Notes from Room 56

Friday, August 30, 2013

This here post is going to consist of notes from the most favorite day of mine in recent weeks, a bright shining light in the midst of epic amounts of studying and self-created house arrest.

I watched the PBS documentary

I read all four of his books

I found all of the web articles I could on it

I packed my lunch

I made a list of questions

I screamed

Seriously, I screamed of happiness

I seriously couldn't believe this was happening...

{Disclaimer: If you are not familiar at all with the world of education and its state in this country, and those few educators who give us all hope, then you may not understand my giddiness about this here situation. And you should probably go observe any class for a day and thank a teacher anyway. But this will be worth the read, trust me}
I visited Room 56, and saw the Hobart Shakespeareans in action!
Who are the Hobart Shakespeareans you ask? What is Room 56 you ask? Why does this make me crazy, you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Room 56 is the classroom of Rafe Esquith, a 5th grade teacher in one of the roughest neighborhoods you'll ever cross in inner-city Los Angeles. His classroom consists of average 10-year olds, many of whom come from broken homes, or whose parents work 4 jobs just to provide, or who came to school not knowing a lick of English. It's all an unfortunate statistic that many Americans and educators even refuse to admit or acknowledge.

To many, you would just stop there. Nu uh, no way. I'm heading to the suburbs.

But, don't. You won't regret it.

I emailed Rafe during summer vacation about visiting his classroom. How did I hear about it? Books. He wrote four books, all of which are incredible, and if you care any about the state of education in our wondrous, free country, you have got to go buy them. An even better reason, every penny he sees from the book sales go right back to his classroom. So why not help a teacher out?

So I visited Room 56 this past Wednesday, on the 28th. I was blown away. These are ordinary kids, but they are achieving great things. Incredible things. They create beautiful latch hook rugs, put on a Shakespeare play, have guitar lessons, read literature (like true books, you know, Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, The Westing Game...), and so much more. I mean, you just have to see it for yourself.

His classroom is a safe haven. Many students stay there for more than 12 hours a day studying, practicing their lines or music, or just hanging out. And it's all voluntary. The focus is on the kids, and they love it. It was only the second week of school when I visited a few days ago, and this classroom showed a level of learning and excitement that you don't even see in the last month of school in most classrooms.

Proactive, not reactive.

There is a reverse problem here - Students ditch home to be at school when they are sick!

They do the things they do and work as hard as they do so their lives will be better.

Notable things I learned:

Don't play a video game on baseball, play the game

Don't take a test on Hamlet, act the play

Don't play guitar hero, learn the guitar

Let the kids solve their own problems

Raise expectations

Don't drown them in homework

Kids want a challenge

Kids love singing, I mean, they absolutely LOVE singing "Mambo Italiano" (It's for the Shakespeare play/production they put on at the end of the year - Cymbeline 2014)

A teacher is a professional explainer

We're in this together! (Part of a team of teachers across the country!)

The kids actually WANT to be there for Shakespeare! (40 kids were in there singing and practicing their lines for Shakespeare, and one was a third grader! He was EIGHT! Memorizing Shakespeare, comprehending all of it, and enjoying it!)

For the Shakespeare plays they put on at the end of each year - professional instructors teach instruments/music, choreography, videographers, lighting, sound system. It's a professional-grade production on a high level. Of fifth graders who know and understand and best of all, enjoy Shakespeare.

The phrase "Work Hard Be Nice" of the KIPP schools was taken from Rafe after the founders visited his classroom in the planning stages of the project. They just reversed it.

Don't condone unfair punishment - Don't punish the whole class for what one student didn't do.

Give them suggestions as they write - and practice the "'dreaded rewrite," where instead of giving a bad grade, the student rewrites for a better grade. They will learn to see and correct their mistakes the first time - no one likes to do an assignment more than once!

Hobart Shakespeareans know the importance of presentation. I saw a paper one student wrote that literally looked like it was typed. This goes for all things - assignments, appearance..

Employ a class economic system  - If you can handle money, you'll be better off.

Everything done in this safe haven is so your life will be better.

You have to be able to work together

Wait time - Don't just cut the student off, wait for him or her to get it. This builds confidence and he'll work harder.

