actually going out the door. As a teacher, I feel so much more freedom! (Though sometimes I miss those rounds of review... How did I miss that there were two question #4's on that assignment???)

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    1. I think one of the best parts of being a teacher is that we can use a textbook as a springboard and we don't have to recreate the wheel, but enhance, dissect, and enrich the wheel.

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    2. Lauren--The autonomy to bring in resources that I like and think students will enjoy is one of my favorite parts about being a teacher. So glad you joined the profession!

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  17. As a young teacher, I find my work is always intellectually challenging. I am trying to master the content I teach, as well as master classroom management and other student related skills. I recently served on a curriculum rewrite committee, as well as a textbook adoption committee for my high school. Both were new experiences for me, and definitely challenged myself intellectually. I find myself most energized when I am able to serve on committees with colleagues, read books on my craft, share ideas with others, or take part in experiences like this summer book club.

    One thing that stuck out to me from this chapter was the discussion on mastery, specifically, “We will never reach a fulfilling end point in our work because our craft will continue to evolve. Each year we meet a new set of students who will teach us things as well (pg.47).” As part of our school corp’s evaluation process, each teacher must have educator goals. The questions listed on the bottom of page 47 are questions I ask myself each year when creating my goals. I want to challenge myself, try new things, and feel confident and stronger each year. I am by no means at mastery level, and to be honest, I hope I never am. I feel like I must have something to strive for with each new set of students to keep me driven and successful.

    I was also very interested in the discussion of action research. I remember reading about it in college, and I would love to be able to do something like is described in chapter 3. Perhaps that can be one of my new educator goals for the upcoming year!

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  18. The deck, trucks and wheels of then current electric skateboard for sale were oversized, heavy and low quality, severely affecting the quality of the ride. After more research he uncovered an obvious neglect in the marketplace for one basic fundamental – an efficient motorized skateboard that was built using real skateboard parts.

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  19. Parts of this chapter really resonated with me. I've been teaching for 17 years and several years ago, I found myself slipping into a rut. I was bored with what I was teaching, getting lazy, and generally unhappy with my work. I made a conscious decision that I didn't want to become one of those teachers that just went through the motions. I knew something had to change. I have been fortunate over my career to work for principals that trusted me to be a professional in my work, so I began to take risks. We had a computer cart that mostly sat around unused. I checked it out, not really knowing what I was going to do with it, but with some encouragement from my students, I began small projects that graduated to having students making i-movies. With technology everywhere now, it seems like something small now, but at the time it was huge. Most importantly, my students were engaged and learning. As I began to become more adventurous in my teaching, opportunities began to open up for me, and I was invited to take a project based learning class. I loved the class, and today I collaborate full time with an English teacher doing full time project based learning. I haven't used a textbook in two years. It hasn't always been perfect, and sometimes things don't work out as I had envisioned them, but it reinvigorated my teaching and my passion for teaching. Today, I am constantly on the lookout for innovative ideas that I might try in my own classroom.

    Rami's discussion about the loss of autonomy struck me as well. I bad days, don't always feel that I am listened to or taken seriously in my school, but I know that I am respected and my opinion is heard, the far greater issue for me is the ceaseless attacks on teachers from political leaders at both the state and national level. Teaching has changed greatly over my time in the classroom. When I began, teachers were largely respected, that is no longer the case. Today, it seems everyone is an education expert who could certainly do a teacher's job better than a teacher. I see that attitude bleeding over at times in my interactions with parents, and the public.

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    1. I totally agree with your last paragraph. The loss of respect is probably the biggest reason for many teachers retiring early or leaving the profession after only a few years. That is one of the reasons that I signed up for this book study. I am looking for someway to revitalize my teachimg.

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    2. I appreciate and benefit from watching the risks you've taken in your teaching, Angie. You are always helpful in sharing what you've learned to do with technology. Thank you!

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  20. The thing that struck me the most in this chapter was the need for autonomy, mastery, and purpose to maintain motivation. With all of the emphasis on testing in this day and age, it is very difficult to keep a sense of autonomy. In our corporation, we must all give common assessments at the same time. This causes problems when you have one class that gets through the material faster or slower than another class. I sometimes feel that we are lock stepped into doing things the same way. The quote on page 46, "Another unintended consequence of loss of autonomy is how it makes us stagnant as teachers" really hit home for me. It is also very important to strive for mastery while realizing that not every idea will work the first time. It is always important to always reflect and make changes if necessary.

    I do agree with the comments about pre-packaged curriculum. It often does not fit the school curriculum very well. With the changes in the state standards over the last few years,our curriculum has had to change a great deal. I often use blogs and the NCTM website to get ideas to supplement our pre-packaged curriculum.

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  21. I have been teaching for eleven years and have taught many different classes grades 7-12 in that time. I enjoy teaching things for the second or third time because I continue to add activities and try new things and discard activities that didn't go over so well before. On p. 43, Parker J. Palmer said, "No matter how we devote ourselves to reading and research, teaching requires a command of content that always eludes our grasp." Although I will never have complete command of my content, I enjoy the opportunity to teach novels, short stories and poems more than once because I learn something new each time.

    Creating new activities to engage students with the content gives me autonomy in the classroom and keeps me motivated to continue to find new information so that I am learning and growing with my students. Even if pre-packaged curriculum use is required, the classroom teacher is usually able to use a variety of resources so that instruction can be adapted to the needs of students. I like the analogy on p. 51, "Curriculum planning for your students is like planning meals for your family. A home-made meal with quality ingredients always trumps fast food, and it presents new and interesting intellectual challenges for the chef."

    This quote regarding mastery on p. 47 explained why I love teaching, "I learn and tweak and grow and get better, not because I was ever perfect to begin with, but because I am compelled to get it right . . . eventually" (2013). I know that I will never completely master my content area, but that isn't going to keep me from trying!

    In the midst of attendance, IEPs, testing, emails, convocations, discipline, documentation, evaluations, grading, etc. can drain one's energy from instruction. Before entering the classroom I did not imagine these things would take up so much time in my day. It is easy to lose sight of the purpose of teaching when ECA testing schedules consume 3 weeks of instruction. During times when the schedule gets whacky we do a lot of skill review activities. It is good practice for finals and some of the things were done early in the school year and so it is a good time to do review games such as kahoot.it to keep students on their toes while we are essentially treading water until finals.

    I keep things intellectually challenging by being a member of a professional organization, such as NCTE, which provides content-area teachers research-based resources that are already classroom tested. I continue to be excited about my profession by serving on committees within my department or school (such as rewriting curriculum), or learning more about integrating technology in the classroom and participating in professional development opportunities. It is also exciting to participate in this eLearning Book Club where educators from across the state are sharing ideas, reflecting on the teaching profession and are learning from one another.


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  22. I loved the part on p. 44 where Meenoo Rami discussed game time decisions. I was grateful she gave voice to this as a strength and not a weakness. Sometimes in the middle of a lesson, I can see that it is flopping and I need to supercharge it. I only have my students for 30 minutes at a time, so it has to be a quick decision and even though I planned a well thought-out lesson plan, things did not go the way I anticipated and It was time for a change. But because I did plan out my lesson, I knew my objective and was able to make a quick change to the lesson to bring home the objective in a new way. This is not a skill that can be taught from a college classroom or even student teaching. This is on-the-job experience training. It is learned from failure seen as a new opportunity.
    As a reading teacher, the process of learning to read is seen in the autonomy, mastery and purpose in the student, not just for the teacher! As a co-learner, I experience the same journey in my education as a teacher as my students do in learning to read! I do not want to remove the autonomy from my students just as I don't want it removed from me. What can I do as a teacher to encourage kids' autonomy in their own learning? I loved thinking through the chart on p. 49. Seeking the balance is a never ending journey.

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    1. As a colleague, I know you get your students to do their own thinking. You ask the why and how questions and have them provide rationales for their thinking. I think that having students responsible for doing all of the reading of the text also helps with autonomy. That requires picking a just-right book for them. Sometimes we need to jump in and help when the student is having difficulty. That's when we make those split second decisions about how much help to provide. That's where knowing the student is invaluable. The student's response is also a clue into whether you are on target with your prompt. I think that calling for action on the child's part is always going in the right direction and leads to autonomy. I hope others respond to your question too.

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  23. Even when thinking about elementary subjects and students, the quote at the beginning of the chapter is true. Our knowledge of subjects is partial and we strive to learn about effective practices in the content areas. Our students change and we are constantly trying to figure out what is effective instruction for each student. There is always change and it is difficult to get comfortable with that because we’ll never “get there” completely. I think we have to get comfortable with doing the best we can do as learners that reflect on both both our subjects and our students. This goes back to seeking out resources and knowledgeable people.
    This chapter discussed creating your own curriculum and not relying on prepackaged ones. We’ve had discussions about how much the prepackaged curriculum in reading should be used. Even with using the prepackaged curriculum, the teachers have to make choices since they usually contain more than you have time to do with your class. Teachers have to know their students strengths and weaknesses in order to know what they need next. A prepackaged curriculum will never fit every child in your classroom. The teacher’s knowledge and how the materials are used make the difference.
    My school has worked on writing in professional development in the last couple years, but something was still missing in pulling our knowledge and resources together to get the most growth in our students’ writing. Last year we formed a kindergarten through third grade group of teachers that were interested in spending time on a curriculum for writing. One teacher had previous training and led us to think about planning a K-3 curriculum that would get our students on level for the high stakes third grade test. The curriculum framework was helpful, but we really thought about what our students needed as we talked about it on a monthly basis. The teachers are all at different places with implementation. Many are taking baby steps. Some teachers went to a day of similar training. All teachers in both buildings viewed a webinar that would help with planning. We plan to continue this leadership group next year as we incorporate a book study that was done with the framework for the curriculum. A more detailed curriculum for each grade level will be written this year. I think the continued support and discussion will help the teachers and coaches in the two buildings to spread the learning and keep the planning going with everyone. Ongoing support is so important! Ideas from the book will help with networking next year.

