Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2014

Odd Day

Today was an odd day.
I woke up with a sinus headache that seemed to diminish as my spirits improved;
however, these were short-lived.
I lost some important documents that, while replaceable,
will be one more thing on my to do list that I'd rather not have.

Most of my students had tests today and so I didn't push in.
I mostly worked with my emergent ESL students and even that was cut short by a too long Monday Morning Meeting.

I was glad when I got home so that I could search for these illusive documents that don't want to be found.

I'm going to let it go for a day or two and, if I don't find them, then I'll have to replace them.
Maybe then I'll find them.

Tomorrow has to be a better day.

Cross posted to the March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #31.

Sneaking Around

While everyone is watching Dumb and Dumber, for the umpteenth time, I sneak away to write my slice for today. And, as I do, I realize that I am often sneaking away to do something or other while everyone else is otherwise occupied.

In the wee hours of the morning, I sneak out of bed to do some work. Work. That is my catch all term for school work and doctoral work.

While my son is in his piano or art class, I sneak away to the bookstore for a few moments of browsing through the shelves.

While everyone else eats cafeteria food, I sneak away to the corner sandwich place by myself. It's my time to meditate and ruminate the day.

While my son and husband are in the pool, I sneak away for a mani-pedi. (Is that OK to say on a serious teacher blog??)

While my students are doing independent reading, I sneak around to observe their reading positions, what they're reading, and how engaged they seem to be. Then, I confer with them, one-on-one, about what they're reading.

When my stude…

Another Busy Saturday

Just another busy Saturday.

I got up early.
I was in and out of the house several times during the day,
I'm almost ready to go to sleep.
It's close to 10:00 p.m.
I don't have much energy to post anything long or too complex.

Maybe just that I'm upset about the lack of progress
on the house we're building;
there are some things we're not happy about,
including how long everything is taking.
Plus, the money we've spent.
And, we're not done yet.

We need to be patient but firm.
We need to demand what we envisioned
and were promised.

Makes me sad in a way.
Our dream house.
Maybe the last house we'll build or own.
The house we've been talking about for the past 8 years or so.
That house that got interrupted when we moved to Canada.
Now, it needs to happen.

We'll make it happen.

Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #29.

Small. Inconveniences

No internet again. Writing on my iPhone but not enjoying it at all. I had plans to continue my series of posts on assessment tonight but it's not going to happen. Just checking in so I don't miss a slice day. I guess this is my slice - a regular part of what my life is like living in a developing country. I can live with these small interruptions because the benefits are so much greater. Hopefully, by tomorrow there will be wifi and I can slice on my laptop. 

Who is responsible for making sure students learn?

Over the next few days, I am going to try to respond to some of the questions I posed in yesterday's post about assessment. You can read that post here. I don't pretend to have all the answers to these questions but ruminating about them allows me to consider some possible solutions or points of view. I invite readers of this blog to engage in this conversation with me. 

I also want to acknowledge my PLN - #sblchat - for bold discussions on standards based grading and learning that are enriching my thinking about assessment.

Whose responsibility is it to make sure students learn? 
Is it the responsibility of parents? 
Or, perhaps a combination of two or more of the above?

The short answer to this question is: everyone who touches the life of a child is responsible for his or her learning. This includes the child, of course. However, when it comes to learning in schools there is no doubt in my mind that the primary person responsible for a child's learning is t…

Questions on Assessment

In my conversations with teachers, and in no particular order, the following questions keep coming up. Some questions are borne out of a deep frustration with practices that are not working, and with students that don't do school the way teachers think they should. 

I offer these questions as food for thought. In future posts, I will attempt to answer them from my current perspective as a middle school ESL teacher. 

I welcome comments on any of these questions including new questions that need to be addressed.

Whose responsibility is it to make sure students learn? 
Is it the responsibility of parents? 
Or, perhaps a combination of two or more of the above?

What should teachers do to prepare students for an upcoming assessment? Is that even the right question to ask?

Is it enough to have students review material before a test? 
What does that mean exactly?
Should teachers provide study guides?

If a teacher provides a study guide, with time in class for review, and provides…

Another Challenge

In January, two new 6th grade students enrolled in my school.
Both are beginner ESOL students.
One studied English in her native country and the other one attended an international school here before transferring to my school.
They're both making progress.
Student A is outgoing and a risk taker.
Student B is shy and doesn't like to speak in English too much.
Today student A was arguing, in a respectable way, with the math teacher about a problem she missed on a quiz. Arguing!


