National Blogging Collaborative

My writing coach through the National Blogging Collaborative is a wonderful woman named Lisa Hollenbach, and I think her getting-to-know-you questionaire is a good tool for thinking about personal and professional goals, so I’m posting my responses here.

What is your story? Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m an elementary school teacher who needs to transition out of the classroom for the time being because of chronic medical issues (recent Bipolar I diagnosis). I’m interested in the big, giant pictures related to education, but I’m also interested in and passionate about day-to-day life in the classroom. Outside of teaching, I’m interested in yoga, math, equity, feminism, video games, space, music, dinosaurs, and both history and futurist thinking.
My current plan for next year (fingers crossed; it changes every day) is to earn what I can from freelance writing unless I’m able to score a fellowship (I’ve been in touch with TNTP and the Bucky Fuller Institute, and I’m contacting my college physics professor because he’d asked me to review a book he’s writing).
I’m also folding Look Great Teach Great into a wider effort for the stuff I’ve been working on for #AnAmericanLessonPlan and #TeachersWhoGame, which would be both CCSS compliant, but also relevant, rigorous, social justice-focused, and FUN. I want to model teaching myself to code through being transparent about how I’m creating my own website because #codeispoetry and I view it as a bit of a think-aloud. I’m also casting weekly on Twitch to show how #TeachersWhoGame relates to video games and virtual reality.
Have you listened to Hamilton the Musical? If you haven’t yet, it might be helpful in understanding me and my brain. I’d also say I relate strongly to characters in Parks and Rec and The West Wing.
Do you have a place where you currently blog / write? If so, paste in the link. I would love to see an example of your writing.
@MsHoughton on The Twitters
Why do you want to blog?
I need to get this ish outta my brain. I want my brain-droppings to maybe be interesting to or helpful to my readers. I want people to read something that makes them feel better by the time they’ve read it, even if it’s a piece on a serious or contentious subject.
Are there particular topics about which you are passionate? Tell me a bit more about Look Great Teach Great.
Social justice and equity, particularly as it relates to math instruction and larger systemic educational issues. I love folk songs and singing, and I’m looking to design lesson plans around songs and other elements of pop culture. I’m looking for a way to tap into the hype around midcentury vintage stuff by designing lessons based on the old crazy books I’ve been showing snippets of on Twitter and Instagram. I like fashion and art and eating good food. Also, just as an FYI, I’ve been in recovery for alcoholism for the past 6 years or so, so I’m also interested in addiction, homelessness, and the schools-to-prison pipeline.
Who do you imagine as the audience for you blog?
I hope it’s a combination of teachers, families, students, and other stakeholders in education, as well as my friends and family who’ve followed my online essays since 1997.
Do you have any questions about blogging or the NBC process in general?
I’m most interested in establishing writing routines that help me keep my brain from revving too hard while still being a productive writer. I also want to help hype the work you folks are doing for other teacher-writers!
That’s about it for now; can’t wait to hear back from you!
In service,

Lessons learned from our family liaison.

This year, Wildwood was fortunate enough to be able to hire a Family Liaison. I worked with Greta Holtz when she was a paraeducator at Silver Lake Elementary,* and we are incredibly fortunate to have her at our school. She is available to help us connect with parents and translate conversations and information into Spanish or English.

Sra. Holtz is amazing. Her report with families and the quick connections she’s making dazzle me. But I’m also having a chance to learn directly from her. A week or so ago, I asked if she would speak to me only in Spanish, so I could improve my vocabulary and grammar. She said yes, and not only have I been learning the Spanish language, but I’ve also been reminded what good teachers do.

Good teachers make quick, informal assessments, then adjust their instruction accordingly.

After a day of indulging my desire to speak entirely in Spanish, Sra. Holtz handed me a well-used book and made a rare slip back into English. “This should help you understand the verbs and conjugations better,” she said. So she realized that my vocabulary was OK, but my grammar was atrocious. “This is the best book there is.” I carefully turned the book over. “I’ll take VERY good care of it,” I said, understanding the importance of this book – her only copy.

Good teachers take measured risks when they think they might have a chance to take the next leap.

Sra. Holtz didn’t HAVE to give me the book. She also didn’t ORDER me to read it. But just knowing that I had it and that she thought it’d be appropriate for me gave me confidence that she thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, I just needed to work on my grammar. Imagine how a student might be empowered from your risk.

Good teachers persist, even when they worry students may have lost interest.

I hurriedly said, “Hello!” to Sra. Holtz the morning after open house. “Hola, Senora,” she responded. “Como estas?” Well, I would have looked stupid if I answered her in English, so I reverted back to sophomore year Spanish and said, “Asi asi.” She persisted (we’re both walking in opposite directions down the hall at this point), “Estas desconsada?” “Haha, si, si, Senora!” I won’t be forgetting how to say “tired” any time soon.

Repeating what students say but saying it with correct grammar is powerful, not insulting.

In the past, I hesitated to use the ELL strategy of repeating what students say but correcting their grammar because I worried they’d be irritated that I just repeated everything they said. With Sra. Holtz, I realized I liked when she repeated what I said because it let me know the “right” way to pronounce the words, but it ALSO gave me a little bit of time to think of what I wanted to say next.

I know I’ll continue to learn plenty more from Sra. Holtz, and I’d love to learn more from you too! Leave me a comment or write me an e-mail in Spanish, and I’ll do my best to respond!

* You think teachers are underpaid? Paraeducators, who often work with our most at-risk and challenging students, earn poverty-level wages.