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  24. I truly enjoyed my first 27 years of teaching. I attended yearly conferences for Foreign Language teachers and kept on top of new teaching methods and had a great time teaching content. Two years ago our school system became a 1:1 school. Not only, were we issued Mac Books, we were starting the journey with RISE, had a new principal, learned a LMS, and last year we added Skyward. Wow…what a busy time! This was the first time in my career that I thought I would quit the field of education! I still loved teaching my students, but I was overwhelmed with all the “extras”. I am not sure how but I survived this experience (with a lot of help from my friends)…. and learned so much. As mentioned by others, learn one new tool well and add more as you feel comfortable. Last year, I didn’t worry so much about the amount of technology I was using but was the technology getting the students more focused on their own learning.
    Of course, I am still learning all about the computer and the world of learning that it opens for our students. This summer, I am finding digital resources to be used in the classroom and finding ways to integrate more technology since we are moving away from the prepackaged curriculum that generally included a textbook. . Worlds-of-learning-nmhs.com (mentioned by Tammy Farlow on a previous post) has become a playground of technology for me this summer. It is a great site to look at a variety of technology, read about it and try it out. As I am creating curriculum, I feel somewhat liberated. Of course, when learning Spanish there are certain skills that must be taught and we have to follow our standards but I have discovered there are so many ways to deliver these tasks to my students and help them on their journey of learning. This chapter also reminds me that I need to challenge my students to find their hidden passions or nourish passions that already exist. This whole world of technology is keeping my work intellectually challenging. This will continue for the rest of my teaching career!!

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    1. I love your honesty, Sandy! I teach next door to Sandy, and we are about the same age. I know she has helped keep me motivated to learn new technology and always passes along items she finds that would pertain to my subject. Just reading the list of changes she mentioned in her post made me realize how much we've done the past two years. It has been a lot! Our work has definitely been intellectually challenging!

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    2. Sandy, my co-worker, you were not alone in how you felt 2 years ago, Thanks to your support and others in our hallway we survived! I too want to check out the resource you and Tammy mentioned, I have it bookmarked.

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  25. Thanks for the resource Worlds-of-learning-nmhs.com from Tammy. I am going to look into it.

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  26. I found this chapter to be inspiring in that Meenoo Rami went straight for all those elements that often cause us to get "burned out" and cause me to doubt myself as an educator. My first teaching position was in an urban charter school, and my principal required us to read the book, Joy at Work. I couldn’t understand why I needed to read a book when I was filled with so much energy and excitement for my upcoming school year. Now in my 5th year I’ve experienced those times where I’ve become stagnant or have been overwhelmed with all those rules, regulations, and requirements Rami mentions in Ch. 3. This year was my hardest to date, but it was also my favorite year of teaching.

    I thought I had a firm grasp of my content area because I had some fairly good practices of challenging myself intellectually, but this year my world was rocked. I began teaching AP World History and I realized I had A LOT to learn about the content and how to teach that content in two semesters (it is 12,000 years of human history after all). I studied nearly every night in preparation for the next day's lesson, I dug through all my old college notes and read our AP required text cover to cover, I made mistakes and had to fess up to them in front of my class, and subsequently…my students taught me how developing a community in the classroom where WE explore and discover our topic is both fun and intellectually challenging. Although I didn’t know it was called the Action Research Model, in all my classes we focused on skill development through inquiry. I love essential questions, Socratic seminars, primary source analysis, DBQ's...my students don't always love them, but they understand the value of it because we do it together. I'm constantly learning right beside them…

    The students call me a nerd and “Ulmanac” because they think I’m so knowledgeable about history but this year they saw me struggle and study. I said “I Don’t Know” more this year than ever before, and as a result I have more drive to learn and experience than I’ve had in a while. Every morning I get to school early and read the daily news (usually BBC)...often times there will be something I can directly relate to the lesson I'm teaching that will provide that real-world connection I'm always seeking in my World History classroom or because I’m searching for current primary source materials because I don’t use textbooks. I also do this reading (most of the time) in Romanian, as a personal challenge, so I can maintain my language skills. I use feedly.com to organize the personal pep talk blogs, professional blogs, and YouTube learning communities. This saves me an amazing amount of time. I do several chats via Twitter...and every summer I try to get involved in PD (LoC Teaching Institute, NEH Summer Programs, Travel, AP conferences…) All of that helps me stay up-to-date with best practices, new technology, and historical content.

    I loved Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s statement in this chapter that “The happiest people I know are dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems…” I concur and after this year I think I’ve got an okay foundation to continue maintaining my motivation and challenging myself intellectually.

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    1. I love that you have had to fess up and say `` I don`t know`` to your students. That helps them see us as real people and learners along with them. One of our aides actually complimented me on that this year, because there were several times in my high school math class that I had to admit a mistake to the kids and reteach it. She thought it was great that I was willing to do so. I hadn`t thought about it a lot before, but she was right. A lot of teachers don`t like to admit that they don`t know something or that they made a mistake. It makes us far better teachers if we can do that.

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    2. Agreed Stephanie! If I were teaching math...I bet I'd be saying "I don't know" a lot more!!

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    3. I remembering teaching a wrong conjugation of a verb in the past tense my first year of teaching. I just had to tell them that I taught it wrong, re-taught it and went on! Sometimes the kids ask questions that I don't know or they want to know what something looks like…it is so easy now to open laptops and let them find the answer to their questions!

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    4. We all make mistakes. When I didn't know, I would say I will find a resource and look it up, then years went by and I told them I will look it up at home on the internet and NOW they can use their laptops, unless the site is blocked. ; ) How times have changed.

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    5. Ulmanac! What a nice nickname! I have heard my daughter talk about this, Tara. Your students love being in your class.

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  27. The first thing that spoke to me in this chapter is a quote from Mihaly Cxikszentmihalyi explaining how we as teachers can maintain “flow” in our class room by having “very high levels of intrinsic motivation…marked by… strong interest and involvement in the work”

    This can be very challenging at times when external and as Meenoo included internal issues that block our motivation. I am in the same school system as Sandy Gutzwiller who posted previously. As she mentioned, “not only were we issued MacBooks, we were starting the journey with RISE, had a new principal, learned a LMS, and last year we added Skyward. What she didn’t mention is that our system hadn’t told us what LMS we were to use, so we have some teachers using Edmodo and others using My Big Campus. I think everyone that was using Moodle switched over to one of the two.

    Talk about challenging….I am one that moved to MBC and I had the challenge of students telling me that they liked Edmodo better. On the other end, although we weren’t told what LMS to use, the administration outside out building tended to push more towards MBC. I personally LOVE MBC and have wrapped myself into this LMS. This is the first webtool that I have taken to heart and really have tried to learn. It has been motivating when other teachers have interest and ask me questions. If I can’t answer them I like to find the answers for them. This not only helps those teachers, but myself.

    Because we have gone 1:1 in our system, I try to find something the students have mentioned they like and explore it myself. The one thing I am conscience about is that if every teacher jumps on a particular web 2.0 tool…for example Kahoots that I was introduced to, (if you have no idea….try it….Kahoots.com) then the students will get “bored” with it. This too is a challenge to keep learning new tools that will motivate the students.

    One method I would like to use from this chapter is a combination of “reading widely in [my] profession and action research”. Another teacher from my school district and I collaborate our lessons in two different classes. This year we are going to work on “flipping the classroom” The book that I have used as a resource is “Flipping the Classroom” by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.

    I don’t think I am ready to flip every lesson, but I am interested in trying it out. I will utilize student responses to determine how to improve upon the new idea as well as collaborate with Ashlee (the other teacher I am working with) on how to best meet the needs of our students.

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  28. After reading through this chapter, I found myself reflecting and relating the scenarios to how I felt with the first year of teaching. Receiving the call only a few days prior to the school year, I found myself stressing and worried about entering the classroom unprepared. Without even really realizing it, I created my own curriculum. Obviously as a teacher there is always room to grow and continue, but I think it benefitted me to get to know my students first to really adapt the curriculum to suit their needs. Of course coming in brand new, a prepackaged curriculum would have been the easy way out. From the long days and late nights, it was well worth it. There were clearly some rough patches with lesson plans, but every mistake or failed lesson created a learning experience for me. Being a new educator, I needed those mistakes to happen. We are human, and everyone makes mistakes. It is all how you overcome them and create a challenge for yourself to get it right. I think the idea of perfection was a speed bump to get over when I first started. I just wanted my lesson plans to be successful, but when I truly just stopped worrying so much, things fell right into place. I am anxious to get back in the classroom and try new things that work with different students. At first, I was really intimidated about changing lessons and trying different approaches, but I was able to give the students choices that showcased their learning styles.