Start a large project you work on the entire year - they do latch hook rugs. Pick their designs, count the colored strings, follow a grid pattern. It is so cool. (I have a small one that's a pillow of a tiger I made with my grandma - omom - a while back, so this really made me want to go to the store and get materials to make a rug! They are beautiful!)

Large projects: focus, patience, concentration, organization...

One project leads to the next - the ticket to string art is a completed rug

These students have a respect and friendship for the teacher - as soon as he speaks, the chatting stops and they listen.

Levels of thinking/actions
Level 1: I don't want to get in trouble
Level 2: I want a reward
Level 3: I want to please others
Level 4: I just follow the lead
Level 5: I'm considerate of others
Level 6: I have my own set of rules and values
...Which one do you think Hobart Shakespeareans are on?

And I could go on and on and on and on and on and on.....

One of the coolest parts - I was there from around 945 to 3 or so when all the students and the teacher left. Many of the students are in the class at 6am, and many stay after everyone else is off the campus. At the end of the day, before dismissal, everyone gives compliments to each other - I really like how so and so helped me with my rug, or how so and so and so sang "Let It Be" so well, or how so and so helped me with my expanded form, etc.

I seriously was just over the moon, my heart was smiling the entire time I was there, and it was hard to contain! I know there are many wonderful teachers just like Rafe out there, and it was such and incredible experience to just meet one and see him in action. I want to meet more, I need to see more! To see his class structure, what a typical day looks like, his teaching methods, his calm demeanor, his love for the children. Or the little adults, I should say, because these kids have learned so much, and read so much, that many adults wouldn't dare be quizzed on today. Just absolutely wonderful!

Anyway. He incorporates things he really enjoys - baseball, guitar, and Shakespeare - into the regular curriculum, which makes teaching more enjoyable, and also makes learning more enjoyable for the kids because they see the passion. Rafe is a seasoned veteran, who's been teaching for decades, full of life, who is absolutely fantastic at what he does. So humble. Taught me how to transform a classroom into a safe haven, a place full of life and learning so fun that the kids don't even realize they're learning (perhaps).

After reading his books, I had to meet him. After emailing him, I couldn't believe it! I came, I saw, I loved it, I'm soaking it in. After contemplating my choice to study education for over two and a half years, those years starting right after high school, the two things that solidified my decision (last summer, 2012) to become a professional explainer, or a teacher, were: After reading Rafe's books, and after watching Matilda (and of course, Miss Honey). There is nothing else I would rather be studying or doing. This is it, ladies and gents.

The hour and a half drive that turned into over a three hour drive home was more than worth it (Thank you Los Angeles traffic)

Graduation, come faster, please? I'd really appreciate getting my own classroom like right now! Thanks.

There is so much more I can add. You just have to see it for yourself. First, take a look at his books, because if you buy a book, you're supplying a student a ticket to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or to the Pixar studios, or to the Salinas valley and the boyhood home of John Steinbeck, to DC, to Yosemite, to the Black Hills, to a Dodgers game. Everything he has is given right back to the kids. Isn't that how it should be?

There is hope for this country yet. It all starts in the classroom.

God Strong Online Study - Week 5

Week 5 - Worship and Worry
 Reading Chapter 9 & 10 of GOD STRONG
Verse to savor:
And Jesus answered Him, It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only. Luke 4:8
Hebrews 2:14-18
An illustration of how the hope we have in Christ makes us GOD STRONG!
Things to know:
Worship = understanding of who God is and who is our authority (God)
Worry = not trusting God (He knows all things and has our best interests in mind)
Worship can defeat worry, but they cannot coexist.
1. Worship is not about what we can do for God but what God has already done for us.
~Thank Him first
~He is God, He is good, and has our best in mind
2. Our weapon against worry is always worship
~Worship: get scripture into your heart and mind
~Keep your hope and focus on Him
3. Our only hope is in Christ
~He is the way, the truth, and the life
~Take your needs to God!
Rely on Him and be confident - we will be with him for eternity - here is there for us!
We can be God Strong - His strength is what will carry us through, it is greater than us!


