Thursday, February 15, 2018

My NEA Letter to My Congressmen About Gun Control

Today NEA(National Education Association) sent an email out to educators in the national organization. This email urged educators to write letters to their representatives in congress demanding change. The template was given, but I wanted to add a little more.  I wanted to say that I was scared to go to work today. I wanted to say that I keep my car keys on me at all times at school in case I need to run as fast as possible. I wanted to say I fear for my children, my husband, my friends, and all teachers, students, and parents across the country.  At school today there was a little extra security in the hallways. I call it "all hands on deck" when I see the afternoon crew in the morning.  I wanted to hug our security team and thank them, but I didn't. Maybe that's because then I'd be admitting just how scared I am on a regular basis. What if they admit they're just as scared? We've been here too many times.  My husband brought up 9/11 as his point in our discussion about the latest school shooting. His point was Americans are willing to give up some of their rights when the issue is coming from somewhere else. No one is willing to budge when it's our own epidemic.  The fear will subside, until it happens again. It's not enough. This random educator, inconsistent blog isn't enough.  When will it be enough?  Here is my letter to my Congressmen. If they don't see it in their emails. Maybe somehow it'll get to them online. 

"Dear Congressman,

As a constituent and an educator, I demand that you take action now to address the tragic gun violence that continues to plague our nation - in our schools, our houses of worship, our theaters, at concerts, and in our neighborhoods.

Far too many children, educators, and Americans from all walks of life have lost their lives to senseless gun violence - in all of these places. And the list goes on. The time to act is long overdue. What if it was your family member?

On 9/11 an estimated 2,753 citizens lost their lives in the attack on the towers. Action was taken by our government quickly and swiftly to ensure the safety of our families. Since this tragedy, Americans have given up time in security lines and "rights" under surveillance to undergo safety measures. The Patriot Act was signed within a month and a half after 9/11, taking away some of the citizens so called rights of freedom to ensure the safety of our nation's citizens.  Will our government finally act when mass shootings reach the same crippling devastation?  Why is weapon control on American soil a battle that our government is not willing to take on in order to ensure our safety?  What will it take for our government to finally fight the gun lobbyists who say it is their constitutional right to own any type of firearm? How many more Americans have to die while sitting in class, going to a concert, or enjoying a movie?

My husband and I are both teachers. Each day our family of four heads in different directions to a day care facility and three different schools.  Even though I feel safe in my school, I also feel that it is a false sense of security. Someone with access to a semi-automatic or a weapon with a high-capacity magazine could take my safety away. Why do I have to fear for my life? My children's? My husband's?  What if one day I have to make the choice between going home to my family or allowing a child to go home to his? Your educators are scared. Your children are scared. Your citizens are scared. How many more have to die?

I demand that you support common-sense measures to help keep guns out of dangerous hands, including voting to require universal background checks (to close the gun show / online sales loophole) and ending the loophole that inexcusably allows suspected terrorists to purchase firearms.  I also support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that have been used far too often to kill and injure massive numbers of people in single incidents.

We need to take steps that respect the rights of lawful gun owners while providing sensible reforms to help prevent the epidemic of gun violence that continues to take tens of thousands of lives each year.

Our country has to be better than this. No other nation faces these unyielding tragedies. No other nation stands by and does nothing. How many more children have to die?

Please take action. Now.

Sincerely a mother, a teacher, a citizen,

Andrea Adams"

Friday, December 22, 2017

ipsy Glam Bag Review From a

In my Teacher Self Care blog I mentioned that I was going to give a full review of ipsy from the past six months. So, here it is!

For those who don't know ipsy is a make-up subscription box. It's $10 each month. Each month you get five items. Some are full sized, some are samples. Usually the Glam Bag, as it's called, is worth over $50. 

