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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Don't worry about the rules...

Part of my regular before-work routine includes a few minutes of NPR time each morning during my commute. This morning, I was reminded of an anniversary that I might have otherwise missed in the hustle of my life, and I am thankful for the reminder. Eight years ago today, during my very first month of teaching, hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

A couple of weeks after her arrival, Houston started receiving some of her victims. I received several new students...they called them refugees. Some were silent. Others were violent. Most of them had lost everything and almost everyone they had ever known or loved.

My class was working on personal narratives at the time, and I shared the assignment with one of my new students. He came from the heart of New Orleans, the ninth ward. He had the most wonderful and welcoming smile I had ever seen. My personal life was a complete mess at the time; I often struggled to get out of bed. But this kid had lost everything...and he was smiling.

I told him about the assignment.

"I cain write, missus. I don' know the rules."

"Don't worry about the rules. Just worry about your story. That's all I care about."

He nodded, took the notebook paper from my hand, grabbed a pencil out of his back pocket, and started writing.

I don't remember if it was that day or a couple of days later when he danced up to my desk with a smile and slapped the page proudly in front of me.

"I did it."

There wasn't a single punctuation mark. Most of the spelling was not correct. But it was one of the most moving things I will ever read. He wrote like he spoke, with a flowing rhythm that was musical. His handwriting even resembled musical notes on the lined paper. It was poetic.

Almost eight years ago today I met one of the most beautiful writers and people I will ever meet. I hope he is doing well.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weekly Update: Surviving Back to School


My head is buzzing from this week, and it is only Wednesday! My only reflection so far is that I am glad to see students in classes. Wow. I really missed those strange little people! Hopefully I can be more thoughtful and reflective next week. J Until then…I send you love and a picture of my own little weirdo!

Important Information…

Beginning of Year Testing: Please watch your emails later this week or early next week for important information regarding beginning of the year testing.

Technology Tutorial Shorts: I will be adding more to this site, and I take requests!

T-shirts: Be sure to get your orders to Karyn or Becky ASAP.

August Staff Development Resources: Copies of all of my stuff in case you want to go back to review. J

Upcoming Meetings & Staff Development Opportunities…

FREE Learning on Demand!!!
Free courses on a variety of professional development topics. Talk to me about options for receiving credit and adding a course to you professional development portfolio.

West Houston Area Council of Teachers of English (WHACTE) Annual Breakfast
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Sugarland Marriot

Mark Overmeyer at North Harris County Council Teachers of English (NHCCTE) Breakfast
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Hilton Houston North

Webinar: Inquiry in the Garden
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Great Resources…

Great website for finding high-interest, information-rich news articles.

Graphite: Check out ratings of apps, games, websites, etc. written by educators.

Mentor Text of the Year Program

Teaching Channel Show off your Classroom Contest

Something to make you laugh…

The Obituary of the Student Desk

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An important part of teaching... having the ability to deliver an impressive evil eye on demand. 

Video clip courtesy of AFV. You can visit their YouTube channel, or watch them on Sundays. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Weekly Update: Being Makers


When you first meet my husband, he doesn’t really seem like an especially creative guy. He is very to the point and he sees things in an incredibly linear fashion. He also has a brain for statistics, which is mind-boggling to me. The thing is, though, he is incredibly creative.

Over the last week, Scott has been making new coffee tabletops out of old barn wood. When he finally finished and moved them into our living room, he was beaming with pride. “I can’t believe I made these,” he told me. “Other than Thomas [our son], this is the coolest thing I’ve ever made.”

This got me thinking about a video I came across a couple of weeks ago called “We are Makers.” I have embedded it below, and I hope you will take about 15 minutes to watch it. In the video, they talk a lot about the value of being part of a network of makers and how making things is cross disciplinary, experiential, and social. The personal expression of creating is intrinsically motivated and provides the makers with a sense of gratification that extrinsic influences don’t provide. What’s even better is how simple it is…all makers need is an environment that provides them with the resources and the safety to create, fail, recreate, and socialize about the process.

My husband may not be able to make a fortune in the furniture-building business, but he did make some pretty gorgeous tables. Now I just need to see what I can convince him to make next…

Upcoming professional development opportunities and district meetings…


August Staff Development
Make sure you have registered for August Staff Development—I will print attendance rosters tomorrow (Thursday)

SBISD Parent U – A Learning Conference for Parents
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Spring Woods High School
Choice Fair & Registration: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Learning Sessions: 5:30 – 8:35 p.m.  (Three 55-minute sessions – present at one or more!)

Be a Parent U Presenter -- Provide parents with tips, strategies and information to help them help their kids succeed!

Presentations (English or Spanish) should align with one or more of these four learning tracks: 

  • T-2-4 – Preparing for Higher Education – You can never start too soon!
  • Academic Success -- Elementary & Middle Grades – Helping Your Child Succeed!
  • The Whole Child – Supporting the Components of Coordinated School Health
  • School Choice – Understanding Choices, Programs and Opportunities in SBISD
Click here for Presenter Application Form

Some Helpful/Interesting Information

Questions about the DRA?
This presentation should address many of those questions. If you need any information about how to administer DRA, I can help you find the online training modules.

Questioning article—very interesting ideas presented (with pictures)

Something to make you laugh…

Don’t forget, you can find more at…
Twitter: @SimmonsCorner
Teacher Learners on Edmodo
Group code: 194zaj

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Weekly Update: A Procrastinator's Goodbye to Summer


Getting back into the swing of things is hard. I like to think of myself as a flexible person, but I’m not sure that is always the case, especially when my routine is involved. It takes me a week or two to get into a summer routine, a week or two where I am grumpy and tired as I figure out how to negotiate my new normal. Then, just as I am starting to get into the zone, it is time to get in the back-to-school routine all over again.

During my final week of summer, I transform from a chilled-out chick in cut-offs to a maniacal cleaning and organizational freak whose hair cannot be tamed. I’ve tried and tried to change my procrastinator’s ways, but I seem to require a true sense of urgency in order to complete any sort of housework.

This has also become my way to gear-up for a new school year. I blow the dust off of the stacks of work left untouched. I restack, prioritize, read through lists, and start writing new lists. I’m relieved to find the fog that crowded my brain in the last weeks of school has now lifted and left me with more clarity and the energy to get moving.

I’ve also considered that my frantic cleaning and preparation might also be another form of procrastination. Getting back into “work mode” is not always easy, especially once I’ve worked so hard to get into the lazy-summer mode. Now, it’s time to start with a blank page of a new year…

Released STAAR Tests: April 2013 Administration


Upcoming professional development opportunities and district meetings…

Make sure you have registered for August Staff Development

Challenge: Find an article, blog, webinar, etc. and learn something new before you start teaching.

Some stuff I’ve been reading…

How Computers can Impede Spaces of Learning

High Impact Instruction
by Jim Knight
What if Your ABCs were Your 123s?
by Leslie Minton

Some sites/apps worth exploring…

Top 10 Sites/Apps for the Flipped Classroom

Top 50 Math Sites and Apps

TONS of (free) 1-3 minute Engaging Math & Science Videos for Kids

Don’t forget, you can find more at…
Teacher Learners on Edmodo

Group code: 194zaj