God Strong Online Study - Week 4

Okay, so I realize I haven't posted about this study since JUNE. Did you get that? Over two months ago. I finished this study months ago and haven't made the time to finish posting about what I learned! How crazy is that! So now I've decided to grace yall with information overload - the last few weeks (4 & 5) of this study in only a day. Yeah, yeah, that's life. I've been overwhelmed and have lots going on right now. Trust me.

So without further adieu...

Week 4 - Our Hurts and Joys
Verses to savor:
In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other... Ecclesiastes 7:14
He makes the good bad - our lows bring us closer to Him as we learn to rely on Him
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience  various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
Reading Chapter 7 & 8 of GOD STRONG
Focus: How do we handle our hurts?
1. We look for God to heal
2. We stop fighting to avoid disappointments and focus on our blessing instead
3. We listen for God's voice of reassurance
~He is here to handle our hurts
~He is with you, He does not walk away - He is how we overcome our hurts
We have our natural highs and lows. Our joys and hurts, our ups and downs.
We find stories of joy in the bible, such as Joseph's in Genesis 39 and throughout David's Psalms. By the end of the Psalms we see that David praises God and his blessings (praise God from whom all blessings flow!)
Lessons for the day:
~We can have joy despite our circumstances when we trust God to use those circumstances to bring us closer to Him & to make us better today!
Take away:
Will you give those hurts to him?
Will you let yourself find joy?
Will you find this joy in Him?
Bottom line: We must rely on God and His strength to nurse our hurts and bring us joys of  military life! {Or for non milso's, your regular life as a/an {insert job description here}}.


worst blogger ever?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I apologize for I've been completely behind and elsewhere when it comes to this blog lately.  I can't believe how quickly I went from posting 2-4 times a week to once every other week. What has gotten into me? Worst blogger ever award right here.

So, it's almost SEPTEMBER! This is a big month.

But first, there's something big coming up in the next few days, the last days of August. I am visiting Rafe Esquith's 5th grade classroom - the Hobart Shakespeareans - at Hobart Elementary in inner-city Los Angeles. I am so excited!!! I'll be spending an entire day with them (not exactly, though, since many kids are there studying for nearly 12 hours a day) but I'm excited to see the class in action. It is a year-round school, so when  I contacted Rafe a while ago about scheduling a visit they were on summer vacation, which is shorter since holiday breaks are much longer. I didn't even think of that!

Anyway, I'm going to be brainstorming probing questions for the students and the teacher, and I need to plan what I'm taking for lunch. And be sure my alarm is set for the hour and a half drive in the morning. And watch the PBS documentary to prep. (I've already read all of his books) So worth it. Any teacher bloggers out there - please post questions you may have for him, and I will ask on your behalf! I plan on creating a blog post complete with pictures, itinerary, and dialogue, from the day! Obviously I can't wait to experience this classroom and to gain inspiration for mine one day!

Back to September. I start traveling to different schools in the area to teach the after school stem program on weekdays. And I have the entire class to myself - my own classroom - reality check! Excited for what this year has in store! I'm going to miss those summer camps though.

It's fall. Which means my last fall semester of undergrad! I just finish the first week of classes, and tomorrow starts week 2. Counting down the days until my last day & graduation...266 days to go!

Then, well, that's really the essentials of the big happenings for me, anyway.

I almost forgot, we have BLUE BELL!! Imported from the lone star state! It's wonderful to have a piece of home (okay, make that four pieces of home - four half gallons, that is) in our freezer.

Photo: Our blue bell has arrived :) Four half gallons - 2 homemade vanilla, 1 butter pecan, and 1 red velvet cake. The hardest decision I've had to make this week is deciding which flavors we wanted!
And if there is anything else I think of, I shall post that at a later date.
Itinerary for tomorrow: Start week 2, Room 56 prep, and watch Matilda.
p.s. Happy Birthday to Marshall, Dray, and Elaina! (two days late since I didn't post before)
p.p.s. Happy Birthday to my mom (today!)