    As a teacher, we have so much weighing on us all the time. It is our job to continue to engage and empower our students. Keeping my work intellectually challenging is always a challenge with education. It is a career that is continually evolving and improving, and as a teacher, you have to challenge yourself to adapt to the changes. I want to begin the year with really getting to know my students. Ending the year, I felt like that was one of my strengths. My challenge is adapting my curriculum to appeal to various learners while still engaging them with the content.

    Towards the end of this chapter on page 54, I was really drawn to, “Do the Reading You Enjoy.” I really struggled with this throughout the year. It took some time for me to find a balance that worked. “When you allow yourself the pleasure and time to read the things that nourish your reading life, you can bring those connections into your classroom (p 54).” This inspired me, and I want to make this one of my top priorities this year. I want to be able to read something I enjoy, share my love for reading, and inspire them. The times that I would give in and grab a bite to eat with a friend, I would enter the classroom with stories to share.

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  29. This chapter reminded me of the wonderful support and autonomy I enjoy. I consider myself to be quite fortunate to have an administrator who recognizes her staff as professionals and embraces teacher autonomy. Additionally, to help us keep our edge and focus, she has provided an extensive professional library and conducts book studies with the faculty as a group. I find these book studies relevant, and they allow me to view my tasks and profession through another lens.

    Professional development comes in many forms. I've spent a good bit of time this year reading several professional publications and attending webinars about the CCSS and ELA. The CCSS have helped me be more precise and deliberate in my lesson planning. I feel that my planning and the way I think about planning has become more intellectually stimulating for me, and as a result, I look at my learners and expectations differently. The publications and webinars have given me so many "fresh", yet obvious, ideas - many things that I already knew but had gotten buried in the business of teaching and just keeping my head above water. I find that professional tools such as these keep me better focused on my tasks and my students.

    In this chapter I also found the answer to a question that I ask every single year. Each year, at some point during the last quarter, I start thinking ahead about the upcoming year and begin making notes about what to do differently. I examine those things that worked well and try to make improvements on them, and I revamp those things that didn't work quite like I had envisioned them and head back to the drawing board. I immediately understood why I do this to myself when I read, "The happiest people I know are the ones dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems." The process of reviewing and changing my year causes me to think about ways to reach my students and help them grow as learners, how to better implement regular differentiation, and how to maintain my enthusiasm on a daily basis. This review and the ensuing changes give me a tremendous sense of purpose and accomplishment. "Why can't I just be happy with grabbing last year's lesson plan book and going with it?" Now I get it and hope I never feel "good enough."

    Lastly, I sincerely appreciated the reminder and "permission" to read what I enjoy. I don't do enough of that. While I do enjoy the professional reading, it's simply not at the top of my list of preferred reading. I simply must make time to read what I like. My kiddos depend on me to be able to guide them to literature, and quite honestly, I fall short here. I'm making that a priority from now on.

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    1. I also liked the "permission" to read what I enjoy. I have lots of novels in my classroom that students can "check out" and I have read most of them. I read many young adult novels so that I can talk to my students about books that they may be interested in reading and encourage them to make suggestions as well. I can't wait for Mockingjay Part 1 movie this fall so I can talk to my students about it!

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  30. What I think I struggle with the most is the fact that I teach special education classes. We call our classes ``Life skill`` and attempt to teach our students the skills they need for life, rather than for pursuing continuing education, as most of our students won`t be able to do that. The difficulty with this is being creative and finding materials that challenge my students but which also aren`t too difficult for them. I had numerous times this past school year where I would search for projects online. I have found numerous useful life skills projects, but many of them I knew my students wouldn`t be able to complete, because it would be too difficult. I was able to alter some and make some of my own, but I know that other teachers have great ideas for projects, and so I like to be able to utilize those since they`re put out on the web for that purpose. I have tried to find a balance between challenging my students but also not making it so difficult that they shut down. It was very hard this year, and since I will have the same students for 6 years in a row, I have to be able to come up with new material each year to teach the same concepts. It`s definitely been a struggle.

    Another issue I have had is students just not wanting to do anything. We`ll do work with paper and pencil and they complain that they want to use their computers. Next we do a project on the computers and they complain that they would rather do worksheets. It`s almost impossible to win with them. The truth is, they just don`t want to do the work. I want to be able to find materials and projects and other learning sources that draw my students in to what they`re doing and make them want to learn. It`s been a learning experience for me, and I`m still working on getting there, but considering this was my first year teaching special education, I try to be positive and keep on looking for the right fit of materials for my students.

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    1. Kimberly and Stephanie... I used to be a special education teacher so I wanted to chime in on how much we appreciate all you are doing for the Lifeskills students. Sometimes that is a "thankless" job as those students aren't on a "diploma" track; however, I know from having taught spced that sometimes the hurdles those students climb are so much bigger than the gened students and that what you do does make a difference in our world. Thank you! Have you explored any community based instruction for your students? I have found that to be far better than most pre-made curriculums for the lifeskills students.

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    2. Stephanie hang in there! No matter what you teach you will often get a group of students that have the wrong chemistry make-up when together and they make a career of being chronic complainers. When you feel you have not touched their lives and made a difference, you have.

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  31. Stephanie! I feel your pain. I teach Life Skills as well and it is a constant t struggle making materials and lessons. Store bought curriculum often isn't low enough...we also aren't given funding to purchase it if it were. Gen. Ed. Students are privy to curriculum and program that were purchased for thousands of dollars and I have to beg for a $500 reading program, get denied repeatedly and try my hand at grant writing. We have 30 kids with a huge range of needs and skills, but since we aren't diploma track everything falls on us two teachers. I am so weary from searching for ideas and help online and also trying to raise money. My best resources or the gals I am lucky to work so closely with. Now that I'm a mom, I just don't have enough time to go home a make hands on materials every night...sigh. Sorry, I'll get off my soap box now. I'm in the process of putting much of what I do into a format for TpT.

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  32. Last year, I struggled mightily with the packaged curriculum I was given to teach. I hadn't ever had a curriculum in my 16 years of teaching. Never had a curriculum. And taught many content areas and grade levels. And loved planning lessons, finding resources, working with colleagues. I was not closed minded to the packaged curriculum, I promise. I was even eager to have what looked to be familiar research-based strategies organized for me.

    I learned that my students needed me to help them learn reading strategies so they could comprehend the difficult reading encountered in the packaged curriculum. I learned that he packaged curriculum offered terrific enrichment activities that my kids weren't ready for and by the time I got them ready through rigorous reading instruction, we were mentally ready to move on to a new challenging text.

    When I finally talked about what I was doing with my PLC members, I felt a huge burden lifted. It turned out that we each needed to tweak at varying degrees the packaged curriculum to match the needs of our students.

    Students need a teacher. A teacher who knows them, gets them, understands where they are in Vygotsky's Zone and strives to create lessons and use resources to stretch their knowledge and learning. Does anyone with a packaged curriculum completely and exclusively follow it? I would love to talk to someone who does because I bet I have something to learn from them. Classroom management, differentiated instruction, student frustration with material. These teachers must have figured out these essential nuts-and-bolts of teaching.

    Finally, like others, I enjoyed the section called Do the Reading You Enjoy. Really, it is so important to live a full life. Sometimes it is easier said than actually done, so I've got a post-it note on this page so I don't lose sight of it.

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  33. I was thrilled to see the statistic about how much teachers have to process each day/answer questions/make decisions. I had heard about this years ago but didn't remember the statistic: "teachers face 1,000 decision points per day" (44). I work a lot in the summer - teaching online, learning new technology, and prepping for the new school year. I will sit for hours every day at my computer. But no matter what work I'm doing in the summer, it is just so much easier than any day in the school year because I can eat lunch when I'm hungry (It is still weird to me to eat a tuna sandwich at 10:36 am at school), make a phone call when I need to, and mostly because I am not being asked questions or approached with something all day. Not that I don't love my job because I do! But I've always remembered that data shows teachers are constantly bombarded with questions/requests to such an extent that it can cause high blood pressure! Meenoo writes about "the internal dialogue and decision making process our minds go through while teaching" (44), and I really responded to that because this could be the biggest challenge of teaching for me.

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    1. I agree! It is so hard to explain the pressure and mental exhaustion of making so many decisions...and it is certainly hard to quantify on an evaluation...but the best teachers make the most decisions...so keep on keeping on!

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  34. Meenoo really makes me think in this chapter by talking a lot about finding the intrinsic motivation to teach by needing autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is so true. When I have those three, I feel more motivated. The challenge for me is to find that every day in all subjects. There are sometimes I have felt it, but I want to strive for more consistency.

    Like Meenoo says our job as teachers is to teach vast amounts of content and life-long skills so that our students will be active citizens and members of our society. I like the challenge and reward of creating our own curriculum. Sometimes amidst the stack of papers, coaching, and other tasks, it is hard to find the time to do that, but it must be done to help the students survive in the real world. I have collaborated with other teachers to plan a curriculum and that seems to be the most productive planning.

