Thursday, September 29, 2016

Journal Entry 3

I was most intrigued by the concept of blogging in the classroom.  Blogging is something I've done for a while.  I used to blog about my travels and adventures.  Then I blogged a lot about my adoption process.  I still occasionally use my blog to express opinions and give updates on our life.  Blogging is really easy and blogger is pretty self explanatory.  I hadn't, however, considered blogging with my students.  

Since starting the class I've been intrigued with the idea of using media and technology to increase my students' interest in literacy activities.  My students can definitely be described as reluctant readers and writers.  Writing is especially a struggle for them.  And why wouldn't it be?  They write a piece, hand it in to me, I read it, grade it and put it in a folder.  Why would they pour their hearts and souls or even minimal effort into that?  What's the purpose?  Where's the motivation?  

As I read about A'idah (Vasudevan, DeJaynes, Schmier, 2010, pp. 29-30) I had visions of my kids blogging about things they are actually interested in.  If the goal is to learn to write a topic sentence and supporting details, why can't they write about a movie they saw or their favorite rapper instead of a "boring" topic from a book?  Maybe if their writing was out there for their parents, teachers, administrators, and the public to see, they would be more motivated and more interested in producing quality work.  

Students can learn a lot of techniques from blogging.  Many of my students are proficient texters.  They rely heavily on their phones to correct spelling and capitalization.  While they can text, they struggle to type on a keyboard.  With today's technology, almost all jobs require at least basic keyboard and computer skills.  If they gain enough skills, they can also learn HTML, photo embedding and editing, video embedding, music uploading, linking and all kinds of other skills (Vasudevan, et al., 2010, pp. 29-30).  If they don't advance that far, they can still learn to express opinions and write well.  

I was so impressed with the idea that I've started a classroom blog.  We have a long way to go until the students gain the skills they need to blog really well but they are excited to take their turns writing on the blog and to have their pieces heard and appreciated. 

References:
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2013). A new literacies reader. New York: Peter Lang.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Journal Entry 2

What counts as literacy?  How does literacy change in response to the new media landscape?  What value should we ascribe to the new forms of communication that continue to emerge and evolve online?


For years I taught students with severe and profound disabilities. That experience taught me to see literacy as processing print in any form.  The vast majority of the students that I taught during that 14 year period could not read passed a first grade level.  For them, literacy meant reading a "Danger" sign or reading a package label to find their favorite kind of chips.  Now that I work with middle school students in an alternative school setting, I still tend to use that definition to define literacy.  Most of my students are considered to be "reluctant readers."  Only one of them ever chooses to read for fun.  So, I've learned to choose literacy activities that focus on what they enjoy and what they like to do.  We've read some of James Pattersons' Middle School series because the chapters are short, many pages contain drawings, and the print is large.  We read Tim Green's Unstoppable because many of them are they are interested in sports.  We read the Outsiders and watched chunks of the movie as we went to increase their comprehension and keep their interest in the book.  They have used the internet to research their favorite celebrity and write a biography.  You have to reach kids where they are.  If I start presenting Shakespeare or asking them to write biographies of a historical figure that they don't care about, I will lose them and they won't be participating in literacy activities at all.  

Literacy absolutely is changing in light of the new media landscape.  My senior year in high school, we had to write a thesis.  We spent months researching.  Hours upon hours were spent in the library looking through microfilm and hard-bound journals trying to find the information we needed.  Now, students can research a paper with some help from google.  Instead of teaching kids how to use the microfiche, we need to spend time teaching them how to find a reliable source on the internet.  It would be crazy to make them go back to using the methods that we used to research a paper.  Instead, we need to figure out and teach the skills that they need to know to properly use today's changing media.  

I think we have to value new forms of communication or we will lose our students.  When I started teaching, we copied notes and flyers and put them in students' and colleagues' mailboxes to communicate.  Now, we get countless emails a day to inform us of information.  Parents can use the parent portal and check in on their students progress.  Teachers use apps like Dojo to send daily progress notes and reminders to parents.  Why would we not allow our students to also use emerging technology and media?  



Friday, September 16, 2016

Miracle of Adoption Christmas Campaign For Andre


I always say that I'm not going to do Reece's Rainbow's Christmas campaign but then I can't help myself. Kids need families. If a big grant is what gets them one, then I'll keep advocating and fund raising.