Booking for Fall

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

So if you've been following this little blog for any time at all, you will learn that I am crazy about books. I mean, I even answered an ad on craigslist giving away 8 - that's right, EIGHT - boxes full of children's books (completely free). They are now filling two bookcases and are all too exited to be in the classroom one day to be utilized.  (If you live in the area and are in need of some - come at me!  I have about 2 of those I sorted through and wanted to pass on) And let me tell you, there were so many Caldecott and Newberry books, and others I remember from my childhood, I thought I was going to burst, I couldn't contain it. There were also 2 that will be very special to me - a children's version of the bible, complete with illustrations in an easy to read format, and a big book of Christian crafts, ready for my first days in preschool sunday school coming up.
But enough about that. As I've had a free weekend after my summer classes and before my fall classes, I have read the following:
This is absolutely hilarious, and so true in so many ways.

I will always love reading Clive Staples Lewis.
The girl who had it all, and lost it all - in less than a day. A great lesson for women of all ages on how to get your priorities back on track when times get rough, and to F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely On God) through all situations. (Did you catch my sunday school reference?!)
Love love love. This is always by my desk and I'm learning how to pray for Marshall on a regular basis as he needs. This is something you'd regret if you passed on it!
So that's it for now... I had training for the fall program at work today and am getting excited...Thankfully I have my schedule as well, and the day that the majority of my homework is due I'm off - whoop! Also, I took in my dress to be fitted for the birthday ball (in October...better be prepared right?) and should have it in another week. I can't wait to show y'all and finally go to a Marine Corps birthday ball - this October is the Marines' 238th birthday! It's only 2 months away - it really came up on us out of nowhere this time. Also, I need to eat, and work on homework - first week of fall classes that I need to get organized and start on. (Can't wait to graduate next May and get that degree in my hands!! Thank you Liberty!!!) So that's all for now!

celebrations & explorations

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I know my posting has been sporadic lately, but hey. Life happens.

The stud had a 96 over the weekend - basically a 4 day weekend for good work - so we went out to celebrate. We spent a day road-tripping up the coast, Scruffy came along with us, and ended up in Santa Barbara for lunch/dinner and a little exploring .Scruffy absolutely loved it! We also spent a day (yesterday) going out to a casino in the mountains since I'm actually legal now. We got a free buffet and won $5! Hey, we didn't lose anything, we won something! And the buffet had sushi, which is something I've been crazy about lately. So happy.

This morning Marshall was promoted and I pinned on his new rank - whoop!

We went to get our information updated in the system and received new military ids right after, as well.

Today is also our anniversary - 2 years of marriage down, forever to go!

Here are a few no particular order:



Attention all MILSO's in SO CAL!!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ladies, Lattes, and The Lord- Carlsbad/Oceanside, CA

Attention all Military Wives in southern California, save the date: August 16, 2013!
Do you or another milso you know live in southern California, near Camp Pendleton? If so, then please come out to connect over fellowship and coffee with other military wives in your community!

Wives of Faith is hosting, "Ladies, Lattes, and The Lord," a fun event, a girls night out, to connect with other military wives in your community. Come join us in fellowship over a cup of coffee.
It is from 530-7pm at The Coffee Bean in Carlsbad (Address on page - link below).
Please RSVP, invite a friend, and can't wait to see you there!! More details here, and if you have any questions let me know!

Click on the photo above or link below to RSVP!
If you are in the greater San Diego area and Oceanside is too far for you, then check out the same event taking place in Chula Vista the same night.
If you do not fall into either of these categories, then I encourage you to check out Wives of Faith's website and either browse posts or ask an admin if there is an event in your area.
It's only a week away - and this is the event I am leading I was talking about before - and I am so excited!! If you are a fellow milso blogger in socal, please come to the event - I would absolutely love to meet you. I will be leading the one in Oceanside/Carlsbad. 
And of course, Please don't hesitate with any questions, yall.

winding down for fall...maybe?

Welp, as yall can see, I haven't been a good blogger lately. At all. Since before summer started. I've had a ridiculous summer.

Summer has been full of volunteer meetings, job searching, teaching summer camps, family visiting, being tourists, visits to the dog park, settling into our church, vbs week, planning my senior year, and school. Lots of school.