    Speaking of being busy, it is important for us to not use that as an excuse to not read professional books, journals, or blogs or even watch videos. Those are the things that I say I will do in the summer but don't necessarily find the time to do even then. Even reading just for fun is necessary for me to be the best teacher I can be. I was glad Meenoo pointed out that we can bring those connections to our classroom. Many times I have found what I am reading in my spare times relates to my real life and maybe even my teaching.

    Mostly I just got the reminder that the things in chapter 3 may be more work initially, but the challenge and fulfillment of that will give me more motivation to do my job.

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  35. Meenoo really makes me think in this chapter talking a lot about finding the intrinsic motivation to teach by needing autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is so true. When I have those three, I feel more motivated. The challenge for me is to find that every day in all subjects. There are sometimes I have felt it, but I want to strive for more consistency.

    Like Meenoo says our job as teachers is to teach vast amounts of content and life-long skills so that our students will be active citizens and members of our society. I like the challenge and reward of creating our own curriculum. Sometimes amidst the stack of papers, coaching, and other tasks, it is hard to find the time to do that, but it must be done to help the students survive in the real world. I have collaborated with other teachers to plan a curriculum and that seems to be the most productive planning.

    Speaking of being busy, it is important for us to not use that as an excuse to not read professional books, journals, or blogs or even watch videos. Those are the things that I say I will do in the summer but don't necessarily find the time to do even then. Then there is the whole aspect of reading for fun. I know there are connections that I can use from what I read to real life, but I never really thought about it causing my teaching to suffer. I am going to strive to add more reading and extra items to make me a better teacher.

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  36. I’m fortunate to have the autonomy to teach what I want & how I want to teach it. Having the courage to take a risk & try new activities with my students—if it doesn’t work, I can go back to what I know works. I mix it up to keep my students motivated! I’m constantly learning from my mistakes & I try to encourage my students to do the same. I know I don’t know everything about what I teach or how I teach. I’m truly a life-long learner!
    I didn’t realize I make so many “game time” decisions each day. It explains why I don’t want to make any decisions at home.
    My principal provides an amazing professional library for the entire staff. Each year, she purchases a book for each teacher so we can we do a book study. We discuss what we already do (what works) & new ideas (or tweak what we are already doing). I feel I have multiple opportunities for professional development. Constantly discussing what I do & what I’d like to do with my peers, keeps me motivated!
    During the school year, I’m too busy (grading papers, recording grades, contacting parents, planning lessons/activities) to read for pleasure. I have a stack of books to read this summer. I’m thankful for the “permission” to read what I enjoy!

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  37. What really spoke to you in this chapter? How are you keeping your work intellectually challenging while finding a balance between content and your focus on your students? As an administrator I am reading this book trying to think about how I can reinvigorate my teachers or prevent them from needing to be reinvigorated as I also challenge myself to be reinvigorated. The section of the chapter on autonomy, mastery, and purpose was good to reflect on for both purposes. I was reminded of the importance of autonomy and the need for teachers to feel safe taking risks and empowered to make change. I also was inspired to do a better job reinforcing mastery of my teachers/staff and of their "purpose" for what we do daily. I plan to post those three words behind my desk to remind myself of those three facets of motivation. On a personal level it is interesting to then reflect on my sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose within my role.

    Are you utilizing any of the methods Meenoo mentioned in this chapter? While I feel I do expect myself to read professional articles/journals/and books, I am guilty of putting them off to summer reading or vacation reading. I appreciated the thought that to stay reinvigorated I need to move that reading up in priority of the things I do more regularly. As I have been catching up on my professional reading this summer, I see lots of ideas and practices that get me excited for the start of the school year. I can see how making that a more frequent practice could help me throughout the school year. Speaking of being reinvigorated by reading... I continue on my new Twitter journey and am so very pleased with what I am reading and finding on there. Please share other good educators you follow on Twitter...

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    1. Do you have favorite professional books you could recommend to me? I am always looking for that title/author who will help me in my teaching practices.

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  38. ~sigh~ Is there anything more annoying than typing up a multi-paragraph entry, only to have it disappear instead of publish? I can't even begin to replicate it. (Update: This will be my fifth attempt…Day 2. So glad I’ve kept a copy since attempt #2.)

    Rami made some interesting points in chapter three. I especially appreciated her insistence that we read what we enjoy. So often I find myself heading for the YA section not because I truly want to read books geared for young adults (though there are many excellent offerings), but because I want to catch up on the novels my students are reading so I'm more knowledgeable. While that might sound commendable, the truth is, I'd like to occasionally read a book for ME. I'm making that a goal for this summer!

    The parts of chapter three that really struck a chord with me, though, were the sections about autonomy and curriculum. Our English department was recently informed that we would no longer be adopting textbooks. We teachers are expected to find what we need electronically or (I assume) to use old textbooks or make copies from our personal libraries. This gives us a great deal of freedom and allows us be creative in ways we might not have considered before. There are positives and negatives associated with this; I have no doubt that the process will be fascinating, yet at the same time, my Spidey senses are tingling.

    Autonomy can often be found at the end of an invisible leash, and in some school systems, that leash might be shorter than others. Rami states, "...we must not let outside input paralyze our own sound judgment about what is good for our kids." Our best "sound judgment," though, can often be called into question when it collides head-on into belief systems that run counter to what we're teaching. At least when we used a textbook (with its dreaded "prepackaged curriculum"), there was a safety net of sorts; it was approved by the state, the school, and linked to standards. When using a self-created curriculum, even when backed by state standards, the teacher will be on his/her own. Yes, I realize this makes me sound a bit paranoid, but those in my school system will understand my caution.

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  39. When reading this chapter I realize that how lucky I am to work in a school that values autonomy. We are not required to do a prepackaged curriculum, but do work together to have common goals, strategies, and share lessons and resources. My principal has always given us the freedom to address our standards in the manner we see fit. Though we have a common vision for instructional practices, we have the freedom to use the tools and approaches we see fit.

    I also liked the section on mastery. As a literacy coach, I always try to have the teachers set goals for themselves as learners and share my goals as well. I think it is important to continue that discussion. I would like to spend more time revisiting and discussing our goals throughout the year to encourage further reflective practice.

    I feel that professional readings have been at the forefront of keeping my work intellectually challenging. When I read and learn from other educators, I become so inspired to try new things and grow as an educator. To be honest, I found it very difficult to find time to do professional readings while I was a classroom teacher, though I did squeeze it in whenever I could. Now as a literacy coach, instead of grading papers, I use my time in the evenings to read. I have so valued that time and learned so much that I can apply with my students and share with the teachers in my building. For me, professional reading compels me to grow and improve my instruction each day.

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  40. I have spent a lot of time this week thinking about this chapter and what it meant to me. Do I have autonomy, mastery and purpose? How can I keep my career intellectually stimulating? How do I balance life with work? Since I am not in the classroom everyday, I had to think outside the box (as usual) to answer these questions.

    After reading many of this weeks posts, I realized that I am lucky that I do have autonomy in my position as librarian. My principal allows me to develop my programs and encourages me to take initiative to make the library important throughout the middle and high school.

    I don't think that anyone has true mastery. With technology changing daily, everyone has to learn on the go. I work hard to learn new things and share them with my teachers. We are planning to go 1:1 in January, so I have many new things to learn in the near future.

    My purpose is multi-fold. I am dedicated to my students and their reading for pleasure. I am dedicated to supporting my staff and their curriculum and I am dedicated to my profession and seeing that my colleagues are valued. Sometimes it is hard to balance all of this, but I am fortunate in that my job requires me to read YA literature. With so many areas to focus, I find that I have no problem keeping my life intelligently stimulating. I attend conferences and workshops. I follow groups on Twitter and attempt to participate in Twitter chats. I do find it hard to keep up with my professional reading, but I really do try. My next goal will be to try some professional writing. In this way, I hope to remain fresh and move forward in my career.

    Balance is always the key. I know how busy classroom teachers are, but they really must take time for themselves. For all of you who talked about putting off your reading for the summer...I say, please don't wait! Carve out a little time for reading everyday. Even 10 minutes a day will make a difference. I guarantee it.

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    1. Good luck in January as you switch to 1:1. I agree with your comment that no one has true mastery due to technology changing daily. There are so many resources to use it just takes time to find the right ones to use in your content area.

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  41. Meenoo's words that really resonate with me from this chapter are, "It is the very things that we think we don't have time for that may just sustain us through the rough patches of the year." Throughout the school year I find myself putting off the things that I wish I could do for myself but have a hard time finding the time for, such as exercise and reading for pleasure. I am so absorbed in creating lesson plans, grading, and preparing materials for upcoming lessons that I find myself sacrificing the things that are purely for me. Reading this chapter helped me see that by eliminating these types of activities, I am short-changing myself in many ways. Keeping myself energized and inspired through, for example, reading and exercise is just what I need to help me be a more effective teacher. I know these words to be truth, and I appreciate Meenoo reinforcing them in this chapter. I think that, for me, keeping my work intellectually challenging means starting with myself and making sure I am energized and motivated before plunging into curriculum and grading.

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    1. This is so true. I often get caught up in all the daily things that need done instead of recharging. I love what you said in your last sentence- "starting with myself and making sure I am energized and motivated before plunging into curriculum and grading." I need to do this more often!