This little hunk is not even 2 yet. I refuse to watch him grow up in pictures---unless it's pictures taken by his new family. Kids shouldn't grow up in orphanages. They need love and families and security. I often wonder how Sara's progress would different be if she had been adopted sooner. You rarely see kids this young in his country! He needs a family now!! The early years are so crucial.

More than a big grant, this little guy needs some early intervention and love! Would you consider being his family? Watch for fund raisers for the next few months. I'm committed to raising his grant but more committed to finding him a family!

For more of his story, check out his RR profile: http://reecesrainbow.org/102230/andre

*To make a purchase to benefit his adoption fund, you can order avon here: www.youravon.com/adoption

*You can also purchase hand made knit items including scarves, ruffle skirts, stockings, dish clothes, hair pompoms, and tons of other things. Check out the photo albums on my knitting page to see what is available.

*Use my Amazon link. A percentage of each purchase will go to his fund.

Check back for more fundraisers---including a LuLaRoe pop up!


To inquire about adopting him or the process for his country, send me a message!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Journal Entry 1

"The distinctive contribution of the approach to literacy as social practice lies in the ways in which it involves careful and sensitive attention to what people do with texts, how they make sense of them and use them to further their own purposes in their own learning lives" (Gillen and Barton, 2010, p. 9)

The most important part of any literacy program is how the students internalize and use what they are learning.  Technology, social media, and the internet are a huge part of my students' lives.  At times, it can be a huge distraction.  I'm excited to learn ways to make it more productive for them, especially as it relates to literacy.  

As Wilber (2010) points out, new literacies are more interactive than traditional literacies.  If you write a paper and turn it in, you read it and the teacher reads it.  That's usually it.  If you write something on a blog, your classmates can read it.  Your family can read it.  Strangers can read it.  Anyone can have an opinion on what you write.  This could be both beneficial and detrimental.  I think my students might put more thought and effort into their writing if they knew that it would be read by a wider audience.  They might also learn the value and importance of the written word.  On the other hand, I think it would be hard for some of them to have their writing and ideas criticized, especially by someone they don't know.  

I have not used blogging in my teaching practices.  I think about it often but worry about what my students would post and how I would "police" that.  I have used it extensively in my personal life and have found it very helpful in connecting with others who are walking through a similar life journey.  Both Wilber (2010) and Huffaker (2005) pointed out that blogging can connect our students to peer-groups in the virtual world.  This could be especially helpful for some of my students who are not really connected with the other students in our very small classroom.  

I think one of the biggest things that we have to be careful of is intentionality.  Introducing new technologies is not the same as using new literacies.  Teachers must be very careful to use the new technologies in collaboration with data-driven pedagogies to promote literacy among students and not just increase technology time.  As Gillen and Barton point out, schooling and training in technology are often steps behind the emerging technology because creating programs and curricula takes time.  I think this is yet another reason to choose technologies and programs carefully.  If schools are going to invest in technology, it needs to be something that will be useful and relevant for a significant amount of time.  

I am looking forward to learning new ways to incorporate new media and new literacies into my classroom to help my students better connect with and understand texts.  



This post was written in response to the following articles:  

Gillen, J & Barton, D.  Digital literacies: A research briefing by the technology enhanced learning phase of the teaching and learning research programme.  1-30.  

Huffaker, D.  (2005).  The education blogger:  Using weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom.  AACE Journal, 13(2), 91-98.

Wilber, D.J. (2010).  Special themed issue:  Beyond 'new' literacies.  Digital Culture & Education, 2:1, 1-6.  


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Grad School.....Again.....

My advice to young teachers out there---go get your masters degree now!!  While you don't have a house or kids or a spouse.  Do it now.  Please.

I started several times but had two major problems.  1.  I never really found a program that interested me and that taught me more about the kids that I worked with at Elim.  2.  Life kept getting in my way.  I got halfway through a program and then decided to move to Mexico.  I started another program and then Sara came along.  I thought about going back but then we were moving.

Well, New York requires a masters so I'm starting mine online.  This could be very interesting.  One of the classes requires some blog posts.  I decided just to add a page to this blog so you may see some very interesting (or extremely boring) posts for the next few months.  Hang in there with me, I'll be back to advocating (or adopting??) in no time....