The summer is winding down and now I am faced with the fall. Technically, though, this transition will start this weekend as I go into church for a meeting for all the Sunday school teachers about the new fall series we are undergoing. So excited about this! Then next week we have a promotion, and there is a Wives of Faith event I am leading for the area. Then finals are due and I only get a weekend of break before my fall classes start and I have training for work since the camps are over and we are moving into the after-school programs. Then the month finishes by visiting Room 56, Rafe Esquith's inspiring 5th grade classroom in inner-city LA, and getting my volunteer packet in the mail for the Women of Faith conference in Anaheim early next month.

Is that too much for ya to read? Well, my busy summer won't be over until May 9th, 2014, my LAST day of undergrad! I am taking a full load on this fall, and almost as much next spring. I am also praying for a job at a Christian school here as the receptionist, and that may start this fall also. Last I heard, the school desperately needs one, and they are waiting to hear back about the budget. They've already been waiting months.

My fall textbooks got in a few days ago, and I am really really excited about this fall. 18 hours on top of a job and another potential job will be a lot, but  I can't wait to be busy and feel even more accomplished. And it will all be worth it next May when I will be done with school (but I am never done learning) and start applying to positions at Christian schools in the area. Or even better, that position I was talking about becoming available, full time... Hmmm... A girl can dream, right?

So tomorrow Disney's Planes is in theatres and I'm very excited. Next week my fall classes are available online and that also makes me excited. I also have only 2 weeks left of my summer classes.. Whoop! Can't think of much else here.

I'll finish with a beautiful picture of the local beach. Next, a post completely full of pictures of the wonder that is southern California beaches. We went last weekend, and it was a nice little afternoon. It's extra nice since it's only a short 8-block walk away! This picture was taken on a slightly cloudy night... Still beautiful. Anyone else out here want to meet up for the beach?

nostalgia pt. 1

Monday, August 5, 2013

What a strange thing, to be awake in the wee hours of the morning wishing you were back in high school. Okay, not completely, but looking though years of pictures makes me miss them. A lot. Things are quite different around here.

What started this? Um, DUH. OF COURSE it was listening to Taylor Swift...I prefer her earlier music much, much better. Haven't heard her for a long time. Actually, probably not since my brother-in-law had her new cd in when we were driving around Rockwall, the week we were back home in February in the middle of the move. But seriously listened to it? Yeah, high school it is. I know I almost didn't talk to one of my best friends ever again because she tried to listen to T-Swift on the way to band practice before junior year and I couldn't stand it (really that was like a day after we met), but things change. I had a strange relationship with T-Swift. Summer before senior year she came back into my life. I think she came back more when I was going down the road to San Jac for dual credit half the summer before senior year. T-Swift and my little t-bird made it bearable. For a little, at least.

And now she's back.

No, not with revenge.

With nostalgia.

Moving smack dab in the middle of high school was probably one of the best things that shaped my awkward teen years. Moving back home to Texas made it even better. And better yet, to the gulf. Houston is home. I mostly grew up there, at least. For half my childhood, that is. The important years in elementary school. And yeah, Those 4 years in the land of cheese were great, but only because of the people. I had much more fun going back each summer to visit for 2 weeks at a time than I probably did living there, because I didn't have to deal with the ridiculous bipolar winters. Snow in June, freezing rain in August, 50 degrees in January. It's madness, I tell ya. Those two summers weren't near as bad.

Moving back, only like 30 minutes from my childhood home (at least 6 years of it), was nice. I miss Sugar Land (half of my childhood right there), but it's changed drastically and has had like ten growth spurts since I've lived there. A decade ago. I still can't believe the Imperial Sugar plant is closed. The namesake for the city is gone! Where's the fun in that? No more eating free sugar packets from the factory tour each night for a week straight.... I must have been a wild child.

It's crazy to think how much people shape you. Even years after you've seen or talked to them.

It's sad to think how often I stay up reading because my nose is too far into a book to be able to get a wink of sleep otherwise. Or because I'm too exhausted I can't do anything but stay up all night listening to Taylor Swift. Funny, actually. Goodness, I don't think I've written like this for years.

Let's see, what's changed...

{stay tuned for part 2!}

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