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  42. I truly enjoyed this chapter and read it over more than once. The quote that most inspired me was, "We hold the ability to redirect the course of learning in our classroom at any given second...create conditions where learning and joy can live side by side."

    The motivational triad of autonomy, mastery, and purpose truly summarizes our profession. As I reflect on my career I have found that my focus and understanding of these three elements has shifted dramatically. Early on, I am assumed that mastery held the most importance, but if you asked me today I would put more emphasis on purpose. My strongest trait today is purpose, followed by autonomy and then mastery. Mastering 'mastery' requires accepting failure...and I have only recently begun to understand the value in it. Each challenging student, horrible lesson, or failed technology is an opportunity to learn...it is a trait I want to pass on to my students as I continue to engender it in myself.

    The "What do we believe?" graphic is one I will refer to often. My own pedagogical values lead me to continue to focus on the "student focused" side of the graphic. When my autonomy is taken from me, or my mastery is waning, or my purpose is unfocused, this graphic will help to center me and remind me why I do what I do...

    Also, as a LA teacher, I appreciated permission to read, read, read....anything I want, anytime I what, all year long!

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  43. My favorite part of this was Meeno's advice to read what I want during the school year. Usually, any time that I spend reading for pleasure makes me feel guilty because I have so many other tasks that I feel like I should be spending my time on. I do agree with her though that I often come up with better teaching/learning experiences when I make time to read.

    This year I will be teaching social studies to sixth graders for the first time. The standards include a lot of information that I know very little about, so I am excited about the amount of learning I will be beginning this month to prepare to teach it. At the times where I feel like I am challenged to learn more, I feel like I connect better to my learners and feel more motivated to develop my best lesson plans.

    I hadn't ever considered doing my own research within my teaching, but that concept will make me think about what more I can do to contribute to this profession as I go forward.

    I am great at buying professional books with great plans to read them to improve my teaching, but somehow, I never finish them. I am going to make it my goal to finish two other books this summer in the area of reading comprehension and writing.

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  44. Not only have I been motivated and energized by reading this book, but I am learning so much from fellow bloggers. Many great resources have been shared! It’s exciting to use this time over summer break to explore the vast networks and learning communities available. Thank you!

    One of the things that really spoke to me in this chapter is the acknowledgment on page 45 that teaching is that intense mix of intellect, passion, and game-time decision making. I knew that educators faced a huge amount of decisions each day, but I didn’t realize we face 1,000 decision points each day! While some days I feel the weight of so many challenges, I strongly believe Kanter’s quote, “The happiest people I know are dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems.” I may second-guess some of my decisions. But I believe that at the end of the day, if we stay true to our passion for learning and connecting to people, most decisions that we make are sound, giving us the confidence to always be moving forward.

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    1. I love your post! Especially the last sentence. Sometimes as a newer teacher, I am not confident in my decisions and question myself. However, making all of those decisions each class period, with each student, is what energizes me the most!

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    2. Even with several years of experience, I still second guess my decisions. I don't think that is because you are a new teacher. It is probably because you are reflective and always want to do the best for your students. Each situation and student is different and there is no one right way to handle each one. You just have to do the best you can with the knowledge you have. It may not always work out how you had envisioned, but hopefully you continue to grow from each experience.

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  45. I agree with the previous writers that the quotes in the beginning of the chapter are correct. I love the definition of teachers as the "managers of complexity". From one day to the next something always comes up that throws off your plans for the day.

    My school system is going to Project Based Learning for this coming school year. This fits into this chapter very well. The diagram on page 57 is what we have learned to do for PBL. Since I have been teaching, good teachers have always worked projects into their curriculum. When I started teaching in 1981, I incorporated projects into my math and social studies lessons. Incorporating projects into my lessons always made the lesson fun and interesting.

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    1. I'm so jealous that your school is going to PBL! How fantastic!

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  46. I promise to catch up with a longer post later, but for now: one of the participates and I will be at Modoc's Market in Wabash, IN on Thursday, July 3 at 10:00 am. We are inviting any of the other participates who live in the area to join us if you wish.

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  47. I love the sentence on pg. 59 that reads "Don't sell yourself short and take the intellectual fulfillment out of your job." I rarely use prepacked curriculum, which is often tedious, but well worth it for the students' sake in the long run. I am extremely lucky that I have administration that let me teach my content how I see fit. This allows for autonomy and ownership in the job that I do each day. I am motivated by the fact that it is up to me to teach my students science content the way that they will best understand. That is a big job and I want to make sure it's done correctly!
    I need to take more time during the school year to "Read Widely in my Profession." If I take more time during the school year I would probably find ideas to help in the moment, rather than waiting until summer and the idea has passed. I am thankful for the ideas this book club has brought forth!

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    1. It can be difficult to find time to "Read Widely in my Profession." I am an English teacher and a member of NCTE. As a member I subscribed to receive the English Journal, which includes research-based activities and methods for the English classroom. I recently changed my subscription to receive the reading electronically so I can read it no matter where I am! This has helped me to work the reading in to my busy schedule during the school year.

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  48. This was the best chapter so far. It made me really appreciate my building and my principal. She allows us to have autonomy. We do not have a prepackaged reading curriculum. We do however have a curriculum map. The map allows us to be creative in the things we are teaching and keeps us on track to make sure we are covering all our standards. If I want to develop a love of reading in my students (which I do), I cannot use the same reading stories/curriculum for each student. We use the students strengths,weaknesses, interests, abilities to drive our instruction.

    I loved the comparison on page 51 that curriculum planning was like planning meals for your family. A homemade meal always trumps fast food. A homemade, student centered lesson and curriculum always trumps the pre packaged stuff. It takes more time to do it yourself but in the end is better for the students. It also keeps me creative and enthusiastic about my teaching. I am not a robot, I am actually thinking about the best ways to impact students.

    Professional Reading is very important. We have school wide professional development weekly. We meet and discuss a book and current teaching practices. We implement the new techniques we are learning about and discuss how things are going with our peers. It is a huge job for our literacy coach as she plans each week. but she does a great job. It forces me to take time to keep up professionally during the school year. I need that accountability in my busy life teaching and raising a family.

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  49. One idea from the chapter I highlighted is, "your students would benefit much more from having you tailor their learning goals, and assessment to match their individual interests and strengths." I think this is very true. I teach at the primary level, and we teach all subjects, so it is challenging to individualize all subjects each day. A professor in college stated, it's not wise to try to take on every subject all at once. She recommended taking a subject each year and give yourself 5 years to implement. Throw in the fact that I'm teaching my third different grade level next year, it is even more complicated. However, I have implemented a reading block much like "Daily 5" that has helped me to individual reading instruction and teach at the student's level. For this coming school year, I am focusing on my writing block. I am reading "Launching the Writer's Workshop" by Kristina Smekens and Linda Schmidt in hopes of implementing a stronger writing program in my classroom.

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    1. I am curious how "Launching the Writer's Workshop" is going. I have heard good things about Smekens, but have not attended her workshops or read anything by her yet. I guess I am looking more for lesson ideas and maintaining the workshop than setting up a workshop framework.

      Also, have you checked out the daily café website at www.thedailycafe.com? I am a member, and find it is very useful for articles, rubrics, video clips, and lesson ideas.

      We also just piloted the CC Pensieve (www.ccpensieve.com/login.php). I will never go back to taking handwritten conference notes after having used the program. It really streamlines your note taking and holds you accountable for using the touch point rubric for evaluating students. I find that my conferences are more efficient after using the program. It's also pretty affordable (only $39).

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  50. The first idea that spoke to me in this chapter is how obvious it is that we as teachers are so talented at multi-tasking and decision making on the spot but yet we don't really give ourselves due credit for those skills! I felt challenged by the idea of finding intellectual joy in my work. As I have mentioned before, I have always been impressed by the unity of our staff. Therefore, I was inspired to start a collaborative club for our staff that would be similar to the Upper Dublin Arcadia Teacher Collaborative described in this chapter. I think it should be open to everyone with absolutely no preparation needed or requirements to always attend. I have never been in a "meeting of the minds" with teachers that something good didn't come from it. I think once sharing gets started and word gets around, attendance would be steady. I want search for an Alternative Education Organization Journal. These options could help me find the intellectual joy I am looking for!

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  51. What really spoke to you in this chapter?
    I loved her comment on page 54 about teachers who wait until summer to do any pleasure or professional reading – because, hello, I was that teacher. All the years I was a HS English/SS teacher in the classroom, I felt like I could never spare the time. But her comment, “It is the very things that we think we don’t have time for that may just sustain us through the rough patches of the year”, makes perfect sense. I wish I had invested more time in “going out for coffee with friends, seeing a concert, etc. instead of thinking my entire school year had to be spent on “just classroom” thinking/planning/reading.
    How are you keeping your work intellectually challenging while finding a balance between content and your focus on your students? Are you utilizing any of the methods Meenoo mentioned in this chapter?
    As an online teacher my curriculum is posted and ready for students as soon as they log on – and I don’t have engaging “classroom” conversations anymore with students who have to show up – so my job would become very boring/monotonous if I didn’t constantly try to enhance the curriculum with incorporating technology to help engage my students – like Prezi (a fancy way of doing powerpoints), Pinterest boards, Twitter, Today’s Meet, Googledocs, etc.
    I am also trying to take more time to read professional books – and participate in book studies – during the school year – Ha! Which is a first for me!

