1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Challenge

I started blogging for the first time about 7 weeks ago.  I was pretty good about adding one post per week, but then I got busy…you know, grading, lesson planning, communicating with parents, etc.  As quickly as I had started, I had stopped.

So… I am back and doing so by completing the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Challenge.

  1.  What has been your ONE biggest struggle this school year?

It is interesting how different each school year is from the next.  Sometimes I think that the struggles come from “more.”  This year, we are in the first of a three year process of curriculum mapping grades 6-12.  I am really struggling with this process as it looks like so much of what I do as a teacher, those things that make me…me, are being removed.  I see a lot of potential with this new format, but I feel like I am losing “me” in the process.  I have shed a few tears along the way, but I keep hoping that I will be able to incorporate my style into this new format.  There is significant research to back this thematic style of teaching (I teach 8th grade Language Arts), but I am struggling with appropriateness of thematic units (and nothing but thematic units) for middle school.  Middle school students are not just small high school students.  They learn differently, partly because of the changes in their hormones.  I look forward to trying this new format, but am fearful that my students are not developmentally ready.

2. Name TWO accomplishments that you are proud of this year.

This one is easier to answer.  🙂

–The first accomplishment is that I have improved my technology use in the classroom this year. I have watched colleagues incorporate technology in their lessons for years, but I just felt that I lacked the knowledge to use it myself.  The extent of my classroom technology use had been Microsoft Word.  So I dove into Google (Slides, Docs, Forms, etc.) and Twitter.  I even started a class Twitter account (thanks to my new assistant principal).  I have enjoyed learning new technology — and learning A TON from my students in the process.

After ISTEP is over next week, I plan to turn the classroom Twitter page (@HoeppnerWMS) over to my students.  I am eager to have more parent followers as they watch for their child’s posts.

–My second accomplishment is more personal.  As an avid reader, I am passionate about helping my students find passion in reading as well.  I have so many students who have found a love of reading this year and who go home and recommend books to their parents and siblings.  I had one young man write me a thank you note for exposing to him to poetry (elegies in particular) because writing poetry gave him an outlet to grieve the loss of his mother.  Needless to say, I cried like a baby when reading his thank you letter.  This is a memory I will hold with me always.

3.  What are THREE things you wish to accomplish before the end of the school year?

–I want to see my school Twitter account blow up!  🙂  I want to see my students become reflective writers as part of this Twitter account.  So often, students turn in work that is less than their best because they know I (the teacher) am the only one reading it.  I am hoping that by tweeting posts that a vast audience will read, they will be more motivated to do their best work.

–I want to help my students become better writers.  I started thematic notebooks last year (thank you Nancy Atwell).  This is a great way for students to write frequently while about a topic in which they are personally interested.  I am looking for more ways to incorporate writing into my lessons (aside from the traditional standards).


–I want to teach my first thematic unit.  I teach a Holocaust unit each year with Night by Elie Weisel.  I plan to incorporate short stories, picture books, poetry, and music into this unit in an attempt to make it more memorable for the students.  I am open to ideas.  🙂

4.  Give FOUR reasons why you remain in education in today’s rough culture.

–Students:  they keep me young. I sometimes go home overwhelmed, tired, and unsure.  But, when I think about each one of my students (past and present), I can think of no better profession than education.

–The future:  I still have this Utopian view that I might make the world a better place by educating our future.

–Love of learning:  I can always learn.  I am amazed how much motivation and energy I get from reading professional development (books, Twitter, etc.).  I know I am still in education because I still get energized by new ideas and strategies for classroom instruction.

–Passion for pedagogy:  I cannot get enough strategy.  Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, Nancy Atwell, Donalyn Miller and more have renewed my passion for teaching and teaching Language Arts. Kids can and do enjoy reading.  I have seen it.  🙂

5.  Which FIVE people do you hope will take the challenge of answering these questions.

–All teachers.  I have read others’ blogs for years but never felt I had anything to offer that others would want to read.  I want to see all teachers share their day-to-day experiences.  Perhaps then, we can truly develop plans and strategies that will meet the needs of ALL students.

–I would love to see Rachel Storer (@rstorer23) write a  blog.  Her wit and humor are perfect, and her knowledge of Special Education is remarkable.  I learn something new from her every day.  She could teach all General Education teachers a lot!






The Power of Reflection


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Dictionary.com has many definitions for reflection. I found one most interesting — “an unfavorable remark or observation.”  What an odd definition for such a powerful tool.  I have been asking my students to reflect on their work for years — knowing that through reflection we grow in our understanding of both ourselves and the content we are learning. As I further pondered this definition, I began to see some truth in it.  Through reflection, we see how things (life, love, teaching, etc.) could have been done differently.  I guess if it could have been done differently, that means I failed the first time, right?

I think (no, I know) that it is this fear of failure that has kept me from blogging.  I have read, commented, and even tweeted, but blogging seemed too far out of my comfort zone — what on Earth do I have to say that someone else would be interested in  reading?

Now, I have always been a reflective thinker.  I reflect on each day’s lesson, pouring over the details, wondering why the same lesson worked with some classes and not others.  My reflective process, however, often involved post-it notes and “to-do” lists.  Blogging, not so much.

Today marks my 4th post, and as I write, I am finally realizing the cathartic nature of reflecting…reflecting for others to see.  This is no private journal.  I am letting the world experience my successes and failures because an authentic audience adds purpose.  Yes, I reflected on my teaching, but now others can reflect on it as well.  What better way to grow than to let others in and take part in your growth?

I feel today how I have always hoped my students would feel as they reflected on their own work — stronger.  I fear that probably has not been the case.  What was their authentic audience?  I had not given them one — an audience of one may not be enough.  Tomorrow starts a new day, a day in which I engage my students in writing beyond just me as the reader.  Here’s to tomorrow.

What ways do you bring authenticity into the classroom?