So I Googled “Instagram for Educators”

I was considering adding an Instagram to my new social network repertoire, as Catherine reported having just downloaded it when I showed up at her house for our last work session.

So I Googled “Instagram for Educators” and all I saw were blog entries about how to use instagram in the classroom.  Like this oneAnd this one.

But what happens at a low-income, public high school, such as mine, where we have families who can barely keep one phone in the family, let alone a smart phone for every child.

This is extremely disconcerting and I am reminded how so many of New Mexico’s brightest students will be left behind as technology, to varying degrees, becomes an integral part of our society.

In fact, in Gallup, NM (where I went to middle school) there are students who don’t have internet access at all.  Not because they simply can’t afford it (probably that too) but because it simply isn’t available to them!  It is well documented that much of the Native American the reservations are without internet access and to require students to drive miles of unpaved roads to the nearest library is just ridiculous.

And then what of my original search?

I changed my search phrase a little, to include “Educators Using Instagram to Network” and I did find this interesting article about how Universities are using Instagram.

The State Department of Ed even has an Instagram.

Then I felt inspired.  Maybe we can use Instagram to promote nostalgia, as the article suggests.  Maybe all we need in this overgrown (but by no means overblown) debate about education, as a little reminder of what it was like all those years ago to be in school. A reminder that who we serve is students, not what we serve is corporations and special interests.

Or maybe these images can even by used as a wake up call about what it is like to be in school today. Limited access to text books or novels (especially in Spanish), gloomy classrooms with no windows, libraries with no librarian, the list goes on and on.

Things have certainly changed (especially access to technology and the internet) but there is a feeling that remains true in high school.  I feel it every day when I’m around squirrely teenagers trying to find their way in the world.  I see it in my seniors who are on the cusp of something they can only imagine. And I remember being there myself, not so long ago.

But can this feeling be captured on Instagram?


I’m reminded of the diversity in students

My first year of teaching, I had a class that really should have been an “Enriched” English class, had my district not cut those out of existence two years prior.  The Enriched classes were intended for students who were bright and capable but not necessarily interested in the AP/Honors track.  They were, some argued (but not myself), the ideal class—smart students without the intense competition of AP.

Like any first year teacher, I did a lot of experimentation that first year.

One of the things I originally intended to do with them was to make flip books, manipulatives to help them review literary terms and devices.   And when I introduced the assignment, there was nothing less than an all-out mutiny among them.

They were genuinely insulted that I would give them such a “middle school” assignment, as they called it.

I was absolutely shocked.  First of all, that my students would have an opinion about what and how I taught them. But also that I had underestimated them.  That was my greatest lesson in student teaching and I try to remember it constantly.

And so, trying to be as responsive as possible in my first year, with my first group of highly motivated and capable students, I quickly scrapped the assignment and opted for Cornell Notes instead, as a more college-appropriate means to organize and review the literary terms we would cover for the year.

But this year, I have an entirely different set of students. And over the course of the past several years of teaching, I have garnered a reputation for best working with “those” students, the ELL learners.  I am, after all, co-coordinator of the bilingual program … just to give myself a little congratulatory pat on the back.

So this year, I resurrected the assignment and gave it to my juniors last week. I modeled folding the first book for them, first providing oral instructions, then showing them the folds I made.


I gave them the task of making 4 different flip books, according to the following categories:

  • Sound Devices
  • Figurative Language
  • Characterization
  • Rhetorical Strategies

Each list had a different number of words, forcing them to work together and consider how to fold the sheets into the required number of sections.  Then the students copied the definitions into the books, for each term assigned.

As we read over the next few weeks, we’ll copy examples from the texts into the books.  The goal is that they will use these as we do our daily analysis practice and prepare for the State Standards Based Asessment that they take in their 10th and 11th grade yea and is required for graduation.

I really only write this post as a reminder to myself that as teachers (in any subject) we must continually modify, shift, resurrect, and redefine our teaching practices, according to student need.

Seems like common sense, right?

New Virtual Space, New Creative Space.

I decided to clean my home office now that the holidays are over and there isn’t a stream of junk coming in and out of  the house, with a layover in my office.

So I moved my sewing junk out and in to the spare room, soon to be occupied by my 91 year-old Gram for a while. and organized my school junk.  There is still some Christmas junk in here but I’ll take care of that soon enough.

It started like this …


Then I moved some junk around and sat and stared at this for a while. Say Hello to Obi.


Then by some miracle, it looks like this now.


Say Hello to Pretty Girl and my nice, clean office.  Obi’s hiding there under the desk, too.  What a creeper.