I am a full time teacher and blog in my free time.  In no way shape or form has ipsy paid me or provided me with free items.
Bag #1 - July 2017 Glam Bag
I signed up for ipsy through my sister, so she got some incentive points for free product. I was put on a waitlist. This was a bit annoying, but received an email about four days later that my wait was over.  I signed up, but because of the shipping and billing cycle I would have to wait until the next month for my first bag. This seemed like forever, it was about a month and a half.

First bag - Three Full Sized Items - Woot! Woot!

Two Sample Items

Total Cost - $10  Value - $56.70 + bag
Six month verdict - The Blush Palette is the best.  I use a brush and just sweep it across all three colors.

Bag #2 - August 2017 Glam Bag 

Two Full Sized Items

Three Sample Items

Total Cost - $10  Value - $41.84 + bag
Six month verdict - The pistachio color corrector was a decent size for a sample and helps with dark eye circles and red spots under foundation.

Bag #3 - September 2017 Glam Bag
Four Full Sized Items!

One Sample Item

Total Cost - $10  Value - $50.20 + bag
Six month verdict - For a bunch of full sized items, this bag was meh. The lipstick was ugly and made me think they had never looked at my style profile. However I did love the nail polish, it's a beautiful neutral that will go with everything!

Bag #4 - October 2017 Glam Bag

Two Full Sized Items

Three Sample Items

Total Cost - $10  Value - $50.46 + bag
Six month verdict - I am currently wearing the dark hunter green nail polish it looks like glass and is perfect for Christmas! I think the nail polish is a great deal!

Bag #5 - November 2017 Glam Bag
Three Full Sized Items

Two Sample Items

Total Cost - $10  Value - $52.44 + bag
Six month verdict - I am pretty in love with the Calypso lipstick. It's my go to purse lipstick for a touch of color!

Bag #6 - December 2017 Glam Bag

Two Full Sized Items

Three Sample Items

Total Cost - $10  Value - $64.91 + bag
Six month verdict - I don't know if I was supposed to, but I got two face mask packs! It felt like a bonus, instead of five items, I got six!

Pros of ispy:
  • Each bag has been worth $40 or more in the past six months. 
  • If you like brushes, you get one almost every month!
  • Full sized items like lipstick, nail polish, and eye liners are totally worth it!
  • You get a cute make up bag each month for $10! These are perfect for gifting gift cards or having a small purse stash of make up or anything needed to stay separate in your bag. 
Cons of ipsy:
  • You do not get to pick your items or even request items
  • You are able to fill out a style profile, and they say they will curate your box especially for you - sometimes I'm not sure if that happens. 
  • My eyeshadow shades all tend to be in the same swatch line, beige, bronze, gold, gold, beige... but at least I never run out of these basic colors.
I have blogged previously about Stitch Fix. So, this is my newest subscription addition. I pin my monthly bags each month if you want to follow! I'm definitely going to keep this subscription going! I look forward to earning more points towards free items in my Glam Bags!
I wish my budget would allow for every mailbox subscription that I have on my wishlist!  I just recently found out about Amazon Wardrobe. I may have to try that next!

Thanks for checking out my blog!

English Middle School Mania

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Teacher Self Care

Teacher Self Care! Happy Winter Break! Time to Recharge!

I haven't blogged in a while. It's been a busy semester in my new position. I have so many ideas to blog about though for photography teachers, yearbook teachers, tech teachers, and English teachers! I'm hoping to get those ideas down over this holiday break and post at least one more blog this break focusing on teaching.  I've been working on part two of this blog for the past six months by tracking my ipsy Glam Bags each month, so I think it's time to post. That'll be part two. I realized as I began writing that the reason I started my ipsy subscription in the first place was because I needed to take care of myself. I wanted to pamper myself, but I was on a teacher budget with a daily teacher schedule.

For those who don't know ipsy is a make-up subscription box. It's $10 each month. Each month you get five items. Some are full sized, some are samples. Usually the Glam Bag, as it's called, is worth over $50.  I'll give an actual review in another blog.  I signed up because I wanted to gift something small to myself.