In the end, we realized that the issue wasn't the math; the teacher and my student basically agreed.
The issue was how the problem was worded. Although I could see how it could be interpreted to mean one thing, I could also see how my student read this problem because I read it in exactly the same way.
This incident demonstrates that learning a language is an amalgam of nuanced experiences and encounters that go beyond memorizing vocabulary or knowing how to use punctuation appropriately…


Today I read a post about not letting challenges get in the way of who we want to become or what we want to accomplish. In fact, according to the writer, challenges are the way to claim necessary changes, and to face our fears.

Yet, sometimes it feels like I overcome challenges, and then a little time later I am faced with new challenges that need to be addressed. But, I need to remind myself that challenges are not obstacles placed in my way to obstruct my path. Rather, challenges are what will get me to the next stage of my life, the next great project, the next dream realized.

Challenges to what I want are the ones I should welcome.

Challenges will make me stronger though it may not seem that way at first.

Knowing that I am deserving of whatever big dream I have right now, is what's going to push me forward. Welcoming the challenges is the icing on the cake.

Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #24.

Sunday Nights

When I was growing up, I dreaded Sunday nights.
As soon as 5:00 pm rolled around, a wave of sadness and melancholy descended on me.

Sunday nights signalled another week of school was about to start.

Sunday nights seemed empty.
Stores closed early, and
everyone would prepare for another week of work.

Sunday nights were a reminder of all that I had planned to do on the weekend,
but had never gotten around to.

Sunday nights meant a rush of adrenalin as I remembered unfinished homework, or an upcoming test.

But on Friday afternoons, Sunday nights seemed far away.

Over the years, this feeling has lessened somewhat.
I don't feel sad or melancholy quite as often.
However, I still panic when I bring home a ton of work to do
and never do any of it.

This weekend I had a lot of things on my to do list and not one of them got crossed off.
I'm going to start my week, the way I ended it:
an untouched "to do" list and a heavy bag of unopened books.

This week my goal is to bring ho…

Phew! What a Long Day!

What a long day!

First stop: my son's piano class.

Second stop: my son's art class.

Third stop: to check out progress on the house we're building outside of Quito, near the new airport.

Fourth stop: the pool for my husband and son; the beauty parlor for me. (Are they even called beauty parlors anymore? In Spanish, it's "peluqueria".)

Fifth and sixth stops: to pick up a head lamp and rubber boots for my son's overnight school trip this week.

And, finally, we're home.

We left at 9:20 am and returned at 6:00 pm.
Now, that's a long day!
But, it's not over yet.
My husband and I are going out on a date in a little while; it has been a busy week.

Tomorrow breakfast at Café de la Vaca,

and a hike to Cotopaxi National Park.

I love the weekend!

Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #22nd.


Deep breath.
I just finished my monthly Skype call with my doctoral advisors in Australia.
Yes, I am getting my doctorate.
And working full time.
It has been difficult but satisfying.
It's one of the biggest professional challenges I've had to face in my life.

Now, I am officially a doctoral candidate.
That sounds pretty spiffy, doesn't it?
But, it's a lot of work.
There are too many distractors.
I have a deadline looming for June,
so I need to buckle down over the next month.
Do lots of reading and writing.
It's reading and thinking that's important to me as a professional.
Otherwise, I wouldn't do it.
But, it's still hard work.
Sometimes I feel like giving up.
Am I a scholar?
So, the doubt creeps in and I have to do a lot of self-talk.
I push through.
Sometimes, my confidence needs a boost.
I'm the only one that can do that.
It just takes courage, my one little word for this year.

So, back to practical matters - I know what I need …

Day #19 - I'm Still Here!

OK. This is the post where I marvel at the fact that I've stuck with this challenge for 19 days.
I never thought I would make it this far.
I'm writing every day after dinner. I've tried writing early in the morning or during preps at school but the inspiration, or maybe the pressure, hasn't been there so I've put it off. Even though I panic as I scour my brain for brilliant topics to write about, I still write. 
So, although some posts have not been all that great, they've been ruminations capturing a moment in time or an emergent idea or thought.
The act of writing every day may produce some weak posts and then some better ones. The writing that I do now will help elevate the quality of future posts. At least, that is my thinking and my experience as a teacher and as a writer.
By making these sometimes rambling thoughts public I expose myself and welcome other voices into the conversation. This, in and of i…

Bedtime Conversation

Last night's conversation at bedtime:
My son: "Mami, I think that keeping a diary is making me a better person."
Me: "Oh? How's that?"
My son: "Well, I'm not on screens as much."