And now to grade, which is actually why I did this in the first place.  My desk was a nightmare.  At least now it’s in contained piles of nightmare.

And I’ve already found this gem in the stack of AP essays I’m grading: “According to William Blake, industry is the catalyst for the destruction of innocence.” It’s in response to the College Board’s 2005 Free Response, Question 1:

The poems below, published in 1789 and 1794, were written by William Blake in response to the condition of chimney sweeps. Usually small children were forced inside chimneys to clean their interiors. Read the two poems carefully. Then, in a well-written essay, compare and contrast the two poems, taking into consideration the poetic techniques Blake uses in each.

It’s my favorite poetry prompt to assign, other than “Crossing the Swamp.”  That one’s up next. Can’t wait!

Is this real life? What do we give up, as educators?

Zero to Hero Day 3 Challenge: Write the post that was on your mind when you decided to start a blog.

Is This Real Life?

That is probably one of my all-time favorite, go-to YouTube videos when I’m having a crummy day.

But in my first week back from school, after winter break, I find myself asking, “Is this real life?”

This winter break, I vowed to spend more time in my “real life,” with my husband, friends, and family. And it was great!  All week, however, I had the nagging feeling that I needed to grade, that I should be planning, and that I wasn’t writing my entries for the National Boards process in which I’m currently engaged. It’s like I couldn’t turn “school life” off and just enjoy myself.

I did have fun. I did relax. And tomorrow is my first anniversary with my husband. We’re going to the same B&B we stayed at on the night we married. Tomorrow night, on the eve of returning to school, I vow to just shut “school life” off.  But in order to do that, I worked for the past two days to plan the first few weeks back to school and tomorrow morning I’ll get up early to grade a little in order to alleviate the guilt.

And as I’m writing this, I just got a text from a very hardworking teacher friend of mine: “I’m in major freak out mode!” She was freaked out that hasn’t planned for the semester, other than what we managed to get done together one afternoon during break, before letting ourselves get distracted with Christmas shopping.

So is this real life?  Do we have to choose one or the other? A real life or a school life?

When I debated leaving education, what kept me were the things that I’ve already committed myself to.  The things I want to see through.  This semester I received a grant to start a writing center in our bilingual office for peer tutoring in Spanish and English writing across the curriculum.  I’m continually revising my curriculum, I’m on the PD committee at school and can participate in the conversation to help support teachers as we move to the CCSS, and most importantly I love my students. I made a commitment to them on the first day of school.

And the kids in my classroom are amazing and it is a privilege to work with them each day.

But what is our commitment to ourselves?

Gallery: Beautiful words from TEDxMet, immortalized as art

Note-taking as an art form. AVID’s Cornell Notes just got a lot less cool but by contrast a lot more helpful. I wonder what the curve of forgetting is for these notes?

TED Blog

When the lights went down at TEDxMet, a TEDx event hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in October, anyone looking very closely could see a tiny light in the first row, casting a dim glow on a lucite desk. The desk was created for artist Alice Attie, who sat with a piece of paper and pen in hand, drawing intently as each speaker took the stage.

The drawings were part of a project she calls Class Notes, which started as visual reimaginings of Columbia University graduate lectures on physics and philosophy. Her collaboration with the Met captured the spirit of that project, using the talks at TEDxMet as fodder for her art. As you’ll see in the gallery below, each drawing is a delicate web of words spoken during the talk, intricately arranged into a shape that captures the feel of that talk’s content and delivery. In short, they’re…

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Hello, world!

I’m super pumped, jazzed, excited, thrilled, psyched, enlivened, and whatever other adjectives come to mind, about this blog.  I’ve tried blogging before.  And if ever there is a website called Blog Fail, like Pinterest Fail, I’ll be all over that!

Given my many failed attempts at the blog-o-sphere, I’m trying the Zero to Hero 30 Days Challenge so that I can actually make this happen.  The first challenge is to “Introduce Yourself.”

And here I am, introducing myself.

And I have lots to say about education and what it’s like to be an educator in this crazy age of testing, Common Core, testing, teacher evaluations, and more testing.

I teach 12th grade AP  English literature and English 11 at a public high school. I’m also the Language Arts department chair (not English, as the Spanish Language Arts teachers have moved in with us, to create a true Language Arts Department) and the Bilingual Co-Coordinator (which is essentially why the Spanish Language Arts teachers moved in with us).

I am also curious about what happens next.  Will I be a classroom teacher for the rest of my life? This is what I’m trying to figure this out, as I’m also navigating the halls of my high school (both literally and figuratively).

This should be fun!