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  52. "Don't be complacent."
    That was the biggest take-away from this chapter. Honestly, some lessons that are "big hits" or "best memories" of my third graders, I don't alter. However, for the others, I try to reflect, revise, and improve for future students. Last year, I had a repeating student (due to I-Read 2013), so I intentionally tried "new things" when teaching the curriculum, so he wouldn't be "repeating" everything. Even though none of my students have to repeat 3rd grade this coming year, I'll strive to continue to reflect, revise, and improve. Complacency is never good!

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  53. I don’t think I have ever felt that my experiences in teaching have not been sufficiently intellectually challenging. Both in terms of content mastery and methodology, there is so much more to learn. I’ll never study every great novel or learn every word’s etymology, and I’ll constantly have to look for new ways to deliver that content to new classes of diverse students. These challenges are part of the “1000 decision points per day,” but I think that Rami is describing ways to maintain fresh intellectual challenge beyond feeling a sense of awe at the enormity of the job.
    I agree with Rami’s point about the importance of maintaining motivation so that the intellectual challenges are accompanied by accomplishments, but I had not thought about motivation in terms of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I feel fortunate to have the degree of autonomy I do, a result of a combination of a good department and broad curriculum, which I have had a hand in developing for my classes. Mastery is a concept that is more slippery. As I have for the last ten years, I will continue to pursue how to give meaningful feedback about writing on a regular basis. New technologies, new rubrics, new assessment strategies for revision, one more year of experience—I’m getting closer to being the kind of writing teacher I think I should be. At this point, my mastery is limited to the rules of grammar, again pointing to the potential for teaching to remain intellectually challenging for me throughout my career. Ironically, purpose, the aspect Rami suggests is clearest for teachers, is often the one I struggle with most. On the large scale it’s clear; sometimes, however, it’s difficult to make clear the connection between an individual assignment and my goal of cultivating “future problem solvers.”
    I find “intellectual joy” in the things I learn as a result of prepping my notes: interesting etymologies, intriguing biographies, and all of the cross-disciplinary content I pick up from background reading. But I can also see how, as Rami suggests, keeping up with professional literature and creating more connections within the field will provide additional intellectual challenges.

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  54. I thought this was a great chapter! I think that it is so important for our work as teachers to remain challenging. Our corporation has adopted curriculum maps and textbooks that will allow for you to teach exactly what they have laid out for you, almost day to day. There are times that I felt like my creativity was being stifled by these strict guidelines. I can see now that if I only stick to these guidelines and allow myself no room for creativity. Reflecting back on my teaching I really think that I am the one to take the blame for falling into the trap of just teaching directly by the book because I didn't want to do anything "wrong". It is my goal this year to gain more confidence in myself as a teacher and take the initiative to branch out my teaching and my students learning. I have really enjoyed this book and plan on continuing reading professional books to keep learning more about teaching and learning!

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  55. While I was challenged by some of the ideas in this chapter, I also found myself being defensive about the statements concerning prewritten curriculum.

    I do covet my time during the school year and seem to have little for reading either professionally or recreationally, but I understand that learning or taking classes during a school year makes me much more attuned to what my students are experiencing in my classroom. In addition, I have found that when I have too much free time, I never seem to accomplish as much as when I'm busy. Strange phenomenon, but true. I do love to read with abandon in the summer, though, when I'm not tied to a schedule of lesson planning and grading, and that includes pleasure reading, math topic books, and educational theory books. I try to pick classic that I haven't read, and some nonfiction science or history book to educate myself.

    I enjoy sharing what I've read with my students, too. This year, the summer reading assignment for students is to pick their own books to read and participate in a discussion online about what they are reading. I've noticed so far, more teachers than students are participating in the discussions.

    There are certain textbooks for math that I really enjoy using in the classroom. I know the authors have taken a lot of time to create these books and field test them to achieve their goal of making them readable, discovery-based, and challenging to the students. While I add to the lessons from time-to-time, I do not feel that I am selling my students short by using them. Their insistence on correctly defining vocabulary terms, stating theorems precisely, and writing complete answers as they "have conversations with the data" align with my way of teaching. In fact, when we went 1:1 and were encouraged to use online textbooks, I was so disappointed in the quality of textbooks there in comparison. I guess I'm saying, I understand the excitement and challenge of creating your own curriculum, but I don't feel the need to reinvent the wheel when there are some really good foundational texts out there, and I hope there will continue to be. The authors that I enjoy are mentors, too, as they respond to emails and discussion boards throughout the year. I take exception to the implications that all the textbooks are not reviewed or written by experts, and don't address students' needs or prepare them for real-world challenges, since I have not found that to be true in all cases and the search for good curriculum can be fruitful.

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    1. I so agree with you that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when there are excellent textbooks to be used. Unfortunately in my department we did not have a choice to adopt a textbook for this coming year. I feel a textbook can be a useful tool in the classroom but I believe that this is not the belief of many educators nowadays.

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  56. Is it possible to join this book club? I'm currently trying to renew my license and I found this option on the IDOE website

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    1. Yes, Kari. Just read the book and post comments for each week and you will get the PGPs. (Be sure to introduce yourself in the first week's post.) The more the merrier!

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  57. Okay, this is my 3rd attempt at posting a comment.
    I took from this chapter this:
    I need to challenge myself to focus on learning not testing.
    I need to remember that engaged students is best.
    I need to keep myself motivated which in turn keeps my students motivated.
    I will remember the purpose!

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  58. The one thing that really spoke to me in this chapter was the section called “Do the Reading You Enjoy” I often find myself pushing aside social gathering with friends and family to work on school work. I have found it hard to set work aside to do the things that I enjoy or to get things done that just need to be done (i.e. making dr. appointments, who wants to make sub plans?!) This might be a good goal for me this year, to find a balance between work and non-work.
    One of the reasons I have spent so much time at work is trying to make sure my students are challenged in an engaging way. Some of the curriculum we have does not match up with the common core or Indiana standards and I find myself needing to do a lot of supplementing to meet these standards. My coworkers and I try to work on this together to ease the burden from one person but it can take a lot of time, energy, and money. I do love creating fun and interesting lessons and my students love these lessons as well. When reading this chapter I noticed that I already use a lot of the resources (books, blogs, educational websites, videos, etc.) mentioned to create interesting and engaging lessons. And every summer I make sure to read 1 or 2 new professional books to keep my myself inspired for the upcoming year. So if anyone has any suggestions of good reads (especially for elementary) to grow as a teacher that would be great!

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  59. I agree with many of the comments about teaching being an intellectually stimlulating job. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I came to teaching later in life. I worked professionally as an insurance claims adjuster and in public relations prior to getting my teaching license. I can definitely state that teaching is the most challenging, stimulating, and demanding of any of these jobs. The struggle lies in finding a balance and remembering that challenges should not be burdens. Staying motivated is hard, but I think back to the monotony of other jobs I have had and I usually perk up! I appreciated Rami's chart on Content focused vs. Student focused beliefs -- it was thought provoking.

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  60. Teaching is an art not a science. We deal with people who come into our lives for a few hours a day who bring with them myriad experiences, physical issues, family dynamics, hunger, illness, stress etc. And these people and their baggage change every day as well as the group dynamics. Teachers today wear many hats and it can be very challenging to focus only on the teacher hat when other issues demand your attention as well. I can’t imagine how anyone could not be intellectually challenged. One of the things I love most about my job is that there is never a dull day, if anything there are more challenges than I can deal with. Engaging students sometimes takes a backseat though to dealing with their basic needs. This is what drains me more than anything.

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  61. Although I do not have the same teaching assignment from year to year, I enjoy being able to reflect and revise the lessons I have used in previous years. Each year I learn from the students and reflect/revise accordingly for the following year.

    As a math teacher, I use the textbook as a guide to the curriculum and to select homework questions. Although many times I use several resources to create worksheets to fit what the students need. I find supplementing our adopted textbook series with additional resources allows opportunities to add/reorganize/etc to the curriculum content. Using the textbook as guide it also helps me keep the skills in an order to allow them to connect in a logical way for the students.

    This chapter mentions some of the challenges of teaching as a profession. Although, I feel I have freedom in my classroom I also find I am expected to do things similar to other teachers. The challenge is to individualize for the students but keep in mind all the students have to have the same material completed by semester due to schedule changes. They may switch classrooms at the semester or have a different teacher for the second semester. So true individualized classrooms do not happen and I find this conflicts with the “data-driven” approach we are encouraged to use.

    I plan to read more throughout the year both for personal and professional reasons. I always felt this was something I had time to do on breaks and over the summer but after reading the chapter I am going to make time to read throughout the year whether its a chapter from a book or a blog online.