Yes on both counts.

I wondered if the fact that I'm slicing every night has anything to do with his sudden interest in keeping a diary?

Either way, there's nothing to add.
Writing, of any kind, does make us better people.
I couldn't have said it better myself.

Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #18.

Reflection on a Monday Night

I yawned all day today.
I tried to stop but I couldn't.
I wasn't tired, just bored,
I think,
when I was pushing in to classrooms.
Once I stepped out into the fresh air,
and took deep breaths,
I felt better.

Was it easier to breathe in my own classroom?
Some days I don't care to answer that question.

Now, I have to wonder how the kids were feeling.
Did they need some fresh air?
Space to move around?
Opportunities for accountable talk?
Movement breaks?

How would I feel stuck to a desk for an hour at a time?
Having someone talk at me non stop?
What if I was afraid of asking a question,
or to borrow a pencil or to go the bathroom?

Teachers have the power to make or break a child.
With our words we can do great deeds.
We can elevate someone or crush them to pieces.
We can affirm,
ask questions we really don't know the answers to,
we can show respect, love, and kindness.

So, why would we choose to break down a child?
And, yes it is a choice.

Cross posted to March Slice of Li…

Perceptions and more

I have three beautiful children, two girls and a boy. I love them all equally and have never worried that I might be playing favourites. They are similar and different at the same time and their unique personalities add so much to our family.
Today my son said that since all parents have favourites, he wanted to know which of the three of them I preferred. And, the truth is that, I prefer all of them equally. I know it is widely assumed that parents have favourites. Perhaps some parents do; my own mother probably did or at least I thought she did, which makes me wonder if I've done or said anything to make my son think that I have a favourite child? Of course, he could have been pushing my buttons just to get a reaction from me. Nevertheless, he argued that we have favourite family members outside our immediate family, so by extrapolation the same can be said of a special preference for one of my children. I can't imagine having a favourite child and treating any of them diffe…

Posting a Slice

I'm writing this post on my phone, which should be an indication of how my day has gone.
Although I blogged yesterday about my good intentions for the weekend, it hasn't gone quite as planned.

I woke up at 3:00 am wth a searing headache that didn't let up till about 9:30 after a hot shower, and some extra strength Tylenol. Then, off to my son's piano and art classes, back to back. Next stop, the pool but the skies were threatening and the air was cool.

Scratch the pool.

Next stop, the mall to pay some bills and get my son's picture developed for his photography class. Check.

Another stop to pick up some movies at the video store. And, finally we arrived home for dinner and a movie.

Everything's fine even though it didn't start out that way. Then, I went to sit down at my computer and for the last 20 minutes I haven't been able to connect to the internet. Thanks to 3G I can post my slice even if my slice is about having trouble posting.

Tomorrow will be …

It's just another weekend

It's Friday.


This felt like a long week.
I'm not sure why.
But, I'm glad it's Friday.
And, as soon as I finish my slice we're going to watch a movie.
To relax.
Get cozy in bed, just the three of us.

Tomorrow will be for stocking the refrigerator,
taking my son to piano lessons and art class,
and puttering around the house.

And, if I can manage it, I'll participate in Simple K12 webinars on differentiated learning, google docs, and more.
I'm not going to overdo it, though.
Need to maintain perspective.
Saturday and Sunday are for resting and catching up with family.
The webinars, if I can get to them, will be lagniappe.

Sunday maybe we can go to the club for a swim
or to play tennis.

Before we know it, it will be Monday again.
I'm looking forward to another week with my students.
But right now, I'm looking forward to the evening with my son and my husband.
It's just another weekend.

Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge, …


Today I opened Junior Writer, a free website for writing stories that supports students' through spelling lists, and word games, and found a pleasant surprise. As I was browsing through the stories, I found the piece one of my students had been working on yesterday. I started reading it and was blown away. I wish I could post it here for you to see but I didn't ask permission so I can't.