Teaching, and students, and grading, and family, and raising my own children can be stressful.   There are so many ways that we take care of ourselves, but sometimes it feels that there are not enough useable hours in the day to read a book, go to the gym, or even enjoy some retail therapy. I decided affordable "Happy Mail" was one way I could care for myself. If it came with a facemask that was a bonus! Then I could also steal 20 minutes pretending my bathroom was a tiny spa!

Another thing I do for Teacher Self Care is stay up way too late working on "my own thing."  It's midnight and I'm writing a blog and watching a cheesy Christmas movie on Netflix.  On a regular basis my grading could wait until my plan the next school day, but I stay up watching another episode of Gossip Girl while finishing up those grades. I do this not just to give great feedback to my students the following day, but also because the house is quiet.  No one is demanding anything of me, not students, not their parents, not my family, not even the dogs. When it's this late, they're curled up next to me. This is part of my self care.  If this was a school night, I would be dead tired the next morning and would definitely curse myself for that late night cup of coffee, but this has always been a part of my Self Care routine.  Lack of sleep is the price I pay for these peaceful moments.

The last  thing I allow myself is social media.  Although, I think I'm weird about it.  I use my Facebook for my family and closest friends. I'll post family photos there, but I think I've got them pretty locked down so they are not public.  On Twitter and my blog, I'm a teacher. I try to share the wisdom that I've gained over the past 13 years.  On Snapchat I'm a mom. I think I've got that pretty locked down as well when I share the funny filters of me and my children.  Lately, I've gotten into Instagram.  On that one I'm a photographer.  I rarely post faces and just focus on capturing a place, a mood, a moment. This allowance does eat up my phone battery, and I find myself being that mom that I don't want to be as I check my phone for the latest updates over and over again.  Social Media is my nasty habit that I should spend less time with.These three things ipsy, late nights, and social media may not seem like much. But it's what I allow myself. It's how I care for myself.

What's in my future? Maybe in 2018 I'll add more "Happy Mail." There are a number of subscriptions I'd love to try. Maybe my next blog about a mailbox subscriptions will be one of these (I was in no way paid to post these, although I wish I was!):

Teacher Box - a new company geared towards helping with the very thing this blog was about, teacher self care.  A quarterly subscription will send teacher items including a shirt and other stuff to boost spirits during stressful seasons. It also includes an emagazine and is crafted for men and women.

Fab Fit Fun - a quarterly subscription of fitness and health items as well as a subscription to their website for workouts and their emagazine. Geared towards women.

Sparkle Hustle Grow - This box just sounds fun. It includes stationary and messages about being a #bossbabe.  Sorry #bossfellas most of my blog isn't for you.

Here's to another blog longer than I thought it would be. Thank you for reading!  I'll post my ipsy review soon!

In case I forget to say it in my next blog, Merry Christmas, and to any teachers reading, Enjoy Break!

English Middle School Mania

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Why I Finally Switched to Google Classroom

I finally made the switch from Schoology to Google Classroom.  I wasn't planning on it, but it just made sense in the long run.

There are a few things I'm loving about Google Classroom!  1) Easy sharing of a doc with 100 students. 2) My rubric is attached to my doc. I can create an assignment on a Doc with my Orange Slice rubric at the top and load it into Classroom. 3) Students can mark something as "Done" if they worked with a partner.

Here's why I switched. 1) I use Google Docs, Slides, and Youtube for 98% of my assignments. It really just made sense.  2) My professional portfolio/website is a Google Site, so now, I can load student work examples seamlessly from Slides.  3) Even though there is a new Google Drive connection with Schoology, our district's firewall was not letting it work the way it should have. Therefore, each student was sharing their Google Doc or Slides. I would end up with 100 different assignments to sort through.

Here's what I did love about Schoology. 1) The quiz functions were better than Google Forms.  2) I could lock an assignment after the due date. 3) I could hide an assignment, but still access it myself for example to review a students previous work and compare growth. 4) I could organize folders so new students could go back to get caught up on something, but it wasn't just a scrolling mess.
Where are these functions on Classroom?