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  62. The part of the chapter which resonated for me was on the use of Action Research. I used it in my classroom. For me, when I would try and move away from the traditional approaches or the status quo, students who did not like change would challenge the shift. This was an important opportunity to problem solve by collecting data. The students were active participants and through the cycle outlined in the chapter we were able to determine that having vocabulary quizzes on Fridays (status quo) resulted in lower grades, that canned questions from the textbook (status quo) were not easier to answer, and that using Inspiration software to brainstorm before a written assignment (paradigm shift) resulted in more complex texts that required less revisions. The discussions about setting up the plan and looking at potential variables were interesting and resulted in reflections about how we learn. Having concrete proof through the data collection acted as myth busters. Students were conditioned, for example, to take tests at the end of the week. We found that every other day of the week resulted in higher scores for almost everyone in the class.

    If you are looking at classroom practices and how they impact student learning, then you are also actively looking at the prepackaged curriculum as well. The Upper Dublin-Arcadia Teacher Collaborative described in this chapter is an outstanding idea, especially the multiple perspectives provided by the wide array of stake holders from the community. I am guessing that Arcadia is the school district and that Dublin is the high school. When you read this, you can’t help but imagine what this would like in your own school district.

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  63. The section entitled, "Create Your Own Curriculum", really spoke to me. During my time in college we focused a lot on life-long guidelines and how to help students prepare to become 'active citizens and members or our society'. In doing this we spent a majority of our time working on creating our own curriculum, incorporating ways to better the students while allowing them to have some control over their learning; relating the content to the students interests. It seemed so easy at the time. However, after taking on several long-term substitute leave positions I can see how easy it is to fall back into using only the prewritten curriculum, especially when the teacher manuals provide scripts in which to follow. Meeno reminded me of the importance of incorporating student interests within the curriculum and also to maintain autonomy within lessons, to not just use prewritten curriculum, but to create a balance between the two through grade level collaboration. I must remember this as I continue my path in education.

    Since I have yet to obtain my own class I haven't been given opportunities to utilize any of the methods Meeno mentioned within this chapter, for I have little room to adjust the curriculum, not until I become a full-time educator and permanent addition to the school and able to become an active member. However, I realize now that long-term sub leave or not, I can still use and put into action these methods. I especially like the section 'Use Action Research', along with Figure 3-2 The cycle of action research, on page 57. It gives an idea of what path can be taken in action research to help ensure that the main goals of the research are met. Which I plan to utilize in the near future.

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    1. Don't give up, Kari. You ARE a GREAT teacher and I know if the given the chance you will light up your learners

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  64. I will reply to Chapter 4 "Listen to Yourself" Meenoo Rai hit home with many of the comments about fear and trust and patience. In this day of new evalutions, declining incomes teachers are very aware of who they can trust and who can they speak to. It is a thankless profession with little positive feedback but when it comes to the art of teaching then it is based on a job well done. Good teachers are confident in taking risks and trying new things. I learned in student teaching that I will not hurt the children in the delievery of the content just be sure that the content is correct. For example, 2 plus 2 is 4 and not three. Also, I agree with the author we need to listen to our students. My best learning experiences are when I can get the students to share their thoughts and ideas and to relealize that the day in school is full of learning.

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  65. Just finished Chapter 5, "Empower your Students" I was excited about the information about Blogs and I think this just might be the year. I have always done journals in Adv. Child Dev. I tried a couple of digital experiences but returned to the paper/pencil method for accountability. Therefore, now that we are truly digital I think I will try the blogs again. The time invested will be no more time than journals, One advantage would be that students would recieve feedback from other sources rather than just the teacher.

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  66. I really enjoyed this chapter and feel it is a good inspiration for starting this next school year. Last year was my first year teaching at the middle/high school level. For all of my career I had worked with elementary students. In addition, I found myself teaching not only children with Moderate Disabilities, but also those with Severe Disabilities in the same classroom. I was blessed with a class of great students, a welcoming staff, and a great principal. As I look toward this year I feel more confident knowing that I have autonomy over my classroom and curriculum. That being said, I must also mention that I have to create my own curriculum which can be a challenge for such a diverse group. While all my students have goals that they are working toward, and are evaluated on, it is a very long day for those who are not academic. Last year we began doing service projects within the school setting and with the elementary Multi-Disabilities classroom. I found my students enjoyed this and other students and staff really got to know us. We made a lot of friends! This year will be a first for both myself and my students as we go out into the community and do job shadowing. I know I will have to be organized and step outside my comfort zone to accomplish this, but am looking forward to teaching in a different setting where I know each moment will definitely be a learning experience!

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  67. The conference is the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Convening in Chicago next week. I will be leading a discussion about homework and assessment in the math classroom. The audience will be mostly new teachers so hopefully that will make it a little easier. Thanks for asking!

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  68. What I took from this chapter is that to keep my students motivated and engaged, I need to be motivated and engaged as well. This chapter had so many great ideas, but my favorite was permission to read. Reading is one of my passions! When the parents of one of my young students ask me how they can help their child learn, my answer is always the same...read to them, read with them, let them read to you! That's my advice to myself, too. There is so much information readily available and in so many forms. My plan is to keep myself immersed in all sorts of media...from blogs to professional books to books just for fun!

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  69. I took away from this chapter a new perspective on myself as a teacher and how I have been feeling the last few years. I will admit that the last few years I have been very unhappy at times. That is one of the reasons I chose to participate in this book club because I was looking for something....anything...to help me find myself again as an educator. I feel like these last few years I have been lost.

    Just hearing someone say "We need to honor the complexity that lives in the art of teaching" and that "teachers face 1,000 decision points per day" made me feel validated that what we do is tough work. I hear so many people put down teaching as if we do nothing all day and that becomes frustrating after so many years.

    On the subject of autonomy, I feel like I have lost this and need to regain it to feel better about what I do. I second guess myself so much. Through the push to have students perform better on tests I have spent more time focusing on the language arts and math support instead of developing the science I love to teach. I constantly feel I need permission to try new ideas or change the way I do something either from my department or administration. Part of this is my fault and I need to change this way of thinking. In addition, because of the teacher evaluation process there is overall a pervasive fear among many of us to step out on our own and do things with our students that don't appear to "fit into the plan" for testing success or the teacher effectiveness rubric. The fear of "failing" is a constant concern. This chapter made me realize this. The statement "When we view our work through the lenses of gaining autonomy, working toward mastery, and recognizing the true purpose of our work, we jump-start our own intrinsic motivation and open ourselves to master the intellectual challenges that we face continuously in our daily work" really hit home with me and his helping to shape my approach to my classroom which begins in a few weeks.

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  70. The section in this chapter that resounded for me was the section about developing curriculum. Our school system is transiting to digital curriculum. We are not adopting textbooks or any predesigned digital curriculum for English classes. I have been anxious about going to the internet for all of my resources without an approved curriculum. It feels too free and open to me. It was very reassuring to read the perspectives of other English teachers. I want to take this forward and look for professional digital curriculum in English, not to copy their ideas but to get general suggestions which could apply to my classes.

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  71. I never stop working! I'm a workaholic and a readaholic! I am always trying to enhance my curriculum and further develop each area of functional life skills. Just as I want my students to grow, I want to continue growing. I often get overwhelmed with all of the things I want to learn, do and implement. I have a poster at home that says, "Lord, slow me down." I want to go, go, go and do it yesterday!

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  72. Off line for a couple of weeks due to my trip in Australia! Thank you to Dan Peo for helping me get a copy of the book that I left on the counter at home! I read this chapter quickly before leaving the house and was struck by the concept of autonomy. I swim in a sea of autonomy with the ship of state and national standards as my guide. While our corporation has an adopted curriculum, I'm not sure anyone is actually using it. I found it to be unusable with my 8th graders and thus developed my own curriculum. This year I'm not teaching 8th graders, I'm teaching 6th and 7th graders so I am again working on curriculum. The possibilities are endless and overwhelming. I never feel like I am well enough ahead or prepared but somehow I seem to make it through. I'm sincerely hoping that after this year I will have the opportunity to teach the same classes for a second year so that I can work on refinement and augmentation rather than survival. If I happen to have a little time each day/week to read what I WANT that would just be a bonus!

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  73. This chapter personally hit hard when Meenoo mentioned finding more time for yourself can energize you. Personal free time has prevented me from reading the newspaper or seeing a good movie; I need this for a better mind-set. When I check this eLearning off my to do list, I have many enjoyment thoughts in mind. She mentions reading something inspirational that could motivate you personally and something that connects you with your classes/students. Especially, in my subject area, FACS, I have found this to be true. Whether it was something from the news, a movie, or something I heard while shopping or eating; I often connect as a lesson. Studies show that students retain most from stories, photos, etc. I find my students too often are so involved in personal social media they are missing important current happenings. The other day I caught part of Katie; it was on how to prepare/pack for vacation. I told a person that was fearfully preparing for vacation and worried about suitcase weight to search Katie.

    Often previous students contact me on meaningful things that they have used from my classes, sharing what they think students should or should not do or how they could better prepare for the real world. Even if they say share their name, I often do not or even tell the sex of the person as it extends the experience or story to more, not just to the college prep or the athlete, but encompasses their mind to more possibilities. Also, when I can tell a story and not mention age, who, etc.; it builds that special trust that Meenoo talked about. They find trust not only in me but also trust of each other, a key for open discussion and learning. I am not saying being a young teacher you lack confidentiality because I have known of teachers that retire that still have not figured out what to share. When teacher lunch conversations turn to negative talk/stereotyping of students I opt out. I find myself just working on getting labs ready for the afternoon or sharing my lunch time with students which has been beneficial not only to them, but has made me a better teacher and more compassionate person.