This student, recently arrived from a non-English speaking country is in my ESL class. She writes with a strong voice and a clear sense of story. What was fascinating about this piece is that it turned the idea of writer's block on its head by telling the story of a writer who one day finds himself without any writing ideas. He is baffled and doesn't know what to do. I wondered if this was my student's way of saying that she didn't have any ideas for writing herself? Unfortunately, the story is not finished so I can't tell you how it ends, but I am dying to find out. To…


I've had a headache all day long.

I know its source:
a phone call from my mother.

And why it hasn't let up:

a few disrespectful encounters with two afternoon of working on my school's strategic plan with other teachers. Although the work was good, it was challenging. Everyone ran out of steam before we were finished and we had to push ourselves to do the last part so we wouldn't have to meet again this week. We did it!A phone call from my mother.
I need to work through this relationship and confront the issues. That's what I would tell a student who was having a problem with a friend. But to face up to the facts of this relationship means having to deal with my feelings, and that is a can of worms I am not ready to face, yet.

Talking about this publicly is a good first step.

I'll have to be content with that for now.

Cross posted at March Slice of Life Challenge, Day #12.

The Power of Twitter - PD for 140 characters or less

OK. I know everyone who is on Twitter likes to sing it's praises. 
I am not the first teacher nor will I be the last teacher to do so. 
However, can I say again how awesome Twitter is? And can I say that its awesomeness lies in its potential to inform and teach? And, will you believe me when I say that Twitter can provide the best PD opportunities ever? No, you don't believe me, yet? OK. Allow me to illustrate this point by sharing what happened to me this afternoon.

Earlier today some of us met to discuss the role of mentors in the PYP exhibition project.
I casually brought up the idea of using Facebook (FB) as a way for students to communicate and share their learning with others. Actually, I never got passed mentioning Facebook because almost everyone around the table told me that we couldn't use FB since the students were too young; FB has a 13 year-old limit for users.

But, I wanted to argue, the teacher would be the page administrator who would monitor the content to b…

What a Day!!

Documenting my day. An idea I am trying for today's slice. Thanks to the slicer who started this trend and whose name I cannot remember, but you know who you are!

4:30 - My phone alarm goes off. I slide my finger across the screen, try to get up, and take a 10-minute snooze instead.

4:45 - In the kitchen I boot up my computer, start the coffee, and sit down to write my weekly lesson plans. Much of what I write today is a continuation of last week and in about 30 minutes or so I'm finished.

5:15 - Even though I'd love to crawl back in bed, I stay in the kitchen checking email and monitoring the coffee.

6:05 - I turn to the dirty dishes in the sink and decide to get in the shower instead.

6:20 - I start to wake up my son who, like me, would rather stay in bed.

6:35 - My son finally gets up to take a shower and get dressed. In the meantime, I've gotten dressed and have begun my morning routines, which include making breakfast.

7:05 - My husband and son are sitting at the …


My little word for 2014 is brave.
So, every day I try to do something brave. 
I put myself out on a limb but I am firm. 
I assert my professional knowledge and expertise.

There have been some memorable moments  when I didn't give up  even though insanity prevailed.  In the end, my arguments were valid. I was right to fight for my students.   
Sometimes, I've been less than courageous. 
I've hesitated to take action that would have benefited students. 
Because I have made myself vulnerable when maybe I shouldn't have, I've been burned. It's at these times when fear can take over.  But, I am learning that fear is the enemy of courage.
So, I renounce fear. And, I recommit to being courageous,  a little bit every day.
Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge #10.


I am having a fantastic weekend. And, the best thing about it is that it's not over yet!
We had a visit this weekend from my husband's uncle, his partner and their two friends. We ate and ate and ate, and had lots of wonderful conversations.
When my son found out that they were all leaving tomorrow, he was sad. He asked if they could at least leave tomorrow evening.
Having a full house was great but even better than that were all the conversations, many about teaching since three of our four guests are all retired educators, that we engaged in. I felt validated about some negative events that have taken place at school this year; I am feeling strong about what I need to do. I am somewhat naive and am always amazed that others can see through things when I cannot. But that's not important. What's important is that my hunches were right even though I may doubt myself from time to time. That is what matters.
Cross posted to March Slice of Life Challenge #8.


As soon as I got home from work, I sat down at the computer  to write and do some research for my doctorate.

Now, more than 90 minutes later, I am finally getting around to writing today's SOL post. I did do some checking of a few sources but most of my time on the computer was spent answering emails and reading blog posts. Procrastination? Perhaps. Fear of not having anything to write about? Most likely.