I wanted to point out that both systems have some amazing benefits. Our district has paid for Schoology Enterprise, so I'm not going to knock it!  As an iPad teacher it was really easy for me to load assignments as PDFs to Schoology and grade on the iPad by swiping. That was pretty glorious! When students worked on Google Docs or Slides last year I had them share their work as a link and post the link on Schoology. This way my grading was still organized by classes and I could easily access it. If the newest Google Drive updates had worked I might still be on Schoology. Also, once you have a class set up in Schoology you can copy assignments such as tests and quizzes from one year to the next. I found that really handy in my second year on the iPad.

Since I'm in a completely different role this year I'm not on the iPad anymore. I have a full Mac lab for digital photo and yearbook.  Yearbook is its own beast that I can talk about another time. In photo we use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.  With Classroom, I love that I can load one Doc or set of Slides, and I can mark it to "Make a Copy for Each Student." Boom! It's instantly done.  They don't have to create a copy and share it with me.  Then, even if they forget to press "Turn In," I can still open their document and grade it or see their progress.  I really do love that aspect of the Google Suite for Education!  For Photoshop tutorials I can load a video tutorial directly from Youtube.  So far, I'm very happy with the switch!

I know a ton of teachers love their LMS such as Schoology or SeeSaw.  What LMS do other teachers use? I'm going to take it to Twitter to find out!  Also, if you have some new Google Classroom tips for me, I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!

English Middle School Mania

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Make Your Class Like an Elective

Today as I was leaving school on a Thursday I was walking out with one of our social studies teachers. He had two paper trays stacked on top of each other, full of papers.  We don't have students tomorrow because it's a professional development day and Monday is Labor Day.  I made the joke to him, "Wow, that looks like a fun filled evening."  He responded and said, "You know I enjoy not sleeping. I like staying up from midnight til 5 am reading papers." We went on to banter about timely feedback, we sarcastically said, "I don't really need to have a weekend or see my family."  Although we both knew this wasn't actually sarcasm, this is the truth for almost every teacher I know.

Each year I told myself I was going to stagger due dates with my classes, do more peer editing, do more as a class and assign less... each year I inevitably three weeks into the quarter had a stack of essays that were going to take me an entire weekend to grade. No matter how good those essays were, I hated my existence half way through the stack.  I would wish I was an elective teacher and not an English teacher.

Finally, I am an elective teacher!  This year I made the switch from secondary English to digital photography and yearbook.  I am elated because everything is new again.  I am in that discovery stage that I haven't been in for a very long time.  I am watching Photoshop tutorials in the evenings, and I'm trying new things.  Each day I'm excited to share those new skills with the students. However, I have also learned in the past month as an elective teacher that the system wasn't fully to blame for my work load. It was partly my fault. I wasn't teaching my "core" class like an elective.

In this new role people say things to me such as, "Gee, I wish I didn't have grading like you." "What are you going to do with your weekends now that your not a tested subject?"  "I bet the students are great because they chose your class."  I'm learning though, that because the students far outnumber the amount of teachers in a building, some are forced to take an elective they might hate. Others, even though they chose the class, still misbehave.  Just because the band teacher or drama teacher can't take student work home, doesn't mean they aren't doing just as much as the math teacher. In fact, how would the math teacher feel if his/her students were expected to perform math in front of an audience? Maybe they should be.

As a "core" teacher, I couldn't wrap my head around how to change the system.  I knew teachers who were flipping their classes and administrators who kept saying, "Don't grade everything, or give a simple formative assessment."  I didn't know how to not grade those formative assessments. I didn't know how to not grade that flipped learning. I didn't know how to not make more work for myself.  I kept saying, "If I have 30+ students how do I know if they know it without having them turn it in?" I have had some very eye opening moments in this new position that I wish I had years ago.  Here are a few things I've learned about being an elective teacher: Use grouping strategies; Don't make it homework if they can't master it on their own; Have students complete multiples before submitting one; Have students "perform" for an audience. Some of these you might read as a veteran teacher and say, "Duh!"  Trust me I thought I was doing all of these to the best of my abilities, but I've learned some new strategies this year.