    With the wrong mix of students, I have felt what she talks about. You feel you are not succeeding because no matter what you do or how hard you try it is just not what you dreamed of accomplishing. I know those wrong student chemistries make beginning teachers want a different profession. Yes, I still lose sleep over it and try to think of what else can I try. I know of one situation where students were horrible and teacher went to flip classroom with quiz each day. I had one such class and cannot see this solving my problems. Often less quizzing/testing and more on application worked. Developing memorization skills are important, but many facts I memorized as a student now I could Google in a few seconds. Last night we unsuccessfully read a label for amount of caffeine in chocolate milk. quickly a person pulled out their iPhone with a quick answer. My parents do not have Internet connection, so my sister and I use our iPhone’s to quickly resolve issue. So what do you ask them to memorize?

    My first year in a large school corporation each student had their own textbook, but my second year at a smaller school corporation electives were only given a classroom set of books. I learned quickly to use other resources and be creative. A few years later when they finally saw the need for individual textbooks, I will admit it helped. Some of my best teaching ideas did not come from textbooks but something someone said, a sermon, on T.V., etc. that inspires my creativity. Some of my other ideas have come from years past when we met countywide by departments or attending a FACS conference. We were each to bring something we had created. At first I thought of them as champions and that I was less successful, but I quickly realized finding a balance of good things rather than spending weeks developing a short lesson was key.

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  74. One of the things that really spoke to me in this chapter was the break down of what people need to feel motivated. My minor in counseling psychology has taught me to foster autonomy, mastery, and purpose in my students. However, I had never considered my own autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Meeno mentioned how we should strive to be in control of these factors, so that internal motivation is what drives our work. I began to think about the importance of modeling this behavior for our students. We as them to develop these techniques, but are we aware of how we demonstrate these skills in the classroom?
    In contrast with motivators, it’s important to consider your de-motivators. Meeno identifies doubts as one of the things that hold us back from completing a task. Doubts prevent ideas from being implemented. As a first year teacher, I am going to be full of doubts. I will have to ask myself the questions posed in this chapter to reevaluate my strengths, weaknesses, and reasoning behind my hesitation.

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  75. This chapter personally hit hard when Meenoo mentioned finding more time for yourself can energize you. Personal free time has prevented me from reading the newspaper or seeing a good movie; I need this for a better mind-set. When I check this eLearning off my to do list, I have many enjoyment thoughts in mind. She mentions reading something inspirational that could motivate you personally and something that connects you with your classes/students. Especially, in my subject area, FACS, I have found this to be true. Whether it was something from the news, a movie, or something I heard while shopping or eating; I often connect as a lesson. Studies show that students retain most from stories, photos, etc. I find my students too often are so involved in personal social media they are missing important current happenings. The other day I caught part of Katie; it was on how to prepare/pack for vacation. I told a person that was fearfully preparing for vacation and worried about suitcase weight to search Katie.

    Often previous students contact me on meaningful things that they have used from my classes, sharing what they think students should or should not do or how they could better prepare for the real world. Even if they say share their name, I often do not or even tell the sex of the person as it extends the experience or story to more, not just to the college prep or the athlete, but encompasses their mind to more possibilities. Also, when I can tell a story and not mention age, who, etc.; it builds that special trust that Meenoo talked about. They find trust not only in me but also trust of each other, a key for open discussion and learning. I am not saying being a young teacher you lack confidentiality because I have known of teachers that retire that still have not figured out what to share. When teacher lunch conversations turn to negative talk/stereotyping of students I opt out. I find myself just working on getting labs ready for the afternoon or sharing my lunch time with students which has been beneficial not only to them, but has made me a better teacher and more compassionate person.

    With the wrong mix of students, I have felt what she talks about. You feel you are not succeeding because no matter what you do or how hard you try it is just not what you dreamed of accomplishing. I know those wrong student chemistries make beginning teachers want a different profession. Yes, I still lose sleep over it and try to think of what else can I try. I know of one situation where students were horrible and teacher went to flip classroom with quiz each day. I had one such class and cannot see this solving my problems. Often less quizzing/testing and more on application worked. Developing memorization skills are important, but many facts I memorized as a student now I could Google in a few seconds. Last night we unsuccessfully read a label for amount of caffeine in chocolate milk. quickly a person pulled out their iPhone with a quick answer. My parents do not have Internet connection, so my sister and I use our iPhone’s to quickly resolve issue. So what do you ask them to memorize?

    My first year in a large school corporation each student had their own textbook, but my second year at a smaller school corporation electives were only given a classroom set of books. I learned quickly to use other resources and be creative. A few years later when they finally saw the need for individual textbooks, I will admit it helped. Some of my best teaching ideas did not come from textbooks but something someone said, a sermon, on T.V., etc. that inspires my creativity. Some of my other ideas have come from years past when we met countywide by departments or attending a FACS conference. We were each to bring something we had created. At first I thought of them as champions and that I was less successful, but I quickly realized finding a balance of good things rather than spending weeks developing a short lesson was key.

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  76. One thing that I have noticed about some content areas is a lot of times (if not always) teachers have a message they want to get across to their students. This could be a message through out the year, semester or even for a specific lesson that might not be in the standards. Now in a perfect world, all students you ever meet will not only learn all of your standards 100 percent as well as get the life lessons from those lessons as well and use them forever. Now we all know that is usually not the case so a question I often have to ask myself is "did they get out of it what they really needed?" And that may not always be a content specific answer.

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  77. I have always considered myself a life long learner. When we stop being passionate about learning we are doing our students a disservice. Our job is to ignite their passion. It can be hard to get away from the pre packaged curriculum our district may want us to use, but this chapter gave us some great ideas. I really liked the chart on page 49. After reading it, I felt that I do a good job of balancing content focused lessons and student focused lessons.

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  78. Two remarks in this chapter got my attention. Teachers being called "managers of complexity" by Ron Brandt on page 45, and the fact that "teachers face 1,000 decision points per day" on page 44 made me smile. Hearing other people who don't have as much autonomy in their work talk about their jobs makes me realize how thankful I am to be in a career that does have so much intellectual challenge. The past two years have been especially challenging intellectually! My school went 1:1, was under new leadership, and teachers were learning so much we could barely keep up. This year the intellectual challenge will be creating our own curriculum and not adopting textbooks. I loved what Rami had to say about prepackaged curriculum versus creating your own and comparing it to fast food versus a home cooked meal on pages 51-52. I plan to share these two pages with my administrators. Along with the creativity and time issues involved with creating my own units, I know that remembering that students are watching how I handle daily interactions and interruptions are also an opportunity for me to model gracefully coping with the struggles and challenges of real life.

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    1. Great point about students watching you handle struggles. I need to remember that for days I'm thrown for a loop by outside forces!

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  79. My big takeaway from this chapter is the call to write and to do research. I have wanted to do that for a long time-- it's been at the back of my mind-- but I always have some reason not to pursue it. I like how the author pointed out that these things help share our experiences with others, who may benefit from them. And I love that she includes them in the section on keeping the work challenging. I also really liked the content/student focus visual on p. 49. I usually tend more toward the content focus, but I am learning to include more of the student focus values too.

    My work is intellectually challenging mostly because I look at each student as a new puzzle: how are you motivated? How can we improve your English language skills? What are your areas of greatest strength and greatest need? Etc. It's hard to be bored when there are new puzzles to be solved every day. I do read articles and books on the profession and my area, and I make sure to do reading I enjoy during the year. Many times I have my book sitting on my desk for any chance we have to do a few minutes of silent reading. I will tell students about it, and I think it's a great way to model a love for reading to them. So that's why I try to read things I enjoy during the school year.
    This was my favorite chapter so far.

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  81. This chapter really spoke to me because I find myself asking a lot of the same questions of myself each year. While I try to strike a balance between intellectually challenging material, student-focused curriculum, and content mastery with keeping my sanity, I still find all of those things quite challenging while teaching four subjects.

    I like to ask my students for feedback on various aspects of projects and classroom procedures. I know that I don’t always listen to their feedback for good reason, but I also know that I need to relinquish a bit of my “ownership” in my intellectual property. Losing what I feel as control is a challenge for me.

    I try to make my curriculum fresh every year by changing and tweeking a number of things. Whether it be the supplemental materials I use, the method of delivery, the use of journals, or the extent of use of pre-packaged materials. I find that it takes a lot of time, but I pick and choose what aspects of each subject that I modify. Not only does the material stay fresh for me, but I can also adapt it to the personalities of my students.

    In order to do that, I leave myself notes on what worked and what was challenging each year that I assign a project or use certain material. It reminds me of pitfalls, challenges that I or the students had during the implementation or the production of the assignment. It’s similar to the action research model that Meenoo outlined in the chapter. I certainly wish that I was more proactive in doing this process, but I have certainly found it to be beneficial to my students and me.

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  82. I have severL co-workers that do a great job of changing things up and keeping it interesting for the students. I have to be very creative, being that I teach a scriped program. I try to give my students voice and choice in choosing the books that they read. They also have a choice as to how they will present them to the class. I try to guide the students to try different mediums and mix up their use of technology.

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