So, here I sit, with no more of an idea of what I'm going to write about than when I first sat down and faced my computer screen. The truth is, I do have some ideas for what I want to write about but they are all connected to school and kids. And, they are mostly reflections of my day or a particular lesson or one of the endless situations that happens at schools. Frankly, I don't think I would want to subject any slicers to reading about those at the moment.

It's Friday. As I look out the window I realize that although it's cloudy right now, I can't remember …

What do you think?

Today someone asked the following question: if you're not in favor of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), then what standards would you propose we replace them with? Although my response below started out somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it has made me think about what it is I really believe.

If it were up to me, I would say no standards.
Instead, I would have the kids brainstorm their passions, those things they would really like to study. Then, I would categorize these with a group of colleagues. Next, I would lay out all of the things (S&B's) that students would be learning if they were allowed to study their passions. Along with this, would be all of the things teachers would be teaching that would help students study what they are truly interested in. Of course, there are other things I would do like reading and writing workshop, etc. Finally, I would present this to your principal. If you did a cross check of this with established standards I bet you would hit all of them and …


Declaration of a one time, reluctant ESL teacher. Thanks to my PLN at #ellchat for helping me to recognize the key role I play as an ESL teacher.

I did not choose this job; it chose me.I had wanted and was initially hired as a classroom teacher. And, although I would love to go back to the classroom, I am understanding the immense responsibility I have.I am becoming an ESL teacher, like I once was becoming a second grade bilingual teacher, and a curriculum coordinator, and an MYP (IB) coordinator, and a learning leader, and the list goes on.I am understanding that whatever my role is in a school, I always do it with integrity and commitment towards my students.I am an advocate for my ESL learners.I can educate classroom teachers and administration about why I do what I do and how I do it.I love my current role because I love working with students.I will also love whatever I end up doing next.I am a lifelong learner and educator.

#evaluatethat (Source: Badass Teachers Association)


Carnival Weekend

This is a short week for schools here in the mountains of Ecuador. We just celebrated Carnival weekend, a four-day holiday that looks nothing like the famed Rio celebration or New Orleans' Mardi Gras. Even though there are parades in many cities, this is primarily a time when people head to the beach. We too made our way to the coast but rather than go straight to the beach, we stopped in the port city of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city.
Although our trip got off on the wrong foot – we missed our flight and instead of the typical 6 ½ hour drive, it took us nine hours in total because there was bumper to bumper traffic on the Andes mountain range, something I’ve never experienced in all my years of living here – the rest of our time in my husband’s birth city went well. Fortunately Guayaquil was relatively empty. Driving around was a breeze. No lines for anything. Well, actually, that’s not true. There was an hour-long line for a special make-it-yourself popular ice cream bar, Mag…

R.I.P. Mr. Lux - addendum

As news of Mr. Lux's passing travelled through the air waves, I began to reflect further on what I tentatively touched on in my post yesterday. (By the way, through most of this post, I refer to E.J. as Mr. Lux because this is more about him as a teacher to my daughter and her friends than it is about E.J. as a colleague.)

What struck me about the messages of condolence was that many of these were from former students who alluded to Mr. Lux as a special teacher whom they will always remember.

These messages were posted on FB, which made me reflect on FB - the good, the bad, and the ugly. So much is exposed on FB and so much more remains hidden. We get snippets of people's lives and we allow ourselves to be lulled by these casual glimpses of big and small events. Not that FB hasn't been good to me - I've connected with many friends and family members over the years; I love being privy to the snippets. Yet, every once in a while something happens; I'm reminded how fr…

R.I.P. Mr. Lux

This is not the post I was intending to write.

I was feeling guilty for having missed Day #1 of the March Slice of Life Challenge yesterday. And, as the clock ticked closer and closer to the 11:59 deadline on Day #2, I still didn't know what I was going to write. That was when I received some sad news and I knew that I needed to write about that.

My youngest daughter texted me a little while ago to tell me that one of her high school teachers had passed away. I was in shock. This was a young teacher that I had worked with nine years ago. I didn't know him well but I do remember how he helped my daughter with chemistry during her ninth grade year. He was also doing some work with NASA, I think, and he seemed a dedicated teacher that enjoyed his students.

A couple of years ago or more, he connected with me on Facebook and we've been "friends" ever since. I always found it curious that he usually posted pictures of his young son but not much else and that he never &…