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Have a Child with Down Syndrome, Will Travel

Last week, I took the munchkin to Mexico.  It wasn't her first trip there.  I've had a few comments since then that range from "Wow!  You're brave!" to "I could never do that with my kid" to "You must be crazy!"  Let me address those.  I am definitely a little crazy and maybe brave.  And, in my opinion, you can do that with your kid and you should!  (I obviously don't know every single family dynamic or child but I think the vast majority of kids (special needs or not) should be traveling or at least getting out of their comfort zone.)  

In Sara's first 18 months home, she had been in 18 states. She's added at least two new ones since then.  I don't say that to brag.  I say that because traveling is obviously something I enjoy.  I was worried that she would change that but she really hasn't.  She loves to fly and is a road trip warrior.  Obviously that makes it easier to travel with her.  She's seen both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  She's been in more airports than I can count.  She's been to Mexico 3 times.  If I want to go, we go.

Now, is traveling with her easy?  No.  Does she always enjoy it?  No.  She's not a big fan of Mexico.  It triggers things in her that are hard for her to deal with.  But she's getting better!!!  It took her until Wednesday this time to start asking when she'd go home.  Do the positives outweigh the negatives?  Absolutely.  

Positives:
1.   She gets out of her comfort zone.  Sara is perfectly happy to stay home, eat goldfish crackers, and watch her ipad.  Forever.  While this is fine on an occasional Saturday, she needs to experience more in life.

2.  If I don't get her used to traveling now, I'll never be able to travel again.  I'm a single mom.  It's just the two of us.  If I ever want to travel again, I need to train my travel partner when she's young.  Not when she's 18 or 28 and "mature enough to handle it."  By then, she'll be permanently planted in front of Disney Junior and I'll never get her out of the house.

3.  She's learning that mommy is a constant no matter where she goes.  When a child has moved around a lot, they need to learn that home is the person and not the place.  She needs to be attached to me and not her things or her space.  Mommy travels with you and always stays with you.

4.  Life experiences.  Kids (and adults) can learn more from life experiences than they ever can in a classroom or from a book (so says this teacher)!  Give your kids life experiences---even if they may be a little uncomfortable at first.

5.  Especially in international travel, you have the chance for others to see that having a disability is ok and that a child with Down syndrome can be part of a family.  It seems to so simple to us but it's not in so many parts of the world.  We encountered kids who were both kind and cruel to Sara.  It's hard to watch but it's educating people who just don't see kids with special needs around them.

Negatives:
1.  Sara tends to wet her pants when she gets overwhelmed and frustrated.  It's not the worst behavior ever but it takes some extra planning on my part.  I have to have lots of extra clothes on me at all times.  And I end up with a suitcase full of nasty dirty clothes.  But it is what it is.  She does it at home sometimes as well.

2.  It's exhausting.  Three days later and I'm still exhausted.  I got up, put Sara on the bus and went back to bed for two hours.  Managing all of her needs while adjusting to time changes and just being on the go for a week is tiring.  There's no way around it.

3.  It can be hard to keep up the pace of the rest of the group.  You may have to miss out on certain activities because it's just too much.  It's ok to take an afternoon and nap or swim or chill in your hotel room.  Just make sure you aren't doing that the whole time!

4.  Your child may not be welcomed or accepted every where you go.  It's hard to experience but it's true, especially if you travel internationally.  People may point or stare or ask awkward questions.  Try your best not to take it personally or to go on the offensive.  Lots of people just don't know any better.  (It hurts.  It just does.  Try to wait until after your child is in bed for the night to cry about it.)  Just to be clear, the number of kind, welcoming, accepting people has far outweighed the ignorant, unkind ones in our travels.  But those negative interactions tend to stick in my head.    


Tips:

1.  Travel with people who know and love your child.  I fly alone with Sara but we are always meeting people on the other end that love and adore her (and me).  I'm sure that there are people who take trips with their child alone.  I'm just not one of them.  Having support of friends and family that love us is invaluable to me.  It keeps me sane when things get tough.  It's nice to know that at least one person will hang back with you when you fall behind the group or wait for you while she goes to the bathroom for the millionth time or bring you breakfast in the airport when you haven't slept all night.