Use Grouping Strategies: Number your tables or your rows even.  My first row goes 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 they group with my second row 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4. I have four even rows. Then use the numbers frequently to separate your group.  Here's how I work in photo.  I start off with our whole class warm up. We move into our lesson. Today, I was reviewing photoshop basics.  Many students were struggling with finding the tools because some are loaded beneath others and need a right click to find them.  Next, I previewed what we will be working on next week with Photoshop, in our case it's cut-outs.  In order to do these the students needed to go take photos of objects to cut out from simple to complex such as doorways, trashcans, flowers, and people.  Here's where that grouping comes in handy.  I split my class into two groups. 1s and 3s go take photos for 25 minutes while 2s and 4s are in the classroom working through their current Photoshop assignment.  Now I have 25 minutes to walk around and meet with each student. I can tell you as I sit here who had the five tools from today down and who needed more support.  Some students had it down, and I could give praise or simple edits.  When they switched out I had a new group to meet with.  Here's the thing, why couldn't I do this with ELA? Why did I insist on doing 25 minutes of grammar on NoRedInk as a full class? Why did I insist on reading a short story as a full class?  I could have easily lead a 10 minute mini lesson about the short story and previewed it with the full class then I could have divided the class into two groups. With the smaller group working with me I could have had better accountability for who was reading and comprehending.

Don't Make it Homework if They Can't Master it on their Own: Once again I thought I was doing this in the ELA classroom, but I kept trying to have them fully complete something in order to move on to the next thing. I kept thinking they HAD to take it home and complete it and practice it. In this new classroom, they can't always take it home. They do not have Adobe Photoshop at home, as it is expensive. Even if they did, they'd have to find the right youtube video to do the task I'm asking for because there may be no one at home to help.  Most of them do not have a real camera and can't take home the school cameras.  Therefore, I can't assign Photoshop or anything that requires manual mode on the camera.  In contrast, in the ELA classroom I kept expecting students to master an essay at home over night. Then, I would have to grade a hastily written essay over the weekend. Why was I trying to cram four essays into a month?  This goes into my next strategy.

Have Students Complete Multiples Before Submitting One: As a photographer you might take 50 images and have four good shots.  I knew this in middle school when I had to roll my own film and develop it myself. I would always roll 27 frames instead of 24 knowing that at least three would be complete junk.  We ask students all the time to write on a topic that doesn't interest them then we grade it, and it's junk.  What I should have done is have students take a topic fully through the process of prewriting, writing, peer editing, and revising multiple times. Then, I should have said, "turn in your best one from the past two/three weeks."  This is the one the students are saying is their best work. They took multiple attempts and they felt this one was the one the exemplifies their level of mastery.

Have Students "Perform" for an Audience: This one, I actually feel I was pretty good at as an ELA teacher.  My teaching partner LaDonna and I would partner up pretty frequently to have the students create something relating to a larger project to showcase their learning. We would invite other classrooms in for "Presentation Day" The students would present multiple times in a gallery walk style to other students, teachers, and admin.  We also had our middle school ELA and math students "perform" by blogging about their achievements and learning. We saw growth throughout the year because of these performance mastery aspects. I am carrying this over to photography by planning at least one "Presentation Day" with my students towards the end of the quarter to showcase their portfolios. Students will also create their own "professional portfolio" google site to showcase all of their classwork, this is where I will incorporate those blog aspects to relate the learning to performing.

So, the next time you think to yourself, "I wish I was an elective teacher," ask yourself instead, "How can I make my class more like an elective?"

Thanks for reading!

English Middle School Mania