2.  Know that it will be hard.  Vacations are no longer relaxing for me.  I used to listen to music and read on the plane.  And on the beach.  Now I'm making sure she has everything she needs and giving her my phone to keep her happy.  I'm squishing into little plane bathrooms (because she loves them) and swimming in the ocean.  It's not about me.  It's about her having experiences and being happy.  I know that going in.

3.  Plan things that are both in and out of your child's comfort zone.  I'm all for Sara experiencing new things but I also know she needs some time in her comfort zone.  For example, instead of tacos every night, I made sure we went to a restaurant where she could get a hot dog.  She needs some familiar in her unfamiliar.  (Don't we all?)

4.  Start when they are little.  Start when they are smaller and portable.  Get them used to traveling early.  It will only get harder as they are older.

5.  Be prepared for the negative behavior.  Expect it.  We were gone for 8 days.  I took 12 pairs of shorts and underwear for her.  (It was still not enough. Ugh.)  I knew she would have at least one major meltdown.  I usually still take her stroller and her noise cancelling headphones.  I fly with a HUGE backpack of everything she could possibly need.  I try to be prepared for every possibility.  (I was not prepared for the headphones to break on the first day.)  

6.  Schedule some down time when you get home.  When it was just me, I used to fly on a Sunday night and work on Monday morning.  (Or sometimes fly on Monday morning and go straight to work.)  I don't do that anymore.  I know that we will both need some recovery time after a trip.  Some down time in our comfort zones.

I don't have all the answers and I don't get everything right.  I just believe that if you ever want to be able to travel with your child, you should start young.  Go to the places you want them to experience.  And then buckle up because it will be a bumpy ride but so worth it!

This group was so helpful to me last week.  
If you want to see more about our trip, you can check out our Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sometimes Stressed, Always Blessed #MomLife - Guest Post

Here is a guest blogger post that I wrote for I Am Savannah Grace.  Make sure you check out her shop and her facebook page.  I promise you'll be inspired.  



When my sweet friend asked if I would guest post for her about the topic of Sometimes Stressed, Always Blessed #MomLife, I had to laugh.  It was the first day of spring break for my daughter and I.  (Gotta love teacher life!)  We were supposed to be traveling to visit a dear friend but I had strep and my daughter had a sinus infection.  Rather than share our germs, I cancelled our much-needed trip and decided to stay-cation for spring break.  I was definitely feeling Sometimes Stressed in that moment.

Four years ago, I was a single, 30-something teacher with a great life.  I owned a home.  I had lots of vacations. (Yay for summers off!)   And, best of all, I had enough disposable income to do some fun things with those vacations.  My life was mine.  If I wanted to go out to dinner, I did.  If I wanted to go to the movies, I called a friend and went.  If I wanted to go halfway across the country to visit a friend, I picked a date and went.  I was Sometimes Stressed with work but my life was good.

Except I was missing one thing.  I really wanted to be living the #MomLife  With no marriage prospects in sight and a passion for the plight of orphans, I decided to adopt.  Once I made thAT decision, I jumped right in.  I started the process and my beautiful little girl came home a year later.  Bam.  #MomLife  And not just #MomLife.  Single #MomLife.  Special Needs #MomLife.  (I don't do anything halfway!)

So, now here I am, three years later.  I have no disposable income.  I plan doctor appointments for my school breaks.  Going out to eat can happen if it's Kids Eat Free Night.  Going to the movies?  Unless it's animated, I haven't seen it.  Getting a sitter; finding a friend; staying awake for a movie.  It's just all too much work.  And I wouldn't change it for the world.

This little girl with an extra chromosome has taught me more about love and patience and persistence and laughter than I would ever have learned on my own.  I'm exhausted all of the time.  I seem to be sick more often than not.  I am currently watching an episode of Barbie's Dreamhouse.  (Yes.  It's a thing.)  Going to the grocery store takes twice as long.  But I am Always Blessed.  I am still in awe that this beautiful creature lives in my home and calls me mom.  How crazy is that?

Yes.  I am Sometimes Stressed.  Always Blessed.  It's #MomLife.  And it's AMAZING!